2.01.2010

My New York

I've lived in New York City for 16 years, and have been visiting the city since the mid-1970s. At first glance, it seems totally overwhelming: an anonymous city of more than 8.5 million people; where do I fit in? But then I realized that human nature, and especially this human, needs community, and in this wild warren of people and activity, people have carved out wonderfully warm communities that make living in this crazy place possible.

In fact, I think that because people can come home and recharge into these communities--on the stoops, the floors, the blocks, the cafes, bars, libraries--they bring a warmth with them into the city, like an ember sparked from the fire. Because, for the most part, New Yorkers are pretty great people. Once you break through the game face, most people on the street will go out of their way to help you out. I know that sounds trite, but I think it is true. I think because this city can be bleak, the people have a need to personalize it with traces of humanity, little bursts of color on an undeniable gray city.

In any event, I am going to periodically write about the communities that I have made over my years here in New York.

I. The 1970s.

My dad moved here in 1974 or 5. I remember all of his crazy pads, especially the one on Lispenard Street with the bathroom in the middle of the room. Pearl Paint and Canal Jeans were across the street. The Wild and Wooly strip club was at the corner and they had a little closed-in window with furry fuzz and colored light bulbs and those crazy little gnomes with the big eyes and pointy hair. And a hand-drawn sign that said "Wild 'n Wooly" in a script that implied the good times were to be had. My dad had a beat up old Suburban and my great grandparents' wicker living room set. I remember showing up in my pretty dress with a bag full of avocados from California.

He would take me to Dave's Corner for egg creams. I loved Canal Street back then. It was a crazy strip filled with boxes of old electronics, wires, batteries. And lots of army surplus stuff. It hadn't yet turned into the counterfeit haven it is today. I hardly remember Canal Jeans when it was still on Canal Street, except for my dad being thrilled at the cheap price of Vidal Sassoon shampoo! We would go get his mail at the huge Post Office at Canal and Broadway, when it was still a post office. (I even remember the old post office at Mercer and Prince, but that is another decade). I can vividly remember him teaching me how to use chopsticks at a Chinese restaurant that was underneath scaffolding. Parked outside was his girlfriend's old Volvo station wagon in which we to soon drive across the country, camping all the way. I have such patchy but strong memories of that time; I was so young, but the memories are bright and faded, almost like snapshots.

3 comments:

  1. It's great to see the city through your eyes -- when I visit I usually have my nose buried in a subway map or am retracing my steps after taking a wrong turn. It's easy to forget to look up at the amazing surroundings.

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  2. I remember visiting your dad and Barbara on Canal St. passing by an overturned car, wheels still rotating, engine still crackling, whispering the name of the thugs who had commited this murderess deed. all the time i'm trying to appear like i belong in this garbage strewn alley, long forgotten by anyone but the "alley rats" who lived in the upper floors. I find the address and BANG on the reenforced cast iron "let-no-one-enter-here" door hoping a familiar face would appear on the other side. I stepped into a totally unscale apartment untouched by the maddness just beyond the metal door. it was so surrealistic.

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  3. Hey Suze! That was Crosby Street! Crosby Street has a chapter all to itself, man. Funny thing, they just opened a super snazzy hotel in that parking lot next door. unbelieveable!
    Still awaiting your pig farming missive.

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