I was in the New York City region last week for work (hence the ZIP code in the post title), and whenever I'm there I visit my parents and whatever friends I can scare up. I had the bad luck to visit during a real freezer-burn of a wintertime, although it wasn't too bad during the day. But standing on the corner in the morning for even five minutes, waiting for the bus to take me into Times Square, left me feeling like parts of my body would break off.
Much of the New York I remember from my childhood and young adulthood is gone; a few pieces of it still remain here and there. But for the most part it's become an overpriced shopping mall where too many of the storefronts stand empty. At least we still have the museums — and at least for now.
And we have a few stalwarts. The Strand is probably here to stay, now that the family that runs it has purchased the very building it lives in. Much of their income is derived from rents of the spaces above the store, not the store itself, but they are in no danger of vanishing. Academy Records continues to eke out an existence, long after its companion bookstore vanished, and it still has the fine sense of curation that all little shops in that vein distinguish themselves with.
Even the chains that aren't coffee or chopped salads are looking more like survivors. Book-Off is more like Toy-Off at this point, but it's still a wonderland of happy accidents, especially for manga lovers. Kinokuniya, expensive as it is, remains an easy way to get the Japanese book experience for those who want it (and a ton else atop that). And even Barnes & Noble feels more like a meat-and-paper holdout against everything going digital and online than it does a corporate bad neighbor.
I hate that so many of the things that define the New York experience for me have been reduced to shopping, in big part because so much of the other stuff that isn't has slid through the cracks.