?

Log in

No account? Create an account
New York: only as good as gold - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Page 1 of 2
[1] [2]
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 10:12 am
New York: only as good as gold

There's a fairly standard piece of Berlin hype in today's Observer. What interests me about it is that whenever a city gets super-creative, the reference point (for both convergences and divergences) is New York, as if the Big Apple were the eternal gold standard of hip.



The Observer piece quotes the New York Times: "Berlin is like New York City in the 1980s. Rents are cheap, graffiti is everywhere and the air crackles with a creativity that comes only from a city in transition." After his recent trip to the city, my friend Roddy Schrock made a similar observation:

"Berlin is... a living city constantly rubbing out little bits of its historical scars, but never fully erasing them, trying to forget but afraid to at the same time. And within that process an incomparable ecological system of culture and art is currently thriving. I can only imagine that it is similar to what downtown New York must have been in the 70's. But without the crime and grit and with an urban infrastructure that seems to work nearly flawlessly." A few days later Roddy still hadn't got over Berlin.



I went yesterday to the Japan Society, where there's a very good exhibition called Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York. There are pieces by my friend Hiroshi Sunairi, by zany dollhouse-maker Misaki Kawai, and by Yoshiaki Kaihatsu. The labels next to the pieces list the date the Japanese artists came to live in New York, but omit the date they left. The label next to Kaihatsu's polystyrene teahouse, for instance, says: "Made his home in New York in 1998 at the age of 32". It doesn't mention that Kaihatsu now lives in Berlin. Maybe he moved because, to quote Damaso Reyes in the Observer article, "gone are the days when up-and-coming painters such as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg could rent a huge loft in Manhattan for just a few hundred dollars a month".

I had dinner last night with my ex-wife Shazna, now very happily married to an American called Ron. Ron and Shaz came to Berlin in February and are still talking about it. They think about moving to the city. It's understandable -- the rent on their (beautiful) apartment near Wall Street is over $3000 a month. In Berlin, I just have to scrape together a couple of hundred euros. I must say I had to laugh when Shazna told me with a sigh: "This area used to be a good place to live, but now all these jocks in blue shirts -- financial workers -- have moved in."

"Wait, you're living more or less on Wall Street and you complain about financial workers moving in?"

Shazna explained that, while the financial workers have always worked in the area, they haven't always lived there. Now the streets are full of ribald, rich jocks. "Shiver me timbers!" a knot of them shouted at me as I made my way between the taxi and Shazna's door. All around towered bank buildings, their air conditioning filling the cavernous streets with a constant flat din. The new towers under construction are residential ones. My timbers shiver to think what the rent will be.



After dinner Shaz and Ron took me in a taxi to a fashion blog launch in Williamsburg. The atmosphere in the back room did feel Berlinesque -- a big painting of an ape woman hung behind the bar, and the fashionistas wore tiny top hats perched on their heads. Quickly, though, it became apparent that the event lacked something. The girl behind The Shiny Squirrel came over to Ron and me. "I just want to make sure you have cards," she said, making it quite plain that her mission was to give us the card bearing the blog's URL then move on. I got the impression that there wasn't much going on at the party beyond marketing.

When I got home I fished out the card and dutifully hit the website. I was confronted with a range of items I could purchase. Those in-your-face "purchase" buttons are pretty much what today's New York is all about. They're essential, of course, because rent in the city is steep. But they make New York life a bit predictable. Roddy Schrock puts his finger on it when he says (of San Francisco after his Berlin trip): "I'm not quite sure where to find surprise... Where are the unknowns?"

The name of the bar we were at in Williamsburg? Supreme Trading. Maybe these days New York is just the gold standard for, well, gold.

64CommentReplyShare

ex_newironsh15
chris
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 02:41 pm (UTC)

This comment is brought to you by money.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)

Can a city in Europe ever be like New York in the 80s or whatever? Even if it's just fantasy, before 9/11 anybody could just come to the US and live here and eventually disappear. Europe has this weird genetic purity thing where only Europeans are allowed to live in Europe... meaning, it doesn't seem like it can attract all that much outside energy.

So you know ... the only people who can live in Berlin are already European, or are wealthy foreigners, as opposed to the US in the past when you could come to New York as a non-American.

Basically, if you move to Berlin as an American or Japanese and stay for more than a few months, you'll be paying the same rent as you would in Manhattan (not even Brooklyn). Berlin's just a trend people apply to themselves because it's the latest style.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 02:54 pm (UTC)

I'd say the US is tighter these days, visa-wise, than "Fortress Europe".

Basically, if you move to Berlin as an American or Japanese and stay for more than a few months, you'll be paying the same rent as you would in Manhattan (not even Brooklyn).

Would you like to explain why you think this is? I've moved three times in my four years in Berlin, and each time the rent has been cheaper (from €600 to €400). My last New York rent (for a tiny fraction of the space I have in Berlin) was $1200.


ReplyThread Parent Expand







(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
desant012
||||||||||
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 03:01 pm (UTC)

There are plenty of unknowns in New York, but it's all very niche/boutique/whatever people are calling it now. Like the videos you see on Pitchfork of Brooklyn art music shit - it's a few friends in Greenwood Heights living in an abandoned warehouse creating art, dude.

You can still find rents in New York that are cheaper than, say, anywhere in Berlin (New York is a much bigger city/metro area), but they won't be anywhere near as fashionable as Berlin or the hip parts of Brooklyn (Bushwick, East Williamsburg, etc. etc.). The really exciting stuff is honestly only accessible if you're friends with the people doing it, but at least you don't have to be famous or "useful" to get involved. It's a shame everything has sunken so deep into individuals, though. It makes everything going on seem like it doesn't exist.


ReplyThread
cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)

A fashion blog launch?

There are launch parties for blogs?

How long has this been going on?


ReplyThread
faeuboulanger
faeuboulanger
moxie milquetoast
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)

I got the impression that there wasn't much going on at the party beyond marketing.

I'm happy to see someone else say this. I lived in New York this summer--it was the first time I'd spent more than an odd week or so there. I did very much enjoy it, but I often had the feeling that, despite it's requisite grime and New Yorkiness, the place was a giant infomericial for the new, the hip, the shiny, the must have.

Which I suppose is culturally interesting in itself, another facet that makes New York an interesting place to live. But it's bleak. Creepily bleak.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)

totally agree with you about this idea of new york (and its attending characteristics: "hip", "edginess", and whatnots) seen as the gold standard. here in Singapore there is a neverending project of achieving ultimate megacoolcitydom, and its template is very clearly New York. NY has huge cultural cachet here, anything and anyone from NY-themed cafes to spas boasting of having expanded to NY to chefs with NY-kitchen credentials - these days it's easy to cash in on the New York Brand here and appeal to Singaporeans eager for "coolness" by association.

but how can a city be "edgy" and "cool" if it doesn't allow dirt, unpredictability, spontaneity? tell that to the bureaucrats who, ten years on after declaring the national project of transforming this tightly-run country into a so-called "Renaissance City", are still struggling to solve that dilemma.

- tessa


ReplyThread
electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
*glomp*

Hahaha, sry, couldn´t read, was blinded by the AMAZINGNESS of your wig. I´m still starry-eyed. Also, really big earrings would look really good on you.

Cousin It at the top is pretty good, too.

All in all I should thank you for slightly healing the damage Bolan tribute videos did to my retinas and brain.


ReplyThread
microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 06:08 pm (UTC)
Re: *glomp*

It was almost the same for me. I was more hooked on his FLIP FLOPS. Flip flops for me are blue jeans for Momus. It was difficult to read the entry when all I could think of was Hollister wearing California girls that I see every day.

Although it could be worse: he could be wearing Rainbows.

>:O


ReplyThread Parent Expand


























luckyclone
LIVEJOURNAL
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)

i was going to respond and try to defend ny but it's impossible :''''[. what will be the next kewl city after berlin? malmö? istanbul? how about somewhere in scotland, i've always wanted to check it.


ReplyThread
alphacomp
alphacomp
Digital Video Camera
Mon, Oct. 8th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)

"Scotlandiamsburg" B[


ReplyThread Parent


(Anonymous)
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
how cheap is cheap?

btw, care to provide some reader service in yr next post and give a short breakdown on how much you spend in berlin on a monthly basis? (food, transport, ents)

if that's too much to ask of you, maybe you could just answer this: is it possible to regularly eat good, nutritious, organic food in berlin that's also cheap?

just curious. i've been recently considering berlin as a potential place to move to.

- tessa


ReplyThread
microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 06:13 pm (UTC)

Just a question:

Do you get angry when strangers make pirate jokes, or are you used to it and laugh it off?


ReplyThread
mandyrose
mandyrose
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 06:38 pm (UTC)

I hear Marfa, Texas is the place to be these days.


ReplyThread
alphacomp
alphacomp
Digital Video Camera
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)

I remember first noticing the beginning signs of gentrification in my neighborhood on Spring St. in, like, 1997 or so when this new, expensive restaurant sort of popped up out of nowhere. Soonafter that I suddenly started to see lots of young, hip people that fascinated the heck out of me when I was 11, but then got kinda overwhelming and boring-looking by 2003 or so. I originally chalked it up to aging, but then I realized by 2004 or so that it wasn't just me that had changed--it was the social makeup of the people in the neighborhood that changed.

I remember the tipping point for me came when I was in Best Buy in 2005 overhearing a middle-aged businessman talking to an employee about how well he could masturbate to the porn on his two giant plasma-screen TVs in his SoHo loft.

I really wish I could have made that up.


ReplyThread
alphacomp
alphacomp
Digital Video Camera
Sun, Oct. 7th, 2007 09:01 pm (UTC)

Oddly enough, the result of this gentrification mixed with memories for the city's "golden era" makes it not feel like a living, breathing city so much as a giant museum in the vein of the houses of famous dead people--"in this avenue on the bowery from 1977-1984 lived the world's most-frequently romanticised art scene"
And the fixation on that fact will never allow for anything more interesting to pop up in the same area ever again.


ReplyThread Parent









mtrkr
mtrkr
Mon, Oct. 8th, 2007 01:33 pm (UTC)
singapore,berlin,westenlux

exactly, kumakouji... enough already of the hip!edgy!whatever! hype of berlin. it's nice round here in kreuzberg, but berlin's just a rare example of an affordable 1st world/western metropolis for displaced 3rd world asians like me. convenient too if you've got art/culture things to do in europe, but with all the requisite visa-(s)hopping dilemmas that come for those without a EU or 'safe' 1st world passport (eg, USA). As for living costs when compared with my 'heimat'/kampong of malaya/singapore, berlin's quite cheap in that upper middle-class bangsar/holland village sorta way - so nowhere near as cheap or tasty as, say, singapore's katong or serangoon road, but cheap enough for those of us on '3rd world' budgets. Berlin's also very 'white' when compared with multikulti london/paris/sydney, or almost anywhere in southeast asia, but hey that's exotica for me...


ReplyThread Parent
obelia
obelia
Oliver Jellyfish Twist
Mon, Oct. 8th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)

i shall shamefully say that I am too distracted by pictures (and trying not to think about running to the toilet to pee). . Anyway, the belly out toddler slouch seems o be a favourite pose of yours.
I used to do it to make myself look unappealing as a fit model back in fashion school. It also stretches my back out and makes it crack abit which relieves some tension.
why do YOU do that pose? slouching is bad for your posture.


ReplyThread