Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Yesterday, Grieve reminded us of the anniversary of the death of Merlin, the homeless man who made his spot for 8 years outside the Con Ed substation on Avenue A and 6th St., and who died there August 16, 1996.

I thought I'd post these two color photos I took of Merlin's memorial in the summer of '96, which I've recently scanned from prints.

A few years ago this week, Bob Arihood posted photos of Merlin on his blog, Neither More Nor Less.

Bob recalls: "A wake and vigil of considerable moment, lasting for the better part of 2 weeks, was held in the neighborhood at Merlin's corner. Some nights the sidewalk and street around the memorial were so densely packed with people that it seemed that everyone in the neighborhood and the surrounding communities was attending, crowded together, all kinds of folks, from all professions and callings, from high and low paying their respects to Merlin."

Merlin's birth name was Paul Hogan. I remember him as a friendly guy, always regally reclined in a pile of clothing and bedding, with books spilling all around him. Young people, girls mostly, sat beside him to talk. He had the bearing of a sage. You wanted to know him.

"To strangers," wrote the Times about him, "he is but another intrusion on the East Village's gritty streetscape, a reason to avert their eyes. But to many local residents, he is a cherished asset: a timekeeper, a message center, a town crier and a source of good, solid conversation."

New York Magazine, 9/96

New York Magazine wrote about the memorial, saying that when the news of Merlin's death was announced on Con-Ed's brick wall, "Shocked locals scurried to nearby bodegas for candles and flowers. Even rowdy Long Islanders and New Jerseyites stopped and stifled themselves for a moment of silence."

Could such a memorial happen for a homeless person in the East Village today?


john penley said...

A memorial like Merlin's which I attended could happen again but it is not likely especially in the East Village. First, the police would not allow someone to live on a street corner for the period of time that Merlin did so he or she could get to know the amount of people merlin did and second, the type of people who live in the neighborhood now would be calling the city and the police every day to have them arrest him or force him to leave the corner. RIP MERLIN

Caleo said...

In theory I agree with Mr. Penley, but my block has a continuous homeless resident by the name of Tiger.
He is always on 9th st., usually close to Avenue C.
He has alot to say, although he is often battling his inner demons too intensely to communicate effectively.
EVERYBODY on this block knows him, although many yunnies don't understand why long time residents indulge him. He's been on 9th st. for years, and the police know him and speak to him cordially.
If and/or when he departs for that great EAST VILLAGE in the sky, I guarantee there will be a memorial.

Local Yokel said...

as usual Penley pontificates, believing himself to be the only one who knows the East Village. There is a delightful man who lives on the street around B/14 - everyone knows him, helps him, he's always polite, and has lived on the streets for years...

Walter said...

"Could such a memorial happen for a homeless man in the East Village today?"

It did in 2008, when Eddie Graham passed away. Eddie lived in front of 195 East 4th for many years. When Eddie passed, he was very close to being buried in Potter's Field, because there was no known next-of-kin. But people from the neighborhood got together and donated money to make proper arrangements for Eddie. And these were all manner of people -- long-time residents and people who had lived in the neighborhood just a short time, professionals and artists alike. Many people knew and loved Eddie and were sad to see him pass. A ceremony was held at Peter Jarema Funeral Home where 50 people (maybe more) showed up to remember Eddie. A film of Eddie made by visiting filmmakers was played, his artwork was displayed, and we went around the room and everyone shared their favorite memories of Eddie. It was an amazing thing. The East Village may be a different neighborhood these days, but people look out for each other just the same.

Bob wrote about Eddie here:

Anonymous said...

"Could such a memorial happen for a homeless man in the East Village today?"

Depends who. If we view homeless men as normal human beings (which of course, they are, and accordingly, that is how we should treat them), then we should apply the same standard as we would apply to anyone else. I would think that a nice guy like Merlin would be memorialized, whereas an asshole would not.

Anonymous said...

why glamorize a goddamn bum? next up, a post on how the bowery has been gentrified and it was better when bums were pissing, shitting, shooting up and fukk know what else on the bowery in the 70s (the time i remember most unfondly)

Melanie said...

I remember Merlin. He was a really nice person. I remember him surrounded by books. He had a passion for people and always said hi. RIP MERLIN.
As far as the question goes--Yes-if it could--it would.

goatsflee said...

I was just reading some old diary notes I made about Merlin's passing and found this entry after doing to google search to find out the year. Merlin was one of the features of the vanishing greatness of the old East Village. It still astonishes me that he received the recognition he did, with articles in the Times and New York Magazine. RIP Merlin.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping the memory of Merlin alive!

Anonymous said...

I always stopped to talk to Merlin in 1994/1995, when I was five or six. He was a good person, and always willing to chat with silly kids. I miss him very much.

Anonymous said...

I lived on east 4th and avenue a and used to spend a lot of days drinking colt 45 and smoking top cigs listening to Eddie the mayor of east 4th st, I rarely mentioned family but he was from Michigan and was a Vietnam vet we all liked Eddie he was truly one of a kind