Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Orchard St., 1980


 Photo: Brian Rose

This wonderful image by Brian Rose was taken in 1980, and I admittedly am predisposed to admiring it for reasons both aesthetic and personal. Subjectively, the time marks when I arrived in NYC proper (Manhattan) from the outlying boroughs, to make my own claim (Ha!) in the big city at the height of the then Punk/New Wave music scene- heady times. A mere prepubescent for most of the swinging '60s (13 in '69), I was ready to dive head first in what I knew would be the last aftershock of that fabled era that helped propel the century into modernity (by '84 it would be history, having already corrupted into the age of Madonna). Of course, cell phones were blessedly non existent, SOHO was still the gallery mecca, CBGB and The Mudd Club were going strong, even crack was yet to be invented, and in certain areas of Loisaida, people lined up in perfect single file in the middle of the street as minders with baseball bats warily maintained a calm and civil ambiance as everyone took in the afternoon cueing to put their money through the slot of a reinforced door in an abandoned building and await their magical bag of dope to appear. 

Oh, and I had my first apartment- actually, a one room flat adjacent to an Off Off Broadway Theatre with a toilet I shared with the customers. I opened, closed and maintained it in exchange for free rent. A couple of door fronts away was The 4th St. Photo Gallery of Alex Harsley who I believe is still there- the only black photo "gallerist" in NYC then, and I do suspect... now. The more things change...
 
The amazing thing about this photograph, shit, there are a lot of amazing things about this photograph! First, it resonates a good fifty, sixty, seventy years and more back in time (see below), replicating an almost identical scene that could have been witnessed there complete with similar crowds, commotion, outdoor vendors and passers-by of all ages, races and denominations. The original New World melting pot alive and well almost a century later, amidst the original architecture and backdrop of tenements and storefronts- magnificent! And after you take in the picture as a whole, you begin to notice the colors, the details, the individual groupings of people; some shopping or running errands, others casually strolling, a grandmother doting on her grand kids, while the sons of a recent immigrant ponder the whole massive, whirling mayhem- as it has always been.

Alas, this scene has considerably changed this past decade, the bargain storefronts that served a century of new arrivals have succumbed to designer boutiques and trendy restaurants- not far from this intersection an entire corner has been transformed into mock french village storefronts (what the?). The crowds are more sedate, more monied, more homogenized.

That was my NY, the one without air conditioned subway cars in the tropical heat of July, the one with Jimmy Breslin writing about its everyday working people in The NY Daily News, the one where the Pan Am building was still named... the Pan Am building, the NY that's being consigned to yet another page of history with every passing day- photos like the above bring it (and us) back to life. Damn, I want a chocolate egg cream...


10 comments:

Eric Rose said...

When you looked at that picture for the first time I bet you could smell the street.

Stan B. said...

Still can...

Mark Page said...

And now Stan after this tiptop post so can I. I've never been, scared it won't be as cool as the NY in my head.

Stan B. said...

Few things ever are- but NY, NY will always be worth a look/see...

Eric Rose said...

Went there once on business and this guy in the middle of the meeting asked me if I could speak "Canadian" for him. So I looked at him and said I would if he would speak "Americanize" for me. Took him a few seconds to clue in. His buddies made him buy rounds all night for being such a putz.

Stan B. said...

That he was- but seems it paid off nicely.

Sharyn said...

love the picture Stan of Lower East Side 1980 - remember we went there

Stan B. said...

Love it and remember it well- and your father worked just down the street...

Ken Schles said...

Did I ever run into you? I moved into the EV/Loisaida in '78... see some more pix here--Didn't realize you were in the 'hood. http://www.kenschles.com/Books/ICBook/IC01.html
Cheers!

Stan B. said...

May be, Ken- may be... And Congrats on the book!

Once I was walking down St. Marks between 1st & A, hungover as hell on a Sunday morning, crossed the street in the middle of the block (right by the pope) and realize I'm having this stare down with this guy just inches away coming in the opposite direction who looks like Tom Waits on a very bad day. It was like a slow motion, Wild West show down with tumbleweeds blowing by. Of course, only later when I actually saw a picture of him did I realize- it was him, probably thinking, "I'm Tom Waits, who the fuck are you!?"