Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Old Neighborhood

Things are constantly changing in New York. There's no way to predict it and it seems to happen in the blink of an eye. New high-rise apartment buildings go up over night. Stores close with no warning and new ones open in their stead. Even seemingly venerable institutions of the city can fall victim to a cruel real estate market and the whirlwind pace of the city. It's all part of the urban experience I suppose. But still, whenever I lose another favorite restaurants or grocery I can't help but mourn the loss a little bit.

When I came home from my two months away in Europe at the beginning of the summer, I found my favorite Korean grocer, which always had wonderfully fresh produce and sold a beautiful selection of fresh cut flowers out front that could rival that of a high end florist, had closed. Gone. One day a thriving business with people streaming in and out at all hours, the next--empty. Walking by the darkened storefront on the way to the subway, I think of the dozens of things I bought there over the years--flowers for a Christmas centerpiece or for my sister in the hospital when she had her baby. White Georgia peaches for a crisp I brought to a dinner party, rosemary for a recipe, dozens of cans of dog food for Sadie, the dog I lost almost two years ago.

This affect is even more noticeable to me in my old neighborhood of the West Village. I lived right in the heart of it on Christopher Street for seven years. That little pocket of the city west of Seventh Avenue to the river, slightly askew from the rest of the city, will always have sentimental meaning to me. It wasn't even my first apartment in the city, but it was my first home. I still use the same drug store and barber shop down there just to have an excuse to go back at least once a month. Even though a lot of it has changed in the six years I've lived uptown, there are a few fixtures of the neighborhood I thought I'd take the time to document before they, too, are erased by time.

Below is a shot of the little barber shop on Christopher where Richard, my barber, has been cutting my hair for over ten years--he also keeps me posted on all the neighborhood gossip.

Next is a shot of The Leatherman, a store that has been around since Christopher Street's heyday as the center of gay culture. It still attracts its share of both gawkers and real leathermen alike. The Leatherman is known the world over for its quality custom work. I mean--if you're into that sort of thing.

Next is the Duplex--a staple of the cabaret scene in Manhattan. There is live music nightly in the bar on the street level and upstairs is an intimate cabaret space. This location at Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street is actually its second home. The original Duplex was located on Grove Street between Seventh Avenue and Bleecker.

Speaking of Grove Street, next is a shot of my favorite block on that street. Just east of Hudson the street makes a gentle curve for no apparent reason. It's just one of those quirks that makes it the Village.
Next, The Stonewall bar was the site of the famous Stonewall riots in 1969 which was the catalyst for the gay rights movement in America. A sad sign of the times though, it recently closed and you'll notice in the photo below the space is for rent.
Finally, an establishment that seems to stand the test of time decade after decade in this prime location on one of the busiest corners in the village is Village Cigars.

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At 3:46 PM, Blogger headbang8 said...

The Stonwall, closed? I'm surprised there uwasn't some sort of campaign for its preservation. It's an historic landmark. I wonder...can it be made into a museum?


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