I enjoy Time Out New York, especially because it likes to seem edgy, as if it is written by dirt-poor, adventure-seeking poets with eccentric facial hair. Naturally, a cover headline called "Has Manhattan Lost Its Soul?" seemed right up its alley. Granted, Manhattan has entered into a gilded age that is slowly but inexorably corporatizing just about everything. There is a microcosmic block not too far from me that used to have all sorts of eclectic shops along it, but the lineup is now: Starbucks, spa, chain store, dry cleaner, chain store, wireless store, Subway. And to add insult to insult, all the awnings are homogenized, in the same font and color scheme.
New slogan: Welcome to New York! Just Like A Strip Mall, Except Without the Parking!
Manhattan has lost lots of iconic landmarks lately, and to see what's replacing them can reduce you to hot, sour tears. But I remember my neighborhood when I first moved in, and it was full of the filth and degradation TONY's editors are supposedly pining for. Drug addicts used to tuck their methadone hits from the clinic into their cheeks and sell them for crack in the park, which you'd never traverse at night. My car was broken into several times, twice by a homeless person who probably slept there and put his coals out on my dashboard. Kids from the nearby high school were routinely arrested for weapons and drug possession. And if you had told me then that one day I'd be raising my two young sons in this hellhole, I'd have strangled myself with my sideburns.
Now, of course, all of that stuff is long gone. And today, as the Berts and I walked hand-in-hand to school, there were dozens of other kids, hand in hand with their moms and dads, laughing and running in circles, low-slung backpacks flying off of shoulders. Then TwoBert and I stopped into my coffee place, where Stacy served up my usual and gave TwoBert a free scone. We window-shopped and walked about, waving at the deli guy and the dry cleaner guy and the diner guys, I wondered whether you can consider something lost if you don't really want it back.