Friday, August 14, 2009

In Support of Poets

I am in full agreement with the economic analysis put forth in the most recent All Poets Are Thieves posting.

I moved to Manhattan when no one (apparently) wanted to be here and got an admittedly rather crummy apartment for a hundred and fifty dollars a month. If that same apartment today were not ten times as expensive--maybe more--I would be shocked.

Today, the notion that one is young, ambitious, creative and pretty broke yet able to find a home in the canyons of the great City of Dreams, is chimerical. Even as rents fall by fifteen and twenty percent (at most), the city, and especially Manhattan, is still held in a white-knuckled grip by landlords (and co-op owners and condo-owners to a lesser extent)who seek crazily to drive every penny of profit out of each and every livable space between the Battery and Spuyten Duyvil (and beyond).

This did not happen in a vacuum. Certain large areas of Manhattan were, for a long enough time, a bargain for the creative minds that powered it--until there were enough of them to crowd out the junkies, thieves, creeps, drunks and filthy whackos that used to lard the populace and help keep the whole place somewhat on edge and somewhat undesirable to those seeking a proper, hassle-free lifestyle. Many of those who arrived as broke creatives became loft-owners and wanted nothing less than a hassle-free lifestyle and then fully supported the various crackdowns and price-runs that eventually created a city that now resembles the city of old only in its pace and its linear height.

So many of the old charms (yes, charms) of Manhattan are now gone. Small, cranky shops that could be found nowhere else are now nowhere to be found. Does anyone remember places like Magickal Childe where you could buy henbane and skulls, or 13th Street Lumber where you could buy pieces of wood small enough to carry home yourself? One could go on--the loss of diners, the loss of bookstores, the loss of non-chain-store coffee shops, the loss of cheap junk shops with really cool stuff in them--in essence, the loss of uniqueness that made Manhattan a place where one could manage to live well and cheaply and just beyond the clutches of landowners and great corporations that had moved to the suburbs.

Manhattan today, even as it suffers a severe economic downturn, is no place for the young dreamer of little means. Today's rag-tag dreamer has become a victim of a previous generation of dreamers' success. This is terribly sad. But young dreamers will find their own places--some have gone to the Hudson Valley for instance, and some to still-marginal sections of the boroughs (not including Williamsburgh which is well-trodden and unjustifiably expensive). Manhattan will be the richer, but also much the poorer--and certainly far, far less interesting.