Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Night Time in the Switching Yard

Every time I go to New York as an adult, something stands out in a mind-blowing contrast to the New York I remember as a child. Say what you will, but shit's just not Gotham to me anymore.

My mental pictures of New York were formed from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s, when New York was a juggernaut hurling forward into today's era of tastelessness. But back then, it was Style Wars, King of New York, CBGBs. Riding around on the train alone for the first time, scared to death but fascinated endlessly.

That New York is gone. It's over. It's still huge, it's still singular and it can never be duplicated, but it can never be what it once was because it's full of the bastards Giuliani had in mind when he sanitized the city to make it safe for the monied and boring. I sincerely doubt that the new, sanitized retro-narcissism of New York could generate any of the New York-derived subcultures that dominated the world's youth culture for three decades.

Case in point- this photo essay by Q. Sakamaki that documents Tompkins Square in Alphabet City- just a block or so from where we have our monthly at Arrow Bar- a monthly in a neighborhood swimming with admin staff straight out of college and onto Wall Street.

I'm not so naive as to advocate for stagnation or a patronizing return to some sort of liberal-fantasized noble poverty, but honestly, there's less of a place in New York for the people in those photographs than there was when they were taken. And with that ironic realization should come a concurrent belief that New York can no longer self-justify it's hegemony over sub and counterculture. It's just like everywhere else now, only moreso.

[NYTimes : Q. Sakamaki Slideshow]
[NYTimes : East Village Before the Gentry]