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Flatbush Flashback

A New York Shopping Story

One reason I've lived in New York City virtually my entire life, and in Manhattan since I graduated from college--the last 22 years downtown, in Soho--is because of the incredible convenience of not having to own a car. Everything I want or need, be it freshly made, hand-cut buckwheat pappardelle or an obscure book that's been out of print for a decade, can be found at a store, like Raffetto's or The Strand, that's within walking distance of my house. At least that's the way it used to be.

Manhattan in particular has been undergoing dramatic changes for some time. The quirky specialty shops and dusty book and magazine stores that used to line so many streets have given way to upscale boutiques, chain stores, and nail salons. Thanks to our mayor, Michael Bloomberg, New York has been transformed into a generic megacity—a gilded ghetto stripped of all funkiness, and designed to cater to tourists. A lot has been lost and very little had been gained.

This was driven home to me the other day when I went out to look for what I thought wouldn’t be especially hard to find: the latest issue of Little Shoppe of Horrors, “the journal of classic British horror films,” as publisher Richard Klemensen calls it. The magazine has been around for 40 years, and in that time I’d seen it in numerous stores, like Kim’s, which used to be the place to go for offbeat publications of all kinds. (Kim’s still exists, but in a different location and has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.)

LSoH had run a rave review of Beaver Street, and though I had a scan of the review, I’m a completist when it comes to my own stuff, and I wanted a printed copy for my files. Thus began a shopping odyssey that included trips to more than a dozen stores, all within walking distance of my house: McNally Jackson, Bluestockings, St. Marks Books, Kim’s, Bleecker Bob’s, Barnes & Noble (ha!), Dashwood Books, Generation Records, Forbidden Planet, a comic book store on St. Mark’s Place, and I don’t know how many well-stocked magazine shops that seemed to carry everything but LSoH.

The result: Nada, nada, and nada.

So I ordered it online, directly from Richard Klemensen, who I imagined sitting in his house in Iowa, stuffing magazines into envelopes, addressing them by hand, and licking and sealing the flaps—an image that Richard confirmed is not far from the truth. “On the shipping end of things,” he said, “I am, indeed, a one-man-band!”

I anxiously await delivery.

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