While rummaging around in the basement, I found a plastic storage box containing my journals from when I first moved to New York City as a young buck [mumble-mumble] years ago. 1,000+ single-spaced type-written pages and a bunch of hand-written books. There’s stuff in there I don’t want My Bride or Daughters to read so I am of a mind to destroy them. But every time I try, I start reading and get sucked in.
Here’s an excerpt. It’s interesting from an historical standpoint, both mine and in regards to the city. We’re both much different people now. I dedicate this post to all the New Yorkers who bitch and moan about gentrification. Forget your misty watercolored memories. This is the way it was.
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March 10, 1993
I saw some horrific things on the way home this evening. If anyone in my family saw even ONE of these, they’d hog tie me, throw me in the trunk and drag my ass back to Ohio.
I got off the F train at Second Avenue and walked east on Houston. I passed Orchard Street and saw two black guys standing uncomfortably near a parked car. I got closer and saw a white guy sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the passenger door. He had a hypodermic needle in one hand and was trying to remove the cap with his other hand. His hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t grip it. How does he expect to inject himself?! Maybe that’s what the two dudes were there for. As I walked by, I heard him tell the black guys, “I’m from Amsterdam, you know.” It was 4:00 in the afternoon in broad daylight! There were people everywhere! I walked on.
I was waiting at the light to cross Essex and I saw a homeless guy on the other side of the street sitting on the ground, completely hidden under a filthy blanket. It was cold and wet out and the blanket looked heavy and damp. I felt awful for him. The light changed and as I crossed the street and got closer, I could see he was shaking. As I walked past him, I looked down at the heap and could tell that the shaking wasn’t from the cold. He was masturbating. In an instant, my sympathy dissolved into disgust.
Then I was waiting for the light to change at Suffolk Street and the guy in the car in front of me was getting a blow job! A girl was in the passenger seat bent over the shift console. The light turned and he drove away with a big stupid grin on his face. Guess what I felt that time? Envy.
The bums were kind of staggering around as usual. I passed the pay phone a half block from Clinton Street and out of the corner of my eye I could see there was a little kid using it. She was a little girl, about eight or nine years old. She was wearing a dirty pink winter coat that had a hood with a fake fur lining. She had the phone off the hook and was holding it up against the ear of her Barbie doll. In this sea of ugly humanity, this poor child was playing with her doll. She doesn’t stand a chance. She’ll be eaten alive.
Why, in God’s name, did I leave Fort Greene? Brooklyn was great! South Portland is a beautiful street. Even though I was the only white guy on the block I felt, at best, welcomed and if not that, at least tolerated. I’ll never feel close to the idiots who live in this shithole neighborhood. What was I thinking?
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The modern day irony is that today, that same apartment, those same streets, are well outside my range of affordability. I couldn’t move back there even if I wanted to. Other, less dreary, posts pilfered from my journals can be seen here, here, here and here.
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My semi-annual visits to Cleveland to see my family have taken on a whole new and fabulous dimension since a casino opened in the heart of downtown. They took a once-elegant department store and filled it with liquor and gambling. Huzzah! I took this clandestine photo of the dealer relieving me of $20, simply because there was an unfavorable roll of the dice. What nerve! Good-bye money. Now, that’s entertainment.