Monday, October 28, 2013

Homage to Lou, Book Parties and Bike Yards

Some of my favorite moments in this city have involved riding my bike as the sun sets into the New York night, with Walk on the Wild Side or All the Young Dudes playing, floating through the evening air. 

you hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
oh, baby, you're so vicious

you want me to hit you with a stick
But all I've got is a guitar pick
huh, baby, you're so vicious

When I watch you come
baby, I just want to run far away
You're not the kind of person around I
want to stay

When I see you walking down the street
I step on your hands and I mangle your feet
You're not the kind of person that I want to meet

Oh, baby, you're so vicious
you're just so vicious

hey, you hit me with a flower
You do it every hour
oh, baby you're so vicious

hey, why don't you swallow razor blades
You must think that I'm some kind of gay blade
but baby, you're so vicious

When I see you coming
I just have to run
You're not good and you certainly aren't
very much fun

When I see you walking down the street
I step on your hand and I mangle your feet
You're not the kind of person that I'd even want to meet

'Cause you're so vicious
baby, you're so vicious
Vicious, vicious
vicious, vicious
Vicious, vicious
vicious, vicious

Its a song from his Transformer period, channeling Bowie and Iggy, and even a little Mick Jagger - all very fey.  He had all of their moves in him, but it was his lyrics that moved us. We wrote stories about his perfect days, of heroine as his love. Trainspotting is basically a novel about his songs, “Heroine” and “Sister Ray.” The scene of Ian running away from the treatment center to get back to her, connecting with the syringe, as as Reed sings, “Perfect Day” still brings chills. It reminds us just how solitary our lives can and often are.  Yet, the search for pleasure, or release from pain, it can be both ephemeral and otherworldly.

Persuing that love, we sometimes leave everyone or thing behind. 

"You can't sit around all day with your heroine and listening to Ziggy Pop" Diane chides Renton in Trainspotting. 
"Its Iggy Pop," he explains.  But he might as well be describing Lou. 
"Whatever, the guys dead anyway."
"Iggy Pop is not dead.  He toured last year." 

The hellfire club on 9th Ave
9th ave and 14th street.
Jeremiah's vanishing new york. 

Back in 1999, a few of us ran into him at the Lure in the Meatpacking District. That was the talk of the next meeting and even more.

Working at CitiWide Harm Reduction wearing a Lou Reed t-shirt, I remember a client in the syringe exchange looking up commenting on the t shirt.  Lou connected with a much larger world and series of communities.  He was a cultural marker, and a source of solace.

"The reason I came to New York was the Velvet Underground," noted Allan Clear, of Harm Reduction Coalition. 

My favorite of his music was from the Velvets with Nico channeling Marlene Deitrich, All Tomorrow's Parties, Stephanie Says, all the the says songs, Caroline Says. I still count Jane Says as part of that story, even if it was by a different band. “Jane says, I'm done with Sergio.”  Its all music about being love sick.

I remember sitting in alone listening to it, hanging with friends in bed or the bathtub listening to it, feeling dizzy, feeling elated... feeling alone... so many hours, years and years and years of my life. 

Living in San Francisco in 1992, it was wonderful but it was hard, sometimes the only company I had was Lou Reed and Janes Addition,” Caroline remembered. “Patsy Cline. There was so much. The music really got me through those couple of years.”

Painting the house over the last few weeks, we put back on the New York album by Lou, on Koch's New York. It was another wonderful set of stories of life in the naked city.

I think of Lou Reed as my mentor,” noted JC Augustin, who joined Times Up! For our New York music ride. Two years ago, we had a Velvet Underground ride.

Last week, Brennan was organizing one of our New York dance rides. So I sent him a few song suggestions. The first, of course, was:

walk on the wild side
fuck you dean and the weanies
take the a train
rapture blondie
judy is a punk rocker
empire state of mind
le tigre
bob dylan subteranean homesick blues
feeling groovie by simon and garfuncle.
rappers delight
walk this by by run dmc
brass monkey beasties.
madonna get into the groove
billy joel its my life
somewhere over the rainbow
rock and roll radio ramones
It was the first song of a pantheon of sounds.

His music, these sounds echoed through the night as we danced and danced enjoying what beats can do to us, what the public commons can be, what it can tell us about our city, and the ways this experience changed our expression of this space, the ways this music moves lives of its many, many quiet heroes.

We rode by the amphitheater on the East River to dance and off to a book party.

But first we had to drop the sound bike off at ABC No Rio, another aging New York institution. Steve reminded us ABC was going through changes as well. Space in New York seems ephemeral. Our time in the space, the days to go there are limited. But they've been glorious. From Critical Mass parties to millions of meetings, and a few fights and brew parties, the space has meant so much for so long. The Times Up! Critical Mass party there in 1999 was the most outrageous of all of them. Nothing lasts forever, certainly not meeting spaces. Yet the memories, the celluloid images, the experiences of the night which took shape there and in New York's other underground stories, experiences, people, and bodies in space – these memories linger.

After dropping off the sound system, we walked the bike up Clinton to the Todd Seelie book opening.

Tod Seelie's Bright Nights: Photographs of Another New York Opening Party and Book Release
It’s official. After 15 years of shooting in NYC, I will be releasing my first book of photography with Prestel Publishing. The book becomes available later this month in the US, it is already available in Europe. To celebrate this long-in-the-works labor of love, I will be having a solo show and selling/signing copies of the book. Featuring writing about New York subculture by Jeff Stark, Swoon, Ian Vanek of Japanther, Sto Len of Cinders, Joe Ahearn, DJ Dirtyfinger, and more.
Superchief Gallery at Culturefix
9 Clinton, Manhattan

Seelie used to photograph Times Up! rides. It was lovely to see how many people were lined up outside, pouring in to grab a book and a look. The room was filled with scenesters, buddies, Sarah Sparkles, who just released Parades, Parties and Protest, another book tracing an underground history of New York, as well as counter narrative to the story of Bloomberg's blandified tale of urban space. Seelie and Sparkles point to another New York, as a space where people seek out a city of friends, of dancing, and connecting, building counter publics in warehouses, streets, bike rides, and underground parties, without sanction or permission. 

Photos by Barbara Ross

Participants from the ride were there, as well as past DJ's, heros from marching bands and the night.  Like the best of art in New York, it was inspired by the street, by street photography, stories from the goings on on the pavement. 

We ended up chatting for hours, commenting on the great photographs and what they tell us.

A new friend from Berlin was there. We talked about New York in comparison with the Berlin of Isherwood, Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed.

How do I get to sail on that boat” she asked, pointing to one of Seelie's photos of a group of vagabonds sailing through New York.

Where is that?” she asked, pointing at a picture of C Squat, one of the more notorious squats left.

One of Tod Seelie's bright nights  at C Squat. 

After a few hours, we left for the 169 Bar for a birthday, hanging out even longer.

Hanging at 169 Bar. Photo by Barbara Ross. 

Throughout the weekend, friends dropped by and we talked about our New York hero's and friends, mentors and comrads.

Sunday, we romped to Judson and enjoyed pumpkin carving at Green Oasis Community Garden, just down the street from MORUS and C Squat.

The garden  is a dynamic space, a product of the passion and care of New Yorkers and their care of their communities.

Carving pumpkins, Maggie Wrigley dropped by with a copy of her new edited volume, The Architecture of Change.

The Architecture of Change: Building a Better World is a collection of articles that demonstrates the power of the human spirit to transform the environments in which we live. This inspiring book profiles people who refused to accept that things couldn't change, who saw the possibility of making something better, and didn't hesitate to act.
Breaking down the stereotypes surrounding "socially engaged architecture," this book shows who can actually impact the lives of communities. Like Bernard Rudofsky's seminal Architecture Without Architects, it explores communal architecture produced not by specialists but by people, drawing on their common lives and experiences, who have a unique insight into their particular needs and environments. These unsung heroes are teachers and artists, immigrants and activists, grandmothers in the projects, students and planners, architects and residents of some of our poorest places. Running through their stories is a constant theme of social justice as an underlying principle of the built environment. This book is about opening one's eyes to new ways of interpreting the world, and how to go about changing it.

Maggie told us about her book, the inspiration to write it, and the ways her life in the East Village at Bullet Space over the last three decades helped shape it.  The release party for the Shape of Change is this Friday  November one at 7 PM at MoRUS

She also mentioned Lou had died. Apparently, he'd had to have had a liver transplant. A muse for generations, I was inspired by his orchestra of songs, supporting the architecture of change which is New York, its community gardens, squats, and innovative spaces where people experiment with their bodies and bikes, their spirit and communities, sound and vision.

We walked back to the subway and off to the opening of the Bike Yard. At Havemeyer Park, South 4th b/n Wythe and Franklin, another example of the architecture of change transforming New York. A co-operative bike repair space organized by cycling luminaries Austin and Keegan, it is by extension another a public commons for meetings and stories and organizing, and a space for a perfect day.

With bicycle motocross and meeting spaces, it extends the accidental playgroud which is New York's public spaces. The kids riding there reminded me of cycling in vacant lots in Atlanta in the 1970's. There is so much we can learn from these spaces. As we move away from the Bloomberg era, hopefully the city does not not just wipe away their spontaneity or community pulse, especially when people start gathering in unsanctioned ways, as we have in gardens, Critical Mass rides and the like. “[P]lanners and municipal leaders have a lot to learn from spontaneous, transgressive urban spaces like this one,” notes Sarah Goodyear, writing about the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal, a park only a few blocks from the Bike Yard. Last spring we lost nothing yet community garden. And the police regularly attack Critical Mass rides, restricting the improvisational quality of people building their own autonomous communities.  People got together and fashioned communities of their own design long before Bloomberg came along and they will years afterward.  Despite the ongoing attacks on the public commons, the arrests and assaults, the drive to create counter publics remains.  One thing is for sure, we need more openness, more freedom, more space for the kind of quiet moments which made Lou Reed's poetry and punk, his perfect days of New York so poignant.

BEDT by Daniel Canto

Thanks Lou. I hope you are having a perfect day, wherever you are. RIP. 

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