I've had the rare pleasure in recent weeks of spending a few nights out on the town. Being the father of two little kids doesn't really afford me the right to prowl the nocturnal city that much, so I relish the opportunity every time I'm allowed. Most of these evenings found me traipsing about some old haunts in the East Village, the Lower East Side, Soho and TriBeCa. My misgivings about the myriad changes to these respective neighborhoods pretty much all fall by the wayside when I'm let out and about. I'm invariably just happy to be out past the kids' bedtime.
Much has been said over the last five or six years about the exhibitionist aesthetic rife in the architecture of all the new buildings downtown. Bricks and mortar have been evidently replaced by steel beams and wide, shimmering sheets of translucent, tinted glass. By day, these hulking crystal monoliths almost block out the sky, casting chilly shade on streets once bathed in sunlight. By night, however, it's an entirely different affair, and one that I've only recently taken notice of.
One night last week, as I was walking down Ludlow Street to meet some friends at Motor City, I passed under the unimaginatively-named tower on the corner of East Houston, The Ludlow, and was able to peer directly into several homes. Again, during the day, it doesn't look like much, but in the gloom of night, individual apartments were lit up in disarming detail. I was able to see bookshelves, CD collections, pets and massive widescreen televisions that take up whole walls (that seems to be the norm in these places). It's a moot, dated point to make, but I'm still struck that people are now living above a space that used to be a desolate parking lot for eons. It still amazes me, for some reason.
Walking down the Bowery on Friday night while en route to see Mission of Burma on Delancey Street, I glanced up at a radically refurbished loft across from what had been CBGB. As it was outfitted with vast windows in accordance with the new trend, I was able to look right into a little domestic drama with surprisingly little obstruction. On my way down to a restaurant in Tribeca on Saturday night, I passed a relatively brand new building on Varick Street, and was unsolicitedly treated to the sight of a groin-scratching, paunchy middle-aged guy in his boxer shorts watching "Superbad" (again, his flatscreen was big enough for me to glean that otherwise irrelevant detail). Speaking as a paunchy middle-aged guy myself, I can't imagine how he feels comfortable putting on such a display, but I guess I'm just old fashioned like that.
I suppose it's just the logical progression of that old saying that there are a million stories in the naked city. It's just that now, they're that much easier to see.