Sunday, April 07, 2013

I Liked It Better When Things Sucked

Joe Queenan, who I normally enjoy reading, has yet another jejune lament that Manhattan isn't the socially broken down shithole of yore.  Where are all the mob hits?  Where have all the drugged-up trannies gone?  Why do we have neighborhoods where people can actually walk through at night?

I get it.  To a point.  There is a certain frisson to living in a war-zonish major city.  I myself have war stories, like when my neighbor was murdered with a kitchen knife by his gay lover and nobody on the hall figured it out until the stink took over.  It makes for a great story, but truth be told, nobody really wants to live that way.  Likewise, New Yorkers really didn't want the dysfunctional mess that pre-dated Giuliani/Bloomberg era New York.  They understand that when you can't even have trans-fats, Big Gulps or smoke in bars, how can you expect to have a mob hit a week or tranny mud-wrestling on the corner?  You can't. And New Yorkers decided they were done with all that bullshit.

Ask yourself, why did New York (New York Fucking City!) elect a hard-ass, Republican prosecutor whose only real campaign plank seemed to be an animus toward "Squeegee Men" as mayor?  After two terms of that guy, who they bitched about to no end, why did they elect a prissy arrogant finance guy?  Why?  Why?  And why?  Because living in a broke-ass, shithole where the dregs of society rule the streets is not long term fun.  Like I said, it has its short term frisson, especially for transplants from the rest of the country who want to prove to Ma and Pa that they can make it in the world (or just piss Ma and Pa the hell off), but it sucks to think that you're hunkering down for a decade or more to do battle in the Land of the Drug-Addled, Crime-Prone Misfit Toys.

I get Queenan's nostalgia, but it is an unhealthy nostalgia.  New York is a great city and it became a great city because it was, mostly, a city of strivers, not of voyeurs.  The era for which Queenan pines was a hiatus from the greatness of New York, it was a time where New York lost its way and coasted on its accumulated greatness.  It had to correct itself or it would have been modern day Detroit before Detroit became modern day Detroit.  Great cities have to pick themselves up by their bootstraps or else the whole fuckin' place will up and move to Texas or North Carolina.  New York has come back a tad, but it has never quite aggressively attempted to re-assert its greatness, and I think that is by design - it wants to be a great city but it wants to be a nice place to live too.  Which is why it feels a bit like Iowa to Queenan.  That's fine by me.  I like that I can get country music in the Big Apple now, and I like that I can get a bad-ass meatball parm sub in South Carolina (Guiseppe's in Hilton Head, btw).  To me, both are progress.


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