R.I.P. New York City…or Why I’m Glad I Got Out!

This is actually going to be full article based on a random thought I wrote about just last year, regarding the decline of New York City’s diversity and character because let’s face it…it’s just gotten worse and will continue to do so.

So it all started just two nights ago, when I came across this article:

http://ny.curbed.com/2016/8/12/12452636/target-east-village-opening-date

Wait…what the fuck?  A new, two floor Target in the East Village?  With a 30-year lease on the building?!  First off, I’m a bit biased here because I used to work at Target but…ew!  Also…why?  Why Target and why in the East Fucking Village??  Then, I reminded myself of exactly why: money talk$.

I wrote a year ago that many of the places I used to know were going away at a pretty steady pace, especially at my old haunts, specifically St. Mark’s Place, which I had said was at least hanging on a thread so long as Sounds was still around, even if it was open just three days a week by that point, if anything for the sake of posture.  Whoops!  Not too long after I wrote that piece Sounds finally did close down for good, signaling THE end of the more culturally diverse St. Mark’s Place I used to know once and for all.  Why?  Because who the fuck can afford these fucking rent hikes?  Oh wait…chain stores can!

Oh, I can go on and on about when I first noticed this change, and how it changed the entire landscape of Manhattan alone – don’t even get me started with Brooklyn!  But instead I’m going to rant about who we can all blame for this and if you live or used to live anywhere in New York City (like me) you already know why: yuppies and especially hipsters.  The hipsters started fucking everything up when they came to Williamsburg, Brooklyn from whatever bumfuck towns/states they grew up in during the late 90’s/early 2000’s with their daddys’ checkbooks in search of somewhere cheap as hell.  In just a few years time a once extremely dangerous part of Brooklyn now had hipster themed bars and vintage record shops on almost every street corner.  And not only that, rent was now fucking sky high.  I was an intern for a music marketing firm in Manhattan in 2007 and a considerable portion of the hipster fuckheads I worked with lived in “Billyburg”.  The only way they could be living there was if their parents were paying the rent because I can tell you right now they sure as fuck weren’t making even remotely decent salaries at this particular firm.  I’d look for apartments in Brooklyn on craigslist and some of these prices were retarded.  $2000 for a studio off of Bedford Ave?  Really?  But if you want to know how I truly feel about hipsters just watch this amazing clip from The Gentlemen’s Rant.  Skip to the 1:50 mark for my favorite part!

This was just the beginning, of course.  Soon, the resulting trickle down effect happened: Manhattan followed suit.  The hipsters lived in Williamsburg in order to be as close to Manhattan as possible so before anyone knew it any area near the Williamsburg Bridge, especially the Lower East Side, started changing at that steady paced I mentioned before to cater to these motherfuckers.  The trickle down effect here?  Long standing Mom and Pop stores began to close shop to be replaced by some really strange fucking things.

This also spread, of course, throughout most of Manhattan, not just the Lower East Side.  Old buildings were being knocked down to make room for high rise condos that I know I sure can’t afford.  Here’s a quick story.  My dad’s been in real estate since 2005, having gotten his real estate license from NYU in 1988, and he was responsible for one of these buildings in the Lower East Side being knocked down in 2007.  He told me that while on site a girl came up to him asking him to please sign her petition to stop these developers from knocking the building down, obviously having no idea she was talking to the very person behind the whole thing.  Oops!

To some of you reading this I risk coming off as yelling at yuppies and hipsters to get off my lawn like a bitter old man.  You’d be wrong.  Yeah, I hate yuppies and REALLY hate hipsters.  But my big problem is that because of them, and more specifically about their lack of history, having not grown up in the city like I did, they appear to truly lack any appreciation for the charm New York City once had.  It was once such a diverse city.  I don’t just mean for the reputation of it’s many areas – not just the parts I mentioned – but because you could go into any street corner and find something completely random and enjoyable.  Hell, twelve years ago I could just turn to W 48th St in the tourist trap that is Times Square and I’d just happen to find the once infamous Music Row.  You’re reading correctly, there was once an entire block of just music instrument stores.  Several Sam Ash buildings, each one dedicated to specific instruments, Rudy’s, the world famous Manny’s Music, just to name a few.

Oh, here’s my favorite.  A 111 year old art supply store right around the corner from Webster Hall is being forced out of business because the building was sold to some jerkoff who plans to make the building into a hotel geared toward…millennials??  What the fuck does that require exactly that a piece of HISTORY is being forced to close down for this?  Someone please tell me.  What exactly makes millennials so fucking special?  Is it the computer thing??  Since the age range for millennials is between 1982 and 2002 I guess I’d be considered a millennial on paper, being that I was born in 1984.  But I’m no millennial because just about anyone born in the 80’s knew how to survive without cellphones and computers.  Ask the kids today when they last experienced a fleeting, random moment.  You’d probably hear crickets for a long time because that’s how often their heads are down at their smartphones they honestly have NO BUSINESS carrying around at twelve years old.

So here’s my main point to all of this.  Gentrification my ass!  If I wanted to go to an outdoor strip mall I’d go to probably any other city…or an outdoor strip mall.  I used to live in a city that had a very special charm to it, one that was different, one with so much diversity and excitement, one with character.  These were the things that made it The Greatest City In The World, because it’s not that anymore, not when I see Subway restaurants on nearly every street corner and increasingly more homeless people on the streets because they were evicted for their inability to pay their rents.  If you’re reading this and are as disgusted with what’s become of it all like I was, do yourself a favor and get out while you still can…like I did, because it’s no longer just the East Village that’s dead – all of New York City is!

There are times now where I drive on Route 3 E and if I catch it around sunset I get a gorgeous view of the city from afar.  But every time come across this brilliant view I sadly can’t help but always think to myself the same thing over and over again: “New York City…beautiful to look at…ugly to live in…”

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Abigail Lives! King Diamond live at Playstation Theater 11/20/15

It was an eerie night on that 7th day of July in 1777…alright it was more like last Friday in Manhattan and I was actually going to see King Diamond.  On this tour he’ll play a few classics before playing in its entirety Abigail, the album that made King a metal GOD.  Thanks again Courtenay!  So I went to pick her up at her job and off we went to PlayStation Theater in Times Square, where we were searched twice, including being patted down because of the ISIS attacks on Paris…as well as ISIS claiming Times Square was next.  Oh, and if you live in NYC and really thought they’d do it you’re dumb.  It’s too big and too obvious.  I think they’d hit a much more low key area.

We got there long before the doors even opened and sat because she hurt her calf just walking to meet me and my knees were in exquisite pain from squatting 210 for 6 reps without my compression gear on.  So more than an hour passed before people stared coming in and man, this show got stereotypical real quick.  I saw a lot of Mexicans walking in and you just knew they were there to see Exodus, the opening band.  There’s always been a connection between Mexicans and thrash or even some death metal.  I can’t explain but if you’ve ever gone to a thrash show you know what I’m talking about.  I saw dudes coming in with bandanas on with unbent baseball caps over them and 2nd generation Exodus and Slayer t-shirts.  It never fails…ever.

Sitting a few seats next to us were the stereotypical awkward/not so good looking couples who are bonded by that one little thing…their love for metal.  Awww.  Then someone said something to me that had me looking.  “You notice how many morbidly obese guys are here?”  Oh yeah, it was real bad.  I’m totally convinced that it’s the result of years of devotion to Dungeons and Dragons, staying indoors all day and playing online video games with thirteen year old boys and eating like shit their entire lives.  You know these motherfuckers came out of the woodwork just for this and then ran back home to their video games.  I’m not the best looking guy out there but I’m sure I was maybe one of the most in shape guys in the whole fucking building at that moment.  Ladies and gents – another metal concert stereotype.  Don’t ever be that guy.

So around 8pm Exodus were getting ready to hit the stage.  Their entrance music?  “Piano Man” by Billy Joel.  Once Exodus came on they opened with a track off their new album Blood In Blood Out.  My biggest problem with this band forever will always be Sousa’s vocals.  I said it in my last blog but canning Rob Dukes was THE dumbest thing they could’ve done.  Dukes gave Exodus much needed new life with his intense screams and barks.  I even bought an Exodus album for the first time!  Forget that they way the canned him was pretty scummy it was just a bad artistic call.  The are so fucking heavy that Sousa’s nasal delivery just sounds so fucking dated.

Aside from that they played great.  But why did Gary Holt look so different here?  What a sec…..that’s not Gary!  Where is he??  I texted my friend Maureen, who was waiting in line to get searched, if she knew anything.  I had no idea that he was not going to be there because of Slayer commitments.  It seems crazy at first, Exodus hit a goldmine, opening for King Diamond and having three additional dates added in New York City alone because the initial date sold out so fast.  But then again, Gary’s now in Slayer as well as Exodus and probably making much more money in one show alone.  Good for him.  So who was his replacement on this tour with King?  It’s Heathen guitarist Kragen Lum, who did a damn good job playing Gary’s parts.

Exodus played for not even an hour.  Zetro did his expected nod to L’Amour’s to get the older fans to jizz all over themselves, and they did.  The hit their signature tune, “Toxic Waltz”, right in the middle of the set.  The dudes in the pit went apeshit.  It was a decent show.  I don’t hate Exodus and I never really did.  But Zetro just annoys me to no end.  He is to the west coast what Blitz from Overkill is to the east coast – really annoying!

After a little waiting period, the curtain opened.  Then…this happened….

I have to admit, I was a bit worried.  Over the last several years he suffered a herniated disc and most recently heart surgery.  I saw a clip of him with members of Mercyful Fate playing with Metallica on their 30th anniversary show in 2011 and he wasn’t that good.  But that was then, because as soon as he wailed out “GRANDMAAAAAAAA!!!!” all my fears were gone.  Holy shit he was amazing.  His band were spot on.  Andy LaRocque’s solos?  Total.  Fucking.  Jizzfest.  He can solo all day and I’ll never get bored.  The stage?  Two staircases with a balcony with two inverted crucifixes and a pentagram behind it.  So eighties, so amazing.

After “Welcome Home” the band kicked right into “Sleepless Nights”, my personal favorite from King.  It’s so different from the rest of his material up to that particular album for me, I guess because of the chord structuring and the emotion that’s actually in that song.  Yeah I know that Conspiracy is a concept album like everything else from Abigail on; but every time he shrieks out that line “Killing The PAAAAIIIINNNN!!!!!” it always hits me and now here I was hearing it live and my response was no different here.  They broke into “Halloween” after that and then two Mercyful Fate tunes, “Evil” and “Melissa”.

I have to admit I’m one of the many people would’ve never known “Evil” or ANYTHING related to Mercyful Fate or King Diamond if I never bought Metallica’s Garage Inc.  So when King shrieked “I was born in a cemetery….” I immediately heard Hetfield singing it in my head.  At the end of “Melissa” King says in a raspy voice “I think Melissa’s still with us…”, before slowly walking up the steps, them limping.  Then, as he reached the top, the pentagram, crucifixes and band logo on the side of the stage descended.  Then shit went DOWN!!!!!

I had to get the first two songs recorded.  “Arrival” is such a dark and ominous song, foreshadowing the rest of this creepy ass story about a pregnant woman whose baby is possessed by the spirit of Abigail, the illegitimate, stillborn child who was mummified by Count La’Fey.  Hearing every single track was intense.  The band were spot on.  King’s voice was much better than I would’ve ever expected.  I should also note that while most aging bands will tune lower so the singer can handle the songs, King played EVERYTHING in their proper tunings.  Not bad for a guy who’s sixty years old.  And there’s one more thing I need to point out.  My girlfriend pointed out King’s makeup, which looked NOTHING like his usual look, inverted crucifixes all over his face.  This time it actually looked a lot more like his classic look from the 80’s, you know, the one Gene Simmons tried to sue him over in the late nineties like an asshole.  Hey Gene, fuck you!

As the show came to an end with “The Black Horsemen” King yelled out to the crowd “Thank you so, so much New York!”, and rightfully so.  Only in New York City could one show turn into four and it was easy to tell he was moved by it all.  He’s lucky to be alive and I’m sure he knows it.  After the band finished up “Insanity” from King’s album The Eye, could be heard through the PA speakers.  It served to me as one last reminder of how talented a songwriter King really is.  He’s extremely underrated and deserves much more credit than he gets, even after Metallica exposed him to the world seventeen years ago.  I’m pretty sure King stayed on stage for five extra minutes even after the rest of the band walked off just to high five the fans, soaking it all in.  This type of thing doesn’t happen to him in the states often and I know it had to have felt amazing at that moment.  He’d go on to play two more shows in the next two nights and I’m sure the results were the same.