25 years ago I fell in love with NYC
I left Los Angeles after the Rodney King riots and spent the summer bouncing around the country, staying with relatives and old friends. I was looking for another place to live and researched what it would take to move to Toronto. It really looked like Bush 1 was going to be re-elected and it was just depressing. I felt like my life was burning away one day at a time in a country that was showing no signs of a much needed course-correction.
I worked a couple jobs in a couple US cities but by October I was looking to head back to CA. I wanted to see NYC, Boston and DC before going back. I parked my car in Connecticut and took the train into Manhattan around 4pm. I came up from the depths of Grand Central like a salmon against the stream of suits exiting the city. I walked 42nd to Time Square. There was a row of folding tables set up on the sidewalk and pairs of men played chess and backgammon while throngs of people and sirens streamed passed them. I had been in the City less than 20 minutes and it was starting to get its hooks into me. I have the picture I took of those tables and I remember what a revelation that moment was: NY wasn’t a dirty crime ridden dump full of rude people — it was a dirty crime ridden gem full of interesting people. And it wasn’t just 3000 miles from L.A. — it was a parallel universe. A fallen world where the art deco vestiges of its 1930s glory towered over the streets like angels from another lifetime.
I went on. South on Sixth Ave to the windows of Macy’s. There was a live DJ and 12 club kids in rave-wear dancing in the store window to promote Swatch watches. Other club kids came out and tried to hail a cab. One of them wore red tights and 8-inch platform shoes, he had shaved his head and eyebrows. His friends were less extreme but cabs would pull over and then speed away when they got a better look at the group. I have a picture of that moment also. Someone near me said “they take a picture of that and then tell people in Iowa we are all like that” I turned to him and said “I’m from L.A. (and joked)..the picture will make me less home-sick”
I wasn’t homesick at all. I had been in the City for an hour and was already thinking about how to live there for a year. I didn’t get back to Connecticut until about midnight. The next day I took my car to the city and found a cheap room in Little Korea (W 33rd). It was like a second date. The City stirred my soul. I fought the feelings like when you date someone that you have reservations about but I knew it was love. The feelings were strong and barely rational therefore: love.
People reading, debating, playing chess with strangers. Millionaires next to crackheads. People that ran the shops owned the shops and they cared. Unlike the stereotype, people didn’t hate each other — they loved each other like a big family. There was a “we’re all in this mess together” vibe.
On the the 3rd day I went to the Hotel Chelsea. Stanley Bard welcomed me as if I was a long lost friend. His hotel had hosted Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Alan Ginsberg and dozens more. Arthur C Clarke wrote 2001: A Space Odyssey inside those walls. He quoted me $80 a night to stay there and I said that was out of my budget. He asked if I was artistic and I told him I was a writer and was working on a piece influenced by Kerouac’s “On the Road” and I had to come to New York to feel the edginess and danger and the layers of spiritual energy that had that island humming like a cosmic beehive.
Stanley turned around with a key in his hand, “Take room #100 for $35. It used to be home to a famous musician.”
It turned out to be the room in which Sid Vicious had killed Nancy Sturgeon. What better embodiment of the duality of Life; where forces seen and unseen dance to the music of fate and we are made whole by the love and grace others as we live in a world gone to hell.zoewashburne, , Coldmountaintrail and 21 othersdorkzilla, iggy, Land of Enchantment, FourScore, Enthusiast, closeupready, madfloridian, glinda, Tuesday, A little weird, pacalo, Ohio Barbarian, virgdem, caliny, PennLawyer, HeartoftheMidwest, xynthee, djean111, Smarmie Doofus, Marym625, Haikugal like this
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