It has been more than a decade since I spent any significant time in New York City (I dropped by in 2012 to catch up with a friend over half a day), so my recent trip (which took place in July 2014) unveiled a number of changes that took me by surprise.
In some ways, the City That Never Sleeps is always buzzing with an energy that comes with a confluence of never ending stream of tourists, wall street traders and wannabe stars trying to make it big on Broadway. Take a stroll along Broadway any time of the day without a watch or your mobile phone, and you will be hard pressed to tell the time of the day. Insane amount of activities clogged the streets, much to the delights of the attention-deficit. Spontaneous performances break out pretty much everywhere, be it Battery Park, Union Square or any spacious subway stations. In Ellen’s Stardust Diner, waiters and waitresses who are seeking opportunities in Broadway serenade diners with pop hits.
Changes are not always bad. While memories of my 2004 trip are somewhat faded and muted (I didn’t have a digital camera back then), I can somewhat recall that the streets were not nearly as clean as they are now. Horse drawn carriages no longer populate the streets of Manhattan and appear to be restricted to Central Park. Then again, such carriages have always seemed out of place and catered to the niche group of old-timer tourists who find them romantic. It could just be time playing tricks with my mind, but I do find NYC a lot safer in 2014, compared to a decade ago.
Along the high Line
Yet, even as I find 2014 NYC to be fairly enjoyable and tourist-friendly, I felt that NYC has lost a big chunk of its rock and punk history over the decade. CBGB and Roseland have both shuttered their gates. I admit to feeling a tinge of sadness as I walked past Roseland, only to find a homeless dude setting up camp outside. Hotel Chelsea is under new management, and who knows what sort of “upgrades” the place will see after the renovation is done with.
Roseland had seen better days
When I was in NYC in 2004, the city enjoyed a rock renaissance of sorts, following the success of the garage rock revival brought on by bands such as The Strokes, Interpol and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Now that exciting energy is all but dissipated. Don’t get me wrong. There are still great bands such as Vampire Weekend and Battles, but the city as a whole just seem to be missing something.
Back in my JC days, I often daydreamed about working in the states, particularly in NYC. Having grown up on a musical diet comprising such venerable music stalwarts such as Sonic Youth, Beastie Boys and the granddaddy of them all, the Velvet Undergound, NYC always have this imperceptible coolness that appeals to the creative young man that I was. Of course, that was a lifetime ago. The perfect indie rock marriage of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon is over. Lou Reed is dead. And We have MCA Day now.