This past weekend, I was walking around Central Park with my wife and kids, and we stopped to sit down on a sunny patch on a protruding rock just off the Park Drive, adjacent to the path that leads to an area referred to as the North Meadow. I mentioned to my kids that, back in my grade school days, I was routinely taken to this particular field of grass and dirt with my classmates for the purposes of playing soccer and softball, and that I’d probably sat, stood or loitered disinterestedly on this very rock as a child hundreds -- if not thousands -- of times over those years. For all intents and purposes, the rock in question is largely unchanged, apart from maybe some tiny initial carvings (an observation that prompted my daughter to try to etch her name into the rock). I, meanwhile, had grown taller, heavier, older and grayer.
I’m not sure why I fixated on that point. Maybe it’s because the city around spots like that one in Central Park continues to change. Perhaps that’s why I’m so preoccupied with elements of the city that stay the same. I suppose it also connects back to my idealization of the “sense of place.” I’m romanced by the idea that myriad narratives can play out on a single patch of -- for lack of a better term --real estate, and that said patch can mean a million different things to a million different people. The same rock I sat on with my family in 2016 is the same rock upon which I once got into a heated argument about The Beatles’ White Album with my classmate Jimmy Ryan in 1979. Maybe it’s a rock upon which Person X might have proposed to Person Y. Someone might have been mugged once on this very rock. I have these same thoughts and associations about seemingly incidental side streets, corners and storefronts. I’m enchanted that so many lives have played out on these spots. The lives eventually terminate, but the spots remain.
But the city isn’t totally static, of course. It’s ultimately an extension of the millions of lives that transpire within it. And like those lives, it, too, endures periods of transformation. Sure, that rock in the middle of Central Park might still be there for eons to come, but its surrounding environs will continue to gradually (and, sometimes, not so gradually) mutate, like the contours of a giant, teeming ant heap.
So, this long-winded and melancholy rumination is essentially just a segue into discussing this neat-o video I happened upon over the weekend. A comparatively primitive “time-lapse” video from 1975, “Trainluvr’s Remix of Organism” paints a vivid, vibrant picture of the New York City of 1975. I was an 8-year-old Manhattanite when this stuff was filmed. Perhaps I’m in there somewhere.
Here, meanwhile, is the official description…..
I love discovering old things that had long eluded me. In late 2015 I found on YouTube an amazing urbanist film plus an exciting instrumental tune, both from the 1970s. An independent film maker, Hilary Harris, along with his associates, collected time lapse images of Manhattan for over a decade, ending in 1975. He created a 19 minute film called Organism. The city when viewed fro above, appears as a single living organism. Harris later collaborated with the makers of my all time favorite film, Koyaanisqatsi (1983). To make Organism accessible to a wider audience, I decided to do a remix, emphasizing the transportation related shots. I had been searching for decent electronic music of the 20th Century on YouTube. Most of the older electronic music is boring and ridiculous. Just weeks before finding Organism, I discovered Knives, Feathers and Fire, a hyper instrumental rock tune with serious electronic elements. The fit with Organism is startling. It has just the right mix of complexity and repetitive flow, combined with a hard rock 1970s style. Enjoy this impossible to repeat remix of two great and nearly forgotten pieces of media.
New M-1 trains and Amtrak Turbo at Harold Tower
Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan approach roads (AM)
Sunnyside Freight Yard
53rd Street Line station escalators
Fifth Avenue station platform (IND)
Various midtown intersections
Lincoln tunnel toll plaza with commuter buses (NJ)
Lincoln tunnel approach helix
Queens elevated trains approaching Queensborough Plaza from east
BQE cantilever and Brooklyn Heights Promenade (1973 or 74)
passengers boarding R-40M on the E followed by an R-38 on the E
lower East River
lower Manhattan skyline
tenement building demolition (at a downtown triangle lot on a WB street at the beginning of a NB street)somebody identify?
Boeing 727 approaching LGA with skyline
JFK Central Terminal (original terminal 4)
8th Avenue and W12th Street looking south (early 1960s)
Washington Bridge and Major Deegan ramps
Queens-Midtown Tunnel entrance plaza (mid 1960s)
RSD and ramp to HHP from GWB
8th Avenue at W41st Street looking NE (1974)
Wollman Rink in Central Park
Whitehall Terminal of the Manhattan-Staten Island Ferry (1972 or 73)
Office Tower demolition
Park Avenue (early 1960s)
Hudson and Bethune SWC looking west (Greenwich Village)
Brooklyn Bridge Manhattan approach roads (PM)
Looking down from McGraw Hill Building at W42nd, W41st and 8th
55 Water Street (post 1972)
Grand Central Terminal main concourse and ticket counter
NY Stock Exchange Floor
Sanitation Truck unloading on pier
Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street from above looking SE
Cross Bronx Expressway at University Avenue looking west
Central Park West at 61st - 62nd Thanksgiving Parade
Miller (West Side) Highway NB exit at W72nd Street
Civic Center (north western part) in WTC shadow
WTC office interior
Civic Center and Two Bridges areas in WTC shadow
Avery Fisher Hall at night
(probably) 7th Avenue looking south in Midtown at night
Looking north through midtown at night from east of 6th Ave and W39
8th Ave in the 40s in traffic looking north (Columbus statue visible)
morning rush hour at the entrance to the 7th Ave IND subway station 53rd and 7th NEC
final shot is 7th and 53rd looking SE