I made my first move to the Midtown area in the late seventies. It was a completely different place in time than it is now. Make no mistake, it was a seedy area , in many ways far worse than it is today, in many ways better. Main street jumped and crackled at night, it was a living breathing entity. From the Club Royale, where fake cowboys and cowgirls gathered, north to 31st street where the drag queens hung out at the Jewel Box, Main Street was like no other stretch of road in this city. I'd say I was about 18 or 19 when I first moved here. I had a one room apartment on Warner Plaza, a street that no longer exists. My single window looked out over main. On warm summer nights, I'd open the window and watch the nightly show unfold. It was always the same, and it was always a little different. Hookers milled about on the corner right below my window. So close that I could hear every word of their conversations. I watched the older women school the younger new girls. Tricks would pull up to the curb and the women sometimes a dozen or more would crowd around the car. The car would pull away then return 10 minutes later depositing a hooker at the curb.
Miltons Jazz and Juice was also right below my window. The sounds from the little joint mixed with the traffic, the hookers, the pimps, the drunks and the occasional crazy person, it was the soundtrack to my life back then, it was music to my ears. I was already well on my way to being a major fuck up, a misfit, and a criminal, so there was no better place to be in the city than where I was. The couple who managed the building I lived in, Warner Arms, were right out of central casting. The husband had a day job, looked like he jumped from the pages of a Furry freak Brothers comic. He had the big white guy Afro, wire rimmed John Lennon glasses, a tall skinny guy who also peddled weed and heroin to the buildings occupants. His wife had a fake English accent, drank constantly, and invited me inside a few times to listen to the same Neil Diamond album over and over, until she would get drunk enough to show me what she really invited me in for.
It was a different time and place, before drive by shootings, gang killings, before crack cocaine, before aids, before there was a McDonald's on every corner, or a Starbucks. I drank back then, a vice that took hold for several years, turned me more than a little mean and a lot stupid. Id sit in Miltons, under age but nobody cared, the place was dark, shelves lined the wall behind the bar with old 78's and 33's, music made by black men, black women, drug addicts, criminals, and drunks. I never really liked jazz, still don't, but in Miltons it seemed right. Miltons is long gone, so is Warner Plaza, the drunk land lady, the hookers no longer stroll on main st, the entire area has changed into something else, progress.
I've kept returning to Midtown through the years. Trying to recapture some of the glory days of my misspent youth, but it has eluded me, just smoke and mirrors with an occasional moment of nostalgia thrown in. Just enough to keep me coming back.
And now it is time to move away, one last time. This time for good. I'm leaving Midtown. To most people that statement will draw a quizzical look and a resounding "who gives a fuck". To me it's a big deal because I really do love this city, especially the Midtown area. I'm not moving out of the country, or even out of the state, hell I'm not even moving out of the Metro area. I'll be 10 or 15 minutes away, but it won't be the same, and really it hasn't been the same for a very long time. I'm no longer the kid who was content to sit in a window and watch the grimy melodrama unfold in the street below. I'm the middle aged guy surrounded by kids who think they are doing something original, rebellious, a little dangerous, when really they don't have a clue. Gentrification, commercialization, progress, have all combined to water Midtown down to something that no longer seems familiar. I've been missing Midtown for years now, even though I've been living right in the center of it. People tell me I'm just being overly sentimental. They tell me I can always come back to visit, Midtown will always be here. They are wrong, the Midtown I knew has been gone a long time now.
Starting next week I'll be taking a couple of weeks off to move, get situated. I don't know how the new surroundings will effect this blog, my writing, what I write about. Everything changes and I don't suppose I'm immune to change either. Despite the somber tone to this post, I'm looking forward to the new start. I've got the girlfriend who tolerates my often surly attitude and pessimistic outlook. I've got the dogs who let me know I'm not as hardened as I like to think. My people are happy to see me move to a nicer part of town, they'll sleep a little better. And there are a few hundred people who take a few minutes out of their day to listen to me foam at the mouth. Other than no gainful employment life is treating me okay, I can't complain. But you know I will.