Today on Blogcritics
Home » Is New York “Over?” – Part Two

Is New York “Over?” – Part Two

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

For those who missed it, take a look at “Is New York ‘Over’?” – Part One.

It often seems to me that the typical New Yorker is never satisfied. No matter how well off they have it, and despite living in what is (to me at least) the greatest city in the world, their complaints are legion. One of the ways this perpetual dissatisfaction manifests itself is via the ever-changing state of the neighborhoods residents live in or once lived in. The long-ago metamorphosis of SoHo is one prime example. The typical scenario goes something like this:

Young urbanite finds that s/he is priced out of a “desirable” area of Manhattan – or later, even Manhattan itself.

A few brave souls, often artists, decide to explore “uncharted territory.” Many decades ago, artists began moving into formerly industrial areas such as SoHo to avail themselves of still cheap and generous amounts of space. The area was dark and unwelcoming, with virtually no residential amenities.

After the artists had given it their stamp of approval, others became drawn to the now-hip ambiance of the area. Soon SoHo became a mecca of the new arts scene, and restaurants and bars sprung up to accommodate the residents and myriad tourists who came to visit what had become a charming enclave of converted loft spaces and world-class galleries.

The beginning of the end of the SoHo “scene” commenced when its main drag, West Broadway, became clogged with retail outlets. My friend D used to say everything on West Broadway was a “gallery” — a clothing gallery, a shoe gallery, a jewelry gallery.

Eventually the area became too expensive for all but the most successful artists, and the more monied non-artists who could afford to bask in their reflected glory. The main art scene and the biggest storefront galleries such as Mary Boone moved from SoHo to Chelsea, and other struggling artists looked elsewhere for sufficient space in which to live and work.

My boyfriend BG, who first came to the city in the summer of ’69, often reminisces about how accessible and affordable Manhattan used to be. After returning from his periodic “sabbaticals” at his brother’s or parent’s places in Louisiana or Wisconsin, he could get off the bus and within an hour or so be set up in a cheap hotel. The per-day rate at the Bowery flophouse BG used to frequent when he was too poor to get an apartment is now too steep for him to ever return to.

The Bowery has been renovated and now harbors, in part, tourists who are looking for cheap accommodations, since a typical Manhattan hotel can run into hundreds a day. Down the block, the legendary club CBGB has closed its doors for good. Pricey bars and restaurants now abound, and a new museum is scheduled to be erected here.

So as Manhattan became out of bounds for artists and the hipsters who followed them — as well as ordinary folks who didn’t have much money to begin with — Brooklyn started to become the next big thing. Park Slope, which as I recall used to be rather dangerous, is now chiefly home to yuppie families with young children. Brooklyn Heights, a hairsbreadth away from Manhattan, is now just as pricey, though more spacious and grand.

As I mentioned in Part One, Williamsburg, Brooklyn — once an enclave for the ethnic poor and Orthodox Jews — became a true hipster haven within a few years’ time. Artists began to discover it, and soon young people looking for cheap rents followed.

At first, the new residents had to endure the same lack of amenities and crime as the old-timers in the area, but when things started to take off, businesses sprung up to accommodate the culture and lifestyle of the mostly young, mostly white new residents. Bars, restaurants, and other necessities of bourgeois New York life began to emerge rapidly.

As neighborhood rents inevitably started to rise, would-be hipsters and scenesters ventured further into the depths of Williamsburg, starting the whole cycle again. The irony was that those who came there to experience the grittiness of a semi-gentrified ‘hood began to complain that the rapid commercial growth of the area had leeched all the original “character” from it. Though these folks’ presence was the primary reason for this change, they now complained bitterly that the Williamsburg scene was officially “over.”

A recent New York Times piece entitled “The Duel Over Cool” illustrates the insecurity of nouveau outer-borough residents. Since deep in the heart and soul of most New Yorkers is an enduring envy of Manhattan, those who leave the “island proper” compensate by declaring their neighborhood to be as good, if not better, than the city’s epicenter. This article described the rivalry between residents of Long Island City in Queens and Williamsburg over which was the most happening place to live.

When I was in the process of putting my Lower East Side coop up for sale, I eagerly scanned all the real estate websites and blogs I could find. One of the best is Curbed. Updated several times daily, Curbed is the place to learn about real estate and housing trends all over the city. It is here, in the comments section, that one can find the snarky, even downright nasty grumblings and comment feuds of the perpetually dissatisfied and/or insecure New Yorker.

Here readers guess the asking price of glam Manhattan coops while declaring that only an idiot would pay those outrageous amounts, especially after the recent housing slowdown. Some praise their neighborhood as the best there is, while others quickly counter that that area sucks for one reason or another. Things can get downright vicious on the hot comment threads.

Recently, Curbed had a short blurb called “The Half-Life of a Trendy Neighborhood”. It linked to an audacious article in New York Magazine entitled “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Cool by Now” and it started off like this:

“Hot Neighborhood Entropy
Red Hook? Already over. Lower East Side? It’s hot — no, wait, it’s not. No, wait, it is again! The life span of a trendy neighborhood used to be measured in decades. Now it might not last long enough for you to make the subway ride out there.”

The gist of the article was that gentrification had accelerated so rapidly that a neighborhood could go from hellhole to cool to “over” in the blink of an eye. Furthermore, the author claimed that Jersey City, which seemed to be showing signs of rapid gentrification, would become the next hot thing — despite the fact that it wasn’t even part of New York City.

This provocative post set off an avalanche of comments at Curbed, with various folks sounding off on what neighborhood was cool and not cool. The comment string is well worth a look, but here are a few typical examples:

“The real estate boom and rags like NYMag have created the impression that you can take any poor non-white neighborhood, sprinkle in a few artists, add a yoga studio and a “brunch place” and blammo – the next cool neighborhood! It used to be (I THINK, anyway) that artists and musicians moved to a neighborhood because it was cheap and they wanted to create their own scene, and it was only later that the cool vultures came. Now people think they can make it all happen at once. But I guess the definition of what’s “cool” has changed too – turn your lifestyle into a brand, etc.”

“Greenpoint and Astoria aren’t on that graph, so that dude doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I think those two neighborhoods trump the South Bronx (SoBro? fck you) as far as the h*pster thing goes.”

new york magazine is for recent transplants and brief reading at the gyno office. by transplants, i mean nonnative new yorkers (not necessarily from the midwest).”

Even though, as a typical New Yorker, I can sometimes be under the delusion that the rest of the country is nothing but an arid “wasteland” of cookie-cutter suburbs, I know other urban areas around the country have seen the same trend emerge. It’s just that as with everything else about New York, the trends seem to emerge earlier and be more spectacular in scope.

In point of fact, however, American suburbs are far from “arid, cookie cutter wastelands,” and their beauty and variety can put any urban area to shame in terms of space and leafiness and grandeur. Though New Jersey is often looked down upon by some New Yorkers as the antithesis of chic, some very wealthy and even famous people live in its posh, luxe suburbs. As for New York State, it boasts vast expanses of lush greenery and wide-open spaces in its suburban and rural areas.

Moreover, though it may seem to some that New Yorkers are insufferably status conscious and elitist, the fact is the status markers of real estate are a big, big deal in America, especially amongst the perpetually insecure middle class. The signs of status in the suburbs revolve more around space, while New York City’s are more about location.

When my ex-boyfriend and I put our downtown Manhattan coop up for sale, I started to watch the “real estate porn” on HGTV — the cable channel that features shows on buying, selling, and renovating properties all over the country and even abroad. I experienced a certain amount of culture shock when I realized the monetary value of our 800 square foot coop could buy a virtual “mansion” in other parts of the country.

For suburbanites, location certainly counts in terms of “good” neighborhoods with good schools, but in some cases this may also mean a longer commute into the urban areas where many go to work each day. The kind of car they drive, the size of their house, the condition of their lawns and gardens, and other accoutrements of the good life unknown to many urban dwellers (such as backyard pools and huge, state of the art kitchens and master baths) can proclaim status as well.

Many folks are walking a narrow financial tightrope trying to showcase their status by keeping up with or surpassing the Joneses or by taking on second mortgages rather than move to a more modest neighborhood they might be able to more comfortably afford.

The value of urban vs. suburban amenities is often in the eye of the beholder. Some ex-Manhattanites who wax poetic about the extra square footage and cushier quality of life to be had outside of the city limits will leave hard-core Manhattan dwellers cold. Some who move to greener (and larger) pastures never look back – and wonder how they ever lived with almost non-existent kitchens and views of brick walls.

Often the move out of the city is a function of “maturity.” As one gets older, marries, and has children, the glitz of city living loses its allure. What value is there in living next to the hottest clubs when one needs separate bedrooms for the kids? How does one prepare a proper “adult” meal in a kitchen the size of a tiny closet, or worse?

Another point to consider is that not long ago, living in Manhattan was not a status symbol. When I told college friends in the ‘70s that I used to live in Queens but now lived in Manhattan, they were puzzled and asked: “Why would you do that? Usually it’s the other way around.” Indeed, in the ‘70s the city was a mess — dirty and dangerous — and most who could afford to escape did so.

In recent decades, of course, the pendulum has swung the other way. New York is now the safest big city in America, and a major national and international tourist destination. Thanks to Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, the quality of life in New York has done a total 360, morphing from dismal to desirable.

New York magazine’s almost-heretical notion that the city’s erstwhile hipness factor may have moved beyond the five boroughs and onto a neighboring state is, although semi-tongue in cheek, also telling evidence that Manhattan’s “status” continues to evolve, and even devolve over time. Fresh faced kids just discovering the city are blissfully unaware of what it meant to be a resident during the ‘70s. Back then, the graffiti strewn subways were akin to dangerous cattle cars; parks were the domain of drug dealers; crime was rampant; and most out-of-towners had no wish to visit a city that had become synonymous with dirt and danger.

A few nights ago, my boyfriend BG decided on a whim to go bar hopping in Manhattan, as we sometimes do, but as usual, the desire to capture the magic that was Manhattan had become a long-lost dream. Walking around Thompkin’s Square Park in the East Village, where the homeless used to dwell in cardboard boxes and one could readily purchase the illegal drug of one’s choice, he observed with some disappointment that the park was clean, “wholesome,” and mostly deserted – save for a few young yuppies walking their poodles.

He came upon a bar that had miraculously survived the decades, which used to be a rowdy place with sawdust on the floor. Now it was frequented by hopelessly young hipsters chatting in little cliques. It was painfully obvious he was old enough to be their father, if not their grandfather. He told me he remarked to the 20-something bartender that beers there used to be 50 cents, which didn’t seem to impress anyone. I told him, far from being awed by the fact that he had resided in Manhattan when it was “cutting edge,” they probably viewed him as they would someone’s old gramps, endlessly droning on about the old days before they had moving pictures and automobiles.

So he returned home to the Bronx, defeated and depressed, as he realized once again that for him, Manhattan was indeed “over.” The New York of his youth had been dangerous, but also exciting and colorful. It was a place where one could live and party cheaply. Back then, Central Park had fallen into serious disrepair, but in the days before it was restored to its former glory, one could come to the park with a six-pack and a few joints and hang out with impunity.

The sleazy Times Square where he used to be able to see a double feature for a pittance has morphed from a virtual red light district of XXX theatres and peep shows into a family friendly haven for out-of-towners who can afford to pay hundreds a night for a hotel and hundreds more for Broadway shows. New Year’s Eve in Times Square was once a chaotic, no-holds-barred scene of drunken revelry; now it is a tightly organized, alcohol free, multimedia affair.

I will miss Manhattan, but like BG, I realize that the Manhattan I once knew is, in large part, gone. And so, with surprisingly few regrets, I will soon be moving to the Bronx as well – an area that, until recently, was considered a national symbol of the hells of urban living. Having lived in Manhattan through good and bad times, I can clearly see the Bronx is on an upswing, albeit a slow one.

Meanwhile, the gritty Manhattan of yore where “only the strong survived” has reached such a tipping point of chic that it is rapidly becoming the sole bastion of the wealthy and privileged. One might even say the very things that made New York so attractive to young folks escaping the bourgeois “blandness” of the suburbs is rapidly ebbing away. The amenities of big-city life in the Bronx may still be lacking, but the cost of living is very appealing. So it’s on to the Bronx for me – in all it’s gritty, unhip, semi-pre-gentrified glory.

Powered by

About Elvira Black

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Funny how it seems that the phrase “The City” only applies to Manhattan, in many respects; I once heard a Queens resident enviously say that he wished he could afford an apartment in The City. But the Manhattan that you describe here, and I think the one I described in the comments on Part One, sounds more and more like a suburb, doesn’t it?

    Fitting, then, that you should choose to move to The Bronx–for so long it’s been an archetype of the dangerous, blighted, and seedy aspects of the American cityscape. All the things that you and your boyfriend seem to miss about Manhattan. So in some respects it is still possible to have a truly edgy lifestyle in New York City–as long as you’re willing to acknowledge the Bronx as “The City.”

    But how long before Disney buys up everything south of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, too?

  • Arch Conservative

    Although I didn’t read most of this article …..I skimmed through it quickly, it doesn’t seem to be worse than the first Elvira.

    You started sounding reasonable when you said that as a city person you can appreciate the open space and beauty of the suburbs but then started pushing the stupid button again two seconds later when you referred to New Jersey as such a beautiful suburb.

    There is nothing that is the least bit desirable or beautiful about the entire state of New Jersey.

    New Jersey could give Massachusetts or Rhode Island a serious run for the money for the title of “biggest shithole of a state in the nation.”

  • Bliffle

    Archie: why trumpet your ignorance of the beauties of Cape May, Brigantine Preserve, egg harbor, etc.? A prudent person would be less bold about his provincialism.

    “There is nothing that is the least bit desirable or beautiful about the entire state of New Jersey.”

    Tsk, tsk.

  • sr

    Lets take a ride in the cash cab.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Michael:

    Yes, for most New Yorkers, “the City” still equals Manhattan.

    “Fitting, then, that you should choose to move to The Bronx–for so long it’s been an archetype of the dangerous, blighted, and seedy aspects of the American cityscape. All the things that you and your boyfriend seem to miss about Manhattan.”

    Well, not exactly…sort-of kind of…

    I think BG romanticizes the “Taxi Driver” era a little more than I do. It was a great relief to me when Mayor Giuliani cleaned up crime in the city. And nice Jewish girl that I am, I tried to stay away from the really dangerous areas as much as I could. BG was a lot more fearless.

    Actually, the South Bronx (aka SoBro, as realtors now like to call it) has become a tiny bit “artsy,” since some artists have actually settled there. The Northwest Bronx, where BG is, is within walking distance of the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens. Just a wee bit north of there is Riverdale, the ritzy section of the Bronx, and the tony suburb of Westchester.

    Bronx’s Little Italy rivals–and indeed now surpasses–Manhattan’s version, which is being muscled out for the most part. Crime has gone down here too, and the parks and waterfront are getting cleaned up as well.

    So though the immediate area is poor/working class, it does have some nice attractions–including much cheaper rents and lower prices. But it definitely has a very urban feel to it, which I like, and I don’t see that changing all too soon.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Arch:

    Aren’t you being a bit…um..snobbish and elitist here?

    Methinks you’re grasping at straws. As I’ve said more than once, I think you’d find much fairer game with moonraven. Taking her on would be a public service to BC.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Bliffle:

    Arch is indeed a puzzlement. However, I now know that he hates New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. And I guess me.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    sr:

    Cash cab indeed–they just raised the taxi fares again!

  • http://wisdomandmurder.com Lisa McKay

    Elvira, both of these pieces have been great reads. I don’t live in NY, but we spend a bit of our recreational time (and money) there — I realize that it’s not the same city it was 20 years ago, but the cultural resources (and the shopping!) are unparalleled for the most part, at least on the east coast. Living there, as you’ve so eloquently pointed out, is a whole ‘nother story.

    As for Arch Conservative, he’s the sort of person who wears his ignorance proudly as if it were a badge of honor.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Lisa:

    Many thanks! Awhile back when I was looking at another Bronx coop, the managing agent, who lived in the building, told me that his younger brother lived in Manhattan–with about four other roommates. On the other hand, the agent lived in the same Bronx building I was looking at, with lots of space for him, his wife, and kids. He put it very aptly: he lives in the Bronx, but goes to the city to “play.”

    I welcome any comments from Arch, but I think this article is kind of slim pickings for his ire.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    the South Bronx (aka SoBro, as realtors now like to call it)

    My mother is a former realtor, but I must say that it’s often the realtors who do more to kill off the spirit of a city neighborhood than anyone else. They like to attach these “hip” little monikers to neighborhoods whose actual names have a stigma attached. I don’t know if they’re the ones who changed Hell’s Kitchen to “Clinton,” but I know they came up with that “SoMa” thing for South of Market in San Francisco, and tried briefly to call DC’s Shaw neighborhood “NoLo” (North of Logan Circle). Oy.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Michael:

    Oh yeah…realtors do like to think up cute little names for ‘hoods, though at this point I don’t know if it’s so much about those with a stigma attached. The thing I noticed now is that more and more, each ‘hood is subdivided more and more into smaller and smaller sections. So you have NoLita, NoHo, Tribeca, Dumbo, Two Bridges, etc, etc.

    There was a funny thing in Curbed not long ago about someone who jokingly called a certain section of town SoHell–lol.

    But the thing that realtors often do as well is list apts as being in neighborhoods they’re not really in, but may be more or less adjacent to. That can be pretty deceptive. But sometimes it’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    Oh yeah, the local broker I used to sell my place is called LoHo Realty. It’s not an “official” neighborhood designation, but I think it’s pretty clever. At least, clever enough to get my apt sold–lol.

  • http://musical-guru.blogspot.com/ Michael J. West

    Oh, yeah, I know the one where they sell apartments as being in adjacent neighborhoods. That’s cute and enraging, both at the same time. The realtor who sold me my condo here tried to justify it by claiming that the neighborhoods were just expanding their boundaries. “Oh, Dupont Circle is really growing eastward.” No, it isn’t, but thank you for playing. Neighborhoods in D.C. tend to have very peculiar and historical characters, and I consider it degrading to trounce on them just to mark up prices by another $200K.

  • http://www.courtingdestiny.com pia

    When I first moved to Manhattan in the 70’s I never encountered people who thought that Queens was a better place to live.

    While parts of Manhattan were unsafe, unless one walked into crossfire, a good street face was all that was needed

    People in Manhattan looked out for each other then–even during the 80’s crack days.

    Manhattan today is a very expensive shell. I’m sure that I would love it if I were a tourist or visiting my old hoods.

    Now the only people who can really afford are hedge fund managers and the like. Unfortunately they put their imprint on everything

    That said, in my heart, I believe it to be the best place on earth and like all my friends are waiting for something to make it similiar to what it once was. Maybe we’re waiting for us to lose our inertia and act.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Me thinks you’re grasping at straws. As I’ve said more than once, I think you’d find much fairer game with moonraven. Taking her on would be a public service to BC.”

    Why would it be a public service? Not that I’m averse to putting some uppity, feminazi, moonbat bitch in her place but why would you be so interested in it?

    And yes I hate everything about RI, MA, NJ and NYC not NY state.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Michael:

    “Neighborhoods in D.C. tend to have very peculiar and historical characters, and I consider it degrading to trounce on them just to mark up prices by another $200K.”

    I think many realtors don’t mind degrading or being degraded if it ups the price–and thus their commission (lol). The “hotter” one can make a neighborhood seem, the more people will clamor to live there, and the higher the prices can go, n’est pas?

    Of course, the recent housing “slowdown” has been a cruel joke for some realtors who have only been in the game since prices were going through the roof nationwide. Same for the “flippers.” Many neophyte realtors are leaving the biz in droves because they can’t just sit back now and wait for the apartments to sell themselves and rake in the commissions. They’ve got to break a sweat now, and it can be tough.

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Pia:

    I went to college in Stony Brook, so I think the people who didn’t see why I lived in Manhattan were from Queens and LI. Some folks there avoided “the city” at all costs.

    BG lived in areas in the ’70s that I would never dream of living in like Alphabet City, though he did move to the Upper East Side (and other areas) later. After he first moved to the city with his then-wife, his apartment got burglarized, his next-door neighbor was murdered, and he was mugged at knifepoint/gunpoint twice. I didn’t see the Lower East Side as dangerous back then–just very bland.

    I think you put it very aptly when you said that Manhattan is now “a very expensive shell”–but also still “the best place on Earth.”

    Perhaps what I like about the “new” New York is that the level of “civility” which increased with Guiliani has trickled down to areas such as the Bronx–meaning, crime is down, though certainly not non-existent. Thugs no longer meander the subways with impunity–it’s just not tolerated anymore.

    I remember the Bernie Goetz era, the wildings in Central Park, the menacing window washers on the Bowery, and the state of the subways, where one could wind up in a potentially dangerous situation just going to work. I don’t miss these aspects of the “old” New York.

    Despite the fact that it’s changed so drastically, If I had my ‘druthers I’d still stay in Manhattan, but I could never afford to after selling and splitting the proceeds of the coop with my ex-b/f. There is still something beautiful and magical and totally unique about Manhattan, and I don’t think that will ever completely change. (Famous last words?)

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Arch:

    Ah, ferget it…if you were interested I’m sure you would have checked it out by now. Besides, Moon seems to be running out of steam, at least for the time being–which is kind of unfortunate, since she’s the type of person most folks love to hate.

    After shooting a few barbs her way, she decided not to engage with me anymore. No fun! I just thought maybe you could take up the slack.

    Interesting that you like NY state. Who would have thought?

  • http://downtowner.blogsppot.com Al

    “Arch Conservative:”

    WRONG on New York.
    WRONG on New Jersey.
    WRONG for America.

  • http://gsimplysaid.blogspot.com G

    In my mind, the Lower East side will always be cool. So funny the whole what makes a “cool neighborhood”. I know in my mind what would be, but unfortunately such a Utopia does not exist that I can afford. In dreams…

    Love your NY Posts, Elvira :)

  • STM

    The lower east side was the only place in New York where I felt at home … and relatively safe.

    Nothing bad ever happened to me in New York, but I saw plenty of New Yorkers copping it, including a guy in a suit who got robbed after the old squirting mustard on the back of the suit-jacket trick.

    I tried to warn him as they were doing it but it all happened so fast and they bolted after they got his wallet. He just stood there there saying: “Oh my Gawd, they got my wallet, they got my wallet, I can’t believe it.” I thought, “mate, you live in New York, how could you fall for that old trick and not believe it”.

    Another time, I went to a party in Brooklyn with an American mate of mine from LA who had lived in Sydney for 15 years. He had never been to NY so I took him up for a look-see (bizarre: Aussie takes Yank on tour of NYC). We met a couple of girls and a yuppy-lawyer kind of bloke who lived in Chelsea and as we were all hungry, he took us to a diner “near his place”.

    It was right next to the projects and when we got out, there were Housing Police all over the place with lights on and sirens flashing.

    Inside the diner, I ordered a burger then went to the dunny and while I was having a slash, two really menacing guys followed me in and said: “Hey! What the f.ck you doin’ here, man”.

    I said: “Just havin’ a piss mate.” They looked at each other, smiled, and said: “Hey man, you Australian?”

    I said: “Yeah, how’d you know that?”

    They said: “Hey man, we from Guyana … you like cricket?”

    “Yes, mate” I replied, “Course I do … I bloody love it.”

    We returned to the table, they with their arms around me, where some of their friends were menacing my party. My new mates waved their hands at them and told them to stop, and then sat down with us and spoke about cricket for an hour. They paid for our food, despite our protests.

    They then invited me to Van Cortlandt Park to play cricket, after I lied about being very handy with the bat, in a local competition the next day (Sunday, I think).

    When we left, high-fiving and hugging all our new-found friends, the Chelsea guy turned to me and said: “I don’t know what the f.ck happened, but I thought those guys were gonna get you in the bathroom, and we were in really big trouble, then you come out and they’re smiling and slapping you on the back man, what was that?”

    “Cricket,” we explained. “It’s a civilising influence on all of us. Even people who grow up playing cricket don’t fully understand it. But if you play it, you love it.”

    Just like that 10CC song, remember? …

    How cricket saved my balls: True story, Elvira, and in a very, very unlikely setting.

  • Steve

    I’m a curious lurker from L.A. but in skimming through these comments I read about Little Italy in Manhattan being ‘muscled out’, so I was wondering hows that exactly? Are we talkin about non-italians moving in or landscape developers ‘renovating’ the area?

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Al, G. STM:

    A belated thanks for these comments–my Yahoo e-mail is screwed up so I don’t think I ever even saw these.

    STM, great story! Aside from the cricket factor, I think many Americans are completely smitten by folks from the UK etc–but Aussies like you could charm the pants off any of us in no time flat. Sounds like you’re more of a true New Yorker than many New Yorkers!

  • http://elvirablack.blogspot.com/ Elvira Black

    Steve:

    There’s actually two Little Italy’s in New York: one in downtown Manhattan and one in the Bronx. The one in Manhattan flourished and was always a magnet for locals and tourists alike, esp. during the Feast of St. Anthony (?)—think the scene in the Godfather Part II when Vito Corleone shot the “Black Hand.”

    But Chinatown has been rapidly expanding north and westward, and I believe this is part of the reason Little Italy is diminishing. It’s hard to keep a business going in Manhattan, since commercial rents can be doubled when leases run out. Plus residential rents are outrageous.

    The Bronx’s Little Italy is thriving though, with wonderful restaurants and bakeries and weekend outdoor markets.

    I would write more but my boyfriend is bugging me to get off the stupid toy, as he calls it…thanks all for your comments!