Friday, February 24, 2012

1961 on 9th

A somewhat belated post about last week, when the Coen Brothers took over a block of E. 9th Street and transformed it, storefront by storefront, into a dreamscape of Greenwich Village circa 1961.


more photos on my flickr

It was a treat to walk down that block, lined with antique cars, and to step back in time, in a way.

There was the Kettle of Fish, before it was taken over by Wisconsinites and became a home of Packer fandom in so-called "Little Wisco." I went to the real Kettle of Fish when I first arrived in the city, hoping to find some kind of bohemians, poets, like there used to be--but all I found were frat-boy types. It was my first disappointment.



The Coens also created a faux used bookshop. I gazed longingly at it, wishing it were real. It looked so inviting, so tempting, with its flopped-out awning and carts loaded with books--a dying thing that once seemed indestructible, eternal. It hurt to look at it.

Remember when bookstores were everywhere in the city? It wasn't long ago--not 1961, but 2001.



There was a poetry cafe, too, called the Gaslight. The next day, it went back to being an artisanal beer shop.



I kept thinking about the choices the Coens made. The storefronts they created all seemed to belong to a certain category: dive bar, poetry cafe, bookshop, record shop, thrift shop. All things vanishing and vanished, all things once so integral to the city.

There's not much to say about it, really, except that it made me feel melancholy and wistful, walking down that make-believe street, and I wondered if the New York I once loved will only be permitted to exist in Hollywood sets.

22 comments:

EV Grieve said...

---dive bar, poetry cafe, bookshop, record shop, thrift shop. All things vanishing and vanished, all things once so integral to the city.---

All things seemingly fewer people care about these days.

Dive bar? — no drinks made with blow torches and shaved nutmeg!

Poetry? — Duh

Bookshop — Kindle, bro.

Uh, anyway...

abrod said...

Well there are "dive bars," except they're just normal frat-bars trying to be dive bars. Only serving PBR etc, with that carfeully-constructed, finely-crafted "dirty" look.

Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

Oh the passage of time, how horrible... I used to think my writings were just kinky displays of sexual remembrance, but now I'm aware that my stories, which take place of the 1960s & 70s on the streets of the Lower East Side & Times Square, are my way of making them live and thrive where they can't anymore. I go to those streets willingly and happily in my writing something I can't do or won't do in real time. What poison they have become... A meaningless waste.

John M said...

You know the old saying, everyone loves the New York they came to. We all just watch helplessly as it disappears and becomes something else. It's been going on for centuries at a faster and faster pace. Our only claim to fame is that we happen to be living through the fastest rate of change to date.

My hair is also starting to thin in the back. I guess these things happen to most everyone...

Melanie said...

I miss their interpretation..it was great!!The Kettle of Fish rocked it and the book store and record shop were spot on--now that has soul!! Dive bars!!

Little Earthquake said...

"Men In Black 3" did something like this on Court Street in my neighborhood in Brooklyn last spring. Except they barely had to change a thing because we still have book stores, record stores, dive bars, and thrift stores. :) The only chain is - what else - a Dunkin.

esquared said...

Thrift shops are still around, except instead of paying next to nothing on used clothes, one pays at least twice the amount of the original price for a clothing so that one may look destitute, e.g. Buffalo Exchange

As for the bohemian and poetry bars, the "YAWP" has now been replaced with a "WOO"

Brendan said...

My canned response is that we still have that stuff in the outer boroughs, but lately I've been having doubts about whether it can ever be the same. There's just not critical density out here.

Ken Mac said...

Schaefer's!

Anonymous said...

They took a ton of old photos and essentially recreated Macdougal Street just across from Minetta exactly how it looked in 1961, down the the Schaeffer Beer sign in the Gaslight (where Bob Dylan had his first NY performance).

Very cool.

Marty Wombacher said...

That was a nice glimpse into the past, but it does make the present a little more painful. Nice photos!

Jill W. said...

One thing I'm happy about is that the street still looks charming and quaint, and can be transformed to an earlier era with a few minor changes. If developers had their way it would be impossible to transform the look of these streets because they'd be filled with horrible 2012 era skyscrapers. This is one reason why I support the creation of a historic district on 10th and other streets. Carefully constructed dive bars can at least be undone.

Joe Jusko said...

I still remember how cool it was when they turned 6th St between Ave's A & B into 1920's Little Italy for GODFATHER 2. It was just amazing to look at. I loved that some of the window awnings and that mural on 6th and A were left up for decades.

As far as the neighborhood now, it looks nothing like the one I grew up in. Sad.

Goggla said...

I really enjoyed this set, especially the people it attracted and the general air of delight on the street.

BabyDave said...

Very sorry I missed seeing this while it lasted. (Or maybe not so sorry, since I may have become extremely misty over what has not lasted.)

Dave on 7th said...

@ jeremiah.
I don't know how old you are , but you probably didn't
go to the original Kettle of Fish on McDougal, but the longtime second location on Third St, that was once home to Gerde's Folk City. The present owner of the Kettle was a longtime bartender at the Third St location.

slr said...

first time in greenwich village, fall 1961. 5th ave between 8th up to 12 st. & then washington square. i explored the area in 1963, on sundays. after that it was my night time place as well, beginning 1964. if i was younger w/out that much $$$ i would be some where on brooklyn. as thats where the scene must be. (is it in e harlem, w/harlem, you tell me). of cause there are very creative people living in the west vill. they made their $, & stayed. then younger ones who had family support. i still like the little streets, & would live there if i was rich. my friends would be the same people i knew in the past, except they own a townhouses now.

slr said...

i am sorry. you have your information wrong! kettle of fish was on MAC DOUGAL street off bleeker. i was there several times in 1964/5 w/a fake ID. know the village better than almost anyone on this blog. i know who went where, & that scene inside out. AND i just wrote a comment on an old SATC blog (im a fan). you cant typecast people, i love it all!!!!

Anonymous said...

" everyone loves the New York they came to"...

Not true. I never loved New York in my lifetime, but rather some nostalgic idealized version of jazz-era New York. In all the time I've grown up and known New York, I don't love it. It's an overpriced ghetto.

It's the worst city in the USA, except for every other city in the USA.

- Marx

Brendan said...

Marx's comment really got me thinking. I think everyone who comes here from somewhere else, to some extent, loves an idealized version of New York, formed in a relatively short period after they arrive. The thing is too big for anyone to see it as it "really" is or was.

"Orange Mike" Lowrey said...

Nowadays, if you want the used books (including in the airport; take THAT, Amazon!) and the affordable thrift stores, you gotta come to Milwaukee, here in flyover country.

Brendan said...

Orange Mike, you have reminded me of the short time I spent working at Downtown Books...a rather different atmosphere from Renaissance. Shabby, dirty, easily half porn housed in the giant "back room," more like a giant maze of rooms...also a huge amount of trashy sci-fi, fantasy, romance, thriller, etc....I developed an appreciation for really good fantasy art of the 50s-70s. Lots of self-help crap. Old magazines, books of weird illustrations, fashion advice books from the 40s, decades-long runs of old magazines. Plenty of respectable stuff too but that wasn't really the point. The place had this surreal, lost-in-time feeling, especially the storage rooms which must have been almost as big as the parts open to the public. Though the owner was trying to class it up a little. I haven't been back in a long time.

No point to this comment, just reminiscing to myself.