It’s A Helluva Town!

One of the few things I like about the world in 2012 is how quickly a talented person can get famous. The Internet provides the platform, and it’s up to you to create the 15 minutes of fame that will skyrocket you to stardom. The present rash of “Shit BLANKS Say” videos allows anyone to jump on its coattails. It’s wonderful to see so much cultural pride and humor, and the viral quality of the “series” allows almost anyone to join in and get noticed quickly. For instance, the video I’m about to share had 303 hits when I first saw it last night, and as I’m writing the first draft of this blog, it has 29,000 {up 2,000 now}. It’s also got an actor that looks a bit like Leno who I’m sure will be famous soon.

Like everyone else, I’ve got lots of ways I can be categorized, and over time I’ve realized Native New Yorker is the one with which I most identify.  How we are all so different yet we have so much in common. Watch “Shit Native New Yorkers Say” below and we’ll continue our discussion after…..

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“It was shitty back then but it was kind of better in a way.”

I have said almost everything in that video, and more than once. I’m obsessed with the way the buildings of my past are being replaced with enormous Duane Reades. It’s hard to love and live in this stressful, expensive city that’s constantly changing—I know that’s part of the magic of it. The constant newness is part of why it’s the Best. Yet it’s where we come from, where our memories were built, and consistently having one’s physical memories replaced with shiny expensive crap is difficult to deal with.

Coney Island is one of my very favorite places in NYC. I was introduced to it as a teenager, not as an amusement park, but as beautifully kitschy, sleazy remnant of an extraordinary past. During the 1980s and 90s, there were functioning amusement parks and privately-owned rides, the Rainbow Village flea market, and a vast under-Boardwalk area that was used for various purposes. There were beautiful run-down buildings where you could just imagine what it had been like almost a hundred years before. This Coney was something, a living monument to a glamorous past, the first place in New York City where people of all classes gathered for out-of-control fun. But now, progress has brought us to huge gutted areas where historical buildings once stood, a shiny new amusement park, and sand fills the area under the Boardwalk. Nothing will ever make Coney as important as it was when electricity was new, and to me, a monument to Sodom by the Sea is more important to this city than new amusement parks and hotels that will push the occupants of the neighborhood God knows where—can’t get any more South than Coney.

Sometimes I think I’m just getting old. I’m still three years from fifty, but already my resentment of the present is extreme. The video makes me wonder though, is that just part of being a New Yorker? To constantly complain of how everything is changing, that it was better before, when it was dirtier, sleazier, more unique, and more real.  New York will never be number one the way it’s been in the past—other cities in other countries are just as modern and fabulous now. Tokyo’s got the same crazy lights as we do in Times Square—what we used to have was not just about spectacle. The city used to have soul, real deep soul that now you have to look closely to find. It’s there, it’s all around us, but it’s not what’s being  featured.

And for the record, I actually went to high school with King Ad Rock of the Beastie Boys.