Vacant                         

         In the past, 35 year ago or so, I was around

  town with an interesting friend o' mine and, if 

  memory serves, somewhere on second or third 

  ave, in the thirties I want to say, we chanced upon

  a sea shell store. Who ever heard of such a thing!

  A sea shell store. Let's don't be silly. 

       The shop was manned by a single serious

  silver maned woman who told us there were two

  other shops in the world like hers. One was in

  Japan – the other, I don't recall.  

       No pedestrian shells these. Spectacular sea

  shells and all maintained and cataloged with

  museum precision. Every specimen sported a tag

  telling where and at what depth it was found.

      Wow, thought my head would explode. I may

  have gone back but soon enough it was gone,

  whoosh. The woman was on in years or, maybe 

  the lease was up. I don't know. Whoosh!

      Variety is a bitch.

          If in the tea section of your local 

  supermarket, you find 8 different brands of the

  same type of tea(pekoe or English breakfast) and

  each brand comes in 2 or 3 or 4 package sizes,

  is that variety?

       If I then step out of that supermarket and look

  to my left to see a supermarket size discount

   pharmacy two blocks away and then look to my

  right to see a supermarket size discount pharmacy

  two blocks away, is that variety?

      Sometimes and often nowadaze, I come upon

  one of those coffee joints(or your noun here) with

  the floor to ceiling fish tanky window and the 

  solo student strivers slowly sipping 6$ 'spressos

  whilst in a Vulcan mind meld with their laptop on

  the table. Whew!! Those places come and go so

  quickly now, one almost right next to another.

  Their tastefully designed logos still on the

  windows ain't even scratched cause they never 

  got dirty so they never got washed.

 That's how that goes. Not my fortress of

   solitude, no sir. I write on the subway. With a 

  pen, u huh u huh,

        The guy who talks quite out loud just got on

   and sat down. Today he's orating in Spanish.

        What was in that spot before? They turn over

   so quickly, I struggle to recall.

        Was it a butcher?,

                           a baker,

                                 children's shoes,

                                         hobbies and crafts.

                                      a fish store,

                               cheese shop,

                         a kosher deli with franks 

                     rolling in the window,

                 a knife sharpener,

             a record store

                 a record store,

                    florist,

                       hardware(gasp),

                           sheet music,

                                 antiques & curios,

                           men or women's apparel,

                    a noble and elegant bookstore

              of 19th century charm and design,

                 (your precious memory here),

            How about just little stores that bear

               the name of its proprietor like 

                   “Benny's” or,

                          “Drumpf's Golden Joys”.

                     And lastly, holy holy holy,

           the corner candy store with the

              soda fountain where,

                 you could get an egg cream, 

                     or a model airplane,

                          or a pensey pinky,

                              the newspaper or Mad.

                                     Dang,

                          I want an egg cream. 

                     I WANT AN EGG CREAM.         

  Now in my neck o' the woods, streets are

   residential and avenues are retail/commercial,

   stores with apartments above. Mine is not a 

   fancy neighborhood though unquestionably 

   valuable, desirable and even fashionable. 

         He's back in English now – car insurance

      guidance, great.

   An avenue block – the short side of the rectangle,

   provides about 8 store spaces of various or

   inconsistent dimensions. Sometimes 2 or 3 

   spaces are combined into one larger.

        If those 8 spaces are maintained as 8, safe to

   say, nowadaze, 2 of those 8 spaces be empty.

      Vacant. Available. Sometimes 3 stores. Vacant.

        Postered large in the vacant window – large

   enough to be read from the opposite sidewalk is

   a realtor's notice. It says “Prime Retail Location”.

   U huh, in other words, this abandoned worn out 

   solitary flip-flop is a roast beef sandwich.

        A big nasty problem, here in the U.S.A.,- has

   been for a while - is this; the big critical issues 

   We have – and there are a few – have to be

   reduced to either/or analysis/solutions.

   Chocolate or vanilla, good vs evil, this or that.

   The great questions or problems do not run in

   straight lines to opposite poles. They are more

   like circles with interior areas and sometimes

   they are as spheres.       

 We simplify these matters to death so We can

   vote on it and then call it democracy. Doesn't

   work. Hasn't for a while.

        Everything is nuanced. Everything is multi-

   dimensional. Really, I don't think I need explain

   that to anyone...maybe.

       Having an empty commercial space or

    apartment in your building is not necessarily a

    loss. There may be tax benefits. Incentives?

       On-line shopping, with its savings, is

   something brick & mortar shopping cannot

   compete with.

       Very large(VERY) national chain stores swat

   local businesses like flies. Splat! Deep pockets

   pay big rents.

       Rents are pushed as high as the market will

   bare and then some. If that figure cannot be met,

   then the landlord gets a write-off.

       And you won't make that rent selling sea shells

   or kites or fish or shoes. No way.

      As far as Ma &Pa shops go, Americans have 

   lost the mojo to open and dedicate in those

   situations. Nobody gets a 30 year lease anymore

   and ultimately, the kids don't want to inherit and

   run their grandfather's hardware store. Generally.

      I have heard some political posturing about 

   rent control for commercial spaces. Really? 

   What is it they say about a snowball in hell?

       Do immigrants and refugees coming for new

   opportunity and a life of possibility for their

   children ( you know, the ones from other U.S.

   states )  want to see all the same national chains

   they had back on rte. 137? About the same for

   tourists I'd guess.

      Even a real landmark heritage site like

    Le Figaro Cafe' got plowed under by a beverage

    conglomerate. Let us now pray for Electric Lady

    Land.

       The affect of this scythe is certainly grim

    however the reaper is giddy and writ large on 

    his/her brow is “PROGGRESS”.

        When you tell Us what We gain, why dontcha

   tell us what we lose. It might matter.

        We lose a particular class of employment.

   Call it small business ownership. One might own

   a business in their building or neighborhood. 

        We lose cohesion. Local social cohesion.

   The social fabric. The precious social fabric.

        We lose the American dream. I'm not sure that

   that was ever much more than a bumper sticker

   but that objective of the family working in the

   store together and in shifts has been erased.

   They've made it impossible, you can't even own 

   a cab.  

        We lose(last thing, I promise) variety. We lose

   charm and trust and familiarity. The city I grew

   up in was a quilt of many villages. Now it is 

   more like a mall. Last time I checked, malls are

   failing all over the nation.

       That's it. I'm exhausted. Let's look at some

   pictures. Thank You.

photos by:

Matt Petosa

  "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."