clap clap blog: we have moved

Monday, June 20, 2005
I opened the special "New Brooklyn" section of the Times on Sunday to find: this.

And then I read it. And then I snarled and threw it away.

For those unfamiliar, let me explain: this is my former neighborhood. And by "former neighborhood," I mean I lived in one of the buildings described in the article. The stretch pictured at the head of the story was directly across the street from me, and the "Brooklyn's Natural" at the far right was where I often shopped.

This was the first place I lived in New York, and I have since, fairly recently, moved out.

And so I have a few responses:

1) "I guess we're pioneers, but we're not homesteaders, you know?" Pioneers? Cracker please. When I moved in it was July 2001 and there were only three other occupied apartments in the building. The first floor hadn't even been converted yet--we went down and took a desk and some envelopes and a sweater or two and a fog machine. There were no stores in the immediate vicinity; the only nearby bodega, two blocks down from the Morgan stop, closed at 8. Life Cafe opened a year after I got there, when Kristie was moving in. Cab drivers didn't even seem to know the area existed. And this is to say nothing of the people who'd been living there for years and years and years. The Catch-22 analogy is invalid, but if you want to push it, you're as much oil speculators as the brokers are. People like you chased my ass out.

2) Cheap? Are you serious? When I moved in it was already moderately expensive, but when I moved out those damn 800 square foot lofts were going for $2000 a month. Unfurnished! Some without walls! In what universe is this cheap? Oh, right: the universe of Rutgers dropouts in a band in Brooklyn. Which brings us to:

3) "It's dirty, it's cheap, and we can play music all night." Few quotes have brought quite such a chill to my heart. The dirty part is technically neutral, the cheap we've dealt with. As for the last bit? Well. What conditions have to exist in a building for you to be able to play music all night? Basically, there can't be anyone around who really needs to sleep at normal hours. In other words, no one living there can have a job. (Or children, but.) The problem is, dude, some of us did have jobs, and some of us did need to sleep. But y'all were playing music all night. And not good music. Oh no, not good music. What kind of music would you expect from a band with the word "Plastic" in its name, and made up of Rutgers drop-outs, one of whom describes the neighborhood as "like the new Haight-Ashbury"? That's right: hippie music. Motherfucking hippie music. Twenty-four fucking hours a fucking day.

Look, no band needs to practice "all night." OK, maybe La Monte Young, but if I lived next door to La Monte Young, I would have killed myself long ago. (Nice to listen to and all, but maybe not something you want to hear muffled and constantly, whether you want to or not.) I'm certainly sympathetic to the desire to play music at odd hours, and indeed, the ability to make noise was attractive to me. But make music by yourself, man. Do you really need to play with your band all the goddamn time? Let me answer for you. No you do not. If you do, you need a better band, or to stop playing music and get a goddamned job.

Speaking of which:

4) "Anybody you meet has got something going on." And that something is inevitably stupid. The thing no one wants to tell you about bohemia is that for ever legendary community that produced all this great art, there are 99 other scenes that resulted in nothing but horrendously narcississtic pseudo-art and a shared set of venereal diseases. Everyone seemed to have their thing "going on" because they didn't have to deal with being at a job for 10 hours a day--they had some mysterious outside means of support. And they all had to be supportive of each other no matter the merits of the project at issue.

So, in sum: no one discovers anything new in New York, they just move there based on a complex set of values (proximity to Manhattan/subway lines, amount of space, sociability of neighborhood denizens, demographic makeup of the building, etc.) and you should not be proud of where you're living unless you've done some nice things with your apartment. Also, you should probably get a job, it would either make your art better or convince you that it sucks. And both are fine with me. And, finally, the neighborhood merited an article like this maybe two years ago, and has since spread even farther. That the Times is behind the curve is unsurprising; that they were able to find a chode of this magnitude (the reportedly quite nice Mr. Travis Harrison, who seems to be having fun with the whole thing, aside) to say this crap is just mind-boggling.