I used to tell all my potential first-time nightlife industry employees a little ditty before they actually agreed to come aboard. If you are a regular reader (well, you must be quite irregular for that) you have heard this before… and now you’ll here it again: I told the people working for me to have an exit strategy. The money is good. The people, the celebrities, the action can be an addiction – but the life, except for a few, has an expiration date. When it’s over, you have to have a way to support yourself. It ends when you need a change but no one will hire you because they want younger, or you just can’t put in the hours anymore, or the "distractions" of the night become a real problem. I would tell them nightlife is like a rollercoaster…you pay a little money to get on and the first thing you do is go up a great hill and from there at the top it seems like you can see forever, when in reality you are seeing just a bit more. Then its a fast ride down and around, thrills spill treacherous curves, some screams, some fear, some exhilaration, and when it’s over you end up basically where you started, spent a little time, had some fun. Many creatures of the night are putting themselves through school or are actors or artists or dancers. They are pursuing dreams in a place built on them. They often service stars, people who were just like them a decade ago. Failure and shattered hopes often are a heavy burden as time goes on. Breaking out is hard to do. The odds are stacked against them. Emily Lazar left NY behind to chase her dreams on the left coast. She used to work with me. She’s a rock star trying to let the world realize that.
Brooklyn amazes me more and more everyday. It gives me strength when I’m not strong. It gives me hope to carry on. Someone said to me, “Sure, you move to Brooklyn and it’s all about Brooklyn! If you had moved to Queens, it would have been all about Queens!” I told him it’s been all about queens for 30 years. That went over his head. He still lives in Manhattan. I went to The Bell House to see a band in a place called Gowanus, which I misread as “cow-anus,” for which I was severely chastised by my clan, who wanted to show up on time for the gig. My Droid map searched for cow-anus, which was unsuccessful and time-consuming but fun. All I knew about Gowanus was that it’s home to a famously toxic canal and a bumper-to-bumper expressway I was always hearing about on cab radios. I had the impression that it would smell bad, but it really didn’t.
The band, O’Death, was related to my friend Julia Jackson via her boyfriend, David Rogers, the drummer. I read up on them to see what I was getting into. It seems they have a following and go on tours that take them far and wide. Not just far and wide in Brooklyn, but to places like Fargo, Chicago, Boise, San Francisco, LA, and all points in between. They had, like, 25 shows in 30 days. Their influences include, but are not limited to: Whiskey, old Civil War gospel, Appalachian Mountain music, and punk energy. They had a large and enthusiastic following that knew a great deal of the words. They had familiar and weird instruments like banjos, ukuleles, fiddles, a euphonium, and something called a whoop. It was fabulous in a “I have no idea what’s going on but this is really fun” sort of way. That also sort of describes my dating life—pre-Amanda, of course. The Bell House is a great venue with solid sound, professional lighting, and great sightlines. It’s a perfect place to see bands like O’Death—which seem to be a bass player with a decent shirt away from bigger things.
We left, as the joint is a “see the show, drop the beer bottle when it’s over” kind of place. We lingered in the attached lounges as coats and friends were gathered and then took to the street for a walk to see the hood. We stumbled across old friends at the door of Ultraviolet up the way and were invited in. It was some Caribbean-themed night, and a no-frills atmosphere of people having fun was in order. We vowed to come back, and surely will. As we continued our walk we passed warehouse after old factory after old garage, and many “for rent” or “sale” buildings. I realized that the future is, of course, in the real estate.
The long and short of it is that Manhattan has just run out of the stuff, and Brooklyn, and probably Queens (not to mention those other boroughs) have a lot of it. In the big city, neighbors complain, cops are pushed to keep them happy, and club operators spend half their time just trying to stay open. Rents, unfair fines, and legal fees eat up profits, and the only people around to pay the bills are patrons living in new construction high-rises. The types with steady incomes can get the loans needed to buy condos, while the artistic sorts live month-to-month. The hipsters and creatives move where they are wanted, and can afford, and can rent. For now, there are thousands of buildings available in Brooklyn that would make good restaurants, lounges, and noisy joints. Many are located in hoods with no neighbors, or neighbors that celebrate the noise and action. New business will provide work for many.
In Manhattan, the lofts and factory buildings brought certain types to Soho and Tribeca. Mostly artists and creative types. The real estate eventually became attractive to the swells who loved the high ceilings, light, and location these lofts provided. The East Village, on the other hand, was sprawling tenement slums, and has only recently been gentrified with new construction. With a new type of population in Manhattan, there has been extreme conflict between the forces of day and the forces of night. Day has clearly won. The abandoned buildings of Brooklyn will further speed the development of the borough — which started a decade ago — as the cultural hotbed of New York City. The gold rush of the last few years will seem like a trickle, as many more who seek what the night offers, reasonable rents, and prices at local stores find the outer boroughs not only acceptable, but the only place to be. Sure, Manhattan will always have its charms, but a new generation is rejecting the Bridge and Tunnel culture that not only pervades Manhattan nightlife, but now lives nearby.