New York: Reflections on a City

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    Michael
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    I have been living in New York for probably longer than most students have been alive, having arrived in 1991 – during our FIRST gulf war (yes, there were two). Why is NYC an amazing place? Because, unlike other cities, it doesn’t care who you are or where you’re from – it delivers joy, pain, sadness and ecstasy in various degrees to each of its inhabitants equally. My story is probably not unique – arriving from a far off land (California) to set up shop in this great city – but it may be considered a strange way to begin living in this amazing melting pot.
    I came here with about $200 arriving on a Grey Hound bus after 3 days of being driven across the country. I started out in Los Angeles and arrived in Port Authority bus terminal knowing not one of its 7.3 million inhabitants and having no where to live. But New York does give, and within 3 days (of sleeping on the floor of Port Authority thanks to the graciousness of a P.A. police officer), I had a job as a bartender and shared a room in a 3-bedroom apartment located above the Stonewall on Christopher Street.
    Being young and in NYC was like putting a 5 year old in a candy store. Being a bartender afforded me the luxury of hanging out with people every day, getting them (and sometimes myself) drunk, while making a lot of money. I also got to know all the door people at each club so I never had to stand in line, it was a great time to club in NYC, that’s for sure. There was The Lime Light (now a gym/mall), The (legendary) Sound Factory, The Sound Factory Bar, The Roxy and so on. Clubs long gone with DJ’s who, at the time, were rock stars. It was during this time I moved around a lot, from Christopher street I moved to the lower east-side (first avenue and first street), then upper west side (72nd street and Columbus Ave), Mid-town (also known then as Hell’s Kitchen – what a great name wasted by the way – now known as Clintonville??) at 55th and 9th avenue. All the while, working at different bars and restaurants, playing like an alley cat, purring up and down the avenues looking for the next party, and to my delight, always finding it.
    Finally, before moving permanently to Brooklyn for reasons outlined next, I lived at 107th and Columbus – which at the time was the biggest crack dealing area in New York City. The reason why I moved out of that area was NOT because we saw someone gunned down right below our window in the middle of the intersection – no, while that would have been bad, it wasn’t unexpected. What was unexpected was that when picked up by police, the man who was shot was found to have been wearing a bulletproof vest that, by the way, saved his life. Now, I get a bit nervous when people are wearing bulletproof vests in my neighborhood, because it means they are expecting to get shot. So instead of purchasing my own Teflon vest, I moved to Brooklyn instead, in the middle of Carroll Gardens, which was, at the time, controlled by the Gambino crime family (as stated previously; this is another story for another blog)
    I have lived in Brooklyn for the past 20 years, ending up in Park Slope. While I miss the crazy days of the past, I am a bit too (let’s insert mature here) to take part in the club scene or crazy bars, raves, etc. of the past – but it is just those things that made this city so amazing, and for that I am sad, because the youth of today can’t take part in that side of New York – the dirty underbelly, waking each night to carry riders along a pathway of unimagined debauchery. So it is, that the only “bad” thing that remains in New York is the parking. Everything else has aged, seemingly with the last generation to have a rough-and-tumble New York City, becoming more mellow and much more “suburban.” Example; as I write this blog, I sit comfortably in an air-conditioned café, sipping my $5 cappuccino, taking small bites of my $6 avocado and hummus sandwich – oh my how times have changed.

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