the enemy is us: an introduction
“Drop me down anywhere in America and I’ll tell you where I am: in America.” Martin Amis, The Moronic Inferno
Amis had a great eye for detail but it was wasted in America. Dallas, Denver, Detroit; one was pretty much like all the rest. Imagine Amis on a book tour. In every city he stayed at Hilton, ate in Applebee’s, and shopped at Banana Republic. The readings were always at Barnes & Noble and the coffee was always from Starbucks.
The exception was New York City. “Heat, money, sex, fever—this is it, this is New York, this is first class, this is the sharp end,” Amis wrote in Money. “All the contention, the democracy, all the italics in the air.”
Thirty years after Money was published, when Amis moved to New York, he must have noticed that the gulf between the city and the country had narrowed. New York had always been a city of extremes but the rough edges had been filed down for tourists and corporations. The poor had been pushed into the farthest corners of the city, the street walkers rousted, Times Square had become Disneyland. Every corner featured a chain business that had previously avoided the city. And in 2019, the coup de grâce, the gated community, arrived in the form of Hudson Yards, a development where geographic isolation and high prices do what fences and security guards do in the rest of the country.
I don’t like it. I want a city with soul and New York is losing the one it spent centuries finding.
I want to end this dirge on a positive note and what could be better news for New Yorkers than bad news for Olive Garden. It’s hard to explain but New Yorkers have a deep, admittedly irrational, loathing for that Orlando-based corporation. The good news is that all but one of their locations have closed, presumably due to a lack of customers. Only Times Square is left, which means that the restaurant must go weeks without a New Yorker walking through its doors. Olive Garden should have realized that, even after Hudson Yards, we have more sense than that.