I was just recently in an exchange with Bog Egan from PopSpots NYC, discussing some of the since-vanished buildings in the vicinity of 1st Street between Second Avenue and the Bowery, and I remembered this great find by Jeremiah Moss from a little under a year ago. "The Tao of 9 Second Avenue" is an amazing little documentary from around 2008 about this particular neighborhood. Sure, it's the former turf of storied locales like Mars Bar, XOXO Bar, the notorious McGurk's Suicide Hall and Extra Space, the formerly decrepit back alley behind the also-missing CBGB, but it's prudent to remember that New York City isn't just about bars and clubs and punk rockers and hipsters and drinking and ultimately trivial bullshit like that. It's about people. It's about neighborhoods. "The Tao of 9 Second Avenue" is a heartbreaking profile of how gentrification directly affected a community with a long history and swept it all aside in the name of real estate development.
With my work schedule and parental obligations, I'm not often afforded the opportunity to walk around the city as much as I used to do. As such, I haven't made it down to this area since the demise of the Mars Bar. I've only caught glimpses from images on Vanishing New York, Bowery Boogie, EV Grieve and the like. I'd obviously never set foot in 9 Second Avenue, nor its adjoining chapel. I certainly took a pile of photographs of its exterior over the years, not actually knowing what it was beyond being a cool-looking edifice on a street that formerly oozed what I'd always considered cool Lower East Side mystique. As you'll see from this documentary, this place was so much more than that, and meant a great deal to certain people. Do check it out.