Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Stranger In My Own Hometown

New York City, 2008, welcome to the Paramus Mall. Since the Republican takeover of NYC with Adolph Guiliani in the 90's we've seen more and more chain/big box type stores and less and less of the weird little mom and pop shops. Endless branch banks, fast food joints (the NY Times put the number of Dunkin' Donuts opened in Manhattan in the last five years at over 500), cell phone stores, Duane Reade drug stores (that sell aisle after aisle of psuedo-ephedrine products), and if you live in Park Slope lots of designer baby clothes. There's only two decent book stores left in Manhattan (St. Marks Books and the Strand), there's not a good record store in the borough. Even the movie theaters are starting to suck.  I used to go the the movies every day, now I doubt if I go twice a year. Film Forum plays the same stuff over and over, year after year (latest schedule, Les Blank retrospective, Godard's Made In The USA, Preston Sturges retrospective, Fellini's Amacord, not exactly breaking ground here are we)? There are multi-plexes in every neighborhood.      Of the "art houses", or what's left of them only the Anthology Film Archives shows any imagination and that place is the coldest, dirtiest most rat ridden theater since the Deuce was cleaned up. At least they showed the Monks documentary. There's three movies showing in Europe right now that are probably the only three current films I want to see, there's The Baader-Meihof Complex, a film about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands called Hunger and Gomorrah which is supposed to show at the IMF theater in the Village in January. A clip from the Monks film and the trailers for The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Hunger are above. Getting back to the point, what gives? Is there no market in New York City for adventurous film programming? A cool records store?  Or anything that you can't find in any mall out there in that wasteland we used to call our country? I guess not. It seems the suburbanites who moved here in the 90's to be closer to their now non-existent Wall Street jobs, the proximity to 5,000 Starbucks, and idiot celebrity watching, rather than absorb the culture that this city once had to offer, prefer to bring their suburban life with them, and they've killed our town. There's not much of the New York City I loved left.  When I moved here in the late 70's we (rejects from society) had the town to ourselves, no law and order (I ran an illegal after hours club for a year before the cops showed up in 83-84, now even a legal bar is subject to endless police harassment). I never saw a kid get carded at CBGB. If this city is to have any sort of cultural life we need an atmosphere for creativity to grow in. Not a police state.  Whether it was abstract expressionism or punk rock, virtually every interesting thing that happened in NYC in the 20th century was incubated in bars and clubs.  Maybe this economic meltdown will help by driving commercial real estate down but it's unlikely since most landlords would rather let a space sit empty for years than rent at a reasonable price.  And if they let it sit the city gives them a tax break!   If you don't like the noise, go back to New Jersey. And when you come visit don't set your car alarm when you park here. ******************* On a different subject has anyone noticed on the latest CD release of the Rolling Stones More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies) has an alternate take of "Let It Bleed" ? I only noticed by accident. BTW one of the best Stones live/rehearsal tapes to ever surface, a mix of a show in Dallas, '72 and the afternoon rehearsal can be found here. Amazing sound quality (stereo!), and probably the best they ever sounded without Brian.  In the UK, a few years back the the Elvis Blues CD  had this unheard take of Stranger In My Own Hometown, one of my all time favorite Elvis tunes. Neither of these alternates are mentioned on the packaging so I assume they were released by mistake. BTW, if you never heard Percy Mayfield's original version of "Stranger In My Own Hometown", from Ray Charles' Tangerine label, here it is. ********************* Here, from an old Hound show aircheck is my musical re-creation of a Thanksgiving dinner: Lionel Hampton- Turky Hop, Nat Kendricks & the Swans- Mashed Potatoes, Robert Williams & the Groovers- Cranberry Blues, Andre Williams- Please Pass The Biscuits, Nite Caps- Wine Wine Wine, Marvin & Johnny- Cherry Pie and of course Alfred E. Newman- It's A Gas. Happy Holiday.


Anonymous said...

There's more going on in N.J. than you may think. Check it out before you comment.

The Hound said...

I did a radio show there for fifteen years. I've got nothing against NJ, it's just that every day there's a car alarm w/jersey plates wailing away on my street while the owner is blocks away shopping, dining, what ever.
About once a week I nearly get run over on my bike by car w/jersey plates, the driver is nearly always either texting or talking on their cell phone. Just leave yr car alarms off. Actually, there's probably more going on in NJ these day than in NYC, so cool people from NJ stay home and the knucleheads head here.

roscoe said...

Oh it is bad.....
I find myself saying 'back in the day' all the time.

Ted Barron said...

Tell it like it is, Hound.

I've been wanting to post a similar rant for a while, but try to keep my bitterness in check. I try, anyway.

New York's not what it used to be. The key difference, is the people that used to come here, came here because they had to, and came here to do something. Now, people want to be here and they come to get something.

As for that Elvis track, that's a sweet bonus.

The Stones track, is I think from Stripped or somtime from that era, when they didn't suck for a minute again. You can here Mick say "alright Ronnie" before the solo.

Anonymous said...

"... Since the Republican takeover of NYC with Adolph Guiliani in the 90's we've seen more and more chain/big box type stores and less and less of the weird little mom and pop shops."

I noticed this crap beginning to gain force in the 1980's. On Second Ave., south of 42nd Street, there was a dark little shop run by an old lady that sold... sea shells, nothing but... sea shells. Then one day I walked by it and it was a brightly lit place that sold T-shirts that said stuff like SHIT HAPPENS.

It sure does!!!

The Hound said...

JD, of course it's been happening since the early 80s but Guilliani is the one who actually changed the zoning laws allowing the so called "big box" stores to open in Manhattan and Brooklyn which stepped up the process several hunred percent. Now Bloomberg wants to re-zone the entire east village/lower east side to allow hi-rises to be built virtually anywhere. We've already seen buildings like the Palladium, Luchows, 3rd St. Firehouse, etc. torn down that should have been landmarked, now the whole place will look like east berlin circa 1954. (what the fuck do they teach in architecture schools these days anyway). the corruption under the Guilliani administration was incredible, the school building on ave b (9-10th sts) was sold at a no-bid insider price of $3 million to Guilliani's biggest campaign contributer (you could put 200 lofts in there that would each sell at that price). The so called "middle income" housing build in the east village was the biggest scam I've ever seen and it never even made the newspapers. Of course both sides are corrupt (see Charlie Rangels current problems) but it seems the more they scream law and order the more they're the ones breaking the laws.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, NOOOOO love for Giuliani or Bloomberg comin' from these quarters!!! Toss Trump (or Koch) in there to make it The Unholy Trinity.

I've been out of NYC since 1994, and haven't even visited in four years. They tell me I wouldn't recognize the place.

For me, NYC exists in old movies, TV shows, paintings, books, photos, records and memories.

I liked it best in the immediate post-war years, when your neighborhood was rooming houses. Can you imagine? Harvey Swados wrote a really good short story, "The Dancer," about that time and place.


Anonymous said...

HUNGER's running for a week at the Nuart in LA starting 12/5 for Oscar(r) cred, then opening in NYC in March.

Brendan said...

Now I don't miss NYC as much as I thought I did. That in itself is a very sad thing (for me). Hope you enjoyed your Turkey. My business trip to Bangalore is cancelled due to a travel ban, drat, double drat. B

The Hound said...

I think I've prefected my turkey recipe, cooked a 20 pounder (had ten for dinner, fourteen folks for dessert) and the wife said it was my best turkey ever.
Using those newfangled plastic bags helps, you don't have to baste every fifteen minutes, and a friend stopped at the Farmer's Market and got a bunch of fresh herbs. I'm so bloated today I can't even blog (had the wife's strawberry/rhubarb pie for breakfest).
But you folks out there should know 4 tunes from the Little Boy Blue & the Blue Boys tape (Mick Jagger/Dick Taylor and three other yobs in Taylor's mum's living room circa 1961) showed up and can be found at: http://rocknrollingstones.blogspot.com/2008/10/rolling-stones-rolling-stones-files.html
You just download part one which also has their first demo tape as the Stones. The Little Boy Blue...tape was sold at a Christie's auction about eight years ago for 50,000 quid, it's twelve songs but these four are all that has surfaced so far.

Wornoutmorgan said...

It's happening the world over. I don't go to mainland Australia even once a year anymore - we can make up stuff that's more interesting and fun than what actually passes for art or entertainment there.
Mediocrity is dominant everywhere.
Jolly old soul I am.

Fred G. Sanford said...

check William S Burroughs' Junkie CHristmas Animated DVD.

Record Stores-
I quite agree with the substance of your post. But we do have one (small) good record store in NYC.
which is at 15 E 4th street,
Last time I was there, Half the store was devoted to vinyl, and there was still a lot of used CD's.
also they have in-store performances.
although very little rockabilly was seen....

great blog. thank you

Anonymous said...

I remember your show on 'FMU. Better days, for sure. Your comments on NYC are spot-on. I lived there from the mid-'80s until the early-'90s, when I saw beginning the changes you describe. However, I do recall when the Gap moved in to St. Mark's Place (in the space formerly occupied by a rep-film cinema) in '85, and how a brick would go through its plate-glass window overnight, it would be boarded-up the next day, replaced the following day, and then re-bricked . . . until someone realized that it was futile to battle an interloper who could afford to replace its windows so swiftly.

Circa the Dinkins administration (late '80s-early '90s), I recall watching, from my window on the LES, cops watching dealers sell heroin and crack, while making no move to arrest anyone. Then there was Saturday Night at the Riots in Tompkins Sq., summer of '89, the weekly battle between "anarchists" (squatters, miscreants, and civic-minded East Village residents) and police officers with their badges' numbers taped-over. A line of buyers for heroin snaked around an entire city block at night in Alphabet City, and this somehow didn't seem conspicuous to the Authorities. What I saw was that the crime and unrest were being allowed to worsen - when they weren't being encouraged - "for some reason." That reason came to reveal itself in the person of Giuliani and the takover-makeover of NYC under his regime, as though he were riding in on his horse to slay some evil dragon and make NYC safe for Stupid Normal White People.

I went out to the West Coast for a few years, then returned to NYC in '96, settling in Park Slope this time. Union Sq. in Manhattan had become a strip-mall, and plans were being made for a Barnes & Noble on 7th Ave. in the 'Slope, where young yuppie families were settling to straddle some illusory line between suburban safety and big-city "edginess." Tompkins Sq. Park had been cleansed of people camping-out, made safe for little white pseudoburban kids to play on the fancy new playground equipment. Everything had gotten a lot more expensive while I'd been gone, and there seemed to be fewer people who had much to offer the cultural landscape. SoHo had become a shopping mall for the ultra-wealthy. W. 42nd St. from Broadway to Eighth Avenue had been boarded-up and painted in bright colors, awaiting renovation as Disneyland Times Sq.

A week before I left, for good, in Oct. '97, I stood amidst the cartoon-colored board-ups on W. 42nd, where in 1980 I'd had to run the gantlet of drug dealers and other scum as I walked the sidewalk past porno stores, novelty shops, legit and porn cinemas, and jewelers, surveying the ruins surrounding me as the Sun left the sky for the night, when involuntarily from my mouth erupted, "This city's dying," before I knew that I was thinking it. But maybe I'd known it for a while.

Anonymous said...

"That reason came to reveal itself in the person of Giuliani and the takover-makeover of NYC under his regime, as though he were riding in on his horse to slay some evil dragon and make NYC safe for Stupid Normal White People."
Nothing like white-liberal self-loathing; if this post wasn't written by a white guy, i'll eat my hat.
Clinton's signing of NAFTA was the real fuel behind all the bog-box stores; it killed off Canal St. in New Orleans long before Katrina gave the final death-blow.
My fave period of NYC is the 50s/60s; you can have your slumming No-Wave dillitante 70s crap.

Anonymous said...

"Adolph" Giuliani. LOL...

So does that mean Obama's gonna bring back the crime and the dope and the scum I used to see in Times Square? A place I wouldn't even have my dog walk to? You wanna go back to that?


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