I recently finished reading The Colossus of New York by Colson Whitehead. Although the writing style is completely different Colossus captures the essence of New York much like E. B. White's Here is New York did more than fifty years ago. Colossus is a collection of thirteen essays in which Whitehead evokes various aspects of the city. The book takes a bit of work to read, he often switches point-of-view from paragraph to paragraph, but is well worth the effort.
I especially liked this bit from the last essay called JFK:
It’s time to go.
Everything’s packed. ..The time passed so quickly. Take a moment to look back and regret all the things you didn’t get to do, the places you didn’t get to visit. What you did not see. Promise yourself, Maybe next time.
Assuming it will still be here when you finally return.
Sometimes things disappear.
...Please forget. Try to forget bit by bit, it will be easier on you. Leave it behind. Then the plane tilts in its escape and over the gray wing the city explodes into view with all its miles and spires and inscrutable hustle and as you try to comprehend this sight you realize that you were never really there at all.
The Jimi Hendrix gallery was one of the few highlights of the dreadful Experience Music Project in Seattle. I'm not the greatest Hendrix fan, don't own an album, but I appreciate his great guitar playing. I didn't realize until I was at the museum how much Hendrix was part of the Greenwich Village scene in the 1960s. He built the Electric Lady studios on 8th Street but died soon after the studio opened.
Curious about Hendrix's life in New York, I did a bit of research. Yesterday morning, coincidentally enough, I found out that when life got crazy for Hendrix, and it would often get crazy, he would hide out at his friend Mike Quashie's apartment, which is in this building:
Quashie and Hendrix became friends when Hendrix first moved to New York. Quashie still lives in the building and was known as the Limbo King; he popularized the Limbo dance craze in the early 1960s. Quashie's flamboyant style is also credited with being the inspiration for glam rock. The Hendrix song, "Voodoo Child" was written with Quashie in mind.
That Hendrix hid from groupies on Bedford St. is a trivial piece of pop-culture history. Yet, I wonder how many people who have lived in the building know this story?
New York's greatness as a city has always lied in trade. Trade in goods, trade in money, and most of all trade in ideas. People move here and bring their ideas to the city. When they leave they take a little bit of the city with them. New York's wonder is that it is unknowable. As Colson Whitehead wrote above, the city is constantly changing. Just when you think you understand the city it throws you a curve. Go away for a while and a new city takes its place.
Good luck, Rachelle!