Friday, October 22, 2010

I have been to New York City maybe a dozen times since that first trip. Judy was accepted into the Bard MFA program, so that meant the next three summers were spent between Tivoli and an un-air conditioned house swap at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene, followed by reading tours, openings, reviewing, collaborations…

During those years I witnessed the relocation of private art galleries from SoHo to Chelsea, with some of those galleries growing to monstrous proportions, while others, like Murray Guy, remaining small and integral. When Dia closed (or relocated to Beacon) I, like many others, sensed a shift, with Chelsea suddenly an industrial park, too big for the artist studios that put it on the map.

Another rise and fall was Brooklyn’s Williamsburg. Like Silverlake in Los Angeles, Williamsburg emerged organically, an alternative to hegemonic Manhattan, only to fall prey to its success with the arrival of speculators, franchises and juggernauts like the expansionist New York University, one of Manhattan’s biggest landlords. But with gentrification came “new” neighbourhoods, one of which was the once untrendy (at least when I was there) Fort Greene.

My best visits to NYC included stops at Scotty Hard’s, his apartment at Kent Avenue, in Williamsburg, and later the one at Long Island City, across the street from P.S. 1. I loved those visits – the two of us shopping and cooking dinner, meeting at his studio in SoHo, where he recorded bands like Madeski, Martin and Wood, before decamping to his friend’s Metropolitan Avenue bar, Black Betty’s.

It has been three years since I was last in NYC. Not sure why that is. There have been opportunities, but they always conflict with what I am up to. One reason could be that the very things I liked about the city have ceased to exist. Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg have had a hand in that, giving corporations, not people, the keys. Another might be a change of habit, like when someone quits drinking. You only get one chance to visit New York City for the first time.

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