Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York. Then and now.

There's a new book that has just come to my attention called "New York in Color" photographs of New York edited by Bob Shamis. The photo that illustrated the write-up on the book in "The New York Times" really brought me back to less sanitized days.

In the 70s, New York had really jumped the rails. We were averaging nearly 6 murders a day and it seemed we were never more than a blackout away from having a riot.

I was in high school during some of these years. I remember playing the outfield during a game against another school. The field was rutted and worn. A bankrupt New York had no money for playing fields. I remember a couple of guys coming up to me while the game was going on and trying to sell me drugs. I remember working nights and coming home to my small apartment at 3 in the morning with my keys woven between my fingers. Protection, however slight, against being mugged.

Nothing seemed to work in those days. The subways had no air-conditioning in the summer and no heat in the winter. They were as covered in ink as an ambitious hipster.

Of course, New York even during its descent into hell was still New York. It still had a fury, a life and a beauty that I've never seen matched. Gordon Parks captured a bit of that in here:

I'm not really nostalgic about the days of fear in New York. I like the city as safe. I like that things seem somewhat in control these days. I don't miss the fires in the Bronx, the sky high murder rate and the live sex shows on 42nd Street.

A local New York public radio station is running a promotion called Beethoven Appreciation Month. They have posted this around town. It's a very different place today.


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