Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Good News Is, You Can Get A Tarot Card Reading For Ten Dollars.

"I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air..."

-Bob Dylan

"Tangled Up In Blue" was released in January 1976. One year later, on the self- same Montague Street in Brooklyn, Haagan Daz opened their first retail store. Today, the street boasts a Radio Shack, a Subway Sandwich franchise, a Sprint store, and a few other embarrassments. To be fair, the diner and the candy shop are open 24 hours. Now, don't get me wrong; I absolutely love Haagan Daz Ice
Cream, but last night on a four AM walk to the Promenade my little heart sank. This song has been important to me for a long time, and in many ways, just as much as On The Road, I fancied myself growing into the narrative. But it's 2010 and let's just say, well, The times they are a-changin'

A further walk down the promenade reveals a breathtaking view of downtown Manhattan south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The sky line is marred, though, by a giant Verizon logo on the side of the building. I recognize that I'm a little late on this rant, but it's biting especially hard when I've got Dylan on the brain.
It was four in the morning and I sat at the diner enjoying a slice of pie, thinking about the passage of time, and the Starbucks a block down. This, when I look back, will be where there was "Music in the cafés at night".
Let's be real. It's going on; this gentrification, this modernization. I get it.  There are enough college sophomores complaining about it that I don't need to join in. And on some levels, I'm pragmatic enough that I don't feel the need to. But there's something about wrecking the zeitgeist captured in a song that stings much harder than the generalized knowledge of what once was. I made a brief mention in an earlier post of songs as artifacts and this reinforces what I was trying to say. With my two visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I thought a lot about the fact that the majority of pieces there, probably an overwhelming majority, once functioned as tools in everyday life. The pottery, the stemware, the weapons, the furniture. And now, they're preserved behind glass and their one function is to be looked at and studied. What Inca villager had this in mind when weaving baskets? If songs are artifacts, what's their destiny? Digital media threatens our exposure to the arts in the same way Kudzu vines threaten our botanical gardens, and I do think there's a downside to limitless access to music: inundation. The Truly Great Art will be hidden behind the truly accessible. What will rise to the top? Similarly, let's be real: every charming, café, bistro, or boutique is really nothing more than a capitalist venture, scarcely different from any big box or chain in it's own infancy. But we prescribe virtue to saving the small, the intimate, the local, and rightly so. Some personableness is sacrificed when changing from "neighborhood haunt" to "locations nationwide". How on earth do we make informed decisions when choosing what to celebrate and embrace?

The point, in this which clearly rambles, is this. Preservation is a priority we seem to be forgetting, and it's impossible to say how far it will go. Sure, I just employed a 'Slippery Slope' argument, and I recognize that it's a bit alarmist to do so.

But, Damn. I was pleased as punch to be walking down Montague Street, feeling like I Was There...

Right up until I saw that Radio Shack.

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