For an insightful view into the soul of New York City, turn to its comics. If their material really resonates with you, then you're a New Yorker, if not by address, then in spirit. Some, like Woody Allen, are virtual spokespeople for all that is New York. Shows like Seinfeld capture the essence of city life, right down to the minutiae. One of my favorite New York City comics is Todd Barry. His has a brilliant, understated style, characterized with the necessary ingredients - smug indifference, cynicism, skepticism, sarcasm. Todd effectively illustrates the irony of the high priced accoutrement of defiance in a routine about Kmart coming to New York City:
Some New Yorkers were pissed off when Kmart came to town. They were outside the store protesting. They didn't even know what to say. They were like, 'Down with Kmart and their merchandise that people can afford. Down with Kmart and their 300 gallon drum of laundry detergent for 99 cents. Why don't you go take your good values to another town?' Let's turn that building into a vintage clothing store. The kind that sells used Kmart shirts for $700.
I had a similar insight in the early 1970s when I saw Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore East. They were singing one of their popular hits about revolution, Volunteers. Somehow it seemed hypocritical or perhaps to be a bit nicer about it, filled with apparent contradiction. This group had money - limos, mansions, etc. and their lifestyle did not seem to bespeak of those revolting against the world order and materialism. But when the spokesperson is generally perceived as cool, they can get away with a lot of contradiction. On April 8, 2008, I wrote a story called Unguent, about the effects of money: "Money is like an unguent and when applied liberally, it usually is absorbed readily with predictable effects. It doesn't appear that one has to rub the salve that hard or long to take off most edges."
We see that irony replayed here at Search and Destroy at 25 St. Marks Place, with underground, subculture and vintage punk clothing and goods being sold for a king's ransom. Whether a shopper sees irony or not with merchandise priced as luxury items and taglines like "chaotic and anarchy" or "dangerous clothing store", explains the wildly disparate ratings at a site like Yelp.com that go from 1 to 5 stars. Many bristle at what they consider outrageous pricing and others appreciate the merchandise, some apparently difficult to find.
I have zero knowledge regarding the products I saw there - it was primarily eye candy for me. Or perhaps we should say, Irony Candy :)