Walking these streets is not like walking the old streets I grew up in, although sometimes, these streets look like those streets, but they are not the same.
I guess every generation watches the world change so fundamentally that it sees no way to get back what once was, or to know if getting back means anything, or if it was as good or not good as memory makes it out to be.
Some bratty 20-something called the 1960s “a bubble”, and the baby boom and its post world war two economy “a fluke,” and that the need and greed that frames that period of time, “an illusion.”
Need and greed I saw reemerge with the panic over shortages of gasoline and beef during the early 1970s when the same people who were so full of peace and love only a few years prior did their best to cut their way into the line ahead everybody else.
We seem to be framed by the greed of Post Civil War and the robber barons, and the greed of the post 1960s with the corporate pirates and Washington’s dire need to make rich people richer by setting up policies to keep poor people poor – the whole time right wing whackos telling us that the government does too much for the poor.
So I wander these streets, searching for something that is real, and hear tales of how this city I came to call home will soon be the biggest city in the state, and that is something I should be proud about, watching world turn over backwards to make this place even more unbearably crowded, and with only lip service to the poor.
This was the reaction I felt during a gallery opening recently, when the wealthy patrons brought in their token poor while sipping champagne and slapping each other on the backs about making the city unaffordable for those poor to ever live in, unless of course they sell their souls to places like Wall Street. There were even a few real artists there, too, clinging to shirt tails of the rich.
It’s the champagne cords popping, and the elite that gathers to celebrate new wealth and somehow tying it to poverty, when one causes the other, and is hardly ever its cure.
Poe hated phony artists, and it was his downfall. He didn’t realize that it is the phony artist that evolves out of the real arts movement that eventually transforms places like this into places with no more room for real artists or the poor, and that inch by inch, year by year, both are eventually evicted from places they once called home.
So I walk these streets getting glimpses of the real before the sparkling glass replaces them with a new world I’m too poor to live in, and wouldn’t want to live in even if I could afford it.
Outside, the streets were alive with music, a kind of tribute to the 1960s hippie past that is no longer viable without a job on wall street as towering building block out sunlight, and everybody mumbles something about being green.
I walk these streets the way a ghost does, realizing we can never go back, and the West Village, East Village or even this village are doomed to extinction, and what will follow will be bigger than what came before, but perhaps not anywhere near better.