Forever Flashbacks

Jocko Weyland sent an announcement for the publication of Stephen Aiken’s Artists in Residence: Downtown New York in the 1970s.

Great photos reminding anyone that the city was off the tracks as it is today with million dollar apartments overlooking chaos. Back then the city had the feel of Rome after. The Goths burned it to the ground. That bar in the seaport. I never went there, but on a rainy afternoon it would be almost empty except for core drinkers

I hadn’t yet to begin my early start in the 70s

All the abandoned buildings have been renovated as out of price residents mostly techies. The developers never realized that even they can’t afford $5000/month and the neighborhood killers remain standing with 30% occupancy

I had never wanted to grow old here.

But I am.

Stranded by a life-threatening condition, a Yulemas operation brought me back to life.

As Lazarus.

A doctor wrote in my chart.

“Mr. Smith is an elderly man…”

Indicating that I am healing into elderdom.

I had never wanted to grow old here.

My deceased friend Old Bill had said at Franks Bar, “One of the worse things about getting old is no one thinks you’re dangerous.”

The septuagenarian pulled open his jacket to reveal a revolver in a shoulder holster.

“This 38 changes his mind.”

Talk like that isn’t chat in the bars now.

The city of the 60s and 70s is gone.

The majority of new people have no sand, have no style, and practice no couth, but they could, if the danger here gets worse. If times like these you either adapt or run. I don’t any run left in me.

Yesterday I was on my way to SAGA, the gay senior center next to the Walt Whitman projects.

On a Myrtle Avenue street corner these young project teens harassed an old drunk. They had just been released from school. A girl with long braids restrained a slight boy of thirteen, who thought his shabby attempt at his filthy little mustache made him tough. His friend, a hulking hippo with a Jiffy Pop bun atop his skull, walked up to the old man and clocked him. The assailant ran towards me and I elbowed him in the head. He turned around and rubbed his jaw, then resumed his flight. I grabbed the mouthy skinny teen by the arm.

“I didn’t do nothing.”
next to the Walt Whitman projects
“Nothing. Your mouth caused your friend to hit that old man.”

The old man was probably my age, but his hard times had hit him harder than mine.

The girl pulled my hands off the young punk.

They all ran towards the projects.

Me, cursing at them, then going up to the old man, who must see the same kids every day. He said, “Gettin’ old is shit.”

I shrugged my agreement.

I said nothing and walked down Myrtle to my destination, remembering Old Bill’s words.

I don’t have a .38 and I’m not going get one.

My temper’s fuse is hair-trigger and I don’t want to kill anyone. Not even myself.

I ain’t running either.

I don’t have no run left in me.

Never did.

Just like Old Bill.

An exhibition of Aiken’s 1970s NYC photos will run June 2 through June 26 at The Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, MA.

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