Chips Off The Old Block

The models are about my height – just under six feet tall – yet seem to tower over me in the elevator. Their posture, their svelteness, their perfect hair and the unearthly regularity of their features gives them the aura of demigoddesses. It’s painfully difficult not to stare at them.

The models are on their way to a shoot at a photography studio located in the same building where I work, in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. In fact, this area is known as the Photo District for its concentration of studios and supply houses. But my block has a lot more variety than that would suggest. It is without a doubt the only place in the world where you can find a shooting range (the West Side Rifle & Pistol Range), a strip club, an architect, a major art supply house, and a neogothic church housing a legendary nightclub, all on one block.

There are also more standard businesses: a caterer with a storefront, a couture women’s clothing store, a parking garage. But it’s a noteworthy, newsworthy block, anchored on the west end by Avalon, the nightclub formerly known as the Limelight, Peter Gatien’s notorious den of drug dealing and violence (cf. the recent Macaulay Culkin-Seth Green movie Party Monster.) In the middle of block lies the subdued-looking entrance to the VIP Club, a strip club whose previous owners, according to a recent article in the New York Post, were extorted out of $2.5 million by the Gambino crime syndicate. (These clubs somehow always manage to stay in business, though. Must be the quality of the martinis.) At the eastern end of the block – to make up for all that hard living, I guess – lies a Vitamin Shoppe.

New York City, with its thousands of blocks, is both unfathomably huge and sublimely small. In the very building where I work, a prestigious recording studio – since moved to more spacious quarters elsewhere – birthed Halley DeVestern‘s Sugar Free album. I worked on that album in 1996-97, years before my current day job. We got lunch at the Lemon Lime diner around the corner then; I get lunch there now – but less often, since I’ve started eating healthy. Now I often bring a salad from home and, on nice days, sit in Madison Square Park in the shadow of the New York Life Building’s golden spire. I used to work in that building. I probably used to work in your building, too. I’ll bet you used to work in mine. Let’s have lunch! I’ll fix your computer, and you can sing me a song.

[Cross-posted at Blogcritics]