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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brian part 2

I was recalling an evening in the "East Village" today which was spurred by seeing someone's immediate Facebook location needlessly displayed for all to see on Facebook.
The eveningin question I had taken the train into Manhattan I recall from Queens, where Antoinette and I were crashing with her sister Peggy after our return from Jamaica. This was 1982 and my brother Brian was living between friends' flats in the East Village and Brooklyn. We met up near the 8th Street Playhouse
that lost treasure of a neighbourhood movie house where I saw my first Jean-Pierre Melville films under advice from the late great Andrew Sarris who was then the film critic of the Village Voice in its heyday

What was nice in those times was that the crowds on 8th Street and Greenwich Village in general thinned out in the evening as you proceeded eastward (the opposite of Horace Greeley's exhortation!) and as you passed First Avenue you were away from the tourists, bridge-and-tunnelers, and other non-resident downtown revelers and entered a real New York neighbourhood. Brian suggested we eat over at the Odessa on Avenue A
In those times the Odessa fed emigrés from Eastern Europe the food from back home at diner prices and we had pot roast with gravy and pierogies for like 4 bucks. We then went up Avenue A to a bar near 10th Street that had a jukebox with a terrific selection of old R&B and rock and roll.We had a beer or two and then crossed over and stood in the park and burnt some rope as was our wont in those days.

Our former block of E.3rd Street.

Tompkins Square Park and the streets around it were nearly deserted, this pre-dating the great homeless invasion brought about by Reagonomics and the ruthless gentrification of Manhattan by real estate interests.

The Joe Strummer mural memorial on what was King Tut's Wah Wah Hut bar w/yours truly.

Brian seemed glad to see me, glad I had come to hang out with him. He had been by this time suffering more and more from some inner angst or demon which could make him restless and of which his drug use, the heroin specifically was I now believe both a symptom and self-prescribed remedy. Brian was intelligent and perceptive and like most of my family extremely sensitive. He was that evening as usual well versed on almost every current topic culturally or socially - local news and international, music, books, film etc- and those that knew Brian knew he was a voracious and catholic reader and as likely to be carrying the Silver Surfer as William Burroughs under his arm or in his satchel and every time he changed addresses he left behind him a small library. In those times I saw him more than anyone else from our family and my trick was to limit my exposure to him so I could control my own sadness and feelings of impotence that grew inside me when I was around him.
His unease seemed to ebb and flow, sometimes Brian acted like he was hunted by or hiding from unseen agents-quiet, jittery, curt-but mostly he was easy to be around, good and interesting company, generous materially and spiritually.

This night was a good one, one that has stayed with me all these years, recalled many times over the years especially when we moved into that neighbourhood, Antoinette, Sean and me, and we witnessed first-hand the evolution and gentrification of the Lower East Side. In fact in a few short years I stood pushing Sean on the swings sweeping the crack vials and hypodermic needles aside with my Air Wear soles in almost the exact same spot, where the playground had been moved as a renovation of the park was under way.

Renovation of St Brigid's Famine Church under way, after the idiot Catholic Diocese tried to demolish it.

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