Friday, July 06, 2012

Memories of Christopher Street in New York in 1981

It is amazing that 31 years have passed since the time I am talking about. I remember the great wonder I felt when I first saw New York City in the later 1970's.  I was always a small town boy, I had lived in places so remote that we had our own well to drink from. That is not that uncommon, but to people in the city, it is as foreign as the moon. So I was more  used to quiet dirt roads and not the big city streets.  But seeing NYC was an experience, and one that I am not ever ready to give up on. I walked everywhere in the city to see this or that. One of the more fascinating areas was Christopher Street. I was there for the Gay Pride Parade in 1981. Oh how much the world has changed and that area has changed since those days of 30 plus years ago.

I recall the very warm friendly atmosphere that was all around. This was the age of pre-AIDS...What a different world it was then.  I went with a few friends and we decided to see and march in the parade.  I was terrified to do so, but they pushed me on and so I did   I am glad I did as so many of those friends of mine would be dead in but a few years from AIDS.  I remember Richard, Glen, Trixie, John and a few others...all gone. That brought about so many changes in the whole area and culture.

What I found most interesting about Christopher Street was the many shops that were on it as well as bars and clubs. It was alive 24/7.  People would walk in the middle of the street as it was always so crowded. You'd see people in all kinds of dress or dresses!  It was such fun and so unique and special. It was a time that just is no more.

We were dressed as to the time with Roach Clips and feathers. We would hang them off our ears belts and hair. The music played and many people danced in the streets. It was a special time.  I recall one shop that caught my attention, it was called the Erotic Bakery. By its title you can tell what the various baked goods looked like. It brought a whole new meaning to hard rolls. 

 As you worked your way down to the water you would see the overhead roadways that used to be there. That was where lots of people parked. Right there also were old dock houses that were a play ground for many in that area.  Also at this spot was where there were two old ships docked.  one was a liberty ship from World War 2 and was used as a boys school.  The other ship as I recall was pretty much not in use. I used to go and look at the ships there, although it was not the safest of areas. It was there you could buy any drugs, share time with people who you did not know but when you are all drinking and smoking it didn't really matter, and lastly it was something to see..although we did not know it then it was very soon going to disappear.

I walked around the Village a few weeks ago and tried to recall where things were and how it was.  It is hard to believe that Christopher Street is that same street from those 30 plus year old memories. All but a few bars are gone. All of the clubs are gone. The Erotic Baker  has long since vanished. The street is now frequented with baby carriages where once drag queens trotted. The docks are gone, replaced by a new playground area that includes walking lanes and bicycle lanes.  It is all so health related as when I was a kid no one thought of that. The dock buildings that were a playground for many were torn down in the mid 1980's. as were the over head roadways. 

As I walked the area the ghosts of my past came and went and smiled. I recalled the grating were we all sat at in 1981 drinking and smoking ...I see kids in it now having a health drink. I went by building after building I had known but now could hardly recognize. The world has changed so much from that time. People have changed so much from that time. I am still as I was. Which is probably one of my problems, but I am not changing.  Not too much at least. But what was then is no more and my memories give me a special view of what had been. When AIDS became fact and known. How the entire world changed. Perhaps the greatest barometer of that was Christopher Street.  

So I close this little bit of reflecting and remembering. It is interesting to walk in the places I had walked in 30 years earlier. I am not the same either, I would look stupid with Roach Clips and feathers. But part of me will always be there, perhaps joining my friends who have gone before me. Sitting on that grate having a hell of a good time.

Hey guys, I will always remember you .... Thanks for being my friends.