Wednesday, January 27, 2010


The essay "A Non-Delirious New York," by author Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal, is gorgeous, urgent, and vividly true. A few choice quotes:

"In Manhattan the knock-the-wind-out-of-you rich used to be a relatively silent freak of nature who could easily be ignored, but of late they are so electrically omnipresent, jumping out of every flat screen and magazine, that they indelibly color the life of the city. Having multiplied like Gucci-clad yeast, they have become objects of impossible envy..."

Cooper Square Hotel car party

"The right may envy by competition and the left by expropriation, but the objects of such envy are not worthy of its ruinous influences, and the city is at its best when the fury of acquisitiveness is least.

Now that New York may be exiting yet another of many eras of irrational exuberance, it presents an opportunity in the midst of defeat, for when it is quiet it is far more lovely and profound than when it is delirious."

I Bought NY

" would be nice if, as in the quiet during and after a snow storm, Manhattan would reappear to be appreciated in tranquility; if cops, firemen, nurses, and teachers did not have to live in New Jersey; if students, waitress-actresses, waiter-painters, and dish-washer-writers did not have to board nine to a room or like beagles in their parents' condominia;

if the traffic on Park Avenue (as I can personally attest it was in the late 1940s) were sufficiently sparse that you could hear insects in the flower beds; if to balance the frenetic getting and spending, the qualities of reserve and equanimity would retake their once honored places; if celebrity were to be ignored, media switched off, and the stories of ordinary men and women assume their deserved precedence; and if for everyone, like health returning after a long illness, a life of one's own would emerge from an era tragically addicted to quantity and speed."

Amen to that--and all from a political conservative.

Fuck the Recession t-shirts: $65 each

Further reading:
New York Pentimento
Yunnipocalypse Now


Laura Goggin Photography said...

Nice post, Jeremiah. If there was one thing I was hoping to see as a result of this recession, it was a return to self-sufficiency and creativity. With so many jobs lost and money burned, I had hopes that many of these people would turn to entrepreneurship and art...but, alas, this "frugal fatigue" is just too much to bear...let's just hurry up and get back to limitless credit cards and basking in the waste of immediate gratification.

Jeremiah Moss said...

maybe they suffer from "quiet fatigue" too.

it reminds me, in its memory of the quiet, of how newcomers to the EV and the city get so angry when people want peace from the noise of hotels and screamers.

here's a man who's been here long enough to remember crickets on Park Ave. and yet we're stuck with a generation that believes "New York should be noisy."

maybe that's why they make so much noise. they actually think that's "the way it has to be" to be authentic.

Melanie said...

There is good noise and there is bad noise--the good evokes a happy time--the rest sucks.

L'Emmerdeur said...

Agree with Melanie.

JM, do you really think this crisis is over?

Hint: it hasn't even begun yet.

Ed said...

Lived here since 1970 and I'm glad to see confirmation that yes, the city has gotten noisier recently. I've noticed a difference just in the last year.

The bailout money went straight to the pockets of the people in those photos, which is why the Dubaiization of New York wasn't slowed by the financial crisis. It was in fact accelerated as these people have more power. And expect more transplants from the Midwest as this is one of the few places in the country where there is an OK chance of getting a job (not great, but alot better than other places).

Just to keep some mental sanity -until I can move- I am increasingly seeking out what remains of the quiet, off the beaten track places in this city.

Anonymous said...


Excellent post and choice photos of a psychotic culture suffering from late stage Syphilis.

I nearly pissed myself looking at those anorexic Elizabeth Street window mannequins dressed as high-tech thieves with bags of cash at their feet.

Could this visual merchandising represent part of the collective imagination of today's young IT execs?

Could that shop window be based upon a still from the wet dream so many young Google staffers awake from each morning?

Maybe it's the circles I travel in, but NYC appears to be infested with IT troopers whose pathological pursuit of digital profit schemata is matched only by their disdain for and discomfort with all things analog — poetry, literature, painting, paper books and bookstores, records on vinyl and films on reels, time-consuming brick and mortar businesses, and even that old-world concept called a neighborhood — a physical community of personalities who feel a primitive need for face-to-face experiences.

If an earthquake of a magnitude similar to the one that destroyed the historic district of Port-au-Prince, Haiti ever hit New York City, these IT thieves would never make it out alive.

When the electricity goes out, so goes their essence, their being. Suddenly powerless in the darkness, unable to text emoticons, they'll quickly realize the heart is the seat of all intelligence.

When the muscle cramps and nausea begin and the eyes stop making tears, they'll long for a glass of water and a different type of connection.

Jill said...

It would take a great reduction in rents for both business & residents for us to see a resurgence in attracting new artists to the city, bringing them back from Brooklyn. It seems the landlords would rather have empty stores & apartments and wait for things to come back up rather than reduce the rents. I don't understand the logic but it appears universal.

As for quiet, I am impacted in so many ways and on all sides by the new noise,and so are my neighbors, yet recently I sent an email to fellow gardeners for support against a potential new source of street noise and I got not one response, not even one telling me to shut up. They will send dozens of emails complaining about garbage bags and who poured whose beer on whose head, but nothing on an issue that requires standing up in public to protect their living area against even more chaos.