A Stranger In My Own Hometown

New York City, 2008, welcome to the Paramus Mall. Since the Republican takeover of NYC with Adolph Guiliani in the 90’s we’ve seen more and more chain/big box type stores and less and less of the weird little mom and pop shops. Endless branch banks, fast food joints (the NY Times put the number of Dunkin’ Donuts opened in Manhattan in the last five years at over 500), cell phone stores, Duane Reade drug stores (that sell aisle after aisle of psuedo-ephedrine products), and if you live in Park Slope lots of designer baby clothes. There’s only two decent book stores left in Manhattan (St. Marks Books and the Strand), there’s not a good record store in the borough. Even the movie theaters are starting to suck.  I used to go the the movies every day, now I doubt if I go twice a year. Film Forum plays the same stuff over and over, year after year (latest schedule, Les Blank retrospective, Godard’s Made In The USA, Preston Sturges retrospective, Fellini’s Amacord, not exactly breaking ground here are we)? There are multi-plexes in every neighborhood.
     Of the “art houses”, or what’s left of them only the Anthology Film Archives shows any imagination and that place is the coldest, dirtiest most rat ridden theater since the Deuce was cleaned up. At least they showed the Monks documentary. There’s three movies showing in Europe right now that are probably the only three current films I want to see, there’s The Baader-Meihof Complex, a film about the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands called Hunger and Gomorrah which is supposed to show at the IMF theater in the Village in January. A clip from the Monks film and the trailers for The Baader-Meinhof Complex and Hunger are above. Getting back to the point, what gives? Is there no market in New York City for adventurous film programming? A cool records store?  Or anything that you can’t find in any mall out there in that wasteland we used to call our country? I guess not. It seems the suburbanites who moved here in the 90’s to be closer to their now non-existent Wall Street jobs, the proximity to 5,000 Starbucks, and idiot celebrity watching, rather than absorb the culture that this city once had to offer, prefer to bring their suburban life with them, and they’ve killed our town. There’s not much of the New York City I loved left.  When I moved here in the late 70’s we (rejects from society) had the town to ourselves, no law and order (I ran an illegal after hours club for a year before the cops showed up in 83-84, now even a legal bar is subject to endless police harassment). I never saw a kid get carded at CBGB. If this city is to have any sort of cultural life we need an atmosphere for
creativity to grow in. Not a police state.  Whether it was abstract expressionism or punk rock, virtually every interesting thing that happened in NYC in the 20th century was incubated in bars and clubs.  Maybe this economic meltdown will help by driving commercial real estate down but it’s unlikely since most landlords would rather let a space sit empty for years than rent at a reasonable price.  And if they let it sit the city gives them a tax break!  
If you don’t like the noise, go back to New Jersey. And when you come visit don’t set your car alarm when you park here.
On a different subject has anyone noticed on the latest CD release of the Rolling Stones More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies) has an alternate take of “Let It Bleed” ? I only noticed by accident. BTW one of the best Stones live/rehearsal tapes to ever surface, a mix of a show in Dallas, ’72 and the afternoon rehearsal can be found here. Amazing sound quality (stereo!), and probably the best they ever sounded without Brian.  In the UK, a few years back the the Elvis Blues CD  had this unheard take of Stranger In My Own Hometown, one of my all time favorite Elvis tunes. Neither of these alternates are mentioned on the packaging so I assume they were released by mistake. BTW, if you never heard Percy Mayfield’s original version of “Stranger In My Own Hometown”, from Ray Charles’ Tangerine label, here it is.
Here, from an old Hound show aircheck is my musical re-creation of a Thanksgiving dinner:
Lionel Hampton- Turky Hop, Nat Kendricks & the Swans- Mashed Potatoes, Robert Williams & the Groovers- Cranberry Blues, Andre Williams- Please Pass The Biscuits, Nite Caps- Wine Wine Wine, Marvin & Johnny- Cherry Pie and of course Alfred E. Newman- It’s A Gas. Happy Holiday.

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