Which Good Old Days?

Hardly a day passes that I don’t read a comment on some blog or news site that longs for a return to an earlier period of “East Village” history. So I thought it might be fun to see which period people would prefer.

Below is a poll, with descriptions taken from Janet Abu-Lughod’s book
“From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side.”



1 Janet Abu-Lughod, From Urban Village to East Village: The Battle for New York’s Lower East Side (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1995), 342-345.

The Shadow, Reanimated

Last year, at the Tompkins Square Park 25th Police-Riot Reunion, it was announced that The Shadow was going back into print. The Shadow was a monthly, anarchist newspaper that started in 1989. It was an interesting paper, during an interesting time. I don’t remember it in great detail, but I remember that my favorite section was Cop Watch, where people reported on the activities of cops in the neighborhood. I also remember that they advertised the sale of the encryption program PGP for $10, even though the download from MIT was free.

If you want to get an idea of what it was like, check out their archives on the Wayback Machine. Unfortunately, it only starts in 1997 (the Wayback Archive started in 1996), but you’ll get a good idea of what the paper was like, especially compared with today.

The key thing is that it was more of a real newspaper. They still borrowed (liberated?) other people’s writing, but there was much more of their own. Today, it’s almost all borrowed. It’s basically a printed version of a Google search for, let’s say, “conspiracy theories.”

Their first re-issue features a piece written by Michael Parenti in 1996 (!), about the Kennedy assassination conspiracy (Yawn); an obituary of Mae Brussell (a conspiracy-monger who died in 1988) taken from a 1994 book by Paul Krassner; a review of a Kennedy-conspiracy book written in 2012; a Kennedy-conspiracy article; another Kennedy-conspiracy article…

Apart from the conspiracy nonsense, none of the articles are particularly bad, they’re just not news. For that matter, they’re not even new. There’s a long (of course) article about Bill de Blasio and Hillary Clinton that tries to be “local”:

In his 2000 book Rogue State, anti war writer William Blum indicated some of the reasons the husband of Hillary Clinton was considered responsible for war crimes by many anti war activists on the Lower East Side in 1999…

Their editorial headline is “The Honeymoon is Over: America Grows Weary of Barack Obama”. I have to wonder, as anarchists, was there ever a honeymoon period? This was written by A. Kronstadt, a pen-name used back in the 90s also, but who knows if it’s the same person?

They’ve dropped the banner “The Shadow is New York’s ONLY underground newspaper” from the paper itself, but they’ve added it to their Facebook page. Maybe the claim should be “The Shadow is Facebook’s only underground Facebook page!”

The Spring 2014 issue is better only because it’s not filled with Kennedy-conspiracy drivel. There’s another long article on Bill de Blasio and Hillary Clinton, an obituary of Al Goldstein, who died in 2013, and a lot of other non-news articles.

Probably the worst thing about The Shadow today is that I now have to pay $1.00 for a copy! Back when it was worth reading, it was free. Now that it’s all recycled internet articles, I have to pay for it. It’s not really worth it.

Finally, here is a screen shot of their web page:


Who knows what evil lurks in your closet? The Shadow knows!

The Hazards of Shopping Locally

Recently, these signs went up in the neighborhood, warning of ATM Skimming:

Click the image to enlarge

They’re on just about every lamppost, in some areas.

When EV Grieve posted something today (7/19) about the signs, in a short time commenters were complaining about this happening to them, at local stores!






Mom! Pop! What about the community?!

* * *

Back in May:

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo … announced the initial results of the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) effort to combat underage drinking in New York City utilizing a part-time investigative unit. Starting on April 17, 2014, the unit made 74 visits to licensed grocery and liquor stores in all five boroughs of NYC, with 32 sales to minors.

The Manhattan stores were all in the “East Village”:

Click the image to read the press release

Mom and Pop strike again!

Noise Complaints

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

September 15, 2013

Back in August, Gawker ran a story on 311 complaints in New York City:
“Do You Live In “Loud Party” New York Or “Vermin Infested” New York?”.

I mention this because, while looking for information for my post
Keep The “East Village” Weird?, I came across this story:


I don’t know if the message is “As bad as things are, it can always be worse,”
or if this portends the future of the Lower East Side.

Pawn Shops

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

September 6, 2013

In the piece Quilas: Bike Sharer, I mentioned the web site Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. The current post on that day was Gramercy Pawnbrokers. He was concerned about a For Rent sign he saw over a pawn broker’s sign, and that they might be closing.

I commented that along with liquor stores and check cashing places, pawn shops are the scourge of poor neighborhoods. My comment was rejected. Here are some that were not:



Too many people don’t take the time to think about what it is they’re defending.

Gross Opportunism

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

August 27, 2013

I was walking home from work yesterday (Aug. 28) when a headline caught my eye (the way they’re meant to): “East Village raises $18,000 for florist hurt by drag racer”.

Instead of leading the story with something like “Lack of affordable health insurance leaves people vulnerable”, they write a self-congratulatory story about a fund-raiser for the injured person:

Among the many who gave funds to the campaign for Ali was Veselka restaurant, which made one of the biggest contributions at $500. The biggest donor, though, was a tattoo shop, which went only by the tag “STI,” which gave $1,000. … Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club also contributed, with the encouraging message posted on the GiveForward site, “Strength.” Activist and journalist Bill Weinberg, who leads tours for the new MoRUS museum on Avenue C, donated. Also giving was State Democratic Committeewoman Rachel Lavine, who lives in the West Village. … Katharine Wolpe, a leading member of Village Independent Democrats, pitched in $200. Fourth Arts Block also gave. The list goes on and on.

“I was kind of the catalyst for this thing,” [Chad] Marlow [a member of Community Board 3] said. “But I was one of 290 who gave. At the end of the day, a bit of the money is from me, just a bit. [Marlow gave $100.] I’m very grateful for having this opportunity to help. It’s been a bit of a healing experience for me. I walked past [the site of the crash], and it was all I could think about. I was really gratified that I could play a role. But it was really the East Village that did this.

This is sickening. Do they have no shame?

The article says that the injured person’s insurance was paying his hospital bills, but I seriously doubt that’s true. This is a guy whose job was “doing everything from making fresh-squeezed juices and salads to manning the flower stand.” There’s no question that the East Village Farm Deli didn’t pay for his insurance, which means he either paid for it himself, or had none. But The Villager has nothing to say about that.

All Art is Propaganda

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

July 17, 2013

In “No Local,” that I just finished reading, Greg Sharzer mentions George Orwell’s book “The Road to Wigan Pier”. Because I almost never buy books any more, preferring to borrow them from the library instead, I checked to see if the library near me had a copy. They didn’t. They did, however, have a collection of essays, that is itself a collection of previous collections of essays, titled “All Art is Progapanda”.

I liked the title right away, especially having delved into the ideological underpinnings of reform movements in this neighborhood. I didn’t think it would deal with art as a means of reproducing the ideology of any particular class, but more in the sense of Althusser’s dictum that ideology is material.

It was nothing of the sort. The title comes from the first essay, on Charles Dickens:

I have been discussing Dickens simply in terms of his ‘message’, and almost ignoring his literary qualities. But every writer, especially every novelist, has a ‘message’, whether he admits it or not, and the minutest details of his work are influenced by it. All art is propaganda.

What I want to quote from here is from an essay titled “Inside the Whale”. He writes about Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer”, but it’s as if he’s writing about the “East Village”:

During the boom years, when dollars were plentiful and the exchange-value of the franc was low, Paris was invaded by such a swarm of artists, writers, students, dilettanti, sight-seers, debauchees, and plain idlers as the world has probably never seen. In some quarters of the town the so-called artists must actually have outnumbered the working population — indeed, it has been reckoned that the late twenties there were as many as 30,000 painters in Paris, most of them impostors. The populace had grown so hardened to artists that gruff-voiced lesbians in corduroy breeches and young men in Grecian or medieval costume could walk the streets without attracting a glance, and along the Seine banks Notre Dame it was almost impossible to pick one’s way between the sketching-stools. It was the age of dark horses and neglected genii; the phrase on everybody’s lips was ‘Quand je serai lancé’. As it turned out, nobody was ‘lancé’, the slump descended like another Ice Age, the cosmopolitan mob of artists vanished, and the huge Montparnasse cafés which only ten years ago were filled till the small hours by hordes of shrieking poseurs have turned into darkened tombs in which there arc not even any ghosts. It is this world — described in, among other novels, Wyndham Lewis’s “Tarr” — that Miller is writing about, but he is dealing only with the under side of it, the lumpen-proletarian fringe which has been able to survive the slump because it is composed partly of genuine artists and partly of genuine scoundrels.

Overheard Conversations

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

One of the Categories I created when I first set up Quilas was “Overheard Conversations”. These were to be snippets of people’s conversations out of context, the way they are when you pass someone who is talking. I didn’t pursue this category, though. Maybe I will going forward.

* * *

January 21, 2013
Overheard on Avenue C

    She looks better than her being a female, but she’s still ugly.

* * *

January 22, 2013
Overheard at MoMA

    The Scream is the scream of desperate isolation in industrial society.

[This wasn’t really overheard — it was spoken to me by a friend,
when we went to see The Scream at MoMA.]

* * *

March 16, 2013
Natalie du Prés Says

Regarding the book “The Collins Family in America”:

    “Josette, I don’t understand it. What I don’t understand, I run from.
    Is that wrong?”

[This wasn’t overheard either — it was just funny. I was watching the old Dark Shadows TV show during this time.]

Release the Kraken!

Well, it might not be as dramatic as that. The Kraken in this case is the body of unfinished pieces in my Drafts folder — mentioned in Adding Insult to Injury — that I’m releasing today. By the end of the day, I hope to publish or delete everything that I don’t intend to work on further.

For your convenience:

Adding Insult to Injury

During this time when I’m not working on any of the 41 pieces in my Drafts folder, I will pass on this story from last week’s Guardian.

The Job Centre bar “promises upmarket pub food in an atmosphere of quirky design features inspired by its function as a place that once served the unemployed.” The actual job center, located in a part of London with a high level of unemployment, was closed in 2010.

    “The bar’s name and its interior design suggest that you want potential clientele to understand that your bar is for the new people moving into Deptford, for whom job centres are a joke, and not the existing residents of Deptford, for whom job centres are often a necessity …” – Jane Elliott, Lewisham People Before Profit

In the “East Village,” where there are no job centers, gentrifying bars took names like Downtown Beirut, celebrating the Israeli bombardment of 1982.