High Life

A Soft Manhattan Night

June 10, 2017

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A Soft Manhattan Night

Main Street is a place, but it’s mostly an idea. It’s locally owned shops selling stuff to hardworking townies, as we used to call the locals back when I was in boarding school. The townies worked dependable blue-collar jobs in auto plants and coal mines. Their sons played American football hard, cut their hair short, and married their high school sweethearts. I went back to my old school recently with my old buddy Tony Maltese, a wrestler who never lost a match, and had a nostalgic lunch with the wrestling coach and talked over old times. The feeling was one of community and of having control over your life. I talked about Britain, and how the Brits have lost control of their lives because of open borders.

Then the news of the latest London outrage came in, and one couldn’t help thinking how free and safe we used to feel, and how now only Sadiq Khan and the protected politicians feel the way we used to. Mind you, throughout the Rust Belt—Trump country—the image of Main Street is now one of empty storefronts and abandoned buildings, and redolent of Amazon and McDonald’s. Oh, for a magic wand to restore the small shops and get rid of the behemoths.

“For one brief hour—more like five—I was back in old New York, young and ready to try my luck.”

Then it was back to the big city, crossing Times Square with its overwhelming electronic ads and costumed performers who entrap the yokels to take their picture and pay through the nose for them, or else. From Times Square it was on to Brooklyn, where all the once-called yuppies have ended up. There is no longer a Brooklyn accent; the place has become multicultural, hence crap. I remember when the Brooklyn Dodgers were still located there, and when a grammatically challenged announcer by the name of Tex Rickard reminded the customers in Ebbets Field, “Don’t throw nuthin’ from the stands.” That was the real Brooklyn, a borough crammed with trolley lines and potbellied, cigar- chomping hobo fans whose motto was “Wait till next year.” The Dodgers moved to the lucrative Los Angeles area in 1958 and have been winners ever since. Brooklyn got multiculturalism in return. It was the worst deal since the Indians sold Manhattan to the Dutch.

It has always been thus—in modern times, that is. A vanished conviviality suffered by a small community when the real estate sharks smell blood. Brooklyn Heights, where my buddy Michael Mailer lives in his dad’s house, still has sedate, leafy streets, fine old homes, lush gardens, and lofty harbor views, as if time has stood still since the early 1800s. A hundred and fifty years ago, enterprising Heights property owners sold off plots for new homes to Manhattan swells, advertising them as country living. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the ensuing subway service saw the swells heading for Newport and the Hamptons. Rooming houses, machine shops, and factories are to a swell what the onion is to a vampire. It was time for hasty migration. Large houses were subdivided into rooming houses and apartments. The bohemians arrived in force. This was the best news since Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown.