Sunday, October 14, 2007

I No Longer Heart New York

Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG, recently left L.A. for San Francisco, but he's still in love with L.A:
In L.A. you can grow Fabio hair and go to the Arclight and not be embarrassed by yourself. Every mode of living is appropriate for L.A. You can do what you want.

And I don't just mean that Los Angeles is some friendly bastion of cultural diversity and so we should celebrate it on that level and be done with it; I mean that Los Angeles is the confrontation with the void. It is the void. It's the confrontation with astronomy through near-constant sunlight and the inhuman radiative cancers that result. It's the confrontation with geology through plate tectonics and buried oil, methane, gravel, tar, and whatever other weird deposits of unknown ancient remains are sitting around down there in the dry and fractured subsurface. It's a confrontation with the oceanic; with anonymity; with desert time; with endless parking lots.

Geoff's post is bursting with BLDGBLOG's usual infectious enthusiasm, and you come away from the post wanting to do backflips and karate chop planks of wood in celebration of the void-like nature of L.A. But I do agree with BLDGBLOG that L.A. is now America's greatest city. As I have been telling everyone who will listen to me lately, it's quite clear now that New York has jumped the shark. See, for example, the city's "hot blast of nastiness, jingoism and xenophobia" in reaction to the Ahmadinejad visit, the daily horrors of parents desperate to get their kids into the 92nd Street Y nursery school, the 2004 Republican convention and the banning of protesters from Central Park's Great Lawn to "save the grass", Rudy Giuliani, the corporate takeover and Disneyification of public space in Manhattan and Brooklyn, an average selling price of over $1 million for an apartment in Manhattan, Alex Rodriguez, a rightward trend, and to top it all off, sickening tales of a new gilded age in New York in today's NYT Magazine.

The hedge fund masters of the universe, the big law firm partners dining at Nobu, the self-satisfied Ivy League couples in the Sunday Styles pages, and David Remnick can have New York. I'm done with it. New York has always been a massive financial center, but it feels like this has become its defining feature now, eclipsing its other features (diversity, cultural fervent, etc.). The sheer concentration of wealth in New York is warping the city and changing it from what it once was. Admittedly, I haven't spent much time there since I left, but that's my impression.

Or perhaps these are just the justifications I present to myself as I pull into the Zankou Chicken in Glendale at 10 p.m. and sit alone in my car for a moment in the light of the mini-mall.


Kris said...

I have to say, I didn't care too much for BLDGBLOG's assessment of LA. I like that he likes LA and all, but I felt like his descriptions were generic and could be applied to more or less any major city. In fact, I feel like you're much more able to be whatever you want to be in New York than you can be in LA — it's one of the things that makes me want to continue living in New York. I really feel like LA is a more superficial place.

On the other hand Secretary, I totally agree with you that being a financial center has become the defining feature of New York. And every time the NY Times runs a story about some upper east side couple remodelling their $6 million apartment (about once per week I think) I feel sick.

Kris said...

I want to clarify that I do actually like LA.

MK said...

kris, what's really sickening are the stories about couples remodeling their $6M apartments in the Lower East Side or Brooklyn.

Jose said...

like i said last night, you should read the New York Magazine cover story on Gawker. Real estate determines culture.