RECENTLY I went to New York City for the day on personal business. What I saw different from eight months prior: further fast-paced gentrification. The city has become too expensive for all but the affluent. Even many barmaids are on trust funds. Stop in any saloon or cafe across the city and you'll encounter only gentry. Of the once-gritty Bowery around CBGB's there's not a trace. The character of the area has been destroyed.
Literary scene? There is no literary scene. There's not one bar in the entire island of seven million people of Manhattan where patrons talk about books and literature. (There are several spots where the business of publishing is the topic of conversation.) There are no humbly compelling dives where a Jack London (or Steve Kostecke) carrying a duffel bag, cocky grin on his face, would be liable to walk through the door and tell you he's a writer. (All "writers" in this city are poseurs and wannabes.)
New York can't in any stretch of the imagination be called a literary city. Other than a few staid events at chain bookstores, there are few literary happenings. The two major "alternative" papers, Village Voice and New York Press, on the day I was there, contained no information about poetry open mics. These two papers anyway are thin ghosts of what they were even six years ago.
Boom town New York, flooding with money and rich people, is destroying its roots. No more will there be an East Village haven for bohemians. Struggling writers and artists could never survive in the once great cultural city. No O. Henry or Bob Dylan are possible. Future just-arrived Madonnas will find no flea-bag hotels to stay at, because even the flea bag hotels are pricey.
Underground artists need look for another neighborhood in another city as focal point. The question is where that will be.