Friday, April 29, 2011

Transient facade

I went to a talk at the Tenement Museum last night on The Archaeology of Home by Katharine Greider. Her story tells the history of her former home on E 7th Street and also weaves in the social and physical history of the neighborhood, city, and country at large.  Something Ms Greider said in her talk struck a chord with me: she mentioned the home as a facade, where one idea of 'home' is presented publicly, but another idea, or reality, of 'home' exists within.

photo: My Flickr

When I first moved into my tenement apartment, I wondered about those who'd lived there before me and was curious about its history.  Who were the original tenants?  How many people lived in my tiny space?  Was anyone born there or did anyone die?  What happened to all the previous tenants?  Did they move on to bigger an better things?  Did they like living here?  Was it socially respectable to live at this address?

Downstairs, a ghostly name plate adorns the wall:

None of these names are current and no one has any memory of any of them.  The apartment numbers themselves are a mystery - there are some numbers missing and there is one that doesn't even exist.  In a storage closet under the stairs, I found another hand-written list of tenants that was apparently kept by a past super.  He'd crossed out names and written in new ones as the occupants came and went.  I only recognized two names on that list and none of the above are on it, so this name plate goes back many years, possibly decades.

Uncovering the actual history of the building has been quite difficult as the building is not notable in any way and the building records have either been lost or are archived out of my reach.  I've only recently discovered who the occupants were in 1900, a century before I settled in, yet I still don't know if this address was a permanent home for those people or just a temporary landing place in the city so they could get a foothold and move on to something else.  I do know the owner of  the building in 1900 died a short time later in Brooklyn, so even she did not live out her days here.

When I came to live in this building, it was meant to be a short stay, a few months at the most.  I resisted settling in too much or fully unpacking as I might have to leave at any moment.  A decade later, I still have a packed suitcase...and I've never put my name on the mail box.  So, when does a mere dwelling become a home?  Does a home need to be nicely furnished or full of memorabilia?  I have never had an affection for my building, but I am definitely attached to it.  Sometimes, I feel like its defender.  As gentrification and development encroach on the surrounding area, I'm more likely to fight to preserve this building rather than abandon it for a more modern residence.

The building, in a sense, is my facade.  I can live behind it and call myself a New Yorker, East Villager, Lower East Sider...but these titles belong to the building, not necessarily to me.  My existence outside the building can be something else entirely, but when I want to feel secure - feel myself - I go home, and home is here.

Can you see the man in the photo above?  I see him every time I climb the stairs and am reminded that, although I may call this place home now, many others have shared this same space and claimed it as their own.  I like to think this is the spirit of the building, its past, present and future - and I never step on him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter at Mars

I popped into Mars Bar this last Sunday for the new, and possibly last, art show and barbecue.  I was (happily) shocked as I walked in to see the room not only jam-packed, but full of so many people I know.  It struck me then that this is what I'll miss most of all - a place where, at any given time, I can go and find friends and acquaintances, and pick up our conversation right where we previously left off. Some I'd not seen in months, but time flies out the window here and minutes can turn into hours, as a lifetime can slip away inside a fairy hill.

Last Easter at Mars

I think this is the most new art I've ever seen for a show.  Be sure to drop by and check it out - it's a great collection, too much for me to show here (and better to see in person anyway).

Last Easter at Mars

The best work of all, though, was this cake hand-decorated by Marty.


What a masterpiece.  After a couple of hours, it looked like this:


Let's see, we've got beer, money, rib bones, chocolate eggs, matches, plates, a straw...I hear it was pretty tasty, too.

A good time was had by all and it makes me sad to think about losing such an unrestrained, fun and creative place.  The drinks are just a bonus.

Be sure to check out more photos from the day at Marty After Dark and Nadie Se Conoce.

While we're on the subject of Mars
Is there life after Mars?

More of my Mars pics can be found here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

Have a very happy Easter...

Happy Easter


...and if you're in need of entertainment and good company, come on out to Mars for a new art show. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More signs of spring

Along with all the trees and flowers, April showers are enabling other creatures to emerge from their pods...




Friday, April 15, 2011


Nothing says 'Spring' to me like the color pink.  After this last 300-day winter, I say it's time to break out the pink and make Spring happen.

Pink poppies
Stuyvesant Square

Guess Where?
5th Street


11 Spring
Lady Pink

Wooster & Spring
Wooster & Spring

Pink dreams

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sad lamp

While walking down West Broadway in the rain the other morning, I was stopped dead in my tracks by this...

Left out in the rain

...and was immediately reminded of this commercial directed by Spike Jonze:

Direct YouTube link.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April fool

It's been one of those weeks.  One of those unnecessarily crazy weeks where I begin to wonder if Alan Funt is playing a big joke on me from beyond the grave.

Bozo and friends

Although there hasn't been one particular event to push me to the edge, there have been a series of small annoyances - death by a thousand cuts, if you will.  If I re-hash every single one, this post will drag on for days, so here are some highlights:
Sleep deprivation brought on by a partner who snores, followed by nights spent sleeping on a couch that is much too small. 
Stumbling around barefoot in the dark to get to said couch, stepping in some well-placed cat barf. 
Discovering there is no hot water and the shower is flooding the downstairs apartment.  Take a day off work to supervise the plumber. 
Every time I turn on a lamp, the bulb burns out.  Are they timed to do this?? 
Captain Snore gets up in the night and knocks my cosmetics into the toilet...then flushes!  When the kitchen tongs prove to be too short to retrieve what's halfway down the drain, someone is forced to use their bare arm...then scrub it with bleach and anything else that will remove that tainted layer of skin.  Go to the hardware store and get a crash course in toilet-augering.  (By the way, the guys at Ace on First Ave and 4th Street are the best!)
Get hit by a car.  Really!  Not serious, but a harrowing experience nonetheless. 

As I see it, there's only one to blame for this bad luck...

Moon over the East Village

Happy Friday, everyone.  Enjoy the snow...