First Avenue & 9th Street

12 Jul

All right so raise your hand if you haven’t spent some time here in your life – late nights hanging out, partying, dancing, or I don’t know, maybe even seeing some performance art. It’s pretty much everyone I’ve ever met, right? I’m not really sure how I can even write about this corner. But then again, how could I not write about this corner. I’ve spent enough time here the last few weeks (or did I mean to say, years?) that I can’t imagine writing on anything else. Are we too old to have a clubhouse? Probably. But whatever, this place is pretty much my clubhouse.

I’m talking about Performance Space 122 by the by, but again, most people probably know that already. I’m going to turn 30 this year, and I was 23 when I first started working here. So you know, it’s more or less where I’ve spent my twenties. And I’m really happy about that. Honestly. I don’t know if I’ve learned the wrong lesson or something, but I love working here. I love it more than ever. I have a mild amount of responsibility – I don’t get paid too much. I take it seriously (that word can mean a lot of things) – I give it my heart over and over again. I say hello to a lot of people. It seems somehow important, in a totally inconsequential way. Sorry to talk about myself so much, but I guess I’m saying, IT’S ALL GOOD. It’s the little moments, too, that make up history: the friendly interaction, the shuffling of feet. It’s okay to romanticize yourself, or even better, to romanticize life, especially if by doing so you kind of recognize your place in the universal equation. It’s so much better than complaining. I think a lot of the discourse these days is about categorizing, labeling and setting up false dichotomies. And I think that’s really boring.

I want to quote Melville for some reason (Moby Dick!): “What of it, if some old hunks of a sea-captain orders me to get a broom and sweep down the decks? What does that indignity amount to, weighed, I mean, in the scales of the New Testament? Do you think the archangel Gabriel thinks anything the less of me, because I promptly and respectfully obey that old hunks in that particular instance? Well, then, however the old sea-captains may order me about – however they may thump and punch me about, I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is all right; that everybody is one way or other served in much the same way – either in a physical or metaphysical point of view, that is; and so the universal thump is passed round, and all hands should rub each other’s shoulder-blades, and be content.” And this, “Again, I always go to sea as a sailor, because they make a point of paying me for my trouble, whereas they never pay passengers a single penny that I ever heard of. On the contrary, passengers themselves must pay. And there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid.”

I know, he just set up a dichotomy there. But let’s just say I’m knocking down the dichotomy of dichotomy vs. non-dichotomy. What the hell am I talking about?

Performance Space 122 started out as Public School 122 (a middle school), built in 1894. By the 1970s it had been closed and abandoned by the city, but a number of visual artists moved in and started using the old classrooms as studios. In 1979 the choreographer Charles Moulton started using the second floor cafeteria (now P.S.’s main theater) for rehearsals and workshops. It would grow from there to become a year round presenting facility (thanks to the work of a lot of people who I’m not going to name here (Mark Russell!)) – with the downstairs gymnasium being converted to the second of P.S.’s two spaces. There are still artist studios on the top floors, with an affiliated gallery space on 9th Street, and the theater company Mabou Mines has their offices here as well.

So yeah, I’m going to plug the place. Come by here if you’ve never been. And come back here if you have. It’s awesome. Really, it’s one hundred percent awesome. Really? One hundred percent awesome? Well I seem to think so. I guess I’m in a good mood these days. But does that start to get boring? I probably say the same thing over and over again. David Byrne sings, “You start a conversation you can’t even finish/You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything/When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed/Say something once, why say it again?” But then, he was singing about a Pyscho Killer. If we all said something once, what the hell would we keep talking about? Speaking of which, have I mentioned the weather yet? It still feels cold! Although statistically, perhaps, a bit above the normal.

(Originally posted Jan. 15th, 2010 on


2 Responses to “First Avenue & 9th Street”

  1. Lo July 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    I’m so happy to have looked at your blog today with this as the day’s post. How appropriate that I’m sitting here at PS122 reading it…and that I’m content with the “universal thump”.


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