I remember the days when you wouldn’t dare walk through a NY park after sunset. The days the parks (even Central Park) were filled with unsavory types, juvenile misfits and the occasional gang or two. In the 80’s and into the early 90’s New York was a much more gritty place. The subway was less clean (note: it’s really not that clean today) and you wouldn’t dare ride late at night or alone. After all, NYC was one of the worlds most dangerous places for a time and the reputation still lingers on today. What I’m thinking about as I walk through Central Park at 10:30 pm are the days when 42nd (forty deuce) was full of penny arcades, move theaters showing the latest kung-fu flick and let’s just say….some scantly clad women milling around or standing in the doorway of shops with bright flashing lights that never actually spelled a word (“XXX”). I remember being a 10 or 12 years old and walking across the bridge, hopping on the A and stomping in Harlem or heading down to 42nd to just hangout. I also remember when the first kid got killed for his Jordans and when wearing a ‘shearling’ (damn they were warm…and soft!) could easily make you a victim. Man, was it a different city back then. Just last year I was walking through St. Nicholas park with a friend who grew up in Harlem…and for a second we paused and stood in amazement at the people doing yoga in the park and the countless dog walkers. We both looked at each other and said…this would have never happened 10 years ago…hell we wouldn’t have been nonchalantly walking through the park….we would have avoided it at any cost!
Today… I live in a different New York. One that is safer (for most people….but definitely not all). A city I still love, but find myself having a harder and harder time living in. A place I call home that’s full of strangers. And this night, searching for my image I enter central park without a worry in my mind.