Thursday, August 20, 2020

Walking Further on My Street

 Last year I wrote about my neighborhood and this sign at 254 West 12th.


It says,
“If we all do one random act of kindness daily
 we might just turn things around.” 
Martin Kornfeld.


A few weeks ago I noticed a new addition;


The new one says, 
"You don't have to love just don't hate."

I think that's setting the bar too low.
This week I noticed another sign.


It says, 
"Whatever your color you have certain feelings about the others. 
 Recognize them and get rid of them." 

Village people let you know where they stand.

Next, we come to the Village Den, our neighborhood coffee shop for years before it was remade into a vegan/vegetarian cafe. 
Eating lunch in midtown years ago I recognized the waitress and said to her,
"I remember you from the Village Den!  My husband had coffee there every day with our son before nursery school." 
She gave me a long look and said,
"I remember your husband--toasted English, butter on the side."  
Don't you love New York?

Next, in the triangle made by the intersection of West 12th Street, Greenwich Avenue, and Seventh Avenue we see...



The Aids Memorial, made of intersecting steel triangles. The Triangle is a fitting motif. In the Nazi concentration camps, gay people were forced to wear pink triangles, just like the yellow stars forced on Jewish people. 
Across the street is the late lamented St. Vincents Hospital, 1845-2010. In 1984 St. Vincent's opened the first and largest AIDS ward on the east coast and became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. 


The triangles make lovely shadows on the ground, where Jenny Holser has organized Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass into carving on the pavement.

this section says,

"Failing
 to fetch me at first
keep encouraged, 
missing me one
place search
 another, I stop 
somewhere
waiting
for you"

In 1911 the survivors of the Titanic were brought here.  And in 1912, survivors of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were brought here. It's a historic place of healing and solace.  
Contrary to Greenwich Village rumor, Edna St Vincent Millay was not born here; her uncle, very ill, recovered here and her parents gave her the name in gratitude.

Now the hospital is gone, replaced by yet another luxury high-rise and we have a beautiful park.  



The park is lovely, but I miss St. Vincent's.  My most vivid memory of September 11 is walking past and seeing a row of gurneys covered in clean white sheets, standing by the open doors, waiting to help. 
The hospital is gone, the victim of debt and mismanagement, but I hope our spirit of reaching out and helping each other is still strong.
Continue to stay safe, wash your hands, and wear your mask.

5 comments:

  1. Around 1987, my friend, M, was admitted to St. Vincents Hospital. He was symptomatic for AIDS. I recall I was scared to visit with him but his partner said to me that I should go and ask questions of M and GMHC would be visiting. So I sat on the end of M's bed and we talked. There was a knock and when I opened the door, M's tray of food was on the floor. I was shocked beyond belief. I picked up his tray and brought it to him and he smiled but knew it was going to be a painful road. Happily, a volunteer from GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis) did show up and I asked many questions, got a lot of information and eventually, I became a volunteer at GMHC over a period of many years. My life was forever changed! I served dinners, washed dishes (sprayed others with the hose!), wore wigs and danced around the tables and entertained a wonderful group of people - volunteers, paid staff and clients. I joined others - writers, directors, actors and we provided play readings and my life was enriched! Oh yes, I had open-house at my home for Christmas; wonderful Christmas tree decorating parties, I still have all of those beautiful decorations. What an immensely profound time in my life that will be with me always!

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  2. Thanks for that walk down memory lane, Barbara. St. Vincent's was on my path to church from that subway station. I, too, remember those gurney's after 9/11. That Sunday after the attacks, I also remember how packed the church was. Crammed into the pew I was sitting in was a nurse from St. Vincents in her scrubs. We held hands as she wept through the entire service. I had never seen her before and have never seen her again.

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    Replies
    1. Oh, Suzanne,
      What a day that was. And just think, it was Jon Walton's first week on the job. The service of mourning and rembrance the evening of the first day was extraordinary. I still have the printed sermon.

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  3. I so enjoy your illustrated walks and talks, and look forward to some in real time and space as well.
    The Rattlestick Theater had a brilliant multi-media production in 2018 called "Saint Vincent's Project: Novena For A Lost Hospital" that covered the fascinating history, heroes/heroines of the hospital and concluded with an audience walk to the site. You and your comment submitters make me hope they might do it again--and involve more personal remembrances.
    BTW, my parents when they lived on W.12th St. used to meet and eat in Brownie's in the late 1930's. It was the first vegan/vegetarian Village landmark which I'm sure after it's long run and since it's demise has come back as a coffee shop. What goes around comes back...tho hopefully not as a Starbuck's.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, June. Nice to know about that production. I wonder where Brownie's was?

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