During the boom years in New York, the city became somewhat unrecognizable to those of us who arrived in the very early 80s when it was just starting to climb out of its 1970s "Prez to City: Drop Dead" period. The trains were terrible - late, dirty, always breaking down. I remember the conductor of the N train saying "This is an N train, N like in Nicotine", which did seem the most appropriate way to describe it at the time. There were many homeless people living on the streets and the neighborhood around my school was dangerous in a way that seemed thrilling to my 19 year old self - full of squatters and drug dealers but also of underground clubs, cheap bars and restaurants and store front galleries. It was a grubby, run down place but it was a place that had possibilities.
With the financial boom, those possibilities became realities, I suppose, to some, but they were people who had lots of money and their ideas about what was possible were different from mine. The Bowery, where my school is located, has become a glitzy avenue of wealth, amazingly enough. The East Village and Lower East Side have become a playground for young and wealthy Europeans. Or, they were that before it all fell apart. In a rather shockingly quick amount of time, I have been seeing glimpses of "old New York". I'm not saying this a good thing or that it isn't revealing of a high level of human suffering. No, I know the economic collapse is hitting the most vulnerable among us first and hardest so it is nothing to cheer about. But I would be lying if I said it didn't bring out a wee bit of nostalgia in me.
So, with a hat tip to Marilee for bringing this to my attention, I offer up this optimistic bit of old, pre-AIDS, pre-crack cocaine, pre-boom New York, with all the possibilities it inspired among the rubble.