Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

I'm on a brief trip to New York staying with an old friend Frank (Fran├žois) in the Lower East Side. Frank has been living here for quite a few years now and we've had a few conversations about the rapid gentrification and dramatic change of his neighborhood. The New York Time Out guide suggests the locale is now being referred to as 'BelDel' (short for below Delancey St), much to Frank's horror. It seems like a similar story to the development of our Northern Quarter with bars and cafes replacing the shop fitting stores and clothing wholesalers, and the moniker of 'BelDel' being somewhat like our various new 'quarter' names. There's an implicit assumption that this is a bad thing driving rents up and forcing the artists out but I'm not sure this logic applies to Manchester. Having said that, everyone I meet in New York seems to be a film maker, model or musician so it doesn't seem too bad. Frank is a film editor on a reasonable income but still needs the assistance of a protected rent scheme to afford to stay, a legacy of the fact that he's been here since the area's pre-hip days. In Manchester's case maybe there's more positives than for the Lower East Side and I welcome at least some cafe culture appearing.

That aside I'm having a great time hanging out here, writing this post in one such hipster cafe, Brown on Hester St (pic above). Great coffee and baked eggs. I also checked out guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel at the Village Vanguard and spent a night in the Chelsea Hotel which was quite an experience. Some strange folk and great artwork but I still sensed an element of dated artificiality to it's rather forced bohemia.