It was really late the other night when I passed the series of fast food joints on 14th Street. And that's when I noticed all the teenagers hanging out. Hanging out in their tribes of multi-faceted fashion statements talking laughing milling being.
For us in those early years of the 1970's when vestiges of hippie land began the slow turn into serious drug use it was Nedicks on the corner of 8th Street and Sixth Avenue which still wasn't called the Avenue of Americas and if it was we never called it that anyway.
There, 13 or 14 years old, we gathered in our multi-faceted fashion statements, sending word like the Pony Express of who was looking for who and when would everyone be headed to the park or did anyone go to the therapy group at The Door which lived on 12th Street then - free meds but no free meals - The Door didn't have a kitchen until 18th Street. We all bummed cheap cigarettes from one another and the richer kids sprung for hot dogs and orange drinks from triangle cups.
It was on this corner we all said goodbye to Cowboy. Cowboy was a legend in our tribe. He walked about with a guitar on his back like a troubadour. A black kid from somewhere else, to us he was the coolest, nicest, hottest, hunkiest older man of 16 or 17 we knew. That afternoon he told us he was headed across the country or something like that and we all melted goodbyes in the hippie hugs everyone gave everyone, man, woman, gay, straight, sober or stoned.
Weeks later, one of the kids came running to the corner, telling us Cowboy was dead. He had taken acid and tried to swim across a Great Lake in some other state, I think it was Michigan.
It's like almost 40 years later, but every time I walk that corner I always think of Cowboy. And when I passed those kids on 14th Street the other night I thought of all of us.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.