GO TO HELL!!!

Get your caffeine dose in hell.

Warmed, sated and Dimsum-filled, we stepped out into the cold winter’s day once more. Energized with Chinese power and armed with the basic kung-fu tricks gained from the chopstick maneuvers over brunch, we were ready for another bout against the icy gusts of Manhattan.

How it is applicable, I don’t know, but internalizing Li Mu Bai or Yu Shu Lien against Jade Fox (as the cold wind) just made the cold trek to our next destination a little easier to handle. It was more of crouching in our warm coats, hiding from the wind and letting out the tigers and dragons in us when we entered our favorite boutiques, most especially when the sale sign was up.

So the journey around the Big Apple continued.

The visit to the oldest Chinese in enclave in the Western Hemisphere was short but it fun. The tea was warming and the miniature mahjong set in my bag would be my memento of this place.

It was after a few steps from the “cute” novelty shop that I realized the purchase was not such a great idea. Not only did it make my tote a few pounds heavier, the “travel sized gambling implement” was so available in my local Chinatown. It was a “pow” (to the non-majhongeras, it means a wrong declaration that will cost you). I have to live with the impulse purchase for the rest of the day tour.

All was forgotten when we stepped across the boundary of “hell”.

This “hell” is far from different from the image that just popped in your fertile mind. This one is a hundred acres of stylish and chic setting where most of the New York locals prefer to live in. Maybe your choice to settle in as well, should you find yourself in relocating in this part of the globe.

Long before SoHo came to be a du jour Manhattan neighborhood, it was a district known as the ‘Hell’s Hundred Acres’ due to the many fires that occurred in the area. This was in the 19th century when the farmlands and rolling hills turned into a jungle of solid masonry and cast iron, when theaters, shops and brothels cropped up, and when the quality of the area came to a decline. It became an industrial wasteland where sweatshops and small factories thrived.

It’s in the architectural details.
SoHo is also known as the Cast Iron Historic District

It was not until the mid-20th century when the artists flowed into the area where large spaces (read: loft spaces) where available for them to work and eventually, live in legally, in this former manufacturing zone. If someone was to be credited for the area’s current popular moniker, it would be these creative minds.

The name came about after these artists sought geographic identity. Their area was referred to as the South of Houston (aka Houston Street) on the Planning Commission’s map, and taking their cue from this, named their group the SoHo Artists Association.

God Bless the artists!

Soon enough, “SoHo” became the model and the growing new neighborhood in NYC followed suit in naming their areas with acronyms. The North of Houston street became NoHo, TriBeCa came about from the “TRIangle BElow the CAnal Area,” the North of Little Italy gave birth to Nolita, and in Brooklyn, came Dumbo, for “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.”

Collectively, the five boroughs of New York City voted ‘I♥NY’ as its official acronym. It became the most popular tag of all, a phenomenon and the biggest thing to happen in the city’s economy. No other t-shirt print in the history of New York City has sold more than these iconic letters.

Just to let you know, I just took you on a yellow cab ride and made that last item up. But there is some truth to the latter part of the fictitious tale though. Weren’t you one of those who purchased that shirt when you went to the Big Apple on your first visit? Or maybe received one as a pasalubong?

Colored, orphaned rodent. Just one of the boutiques in SoHo.
And thank God, “Go to hell” didn’t become SoHo’s publicity tag line with reference to its past. What held on as reminders of the days of yore are the buildings with cast iron as the distinguishing exterior architectural element incorporated into the building design, giving rise to another of the area’s name — the Cast Iron Historic District. A bit of the area’s history worth adding to the tourist’s info who happens to be trekking the area bearing the little knowledge that SoHo is one of the Big Apples popular shopping destination.

Before we step out of this “hell.” Let me point your attention to this shot I took of a shop in the area- the lululemon athletica. I found it to such an amusing name, so gay, in fact. It’s just recently that I learned it to be the most sought-after label for gears for the discipline I have been getting myself into- yoga. Taking the shop’s photo was not a coincidence after all.

No coincidence. Took a shot of this SoHo shop with a name I found so “gay-ly” amusing.
Not knowing I will be a patron now that I am into yoga.

New York City is such a wonderful city to explore and SoHo is just one of the areas full of surprises. So, when you find yourself in the Big Apple, I suggest you “go to hell”.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 31, 2011.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

one + seven =