Technically, the post really belongs in the Vanishing Downtown category, but I'm probably the only person paying attention to those distinctions, so whatever. I was originally going to post this song after I took a torturously long walk around the East Village and Alphabet City on Sunday while timing myself. Y'see, my daughter's preschool is moving from its super-convenient location just a two minutes walking distance away from our front door to a far-flung perch on the border between the East Village, Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. While those streets still conjure many a fond memory of my distant youth for me (invariably involving irresponsible amounts of alcohol and inconsiderately garrulous Punk Rock) and you'll often find me waxing rhapsodic about those very neighborhoods right here on this stupid weblog, the fact that we're now looking at countless, exhausting treks in and out of that neck of the woods on a daily basis during invariably inclement weather is significantly bumming out the wife and I.
So during my off hours (which are many, being that I'm still unencumbered by a job), I've been trying to divine the shortest-feeling route through the East Village. Do I just go straight down 9th Street and hang a right on Avenue B? Do I zig-zag between streets and avenues? Should I just hoof down Broadway and turn East at Houston? I've yet to find the perfect route, and I somehow doubt that I will.
While the walks have been mildly therapeutic (I normally enjoy long walks), I can't seem to stride through these streets without getting somewhat depressed. I don't mean to celebrate squalor (well, not really), but as I've said countless times here before, this area used to just emanate such character and cool. Now, it's just a gentrified, exhaustively developed ghost town. I can't seem to walk three blocks without the memory of some long lost haunt jumping out at me. CBGB. Greendoor NYC. Coney Island High. The Lizmar Lounge. Alcatrazz. Woody's. Brownie's. Sin-E. King Tut's Wah Wah Hut. Downtown Beirut. The Spiral. The original Knitting Factory. SeeHear. Stooz Records. Free Being Records. Smash CD's. Blah blah blah....
And if I feel bad about long-lost record stores, bars and live music venues, imagine how the bona fide locals feel about how the rich tapestry of the neighborhoods' multi-ethnic background has been compromised and virtually stamped out by the spastic goose-step of real estate development!
I did the walk early one weekday morning a few weeks ago, and I was somewhat stunned at the, well, army of smartly-dressed, Blackberry-twiddling young urban professionals marching West up St Marks Place, presumably towards the 6 train at Astor Place. I'm not suggesting that I'm naive enough to think that the East Village is still an enclave exclusively populated by bohemians, starving artists, poets, beatniks and punks, but this parade of affluent, polished urbanites and corporate executives looked as if they were stepping right off the elevator at Barney's. It was just the sort of sight that sends Jeremiah Moss of Vanishing New York into a lather (as I was similarly frothing).
The strangest street to walk down now, however, is 1st street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue. Not even that long ago, this strip -- tucked between CBGB, the Mars Bar and 295 Bowery (otherwise known as the infamous old site of McGurk's Suicide Hall) -- was an intriguingly desolate little backwater. Now it's a cold, chillingly quiet canyon of glass and steel. Massive new buildings have been erected on either side of the street, their ground floors festooned with idealized images of their target demographic. I still associate this street with CBGB and its accompanying scene of the 80's and 90's. As such, songs like "Evil Eye" by Pussy Galore still come surging through my brain when I walk down it. If you're curious about this song, click here to read what I've scrawled about the great Pussy Galore here before.
This song is also wholly appropriate as I can't seem to wipe my own evil eyed scowl off my face as I re-visit these streets. Play this good and loud and take a hammer to the next Blackberry you see.