We’ve all heard the stories about the streets of New York being paved with gold. When I first arrived at the ripe old age of four, I thought they were true. Considering, in the early 90s, the streets were more likely littered with used condoms and dirty needles, my naivety was admirable.
Eighteen years later, post-Guliani clear up, post- 9/11, and post-credit crunch, the city is a different place. Before, tourists were warned to keep their belongings to themselves and avoid most areas below 59th street after dark. Now, the majority of areas are safer than London and flashing your cash is positively encouraged. At least on the Upper East Side.
Gentrification (the movement of white, middle class families into areas that previously housed bohemian artists and musicians; read drug dealers and prostitutes) has become the buzz word for lamenting indie kids everywhere. They killed the music, man. But is it really a bad thing?
Culture is impressive n’all but it comes at a price. When we were younger, scoring the next joint or having a free ticket to the edgiest party is thought to be paramount. However, there comes a point where a safe post-drinks trip between tube and front door seems more important. Perhaps it’s possible to have both but, much like organised and scheduled fun, it never quite measures up to the experiences you have when you really shouldn’t.
There’s one aspect of New York that hasn’t changed and that’s the intensity which is both stifling and incredibly stimulating. Its not only the city where you can do anything but, more temptingly, be anyone. Walking into a downtown bar the other night, we came across a group of sailors (Fleet week – see Sex and the City) who claimed to be part-time Navy Seals, naturally. After a few margaritas, Phil from Louisianna admitted that him and his buddies used that line to determine the IQ of their various conquests. Despite being chauvanistic and slightly immoral, it’s surprising how many people believed them.
Gentrification has become the buzzword of the lamenting indie kids. They killed the music, man
What fun! I hear you (and the Famous Five) shout. What jolly japes! It can go to your head, though. Considering I consider myself quite straight less, I was surpised when mere days ago, I found myself being called India, gyrating with some Americans on a bar called McFaddens. I didn’t intend to get that drunk, you see; I couldn’t believe that a $1 beer called Nattie Lite could possibly get you drunk.
We’d all like to believe that the reasons we behave the way we do is because of some fixed inner compass. Something that will guide us. No matter what the situation. However, if lads on tour teach us anything its that anonymity can be an intoxicating drug. And if its not our morals that keep us on the straight and narrow then its the fact that we might get caught. And if that’s true, then who knows what we might do given the right combination.
Any city almost entirely consisting of people coming from somewhere hoping to make it has a certain status about it. We may worry about not fitting in but these people gave up on that ideal a long ago. Think of the woman we saw time ago. On the subway the other day. Wearing a t-shirt that said “Seriously man, don’t fuck my Mom” (but without the grammar), she was willing to tell everyone and anyone that she was out of work and looking for business. That girl was almost definitely not a cheerleader in high school. And neither were most of us.
So, what’s the lesson from a city like this? Well, in the words of Elle Woods and optimists everywhere, be yourself. Not necessarily for any more fundamental reason than the fact that you’ll never be convincing if you pretend you’re anything else. And, at the end of the day, that’s all you’ve got.