Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bohemia: A Love Letter

I didn't want to let August end without a brief acknowledgment of the 20th anniversary of the Tompkins Square Park riots (August 6th and 7th, 1988). Yes, I was there and got hit with a nightstick by a crazy cop, etc., but that's not what this post is really about. It's a little love letter to something I caught the briefest glimpse of.

The inexorable gentrification of the East Village had already been underway to be sure, but those berserk cops who rampaged through the neighborhood made it clear that the party was over, and all the broke artists and punks and drag queens and other undesirables should hurry up and go away. New York City as post-war Bohemia was more or less officially at an end.

I missed Ab Ex and Be-Bop, the Beats, The Velvets, Dylan in the 60's, the Factory, the Dolls, and CBGB's in the 70's. But I did catch the last gasp of the East Village scene in the late 80's, already under siege by AIDS and real estate developers. At the time I scoffed at a lot of the characters on Avenue A as silly posers, but looking back, I must say I miss them quite a bit.