The Opulent Era: R.I.P.


Joan’s on Third, originally uploaded by ann-dabney.

I ate lunch at Joan’s on Third today, a place that I consider a really excellent food emporium, redolent of New York, with opulent sandwiches, delicious desserts, gorgeous women and so many cupcakes.

But on a walk, after lunch, we passed store after store that was going out of business, or had everything on sale. Many businesses had closed, and you could smell the death of so many small stores that once thrived on this most trivial and fashionable of streets.

Only yesterday, it seems, there were people who shopped here that could afford $80 candles and fine china for their dogs. This was the district with the slickest independent clothing designers, the hippest furniture, the coolest shoes.

Privately, I thought of this area as a staging grounds for post-collegiate poseurs and those young people whose parents paid for their apartments, and subsidized the BMWs that are so ubiquitous here.
The sidewalks were full of those prematurely cynical and dark haired people, from Scarsdale, Bethesda, Winnetka and Short Hills, the young writers and liberal arts majors who “work” in entertainment or some other bloodsucking non-entity. They were part of the clientele who supported these inane but once successful businesses: purveyors of balloons, flowers, perfumes, candles, and glass paper weights.

It was fun, wasn’t it, to drop $200 on professional hair color and $100 for a salt scrub body massage? How many $8 chocolate bars did you buy today? This was the ethos of 3rd Street.

But The Market has lost 50% of its value in one year, and the smart minds who got into the right places, like Wall Street and real estate, have been brought down by the collapse of prosperity. Some of the successful earners in the evil industries supported the artsy ambitions of the lowly paid creatives and now the green water spigot is dry.

I am not one of those positive people, who believe that we will merely stimulate a military based economy whose characteristics are so corrupt and unjust that it defies rationalization. We are attempting a government bailout of every single institution that once seemed solid and powerful: finance, banking,automobiles, property values and government itself. The nation that partied and celebrated itself into a drunken indebtedness is still intoxicated on denial.

People are watching their money, the same people who dropped into Brite Smile to have their teeth whitened for $800; the same folks who stayed at the Beverly Wilshire one night just for the hell of it; the Jimmy Choo crowd who thought $500 was reasonable for a pair of shoes. They are all scared shitless.

Want to see something very frightening?

Just take a walk down once cheery 3rd Street, where the credit cards and cash have blown away like so much garbage on skid row. The stores are closing, and may be gone for a generation.

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