Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vanishing Anniversary

A year ago today, I started this blog with a post on the Times Square Howard Johnson's, maybe the first New York vanishing that really broke my heart.

I’d never had a blog before, nor considered it. I'd been writing fiction and essays about the city for years, but never managed to publish. Last summer, I was writing a novel—about an East Villager named Jeremiah who grapples with grief and rage for his vanishing city. Giving voice to my inner Jeremiah provided me with an outlet to express my own anger, powerlessness, and longing. As my first draft was coming to an end in July, I didn’t want to give up that outlet. So, without much of a plan and inspired by blogs like Neither More Nor Less and Lost City, I launched VNY with a memory of HoJo’s.


i kinda need this shirt

As an unpublished novelist, writing mostly in the vacuum of solitude, it has been gratifying to have readers. The blog has connected me to new people, both in person and electronically. It also reacquainted me with New York. For awhile, I’d been turning away from the city, a place where I no longer feel at home. But writing the blog forced me to turn outward again. It sent me out walking and got me to travel around Manhattan and the outer boroughs to seek and find what remains.

Along the way, there have been moments of hopefulness, instances when it seems the soul of New York is still alive and well. I’ve tried to record those moments here, together with the vanishings. The compulsion to preserve, even if it’s only with a few words and snapshots, spurs me on.

Thanks, everyone, for reading. For a taste of my novel, check out the old post Jeremiah's Lamentations. And here are a few of my favorites from last summer:

58 comments:

Nick said...

Congrats! I look forward to a day where this blog isn't needed and tried-and-true cultural institutions are cherished (yeah, like THAT will ever happen...) Until then, keep up the good work!

GiantsFootballNY said...

I kind of need the t shirt that says... "N-Y-Fuck-U!"

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah I love your column and I hope to encourage you to move forward with your novel and even self publish if you have to. I promise to buy a copy.

EV Grieve said...

The loss of Howard Johnson's was a tough one. On my last visit there, a friend ordered something that came with sour cream. The waiter placed the side of sour cream on our table. There was a large, still buzzing fly right in the middle, as if it was supposed to be there as the garnish. My friend said something. The waiter quickly apologized. He picked up the sour cream, grabbed the fly, threw it aside, and placed the dish back on the table. He walked away without saying a word. My friend shrugged and dumped the sour cream on his potato.

Anyway! Cheers to your anniversary. Thank you for all your reporting and insights on what's happening to our city.

Marlie said...

Happy Anniversary--I love your blog--and enjoy reading your's and others' insights into the happening which is ev ny

Jasr said...

Hojo fried clams, that was a treat when I was a kid. Thank you for preserving the memory of Kurowycky, Sucelt, Fontana, and many others. I live in Europe now and know that every year there is less to come home to.

john said...

self-publishing is the way to go. the future is open-source, anarchy, self-sufficient. the radical spirit of NY lives (the new Nas album!?), even if it is currently more isolated. all things move in cycles.

giantsfootballny said...

I also need another t shirt that says... "Midwestern White Girls Are Annoying"

Anonymous said...

I had my first date at HoJo in 1992, when I was 16. I didn't have that much money and Times Square was affordable and a place where I can be comfortable. We were both young naive. After our lunch at HoJo, we strolled around Times Square. We passed by a person handing out flyers/passes for a "movie" screening. We took the passes and went to the screening. It turned out to be a Dianetics movie -- a Scientology recruiting movie (we didn't know back then that what Scientology was)in a basement of one of the buildings on 43rd street. We didn't stay 'til the end, of course, but we still had a good time. We then went back to HoJo to get Ice Cream.

I made a pilgrimage at HoJo until it closed, at least once a year, after graduating from college, to have the fried clams and and a margarita.

"Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Anonymous said...

Congrats! Love the blog and good luck with your novel.

Tim said...

Happy Anniversary!
You've done more than you realize to inspire others (me) to join the cause and open our eyes to what's going on - or coming down - in the city we love. You've done more on your own than most city preservation agencies do with a staff and a budget. Please move forward with your novel, you've already got a good base of fans who want to read it.
Tim

Anonymous said...

Wondered how your special blog began. As I've commented before, the mainstream media have ignored NYC's murder; one day people will ask: what happened? Historians will have one source for answers: JVNY. J, you are more than a blogger; you are a diarist, the Samuel Pepys for a New World. I left NYC; it seemed to be disappearing. JVNY tells me the sad truth: it is. Keep going, not only for your readers but for history!

Karate Boogaloo said...

Keep on keepin' on...happy birthday! I kinda heart NY too.
- Tim

Anonymous said...

I just read Lamentations; am typing through tears. It is the obituary for Theodore White's city.

Cari said...

That's a novel I'd love to read. Are you still in revisions, or is it making the rounds?

Happy Blogiversary, and thanks for what you do here.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks everyone for all the supportive comments. it's been a fun year doing the blog and connecting with people in this way.

the novel has not made the rounds yet, probably by end of summer.

ken mac said...

I found your blog only recently, but I love it! Its spirit accompanies me as I walk the west village, photographing its quickly vanishing remains...And seeing how today is my birthday (!) I wish us both many happy returns!

Anonymous said...

ken mac: let Jeremiah be your inspiration! lived for years in West Village; wish I'd taken more pictures but thought neighborhood was immune. ha! did take photos of mepa pre-MePa and of friendly merchants. with MePa, Bleecker St. Mall, designer condos along the river, West Village must be an unholy cauldron of hubris! once it was a warm, civilized enclave so comforting one never wanted leaving it. heartbreaking now.

kane said...

I wouldn't necessarily say "Happy Anniversary", since this is after all a blog of lamentations, but thank you congrats.

Jeremiah Moss said...

ken mac, love your blogs, too. you're a busy guy these days.

GrandSt. said...

Thanks for pounding the pavement, Jeremiah, and keep it up -you've got the soul of a native.

Anonymous said...

May you have no more years of blogging Vanishing NY to come.

L'Emmerdeur said...

Oh, Jeremiah, you know what you have to do.

You have to write a post about New York City. The whole freaking city.

And then it will get torn down and replaced by something else. Probably some Russian mobster's megamansion or a Saudi prince's harem.

And then, like all foreign speculators who dared to enter New York real estate waters, they will drown in the inevitable crash, and we can tear their monstrosity down and build something, you know, good.

Do it. You have the power.

StuyTownFullofYunnies said...

Congrats! So happy that I recently discovered your blog - love it. Keep up the fantastic work, and best of luck with your novel.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Moss!

Joshua said...

Ditto. Happy anniversary Jerry, and endless thanks!

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks back at ya--to all for your regular comments, it's always appreciated.

Jill said...

Happy anniversary. I didn't realize it started with Ho Jo's.

When I was a kid there was an old fashioned orange roofed Howard Johnson's on Queens Blvd. My grandparents would sometimes take me there as a special treat for ice cream. When it was torn down it was the first time I understood that some special things don't last and they would only exist in my memory. It was torn down in 1969. I can't even believe I can remember it; I was 6. I hadn't thought about that place in years until I read this post.

A google search reveals that Jaques Pepin worked there! http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/28/opinion/28pepin.html

Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, although don't we all wish there was no need for your blog? I never thought I would end up living in what can only be described as Dallas North. Because that is what it's starting to look like here in NYC.

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah: Thank you for curating NYC! I love your blog and it helps me process what's happening.
Hojo's was a favourite of mine for people watching. Several of my friends would grab a streetside booth and not leave until we'd seen a celebrity, someone we knew, and a 'transaction'. All 3 would usually happen in one meal. All sorts of people would pass by and it helped having the Gaiety nearby. I also loved going to Hojo's after some high culture, say the Russian Nobility Ball or the Rainbow Room. Luckily I arrived her in '96 in time to enjoy old NY. Keep the faith! Andy

BabyDave said...

Happy belated anniversary. I have been here all my 50 years, and I very much appreciate that someone shares my ongoing sense of loss.

Anonymous said...

I just discovered this blog. Thank you. I love you. I grew up in Manhattan and have lived in the EV for 24 years. I am beyond mortified by the decimation of my city... I am shell-shocked. I feel like the ground has been pulled out from under my feet. I've always only felt comfortable in NYC and now I don't feel comfortable here anymore. I am totally lost. I feel like my best friend died. Again, thank you for this. It makes me feel like at least there are other boats lost at sea with me.

Jeremiah Moss said...

from one lost boat to another, welcome aboard. and thanks for reading.

Palms said...

I moved to LA ten years ago, after 15 years in NYC. A good part of the reason, to be frank, was that I saw all this shit coming and couldn't stand the prospect of watching the coolest city in the world turned into a lifestyle destination.

When I first came to NYC, in '81, you could buy handguns in Times Square and, heroin on Clinto St. and if you hustled, you could find a trainwreck apartment on Avenue C that you can rent on two nights per week of bartending. Which left considerable time for reading, working on your novel and pursuing adventure.

Now of course, the handguns are safely in the African American and hispanic neighborhoods of the boroughs, heroin is sold out of briefcases. And the only people writing novels are trustfunders.

And I don't need to suggest the obvious correlation between the cost of living in NY and the quality of the novels that this great city once turned out.

LA is big sky country - gentrifying fast I suppose, but it's big and there's lots of neighborhoods.

Why mourn a dying city when you can participate in the building of a great global city - practically speaking less than 60 years old -- at just the beginning of its creative wave?

Anonymous said...

Just found your site. NYer by birth, grew up in the 1960s and 1970s on the upper west side. Prostitutes on 94-96 and B'way, Louis the Shoeman, bakeries, Hispanic and black gangs (Zulu Nation); last lived in town 82-83 (Ave. A - 13th) and 86-7 (Greenpoint).

To Jeremiah: Interesting grieving service, a public good. Thanks

www.paradigmfragment.blogspot.com

Mike Havenar` said...

Nice blog. I drove a yellow taxi in NYC six years at night and was fascinated by the many statues all over the boroughs. I always wondered where the City stored old statues, and wanted to inspect them and take photos. Have they destroyed the nice little terracotta factory beneath the Queensboro Bride on the Queens side yet?

Ian Buchan said...

Thanks for the most interesting comments, from the southern tip of Africa. Nearest I've been to NY was Harpers Ferry: a worthwhile visit, too plus a stroll along a bit of the Appalachian Trail. Otherwise, USA for me was Pennsylvania, NY State, and Washington state -- I made excursions from Canada.

The Current exModians said...

We were linked to this blog by a friend. We have to say that the bulldozing of the Christopher Street piers, a place one of our bloggers called "the center of his Gay soul", was the shocking realization that brought us to our knees back in the 90s. It was then that what had been a mere inkling became an emotional breakdown for us.

Like you, we have turned away from the city. Several of us have turned away from the things we loved most, like clubbing in our case, because so many of our favorite places were brutalized during the Giuliani decade. We also saw most of our friends die from HIV/AIDS. For the longest time, we have felt like war orphans in our own city.

It's not a pleasant feeling.

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for your blog. I lived in NYC during the mid nineties, before the internet emerged, when I still had to use a daisywheel printer. I wanted to keep a journal of NY/Manhattan, but the cost of living, and the sheer time factor prevented me from realizing what you have realized here. I'm afraid to go visit NYC now; seeing how it's being decimated by "hizzoner". A bronx raspberry for him.

Yours PS

JosephSteele said...

Jeremiah!

I live in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. I booked tickets to come to NY in March, believing it to be the heart of edgy art and culture.

I've been smashing up Newcastle with art involving diggers, car wrecking and a film I got national press coverage for:

http://www.sundaysun.co.uk/news/north-east-news/2009/11/01/newcastle-student-s-sex-show-passed-off-as-art-79310-25061937/

Anyway, the same is happening here, too many 'creative spaces' and government funding to make things 'nice' but it just compromises the art!

Jeremiah Moss said...

well, there's still some edge here--but you'd better look for it in Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

well, I love what your block man. and as I foreigner who visited the city a few times finally moving here this June I have to say the phenomenon you are recording is intensely felt.

but you are not suggesting what we should do or try and do to reverse the process. you should. I find there is still a lot of New York out there (and not just in Brooklyn) worth fighting for

Melanie said...

Edge--there has always been "EDGE" in Brooklyn--fuggetaboutit-sadly--I love the Brooklyn Nobody loved--maybe a new song Jer--I Loved The Brooklyn Nobody loved--immigrants on the street--not so much to eat--putting food on the table--look Ma--I am able--just a random Ditty.
Brooklyn--

Melanie said...

Happy Birthday Baby!!!

Joseph Steele said...

Brooklyn here I come. happy Bloganiversary.

Is NY the kind of place an artist can come to without knowing anyone and get involved with something?

Green Goddess said...

Amazing blog. Love it, it reminds me of the New York I left and lost. How goes the novel? Please keep writing, found you through the inimitable Michael Gross...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any recollection of Tent City, Life Squat,3bc,c squat or the riots?

Pier Angelo said...

Does anyone recall Peter Missing and the foundation?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your tireless efforts, "Jeremiah." Your blog is such an indispensable resource for those of us amazed and disgusted by what has happened/is happening to the last liveable redoubts of
Manhattan (and beyond). I tend to think of myself as someone who has become hardened to the uber-gentrification and neo-suburbanization of Manhattan (and beyond), but I suppose it is testament to my ongoing moral sensitivity that I am still amazed by just how unapologetically social Darwinist many (not all) yunnies are. (Some of them are merely clueless.) On this theme, I posted a rather long blog entry at http://fortgreenebk.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/avalon-fort-greene-growing-like-a-weed/#comment-1646

Please keep on doing what you do so well, if for other reason than our collective existential relief!

Gluelicker

Roberta said...

Wow, just read The Voice and found your blog. I am hunkered down in the West Village in my old law tenement, fighting the LL for essential services, watching the succubus NYU rip down historic buildings (have you seen what they have done to the Provincetown Playhouse?) and wondering if there is anyone else who could possibly be as horrified as I that this City I love so dearly is being homogenized so quickly and ruthlessly. Thank you for your blog. I feel less alone now. BTW, the recent demise of Jeollado, my favorite cheap sushi restaurant, is a loss from which I won't soon recover.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Roberta and welcome. i have seen what they did to the playhouse. they're just full steam ahead...

charlie said...

Have you written about Pete's leaving us last week--on 68th Street and Columbus. Some found is smelly and rude; others had their fun times there. Would be interesting to know the full story of its demise, though it clearly belongs to a grittier Columbus Ave era :)

Charlie

Jeremiah Moss said...

charlie, i don't know Pete's. can you tell us more? i'll check it out.

3FingersBrown said...

A not so happy anniversary Jer. Fortunately there's still a whole city out there Uptown and in the boros that the yunnies fear to tread.

Formica Davis said...

About the disappearing "red sauce" places: I am from the south and have been here about 8 years. There is an authentic Italian trattoria in mid-town East called Pizza Rustica. I only eat the pasta and the eggplant - they have a steam table of Italian food every day at lunch. It's around 44th and Second ave. Also Roberto's in the Bronx is still open. That place is unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah--The thing is, there used to be a Howard Johnsons on Sixth Avenue (before it became Avenue of the Americas) near 8th street. My father took me there sometimes on Friday nights, when I was 8 years old and attended PS 41---and without a word between us--I already knew it was a corporate invader on the neighborhood and part of the destruction of 8th street which soon followed.

So, the existence of HJ's on Times Sq. was already part of how the place became primed for Middle America, and Disney-ready. I can't quite find this lament....

More than love your work. It's actual food. Thnx.

Hortaminis said...

Jeremiah,

I'm traveling to NYC for the week of Christmas and I'm looking for some interesting sights to see & photograph in the early morning hours.

Any recommendations?

Thanks,
Sarah

Veronica Lawlor said...

Hello Jeremiah, I love this blog. This feeling of nostalgia for the city I've lost, even though I still live here, is very strong, and it's nice to read the words and see the pictures of someone who shares those feelings. Keep posting!!