Monday, September 16, 2019

Gem Spa Cash Mob

Saturday's cash mob for Gem Spa was a great success. I can't tell you how many gallons of U-Bet were used, but the egg cream soda fountain never stopped flowing for three hours, as fans of Gem lined up out the door of the store to get a taste of what the place does best--and to keep them alive.

photo: NationofNY

The event turned into a "happening," as attendee Lolita Wolf put it in a conversation on the sidewalk, a scene of locals and former locals hanging out and socializing, while characters showed up to perform for the documentary and news cameras, or to just look interesting.

One young man, barefoot and with a head of blue hair that looked like cake frosting spooned onto his head, shook a bottle of BBQ sauce and ranted, then settled down to play with Candy the Gem Spa cat. Devlin, a jewelry designer who you might see walking the East Village dressed in leopard print and strumming a guitar, sang an impromptu song about not wanting a bank to move in here. And Mosaic Man Jim Powers showed up at the end to deliver a fire and brimstone sermon in front of the Schitibank banner.

Mostly, it was people just hanging out together.

Beloved, long-time East Village performance artist Penny Arcade came by and recalled swinging on the parking meters out front of Gem in 1969 with David Johansen of the New York Dolls. Novelist Arthur Nersesian stopped to say hello. I saw blogger and author Ed Hamilton and his wife Debbie Martin from the Chelsea Hotel. Artist Nayland Blake was there, too, enjoying an egg cream and conversation.

There were so many people, and so much good will, most of it is a blur, but I am grateful to all who took the time to be there for Gem, and to the folks from #SaveNYC who showed up to help with the event.

Owner Parul Patel was very happy and grateful, too. Contrary to some reports, she is nowhere near the verge of giving up. She is fighting to stay put--and this community of New Yorkers is fighting with her.

I want to make it clear that this event also goes beyond trying to save one business, which we know is next to impossible in the current political and economic climate that favors big business, landlords, and developers. The Gem Spa cash mob is also a way to say no to all banks and corporate chains, to say no more, to say we are here, we're not leaving, and we reject the systematic vanishing of our city. As a people, we will not go down without a fight. The Gem Spa cash mob is an act of love and resistance. And we need more of that. Every day.

The Schitibank installation will be up at least until the end of September. Please go by, get an egg cream, order a t-shirt (they're now "The Hottest Look in Streetwear"), and Instagram that installation. Help spread the word about Gem.

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