Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Resurrection: NYC 1982

(Photo by emilydickinsonridesabmx at flickr/creativecommons)

As New Yorkers on Twitter greeted each other earlier today with steamy good mornings and jokes about the heatwave turning commutes into a "walking through warm Jello-O" experience, Jermiah's Vanishing New York sent me back to a pre-Global Warming version of our city with words and images about a New York I once knew.

That's where I read an interview with photographer Dan Weeks, a man who captured panoramic images of 1982 Manhattan right before that version of the city disappeared. His project, Street View New York 1982, presents a city that Jeremiah Moss describes in his blog as one "of delis, dry cleaners, and hardware shops. Of greasy diners, stationery stores, and donut pubs." East Side and Mid-Town cityscapes and stretches of long-lost Upper West Side storefronts appear as if resurrected from memory in black and white, colors that spike their nostalgic effect. The work is remarkable.

For anyone who is new to the city, the photos might inspire a yearning for or a curiosity about life in New York as it once was. For those of us who have deep roots in a past that was erased from existence, prepare for a sting. The look back is bittersweet.

Everything that you'll want to read about Street View New York 1982 is here and the images you won't want to miss seeing are here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Manhattan's Little Sex Island

If you see the words "romance" and "Meatpacking District" in the same sentence you just have to take a closer look. That's exactly what I did when Liberty Inn followed me on Twitter today. The name immediately brought to mind images of a bed & breakfast where George Washington might have slept, a pewter mug at his bedside. In fact, Liberty Inn is what the New York Times once referred to as an unabashed "little sex island" where 1970s-style New York City debauchery and decor still reign.

Apparently, Liberty Inn is extremely popular. Words like "romantic," "impeccably clean," and "sparkling" live side-by-side in reviews of the hotel with words like "raunchy" and "fun." One guest gave the by-the-hour 'love hotel' a humour-filled rave on Yelp, complaining only about the long Cheesecake Factory lines that form along West 15th street on busy nights. A visit to the hotel web site offered a bit of colorful history.

Liberty Inn was once the notorious Anvil Club where naked go-go boys danced and drag queens ruled the stage. In 1908, it was the Strand Hotel, serving as "a rough and tumble boarding house for sailors." It was a speakeasy during the Prohibition era, then a go-go bar through the 60s and finally it became the Anvil where seedy doings took place in passageways and where dancer Felipe Rose was recruited to join The Village People. The club closed in 1986 at the height of the AIDS outbreak.

I love that New York has an endless supply of surprises and stories to offer anyone who bothers to peek around corners...even when those corners have been scrubbed to a shine. Next time you walk the High Line or shop The Meatpacking district's newest boutiques, consider stopping into Liberty Inn for a look and a brochure. You never know...