New York in the late seventies was run-down, crime-ridden, and affordable. We lived in the village; as many businesses had failed, people could rent one of the abundant industrial lofts in the neighborhood for a really cheap price. A friend of ours, a photographer, rented this massive space on Broadway near Waverley Place, and after moving in decided to throw a party. The party was a jolly affair: large crowd, lots of food, and great drugs. At one point it was announced that there would be entertainment. A somewhat well-known dancer called Marilyn would perform. I had met Marilyn a few times through friends and liked her a lot. Before she began she pulled me aside and said the following:
“Roy, at some point in the dance I want to do a striptease.”
“Really?” I said with growing interest.
“Yes. And need your help.”
This increased my interest.
“Watch the dance and when I nod at you, I want you to yell, ‘TAKE IT OFF. TAKE IT OFF!’”
“Are you sure?”
“Absolutely. Will you do it?”
The dance started and as the music got louder and faster, Marilyn twisted and danced in time. The crowd had gathered round in a large circle watching when Marilyn looked at me and nodded.
“TAKE IT OFF!” I yelled, “TAKE IT OFF!”
The next thing I remember was a blow to the gut and the feeling of flying through the air. After I landed two women started pummeling me.
“You sexist piece of shit!” exclaimed one while the other was twisting my arm.
“It’s men like you that make me sick.”
“But, but, but…” I gasped trying to catch my breath. But they were in no mood to listen. I just gave up and after a couple of kicks to my leg they walked away yelling that men are “PIGS!”
McSorley’s Ale House.
McSorley’s Ale House on East Seventh Street has been around for over 150 years. It was, in those days (1982), a somewhat run-down Irish bar, and perhaps still is. No frills, sawdust on the floor, simple food and beer. I had a factory on Bond Street, a few blocks away, and when a friend came to visit from Indianapolis, he asked me to take him for lunch to a “typical New York bar.” McSorley’s it had to be.
We sat down and the gruff waiter gave us a menu. He told us that the only drink available was McSorley’s ale. We ordered our food and I asked for an ale and Gary, my friend, ordered a diet Pepsi. The waiter left and returned shortly with 2 mugs of beer in each hand. He placed the 2 beers on the table in front of me and then moved over to Gary and dropped the 2 mugs from a height of about 10 inches. The beer splattered all over the table and, of course, Gary. The waiter walked away saying, “We only serve beer today!”
Union Square in New York, named for the union of Broadway and Bowery streets, has a storied history as a gathering place for rallies and protests. In the center of what is now a lovely park is a statue of George Washington. I never realized this when I lived there, as it was a park to be avoided. I would often pass on the periphery but never through it, as it was known in the late seventies to be a place for heavy drugs and crime. One day as I was crossing Sixteenth Street, a woman caught my eye. She was wearing a maid’s outfit and was half standing, half crouching in a puddle of water. She was apparently stoned, as she seemed to be defying gravity with her almost imperceptible sway. I had seen this stance before in other drug addicts, an all too common sight in these days. It was a slow gyration that would topple a normal person but it was as if her feet were solidly affixed to the ground making this impossible. What really drew my attention was what she was holding in her hand. It was a white silk dress in a dry cleaner’s bag, the bottom of which was sitting in the dirty puddle. I was fascinated as I watched this thick, black, viscous fluid, slowly wicking its way up the body of the dress.
Christopher St. Pier.
At the bottom of Christopher Street there was a very decrepit pier that jutted into the Hudson River. Before Mayor Bloomberg cleaned up the waterfront, the West Side Highway abutted a conglomeration of run-down warehouses and piers. This was during the Ed Koch mayoralty. He was a jovial buffoon who would often be seen walking through Greenwich Village asking people, “How am I doing?” I once yelled back, “Lousy,” but to no avail. The city was poor so little renovation was attempted.
Nevertheless, New Yorkers are intrepid and on hot summer days, people would flock to the riverfront to catch rays and sometimes a breeze.
Christopher Street Pier was packed the day we visited. Lots of couples, mostly gay, lounging around, talking, playing music, eating, and smoking weed. My wife and I found a spot at the edge of the dock and sat down. The atmosphere was relaxed and the conversation convivial. Suddenly someone yelled, “Look over there!”
We all turned and floating in the water, ten feet from us, was a body. It was bobbing gently near the side of the pier with its empty eye sockets gazing upward. Someone called the police and within a short time a police launch arrived. Adding to the surrealism of the moment, lying on the side of the police boat was a second body that had obviously been recently pulled from the water. We all watched aghast as the policeman fished our body out of the water. When he pulled it out we saw that it was only half a corpse. Its hind quarters and legs were missing and as it was rescued, small fish and crabs poured out of the torso. An overpowering stench wafted over the pier and we gagged. Body retrieved, the launch sped away.
Unfazed as New Yorkers often are, we soon returned to our sunbathing and snacks.