Monday, December 19, 2016

A Rivington Street Memoir

Music All Night, Drug-dealing All Day &
Law and Order All the Time:
Rivington Street Memories 

Susan Chrysler White. She was the catalyst. Richard and I had been living in Philadelphia for over 20 years. Each day I would do my reverse train commute from center city Philly to the Main Line suburb of Radnor. That's where the company I worked for, Fidelity Life, had moved from center city.

Reading my New York Times on the train, the urge to be in New York City would get in my head and make me crazy. One day Richard told me that Susan Chrysler White was moving to Red Hook, Brooklyn. Susan taught painting and drawing at Tyler School of Art where Richard also taught.

That was it. The time bomb went off in my head. If Susan was moving to New York, so would we. Within a week I had the plan in motion. It was 1985, and we were moving to New York City too!

Our building at 159 Rivington Street in New York City.
 Lindemann's Pharmacy was on the first floor. 
Our 1,000 square foot loft was the third floor.
I am standing with Richard. Richard's daughter,
Dianna Cramer, is on the right.

Barry Blinderman, who ran the Semaphore Gallery in the East Village, lived on the second floor. Mr. LaFortune, a Haitian man, lived on the fourth floor. He had divided his apartment into a warren of rooms where other families lived. When we were fixing up our space, Richard had to install drip pans in the kitchen because of leaks coming from Mr. LaFortune's kitchen. Later we learned that when Mr. LaFortune defrosted his refrigerator, he simply pulled the plug, letting the ice melt on the floor and leak through to our ceiling.

MaryAnn, a filmmaker, and David Sipress an artist, occupied the back half of the fourth floor. MaryAnn had installed a huge editing machine in her tiny cubicle of a space, and David made quirky wood sculptures. David now draws ironic cartoons for the New Yorker Magazine.
Richard shopping at the Korean greengrocer
on the corner of Clinton and Rivington.

The first week that we spent in New York, I was astounded that loud music played all night. Drug-dealing was constant on the street, and Law and Order, the television show, was always shooting episodes in our neighborhood. One morning I stepped out of our front door and found a filmmaker, in his director's chair, perched on our doorstep. "Excuse me, sir," I said, as I passed daintily in my Armani suit, "may I continue on to the real world?"
Hanging with Dianna Cramer and Richard
in front of ABC NO RIO, an alternative, and I
mean alternative, art-performance space across the
street from our building. I am wearing a
Streit's Matzos cap. Streits was on the corner of 
Rivington and Suffolk Streets. 
The mural at ABC NO RIO changed every so often.
That kept things interesting.
On weekends, kid from the suburbs dressed up
in kilts and spiky purple hair and drank beer on the sidewalk.
Dianna Cramer, and her husband, Michael
Miller on Rivington.
It was a Dominican neighborhood, and
fruit ices were sold from carts in warm weather.
 Stopping by an abandoned car on Delancey Street
on a summer morning.
Me in my corporate look walking to work.
Me with a fixer-upper.
Me posing for a brochure for
 Guardian Investor Services,
my New York job.

If this post has made you yearn for more,
listen to this interview I did with Tobi Elkin,
for the Lower East Oral History Project of the
New York Public Library.

Listen here:

À Bientôt!

P.S. Susan Chrysler White lives in Iowa now.