Sunday, August 16, 2009

Notes for a Commonplace Book (4)

Luc Sante:

At night sometimes in certain parts of the city, usually in those remaining streets that are left deserted, usually in winter, but sometimes in other seasons if the streets are sufficiently forsaken, the past can be seen as if through a smeared window. Sometimes this effect occurs only for an instant: when you’re walking back from someplace with a head crammed with company and music and sensations, to a point where all new sensations dissipate, on some dead street in the middle West Side lined with jobbers and import showrooms and loading docks and shuttered luncheonettes, or on a street on the Lower East Side where the intersections have no stoplights and everything is nailed down and dark and the only people to be seen dart by as furtively as wraiths. There will be no traffic, and the streetlights will seem to shrink back into their globes, drawing their skirts of illumination into tight circles, and the rutted streets reveal the cobbles under a thin membrane of asphalt, and the buildings all around are masses of unpointed blackened brick or cacophonies of terra-cotta bric-a-brac or yawning cast-iron gravestones six or eight stories tall. This is the sepulcher of New York, the city as a living ruin.

From Low Life: Lures & Snares of Old New York (1989)

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