I had occasion to ride my inbound bus this morning all the way up to 59th Street on Madison Avenue.
Then I walked up a block and started hoofing it east on 60th.
Ahhh, one of the many scenes of the crimes. It was like taking a tour of a Victorian Museum of Horrors. "Behind this curtain, the drunken episode with the barman!"
First, there was the Alliance Francaise (the French Institute), where I used to routinely show up drunk for French class. All I ever learned in French was how to order a cocktail in Paris... "je voudrais une ver du Johnnie Walker Noir, avec glas et eau, s'il vous plait!" Many a wasted evening and dollar there.
Next we pass the restaurant, Le Veau d'Or. Ah, yes. I remember the night I was poured into a taxi by the maitre'd there!
Oh, and there's Pegasus, a gay bar of some ill-repute I frequented during the last days of my drinking in Manhattan.
Somewhere around Lex and 60th there was an after-hours bar, upstairs from the street. I can't remember exactly where it was, because I was so drunk the few times I was in the place.
If I continued walking north along any of the avenues I crossed as I headed towards the East River, I'd be confronted with even more such reminders of where I was, what happened and where I am today.
I no longer fear being "sucked into" any of my old haunts, or of being visciously attacked by a bartender who'll hold me down and pour liquor down my throat. No, those ghosts are long since laid to rest.
But there's still the melancholy, still the remembrance of things past (a la recherche du temps perdu -- okay, I remember that too). But the most emotional spot for me is at the top of the stairs at the entrance to the subway at the northeast corner of Lexington and 60th. For it was there that I first publicly kissed my ex, sometime in the fall of 1979. He was leaving for England that night. It shocked him. It's not a painful memory, nor is it a rueful one. In fact, it's a very romantic memory. One of my fondest of our time together. Neither of us could have predicated then just how painful things were going to become for both of us as the years rolled by. We were very naive and, yes, in love.
It was a very long time ago.
New York is constantly changing. Where there used to be a "Crazy Eddie" electronics store, there's now a Maurice Villency furniture store. And yet the place is nearly timeless.
I still can't get over the fact that they closed CBGB/OMFUG last Sunday night. But other institutions will come along to replace it.
Just as sobriety came along to replace drunkeness.
And fresh love and first public kisses will come along again as long as I continue to believe that they will.