The Blog

Seeking A More Authentic New York? Try Brooklyn

The internet may have killed the porn palace, but you can't buy rock cocaine on eBay and thus, if you seek grit and squalor, it's still out here somewhere, you may just have to take a different subway.
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There's a stock market doohickey that came with my iPhone; you click it, and have instant access to incomprehensible statistics. It came with the thing, along with a calendar and a web browser, and as such, can't be deleted. I've been using my iPhone mostly to read Moby Dick -- which cost me 99 cents and is deletable -- and I was mildly offended that Apple now considers it a no-brainer that I would want to check my stocks every two minutes, as I do my email, while waiting for the train. I loathe the market-statistic culture -- it's like hanging out with a guy obsessed with baseball stats who's done a lot of coke -- except this guy makes me feel bad about myself for not being a math Jedi, and bitterly resent him for always getting to fly business class.

In the past couple weeks, though, the stock doohickey has come in handy. I'm working on a record, and between takes I've been checking the market and gleefully reporting to my cello player the current status of its down-the-drain-ness. That's right, gleefully. I'm one of those New York artist people that fervently hopes, in spite of myself, that an economic catastrophe will bring an inversion of Travis Bickle's rain -- a cleansing tsunami that will wipe all the money and the hedge funders from the streets of this city, which I came to at a time when all the girls you met in bars wanted to be Debbie Harry, not Carrie Bradshaw. We fools actually believe that widespread financial doom will magically reset the clock to 1990, Basquiat will rise from the grave, and we can all triumphantly return to cheap space in Williamsburg.

I'm not one of those guys that pines for the charms of a Times Square rife with porn and crime. The internet may have killed the porn palace, but as yet, to my knowledge, you can't buy rock cocaine on eBay, and thus, if you seek grit and squalor, it's still out here somewhere, you may just have to take a different subway. I really am no longer suited for the edgy, paranoid city of my youth -- my paranoia enhanced by the drugs I was taking, in which I'm unlikely to be indulging again, even if that laundromat on 7th St, or the guys on the stoops on 10th St resume their avocations. I mean, despite my glee, my heart hopes for Bloomberg's third term, on account of his promise to build bike paths.

It dismays me to hear other artists entertain this delusion that a recession will restore their scary city, and by extension make them 19 again. The meaning of avant-garde is the vanguard -- we're supposed to be blazing a trail. To me this means embracing change, for better or for worse.

Still, if I can calm my desire to seek revenge on the moneyed crowd blowing us out of our old neighborhoods, I am nonetheless left with a desire for a just correction. Maybe a little Schadenfreude for people that bought million dollar lofts in Bushwick, for crying out loud, but mostly a hope that the young artists eager to join our energy are able to. I now live pretty far out in Brooklyn, where there's nothing to do but walk in the park and eat jerk chicken, but that's my vibe anyway. I see young artists here and there moving in, and I really hope that if they put up a new Williamsburg out here, it won't just be cleaning up a little for the office commuters to come.

Maybe, with a little forced sobriety in our economy, this dream of a mixed-race neighborhood that could at once be an artists' enclave and a reliably cheap place for New York's minority working class could be realized. Gentrification, contrary to appearances, is not an eternal force -- it didn't exist before the 70s. Also contrary to appearances, there isn't a bottomless barrel of recent MBAs who want parquet floors and wine bars. Artists, take heart; we may never get downtown back. But there's a whole lot of Brooklyn left.