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When Your City Disappears
August 19, 2013 9:17 AM   Subscribe

"Growing up in New York City has a lesser known side effect for those of us who were raised here. We grew up in a tourist attraction... [When] you’re from New York, the city is never a faraway place filled with Woody Allens and Notorious BIGs. It’s simply... here. But that here is increasingly there."
posted by griphus (123 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
ODESSA

WHY

It was bad enough when Kiev closed, how am I supposed to cope with this.
posted by elizardbits at 9:21 AM on August 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


So… how do we preserve the soul of this makes-us-nuts-but-so-worth-it hometown of ours. Anyone?

Maybe we could build a really big wall.
posted by elizardbits at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2013


I left NYC in 2002, and reading these articles makes the idea of visiting bittersweet. I fear not being able to visit the places I love, because they're gone, and not being their long enough to discover new places.
posted by bswinburn at 9:24 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seemed like a great introduction to a longer article, but that's the whole thing. 1000 words.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Polonia closed two years ago too.

Veselka is still there right? But a pretty poor substitute for Kiev. I still miss the potato pickle soup on Sunday.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2013


My go to place was Little Poland, which appears to be holding on for now.
posted by bswinburn at 9:29 AM on August 19, 2013


I swear I read a thoughtful piece somewhere that argued that the sort of diverse mixed-use neighborhoods beloved by Jane Jacobs et al were by their very nature transitory and inevitably got erased by gentrification. Does anyone know where that was?
posted by Wretch729 at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sic transit gloria mundi. But to call this a "lesser known side effect" seems sublimely naive. Have we ever not talked about how NYC was better back in the day?

(It definitely was.)

I grew up in Yorkville on the Upper East Side back when it was the Austrian/German/Hungarian area of town. There was a German department store on 86th Street (now Pizzeria Uno, I think), along with a konditorei, German diner and two German restaurants (plus Schaller & Weber and Heidelberg on 2nd Ave.). Elk Candies, which specialized in marzipan. Two or three Hungarian butchers, and Paprikas Weiss, a Hungarian spice shop. It was amazing.

Now the neighborhood is filled with bros, bros as far as the eye can see. Plus subway construction detritus.

I have no use for the Upper West Side, but it all seems like just a big mall now.

I think it's good to leave where you grew up, even if your hometown is the greatest city in the world.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wait... The Kiev closed?
posted by rmd1023 at 9:36 AM on August 19, 2013


How to tell someone has spent any amount of time in New York, they tend to start sentences with " That used to be a...."
posted by The Whelk at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suspect by 2050 we're just going to be living inside a Duane Reade-branded arcology that has smaller Duane Reades on the inside.
posted by griphus at 9:40 AM on August 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


The Kiev closed 13 years ago.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


"See that Duane Reade?" people from New Jersey will say. "That used to be a city called New York."
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2013 [22 favorites]


Which is to say, where do those families that used to live in those Bushwick apartments favored by new arrivals go?

Here, this is the essay that would be Best of the Web. Otherwise it's just an empty lament about the fact that things change.
posted by troika at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect by 2050 we're just going to be living inside a Duane Reade-branded arcology that has smaller Duane Reades on the inside.

Inside a giant NYU dorm.
posted by elizardbits at 9:41 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Within a Chase bank.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I left NYC (or "The City," as I would tell anyone, anywhere who asked me where I was from) in 1981, after having lived there from infancy through college.

My NYC of double-bill porn marquees in Times Square, non-"artisanal" chocolate egg creams in Tribeca, a German Yorkville, WNEW-AM and FM, Disc-o-Mats and Automats is so distant a memory—if it's even a memory at all to most—that I might as well be describing Edwardian London.

To paraphrase Chrissie Hynde, I go back to Manhattan but my city is gone.
posted by the sobsister at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


While NYC still has some eccentric local musicians maybe you could get one of them to do something like this for NYC.
posted by localroger at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2013


Few people would admit it openly, but everyone wants to see Manhattan destroyed by kaiju. Especially its residents.
posted by planetesimal at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The weird side effect of growing up in and around a place like New York, which has such a prominent place in the public consciousness, is that living anywhere else leaves you feeling strangely unmoored. Sometimes I feel like I live in Bellona.
posted by invitapriore at 9:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


ODESSA

WHY


Yeah, that one's hitting me hard. I have fond, fond memories of drinking glass after glass after glass of Jameson neat there, in the East Village, for Peoria prices. Here's to you, Odessa.
posted by The Michael The at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2013


but everyone wants to see Manhattan destroyed by kaiju

Presumably this is why Cloverfield was made before Pacific Rim. Also, NYC is not on the Pacific rim.
posted by localroger at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2013


I can't imagine why anyone would willingly go to the east village anymore.
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


English Lit 201
posted by griphus at 9:47 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny, you could change the place names and write the same article for San Francisco.
posted by doctor_negative at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Where do the people go? I dunno. But in some neighborhoods in Brooklyn 4 generations of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, lived on the same block, in the same building. This was a home, not simply a stopover before moving back to the suburbs to have kids. I've made a tentative peace with the hordes of recent grads pushing working families out. Somebody here once asked me why I thought people that had been here for generations deserved to live here any more than anyone else. Someone once seriously suggested that the influx of people to places like Bushwick are helping the neighborhood by attracting tourists, opening bars and art spaces.

My girlfriend is from East Flatbush and she can't even afford to live even there. She lives in The Bronx now.

This is really my hobby horse so I should really stay off it. This is like asking Joe Beese about Obama.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:53 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Whelk: How to tell someone has spent any amount of time in New York, they tend to start sentences with " That used to be a...."

You mean "how to tell someone has spent any amount of time in a still-living city." I lived in a sleepy little 'burb for a bit over a decade, but I fondly recall the local Irish pub, which was demolished along with the adjacent parking lot, which became a two-story shopping mall. The only towns that don't change are dead towns, the places where the highway left the town and now runs parallel to Main Street, so the neon signs and dated facades are preserved by being ignored by change.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:57 AM on August 19, 2013 [15 favorites]


living inside a Duane Reade-branded arcology that has smaller Duane Reades on the inside.
Inside a giant NYU dorm.
Within a Chase bank.

All nested in the (locked) gents' room of a super-colossal Starbucks.
posted by Mister_A at 9:59 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


If any NYC mayoral candidate promises a moratorium on bank branches and pharmacies, that guy will have my vote in a heartbeat (and I don't even live in New York).
posted by schmod at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone once seriously suggested that the influx of people to places like Bushwick are helping the neighborhood by attracting tourists, opening bars and art spaces.

It's the weird immigrant circle of life that everyone's grandparents finds utterly hilarious. I am, right now, looking at my maternal great grandparents' marriage certificate from 1906, and my great-grandmother's address is on Ridge Street and my great-grampa's address is on E9th and Avenue D, an area in which I recently looked at duplex apartments in the $750,000 range. I can't even imagine trying to explain to my grandparents how much their old neighborhoods cost now, even allowing for inflation.
posted by elizardbits at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


> Have we ever not talked about how NYC was better back in the day?

Perhaps - but this is not like the other changes.

Characteristic New York institutions are being replaced by generic national brands and little that's original is being created. Not nothing - I'm heavily involved with Silent Barn, for example - but little, and almost nothing in Manhattan.

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn - have for twenty years now - and I'm worried about some of the local businesses as we get an influx of new generics - Teddy's seems to have lost some business in the last couple of years, Tops likewise. I worry because these are great joints - Teddy's particularly - and it's a double shame because they compensate their workers properly too...

Teddy's is still the best place in W'burg to have a burger and a beer (in my case, nachos, because I don't eat meat, but it's the same idea) but when there are new restaurants popping up almost every week and people crave novelty...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:03 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought this article was surprisingly terrible, almost like it was run through a "gentrified/lost NYC" word generator and strung into sentences -"Whole neighborhoods gentrified at once, with Bed-Stuy taking on a black and white cookie complexion" meh, what?

I did not know about Silent Barn though somehow, and that seems cool.

Someone once seriously suggested that the influx of people to places like Bushwick are helping the neighborhood by attracting tourists, opening bars and art spaces.


Well, but stuff like this (except the tourists) makes it more likely for someone like me to have a reason to go to Bushwick. For whatever value that has, which is "a lot" to some people and "none" to others. Also whether it "helps" or not is totally subjective.
posted by sweetkid at 10:08 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I swear I read a thoughtful piece somewhere that argued that the sort of diverse mixed-use neighborhoods beloved by Jane Jacobs et al were by their very nature transitory and inevitably got erased by gentrification. Does anyone know where that was?

Was it this piece in the Atlantic by Benjamin Schwarz? I think it's an excellent debunking of much of the discourse around "gentrification."
posted by yoink at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's the weird immigrant circle of life that everyone's grandparents finds utterly hilarious.

As an amusing anecdote, my uncle, who lived in London for 30 some odd years, sold his lovely Victorian townhouse a few years ago, and actually bought an apartment in the same building where he and my father grew up in Queens. (Their childhood apartment was not available.) The man is besotted with nostalgia. The neighborhood is totally different, of course, but it suits him fine.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:11 AM on August 19, 2013


I'd love to see a graph of the drop in the number of establishments in Manhattan selling pizza by the slice, from 1995 to present.
posted by gubo at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My parents grew up in the neighborhood where I now live (the east village). When I moved in almost 10 years ago, my father gave a switchblade and called me every night to make sure I was safe (despite my assurances that it was perfectly safe).

These days, when they ask me when I'm going to buy my own apartment, they're flabbergasted by prices for studios of over 600k, much less 1 bedrooms.

On the upside, despite the hordes of NYU students, I still have my own little village- I go to the same butcher my grandparents did, I can see the church where 3 generations of my family have been married from my window, I have the best farmers market in NYC a short walk away, I pick my dinner options by ethnicity, and don't need to wander further than 20 ft down my block for a fantastic beer served by a friendly barkeep. My bodega has a cat and an excellent bacon egg and cheese on a roll for $1.95.

The old new york is still there, you just have to look harder for it.


The assholes singing at 3am on a wednesday, those people, they can be shot.

posted by larthegreat at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


Whelk, I go to movies in the EV: Anthology, Village East,Village 7.
RIP Two Boots Pioneer.
posted by brujita at 10:20 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


This piece seems to treat this issue with a lot more balance and perspective than most similar ones that I've seen, which tend to be composed of vague complaints about how much more "real" the city used to be, conveniently glossing over the many outright-horrifying aspects of life in NYC from 1980-2000 that made Giuliani/Bloomberg's reforms seem so appealing at the time.

Sure, it's easy to point a finger and rightly complain about the rapid erosion of New York's culture, but I'm also not going to wax nostalgic for the version of New York where people were being stabbed on the subway, and 8,000 people were dying of AIDS-related causes every year. (That's a handful of 9/11s, if you want that statistic converted into more relevant units....)

New York didn't change solely because of a sudden influx of cash. It changed because virtually everyone wanted it to change. Even at that, New York remains a city with a strong identity, whose residents and business-owners are often stubbornly resistant to changes of any sort.

I'd posit that the decline of local retail in NYC has been largely self-inflicted. For a long time, stepping into a shop in New York would be like stepping into a time machine, which wasn't always a good thing. While this is often cool and nostalgic, it also signaled that business owners weren't investing in their businesses or adapting to changing markets.

Would it have killed any of those defunct pizza places to invest in some better lighting, cleaning, or seating? I was always particularly baffled by Starbucks' explosion in NYC, because it often seemed like local businesses weren't even bothering to compete in this obviously-lucrative market.

And yes. You could write this same article about almost every non-Detroit city in the US.
posted by schmod at 10:23 AM on August 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


doctor_negative: "It's funny, you could change the place names and write the same article for San Francisco."

Or a hundred other cities. You could write almost the same article about the small town in Jersey where I grew up which used to be full of ethnic shops and funky restaurants but is now full of super expensive bistros and populated by stock brokers.
posted by octothorpe at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


You could write this same article about almost every non-Detroit city in the US

Yep. Like many iconic and fondly-recalled things about NYC, the problems this article touches on are not unique to the city but only more noticeable and discussed in the city because a great many people live there. And they talk on the internet.

I like NYC the place but I've gotten really exhausted by and fatigued with NYC the brand. Those of you who miss how it used to be: I feel you. I agree.
posted by penduluum at 10:34 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


griphus: "a faraway place filled with Woody Allens and Notorious BIGs."

This would be an interesting take on that scene from "Being John Malkovich". I'd pay good money to see it.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:36 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My New York is gone, but I bring her with me. Main thing to bear in mind: I'm not scared of you, but I'm aware of you, if I tease you I like you and you can't tell me anything. Oh also I'm massively self-absorbed, but I'm also pretty nice, if a bit abrupt, impeccable walking and door holding manners as well. New York can be anywhere, for example my garbage can smells like Mott St. on August 21st.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:40 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Jan Chipchase, on Tokyo: "The novelty in the Japanese housing market is that many buildings are designed for a lifetime of 20 to 25 years before being torn down"

...as others have said above, churn is an integral part of a vital city.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yesterday i was talking to a friend's father, who is of the same generation of Bombay-area Indian immigrants as my father, and he said the suburbs south of Bombay are getting really trendy and gentrified, and I wondered if they are going to start calling them SoBo or SoMum or something.
posted by sweetkid at 10:42 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


James Merrill wrote a great poem about the architectural side of this:
An Urban Convalescence

Out for a walk, after a week in bed,
I find them tearing up part of my block
And, chilled through, dazed and lonely, join the dozen
In meek attitudes, watching a huge crane
Fumble luxuriously in the filth of years.
Her jaws dribble rubble. An old man
Laughs and curses in her brain,
Bringing to mind the close of The White Goddess.

As usual in New York, everything is torn down
Before you have had time to care for it.
Head bowed, at the shrine of noise, let me try to recall
What building stood here. Was there a building at all?
I have lived on this same street for a decade.

Wait. Yes. Vaguely a presence rises
Some five floors high, of shabby stone
—Or am I confusing it with another one
In another part of town, or of the world?—
And over its lintel into focus vaguely
Misted with blood (my eyes are shut)
A single garland sways, stone fruit, stone leaves,
Which years of grit had etched until it thrust
Roots down, even into the poor soil of my seeing.
When did the garland become part of me?
I ask myself, amused almost,
Then shiver once from head to toe,
...
posted by jamjam at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile, on the upper ends of gentrification
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2013


which wasn't always a good thing

That is certainly true. Aside from the fact that not everyone likes their delis run down and filthy. There was always a barrier to entry. That strange learning curve that the article highlights by linking to the definition of "regular" coffee. I always avoided several places near where I grew up because I knew I would get yelled at if I took too long to order or said the wrong thing.

I could probably go on about how the bodegas and social clubs that once lined Smith streets played an important role in the neighborhood economy. They were part of the somewhat invisible economy that works entirely on tabs, favors and cash. They are the places that employ 5 12 year old kids at 100$ a week in cash. Starbucks, Art Spaces and bars may be a good draw, but how much of that money stays in the neighborhood, will they give you credit when you are short, and how much are they really invested in the community.

It is what it is I guess. I can't really hate these kids with their cask aged ale and locally raised ethical frittatas. The people I do hate are real estate developers.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


yoink thank you I do think that was it! Bookmarking that for future reference.

Schwarz doesn't directly make this point but I think that the two people his piece is critiquing to some extent seem to be arguing for the aesthetics that Jane Jacobs' Village provided over the livability that she was more fundamentally arguing for. Jacobs, in my understanding, was concerned first with livability and safety, then diversity, and only tertiarily with aesthetics. She was fighting misguided modernist urban planning that was destroying the social fabric of urban life in an effort to impose "order" on the metropolis. Obviously she herself favored the exciting creative bohemian diversity that's being mourned in this thread but strictly in terms of her ideas about mixed use and keeping eyes on the street throughout the day as a way of promoting community and safety there's no inherent problem with new urbanist-style gentrification.

What I'm saying is that while losing the diversity and eclectic businesses is regretable and has real consequences, in terms of the functional argument for livability and safety there's not as much difference between a mixed-use apartment block that includes a chipotle and a starbucks on the ground floor across from a ground floor franchise retail outlet with light commercial above it compared to the more bohemian ethnic deli/converted industrial space apartments/antique teapot store as you might think. Sure the aesthetics are different, and the less-affluent get screwed and leave, and it might be a less objectively interesting place to live, but the city still functions. It's only when it reverts to the monopurpose tower of luxury apartments with no businesses within walking distance or the sterile office block that shuts down at by 8pm that city starts to become dysfunctional in the way Jacobs describes.

(I admit I am eliding here the socio-political consequences of making it increasingly impossible for first low income and then middle income people to live in the area, because I don't think that it really matters for that first wave of yuppie gentrification. When that first wave of middle class whitecollar professionals who pushed out the bohemians is in turn pushed out by the upper class bankers where the class divide starts to really screw with the urban politics/economics, IMO.)
posted by Wretch729 at 10:53 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also: what Ad hominem said.
posted by Wretch729 at 10:55 AM on August 19, 2013


My New York is gone, but I bring her with me.

My grandparents both grew up in the Bronx, lived there for a while after they had kids, but later moved away. They get a newsletter every once in a while, written by people who used to live on their block, some 40+ years ago.
posted by inertia at 11:00 AM on August 19, 2013


What I'm saying is that while losing the diversity and eclectic businesses is regretable and has real consequences, in terms of the functional argument for livability and safety there's not as much difference between a mixed-use apartment block that includes a chipotle and a starbucks on the ground floor across from a ground floor franchise retail outlet with light commercial above it compared to the more bohemian ethnic deli/converted industrial space apartments/antique teapot store as you might think. Sure the aesthetics are different, and the less-affluent get screwed and leave, and it might be a less objectively interesting place to live, but the city still functions. It's only when it reverts to the monopurpose tower of luxury apartments with no businesses within walking distance or the sterile office block that shuts down at by 8pm that city starts to become dysfunctional in the way Jacobs describes.


Perhaps I am misreading you, but I think the argument is for the opposite. The West Village of Jane Jacobs is with the exception of some extremely high end chain boutiques on Bleecker, still very much independent businesses, restaurants and bodegas, with the original architecture still intact. And yet completely out of reach as for anyone other than the extremely wealthy.
posted by JPD at 11:14 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most days I would be nodding my head in agreement with nostalgia for the Manhattan of my childhood, but I just watched a documentary called The Central Park Five about those teenagers who got railroaded on the Central Park jogger rape in '89. The city was buckling under the weight of crack, AIDS, violent crime, and a million other things.

I miss Kiev too, but what good are pierogies when you got mugged on your way there from the subway?

Admiral Haddock, I take umbrage sir for this comment. If Zabars and Fairway are too corporate for you, try Zigone Brothers on Columbus. H&H might be gone, but Barney Greengrass will actually make you a sandwich and give you a table to eat it at. Artie's may not be the oldest deli, but they're nailing it; try the knish with the hot dog in the middle.

See also: 92Y, Lincoln Center, Museum of Natural History...

I mean, a mall? Ouch.
posted by ben242 at 11:29 AM on August 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Not only could you write this article about literally any other city in the US, or the world, but you could also write it at any time in the past, say, 500 years. There are maybe a few isolated monasteries that really are pretty much the same as 20 or 50 years ago. Everything has always disappeared.
posted by echo target at 11:37 AM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


but here we are in 2014.

Was this piece posted from the future?

> The city was buckling under the weight of crack, AIDS, violent crime, and a million other things.

In 1989? Geddoutahere. I lived in the city all through the '80s (and '90s, when it really got gentrified), and I can tell you that's plain bullshit. Picking out one horrific crime and claiming it's representative of the era is silly. The city was buckling under the weight of violent crime in the '70s; by the time I got to it that was already pretty much in the past, and by '89 the crack/crime epidemic was long over.
posted by languagehat at 11:38 AM on August 19, 2013


living inside a Duane Reade-branded arcology that has smaller Duane Reades on the inside.
Inside a giant NYU dorm.
Within a Chase bank.

All nested in the (locked) gents' room of a super-colossal Starbucks.


Funnily enough, the biggest real estate owner in NYC is the Catholic Church (followed by NYU). So I actually imagine future NYC to be a giant NYU dorm inside of a giant confession booth.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2013


Violent Crime Rates 1960-2011

Violent Crime peaked in '90. It was surprisingly consistent from the mid-70's to the early 90's.
posted by JPD at 11:45 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am at this point old enough that I still call a certain location "A&S Plaza." Manhattan was a slightly dangerous but massively fun playground when I was a kid. Some of that stuff is still there, but the fun has mostly migrated across the East River and I'm fine with that. When my grandfather lived on the LES it was filthy tenements filled with recent Jewish immigrants. In my youth it was Chinese and Latino. After college it was grimy but hip. In 30 years, who knows what it'll be? This is normal. There are neighbourhoods in Brooklyn where tycoons built huge mansions, that fell into total poverty and disrepair, and that are now flush with wealth again. This is New York, this is what happens. Even national chains collapse and disappear, but like a huge tree falling in the forest massive numbers of seedlings rush in to claim their place.

But yeah, Kiev is like being punched in the gut. Pierogies after a night of hard partying were like stumbling over an oasis in the Sahara.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although the notion, stated by various, that cities change, everywhere and always, is true, what I find dispiriting about its manifestation in NYC from the '90s on is that the city was changed to look like everywhere else.

To return to the Yorkville example, almost all of the stores and restaurants that Admiral Haddock mentioned, which had grown organically out of the neighborhood and its inhabitants, have been replaced by either bank branches or outposts of the same crap big-box stores one finds in any suburban mall.

So, it's not a desire never to see the city change—I'm sure that there was plenty of grousing when the old Madison Square Garden and the Hippodrome closed. And it's not nostalgia for a set of neighborhood businesses/attractions, but for businesses/attractions that were unique and independent and of that place.
posted by the sobsister at 11:52 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


So you guys are telling me Heidelberg is closed too ?

BTW: I think Kiev is still technically there. It has been opening and closing for 13 years but the "original" Kiev closed in 2000.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2013


Admiral Haddock, I take umbrage sir for this comment.

I'm thinking of a stroll from Columbus up to 72 or so--it's a bizarre contrast of big box stores and Lincoln Center.

But I should reemphasize the first part of my comment--I have no use for the Upper West Side. It's not that I think it's too commercial and don't go there, it's that I don't go to the Upper West Side. East Side for life, West Side suckaz!@# I don't begrudge you your Barney Greengrasses and Zabars and Fairways, but the West Side just is not for me. Of course, these days I'd much rather live in the woods.

Does anyone else remember seeing Jenny Holzer's Times Square installation? Revs and Cost? Real live Harings (other than Crack is Wack)? The vigils for John Lennon? The old Coliseum, and Coliseum books? Florent?
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:56 AM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


So you guys are telling me Heidelberg is closed too ?

No, Heidelberg is still there, but the times I've been in the past ten years, it feels like a German-themed frat house. Schaller & Weber is there too, at last visit. But Cafe Geiger and Ideal are long since gone.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:58 AM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those places were hangers on from an ethnic community that moved away/assimilated 40-50 years ago. A lot of those big apartment buildings are at least 30 years old.
posted by JPD at 12:00 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think Kiev is still technically there.

It's an asian fusion place now, I think? Certainly there is no potato pickle soup.
posted by elizardbits at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2013


ben242: "H&H might be gone"

I....I had no idea.....

.
posted by schmod at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2013


Metafilter: Certainly there is no potato pickle soup.
posted by schmod at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


At least Lys Mykyta is still around.
posted by elizardbits at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2013


Oh god. If any place should be closed it should be Lys Mykyta.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:06 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I do love the framing of those hipsters with their parents' money moving in on the neighborhoods of poor immigrants four generations ago, who were themselves not nearly as poor as we have mythologized them and were moving into the cheap NYC neighborhoods with family savings, hated by the locals who were there before them and liked those neighborhoods the way they used to be.

FFS.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:07 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also if you enjoy being nostalgically outraged then Vanishing New York is the blog for you.
posted by elizardbits at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blue and Gold is still there right? The article mentions Tile Bar. I walked past Cherry Tavern not too long ago so I know it is still open. Mona's is still there too right?
posted by Ad hominem at 12:09 PM on August 19, 2013


Schmod, the East Side H&H is still open. It has different owners from the West Side one; I don't know what the story is there, but there are certainly those who say the East Side H&H is not the real thing. But it's bagels, and there is an H and also an H, so good enough.

I used to go to yoga above the real H&H, and that was total torture on a Sunday morning. There you are, trying to clear your mind and achieve nirvana, and man, bagels baking are wafting up and driving you absolutely insane.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, Splash and Rawhide are both closing?

im upset
posted by elizardbits at 12:14 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This month I am staying in my parents' old UWS apartment, where I grew up.

Big Nick's was a block away, and I was shocked to walk by the storefront, which has been open 23 (or more) hours a day for as long as I can remember, and find it closed, permanently. About a day later they stripped off all the signage from the front, which I'd watched accreting over time basically since I was born.

Back around 2000, Big Nick was doing so well that he was able to open a more upscale sitdown restaurant, Niko's, on the other end of the block. I went there a couple of times. It was okay. I still remember a conversation there with a few debate teammates about vegetarianism, before I was a vegetarian. It's gone too of course.

I don't eat most of the stuff they served at Nick's any more, but I always loved it and will miss it.
posted by grobstein at 12:18 PM on August 19, 2013


Admiral Haddock,

Yes, yes and yes. I remember seeing those Harings on the subway blacksheets (and I was happy to see them represented in the Haring show at the Brooklyn Museum). They were my favorite subway graffiti art.

And Coliseum Books. And Gotham Book Mart ("Wise men fish here") in Midtown. And...

I've lived in D.C. for much of the time since, and, even though I'd never call myself a Washingtonian, I still miss terribly the local businesses that have gone the way of all brick and mortar: the Circle Theater, Olsson's, Melody Records, Serenade Records.

Did I mention that we used to tie onions to our belts back then, which was the style at the time...?
posted by the sobsister at 12:19 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Niko's thin crust was pretty good, and the UWS is a decent food desert anyway. There's still a Big Nick's on Columbus but it's NOT THE SAME (seriously, the pizza has none of the gritty tang of the orginal, alas)

Wow, Splash and Rawhide are both closing?

im upset


I'm pretty sure we made gay bars obsolete when he discovered both grindr and home drug delivery programs.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


JPD-
Aesthetics was maybe a confusing word choice. What I meant to argue is that yes the West Village is now out of reach to all but the wealthy, but because the mixed use neighborhood is still there it still functions reasonably well as an urban neighborhood. Really I should probably use New Urbanism (a movement largely inspired by Jacobs' work but distinct from Jacobs the person) rather than Jacobs' name because that's what I'm talking about.

The side effects of only the wealthy being able to live in a given neighborhood for society in general and the less wealthy specifically are problematic, but the neighborhood will still function reasonably well as an urban neighborhood if New Urbanist ideas about mixed use, multiple economic functions, access to multiple types of transportation, eyes on the street, short blocks, and so on are followed.

To be clear I am making a separate, smaller, point than Jacobs was. I am only looking at getting a specific neighborhood in a city to function well. Jacobs was making broader points about cities as economic engines of growth and she did argue that allowing for income diversity was necessary for the whole system to work well. She was also concerned with the fate of the less affluent, whom the argument I'm making here ignores. I'm just saying nostalgia for that one quirky deli and the crazy starving artist who lived above it is not in and of itself of much relevance to the health (economic and social) of a neighborhood. A local cafe is not inherently superior to a Starbucks if they both make their customers care about a neighborhood, facilitate social interaction through the morning, mean that there are people in the area through that time period, and so on. New Urbanism can work at a neighborhood level even with only rich residents.

Jacobs the person certainly had aesthetic preferences about local business, etc but I don't think Jacobs the theorist would have a problem with gentrification until/unless it started undermining the factors that she believed made a neighborhood function or, more specifically, made residents of an area stop caring about their neighborhood and desire to move elsewhere.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:28 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Except that the West Village doesn't really function as a neighborhood the way it used to. Half the townhouses are empty with absentee or near absentee owners. Most of those stores live off of out of the neighborhood clients- whether they be actual tourists or people coming from outside of the neighborhood.
posted by JPD at 12:32 PM on August 19, 2013


I am aware that an uncharitable reading of the argument I'm making boils down to: "What are you all whining about? If you just ignore everyone making less than six-figure salaries everything in NYC is terrific!"

That's... not where I meant to end up. I was just trying to think more objectively about nostalgia dammit!
posted by Wretch729 at 12:32 PM on August 19, 2013


I dunno, the bodega on greenwich and bank is still a 100% legit bodega (resident cat, only takes cash, gives regulars credit, prolly sells loosies) that is patronized primarily by locals.
posted by elizardbits at 12:35 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Colson Whitehead's piece, "Lost and Found".

(There's a beautiful reading of this by Alec Baldwin here, starting at 16:10. Signup required, sorry.)
posted by marsha56 at 12:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aw, I'm going to miss the pierogies at Odessa. Even the institutions that the article points out are still around are changing--even since I worked there 7 or so years ago, there's so much more impersonal stuff (notebooks, mints, etc) amidst the books at the Strand, for instance.

I don't like handwavey articles about how everything in NYC has changed for the worse--like schmod, I recognize the many positive developments. But it's sort of fascinating and sometimes distressing to see how quickly neighborhoods evolve. My grandmother went to college not so far from where I live now, and I bet she would be shocked at the changes. And even if I wanted to, I could never afford a studio apartment near where my parents raised me, which was not considered a fancy area back then.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not a real adult since I've never left my hometown. But then again, for better and for worse, it can feel like a new city almost every day.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2013


Sorry if I missed this above but the NYT just did an interesting infographic thingy looking at development in NYC under Bloomberg.
posted by Wretch729 at 12:45 PM on August 19, 2013


Wow, Splash and Rawhide are both closing?

im upset


Relevant article (HuffPo)
posted by mykescipark at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2013


Lots of bank branches opening up where I live, too... why do they need so many? I know banks can and will pay top-dollar rents on any street you can imagine, but where is the need for storefronts coming from?

My neighbourhood's most recent redevelopment plan has a limit on the sidewalk frontage of bank branches. I think there are certain zoning designations that limit bank branches as well. These restrictions shouldn't be necessary, but they are.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:57 PM on August 19, 2013


Or you can listen here without a sign-in. Sorry, wish I'd found this one first.
posted by marsha56 at 12:57 PM on August 19, 2013


Relevant article (HuffPo)

As far as I can tell all the Gay Youths (read people under age of 40) are in Astoria and they'd rather brew beer then go outside.
posted by The Whelk at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2013


Tony, as Billy Boy: We could go to the Paramount, maybe
Laura, as Amanda: There is no more Brooklyn Paramount, it's been taken over by some college

Oh metafilter, I've been alone with you inside my mind
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2013


I was expecting the closure, since an elementary school is opening up next door in what used to be the Foundling Hospital, but I assumed it would last at least another year.
posted by elizardbits at 1:04 PM on August 19, 2013


The decline of businesses run by interesting people is regrettable. The stultifying inrush of faceless corporations has no charm. (Pay no attention to that weird Supreme Court decision: Corporations are not people!)
posted by Cranberry at 1:09 PM on August 19, 2013


Came in to link to the Colson Whitehead piece as well. A different take on the same issue, but so lovely.
posted by Mchelly at 1:10 PM on August 19, 2013


Since when is "regular" is a New York thing? Go into any Dunkie's in New England and ask for a lahge regulah and you'll get enough cream and sugar to give Bloomberg a panic attack.

Back to New York, it's funny how uneven the blandification is. I live in upper-west Manhattan (not the UWS) and my partner's in Greenpoint, and both our neighborhoods still have old folks partying it up in their lawn chairs on the sidewalk every summer evening, mom and pop hardware, liquor, and even drugstores, diners with matronly waitresses in uniforms, kids playing in fire hydrants, stoop sales, etc. Even the flea market on 77th St behind the Natural History Museum is far from corporate (and much less homogenous than the Brooklyn Flea). Going south of 72nd in Manhattan or down to Prospect Park in BK is always kind of a culture shock.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:37 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


and much less homogenous than the Brooklyn Flea

Im up in ur Brooklyn Flea being all non white
posted by sweetkid at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2013


Im up in ur Brooklyn Flea being all non white

I meant merch-wise, but actually, now that I think about it, yeah, the customers at the UWS flea do tend to be more diverse (ethnically yeah, but also they're not all young bougie folks).
posted by oinopaponton at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2013


Regular has been a thing at least since my childhood when I was often sent to the luncheonette to get a coffee, regular for my mom. They taught me how to carefully tear the lid as well. I loved tearing the lid so much I did it right there on the counter, like I was going to drink it myself. Then to the candy store for a pack of True Greens, carefully holding the now open coffee so I wouldn't spill it everywhere. By time I got home at least 1/4 of the coffee was already gone.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:46 PM on August 19, 2013


People who talk seriously about New York being gentrified or blandified need to be given a daylong tour of the 7 Train. Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, Corona and Flushing are many things but generic suburbia or 1%-ers flaunting their 1%-ness they ain't.

They have in common that they don't give a whit about giving a frisson of cool to dudes five years and some sideburns removed from a Big Ten frathouse, but I think that's okay.
posted by MattD at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Languaghat, I admit I was just a kid in the 80s but the numbers don't lie: Murders by year in NYC - peaked in 1990
posted by ben242 at 4:45 PM on August 19, 2013


> Violent Crime peaked in '90. It was surprisingly consistent from the mid-70's to the early 90's.

Huh, I stand corrected. Memory is a funny thing.
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on August 19, 2013


Aww man, Odessa. We've had a handful of Mefi meet ups there. Including one the first time I met my husband. Pierogies :(
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:24 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


According to Yelp, Odessa is still open. Did it just close?
posted by pxe2000 at 5:50 PM on August 19, 2013


I've been in NYC for nearly 20 years and I never really feared for my safety. The city definitely has a lot less soul now than it used to. And it's also getting wealthier, which makes it harder for those of us who aren't. There was a Financial Times article recently about how, now that they've been deemed safe again, cities are becoming the places where "elites" are going to reproduce. This seems pretty accurate to me.

Personally I'd accept a slightly elevated threat of getting mugged if it'd lower the rents a bit, bring back a few of the artists and immigrants, and banish some some of the screaming brats and chain stores. In fact, those were some of the things that brought me here in the first place. But, you know, YMMV.
posted by nowhere man at 5:52 PM on August 19, 2013


Did it just close?

On the 15th, apparently.
posted by elizardbits at 6:00 PM on August 19, 2013


ALSO OH MY GOD EVERYONE CRYING ABOUT PIEROGIES

VESELKA STILL EXISTS
posted by elizardbits at 6:00 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The Kiev closed? Where will I eat breakfast after having my penis stolen?
posted by dr_dank at 6:23 PM on August 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Veselka is #1 on my Eat All The Things list when we go to NYC next week. That borscht. Oh god, the borscht.

But for pierogi my current favorite is Karczma in Greenpoint.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:40 PM on August 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been in NYC for nearly 20 years and I never really feared for my safety

Of course nearly 20 years means you moved to New York when crime was plummeting. It's obvious that many people like living in a place that has amenities that come with a slightly edgy city. There's a reason the borders between gentrified and sketchy are often the hip places to live, however you've got to accept that that transition is transitional. If you move there when crime is falling you get the best of both worlds. Hip and exciting, the physical danger is low, but it hasn't had time for landlords to have raised the rents prohibitively or places to not be able to afford leases as the ones they have come up (or be able to afford them one time, but maybe not a few years later down the road.)
posted by aspo at 6:54 PM on August 19, 2013


For ten years, through the late 1950s and early 1960s, the center of the Bronx was pounded and blasted and smashed. My friends and I would stand on the parapet of the Grand Councourse, where 174th Street had been, and survey the work's progress – the immense steam shovels and bulldozers and timber and steel beams, the hundred of workers in their variously colored hard hats, the giant cranes reaching far above the Bronx's tallest roofs, the dynamite blasts and tremors, the wild, jagged crags of rock newly torn, the vistas of devastation stretching for miles to the east and west as far as the eye could see – and marvel to see our ordinary nice neighborhood transformed into sublime, spectacular ruins.
"Robert Moses: The Expressway World"
being a chapter of All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity [full text PDFs]
by Marshall Berman.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:14 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


ODESSA

WHY

It was bad enough when Kiev closed, how am I supposed to cope with this.


I mean, I realize it was a venerable institution and all, but by the time I came around, the food there was pretty damn grody. The secret of that place, though, was that you could get a Makers and soda for like 4 bucks. That was as of a few years ago, even.
posted by evil otto at 8:30 PM on August 19, 2013


Of course nearly 20 years means you moved to New York when crime was plummeting. It's obvious that many people like living in a place that has amenities that come with a slightly edgy city. There's a reason the borders between gentrified and sketchy are often the hip places to live, however you've got to accept that that transition is transitional.

Your points seem valid enough, but I'm not sure exactly what you're getting at. Certainly there was plenty of grit left in NYC 20 years ago. And I don't buy that cities must inevitably gentrify at the expense of their "soul."

It's the grit that I miss.
posted by nowhere man at 8:34 PM on August 19, 2013


Someone (astutely) pointed out that you could replace NYC with SF in that article and it would read about the same. I lived in NYC for 7 years and SF for the last 4, and I would say that's accurate. I dunno. It's tough. I mean, I see both sides of the thing.

On the one hand, whenever it's an election year, we Democrats make a big deal about how we don't want to punish success, we just want the rich to pay their fair share. That's what I say, that's what President Obama says, that's pretty much the party line. So if someone makes decent money and wants to live in the city, what right do we have to prevent them? To my mind, that constitutes punishing success. The Republicans would have a field day with that.

On the other hand, I get it. I really do. I've seen (usually much younger) tech people move to SF, and as much as I try to fight the stereotype, even I have to admit a lot of them aren't terribly worldly. They don't appreciate what makes city life great. They're clean-cut, have always done what they're told, and don't know anything about what it's like to live outside of society. They think knowing the best restaurants and attending ComicCon somehow constitutes culture. Some of them will no doubt go on to develop interesting personalities; others will not. They aren't really being challenged, so why bother?

The problem of lower-income people being pushed out is a far more serious concern, but mostly because their likely next destination is the suburbs, and who the hell wants that? It's ironic how we've come full-circle : previous generations of lower-income Americans couldn't wait to move to the suburbs; the current generation is being forced to move there. Maybe the answer, then, is to remake the suburbs in the city's image? Improve public transportation, develop walkable downtowns, implement mixed zoning, encourage infill development, that kind of thing. It sounds pie-in-the-sky, but I think it's the only positive way forward.
posted by evil otto at 9:15 PM on August 19, 2013


the reconstruction of rail and subway suburbs would do a lot to mitigate the worst aspects of the suburban/urban split and help revitalize small towns. Separate and but equally reachable.

I mean for a country that seems to idolize small towns we really do everything we can to crush them.
posted by The Whelk at 9:18 PM on August 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


The larger argument is not against change. The argument (or outrage) is against change that has been directed and shaped for the benefit of the some over the neighborhoods and livelihoods of the many. The way that money pours into real estate (commercial! condos! refurbished waterfronts! stadiums!) and then pours out (see the 2008 housing collapse) is not ordained by the physics of city life. The vagaries of real estate booms and busts are the collective choices of the elected officials and unelected managers of that giant pool of money. Ford to City: Drop Dead!

The slow disappearance of pirogies is both its own thing and a synecdoche for so much more.

For me, a college kid who lived within a 90-minute drive of Manhattan in the latter half of the 1990s, the discovery of the L.E.S. and its history of squatting and activist art collectives literally changed my life. Also Odessa was totally my post-sleepover breakfast joint.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:47 PM on August 19, 2013


I've seen (usually much younger) tech people move to SF

Dude, you've lived in SF for four years. Four years! And you are complaining about those techies moving in? You just don't get to complain about that if you've only lived here for four years. (Really you probably don't get to complain about it all, but if you've lived here since 2009 you really really don't get to complain about it without sounding like a total douchebag.)
posted by aspo at 10:58 PM on August 19, 2013


Um... I'm actually one of those tech people? And I'm just trying to see things from the other side here? Anyway, I have the right to whatever opinion I want. That's just, like, my opinion, man.

But anyway, what I'm talking about there is less of a city thing and more of a generational thing. I've got a good 10-13 years on the most recent grads. When I was getting into programming, back in BBS days, the people who were into computers were not the clean-cut "good kids". We weren't all "bad kids", but we certainly weren't the "good kids". Most of us were self-taught and got picked on in school. Lots of us did drugs and were into various other things. You gotta remember, it wasn't until the mid-to-late 90s that programming became something your parents wanted you to grow up and do. It was very much the property of nerds and "other" people. (and this was before being a nerd was "okay")
posted by evil otto at 11:15 PM on August 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Vote Bill DeBlasio 2013 for all your anti-developer needs.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:03 AM on August 20, 2013


Vote Christine Quinn for all your face-slappable pro-development desires.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:05 AM on August 20, 2013


I really dontt like Quinn's assumption that she has the gay vote locked
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on August 20, 2013


There's a documentary out right now that focuses on the subject of development and what it's doing / about to do to the amusement park at Coney Island (full disclosure - I know the filmmaker). Despite the fact that attendance is rising at the park and people genuinely seem to want it to stay (and stay as low-fi as it is), it doesn't seem feasible that it will be around much longer because of developers' interests. And yes, Applebees is mentioned.
posted by Mchelly at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2013


One of the last few Fraction/Aja Hawkeye issues had a really beautiful reflection on New York that rang true to me. I'm out of town so I can't find the specific issue. Granted, I've always lived in the shadow of NY as a Jerseyan, but it talked about how the city has history but is also in a sort of nowness churn. Its disconcerting that some of the multigenerational institutions are vanishing, but to me New York has never been super obsessed with its own past. It knows its there, but its not resting on those accomplishments of yesteryear.
posted by lownote at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This really resonated with me because I'm also a native New Yorker, and also went to Stuyvesant HS, and ALSO lived on Staten Island! I don't recognize Nick though... All us boat people were pretty tight so he either graduated after or before me. I was pondering this the other day - the NYC I know doesn't really exist anymore and no matter how much I explain to my husband (native Floridian), he'll never understand. Tribeca was desolate, copy shops made fake IDs and the night clubs.....
posted by ichimunki at 10:18 AM on August 20, 2013


Specialized high schools, represent.
posted by griphus at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2013


I'm the author of the original post on Medium, and this thread is wonderful -- certainly did not expect to see this on MeFi when it first posted. Thank you all.

With that said, one thing I wanted to add to the original article I wrote. I've heard from a lot of other people who have had similar things happen in their hometowns, and it's a common sadness. I think a big part of it for those of us who weren't military brats or moving around frequently when we were kids is the way growing up somewhere works.... As an adult, we have the choice to pack up bags and remake ourselves as New Yorkers, San Franciscans, Angelenos, Londoners, or denizens of whatever city we please. As a kid, we don't. The place where you grow up isn't a lifestyle preference you select; it's a distinct sense of somewhere that stays with you, whether you like it or not.

But so it goes.
posted by huskerdont at 12:05 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is timely as I just visited NYC yesterday for the first time in 30+ years. In 1977 I worked upstate and used to take a bus into Manhattan on my days off. I'd walk out the Port Authority bus terminal onto 42nd Street and a real funky ass scene. That city has disappeared for sure!
posted by bonefish at 6:03 PM on August 20, 2013


The thing I always thought separated NY kids from non was the ability to drive. So many adults who simply 'didn't' drive.
The thing that kind of broke my heart in the early 'aughts was the homogenizing of the city. They cleaned the meat packing district to the point that it became - nice. Of course they did because its Manhattan but after it always being a crazy sketchy area that I only went into to get to Florent... Or the fact that The Kitchen (performance space way west on 19th?) used to recommend taking a cab because getting mugged sucks and would happen.
I read an interview w/ Richard Serra once from the early 80's and in it he lamented the disappearance of empty, junk filled lots.
Or there's "Up in the old hotel"
I think if you lived in (city name here) a part of it is always somewhere you knew but not to the point of boredom, and that is now gone. So I shout out to Julian's and Kiev and The Bog and the Ships Mast and the junk shops on Canal St and the Thalia downtown, when it showed movies.
What are you gonna do? Things change and if you're lucky, not too much of it for the worse. Not getting mugged is a plus. Not having to think, 'Shit, gun!' is a huge plus.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:11 PM on August 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


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