New York, above and below


drawn on the NY subway in 1993

For nearly 30 years, since 1980, I’ve visited New York City.  Sometimes I just stayed for 3 or 4 days.  Other stays lasted as long as two weeks.  One year, I was in New York for four weeks, on three separate trips.

I go there nearly every year.  My brother Matt lived there awhile.  I also have a few good friends who’ve let me stay with them. 

I’d always make a lot of art in New York.  I’d write a lot too.  There’s a lot of great free music in the Summers at Lincoln Center, at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and in Central Park.  I’d also get to museums and movies. 

I loved the old Thalia Theatre at West 95th & Broadway.  It closed in 1987. Eventually it was renovated and re-opened as the Leonard Nimoy Thalia (due to the actor’s assistance in those efforts).  I also love the Film Forum, the Living Theatre and the Anthology Film Archives.

I’d go for long walks.  Sometimes I’d just walk aimlessly, for the sake of walking, enjoying the poetry of the streets.  I’d always run into something amazing.

I loved riding the subway too.  Sometimes I’d ride it just for fun.  Some of the stations get very hot in the Summers.  Once I ran across this whole sort of labyrinth.  I had to go down a lot of corridors then through a little stairway. When I opened the door, I was surprised to be entering another subway station.  Sometimes these routes and paths seem a bit complex.

I’d pride myself on knowing my way around well, for a “non-native.”   I’m always giving people directions.  Yet I do have to look at my maps sometimes and I do end up getting lost.

New York itself becomes a sort of living breathing thing, another old friend.

This is the first in a series of my New York memories.

When I first started going there, there was still graffiti on the subway trains.  Times Square and 42nd Street were still pretty wild.  Danger was in the air.  I could walk down the block and see five or ten drug deals.  I was on my toes and watching my back.

I was staying right by there in the early 1980’s, at Ninth Avenue & 39th.

In 1980, I hitchhiked from Detroit and back.  In 1981, I had bad luck hitchhiking to New York.  I got disgusted and took the bus home.  I think that was my last major hitchhiking excursion.

It’s great to see the skyline in the distance, getting closer.  It’s great to see it as you leave, sometimes lit up.  I usually take the bus or train.  I have flown there too.  I love seeing all the lights, at night, from the air.

Once I saw a homeless man, in a cardboard box, watching television!  He’d patched into the power from a utility pole and hooked it up.

One time I saw that there was a TV set in a storefront window.  They had the same film playing all night in a “rewind loop.”  There was a group of people on the sidewalk watching it.  They were sitting on stacked milk crates, maybe on chairs too.

Once, my brother and I were talking all about money, what a strange thing it is.  We talked of money magic,  how you just find it when you need it sometimes.  Then, he made a call at a pay phone.   When he hung it up, all these coins started pouring out the phone!

Once, I came out of a grocery store near the village.  A well dressed man and woman were getting into their car.  Two other men came toward them with their guns out shouting “Freeze! Police!  Don’t move!”  Luckily, they surrendered peacefully, as I was right in the middle of it.

Sometimes I’d see someone go down into the street, replacing the manhole cover over them.  I’d think to myself “That was no city worker!”

Once, I got a tour of a homeless encampment.  It was in the abandoned railroad tracks beneath Riverside Park.  People had their own spaces set up in holes in the walls.

There was a communal space.  This included a source of water and a table set up with salt, pepper, catsup and other condiments.  One guy was busy at his typewriter, no doubt down there writing a book!

I got to meet some of the people and got shown around.  It reminded me of my days hanging out at abandoned train stations in Detroit.

(to be continuous)


2 Responses to “New York, above and below”

  1. Don Handy Says:

    Hmmm…my favorite album by the New York band Television is “Adventure,” making for an apt title. Thanks for sharing the stories, us homebodies aren’t as well-travelled, and appreciate them.

  2. New York, August 2010 « Adventures and Resources Says:

    […]          Moses Josiah, saw player […]

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