Monday, September 9, 2013

Dear Time-Travel Machine(s): Don’t Even Think About Sending Me Back to the ‘80s

In the late 2000s, an older native Manhattanite told me I would have loved living in the New York of the ‘70s. Whatever. She has also maintained that any native New Yorker who bumps into me would be able to tell I’m not from here, which was a far greater compliment than the ’70s pitch.

I doubt I would have done many cartwheels around this town in the ‘80s, what with the menaces including but not limited to: broad-daylight armed muggings; burglarized apartments; a much less visitor- and commuter-friendly Times Square; and Daddy Reagan lurking fewer than 250 miles to the south. There was also quite an AIDS outbreak, as the historical society’s “AIDS in New York” exhibit drives home. The New York Historical Society is my fourth-favorite local museum. Its exhibits are wonderfully curated and it’s on my route home from work. I’m waiting for someone to take me on a dinner date in the fine-looking ground-floor restaurant that sits across from the gift store, where elegant scarves and jewelry are sold near the quill pens I always almost buy. I still sulk about having missed the Society’s 2010 Grateful Dead show, but that upset was all the motivation I needed to start investigating and memorizing the opening and closing dates of all exhibits that seem up my ‘70s-tinted alley.

I’m not minding the New York of the 2010s. I can haunt Manhattan’s streets by myself at any hour of the night without feeling unsafe. It’s now possible to get a Shake Shack cheeseburger two avenues from my office or around the corner from the Society, instead of having to traipse downtown. And Studio 54 lives on. I’ve seen a marvelous production of Waiting for Godot in there with the elder stateswoman from paragraph one, who evidently haunted Studio 54 back when it was really the setting for some of the city’s most gripping theatrical performances.    

6 comments:

  1. As one who has lived in New York through the 70s, 80s, 90s, and, now, the 10s, I have distinctive memories of the 80s. The biggest memory is of crack vials littering the streets. It was painful to watch my then-three-year-old daughter crunching crack vials as she walked along the sidewalk. She thought they were little doll-house toys and wanted to pick them up and play with them. I had to be constantly vigilant to prevent that, especially as she was still of the age to put things in her mouth. Yes, the 80s, the age of greed and death-by-sex: Plato's Retreat, Studio 54, gay baths,the surfacing of AIDS in NYC, and the movie "Wall Street." Too bad it wasn't the death OF greed, instead of the death of human beings.

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  2. I like the thought though... of being able to go back and experience the best of a place at a specific time. I'm sure NYC is more safe today... but I wonder if natives feel like its lost some of its "authenticity"...

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  3. Okay, Midwest ignorance here. You can walk alone at any hour of the night and feel safe?

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    1. Totally! But I wouldn't (and you shouldn't) do so in Cleveland anytime soon...

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  4. Heh, thank you for the chortle. I remember as a kid the stories of "dangerous and crime-riddled NYC"...it's made quite the transition. (Incidentally, do you know any good docos about 70s and 80s NYC?)

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    1. Here's one:

      Blank City (2010) looks back at the 1970s, when Manhattan provided the rat, drug, and crime infested home to burgeoning musicians and artists. Interviews with greats like John Waters, Steve Buscemi, Deborah Harry, and Jim Jarmusch shed light on how the DIY movement's seeds were planted and able to grow in this gritty, madness-fueled atmosphere.

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