Monday, May 12, 2008

Vanishing Cities

With the minute possibility of moving to New York within the next couple of years, I've been reading articles/books/blogs about the current vanishing of New York, or at least, the New York worth preserving, and the bringing about of the same mindless driveling culture of today.

In particular, I've been intrigued by this blog, called Jeremiah's Vanishing
New York a.k.a. The Book of Lamentations: a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct

I've been particularly taken aback by the entry called How Sex and City killed New York City, which details, in a general timeline, how the introduction of one horrible yuppie bar in the Bowery caused a transformation of "every woman into a clone of Carrie-fucking-Bradshaw" and consequently, how its streets became "overrun by cupcake-munching, giant-handbag-carrying, soulless robots". Harsh? Perhaps, but I see it happening not just in New York, but pretty much in every city I've visited in my entire young life, and especially in San Francisco. [As a sidenote, it bothers me that Sarah Jessica Parker's face looks so much like a foot. Also, does anyone else remember Kristin Davis from Melrose Place and HOW HUGE HER ASS WAS back then?! Effing Hott.]

True to life, one commenter (Rob, from San Francisco) on Jeremiah Wright's wonderful post says it all:

I live in San Francisco. I think you've misnamed the phenomenon. I think what you're really talking about is the recent era of the "in city." SF and NYC shared the spotlight in the 70's. NYC and LA in the 80's. In the early 1990's it was Seattle. In the late 90's it was San Francisco. Ironically 9/11 made NYC the next fashionable city.

In both San Francisco and Seattle being the center of the young and cool universe destroyed the very culture that brought it national attention as a cool place to be. Years later both cities are still trying to recapture that thing they once had before the locusts arrived.

NYC is coming up on the end of it's time in the lime light though. Soon the wealthy fashionistas well grow out of it or run to the next "It city." My money is on Chicago... It still feels authentic, which is really what people are chasing. It's too bad they can't become part of the culture without destroying it.

In my short life in San Francisco, I've witnessed reinventions of the Inner Mission, Western Addition (NoPa?!?!? *shudders*), Hayes Valley, Lower Haight, the Dogpatch... slow vanilla-fication of every distinct and personable neighborhood until what was once worth saving is now indistinguishable from what was once deemed urgent to stop.

Instead of Sex and the City and New York, perhaps us here on the Left Coast should call it the Newsom-ification of San Francisco.


djshank said...

I agree with the thoughts on Chicago. It is a big city that still has its soul. Although it has already been "the next big thing", too (jazz era). I guess its all just one big cycle...

eddo said...

One big thing about Chicago to point out as well, it's DIRT CHEAP compared to other current "it" cities.

djshank said...

Also, it's full of nice straight men.

eddo said...

So that's what you mean by "soul". ;)

(Sorry I just couldn't help it there... just found it funny because I found Chicago to be one of the most corporate mainstream-y cities I've visited)

djshank said...

it was pretty corporate, but the people were kind and unpretentious.

and single.

and straight.

and male.

Nancy said...

interesting post. Hm, not sure Chicago will ever assume a place quite like NYC or LA or even SF has held as an "It" city. It has long been believed Chicago would be the next NYC but that fails to materialize. Why? B/c Chicago really is resistant to change. I mean, sure, gentrification happens all the same (Wicker Park mirrored Hayes Valley mirrored LES). But it's the mentality of the people of Chicago. And believe me, I love the refreshingly unpretentious and truly racially diverse population, dont get me wrong. But. But. But. Also, as to the notion it is mainstream --there's a reason why major ad agencies have HQs there. Chicago is the best testing ground for mainstream America. If Chicago catches on, youve got yourself a national HIT. It's the perfect bridge b/w forward thinkers and middle of the road.

I've now forgotten what my point is. So whatever. Publishing now.

eddo said...


Chicago very might well assume an international stage/spotlight in 2016, no? 2016 Olympics, anyone?

Anyways, they say San Franciscans are smug (we are) but I've always felt the Chicago "This is AMERICA! We're REAL AMERICANS!" schtick (please, Chicago has as much pomp and glamour as any other alpha city in this country - it ain't no Detroit or STL or Kansas City) disengaging and offputting.

Nancy said...

Hah! This is true. They do like to call themselves out as "real americans" -- but it comes from a different place / has a different value. I need to say more but must go to dinner! Be right back after these quick messages!