New York's Alright (If You Like Saxophones)


Buried within Matt Harvey's long, slightly rambling New York Press feature, "The East Village Isn't What It Used to Be…And It Never Was," is an interesting little fight between lefty music critic Robert Christgau and fellow East Village resident Phil Hartman, the owner of the Two Boots pizza chain and the Two Boots Pioneer movie theater, which recently closed its doors. Hartman is an old punk rocker upset that the neighborhood has gone yuppie. Christgau agrees, but takes a shot at Hartman in the process:

"Mythology of the old East Village? Phil Hartman, the guy that owns Two Boots?" Robert Christgau, "Dean of Rock Critics," growls at me over the phone as if I just told him Kiss was the greatest band ever.


"What a load of horseshit," Christgau says. "I'm not putting him down. I like the theater, and it's all fine with me, but he's not protecting anything." I've touched a raw nerve in the old curmudgeon-who maintains a "militant anti-nostalgia" stance-and he presses on. "That kind of bohemian territoriality is always nonsense. People who lived in the Village in the'20s were actually nostalgic about the Village of the pre-World War I period. Look it up."

That's a good point. For every dozen partisians of late 1970s CBGB's, for instance, you'll find more than a few of us who argue that CB's saw its greatest days in the late '80s. Either way, it's nostalgia for a romanticized past. But for all the sense that Christgau made, he promptly ruined it with this:

"No, I'm much more interested in real estate than I am in this mythology shit." He wants the mom-and-pop stores back, the newspaper and coffee in its blue Greco container. "The economy, absolutely," he says. Believing the crash might help bring things around, he adds, "But Marx is my man, and that's what I believe."

Talk about "a load of horseshit." Here's a guy who has spent his career writing about pop music—an art form that particularly thrives in market-friendly societies—apparently hoping that an economic catastrophe will make New York a better place to live. Maybe he should talk to Cuban jazz legend Paquito D'Rivera, who explained to that he had to leave Communist Cuba in order to pursue his dream of being a musician: