Thursday, May 29, 2008

"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel...'

'...That's all, I don't even think of you that often."

-Leonard Cohen

There are a few downfalls to living in New York. There's nowhere to extend it. So things are consistently being built over...Or worse remaining and changing into something that isn't familiar at all...

Some weeks ago the influential(and ever important to Punk culture)location of the closed rock club CBGB's re-opened as a designer's store. Five hundred dollar jeans are being sold in a place where you could go as you were, see five bands for eight dollars (some bad, some good, some great), and get an eccentric learning experience from the bathrooms downstairs. I remember it well. I'm pleased I do.

Somehow five hundred dollar jeans just don't make the cut for me.

I'd rather be reading the grafitti.

And a few weeks later I headed off to Union Square in search of painting supplies at Utrecht. I was pleased with my find of painting but not with a few realizations.

The Lower East Side has been overrun by the NYU students (Some of the most loathed creatures...even by their own alumni)for years. In the past few, it's gotten worse. Recently they've knocked down a beautiful old church to hold all the little buggers. In fact, the place my dad lived...and then my mother lived with him...and where I later was conceived (Yes I will have a tour one day...It will be exceptionally dull for most!)which was just a run through Union Sq. to Andy Warhol's last studio, now is a dormitory for NYU students.

I was annoyed. Did they have to take over EVERYTHING?

As I thought about this I walked through Union Square and noticed something else. The artists all had yellow posters tagged to their carts...They were being forced out of Union Square! The city is attempting to force the artists out of Union Square. What is Union Square without the craft tables, artists,and the farmers market?



A month or so later today I was wrapping ceramic sculptures in old newspapers at work when the pinkish brown color of the New York Observer caught my eye. About a week old, the black block letters on the back read "Life And Death At The Chelsea". I like reading about the Chelsea Hotel. I'll even swing by their oft pretentious blog to read information. I disagree fully with their claim of being "The Last Outpost Of Bohemia" but I liked their interest of their own history and the preservation of the artists residing at the Chelsea today. Well, I thought they cared about the preservation of the artists.

However they too have succumbed to the "GREATER THINGS IN MONEY...I mean life. Life yes, not money. All about life. Life that gets much more expensive...Whoo whoo!

Now for anyone who doesn't really know about the Chelsea Hotel, the building was erected in 1883 and opened in 1884 as an inexpensive apartment co-op. In 1905 it went backrupt and a few years after that it was purchased and reopened as a hotel. In 1946 it was bought by the Bard family who the hotel belonged to for many years and generations until last year when Stanley Bard the usually beloved 72 year old manager was ousted by the board of directors. Which explains a lot of the changes that have been taking place.

The Chelsea Hotel has been home to many artists of all different mediums. It would be entirely useless to try and list just a few so I'll send to a Wikipedia page instead. Even in the last few decades it's remained a home for artists. The pricing has gone way, way up (Decades ago you could exchange a good painting you'd done as rent) because of the idea that you're "sleeping with history"...And yes there are quite a few spirits still living at The Chelsea in the respective rooms. They have been seen AND heard...Often. But still it was a home for "interesting folk" in New York City...And a great selling point for tourists.

Now they've been evicting people to make way for a cleaner, cooler, much more fabulous Chelsea Hotel. In other words the same derivative Hotel that can make lots of lots of cash...They just a few years.

One of the artists who is being threatened with eviction (and the topic of the Observer article) is a retired musician Jann Paxton who is also terminally ill with cancer, as well as numerous other ailments. He's also broke and in debt as the rates for the Chelsea have swiftly gone through the roof in a very short time. If evicted he feels he'll die very soon in a welfare hotel or shelter.

Money is money, and it's important. New York is expensive. If it isn't about what's right, can it be about what is fair?

Or even intelligent?

Lose the artists, lose the reason that The Chelsea stands out in anyway. There are many old buildings in New York...That doesn't mean people will stay in them. Especially if they're like everything else.

Lose the artists, lose The Chelsea.

What makes the Chelsea ISN'T about everything that's gone happened in the past. You can go many many places in this beautiful world and be standing right on top of history. EVERYTHING is history. What makes the Chelsea is the possibility of who could be there now and what could happen. And that you could be in the middle of it.

A few weeks ago I was walking through Alphabet City and mulling over the idea that I wouldn't have been walking so freely twenty years ago...And that it wouldn't be as clean and lovely looking in it's own way.

And I felt a little sad. As though I'd cheated. Where was the alphabet city of twenty years ago.

...And then I tripped over a used condom and felt a little better.

Oh well.

But at least I still remember the bathrooms at CBGB's.


Blogger Jamie said...

Welcome back to blogging.

Change when you are living it can be a major drag. It retrospect, it has a glory, tragedy, and philosophy all its own.

Michners "The Source" digs down through 15 cities all built one on top of another with the comings and goings of vastly different cultures.

The mysteries of Ian Rankin take place in the under, old, and new cities of Edinburgh, all built on top of each other.

We will not discuss the number of buildings I have known that have been crushed out of existence only to have some ugliness do a phoenix imitation in their place.

About all you can do is enjoy the scenery as it goes by.

29 May, 2008  
Blogger Jamie said...

Wake up!!! It's time to blog again. Came back after ages and realize that I have developed a Leonard Cohen addiction, so had to attach a comment on this post.

Love You,


08 February, 2010  

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