Etched in Stone

C is for Cristopher.
The Path Station Stop of Christopher Street.

WANDERING on the streets of “the Village” on the west side of Lower Manhattan, I say to myself, “I am finally here.” It’s the place I have heard so much about decades ago from friends who opted to make NYC their new home pursuing higher education.

“This place is for us, it’s so exciting,” “it’s where the artists hang out and their shops are so hip,” “it’s where we get our tapes of underground dance music.”

Of course, having been born on the dance floor, it was the last line that excited me most (as if the idea of visiting or live in the Big Apple wasn’t exciting enough). Moreover, the “padalhan kita ng kopya” (I will send you a copy) got me waiting impatiently for the mail to arrive. That took ages.

The postman didn’t have to ring twice (or need not ring at all). I got my copies that came stored in tapes. Yes, it was the analogue era when audio recordings were stored in cassette tapes and C120 was the desired playback length that totaled to two hours of non-stop (read: mixed) dance tunes. Yeah!

Twenty-plus years and three visa application attempts after, analogue was Jurassic and I made it to the Village. The scene has changed, maybe less vibrant, but my excitement was in no way diminished. So, I tailed these “New Yorkers” around.

Street sign: Christopher Street.
Tour guides: “This is an interesting spot.”

That would be an understatement. Not only was I standing on the oldest street in the West Village, I was at the birthplace of New York’s gay rights movement. Christopher Street happens to be a gay icon, the symbol of gay pride. If Diana Ross, Madonna or Grace Jones were a street, this would be it!

The stretch was the “it” place in 1970’s where the scene was totally gay- bars, shops- artistic decorative or fetish, and the pink crowd milling about day in and out- the product of the infamous 1969 street event that marked the gay revolution in history.

Stonewall Inn. #53 Christopher Street.

The bar, Stonewall, may have been a stable in the past but it turned into a noteworthy address in the next century. This was the area where the notorious violent demonstrations transpired, the time when “raids of gay bars were brutal and routine” and the time when the homosexual community fought back against the legal system that persecuted the sexual minority. The Stonewall riots became the most important event that triggered the onset of the modern gay liberation movement in the US.

The year after, on June 28, 1970, to commemorate the event’s first anniversary, crowds gathered at Stonewall and the first Pride March took place. This became a tradition. Across the globe, the annual, late-June Gay Pride festivals are celebrated.

For its historic significance to gay and lesbian history, the Stonewall Place, the block covering Stonewall, Christopher Park, and portions of surrounding streets and sidewalks, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in June 1999 and declared a National Historic Landmark in February 2000.

Over the years, Stonewall have gone through a series of transformations, from stables to restaurant, a bar to a bagel shop, a shoe store to multi-floor nightclub. Today, it’s a bar once more and it hosts local music artists, drag shows and private parties.

The sun was high above us and Stonewall was closed. A photo-op would do this time.

And so we moved on towards Sixth Avenue.  Intersecting Christopher Street….

Street sign: Gay Street.
This street was named by 150 years ago. Coincidence?

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on April 07, 2011.
http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/lifestyle/2011/04/06/etched-stone-149103


….With heartfelt gratitude to my tour guides Tenny Asistido & Jennifer Gallenero-Allen, Dabawenyos & New Yorkers by heart, for showing me around “their” VIllage. ♥♥♥
2 comments Add yours
  1. You make me want to go back to New York! Everyone has a serendipitous moment in New York. I am glad you had yours. Mine is meeting my Angel for the first time and then it's just taking adventures together with him since then.

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