I had a couple of recording sessions yesterday around Union Square and as I was walking around the neighborhood, a wave of memories washed over me.
It's a strange feeling to have lived in essentially the same place for your entire life. Sometimes when you look at something you can feel like you're looking at it through various plates of glass. The first view might be today. The second might be ten years ago, the third plate might reveal images from twenty years ago, or thirty, and through yet another plate, you might see the location as you saw it when you were a little boy and being hauled around town by your old man or old lady.
Along Broadway in the high-teens, I saw the gabled window on the top the old peaked roof of a late 19th-century building. The building my office was in was connected to the old Arnold Constable Building at 111 Fifth Avenue, built between 1894 and 1895.
I worked in that office for 20 months back in 1988 through 1990. My room was a big spacious place with a sofa and two windows. Better, it was far away (almost a full-block) from the front of the office where my two bosses sat.
While my bosses liked me, I was less-than-enamored with them. They were both in the Advertising Hall-of-Fame, yet they seemed to have lost almost all enthusiasm for the business. I was hoping to learn advertising from them. What I learned instead was to run down to the Strand at nearly every lunch hour and buy old awards annuals for about $10 a pop.
The Strand (their slogan back in the '80s was "eight miles of books," today, the miles measure 18) is a huge old used bookstore down on Broadway and 12th Street. Up on the second floor they had a graphics section where over the years, I collected probably 75 annuals.
Like so much of New York today as opposed to 30 years ago, the Strand has been scrubbed clean. There are more new books than ever before and used books, where you can pick up something rare or a bargain, are relegated to the fringes of the store or the basement.
The Old Town Bar down 18th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South, is still standing and still looks much the same as it did back when I used to go there for a burger and a beer.
Prices are a lot more expensive today, of course, but the old place seems to have kept its deprecating sense of humor. Just nine years ago, Old Town celebrated the 100th Anniversary of their genuine Hinsdale urinals. They are the oldest working Hinsdales in New York, as reported in "The Village Voice," "Bon Appetit" magazine, "The Wall Street Journal," and other esteemed media outlets.
So, I guess you could say some things change. While urinals stay roughly the same.
I gotta go.