07 July 2014

and and that that

and and that that

I circle you
in what is
my mind as
a child I

want you as
a child wants
one or two
or three or

Could there be
a more than three?
I wish as
a child wills
Yet I guess

I perhaps
went you where
dead in a
child's want so
much like one's

own death My
Tom Sawyer-
mind of their
your my weep-

ing for your
me you With
a short shared
pastness and
nothing shared

between No
only death and
love you me
and and that
that called life.

L. Steve Schmersal, and and that that, July 2014.

06 July 2014

The Burden of History

If being is said to be unbearably light, then history has a weight, even when we don't seem to notice or know it.
Christopher Street is, technically, the oldest street in the West Village, as it ran along the south boundary of Admiral Sir Peter Warren's estate, which abutted the old Greenwich Road (now Greenwich Avenue) to the east and extended north to the next landing on the North River, at present-day Gansevoort Street. The street was briefly called Skinner Road after Colonel William Skinner, Sir Peter's son-in-law. The street received its current name in 1799, when the Warren land was acquired by Warren's eventual heir, Charles Christopher Amos. Charles Street remains, but Amos Street is now 10th Street.

The road ran past the churchyard wall of the Church of St. Luke in the Fields (built 1820-22; rebuilt after a fire, 1981–85) still standing on its left, down to the ferry landing, commemorated in the block-long Weehawken Street (laid out in 1829), the shortest street in the West Village. At the Hudson River, with its foundation in the river and extending north to 10th Street, Newgate Prison, the first New York State Prison, occupied the site from 1796 to 1829, when the institution was removed to Sing Sing and the City plotted and sold the land.

West Street is on more recently filled land, but the procession of boats that had made the inaugural pass through the Erie Canal stopped at the ferry dock at the foot of Christopher Street, November 4, 1825, where it was met by a delegation from the city; together they proceeded to the Lower Bay, where the cask of water brought from the Great Lakes was ceremoniously emptied into the salt water.

In 1961 Jane Jacobs, resident in the area and author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities published that same year, headed a group that successfully stopped Mayor Robert Wagner's plan to demolish twelve blocks along West Street north of Christopher Street, including the north side of Christopher Street to Hudson Street, and an additional two blocks south of it, slated for "urban renewal".

In the 1970s, Christopher Street became the "Main Street" of gay New York. Large numbers of gay men would promenade its length at seemingly all hours. Gay bars and stores selling leather fetish clothing and artistic decorative items flourished at that time. This changed dramatically with the loss of many gay men during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The apparent center of gay life subsequently shifted north of 14th Street to Chelsea. This new area, however, was never as vibrant as the old West Village. While some gay bars remain on Christopher Street, it has largely lost its gay character and is not unlike other quiet thoroughfares in the Village.

Christopher Street is the site of the Stonewall Inn, the bar whose patrons started the 1969 Stonewall riots that are widely seen as the birth of the gay liberation movement. The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee formed to commemorate the first anniversary of that event, the beginning of the international tradition of a late-June event to celebrate gay pride. The annual gay pride festivals in Berlin, Cologne, and other German cities are known as Christopher Street Day or "CSD." Christopher Street magazine, which began publication in July 1976 was, for many years, one of the most respected gay magazines in the U.S., until it folded in December 1995.

Near Sixth Avenue, Christopher Street intersects with a short, winding street, named by a 150-year-old coincidence, Gay Street.

Adjacent to Sheridan Square is Christopher Park (at the intersection of Christopher, Grove, and West 4th Streets), a 0.145 acre landmark. The park contains a bronze statue of General Philip H. Sheridan and, since 1992, has been decorated with a reproduction of the sculpture, Gay Liberation Monument, by George Segal to commemorate the gay rights traditions of the place. [The original sculpture is located at Stanford University.]

I wake up cold, I who

Prospered through dreams of heat

Wake to their residue,

Sweat, and a clinging sheet.

My flesh was its own shield:

Where it was gashed, it healed.

I grew as I explored

The body I could trust

Even while I adored

The risk that made robust,

A world of wonders in

Each challenge to the skin.

I cannot but be sorry

The given shield was cracked,

My mind reduced to hurry,

My flesh reduced and wrecked.

I have to change the bed,

But catch myself instead

Stopped upright where I am

Hugging my body to me

As if to shield it from

The pains that will go through me,

As if hands were enough

To hold an avalanche off.

Thom Gunn, "The Man with Night Sweats" from The Man with Night Sweats, 1992 at Christopher Park.

Except for the title and the initial sentence, these are all found texts. The pictures are mine.
Commuters by George Segal
What of George Segal that should be at Kent State.
Wikipedia on George Segal.
Wikipedia on Christopher Street.