Who Says You Can’t Go Home Again?

The Con


The Detroit Lions are a team that never disappoints.  They find new ways to lose on a seemingly momentary basis.  Yesterday, however, may have been the greatest meltdown American football has ever witnessed.  The Lions threw in the towel on the whole 2008 season after the first play from scrimmage.  The Atlanta Falcons rookie quarterback’s dropped back and for his first pass and play in the NFL, he threw a 62 yard touchdown.  The rest of the game was the inevitable death rattle of the worst team in the history of the National Football Team.


I watch the games at Cody’s in far west SoHo, a great spot with a wholly satisfying brunch that only costs $12.00, Bloody Mary, Mimosa and coffee or tea included.  After the final whistle blew, I wandered over to the Hudson to see how the building boom had affected the West Village.  I stayed on the east side of the street, away from the esplanade, I wanted to see what was left of my town, not fight the rollerbladers, couples with strollers and tourists. 


West Street, which used to be littered with the detritus of humanity and other scenes you’d expect to find in the district of a city with an active waterfront, was long gone, most before I got to New York but some of the more delightfully colorful elements were still around.  Lou Reed sang about the infamous gay leather bar the Badlands (the corner of West and Christopher Streets) but that went in the mid ‘90’s, along with all of the interior designers dressed in leather trying to look tough and scare the straight kids who wandered out of neighborhood. (That would have been me back in 1987.)  The hookers, transvestite and otherwise, are gone.  Charles Street has a multi-million dollar high rise building now.  I remember being dragged to an old longshoreman’s bar near here in 1988 and loving how all of those colorful elements worked together to create something out of an Andy Warhol nightmare.


Eventually, I angled myself into what was my favorite all time New York neighborhood, the Meatpacking District.  When I first walked through the area, I thought the setting for Blade Runner really existed.  Cobblestone streets, the smell of all those dead cows, thugs, a real biker bar, fog off the Hudson, TV hookers all around, barely lit, with the rotting High Line (an old structure that connected the Meatpacking District to the docks on 34th Street via light rail) over it all.  The neighborhood was oppressing in the most intriguing and energizing way. 


Now, it’s on Sex and the City, all the latest clubs for the tragically hip, those that love them and the Bridge and Tunnel crowd are here, along with new trendy 2 star restaurants dotting the alleys and streets. 


I flashed on a minute in time, October of 1990, my senior year at NYU.  Bob Mould was playing at a venue at 22nd and 10th Ave called the Marquis.  I was interning at SPIN at the time, so I got to use my credentials to get three tickets to the show.  Feeling like the big man in the dorm, I invited two friends, Josh and Steve, to come with me.  All excited, we set out from our dorm at 10th Street and Broadway and decided to walk through the Meatpacking District.  It was the fastest way to get to the show.  We all wanted to catch the opening act Ultra Vivid Scene, as well as see Bob’s show.


As we walked through the humid October night, we saw an Orthodox rabbi proposition one of the friendly men who was dressed like a friendly woman.  They walked off into one of the anonymous crevasses that dotted the neighborhood.   All of us either were Jewish or had one Jewish parent so we stopped to discuss what we had just seen.  Before we could even get a laugh out of our mouths, we heard a scream.  The rabbi ran by us, tzitzis flying, trying to pull up his pants. 


“Honey, did you get a little surprise?  Come back here,” we heard a very masculine voice say.  The TV hooker ran after her john, trying not to let her high heels slip into a crease between cobblestones.


It’s a tableau that still makes me laugh and I giggled as I turned down Eighth Ave., and walked back into the Village.  It was depressing to think that place was just swept into the dust bin of history.  That place and time only exists for me to tell stories to people who probably don’t believe it ever happened in the first place.


I made it down to Bleeker Street and Seventh Ave. before deciding to head back east and home.  When I looked up I saw this creature in front of me: high heels, long legs in black stockings, a short beige dress, long black hair and a full shaggy beard that was almost to ZZ Top length.  She stopped next to a couple who looked like they were out for a lazy Sunday walk.  The three got into a funny discussion I could barely hear.  Apparently, it was fashion week and the TV/TS model in the beige dress had something to do with an event in the area.


“O – MY – GAWD,” someone screamed.  I looked over my left shoulder at two young blonde women.  You could almost see their eyes popping out of their new sunglasses.  The map in their hands meant they were either tourists or new to the West Village.  (The neighborhood is so old the streets bend and wind at strange angles.  It bears no resemblance to the grid system that the rest of Manhattan unitizes.)  I don’t think they were quite expecting to see anything like this in their Friends/Sex and the City version of New York.


Sometimes, you can go home again.    


What is the strangest thing you have ever seen on a city street? 

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