Lately I’ve been running into people who have been openly telling me about vintage New York City. From my mom’s best friend who sold her apartment and still regrets it, to an ex-convict who is just happy to be free. Old New York was a city full of large two bedroom apartments “with a room for a maid”, a place where gangs were stabbing people as part of a right of passage, a city where cabs cost .85 cents, a city where “all my friends died of AIDS” — a city where “I hung out in the theater all day.” Some of these things are still true, some have changed.
I’m behind in my interviews. So I’m playing a little catch up here.
Who: Alan Brown
Where: Grounded, NYC
Alan has lived in New York City since 1981, but he left in 1987 and lived in Japan for seven years.
“It was good that I got to leave,” he says. “I learned to appreciate it.”
“Wasn’t it bad when you came back in 1995?” I say.
“No, it was much better. New York went through such a dark time, you have no idea,” he says.
“My first real trip to New York City was in 1997. I saw some plays and went to Times Square – I took photos,” I say.
“See, that was after Disney and Giuliani came in.” Before Giuliani Broadway was dark – it was gloom and doom,” he says.
I hear differing opinions of the pre-Disney post Disney Broadway, but one common theme I hear is that New York is cleaner and safer than it ever was in the eighties.
“I left right in the middle of one of the worst times – it was the Crack and AIDS epidemic, there were many places you couldn’t go.”
“So many people hate Giuliani, but he really cleaned up New York,” I say.
“Yes, he did.”
Alan Brown is very political. In fact, he was just in Pennsylvania campaigning for Obama this past weekend. He’s from Scranton.
“Just like Joe Biden and Hillary,” he says.
Alan was a Hillary fan (like me) but has jumped over to Obama’s camp (like me).
“Hillary will be fine,” he says. “I’m very happy with Obama as our candidate.”
“So what’s your favorite thing about New York?” I say
He thinks about it for a little bit.
“New York is the only place in the world where your life might change depending on which way you walk, or who you walk into.”
“Isn’t that true for everywhere,” I say.
“No, nothing is like New York, this is the place where dreams really can come true.”