Harlem: The New Frontier?

‘Harlem is the last great frontier of Manhattan real estate,’ gushes Barbara Corcoran, manager of an elite New York real estate brokerage. ‘There are many wonderful things happening in this historic and beautiful area.’ Others are calling it the new Harlem Renaissance.

Wonderful things do happen in Harlem but gentrification isn’t one of them. Since the city’s real estate market exploded in 1996, Harlem has had a bull’s eye on its back as brokers and developers have made fortunes buying and selling brownstones for renovation. Victorian mansions have been gutted, and refitted with intricate wooden staircases and period chandeliers; black professionals, white gays, students and many others have followed the developers, desperate to find a place to live in a borough where last year the average apartment price was recorded at $770,000. 125th Street (which no-one calls Martin Luther King Boulevard) has been reinvented as a suburban mall. Gone are many of the street vendors and small shop owners, replaced by the large logo stores such as Disney and Old Navy. The jewel in the crown is the mall, ‘Harlem USA.’ And a new first run movie theater, thanks to Magic Johnson’s real estate company.

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Thoughts on Massacre and Mr. Kerrey

First Thought: if you came of age in the late nineteen sixties, the assertions about Mr. Kerrey’s participation in a massacre in Vietnam trigger very powerful moral reflexes–and it is the nature of a reflex to come into play faster than thought. Reflex condemnations of Kerrey–and reflex exonerations of him–may turn out to be right or wrong; what they cannot be are cautious and reflective.

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Horowitz’ List

David Horowitz, still here, has lately fashioned himself into a martyr for Free Speech. He composed an ad in opposition to the idea of reparation payments for the United States’ part in the trans-Atlantic African slave trade; tried, with mixed success, to place the ad in various college newspapers; and then spun that mixed success out into a series of live appearances around the country, the No Reparations Tour (accompanied, of course, by lots of self-flackery, on-line and off). The almost inescapable Horowitz swears that he is a victim of censorship.

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To Observe and Project

“When Marge first told me she was going to the police academy, I thought it was going to be fun and exciting. You know, like that movie Spaceballs. Instead, it’s been painful and disturbing. You know, like that movie Police Academy.”
-Homer Simpson

There has never been a popular American movie about why someone becomes a cop – that is, about the egotism and politics that influence such a decision. Yet even after the killings of Patrick Doresmonds, Amadou Diallo and the rape of Abner Louima, police-worship in movies and in the general media persists. It’s a special American cultural fetish.

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A Tale of Two Cities

A hooker was in trouble,
She twisted on her bed
And when she could, she whispered,
And this is what she said:

‘Go out and find my true love,
the one who did me dirt.
I’m sure he’s with another –
don’t give the lady hurt.

But tell him what transpired,
He ought to know the score,
And tell him that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’

While in another city
Inside an I.C.U.
The fellow of her fancy
Was in extremis too.

He cried ‘go find my baby,
The one who gave me this.
Be wary of her welcome,
Be careful of her kiss.

I’m sure she’s with a sailor
(Don’t make the sailor sore)
But tell her that I’m dying –
O Jesus, I’m dying for more.’

The outcome of this story
Is anybody’s guess –
Some say they both recovered,
Some say it was a mess.

They both have loaded lugers
Whatever else they’ve got –
The rule is not to use them,
The trick’s not getting shot.

For when affection falters
And down the tubes goes trust,
We’re right back where we’ve started
With self-destructive lust.

And now that I’m a bastard
And now that you’re a whore,
Our love’s a kind of death, dear –
Though Jesus, I’m dying for more.