NYC travelogue – Journey through the past

I thought the week we spent in NYC last summer was hot.  Not so much it turns out.  Saturday clocked in at 101 – they still use the medieval fahrenheit here – and the night time lightning thundered down the tight valleys that stretch east to west across Manhattan.

The next day I read that sadly the lightning struck and killed a woman in the outer boroughs.  Even in the big city nature wins.

Sunday was cooler but still hot and sunny, fit enough for a trip on the A train out to visit our friend Mira in Clinton, next to Ft. Greene in Brooklyn.

Mira met us near the park and walked us to her building where she left her overheated pup.  On the way to the restaurant she told us about the sculpture garden at Pratt, so we headed over.

On the way, about three blocks from her apartment she pointed out this shop.

It gets a mention in Just Kids as the place where Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith got – by various means – their art tools when they were students at Pratt.



Have I mentioned that I worship Patti Smith?  Is that too strong a word – worship?  I don’t think so.

I can remember buying Horses when it came out.  I had just turned 21 and I bought the NME and Trouser Press when I could.  I read the Village Voice.  I knew about Tom Verlaine, Richard Hell and CBGB’s.  I loved the Ramones and tolerated the Dead Boys.

But nothing came close to Patti Smith.  How could I not fall in love with that nasal Jersey voice drawling the best opening line of any record before or since as her way into Van Morrison’s Gloria?  Gloria, who she left at the end of the song, “humping on the parking meter, leaning on the parking meter”?

Earlier this year I read Love goes to Buildings on Fire, Will Hermes book about the NYC music scene in the early seventies.  The book gets it’s title from the great early Talking Head’s single and describes not only the birth of punk rock but also rap, new latin and salsa and the loft jazz scene.

All in one city, in a span of four or five years – just like London in ’65 and ’66.  There’s been nothing like it since.

In the middle of it all was Patti Smith channeling the Whitman/Blake muse through guitars, a drum set, the bass and two chords.

This one’s for my eldest, who has two magnificent lines from Horses carefully tattooed at the nape of her neck.


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6 Responses to NYC travelogue – Journey through the past

  1. Garth says:

    And go Johnny go, and do the watusi, oh do the watusi

  2. RossK says:


    That was one kinghell greatpost Ian.



  3. Catherine Reid says:

    Fantastic – again. Thanks.

  4. Jordan says:

    I thought I had photo approval/veto!

  5. Ian says:

    Oh, oh. But it was too good a picture.

  6. bewlay says:

    Glad to have you back writing!

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