The recent announcement of the closure of 'The Village Voice', a free mainstay of activist, participatory journalism, hit hard, and it started me on a reflection why these types of things inevitably leave me melancholy and a little disoriented. I hadn't read the 'Voice' in years, and I hadn't even glanced at its online presence once the print version succumbed.
When I was at Butler University (1979-1983) and didn't have two dimes to rub together, I still managed to subscribe to 'The Village Voice'. The back pages were crammed with raunchy sex ads. I remember one rather vivid profile of a performance artist in some ratholee who literally shot yams out of her/his ass. Crammed into my too-small student mailbox, the 'Voice' represented a weekly dream: to flee the Midwest, to go to New York, to live in the Village on an alphabet-named avenue and dodge those flying yams myself, to hopefully wrap myself in the glory of advertising, or maybe theater or publishing. I never did, and now I've outlasted the paper itself.
And I think that's the bigger issue.
I'm outlasting shit I never expected to. Without fanfare, my hometown elementary school was torn down. I hadn't planned a pilgrimage of tears, but that it was suddenly and brutally subtracted left a chasm in my childhood. It's gone. It's like they salted the earth where it stood. Nothing seems to grow there. I don't know even know why they tore it down, beyond its abandonment. It couldn't have been repurposed as affordable housing? The same for a bookstore where I felt welcome and nurtured as a kid -- Carroll's Card Shop, on Main Street, on the right side of the tracks (I lived on the wrong side of the town's railroad tracks), where I would read 'Variety' every week. I don't even know why, after awhile, they got this showbiz tabloid, it since it rarely sold. I strongly suspect the kind owners, Art, Helen and Jill, got that single copy from the distributor specifically for this awkward kid with few friends who hung around all the time. The store closed, another victim claimed by Wal-Mart. And that's another sidebar rant: the community didn't even support its own. They went for the cheaper Christmas wrapping paper, bagged cashews and the marked-down paperbacks.
Antiquated buildings get torn down. I understand that. Business that are insolvent close. I've lost a few friends along the way: self-inflicted, cancer, car accident or just general good goddamn riddance. Relatives, too -- a Dad, a brother. Pets that were cherished. As difficult as those were, I processed those losses as the grim collateral damage of living a life. But when I gleefully hurry to my specialty store in Manhattan to find it too is gone -- Coliseum Books near Columbus Circle, Applause Bookstore, the Tower Records by Lincoln Center, Footlight Records in the Village, the wildly-overpriced Colony Records in Times Square -- I am being robbed of Chapter headings in my life. My Table of Contents is being dismantled. It's like my past is being wiped clean and the future is uncertain, because these touchstones, as you grow older, are fewer. Everything is magic in youth...a sense of wonder. A few years and the Internet and access to everything has robbed the world of newness.
Maybe that's what I mourn: that inevitable collapse of discovery. Hearing doors slam behind me is an unnerving sound because I fear that with that soundtrack, my own possibilities dwindle, too.