Tuesday, September 20, 2011


what it is: decay
where i found it: harlem

Harlem is not a neighborhood I have nostalgia for as it continues to change. I've lived and worked there off and on for ten years and in the process I've been accosted, intimidated, ignored, yelled at, insulted, glared at and been made to feel generally unwelcome (other than by the people I work with closely). Maybe that's what should happen when whitey heads uptown. At any rate, it's a community heavily afflicted by poverty, AIDS, drug use and street crime and despite real estate agents doing a good job of jacking up the prices of everything and cluster bombing the place with chain stores there doesn't seem to be much of a dent in the chaos and craziness of the place. This is a bad thing and a good thing. Here are some examples of a few things you can still routinely see around Harlem USA.

Rotting and rusted pimp mobiles

Buildings with their roofs caving in unchecked (note little tree growing out of top)

Homemade stain glass windows

More homemade stain glass windows

Homemade giant crucifixes (this one's about 15 feet tall)
Nonsense announcements. This was directly across from the Five Percenters' world headquarters, so at first I thought it maybe it had something to do with supreme mathematics, but it turns out it's the name of  this Turkish musician. Maybe he played at the nearby Apollo or something?

An empty space where the NNCK blues band headquarters used to be

Good Times style portraiture
Workmen knocking down neighborhood landmarks. This building used to house probably the world's only combination Muslim-Carribean restaurant/shoe repair shop (which was actually really good).

I couldn't get a picture of this, because they move too fast, but I should also mention the criminal teenagers that haul ass around the neighborhood on dirt bikes, sometimes cutting into crowded sidewalks and going the wrong way in traffic who the cops don't even bother to try catching. Speaking of the cops, the other day I saw someone get a ticket for jaywalking while there was a bum ten feet away smoking crack in plain view. Welcome to Harlem.