Sunday, June 12, 2011

Woody Allen Flick Update and Longing for My Golden Age: NYC 1978

If you're coming here from the lovely Maggie May Ethridge's blog, Flux Capacitor , because she mentioned my Woody Allen dilemma, thank you for joining me. (And thank you Miss Maggie. Wow, love that lady.)

So here's my Woody update. I did in fact go see the movie, Midnight in Paris.

It was wonderful. Especially if you're a literary junkie like I am, then you will fall in love it it. I mean, it's just remarkable. The movie is about nostalgia, and what happens if you visit another time period. Specifically, Owen Wilson (the Woody character) decides that the Golden Age of literature, when Hemingway and Fitzgerald were writing in Paris, was the best time. Like many of Woody's films, the line of reality is blurred -- Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali all make appearances. (Come to think of it, this era is probably when my grandfather met Dali - true story. Shameless self promotion, but I wrote about Dali wanting to paint my grandfather for Anderbo. You can read it here.)

It's original, funny, and it's SHOT IN PARIS. Sorry, there's nothing else I can tell you about my dilemma. I felt it. I wrote about it. And then I said, fuck it, and I enjoyed the movie.

Me, I'd love to go back to New York City, 1978. I was 8 years old at the time, but I wish I had been a rough and tough 19/20 year old hanging out at Max's Kansas City. Checking out Blondie. Seeing the Police. Bangin' my head around to the Ramones and the Talking Heads at CBGB's. Living the life of a poor broke ass artist/writer in NYC.

Crosby Street in 1978. Jesus, look at the street.

Why do I want to live in New York at this time? Why do I see this as the golden age? It makes no sense really. New York City was dirty, corrupt, bankrupt, dangerous place at that time. Rats and garbage in the street. People doing a max exodus to the suburbs. But there's something so raunchy and real. Something about living in a place no one wanted to be. That you were literally living on the edge when you were there. It forms you, that kind of place. It forces you to make decisions. Not like all these options I have now living in the suburbs.

I have fantasies of me and a boyfriend shacking up in an old loft in Soho. Maybe traveling uptown to see a Yankee's game for 10 bucks or whatever it cost then (even at the cost of getting a tomato thrown at your head, because that's really what Yankee's fans used to do if the boys played the game poorly. Fans threw fucking tomatoes.) Maybe taking a graffiti-riddled subway uptown to search for John and Yoko and instead seeing these people (in the photo above). This doesn't go on today in Central Park! Now the park is filled with nannies and crying kids!

What's funny is that I lived in Manhattan in 1989. My mother left our town in New Jersey right after I graduated high school and we booked our asses to the Upper West Side. Shakespeare & Co., the bookstore was there, just before Barnes & Nobles pushed it out. (Read Thomas Beller's essay on that here.) New York City was still in great transition. The Upper West Side had only "become" the Upper West Side about five years prior. It was Spanish Harlem until 1984! In fact, we didn't call the Lower East Side the Lower East Side. No, that was Alphabet City. As in You In Danger, Girl. They didn't take I.D.s' down there. Crack dealers on the street, for real. I remember wearing a college sweatshirt one night at a bar on Avenue B and my girlfriend saying, I wish you hadn't worn that sweatshirt. 

Guiliani had just become mayor and was beginning to do his clean up of the city, and for better or for worse, but probably for the better, he certainly cleaned it up. I was so unhappy living there at 20/21 that I left pretty soon after graduating college and moved to San Francicso.

Would it have really been so romantic for me to live in NYC in 1978? Maybe not.  But wow, it sure feels nice to dream about another time. Doesn't it?


  1. I was 18 in 1978, went to Max's and CB's etc. My memory was that all those legendary musicians had moved on by then and most people were much older than me. It wasn't really a youthful scene. It was still amazing compared to now, but what made it amazing were all the people who never got famous. It was a big, concentrated, underground- unbelievable freedom and self-expression. I think you probably would have wanted to be in your 20's by the early 70's to really catch or be involved in the beginnings.

    However- NYC in 1978 was real from ground up. It was amazing beyond what you can probably imagine if you weren't there. Today NYC is artificial from top down. Uncultured and soul-dead rich people are setting the agenda. In 1978 there was an infra-structure to support starving artists from not having to drain their souls in office cubicles 40 hours/week, work on their art instead and get it out there. Guliani and Reagan systematically removed that infra-structure. Gentrification was the final nail in the coffin. Artists need a cheap and stable neighborhood to live in, cross pollinate and to work on their art.

  2. Hi Andi,
    You were my golden age! And maybe... it wasn't so golden. Yep, totally agree with you about today's NYC (even though it's still my favorite place to be.) There's some give and take to re-gentrification though. My kids love Central Park. This is not a place we really could have spent hours wandering through paths and roaming around in 1978. My mother is moving out of the city after 20 years because its just too damn expensive. Such a sad thing that Manhattan has pushed out the middle class, but you're right.

    Thanks for commenting.


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