Thursday, February 02, 2006

Chelsea Morning

I survived my first week in Chelsea.

I've worked all over the place...the CBS building at 52nd & 6th, Bush Terminal in Brooklyn, the D & D Building, East 59th Street, East 56th Street, Madison Avenue, West 25th Street, East 77th Street, West 53rd Street, 200 Lexington Avenue, East 58th Street, East 55th Street, West 38th Street, Park Avenue South, West 43rd Street and NOW (drum roll, please).....76 Ninth Avenue, better known as 111 Eighth Avenue. I know. What the fuck.

I now work in that behemoth of a building better known as the Port of New York Authority Building, which takes up that very large city block between 15th & 16th Streets. You know, the one with the gold leaf flying sea gulls in bas-relief on the front.

Frankly, for the most part I'm happy. We have a huge new space with 15' ceilings and southern exposure. I have so much more space I'm losing things. It's easier getting around the city to see my clients than I imagined it would be. And I'm walking around trying to get a better handle on the two neighborhoods we straddle.

The 8th Avenue side is Chelsea Central. The building frontage is basically two ATMs and a Banana Republic, which I think speaks volumes.

I have to tell the truth...I've never liked Chelsea. This neighborhood probably has the worst housing stock in Manhattan. With the exception of a few streets surrounding the Seminary, it's always been pretty grim. In those years when Chelsea hopped, hopped, hopped, it filled up with pretty stores, restaurants and bars. But these seem like a flimsy, plastic veneer over the decay that is still visible everywhere. No amount of new condo construction thrown up in a multitude of former parking lots, nor rooms full of mid-century furniture can hide the fact that this has always been a very poor neighborhood, and still is. And to me, it's a neighborhood full of ghosts. Chelsea seemed like the bedroom of the Eagle's Nest and the Spike, much as the East Village was considered the bedroom of Greenwich Village in the 50's and 60's. There's a quick aside in "Dancer From The Dance" where one of the protagonists spies a dark eyed, serious young man walking home on a Saturday afternoon along St. Mark's Place and crows something like "Now there's a boy who spent the night tied to a bed in Chelsea!". I've always thought that boy was me.

Of course, as we all know, this neighborhood has undergone significant changes in the past decade. One might even say that it's long jumped the shark! Hell's Kitchen and environs much further afield have conspired to make this area seem almost as quaint as Christopher Street does now. If the parade hasn't entirely passed by, we're definitely going to see Santa in a few minutes. At it's height, I was almost loath to walk Eighth Avenue. I remember walking up the street with Tim and after the last bevy of overly buff men passed, blurting out: Too Big, Too Tan, Too Old, Too Much! Times have changed and these once mean streets are now full of nannies pushing baby strollers past the remaining bodegas and the shops that still purvey cruise wear.

As for the Meatpacking District, well...as Madonna said: This used to be my playground. I've walked these streets for decades and while the bones appear the same, the flesh is entirely new and somewhat unreconcilable in my mind. As I walk past the smart young men and women drinking and dining in their incredibly hip dens, I think...if you only knew what went on in the rooms you're sitting in now. If those floors could talk!

So far, I'm enjoying working here. I may even have to start dressing better.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Aaron said...

A friend once told me that he called Eighth Ave. between 14th St. and 23rd "The Gaza Strip." Very accurate comparison for a few years in the late 90s and the early part of this decade.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I thought about this post while I walked around Chelsea. I lived on 22nd Street for a year, but unlike your Madonna quote, it was never my playground.

12:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

I think Chelsea is still redolant with buff things. I've always felt out of place there.

12:05 PM  
Blogger seymour said...

Buff Chelsea = Hungry bottom. Ae least we know where to find em when we need em

7:43 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

OH and btw, I did get the Joni Mitchell reference.

1:37 PM  

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