And pickles are just pickles

29 11 2009

Russ & Daughters makes great pickles. Sour, with a corona of heat around the edge of each bite.

That’s a pickle.

Russ & Daughters is one of the remnants of the late 19th/early 20th centuries still living in the early 21st: they and Katz’s Deli (packed with tourists as I sidled by) are among the few outposts of the great Jewish neighborhood on the Lower East Side, each nailed into a corner on Houston.

They’re both north of the Williamsburg Bridge, and a few blocks beyond Delancey—does this make them a part of the East Village rather than the LES? I’m no umpire, here, but they’re tugged from behind by the LES; the other side of Houston heads toward a city far beyond the modesty of the LES.

Or former modesty. The Lower East Side is, as everywhere in Manhattan, bending under the influx of money and cool. Not completely—there are sites in the LES and even the East Village which are more rather than less dodgy, and few would argue that the F and JMZ lines are among the city’s best—but gentrification creeps on.

It’s Manhattan. The desire for the Next Great Deal will always out.

I shouldn’t romanticize either the East Village or the LES. I’ve been in some of those apartments, and they’re awful: tiny, dark, and likely to lack basic amenities (such as, say, a sink in the bathroom). The streets are close together, so lower level windows likely never see sun. And twenty-five years ago ‘Alphabet City’ was a warning against trespassing beyond First.

But they (and the Bowery—why not?) used to be places. Not always good places, but there was something more to them than just. . . well, money.

Money is dull. Don’t get me wrong—I could certainly use more of it—but in and of itself it all-too-often adds nothing but that which caters to it. It doesn’t have to be that way, but money makes it too easy to be lazy in one’s tastes. What can I get? What can I buy? What is everyone else getting and buying?

Lack of money is never dull. Poverty or fear thereof can certainly dull one’s sensibilities, especially in a city (or a country) where money is IT!, but sometimes, sometimes, the lack of money drives those so lacking to seek pleasures and meanings beyond that literal coin of the realm.

Again, I shouldn’t romanticize: So many of those who lived in and constituted the history of these neighborhoods scuffled and hustled and did whatever they could to escape those places. They wanted the money they saw flowing from the pockets of those living further uptown. And my own skepticism of community ought to force me to scrape away the sepia from what could be a violent and oppressive past.

But I miss what was there, what is gone. It’s in large measure the cheap nostalgia of the passer-by: the one who strolls through and marvels and doesn’t have to live in the dim and the dank.

But there was life beyond—within—the dim and the dank, a life unseen by the mere passer-by. The people who lived in these neighborhoods were visible in the streets, but there was something more which connected these people to the tenements and narrow streets and one another.

Perhaps it’s still there, or somewhere, in this city. Perhaps I need to open my eyes and see what’s here, now. There is always something more.





Friday poem III

27 11 2009

I was sorting through a couple of different poems, trying to decide which one, today.

The one from the collection published when the poet was very old? The one from the poet whose work I’d long distrusted, but felt this one tugging at me?

Then I came across this one, by Jean Valentine. I clipped it years ago from The New Yorker. I used to to do that, clip poems from magazines I owned. Perhaps I should start again.

Osip Mandelstam was one of Russia’s great poets, his life ended, like so many others, in Stalin’s Gulag. He was arrested, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, arrested again, and sentenced to five years in a labor camp. According to one account, he died of ‘starvation and madness.’

His poems, in translations, are sublime, but I have heard that Russian poems don’t translate particularly well. If I were a better person I’d learn Russian just to read Mandelstam and Akhmatova in the original.

Why this poem? This is why poems are written. This is why poems are read.

Tell Me, What Is The Soul
(Osip Mandelstam)

There is a prison room,
the floor cement,
in the middle of the room
a black pool full of black water.
It leads to an invisible canal.
Plunder is the pool. Plunder is the canal.

By the wall,
by a fire,
he was reciting, in his yellow leather coat,
the thieves were listening, they offered him
bread and the canned stuff,
which he took. . .





Is anybody alive in here?

26 11 2009

It’s far easier to end things than to figure out things past the end.

Upshot: I’m having difficulty with the dystopias.

I did manage to put together a chart, but it’s pretty spongy. I’d put in ‘violent’ here or ‘charismatic’ there, then take it out, move it around.

I don’t have it—I’m missing something; no flow, here.

So let’s just call this Dystopia-Beta

  • I. Cause
    • A. Collapse
      • i. catastrophic (SEE Apocalypse)
      • ii. gradual breakdown
    • B. Evolution
      • i. of species
        • a. human
        • b. non-human
      • ii. of society
  • II. Type
    • A. Chaotic
      • i. non-violent
        • a. few people
        • b. hostile environment
      • ii. episodically violent
        • a. individual predation
        • b. criminal gangs
        • c. militias
      • iii. war
        • a. criminal gangs
        • b. militias
        • c. organized armies
    • B. Corporate
      • i. workers controlled
      • ii. consumers controlled
    • C. Party government
      • i. everything-is-good
        • a. dissenters marginalized
        • b. dissenters jailed/killed
        • c. dissenters re-educated
      • ii. everything-is-grim
        • a. populace atomized
        • b. populace enslaved
        • c. ongoing genocide
      • iii. behind-the-scenes
        • a. omnipresent/tracks behavior
        • b. omniscient/tracks affect & intellect
    • D. Military government
      • i. military in sync with society
      • ii. military opposed to society
      • iii. entire society militarized
    • E. Theocracy
      • i. elite/exclusive
        • a. exploits populace
        • b. suppresses populace
        • c. forcibly converts populace
      • ii. populist/inclusive
        • a. cultic/centered on charismatic leader
        • b. pietistic/communitarian
        • c. dogmatic/authoritarian
    • III. Stage
      • A. Immediate post-
        • i. no control
        • ii. begin control
      • B. Semi-stable
        • i. partial control [against chaos]
        • ii. organized fight for control
      • C. Stable
        • i. evolving
        • ii. eternal

(I have to say, this was a total pain in the ass to put together—all those damned ‘li’ and ‘backslash ul’—but I did it. Still, I am lazy enough that if flow charts require anything near the persnickety-ness of a nested chart, fuggedaboudit. )

Not so great, I know, but it’s a start.

Suggestions welcome.





Walk it down, talk it down

24 11 2009

A taxonomy of terror?

Yes, again with the apocalyptic and/or dystopic pics and books. Blame a conversation with my friend, S.

So, to categorize:

Apocalypse
I. Caused by:
A. Collapse
i. slow-motion
ii. sudden
B. Violence
i. natural
a. arising from natural forces
b. arising from altered nature
ii. inflicted
a. by humans
b. by non-humans
c. by supernatural forces

II. Threatened:
A. Avoidable
i. due to intervention by many
ii. due to intervention by few [n.b. S. doesn’t think this should count]
iii. due to supernatural intervention
iv. due to luck
B. Unavoidable
i. due to luck
ii. predestined

III. Post-apocalypse (SEE ALSO: Dystopia]
A. Immediately post-
i. happy-to-have-survived
ii. continued survival uncertain
B. Intermediate post-
i. reconstruction begun
ii. further collapse
C. Long-term post-
i. reconstruction complete
a. society similar to pre-apocalypse
b. society better than pre-
c. society worse than pre-
d. society different from pre-
ii. reconstruction amidst chaos
iii. chaos
iv. no life

(Crap. I’ve GOT to learn html so I can space all this stuff correctly. But you get the idea.)

Tomorrow (or, you know, whenever): Dystopia





This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco

22 11 2009

I am not a Republican.

But, god help me, I agree with Republican Senator Lindsay Graham on at least one issue. In response to a question recently about Glenn Beck, he responded “Here’s what I worry about. How many people in my business are going to be controlled by what’s said on the radio or in a TV commercial?”

His business, of course, is the business of politics—or, more to the point, the business of governance.

It’s a key distinction, that between politics and governance, once which those who lack the responsibility for so governing find it convenient to overlook.

The NY Times notes that M. Beck, along with Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Mike Huckabee are all rallying the troops to do. . . something they want. It’s the usual boilerplate of a deracinated American conservative movement: low/flat/no taxes; low/flat/cut spending; stop illegal immigration/drug smuggling; energy independence—more drilling/mining/nuke-power production; responsible environmental stewardship; small government; victory in Iraq; keep Guantanamo open. . . are you noticing any problems here?

As in, complete incoherence? Close the borders but do so with less spending; win in Iraq and lower taxes; shrink the size of government and give it the power to torture and detain people indefinitely; no redistribution and give parents vouchers for education; tap your head and rub your tummy at the same time. . . oh, wait. . . .

There’s more, of course, and I could provide the links to their sites, but why give them the page views?

More to the point, why send you off to emptiness? There’s nothing at the Beck, Hannity, and Ingraham sites beyond a list of conflicting demands. At least Huckabee’s plans are tethered to reality, such as it is: he seeks to raise money for Republican candidates.

Then again, Huckabee is the only one of the Fab Four who has actually served in government, that is, who has actually had to take responsibility for his words and deeds.

This is what underlies Senator Graham’s lament: Beck can cry and Ingraham sneer and Hannity harrumpf and at the end of the day they leave the studio and let others clean up their kleenex and spittle. And if shit goes bad, well, it’s just fodder for tomorrow’s broadcast cannon.

I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, just as I’m a big fan of democracy, and I tend to think the fewer rules attached to either speech or participation, the better. And that goes for these bloviators and their followers, as well.

But I’m also a civic republican (note the ‘little r’), and think that politics works best as requires something more than tears and outrage from its participants; democratic politics in particular requires an engagement which goes beyond oneself.

A concept of citizenship, as it were.

This is an odd argument for someone as decidedly not-patriotic and anti-nationalist as I am, but I do recognize obligations to the those with whom I share a political space, i.e., my fellow citizens.

These obligations are basic, and don’t require much agreement with those fellows, and hardly demand one bow to to the government.

But it does require at the very least a recognition that one does share a political space, a space beyond one’s living room or therapist’s office or tavern booth, in which one might just have to set aside one’s personal concerns for a consideration of public matters.

I think most people in office get it, even the people who I’d rather not hold any office beyond that of dogcatcher (and some not even that—I’m lookin’ at you, Michelle Bachmann). They go through the hassles of campaigning because they actually want to accomplish something. Sure, they want to inflate their successes and evade their failures, but at least they put themselves through the process whereby they might in some way be held accountable for both.

But The Media Personality™? No, he or she mashes up resentment and principle and incoherence and general sky-pie-edness and then dances on by the difficulties of actual decision-making, policy-formation, and, oh, yes, governance.

This all-partying/no-hangover mentality is not, alas, confined to the right. But right now they’re the ones smashing open the kegs and spiking the kool-aid and inviting the  palin-drones and tea-baggers to Drink! Drink! Drink!

Designated drivers need not apply.





Friday poem

20 11 2009

Maxine Kumin is one of my favorite poets.

She works largely in free verse, is economical in her phrasing, and her best work provokes response through not through direct appeal but unfolds from within a particular, almost always realist, imagery. For example, in ‘The Henry Manley Blues,’ she listens and observes her elderly neighbor:

Trouble with this country is, there’s more
beavers than people in it
. Henry gums
milk toast experimentally, still sore
from the painless dentist who emptied his mouth.

In this snippet from a longer poem you can hear Henry’s plaint against both the beavers and the world. The poignancy of this image, however, is in the contrast between Henry’s toothlessness and the potency of those toothsome, troublesome beavers.

How Kumin came to be my favorite poet is a lesson in arbitrariness: I was introduced to her work in a creative writing course at UW-Madison. As it happened, she visited the campus for a poetry recital, and the course instructor urged us all to attend.

I didn’t. And have kicked myself ever since. I think my dive into her work was partly a regret-response to my laziness: just what, exactly, did I miss? I haven’t wanted to miss anything, since.

In any case, I offer the following poem, not because it’s her best (it’s not: it’s clunky and stutters, rhythmically), but because a) it was one of the first poem I really analyzed (for a course paper); and b) because as much in thrall to self-destruction as I was at the time, it was jolt to read the response of a friend to another friend’s suicide. It was a perspective I, for a variety of reasons, I usually didn’t engage.

Oh, and the friend was Kumin’s best: Anne Sexton. And while I noted it is not her best poem, it is still a good poem.

How It Is

Shall I say how it is in your clothes?
A month after your death I wear your blue jacket.
The dog at the center of my life recognizes
you’ve come to visit, he’s ecstatic.
In the left pocket, a hole.
In the right, a parking ticket
delivered up last August on Bay State Road.
In my heart, a scatter like milkweed,
a flinging from the pods of the soul.
My skin presses your old outline.
It is hot and dry inside.

I think of the last day of your life,
old friend, how I would unwind it, paste
it together in a different collage,
back from the death car idling in the garage,
back up the stairs, your praying hands unlaced,
reassembling the bites of bread and tuna fish
into a ceremony of sandwich,
running the home movie backward to a space
we could be easy in, a kitchen place
with vodka and ice, our words like living meat.

Dear friend, you have excited crowds
with your example. They swell
like wine bags, straining at your seams.
I will be years gathering up our words,
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.





Fly into the sun

18 11 2009

Could you tell my post last night was dashed off?

I was thinking Oh, man, I gotta post something. What? What? Then I did the dishes, which apparently put me in mind of the apocalypse.

As I told C. in the comments (who corrected an author error in the post: Clarke, not Huxley, wrote Childhood’s End), I was so lazy I couldn’t be bothered to tab over and look up various movie titles on IMDB.

Pitiful.

Thus, an elaboration on yesterday’s post, as well as an important qualifier.

The elaboration

C. astutely noted that I included dystopias with my apocalypses. So true. I guess  I tend to think that any dystopia worth its salt was preceded by some kind of apocalypse, but they really ought to be separated.

Had I been engaging anything other than minimal brain power last night, I would have figured this out in my (minor) deliberations over whether to include Brave New World. I did not, because, as I noted in the comments, the shift into Fordism seemed a kind of progression, rather than break, with what came before.

My list was also quite sloppy: I Am Legend popped into my head, then popped right back out. (I saw the Charleton Heston version, and parts of the Will Smith. In either case, definitely apocalyptic.) And I couldn’t remember the name of that damned book with the conch and boys and Piggy, and so left it off. (Golding’s Lord of the Flies. I thought there was mention of an a-bomb at the end, but it’s at the beginning.)

There’s another book, too, listed at the back of the paperback edition of The Gone-Away World: Kevin Brockmeier’s The Brief History of the Dead. It veers between an occasional (and thoroughly enjoyable) nasty humor and genuine pathos. More light than heavy.

I’d count Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, too, if only because of the threat. But I didn’t include Max Barry’s Jennifer Government because, if I remember correctly, that society arose more like Huxley’s Fordist scheme than through anything apocalyptic.

And I missed the whole field of Christian apocalypse, a.k.a. the Rapture. Now, there is a very good movie called The Rapture (David Duchovny, Mimi Rogers), but that’s a Hollywood film, as opposed to a Soon-To-Be-Coming-To-An-Earth-Near-You True Believer flick. I used to be a regular imbiber of TBN and CBN (wacky evangelistic fare), and they’d regularly show rapture films. Don’t know the name of a single one.

I do know, however, The Omega Code (produced by TBN and starring Kirk Cameron), which is  basic Bible-code Armageddon. And, of course, Jenkins & LaHaye’s Left Behind series. I tried to read it, but couldn’t get through even book one. I have a high tolerance for this stuff, so you know it’s bad. (But if they make a movie of it—have they made a movie of it?—I am so there.)

There are likely many, many more of this subgenre that I’m missing.

I also overlooked the Mad Max movies. I liked the second one, Road Warrior, best, but the first and third aren’t bad. And I have the sense that those crazy Danes probably have a bunch of apocalypses hidden in their Danish libraries. (Don’t know why I have this sense; just do.)

Well, I’m counting on C. to come up with a proper doom list.

Now, the qualifier.

None of these books or movies are based on historical events. Some of these may speculate on a future which could become history (got that?), but in no case are these movies or books based on anything which has actually happened.

No Holocaust. No Hiroshima or Nagasaki. No Native American genocide. No historical genocides, period. No plague, flu, smallpox, etc. No Mt. St. Helen’s or Vesuvius or Tambora or any actual natural disaster. No Chernobyl.

No event in which actual human beings experienced their own version of the apocalypse.

I don’t put these events off-limits, not by any means. A good book or movie is a good book or movie, and I think all of the stuff of our lives and deaths is there for the taking.

But I don’t include these in my apocalypse list.

There is a glee in thinking of how the world might end, how humans might respond—wondering how I would respond—to total disaster, precisely because it is so speculative. Look at all the possibilities of our end!

Possibilities. Not certainties.

In historical ends, there is a certainty, the most significant of which is the certainty of actual human suffering and death.

Again, a worthy topic of fiction. But not of glee.

 





Burn baby burn

18 11 2009

I fucking LOVE apocalyptic movies!

Death! Disaster! Mayhem! Whoo hoo!

And if they’re religiously themed? Even better.

Now, I define apocalyptic broadly, to encompass existential ends, partial ends (of countries, cities) as well as the mere possibility of world’s end.

Oo, world’s end—let’s see, Childhood’s End, an Aldous Huxley (Arthur C. Clarke—h/t C.) novel about—yep—the end of the world. Read that one (the, uh, first time) in high school.

So let’s extend the love for all things apocalyptic to novels, as well.

It should go without saying that these movies/novels are often awful. Children of Men was a very good movie (and so-so novel), but that, I think, was an exception.

Terminator 2 was pretty good, but really, really, really long.

Terminator? Okay.

Terminator 3? Okay. (I missed Linda Hamilton.)

Terminator 4? Umm, is that on Hulu? Maybe if I ever sign up for Netflix. . . .

Goofy apocalyptic is good, like Independence Day. Or what was that movie with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche about the volcano in Los Angeles? Goofy is what it was!

And certainly better than the Pierce Brosnan volcano flick—which, while it had Linda Hamilton, did not have Sarah Connor.

So, too, with Deep Impact Armageddon (Bruce Willis/Ben Affleck comet movie) and the Morgan Freeman/Tea Leoni comet movie (Deep Impact). You’d think the Freeman/Leoni duo would kick Willis & Affleck’s asses, but, no: Deep Impact Armageddon wins by goofiness.

Prophecy, with Virginia Madsen and Christopher Walken—really, you have to ask? Christopher Walken! And bonus with angels and Satan and stuff!

Much better than End of Days, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Too stodgy.

The Ninth Gate? Not really world-ending, but really fucking weird. And Satan and stuff.

Stigmata? Not really at all, but it had visions and angels and stuff. And Gabriel Byrne.

Waterworld? Nuh. Kevin Costner, not in his lovable-crank personna (Bull Durham, Tin Cup), but just annoying crank. But Dennis Hopper was fun.

Day After Tomorrow? Please. (And while I’m certainly willing to watch bad bad-end movies, I’m not willing to pay 12 bucks to do so: 2012 will have to wait.)

War of the Worlds? I have the Tom Cruise version stamped on my brain. Too muted. And Tom Cruise. . . .

Oh, and On the Beach. Odd, but great. The first half is a bit of a caper flick, with Fred Astair and Ava Gardner (man!) and stiff-and-honorable Gregory Peck, but still (SPOILER), no relief: everybody dies.

The Day After played on t.v. in the 1980s, to much hue and cry. I saw it again a year or two ago, and while it was mighty cheesy, still.

Testament was not cheesy. I still (mis?)remember the scene in which Jane Alexander is sitting in next to sun-filled window, sewing, her face determined. It’s only in the voiceover do we learn that this is a shroud for her daughter.

28 Days Later gave me nightmares for a week—then terrified me out of sleep six months later.

Didn’t see 28 Months Later, however—tho’ if it streams on Netflix (if I ever. . .) then, maybe.

I should catch up with all the old George Romero flixs. While I’m not a big horror fan, zombies work.

World War Z, by Max Brooks. Have you read it? A fine bit of reportage. Sparked an unfinished bit of writing from me, on the ethics of zombie-killing and -experimentation.

Margaret Atwood has written a number of apocalyptic novels, although these tend toward collapse-apocalypse as opposed to war/violence-apocalypse. Oryx & Crake was hilarious and cold—just right; her new book elaborates on the O&C theme and is, according to a number of critics, better than the original. Hmpf.

And then, of course, The Handmaid’s Tale—I’m currently using that in one of my pol sci classes. When I polled the class on when/whether they would try to escape the totalitarian Republic of Gilead, most of them were of the I’d-wait-it-out variety. Really? I all-but-yelped. Only one student was with me: as soon as we lost our jobs or our money, if not sooner, we’d be gone.

Turn me into an Unwoman—no suh!

Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway. What? You still haven’t read it? Honestly, what’s your excuse?

There’s more, of course. Fahrenheit 451. Don DeLillo. The Plot Against America. Walker Percy. Peter Hoeg. Jose Saramago. 1984. A couple of Marge Piercy’s. A couple of Mary Doria Russell’s. William Gibson.

Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Whatever. If the earth is in peril/ends, it’s in.

C. was going to start an apocalyptic book club at the bookstore, but a necessary manager bailed. Still, I’d expect that she’d have even more to offer.

And, again, quality is not really the point, here. Even the books or movies I slagged I’d still (re)read or watch (again).

The point is that they are 1) fiction; 2) fun! and/or terrifying!; and 3) the world ends!

Should I mention that a number of us have made plans to see The Road Christmas night?

The director had better not make it ‘inspiring’. . . .





Two poems

13 11 2009

I used to read poetry, and write it, too.

When students ask how to learn how to write better, I tell them Read poetry. Write it, too. They look at me, faces pulled back and skeptical. Your poems may be no good, I say, you may not want to show them to anyone. At this, they nod.

But you will pay attention, I say. You will learn to pay attention to the words.

I keep forgetting this, the paying of attention. Words come so easily for me, I take them in chunks and waterfalls, gorge on and scatter them, thoughtlessly.

Pay attention. I used to whisper this to myself, as a reminder. Then I stopped paying attention.

Friday at TNC’s open thread seems unofficially designated as poetry day. People post their own or, more commonly, poems which move them.

I’ve been rushing past. Words words words—what’s the point?

Slow down. Pay attention.

So, two poems, in honor of my long-ago friend C., and in memory of her younger brother, J.

Fourteen years ago this month—this Saturday—J. shot himself to death. He was thirteen.

What could we bring C.? I brought music; we brought ourselves. And I gave her two poems:

The body of my brother Osiris is in the mustard seed

Seed from an early Egyptian tomb,
after water damage to the case
in the Historisches Museum,
sprouted in 1955.

That was the year my brother’s foot
slipped on spray-wet log.
He was gone
into the whitewater out of sight.

Just downstream
the back of his head
came up
in a narrow chute.

Between terrible rocks
the back of my brother’s head
looked wet and small and dark.
I watched it through the roar.

Through tears, afraid
to pray, I told God
he was swimming. Wait.
He would lift his face.

—Brooks Haxton

Moira

A day comes when nothing matters
And nothing will suffice.
The heart says: I cannot,
The soul says: I am not.

The window whose frame
Once held dawn
Gleams all night in desolation,
And the one tree

Untouched by blight
Offers a fruit you do not refuse,
An anguish impossible to conceive

Until this lucky day.
Weigh it in your hands, so heavy,
So light: is there more to wish for?

—Phyllis Levin





Little pink houses for you and me

13 11 2009

Shocking.

Pfizer to Leave City That Won Supreme Court Land-Use Case

From the NYTimes story by Patrick McGeehan:

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company,announced it would lead the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the Unites States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

Robert  Pero, a city council member who’s about to become mayor, noted that the city lost over a thousand jobs with the move, but retain the building.

Then again, he added, “I don’t know who’s going to be looking for a building like that in this economy.”

He also noted that he was unhappy that Pfizer didn’t contact the city before deciding to leave.

“I’m sure that there are people that are waiting out there to say, ‘I told you so,’ ” Mr. Pero said. “I don’t know that even today you can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Hmmm. And yet many of those screwed over by their own city retain the ability to say precisely that.

Large swaths of barren land where neighborhoods once stood, driven out not for the public good (always a tough call, but if not always justified, at least justifiable) but because regular citizens living their lives don’t produce enough profit benefit to the city.

Not that that would even happen in New York. I mean, the Atlantic Yards project—it’s all good.

Right?