The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewLinh Dinh Archive
Postcard from the End of America: Pennsport
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>
SS United States in Pennsport, 2014
SS United States in Pennsport, 2014

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

Drive-in theaters are practically extinct, diners are dying, but go-go bars are still common in working class neighborhoods across America. It’s wholesome afterwork entertainment for the sweating man.

When I was a housepainter over twenty years ago, our crew would hit The Office in CenterCity or Penn’s Port Pub, on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. After a long, hot day of scraping paint or standing on a 40-foot ladder, it was somewhat soothing to see lovelies pole dancing.

Yesterday, I went with Felix Giordano to Penn’s Port Pub to rekindle some old memories and, well, long lost sensations. “This may bring a dead man to life,” Felix joked before we walked in. He’s 71, and I just turned 54.

Yes, the doors to a movie theater also separate real life from fantasy, but entering a go-go bar, you’re really descending into your simmering, frustrated id. Of course, it’s bizarre to stare so hard at someone’s orifices, with all your clothes on, in public. Being in a go-go bar is akin to witnessing a public execution.

In the early afternoon, there were only six aging, contemplative gents in there. We chose a reasonable vantage point and ordered two Yuenglings.

Within a hundred yards, there were also Club Risqué and Show & Tel, but they’re gentlemen’s clubs, and Felix and I just don’t patronize such snobbish and exorbitant establishments. Once, a Club Risqué dancer did ask Felix for directions outside Wal-Mart, “She was stunning. I couldn’t believe such a beautiful woman would ask me for directions!”

All the Christopher Columbus Boulevard big box stores, Wal-Mart, Target, Ikea, Staples, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Best Buy, have destroyed most Pennsport mom and pops, but what are you going to do? Small businesses gone, the city tried to build casinos in Pennsport, but locals blocked the plan.

There are often beggars standing in the median on Christopher Columbus. Sometimes, you’ll even see a homeless person sleep within sight of the Penn’s Port Pub.

The SS United States is docked in Pennsport. Since its last voyage in 1969, all schemes to convert it to a casino, hotel, cruise ship, troop transporter or naval hospital have failed. The largest ocean liner to have ever been built in the US, it molders and rusts on the Delaware River.

At Penn’s Port Pub, they show all and don’t bother with pasties, and it’s generally assumed that’s because it’s a cops’ go-go bar. Pennsport is still heavily Irish.

The Mummers are big here. They rehearse all year long for New Year’s Day, when they can finally wear sequins, colored feathers and/or some outrageous, custom-made dress. Strutting down Broad Street, they strum a banjo, blow on a saxophone or twirl a gay umbrella.

As a blonde lady jiggled, writhed, hung upside down or spread, a man stared at his smart phone. There were two televisions on, but with the sound off. On a cooking show, seafood was being seasoned. Felix recognized an older black man at the end of the bar as the cook, “He’s good. They have good food here.”

Trawling for tips, the ladies will walk on the bar, so be prepared for one to wiggle her assets over your plate of chicken wings.

As dark-haired Damiana squatted in front of my placid, resigned face, I confided, “Me and this guy haven’t been here in twenty years. I don’t think you were working then.”

“No, I wasn’t,” she giggled.

“Were you even born then?” I complimented her.

The man next to us was 50 and balding, “I have hair all over me, on my back, growing out of my ass and my balls. I’m Italian, you know. Maybe if I walked upside down, hair would grow from my head again.”

When Damiana came on, her nether shave reminded baldy of the most evil man, supposedly, who ever lived, “Do you know that Hitler had a secret train? It was used to transport gold, inside a tunnel!”

The blonde didn’t look older than 25, but she admitted to being 40, “I’ve only been doing this for five years. I’m going to quit next year.”

“You should look into art modeling,” Felix advised. “They don’t make bad money.”

“Hey, that’s an idea! I don’t have any problems taking my clothes off!”

“You can model for individual artists too, not just art schools,” I chimed in.

Leaving, we went to 2nd Street and had a couple beers at Shamrock. The dark dive bar had small American flags all over. A sign listed champions of a basketball league, with “Drop the Bomb” the winners for 1991. Going to the bathroom, I passed an image of a serious John Wayne in “Green Berets,” “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”

On a bulletin board were death notices, dart scorecards and thank you notes for benefits staged. One example:

Words could never express how thankful I am to all of you for the beautiful benefit that you had for me and my family.

I am so grateful for all the good friends and family for all your love and support through out my journey.

I wish there were a more meaningful word then thank you. It dosen’t seem to be enough.

Again thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I truly appreciate it.

Love Paul, Renee, Justin and Jordan

For many uninsured, working poor, a medical emergency will send them to the local bar for assistance, for that’s their social hub. I’ve seen benefit announcements at many dives across America.

My friend, Ian Keenan, shares:

My grandpop spent much of his adult life in North Philly bars and would also say ‘never trust a man who doesn’t drink.’ He would seat the family at church on Sunday and then sneak out to hit the bar. He was a sort of ghost that imprinted my childhood even though he died before I was born and I didn’t form the view, especially after I created a suburban drinking club at 15 that met multiple times a week, that I could keep a secret from someone, repress a long held thought, or deceive someone.

Pubs in the British Isles (especially Ireland) are law courts, hiring halls, and everything else… you have to settle up with people and if you jerk someone over you’re going to see them again and again.

ORDER IT NOW

As a social glue and balm, then, the neighborhood pub was even more important than the church. Thanks to the zombifying television and internet, the pub has lost much of its grip on our hearts, minds and livers, however, for we can just ogle sports and nudes at home. Modern urban planning has also done its job. In his 1937 Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell explains:

Many a small shopkeeper is utterly ruined by some rehousing scheme which takes no notice of his existence. A whole section of the town is condemned en bloc; presently the houses are pulled down and the people are transferred to some housing estate miles away […] As for pubs, they are banished from the housing estates almost completely, and the few that remain are dismal sham-Tudor places fitted out by the big brewery companies and very expensive. For a middle-class population this would be a nuisance—it might mean walking a mile to get a glass of beer; for a working-class population, which uses the pub as a kind of club, it is a serious blow at communal life.

This day, the conversational topics at Shamrock never got more serious than the Eagles’ excellent play, the pros and cons of former coach Andy Reid and, strangely enough, the size of Horace Grant’s hands. Though Felix and I were clearly outsiders, we were warmly welcomed into the jive and bantering, for that’s how old school Philly rolls.

Recounting how we had just visited Penn’s Port Pub, Felix opined between chugs of Guinness, “God has fucked up everything, but he got the woman’s body right. It’s a work of art.”

No one could disagree.

Linh Dinh’s latest books are Postcards from the End of America (non-fiction) and A Mere Rica (poetry). He maintains a regularly updated photo blog.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Working Class 
Hide 54 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
    []
  1. Dan Hayes says:

    Linh,

    Glad to learn there still is an functioning/existing Irish working-class neighborhood in Philly.

    In NYC there are a dearth of such Irish working-class areas. Most have either been gentrified (e.g., the West Side of Manhattan – the Westies) or its inhabitants driven off (e.g., Woodlawn in the Bronx, Woodside in Queens). Although there still are a few lower/middle middle class enclaves (e.g., Breezy Point in Queens – the Irish Riviera).

    Read More
    • Replies: @Montefrío
    That's "Breezy Pernt" for old-timers, as in a few generations back.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
    Sharing Comment via Twitter
    /ldinh/postcard-from-the-end-of-america-pennsport/#comment-2084621
    More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  2. Linh Dinh says: • Website

    Hi Dan,

    Since Center City housing prices are so out of control, yuppies and hipsters are showing up in Pennsport, and with the wretched economy, which hurts the working class the most, the old school Irish are being squeezed out.

    A while ago, I wrote about Bridesburg, a Philly neighborhood that’s 90% working class Poles, Irish and other whites.

    Linh

    Read More
    • Agree: Dan Hayes
    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    Hi Linh,

    Thanks for your response although I am sorry to learn that the old school Irish are being squeezed out of Pennsport.

    I read with great interest your essay on Bridesburg. One thing found disconcerting was your mentioning of being uncivilly treated by a waitress which you considered discriminatory.

    I admit to having what some consider racist views towards the usual suspects (need I go further identifying them?). And these racist views are not unknown in my circle (colleagues, friends, relatives, etc.). What I'm getting at is that I have almost never heard derogatory anti-Asian statements made in my proto-racist circle. The worst statement heard was their clannishness at work (which was made of my Orthodox Jewish friend!).

    In NYC where its dog eat dog, Asians are for the most part considered A-OK. Although it must be admitted that this is due in no small part on the available alternative populations.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  3. unit472 says:

    Years ago I suggested to friend we start at Geary and Powell in San Francisco and have a drink in every bar we passed and see how far we could go before we were too inebriated to continue. I think we made it up to Tommy’s Joynt on Van Ness when we summoned a cab. Of course San Francisco was still a normal city in those days and working people didn’t have to pay $3000 per month for a modest apartment so they could afford to spend time in the bars after work and the city was full of neighborhood bars for them to spend time in.

    A bit later I moved to Marin and there were still neighborhood bars then too but they were being bought by restaurants who wanted the liquor licenses but not the clientele that patronized those bars. Just as in San Francisco the original natives were being pushed out of their communities by newcomers with more money or the ability to live half a dozen to a one bedroom apartment.

    Read More
    • Replies: @eD
    I googled Geary Street between Powell and Van Ness and counted ten bars, not including two wine bars. That's quite impressive. One character in "The World's End" made it through twelve, but just barely.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  4. JackOH says:

    Good article, Linh. The German ex-pat and longtime American citizen I’ve mentioned came over on the United States back in the 1950s. Guess it was a wonderwork of its era. Your article got me thinking: is there any civil shipbuilding at all in the States any more? I’m sort of sure both Erie, PA and Cleveland, OH had shipyards building Great Lakes freighters.

    Is it just a mistaken impression of mine that American corporations tend to collapse completely under market pressure, while other countries’ corporations in the same industry tend toward greater resilience? I’m thinking Rubberset and other American shave brush manufacturers completely disappeared under the onslaught of canned shave creams and electric shavers in the 1950s. Muehle in the former East Germany seems to have survived okay after seventy years of daunting challenges. We have two legacy steelmakers here that use modernized equipment within older buildings from a century ago. One is French-owned; the other is Russian. Anyone have any thoughts?

    Read More
    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
    Perhaps talented Americans no longer go into manufacturing; they go into finance or the professions.

    OTOH, we have no shortage of engineering grads but there seem to be very steep barriers to entry for manufacturing concerns. It's easier just to get a steady paycheck from an employer, often, as you point out, a non-American one.

    It's complicated and I really have no idea.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  5. Dan Hayes says:
    @Linh Dinh
    Hi Dan,

    Since Center City housing prices are so out of control, yuppies and hipsters are showing up in Pennsport, and with the wretched economy, which hurts the working class the most, the old school Irish are being squeezed out.

    A while ago, I wrote about Bridesburg, a Philly neighborhood that's 90% working class Poles, Irish and other whites.


    Linh

    Hi Linh,

    Thanks for your response although I am sorry to learn that the old school Irish are being squeezed out of Pennsport.

    I read with great interest your essay on Bridesburg. One thing found disconcerting was your mentioning of being uncivilly treated by a waitress which you considered discriminatory.

    I admit to having what some consider racist views towards the usual suspects (need I go further identifying them?). And these racist views are not unknown in my circle (colleagues, friends, relatives, etc.). What I’m getting at is that I have almost never heard derogatory anti-Asian statements made in my proto-racist circle. The worst statement heard was their clannishness at work (which was made of my Orthodox Jewish friend!).

    In NYC where its dog eat dog, Asians are for the most part considered A-OK. Although it must be admitted that this is due in no small part on the available alternative populations.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    Hi Dan,

    As active people, we encounter all types of people all the time, so it's no surprise that some may be prejudiced against us, but the vast majority of people are fair and civil, in my experience. Online, though, the insolent cheap shots are much more common. Hidden cowards will always spew to relieve themselves.

    I've heard blanket racial comments from people of every race, because people tend to stereotype others. Chinese are like this, blacks are like that, etc. Everyone does it, even the hypocrites who insist they don't. The trick is to treat each individual fairly as you encounter him, and I always strive to do this.


    Linh

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  6. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Dan Hayes
    Hi Linh,

    Thanks for your response although I am sorry to learn that the old school Irish are being squeezed out of Pennsport.

    I read with great interest your essay on Bridesburg. One thing found disconcerting was your mentioning of being uncivilly treated by a waitress which you considered discriminatory.

    I admit to having what some consider racist views towards the usual suspects (need I go further identifying them?). And these racist views are not unknown in my circle (colleagues, friends, relatives, etc.). What I'm getting at is that I have almost never heard derogatory anti-Asian statements made in my proto-racist circle. The worst statement heard was their clannishness at work (which was made of my Orthodox Jewish friend!).

    In NYC where its dog eat dog, Asians are for the most part considered A-OK. Although it must be admitted that this is due in no small part on the available alternative populations.

    Hi Dan,

    As active people, we encounter all types of people all the time, so it’s no surprise that some may be prejudiced against us, but the vast majority of people are fair and civil, in my experience. Online, though, the insolent cheap shots are much more common. Hidden cowards will always spew to relieve themselves.

    I’ve heard blanket racial comments from people of every race, because people tend to stereotype others. Chinese are like this, blacks are like that, etc. Everyone does it, even the hypocrites who insist they don’t. The trick is to treat each individual fairly as you encounter him, and I always strive to do this.

    Linh

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Good stuff Linh, thanks. I remember you've seen Detroit, perhaps at night with its Casinos. I think it is important to be accurate with what we all see - which does mean something, although people will generally see things quite a bit differently: Posting on social media is never hidden or anonymous no matter who is spewing at any given time. It's time we changed how we see our online neighborhoods particularly who owns what.
    , @Biff
    Linh

    I’m a white guy with an Asian wife. I live in Thailand now, but back when we lived in the States the only prejudices I encountered was from white cops - somehow, me being with an Asian woman made them wary that I was up to no good.
    Shaken down a few times, and one time in Seattle the cops lifted a grand from us, claiming we didn’t have proof of where our money came from(which was true, but who actually does? - later I found out they train them to use a whole slew of sleezey legal tools to separate you from your valuables).

    Don’t miss the dump(police state) that it has become.
    , @Hank Rearden
    People tend to stereotype others, because stereotypes are generally true about a population. And these stereotypes are now being confirmed by science. Example: blacks are dumb.

    "...the mean IQ of sub-Saharan black Africans is about 70 - at the borderline of mental retardation."

    African IQ and Mental Retardation, South African Journal of Psychology, Vol 36, Issue 1, 2006 journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630603600101
     
    Another example: women can't control their emotions as well as men.

    "Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others' emotions than females."

    Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability, PLoS ONE, Vol. 9, Issue 5, May 16, 2014 journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0097071
     
    So the real trick is to actually accept reality instead of believing the fantasies of Fundamentalist Equalism.

    As far as fairness, is it really fair to force blacks to struggle in math classes they can never understand, or women in positions of political leadership, when they don't have the emotional stability of men?

    And isn't it rather hypocritical for Fundamentalist Equalists to shame and force people to associate with people they'd rather not?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  7. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Linh Dinh
    Hi Dan,

    As active people, we encounter all types of people all the time, so it's no surprise that some may be prejudiced against us, but the vast majority of people are fair and civil, in my experience. Online, though, the insolent cheap shots are much more common. Hidden cowards will always spew to relieve themselves.

    I've heard blanket racial comments from people of every race, because people tend to stereotype others. Chinese are like this, blacks are like that, etc. Everyone does it, even the hypocrites who insist they don't. The trick is to treat each individual fairly as you encounter him, and I always strive to do this.


    Linh

    Good stuff Linh, thanks. I remember you’ve seen Detroit, perhaps at night with its Casinos. I think it is important to be accurate with what we all see – which does mean something, although people will generally see things quite a bit differently: Posting on social media is never hidden or anonymous no matter who is spewing at any given time. It’s time we changed how we see our online neighborhoods particularly who owns what.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  8. @Dan Hayes
    Linh,

    Glad to learn there still is an functioning/existing Irish working-class neighborhood in Philly.

    In NYC there are a dearth of such Irish working-class areas. Most have either been gentrified (e.g., the West Side of Manhattan - the Westies) or its inhabitants driven off (e.g., Woodlawn in the Bronx, Woodside in Queens). Although there still are a few lower/middle middle class enclaves (e.g., Breezy Point in Queens - the Irish Riviera).

    That’s “Breezy Pernt” for old-timers, as in a few generations back.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Dan Hayes
    Montefrio,

    Thanks.

    I was unaware of the proper pronunciation for Breezy Point although I was aware it was Greenpernt for Greenpoint.

    I wonder if any of the yuppies who have lately invaded Greenpoint/Greenpernt are aware of its proper pronouncement in days gone by?

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  9. Dan Hayes says:
    @Montefrío
    That's "Breezy Pernt" for old-timers, as in a few generations back.

    Montefrio,

    Thanks.

    I was unaware of the proper pronunciation for Breezy Point although I was aware it was Greenpernt for Greenpoint.

    I wonder if any of the yuppies who have lately invaded Greenpoint/Greenpernt are aware of its proper pronouncement in days gone by?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  10. eD says:
    @unit472
    Years ago I suggested to friend we start at Geary and Powell in San Francisco and have a drink in every bar we passed and see how far we could go before we were too inebriated to continue. I think we made it up to Tommy's Joynt on Van Ness when we summoned a cab. Of course San Francisco was still a normal city in those days and working people didn't have to pay $3000 per month for a modest apartment so they could afford to spend time in the bars after work and the city was full of neighborhood bars for them to spend time in.

    A bit later I moved to Marin and there were still neighborhood bars then too but they were being bought by restaurants who wanted the liquor licenses but not the clientele that patronized those bars. Just as in San Francisco the original natives were being pushed out of their communities by newcomers with more money or the ability to live half a dozen to a one bedroom apartment.

    I googled Geary Street between Powell and Van Ness and counted ten bars, not including two wine bars. That’s quite impressive. One character in “The World’s End” made it through twelve, but just barely.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  11. eD says:

    Though I enjoyed the entire article, one thing I got out of it is that the big rusty ship docked at Pennsport is “the United States”. My wife likes to go to the big box stores there, particularly Ikea, and so I noticed the ship and wondered about it. Its very visible from the cafeteria in the Ikea.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  12. Hope rusts. Many of my neighbor farmers have similarly oxidizing dreams parked in the woods. It’s difficult to discard hope.

    “I don’t have any problems taking my clothes off!”

    White Sharia now!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  13. @JackOH
    Good article, Linh. The German ex-pat and longtime American citizen I've mentioned came over on the United States back in the 1950s. Guess it was a wonderwork of its era. Your article got me thinking: is there any civil shipbuilding at all in the States any more? I'm sort of sure both Erie, PA and Cleveland, OH had shipyards building Great Lakes freighters.

    Is it just a mistaken impression of mine that American corporations tend to collapse completely under market pressure, while other countries' corporations in the same industry tend toward greater resilience? I'm thinking Rubberset and other American shave brush manufacturers completely disappeared under the onslaught of canned shave creams and electric shavers in the 1950s. Muehle in the former East Germany seems to have survived okay after seventy years of daunting challenges. We have two legacy steelmakers here that use modernized equipment within older buildings from a century ago. One is French-owned; the other is Russian. Anyone have any thoughts?

    Perhaps talented Americans no longer go into manufacturing; they go into finance or the professions.

    OTOH, we have no shortage of engineering grads but there seem to be very steep barriers to entry for manufacturing concerns. It’s easier just to get a steady paycheck from an employer, often, as you point out, a non-American one.

    It’s complicated and I really have no idea.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  14. Biff says:
    @Linh Dinh
    Hi Dan,

    As active people, we encounter all types of people all the time, so it's no surprise that some may be prejudiced against us, but the vast majority of people are fair and civil, in my experience. Online, though, the insolent cheap shots are much more common. Hidden cowards will always spew to relieve themselves.

    I've heard blanket racial comments from people of every race, because people tend to stereotype others. Chinese are like this, blacks are like that, etc. Everyone does it, even the hypocrites who insist they don't. The trick is to treat each individual fairly as you encounter him, and I always strive to do this.


    Linh

    Linh

    I’m a white guy with an Asian wife. I live in Thailand now, but back when we lived in the States the only prejudices I encountered was from white cops – somehow, me being with an Asian woman made them wary that I was up to no good.
    Shaken down a few times, and one time in Seattle the cops lifted a grand from us, claiming we didn’t have proof of where our money came from(which was true, but who actually does? – later I found out they train them to use a whole slew of sleezey legal tools to separate you from your valuables).

    Don’t miss the dump(police state) that it has become.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    Hi Biff,

    Speaking of crooked cops, I just received this email account of an incident from the mid 60's:

    I was returning from Leesville after having two beers at a local dive, I felt the truck I was driving was acting oddly, like I had a flat or a problem with a tire. I pulled to the side of the road and got out to inspect. A minute or so later a state trooper pulled up behind me, exited his patrol car and asked me what I was doing. I informed him (politely) that I was looking for the cause of a noise I had heard while driving. He proceeded to ask me if I had been drinking; when I told him yes sir I had two beers back in town, he told me he had observed me driving, and he pulled me over for reckless driving. I told him (politely again) that I had already pulled over to inspect the vehicle prior to him arriving, and he looked at me glaringly and said "you calling me a liar BOY?" I said no sir just as he was turning me around to handcuff me. Long story short I was put in a cell at the local police station and about 6 hours later I was allowed to leave, minus all the cash I had on me ($182.00) which I am sure went to the trooper and some local official.
     
    And the narrator is a white guy.


    Linh
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  15. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @Biff
    Linh

    I’m a white guy with an Asian wife. I live in Thailand now, but back when we lived in the States the only prejudices I encountered was from white cops - somehow, me being with an Asian woman made them wary that I was up to no good.
    Shaken down a few times, and one time in Seattle the cops lifted a grand from us, claiming we didn’t have proof of where our money came from(which was true, but who actually does? - later I found out they train them to use a whole slew of sleezey legal tools to separate you from your valuables).

    Don’t miss the dump(police state) that it has become.

    Hi Biff,

    Speaking of crooked cops, I just received this email account of an incident from the mid 60′s:

    I was returning from Leesville after having two beers at a local dive, I felt the truck I was driving was acting oddly, like I had a flat or a problem with a tire. I pulled to the side of the road and got out to inspect. A minute or so later a state trooper pulled up behind me, exited his patrol car and asked me what I was doing. I informed him (politely) that I was looking for the cause of a noise I had heard while driving. He proceeded to ask me if I had been drinking; when I told him yes sir I had two beers back in town, he told me he had observed me driving, and he pulled me over for reckless driving. I told him (politely again) that I had already pulled over to inspect the vehicle prior to him arriving, and he looked at me glaringly and said “you calling me a liar BOY?” I said no sir just as he was turning me around to handcuff me. Long story short I was put in a cell at the local police station and about 6 hours later I was allowed to leave, minus all the cash I had on me ($182.00) which I am sure went to the trooper and some local official.

    And the narrator is a white guy.

    Linh

    Read More
    • Replies: @jacques sheete
    Moral: Never trust an asshole in power.

    Corollary 1. Anyone in power is either an asshole or will soon become one.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  16. @Linh Dinh
    Hi Biff,

    Speaking of crooked cops, I just received this email account of an incident from the mid 60's:

    I was returning from Leesville after having two beers at a local dive, I felt the truck I was driving was acting oddly, like I had a flat or a problem with a tire. I pulled to the side of the road and got out to inspect. A minute or so later a state trooper pulled up behind me, exited his patrol car and asked me what I was doing. I informed him (politely) that I was looking for the cause of a noise I had heard while driving. He proceeded to ask me if I had been drinking; when I told him yes sir I had two beers back in town, he told me he had observed me driving, and he pulled me over for reckless driving. I told him (politely again) that I had already pulled over to inspect the vehicle prior to him arriving, and he looked at me glaringly and said "you calling me a liar BOY?" I said no sir just as he was turning me around to handcuff me. Long story short I was put in a cell at the local police station and about 6 hours later I was allowed to leave, minus all the cash I had on me ($182.00) which I am sure went to the trooper and some local official.
     
    And the narrator is a white guy.


    Linh

    Moral: Never trust an asshole in power.

    Corollary 1. Anyone in power is either an asshole or will soon become one.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  17. Györgyi says:

    The SS United States is docked in Pennsport. Since its last voyage in 1969, all schemes to convert it to a casino, hotel, cruise ship, troop transporter or naval hospital have failed. The largest ocean liner to have ever been built in the US, it molders and rusts on the Delaware River.

    Seems like a good commentary on the real United States as a country. The US economy has been tied up at the docks From then on. Several attempts since have been made, Reganomics is one, which several presidential opponents since took credit for.

    The mass import of foreign goods manufactured outside started pouring in around then. Still tied at the docks, bit by bit, manufacturing moved abroad. The mom and pop small businesses slowly vanished. State sponsored higher education morphed to oppressive student loans and an evaporating job market ensued. Meanwhile, the moneys to rehabilitate her are give aways as free tribute to other nations.

    The bid to scrap her was temporarily suspended with a change in presidency, but the oligarchy remains bent on furthering its decay.

    Read More
    • Agree: jacques sheete
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    Reaganonmics wasn't an attempt. It was a successful gut and clean job from the Chicago school. The US restored obsolete Iowa class battleships back then, surely America has what it takes to continue this kind of thing for a while longer.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  18. “…..for pubs, they are banished from the housing estates almost completely, and the few that remain are dismal sham-Tudor places fitted out by the big brewery companies and very expensive.”

    If this was the case in 1937 when The Road to Wigan Pier was published, how much worse is it now with faux English and Irish pubs everywhere from Malibu to Cancun?

    Read More
    • Replies: @JMcG
    There are probably more Irish Pubs in NYC than in Ireland now. I exagerrate, but only a little.
    The Government crackdown on drink driving has resulted in the wholesale closure of pubs, most especially those out in the countryside. A whole way of life is disappearing and it is very dispiriting.
    I’d say the Irish political class is the worst with which I’m familiar.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  19. wayfarer says:

    Renaissance, of the American hobo.

    Dream it, plan it, create it.

    Read More
    • LOL: Z-man
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  20. republic says:

    Longfeller’s original ending for the poem, “The building of the ship,” seems very apt
    for the fate of the SS United States :
    But where, oh where
    Shall end this form so rare?
    Wrecked upon some treacherous rock,
    Rotting in some loathsome dock,
    Such the end must be at length
    Of all this loveliness and strength

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  21. Wrecked upon some treacherous rock,
    Rotting in some loathsome dock,
    Such the end must be at length
    Of all this loveliness and strength

    Would you mind telling that to Mr Buchanan? He’s a pretty decent historian, and should know better, yet he keeps whining about the inevitable.

    http://www.unz.com/pbuchanan/unserious-nation/

    Read More
    • Replies: @anonymous
    Thank you, js (and LD). Our country won't be restored in Washington, but despite Washington.

    I'm rooting for a prompt collapse of the Empire, with as few innocents as possible crushed when the toppling towers of blood, dollars, and s**t hit the ground.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  22. Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  23. Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  24. anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @jacques sheete

    Wrecked upon some treacherous rock,
    Rotting in some loathsome dock,
    Such the end must be at length
    Of all this loveliness and strength
     
    Would you mind telling that to Mr Buchanan? He's a pretty decent historian, and should know better, yet he keeps whining about the inevitable.

    http://www.unz.com/pbuchanan/unserious-nation/

    Thank you, js (and LD). Our country won’t be restored in Washington, but despite Washington.

    I’m rooting for a prompt collapse of the Empire, with as few innocents as possible crushed when the toppling towers of blood, dollars, and s**t hit the ground.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  25. JMcG says:
    @Johnny Smoggins
    ".....for pubs, they are banished from the housing estates almost completely, and the few that remain are dismal sham-Tudor places fitted out by the big brewery companies and very expensive."

    If this was the case in 1937 when The Road to Wigan Pier was published, how much worse is it now with faux English and Irish pubs everywhere from Malibu to Cancun?

    There are probably more Irish Pubs in NYC than in Ireland now. I exagerrate, but only a little.
    The Government crackdown on drink driving has resulted in the wholesale closure of pubs, most especially those out in the countryside. A whole way of life is disappearing and it is very dispiriting.
    I’d say the Irish political class is the worst with which I’m familiar.

    Read More
    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    How retarded are those people that they "can't" designate one of a group of friends / neighbors to stay sober and drive each night? Give me a break.

    People in fact have no right to risk other people's lives by driving drunk. That's not a nanny-state proposition, that's simple respect for other people's right to live and not be physically harmed.
    , @Johnny Smoggins
    The other thing that's killed bars, at least where I'm from, is the smoking ban. There's definitely a correlation between people who smoke and drinking and now those people just drink at home where they can still smoke. They've been replaced at the bars by hipster moms in yoga pants, teetotalers and the sort of people who think having three drinks in one night means really letting loose.

    Nobody wants to stand outside and smoke when's it's ten below so why bother going at all? Now everyone just stays at home and smokes weed by themselves.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  26. BigAl says:

    Linh:

    Your “letter” reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as “new” until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks “Power” in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are “retrofitted” and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the “Brooklyn brand”, synonymous with “hip”, and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father’s family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we’re lucky or “sports bars” if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced “food emporia”, high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today’s combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is “real” actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick’s Day Parade…no, we won’t go there!

    Read More
    • Replies: @Linh Dinh
    Thanks for such wonderful, heartfelt writing, BigAl!--Linh
    , @Montefrío
    Thanks, Big Al, for a trip down memory lane. I'm 71, a native New Yorker and Irish, but lace curtain Irish, but not without a memory. You did a fine job calling to mind what is irretrievably past. I said so long to NYC in '95 and have never looked back, will never go there again. It was grand, though, wasn't it?
    , @Intelligent Dasein
    My God, Al, that was almost too good. Bravo! Your writing, I mean; the unfortunate subject matter is something else altogether.

    My mother's family is from New York, out on Long Island. I used to spend the summers back there as a kid with my grandparents. It was pretty much the only freedom I ever got from my dysfunctional nuclear family. I've been to Manhattan many times when I was young. The last time would have been about 25 years ago.

    I loved, absolutely loved, everything I understood about classic New York, the little I got from my visits being heavily supplemented with the role the city played in our country's history, art and culture. How terrible to think that it is already gone.

    By the way, were you in conscious or unconscious imitation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's My Lost City when you wrote this?

    http://fitzgerald.narod.ru/crackup/068e-city.html
    , @Z-man
    Yeah I worked on the edge of the upper east side last year, 63rd and 3rd (that used to be 'sixty toid and toid') and the city has completely changed. Nannies and other servants and underground garages and mostly unfriendly people. Now sure there were unfriendly people back in the day but at least you knew their background and could call them out, lol!
    , @Stonehands
    Hey Al, that was fantastic- really enjoyed your writing and look forward to more of it in the future.

    While Mom worked; my Bopcia (l am half mad- Polack, haha) took me on a number of occasions to the '64 Worlds Fair, which epitomized American (white) confidence at the time ...Dad would take me to Sunnyside Gardens where the fights in the stands were often-times more worthy than the action in the ring!
    I was born in Bayside (Gods country) in '61, so was privileged to be a fan of that young expansion franchise- that replaced the Brooklyn Dodgers- the Amazin' Mets...somewhere in my collection of vinyl LP,s is a World Series celebration/collaboration of these classy guys singing gawd- awful renditions of corn-pone classics such as "ya gotta have heart."

    By 1985-when l was an older professional musician- our blues band, Brainstorm, were regularly featured at a great joint at 14th and 2nd called Dan Lynch(s). A real saloon with swinging bar doors and a floor walker/booking agent by the name of Bill Dicey...and a pool table- and The Smoking!!
    Great acts there: Frankie Paris, the Holmes Bros., Robert Ross...One night Stevie Ray jammed after a gig at the Garden!

    Dan Wakefield wrote a paean to NY called "New York in the 50's" that you would enjoy.
    A recurring motif is from a poem by bohemian John Reed:

    Manhattan, zoned with ships, the cruel
    Youngest of all the world's great towns,
    Thy bodice bright with many a jewel,
    Imperially crowned with crowns...

    Who that has known thee but shall burn
    In exile till he comes again
    To do thy bitter will, O stern
    Moon of the tides of men!


    Now l am in Philadelphia; the proprietor of the last of the "New York Style"- cash only- thin crust pizzerias. A real hole-in-the-wall, where l can play my guitar and sling some slices...
    Its easier to be a bohemian here. Lots of artists have removed themselves from the sausage-grinder, that NY has become...

    One day l will pack up the ol' jazzbox and my street amp and take the Chinese bus from here- and do some busking around Washington Square, or Battery Park...perhaps.

    Bravo BigAl. And you too Lin. Stop in to my joint some time, l am in Old City.

    The slices and Cokes are on me.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  27. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer
    @Györgyi

    The SS United States is docked in Pennsport. Since its last voyage in 1969, all schemes to convert it to a casino, hotel, cruise ship, troop transporter or naval hospital have failed. The largest ocean liner to have ever been built in the US, it molders and rusts on the Delaware River.
     
    Seems like a good commentary on the real United States as a country. The US economy has been tied up at the docks From then on. Several attempts since have been made, Reganomics is one, which several presidential opponents since took credit for.

    The mass import of foreign goods manufactured outside started pouring in around then. Still tied at the docks, bit by bit, manufacturing moved abroad. The mom and pop small businesses slowly vanished. State sponsored higher education morphed to oppressive student loans and an evaporating job market ensued. Meanwhile, the moneys to rehabilitate her are give aways as free tribute to other nations.

    The bid to scrap her was temporarily suspended with a change in presidency, but the oligarchy remains bent on furthering its decay.

    Reaganonmics wasn’t an attempt. It was a successful gut and clean job from the Chicago school. The US restored obsolete Iowa class battleships back then, surely America has what it takes to continue this kind of thing for a while longer.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  28. Linh Dinh says: • Website
    @BigAl
    Linh:

    Your "letter" reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as "new" until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks "Power" in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are "retrofitted" and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the "Brooklyn brand", synonymous with "hip", and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father's family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we're lucky or "sports bars" if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced "food emporia", high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today's combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is "real" actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick's Day Parade...no, we won't go there!

    Thanks for such wonderful, heartfelt writing, BigAl!–Linh

    Read More
    • Replies: @BigAl
    Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
    Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
    I was neither at the hot gates
    Nor fought in the warm rain
    Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
    Bitten by flies, fought.
    My house is a decayed house,
    and the jew squats on the windowsill, the owner
    Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
    Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
    The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
    Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
    The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
    Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.
    I an old man,
    A dull head among windy spaces.

    Signs are taken for wonders. "We would see a sign!"
    The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
    Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
    Came Christ the tiger

    (opening lines of "Gerontion", TS Eliot)

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  29. BigAl says:
    @Linh Dinh
    Thanks for such wonderful, heartfelt writing, BigAl!--Linh

    Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
    Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
    I was neither at the hot gates
    Nor fought in the warm rain
    Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
    Bitten by flies, fought.
    My house is a decayed house,
    and the jew squats on the windowsill, the owner
    Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
    Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
    The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
    Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
    The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
    Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.
    I an old man,
    A dull head among windy spaces.

    Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign!”
    The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
    Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
    Came Christ the tiger

    (opening lines of “Gerontion”, TS Eliot)

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  30. You’re more than welcome. Sorry for the delay, but down here in South America, computer and internet issues are our daily bread.

    The yuppies probably pronounce it “Gree-p’on” in good ebonics.

    My grandfather (I’m 71) used to have a place on Breezy Pernt when a young up-and-comer lace curtain Irish guy, but he lived on Sands Point when older, so the pronunciation changed. Last time I was there was ’65 and heritage or not, it was made clear to me that I didn’t belong any longer. Helped me to understand that when all is said and done, I don’t belong anywhere; there are worse fates.

    Then again, I discovered I have some distant Irish relatives down here in my tiny village a bit west of the middle of nowhere in Argentina, so go figure.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  31. @BigAl
    Linh:

    Your "letter" reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as "new" until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks "Power" in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are "retrofitted" and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the "Brooklyn brand", synonymous with "hip", and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father's family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we're lucky or "sports bars" if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced "food emporia", high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today's combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is "real" actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick's Day Parade...no, we won't go there!

    Thanks, Big Al, for a trip down memory lane. I’m 71, a native New Yorker and Irish, but lace curtain Irish, but not without a memory. You did a fine job calling to mind what is irretrievably past. I said so long to NYC in ’95 and have never looked back, will never go there again. It was grand, though, wasn’t it?

    Read More
    • Replies: @BigAl
    And I suppose I am, Montefrio, like Maritain, a modern day New York version of a "peasant of the Garonne", rooted in place, a lifer, holding on to what are left of the permanent things, all the while seeing, absorbing, sifting through layers of memories, an observer of the relentless dissolution of what came before, what used to be called our "patrimony." Restless change having abandoned all attempts at continuity. The old white shut-in looking out her apartment window on Elderts Lane and seeing not what is, but what was and is no longer.
    , @RadicalCenter
    My father's father (mainly German and Swedish) was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen, my father in Hudson County NJ. Mother was born and raised in the Bronx when it was still European and civilized.

    I have regretted every visit to NYC in recent years, and I'd like never to set foot in that place again for the rest of my life. Disgusting, depressing, and maddening all at the same time. Like LA with more trash and without good weather.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  32. BigAl says:
    @Montefrío
    Thanks, Big Al, for a trip down memory lane. I'm 71, a native New Yorker and Irish, but lace curtain Irish, but not without a memory. You did a fine job calling to mind what is irretrievably past. I said so long to NYC in '95 and have never looked back, will never go there again. It was grand, though, wasn't it?

    And I suppose I am, Montefrio, like Maritain, a modern day New York version of a “peasant of the Garonne”, rooted in place, a lifer, holding on to what are left of the permanent things, all the while seeing, absorbing, sifting through layers of memories, an observer of the relentless dissolution of what came before, what used to be called our “patrimony.” Restless change having abandoned all attempts at continuity. The old white shut-in looking out her apartment window on Elderts Lane and seeing not what is, but what was and is no longer.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Montefrío
    Good God! Maritain and Elderts Lane joined in a paragraph! And Maritain's final testament ( a favorite book I have in my print collection) at that!

    Sincerely, God bless you. I admire your consistency, although can't help but wonder how you manage to hold on. My maternal grandfather (R.I.P.) was a NYC fire boat captain living in Sunnyside, but the paternal grandpa (R.I.P) was a wealthy NYer whose name you'd likely know, and he was the dominant influence in my youth, so I pretty much missed out on NY's ethnic Irish neighborhoods while growing up. He intended that I merge into the WASP "ascendency" and I did so by education and marriage, the validity of which I now question. I found it all terribly boring and somewhat ridiculous, so now I live as a semi-hermit in a small South American village a bit west of the middle of nowhere, albeit in a style reminiscent of an Irish (I'm a citizen) country squire. There are worse lives.

    If you choose to continue communicating, please write me at teejaysee46 at the email service provided by the "g" folks; if not, please accept my very, very best wishes. God luck and God bless!
    , @lavoisier
    A real writer!

    Excellent!
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  33. @BigAl
    Linh:

    Your "letter" reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as "new" until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks "Power" in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are "retrofitted" and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the "Brooklyn brand", synonymous with "hip", and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father's family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we're lucky or "sports bars" if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced "food emporia", high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today's combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is "real" actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick's Day Parade...no, we won't go there!

    My God, Al, that was almost too good. Bravo! Your writing, I mean; the unfortunate subject matter is something else altogether.

    My mother’s family is from New York, out on Long Island. I used to spend the summers back there as a kid with my grandparents. It was pretty much the only freedom I ever got from my dysfunctional nuclear family. I’ve been to Manhattan many times when I was young. The last time would have been about 25 years ago.

    I loved, absolutely loved, everything I understood about classic New York, the little I got from my visits being heavily supplemented with the role the city played in our country’s history, art and culture. How terrible to think that it is already gone.

    By the way, were you in conscious or unconscious imitation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s My Lost City when you wrote this?

    http://fitzgerald.narod.ru/crackup/068e-city.html

    Read More
    • Replies: @BigAl
    Hey, Dasein (btw, I like the Heidegger allusion in your handle!): Honestly, no, not aware of the Fitzgerald thing, not at all. In fact I don't recall ever reading it, although given my memory these days, it is of course possible that way back some olden' time I had. But I will now, thanks to your reference. Thanks for pointing it out... not a bad guy to write like, I would say.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  34. Z-man says:
    @BigAl
    Linh:

    Your "letter" reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as "new" until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks "Power" in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are "retrofitted" and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the "Brooklyn brand", synonymous with "hip", and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father's family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we're lucky or "sports bars" if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced "food emporia", high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today's combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is "real" actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick's Day Parade...no, we won't go there!

    Yeah I worked on the edge of the upper east side last year, 63rd and 3rd (that used to be ‘sixty toid and toid’) and the city has completely changed. Nannies and other servants and underground garages and mostly unfriendly people. Now sure there were unfriendly people back in the day but at least you knew their background and could call them out, lol!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  35. @Linh Dinh
    Hi Dan,

    As active people, we encounter all types of people all the time, so it's no surprise that some may be prejudiced against us, but the vast majority of people are fair and civil, in my experience. Online, though, the insolent cheap shots are much more common. Hidden cowards will always spew to relieve themselves.

    I've heard blanket racial comments from people of every race, because people tend to stereotype others. Chinese are like this, blacks are like that, etc. Everyone does it, even the hypocrites who insist they don't. The trick is to treat each individual fairly as you encounter him, and I always strive to do this.


    Linh

    People tend to stereotype others, because stereotypes are generally true about a population. And these stereotypes are now being confirmed by science. Example: blacks are dumb.

    “…the mean IQ of sub-Saharan black Africans is about 70 – at the borderline of mental retardation.”

    African IQ and Mental Retardation, South African Journal of Psychology, Vol 36, Issue 1, 2006 journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630603600101

    Another example: women can’t control their emotions as well as men.

    “Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others’ emotions than females.”

    Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability, PLoS ONE, Vol. 9, Issue 5, May 16, 2014 journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0097071

    So the real trick is to actually accept reality instead of believing the fantasies of Fundamentalist Equalism.

    As far as fairness, is it really fair to force blacks to struggle in math classes they can never understand, or women in positions of political leadership, when they don’t have the emotional stability of men?

    And isn’t it rather hypocritical for Fundamentalist Equalists to shame and force people to associate with people they’d rather not?

    Read More
    • Replies: @RadicalCenter
    Well reasoned and well said, sir.

    And isn't Merkel's flinging upon the gates to a million young, aggressive men from hostile alien cultures largely based on following her emotions?

    Isn't the same true of the women (male and female ;) who run Sweden and have surrendered it heedlessly, because of their feelings, to invaders who rape and steal and intimidate and conquer?

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  36. @BigAl
    And I suppose I am, Montefrio, like Maritain, a modern day New York version of a "peasant of the Garonne", rooted in place, a lifer, holding on to what are left of the permanent things, all the while seeing, absorbing, sifting through layers of memories, an observer of the relentless dissolution of what came before, what used to be called our "patrimony." Restless change having abandoned all attempts at continuity. The old white shut-in looking out her apartment window on Elderts Lane and seeing not what is, but what was and is no longer.

    Good God! Maritain and Elderts Lane joined in a paragraph! And Maritain’s final testament ( a favorite book I have in my print collection) at that!

    Sincerely, God bless you. I admire your consistency, although can’t help but wonder how you manage to hold on. My maternal grandfather (R.I.P.) was a NYC fire boat captain living in Sunnyside, but the paternal grandpa (R.I.P) was a wealthy NYer whose name you’d likely know, and he was the dominant influence in my youth, so I pretty much missed out on NY’s ethnic Irish neighborhoods while growing up. He intended that I merge into the WASP “ascendency” and I did so by education and marriage, the validity of which I now question. I found it all terribly boring and somewhat ridiculous, so now I live as a semi-hermit in a small South American village a bit west of the middle of nowhere, albeit in a style reminiscent of an Irish (I’m a citizen) country squire. There are worse lives.

    If you choose to continue communicating, please write me at teejaysee46 at the email service provided by the “g” folks; if not, please accept my very, very best wishes. God luck and God bless!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  37. BigAl says:
    @Intelligent Dasein
    My God, Al, that was almost too good. Bravo! Your writing, I mean; the unfortunate subject matter is something else altogether.

    My mother's family is from New York, out on Long Island. I used to spend the summers back there as a kid with my grandparents. It was pretty much the only freedom I ever got from my dysfunctional nuclear family. I've been to Manhattan many times when I was young. The last time would have been about 25 years ago.

    I loved, absolutely loved, everything I understood about classic New York, the little I got from my visits being heavily supplemented with the role the city played in our country's history, art and culture. How terrible to think that it is already gone.

    By the way, were you in conscious or unconscious imitation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's My Lost City when you wrote this?

    http://fitzgerald.narod.ru/crackup/068e-city.html

    Hey, Dasein (btw, I like the Heidegger allusion in your handle!): Honestly, no, not aware of the Fitzgerald thing, not at all. In fact I don’t recall ever reading it, although given my memory these days, it is of course possible that way back some olden’ time I had. But I will now, thanks to your reference. Thanks for pointing it out… not a bad guy to write like, I would say.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  38. European fast food restaurants often serve beer, like Travolta noted in Pulp Fiction. They are ersatz community centers. American fast food restaurants are becoming community centers and next time I visit an American fast food restaurant I hope to have a beer with my hamburger. That beats some phony pub that makes people sad.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
    I think you can already get beers at 5Guys or SmashBurger or some such place as that. I don't go out much so they all kind of blend together for me.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  39. @JMcG
    There are probably more Irish Pubs in NYC than in Ireland now. I exagerrate, but only a little.
    The Government crackdown on drink driving has resulted in the wholesale closure of pubs, most especially those out in the countryside. A whole way of life is disappearing and it is very dispiriting.
    I’d say the Irish political class is the worst with which I’m familiar.

    How retarded are those people that they “can’t” designate one of a group of friends / neighbors to stay sober and drive each night? Give me a break.

    People in fact have no right to risk other people’s lives by driving drunk. That’s not a nanny-state proposition, that’s simple respect for other people’s right to live and not be physically harmed.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JMcG
    I don’t disagree with what you are saying. The people I am referring to weren’t hopping in a giant Buick and ripping down the street at 65.
    These were mostly old farmers who would drive into town for Saturday evening mass. Some on their tractors, some on little Honda 50 Step thru scooters. After Mass, they would step into the pub for a couple of pints and some time away from the long Irish winter nights.
    The farmers would talk sheep, the fishermen would curse the seals, and everyone would talk weather.
    The DUI laws in Ireland kick in at 0.05% BAC, so a single pint of Guinness gets you there. The police find it easier to set up checkpoints to catch only half tipsy old men than to actually go after the sometimes violent youth in the drug trade. In the past 40 years I’ve never heard of one of the people I’m talking about cause injury to anyone.
    The young people and the urban set will get cabs, but the old men haven’t adjusted.
    They just sit at home in lonely desperation. Some have taken to drinking the cheap beer from the supermarket at a quarter of the price they pay in the pub. It’s not a healthy or enjoyable way of life.
    Oh, and as usual, if you are a politician, or well connected, you have nothing at all to worry about, go on and do as you please. It’s very easy to legislate away the pleasures of others when it will have no effect on your own.
    Almost none of them are retarded either.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  40. @Montefrío
    Thanks, Big Al, for a trip down memory lane. I'm 71, a native New Yorker and Irish, but lace curtain Irish, but not without a memory. You did a fine job calling to mind what is irretrievably past. I said so long to NYC in '95 and have never looked back, will never go there again. It was grand, though, wasn't it?

    My father’s father (mainly German and Swedish) was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen, my father in Hudson County NJ. Mother was born and raised in the Bronx when it was still European and civilized.

    I have regretted every visit to NYC in recent years, and I’d like never to set foot in that place again for the rest of my life. Disgusting, depressing, and maddening all at the same time. Like LA with more trash and without good weather.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  41. @Hank Rearden
    People tend to stereotype others, because stereotypes are generally true about a population. And these stereotypes are now being confirmed by science. Example: blacks are dumb.

    "...the mean IQ of sub-Saharan black Africans is about 70 - at the borderline of mental retardation."

    African IQ and Mental Retardation, South African Journal of Psychology, Vol 36, Issue 1, 2006 journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/008124630603600101
     
    Another example: women can't control their emotions as well as men.

    "Behavioral research has demonstrated that males have a higher capability of regulating their own and others' emotions than females."

    Sex-Related Neuroanatomical Basis of Emotion Regulation Ability, PLoS ONE, Vol. 9, Issue 5, May 16, 2014 journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0097071
     
    So the real trick is to actually accept reality instead of believing the fantasies of Fundamentalist Equalism.

    As far as fairness, is it really fair to force blacks to struggle in math classes they can never understand, or women in positions of political leadership, when they don't have the emotional stability of men?

    And isn't it rather hypocritical for Fundamentalist Equalists to shame and force people to associate with people they'd rather not?

    Well reasoned and well said, sir.

    And isn’t Merkel’s flinging upon the gates to a million young, aggressive men from hostile alien cultures largely based on following her emotions?

    Isn’t the same true of the women (male and female ;) who run Sweden and have surrendered it heedlessly, because of their feelings, to invaders who rape and steal and intimidate and conquer?

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  42. @Off The Street
    European fast food restaurants often serve beer, like Travolta noted in Pulp Fiction. They are ersatz community centers. American fast food restaurants are becoming community centers and next time I visit an American fast food restaurant I hope to have a beer with my hamburger. That beats some phony pub that makes people sad.

    I think you can already get beers at 5Guys or SmashBurger or some such place as that. I don’t go out much so they all kind of blend together for me.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  43. Linh,

    I saw you on a Youtube being interviewed. You sounded interesting and somehow I was led to this website. I decided to find out if you write as well as you speak. You are very talented and remind me a bit of John Steinbeck in your style. Thanks for another great story.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  44. The end of America……well my entire industry was gutted and shipped to China and recently I woke up one morning and realized I can no longer speak the language of the country I was born in…..every single person in the bank was speaking Spanish except me.

    this was in Orange, CA

    I better start taking Spanish lessons.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  45. @JMcG
    There are probably more Irish Pubs in NYC than in Ireland now. I exagerrate, but only a little.
    The Government crackdown on drink driving has resulted in the wholesale closure of pubs, most especially those out in the countryside. A whole way of life is disappearing and it is very dispiriting.
    I’d say the Irish political class is the worst with which I’m familiar.

    The other thing that’s killed bars, at least where I’m from, is the smoking ban. There’s definitely a correlation between people who smoke and drinking and now those people just drink at home where they can still smoke. They’ve been replaced at the bars by hipster moms in yoga pants, teetotalers and the sort of people who think having three drinks in one night means really letting loose.

    Nobody wants to stand outside and smoke when’s it’s ten below so why bother going at all? Now everyone just stays at home and smokes weed by themselves.

    Read More
    • Replies: @JMcG
    To my surprise, the smoking ban didn’t kill the rural pub culture. I was also shocked that it was implemented fully and rapidly and without much of a fuss really.
    My octogenarian Uncle pops out for a smoke every now and then no matter the weather, but he’s as hard as iron. In fact, he won’t even smoke in his own house any longer.
    It’s the DUI laws in my opinion. It IS a tough problem with no easy solution, not that one is being sought. The people affected are mostly older and out of sight.
    It’s just made a tough place to get by significantly tougher for many of the rural class.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  46. Try the method taught by Michel Thomas, it’s based on the principle that you already know about a thousand Spanish words and his system guides you to understanding which ones they are and how they differ. Very easy to follow and very little memorisation is required.

    I woke up after driving into Missoula Montana and seeing Mexican graffiti sprayed on buildings.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  47. lavoisier says: • Website
    @BigAl
    And I suppose I am, Montefrio, like Maritain, a modern day New York version of a "peasant of the Garonne", rooted in place, a lifer, holding on to what are left of the permanent things, all the while seeing, absorbing, sifting through layers of memories, an observer of the relentless dissolution of what came before, what used to be called our "patrimony." Restless change having abandoned all attempts at continuity. The old white shut-in looking out her apartment window on Elderts Lane and seeing not what is, but what was and is no longer.

    A real writer!

    Excellent!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  48. expeedee says:

    Wonderfully written. You remind me very much of Raymond Carver.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  49. @BigAl
    Linh:

    Your "letter" reminded me of some of my own reflections and a short essay I wrote on another occasion (my 70th b-day). Thought you might like it. And, by the way, your go-go bar description reminded me of my now-dead partner on the job who was a real strip-joint afficianado. Right on the mark. So, anyway, here goes:

    If I were a contemporary Rip Van Winkle, having just awakened after, say, 30-40 years, I would not recognize my New York City. It would be not just the disappearance of the old buildings, Penn Station, of course, Madison Square Garden and its lightbulbed marquee on 50th and 8th announcing NYU playing St. John’s in the second game of a college twin bill, or the WTC, although I always thought of the latter as "new" until it went down. Nor would it be the disappearance of all the factories, foundries, and manufacturing plants including iconic Domino Sugar on the East River, the Wonder Bread factory with its huge neon sign, Swingline Staples in Long Island City marking passage to and from the East River tunnel on the railroad, and my beloved Schaeffer Beer plant in Williamsburg that along with Rheingold, Knickerbocker, and a score of others, made beer from New York taste a little bit different.

    It would not be the ubiquitous new buildings either, the Third Avenue ghostly glass ones erected in the 70’s and 80’s replacing what once was the most concentrated collection of Irish gin mills anywhere on earth. Or the fortress-like castles built more recently with elaborate high-ceilinged lobbies decorated in a kind of gross, filthy-wealthy Versailles, an aesthetically repulsive style that shrieks "Power" in a way the neo-classical edifices of our Roman-loving founders never did. Nor would it even be the 100-story residential sticks, those narrow to-the-clouds skyscraper condominiums proclaiming the triumph of globalized capitalism with prices as high as their penthouses, driven ever upward by the Russian billionaires and Arab oligarchs obsessed by their desire to bury their wealth in Manhattan real estate.

    It is not just the presence of new buildings and the absence of the old ones that have this contemporary Van Winkle feeling dyslexic and light-headed. The old neighborhoods have disintegrated along with the bars and factories, replaced by price and income segregated swatches of homogenous “real estate” that have consumed space, air, and sunlight while sucking the distinctiveness out of the City. What once was the multi-generational home turf for Jewish, Italian, Polak and Bohunk families is now treated as simply another kind of investment, stocks and bonds in steel and concrete. Mom’s Sunday dinners, clothes lines hanging with newly bleached sheets after Monday morning wash, stickball games played among parked cars, and evenings of sitting on the stoop with friends and a transistor radio listening to Mel Allen call Mantle’s home runs or Alan Freed and Murray the K on WINS 1010 playing Elvis, Buddy Holly, and The Drifters, all gone like last night’s dreams.

    Do you desire to see the new New York? Look no further than gentrifying Harlem, full of luxury apartment renovations and Maclaren strollers pushed by white yuppie stay-at-homes on Lenox (sorry, I forgot it was renamed “Malcom X Boulevard”) and 123rd. Or consider the “new” Lower East Side, once the refuge of those with little material means: artists, musicians, bums, drug addicts, losers and the physically and spiritually broken, my kind of people. Now tenements are "retrofitted" and remodeled into $4000 a month apartments and the new residents are Sunday brunching where we used to score some Mary Jane.

    There is the "Brooklyn brand", synonymous with "hip", and old Brooklyn neighborhoods like South Brooklyn (now absorbed into oh so desirable Park Slope), and Bushwick, another former outpost of the poor and the last place I would have ever imagined would be gentrified, full of artists and hipsters driving up the price of everything. Even large sections of my own Queens and the Bronx are affected (infected?). Check out Astoria, for example, the neighborhood of my father's family, the location of my daughter’s apartment, with more of the old ways than most but with rents beginning to skyrocket and drive out the remaining working class to who knows where. Even Long Island City, long a down and dirty factory neighborhood that once made things but now a sea of new residential high rises.

    Gone is almost every mom and pop store selling real things satisfying real needs, candy stores with their egg creams and bubble gum cards and the Woolworth’s with their wooden floors and cramped aisles containing ordinary blue collar urgencies like thread and yarn, ironing boards and liquid bleach, stainless steel utensils of every size and shape. Where are the locally owned toy and hobby stores like Jason’s in Woodhaven under the el, with Santa’s surprises available for lay-away beginning in October? No more luncheonettes, cheap eats like Nedicks with hot dogs off the grill and paper cone cups of orange drink, or Kosher delis with vats of warm pastrami and corned beef cut by hand. Gone (I almost can’t write this without tears) as well is the sacred neighborhood “bar and grill” that alas has been replaced by what kids who never knew call “dive bars” if we're lucky or "sports bars" if not, the detestable simulacra of the real thing, slick rooms of long slick polished mahogany, a half-dozen wide screen TV’s blaring ubiquitous sports 24/7 and not a single old rummy in sight.

    Old Rip searches for these and many more remembered haunts, what Ray Oldenburg called the “great good places” of his sleepy past, only to find store windows full of branded, high-priced, got-to-have luxury-necessities (necessary if she is to be certified cool, hip, and successful), ridiculously overpriced "food emporia", high and higher-end restaurants, and apparel boutiques featuring hardened smiles and obsequious service reserved for those recognized by celebrity or status.

    Rip notices too that the visible demographic has shifted, and walking the streets of Manhattan and large parts of Brooklyn, he feels like what to him walking in Boston always felt like, a journey among an undifferentiated mass of privileged preppy metro-sexed 20 and 30-somethings jogging or riding bicycles like lean, buff gods and goddesses on expense accounts supplemented by investments enriched by yearly holiday bonuses worth more than Rip earned in a lifetime.

    Sitting alone on a park bench by the river, Rip reflects that more than all of these individual things, however, he despairs of a city that seems to have been reimagined as a disneyfied playground of privilege, offering endless ways to self-gratify and philistinize in a clean, safe (safest big city in U.S., he heard somewhere on local TV), slick, smiley, self-satisfied urban paradise, protected by the new centurions (is it just his paranoia or do today's combat-ready police seem to be everywhere?). Old ethnic neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings that seem more like post-college “dorms”, tiny studios and junior twos packed with three or four roommates pooling their entry level resources in order to pay for the right to live in “The City”. Meanwhile the newer immigrants find what place they can in Kingsbridge, Corona, Jamaica, and Cambria Heights, far from the city center.
    New York has become an unrecognizable place to Rip, who can’t understand why the accent-less youngsters keep asking him to repeat something in order to hear his quaint “Brooklyn” accent, something like the King’s English still spoken on remote Smith Island in the Chesapeake, he guesses.

    As our billionaire former Mayor proclaimed, New York City is the world capital of financialized commerce and all that goes with it. “Financialization”, you see, is not an expression of an old man’s disapproval but a way of naming what an old man sees, hears, feels, laments. It is a world transformed, unrecognizable in the ways that matter. It is wealth and capital becoming gods, the pursuit of riches as an end in itself, and an economy functionally separated from producing real things. It is market rationality, a way of thinking about literally everything that matters exclusively in terms of costs and benefits, means and ends, efficiencies, calculating how to achieve without every questioning what it is we want to achieve. It is "real" actually changing its meaning, another topic more interesting still. It is growing wealth and income inequality, something about which Aristotle had some wise and cautionary words in his Politics. To us ordinary folk it looks more like exotically placed bets-on-credit in the casino than ways to grow real-world business, jobs, wages, and income and to keep our great good places alive.

    And I am sorry if I have rained on anyone’s NYC parade. Speaking of which, what once was the glorious NYC Patrick's Day Parade...no, we won't go there!

    Hey Al, that was fantastic- really enjoyed your writing and look forward to more of it in the future.

    While Mom worked; my Bopcia (l am half mad- Polack, haha) took me on a number of occasions to the ’64 Worlds Fair, which epitomized American (white) confidence at the time …Dad would take me to Sunnyside Gardens where the fights in the stands were often-times more worthy than the action in the ring!
    I was born in Bayside (Gods country) in ’61, so was privileged to be a fan of that young expansion franchise- that replaced the Brooklyn Dodgers- the Amazin’ Mets…somewhere in my collection of vinyl LP,s is a World Series celebration/collaboration of these classy guys singing gawd- awful renditions of corn-pone classics such as “ya gotta have heart.”

    By 1985-when l was an older professional musician- our blues band, Brainstorm, were regularly featured at a great joint at 14th and 2nd called Dan Lynch(s). A real saloon with swinging bar doors and a floor walker/booking agent by the name of Bill Dicey…and a pool table- and The Smoking!!
    Great acts there: Frankie Paris, the Holmes Bros., Robert Ross…One night Stevie Ray jammed after a gig at the Garden!

    Dan Wakefield wrote a paean to NY called “New York in the 50′s” that you would enjoy.
    A recurring motif is from a poem by bohemian John Reed:

    Manhattan, zoned with ships, the cruel
    Youngest of all the world’s great towns,
    Thy bodice bright with many a jewel,
    Imperially crowned with crowns…

    Who that has known thee but shall burn
    In exile till he comes again
    To do thy bitter will, O stern
    Moon of the tides of men!

    Now l am in Philadelphia; the proprietor of the last of the “New York Style”- cash only- thin crust pizzerias. A real hole-in-the-wall, where l can play my guitar and sling some slices…
    Its easier to be a bohemian here. Lots of artists have removed themselves from the sausage-grinder, that NY has become…

    One day l will pack up the ol’ jazzbox and my street amp and take the Chinese bus from here- and do some busking around Washington Square, or Battery Park…perhaps.

    Bravo BigAl. And you too Lin. Stop in to my joint some time, l am in Old City.

    The slices and Cokes are on me.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  50. Delmas says:

    My Lord it is a test! This writing out the dying of the West. – T.S. Elliot

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  51. anon says: • Disclaimer

    Come on Linh, you know your audience better than this . Zero mentions of Jews and a patheticc 50 comments puhleezzzzzzzzzzz. You need to mention at least 6 times per article how bad Jews are and how much you detest them if you want views and comments . Hasn’t Ronnie made this salient point crystal clear to you yet . And a few mentions about Anglo Zionism , Putin is so dreamy and Iranians are so swoony won’t hurt either .!!!!!!!!!!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  52. JMcG says:
    @RadicalCenter
    How retarded are those people that they "can't" designate one of a group of friends / neighbors to stay sober and drive each night? Give me a break.

    People in fact have no right to risk other people's lives by driving drunk. That's not a nanny-state proposition, that's simple respect for other people's right to live and not be physically harmed.

    I don’t disagree with what you are saying. The people I am referring to weren’t hopping in a giant Buick and ripping down the street at 65.
    These were mostly old farmers who would drive into town for Saturday evening mass. Some on their tractors, some on little Honda 50 Step thru scooters. After Mass, they would step into the pub for a couple of pints and some time away from the long Irish winter nights.
    The farmers would talk sheep, the fishermen would curse the seals, and everyone would talk weather.
    The DUI laws in Ireland kick in at 0.05% BAC, so a single pint of Guinness gets you there. The police find it easier to set up checkpoints to catch only half tipsy old men than to actually go after the sometimes violent youth in the drug trade. In the past 40 years I’ve never heard of one of the people I’m talking about cause injury to anyone.
    The young people and the urban set will get cabs, but the old men haven’t adjusted.
    They just sit at home in lonely desperation. Some have taken to drinking the cheap beer from the supermarket at a quarter of the price they pay in the pub. It’s not a healthy or enjoyable way of life.
    Oh, and as usual, if you are a politician, or well connected, you have nothing at all to worry about, go on and do as you please. It’s very easy to legislate away the pleasures of others when it will have no effect on your own.
    Almost none of them are retarded either.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  53. JMcG says:
    @Johnny Smoggins
    The other thing that's killed bars, at least where I'm from, is the smoking ban. There's definitely a correlation between people who smoke and drinking and now those people just drink at home where they can still smoke. They've been replaced at the bars by hipster moms in yoga pants, teetotalers and the sort of people who think having three drinks in one night means really letting loose.

    Nobody wants to stand outside and smoke when's it's ten below so why bother going at all? Now everyone just stays at home and smokes weed by themselves.

    To my surprise, the smoking ban didn’t kill the rural pub culture. I was also shocked that it was implemented fully and rapidly and without much of a fuss really.
    My octogenarian Uncle pops out for a smoke every now and then no matter the weather, but he’s as hard as iron. In fact, he won’t even smoke in his own house any longer.
    It’s the DUI laws in my opinion. It IS a tough problem with no easy solution, not that one is being sought. The people affected are mostly older and out of sight.
    It’s just made a tough place to get by significantly tougher for many of the rural class.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  54. Blissex says:

    «Modern urban planning has also done its job. In his 1937 Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell explains»

    That is a big deal, and it is intentional, both on a commercial and political level, to segregate people by income.

    That is “developments”, especially suburban ones, are targeted at specific income levels, so that the whole development ends up of a uniform class.
    Old towns and cities were mixed class: in the same building the rich lived on the convenient first few floors, and the poor on the less convenient (before elevators) upper floors and attics, or the rich lived in nice buildings blocks next to the poor in more dilapidated buildings.

    The goals of segregating developments by income are three: #1 in the USA to exclude colored people from middle and upper class areas, #2 to ensure that local taxes paid by the upper classes don’t fund local services middle and low class areas #3 to ensure that the votes of the low classes are concentrated in heavily low class areas, so that they elect a small number of representatives with very large majorities.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
Current Commenter says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Linh Dinh Comments via RSS