Monday, April 19, 2010

Life for Rent

Tribe, closed
photo courtesy of Eater NY

I recently rejoined Crunch after letting my New York Health & Racquet Club membership expire. I only joined up for a month because, in these days when I'm not sure where I'm going to be living or for how long, I'm avoiding commitment as much as I'm avoiding regret.

I explained to the membership staff that although I wasn't a new member per se, a couple years had passed and I just wanted to try it out for a while to see what it was like now. A short boy snidely flipped his highlighted bangs off his forehead in response and said, "Getting better every day..."

At first, I was thrilled to be back. I always loved Crunch, and was in good shape when I was a member. But I quickly realized it wasn't the same place that I joined in 2003. Kara only teaches one pilates mat class now. Mimi only teaches one bellydancing class. Sarina only teaches one Masala Bhangra class (with the addition of one new, related class, "Bar Bhangra"), and no one else teaches it at all.

I wanted to shake that snide little boy, and shout in his face, "Are you KIDDING?" Not only had they dramatically reduced my favorite class schedule, but they'd closed a number of their gym locations, both in New York City and around the country.

Today, on a trip to pick up a UPS package from their service depot in the middle of nowhere on 11th Avenue, I planned to go swimming at the only Crunch with a swimming pool, on 42nd Street. It, too, had closed.

The closure wasn't surprising and was by no means significant on its own, but I started to feel really sick of seeing the things I've loved about New York fade into oblivion. The New York I knew and loved for over 10 years, MY New York, has been transforming into a ghost town with every shuttered Blimpie, defunct record store, and bar that can no longer afford its lease. With the losses of First, Global 33, Luna Lounge, and my dear beloved Tribe, the haunts of my youth now haunt me and my older self. What's next to close? Rodeo Bar? Arturo's? Or, God forbid, Marshall Stack?

Will Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, and Zac Pelaccio stop cooking, no longer able to afford their locally-sourced ingredients and inventive menu specials?

Where will it stop? Will it stop?

The worst part is that these abandoned storefronts, these out-of-business businesses, are so quickly and easily replaced. Rather than being able to relish in a town that once-was, a town that could-have-been, leafing through its relics and vestiges like a living scrap book, I must confront a new sign, a new menu, a new owner, a new clientele, new smells, new flavors, new seats at the bar, in a new place that will soon become some other New York girl's favorite.

It's not just the places being replaced. I am being replaced.

Hipsters moved into Greenpoint, where I struggled for seven years, paying the rent in cash to a Polish landlady who spoke no English.  My current neighbors are a rotating cast of young, unfamiliar faces that seem to change every day.

As I grow old with each passing year, New York is forever...new.

And nothing I have is truly mine.

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