I wrote a short little thing on gentrification and, uh, The Village Idiot for Curbed:
When I moved to Williamsburg in 1996, there was little to do on Bedford Avenue other than eat really good massaman curry at a hole-in-the-wall called Plan-Eat Thai, or dodge the cracked-out prostitutes who haunted the streets south of Metropolitan Avenue. (They’d chase you if you walked too slowly.) My shared, two-bedroom apartment, steps from the subway, was $900 a month, but still felt overpriced on a minimum wage salary from The Strand. Bored, I often found myself venturing into the city at night and quickly became a local at the aptly named Meatpacking District dive, The Village Idiot. The place was filthy. The bottles behind the bar were buried in bras. The music was of the rowdy, George Jones variety. If you got bored watching the Tonya Harding sex tape that looped on the monitors, you could buy a goldfish for a buck to feed to the snapping turtles in the aquarium up front. But best of all, it was cheap. In fact, on slow nights the bartenders would feed me drinks, free of charge, so they wouldn’t have to drink alone.
By the early aughts, the Meatpacking District was morphing into a playground for the nouveau riche on the hunt for overpriced steak frites. On a summer night in 2004, as she stood behind the bar in a tube top pouring me a Stella, one of The Village Idiot’s bartenders told me they were closing. The owner Tommy—he looked like an obese Willie Nelson—couldn’t afford the increase in rent. I was bummed. Of course, The Village Idiot had been priced out before—it spent 10 years in the Village and was the inspiration for Coyote Ugly in that bar’s pre-frat boy days. But this grimy tavern on 14th was the only version I’d known and, for better or worse, it was filled with rowdy memories of being twenty-something and new to New York.
Admittedly, lamenting the loss of a bar (this year Milady’s, Subway Inn, 285 Kent, Rodeo Bar) seems trite when compared to greater indignities associated with gentrification. But for me, when The Village Idiot shuttered, a city I was just getting to know lost a bit of its jagged charm. A city that shifts whenever I get comfortable.
Read more tales at Curbed.