With the scaffolding gone up around 9 Second Avenue and Mars Bar, a miserable sight in blue plywood, we can just glimpse the last Martian mural in bits of color.
There's the sign through the gaps that says we will all be missed. It waits to be turned to rubble and dust. There is no life left here.
Or is there?
Further down, a man has finagled his way through the plywood. Doors open onto his makeshift shop against the dripping walls--wobbly surfaces laden with ancient comic books, monster magazines, cassettes, and video tapes (Desperately Seeking Susan). There are shoes and shirts, packs of underwear, blue jeans, and bags. There are record albums (Abbott & Costello, Who's On First?) and miscellaneous tchotchkes.
An art brut painting of a nude woman, modestly missing her genitals, is tucked back in the corner, away from passing eyes.
It feels like a scene out of the old East Village, and I think: Only this building, in its death throes, could spawn such a thing.
On the table, a TIME magazine declares the death of JFK, Jr., inspiring the peddler to talk about John F. Kennedy Senior, and the "fucking bastards" that killed him, with all the passion of 1963, as if the assassination just happened.
A young man comes in and asks, "What size are those shoes?" The peddler looks at the young man's feet, sizes them up, and answers, "Those shoes are too big for you!" The young man runs away.
Another man comes to offer a stack of records, and while the two are conducting their business, I take a peek down the inside of the scaffolding. It's a miserable corridor, not much to see, just the refuse of a lost world, closed gates on what had been something simple and important.
For a moment I find myself hoping that the developers run out of money, that the project will stall and the scaffolding will turn into a weekend flea market, a thieves' market and hobo squat, a weird slice of our old world. But that's just wishful thinking.
Wu Tang at 7 1/2
7 1/2 Sills
9 Second Avenue
The Loss of Mars
Before Mars Bar