The Village Voice didn’t mean that much to me growing up, but once I finished high school and started out in the world, it meant something. I tried placing a couple of personal ads back when the notion of getting to meet another person through a written note wasn’t thoroughly obsolete; I found their leftist tack on the issues of the day enlightening, although I often disagreed with it.
When I was living in Pittsburgh in the early 1990s, recently divorced, broke, in exile from the city where I was born, the Voice (available every Monday in the newsstand at Ross Park Mall) was a beacon of what was waiting for me on my return.
And the Voice, oddly, brought a special disappointment every June when I would pick it up and find… the Gay Issue. I’m just not interested.
But the classified ads in the Voice were the stuff of legend. Besides the personals, there were apartments and jobs and all manner of human services, some of which I wasn’t quite sure were legal. When we last moved to a new place, in 2003, I found our new apartment through the Village Voice.
But that was then; not anymore. (Except, perhaps, for the Gay Issue in June.)
Last night, indulging my idle curiosity, I picked up the current Village Voice from a box in my neighborhood. (In the mid-1990s, if memory serves, they went from paid to free circulation.) My immediate thought was that I was missing something: the old Voice was over 100 pages, but this one was 36: barely larger than the throwaway dailies that I pick up for Sudoku.
There was one news story, about how the city was putting more chlorine in the drinking water in the summer months, so if you noticed your tap water smelling funny, that’s why. The Voice readers of another time would have probably never noticed; the report from another time would have discussed a vast corporate conspiracy to put toxic chemicals in our drinking water. Alas, no more.
The cover story was a collection of 30 emoji that supposedly represented life in New York. Too many of them were overly detailed to fit in an emoji. Some were clever, but in the end, it was tiresome. In fairness, I don’t really use emoji, and perhaps there are already emoji for what I think are the essential New York goods, services, or states of mind. But emoji hardly count as edgy counterculture.
And in the back, there were just two ads for rental apartments: a 2-bedroom in Carroll Gardens for $3500/month, and a 1-bedroom in Jackson Heights (‘Clone Manhattan’) for $1750. I remember looking for my first apartment, in 1982, making $7.50/hour or so, and coming across a dozen plausible candidates in every issue.
Those were the days….