Feb 26, 2019

Dear class,

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s email, we’re reading first 100 pages of “Just kids” for next Tuesday February 26. Please bring your copies and be prepared to discuss the book. Writing is due 5pm on Monday February 25 as perusal and here is the prompt:

Patti Smith thrived during 60s and 70s when New York city was considered a haven for artists, poets, musicians and thinkers. How do you see this environment reading “Just Kids”? You can pick one of the two approaches below for your writing this week:

1-You can pick a neighborhood, avenue or area, and describe that location in your own words. This can be an imaginary picture of a place, while it can also be based on a photo (attach the photo), or a passage of the book. (Please make sure your research is within 60s and 70s time frame in New York city)

2-Based on the evidence provided by the author, compare New York city city as you currently see it, in comparison to what Smith has depicted. I would like you to be as specific as you can get about this. This can be real or imaginary.

Please refrain from binary, positive/ negative judgements about the location and try to provide evidence. In other words show me the old and new city (location) as opposed to expressing your emotions about it.

200-500 words

Email me if you have questions.


Since time is some reality in reality, we did not get a chance to thoroughly discuss “Whereas”, as our time was short. But for those of you who are interested, I placed a pdf of the book in our drive. Layli Long Soldier, is an astute poet from Oglala Lokota nation who resides in Santa Fe. A full chapter of “Whereas” is dedicated to a reflection on the apology provided by US government to Native Americans delivered during Obama’s presidency. In addition, there is an interview with Layli Long Soldier which I recommend listening to: “The Power of Real Apologies”.


  1. A popular stop on the M/R train is 63rd Drive. It is located in Rego Park, the city right besides mine. It consists of a couple of long blocks that have always been filled with restaurants and stores. Back in the 70’s, a popular corner on 63rd Drive included a pizzeria named “Pizza Drive”. If you look past the pizzeria, you can see a bowling alley sign down the block. If you have ever visited Rego Park, you know that stores such as Marshalls draw in many people as it is right outside the subway. In the description of this photo, it mentions the department store pictured in the distance was once called “Alexanders”. Something interesting I also noticed, was the phone number listed on the sign of the pizzeria. There were only about 5 numbers listed which can possibly be due to the lack of people using phones other than landlines at this time. Another sign in the photo is for a drug store which still remains a popular sight on 63rd Drive today. In other photos of this same location, cars are shown as well as colored photos of the clothing back in the 70’s. It is evident much has changed since the early 1970’s on 63rd Drive.

    1. A couple of years back i lived 2 blocks away from that corner, i’m glad you posted this photo, it was very interesting to see what that place looked like before. It gave me an idea of how much that place has changed throughout the time. You can even see by this photo that the way people dressed has also changed. I liked the observation you made on the phone number, makes sense.

  2. My street is filled with drug users. I can’t sleep a night without worrying if someone is shooting something up as there is never a single day without sirens going off. Today, I can go to my local bodega and familiar faces pass by as I can point out who does drugs. I don’t believe these people are artists, just people who want to get by in life. People who work and the people who are not part of the ghetto usually chuckle at the sight of them at the expense of their health. Not a lot of people are willing to help each other out as the experiences of those who scam us on the streets for money ingrain us deeply to distrust anyone and only care about ourselves.

    In the story, the characters move around a lot, once even because the area was dangerous. People supported each other and were more accepting when it came to tough times as work could be anything as long as it paid the bills and even encouraged their loved ones to quit if the job was detrimental to their mental health. Friends are willing to help friends, and a dollar at that time would be compared to dozens or hundreds today when paying for rent. Although tough times did occur, Robert, the drug user, opposes all typical stereotypes of drug users. Instead of begging or going through withdrawal, he smiles and looks forward to life, thinking of the future and not just the present. Also, he takes drugs as a way of inspirations in a time that was more accepting of drug use as the main character in this story should have taken Robert to seek counseling.

    To compare both, it’s harder to find places to live that are not overly priced. Quitting or getting fired from jobs is not an option as the bills need to get paid and there are few housing opportunities that cost ten to twenty times of what the characters paid, 80 dollars compared to nearly one to two thousand a month around Hall street. The apartment building is now renting out a three bedroom space for eight thousand. In the current day, New Yorkers are less inclined to care about people they rarely see or even send each other money and give out free food. Since New Yorkers are less inclined to care, we are less accepting of drugs and often put those in need of care down to further our own ego. However, crime still runs rampant in these streets as it can happen anywhere at any time, especially in the ghettos.

  3. I live not too far from this stop on the 2-train called Gun hill Road in the Bronx. Gunhill road is a very popular area because there are a lot of nail salons, hair salons, bodegas, you name it and it’s probably already there. This area is usually very busy everyday because Evander Childs High School down the block and a lot of buses stop there as well to take passengers to different destinations. The picture of Gunhill road in the 1970’s is interesting because in the photo, there are two trains, with one above the other. Those who know Gunhill road are used to the trains next to each other instead of being on top of each other. I also noticed that the trains didn’t look too old, but with these trains, you are able to pull down the window. There is also graffiti on every train cart since graffiti became popular in NYC in the 60’s. There are also a few old muscle cars and you don’t see anybody on the street which is surprising since this area is usually very crowded and busy. You don’t really see much stores on the block because the train station is blocking the way. The train station is not painted, nor does it have any large windows to bring in the natural sunlight and makes it harder to see inside of the train station. Overall, the area looks empty like there wasn’t that many residents or business over there or built yet.


    1. I found this comment interesting as I also traced back an image of a popular corner near my neighborhood. It is quite interesting to look back to the 70’s, way before we were born and gain insight on everything that has changed as well as remained the same. Overall, I found this prompt extremely interesting and I found myself googling images of what my neighborhood, Forest Hills, once looked like compared to now.

  4. The Chelsea Hotel is a legendary landmark erected on 23rd Street that pays homage to artists, writers, and musicians during a special era. Famous musicians like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix would stay there when their tours would reach New York City, and famous writers such as Dylan Thomas would die there when they succumbed to their vices. The residents and guests were of different celebrity status but all on common ground within the walls of the hotel. From Patti Smith’s description the Chelsea Hotel, the El Quixote bar, and the neighborhood of Chelsea was a small, inclusive world of its own.

    Patti Smith describes the neighborhood that surrounds the hotel to have a “post-war feel”, that it held history and character. Today, the Chelsea hotel is sandwiched between a Doughnut Plant and a 7-Eleven. To think of a hotel housed today’s celebrities, you’d imagine the streets outside would buzz with the flash of cameras and swarms of fans eager to snap a selfie. During the sixties, when Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe shared a cramped one bed room at the hotel none of that clamor polluted the streets outside. Only photographers such as Robert had cameras and they captured pure moments with no filter needed.


    1. The Chelsea hotel was one of my favorite locations. She looked up to these artists and she felt connected towards them because they both admired art. I liked how you compared the neighborhood as their own world because Patti Smith and Robert both shared unforgettable memories at the Quixote bar and Chelsea Hotel. The bookstore where Patti use to work was called Scribners and unfortunalty it was closed and is now a sephora store.

  5. When people thing about Times Square in our current epoch, the first thoughts which may come to mind would be the bright lights and LED signs, the jumbotrons, and corporate adverts which immediately catch the eyes of tourists and native New Yorkers, alike. It was not always this way. In fact, before Disneyfication, Times Square was a dark, dreary, and crime-ridden. Times Square of the 60’s and 70’s was a place filled with theatres screening pornography, sex shops and prostitution. The area also was filled with hustlers as depicted by the movie Midnight Cowboy, which Robert found a likening to. Laws were scarcely enforced, which allowed crime to reign upon the area. At this same time, drugs ran rampant in the area. People of all walks of life, trekked the streets of Times Square in these decades unphased by the sleaze which was plastered at a 360 point of view. One could not circumvent the vulgarity present. Times Square is a very different place than it was during the 60’s and 70’s. After rejuvenation at the hands of the City, Times Square has now become a world-renowned tourist destination, pervaded with corporate influence as seen in the colossal bright and colorful advertisements. When people outside of New York think of NYC, Times Square tends to be the first place the mind is drawn to.


    1. Hi Brandon; I am so happy you wrote about Times Square. I agree it has definitely changed to become one of the most popular tourist sites. It is remarkable to see the transformation from what it was in the 60’s-70’s to what it has now become. It went from this xxx scene to now being this beautiful family/ tourist attraction. I love going to Times Square with my family especially during the holidays.

  6. Myrtle avenue in Ridgewood queens is the place to be. So many shops, all around us. While the adult’s shop at Woolworths, all the children run into the Italian deli’s to buy penny candies. They hit the jackpot with just a quarter. Teenagers read the large print on the on sign that reads Ridgewood theatre, contemplating which movie they will go see. There are many beautiful antique old cars on the streets. The building structures are beautiful and unique. They tell a story by looking at them. The streets are filled with people. Twice a year Myrtle avenue is closed to traffic and the people have fairs. There are food carts, mini flee markets. The streets are lined with trees. There are flowers planted on the trunks that the trees are fenced in. There is a section that with benches across from an ice cream & pizza shop so that the people can sit out and enjoy. From the Ridgewood theatre you can see the train tracks for the “M” train line. There are city buses all around the area. There are these 2 huge buildings with such gorgeous infrastructure that make them look like they can be a museum, but in reality, they are banks. Ridgewood, What a beautiful place to spend family time.


    1. This was such a great mental picture of a summer in Ridgewood. I drive through there often and I always try to imagine what it would be like to grow up in that area. I grew up in a tiny, tiny farm town that is completely opposite from Queens. I think it would’ve been so neat to walk to that old style ice cream shop during the summer and see all your neighbors. I’m glad Ridgewood still has its charm!

  7. It was a time where just about everything was changing. The environment, the culture, the people. A lot of what is now known has Brooklyn, New York was being defined through the 1960s and 70s. The streets expressed themselves through art and history with no idea what they were creating. During this time, many groups from various racial and cultural backgrounds immigrated to this city to find a new way of living. They sought new paths and better opportunities to explore arts such as writing, music, and visual designs. Down the busy paved streets, you can see people shuffling by to get to where they need to be as well as beggars, panhandlers, and street entertainers taking up their own space on the tiny sidewalks. Busy newsstands informing of what’s new in town while the salesman yells the best headliner. More noise of the bells and chimes that ring from opening doors of just about every store on the avenue. Hair Salons, candy shops, shoe repairs, small appliance stores, butcher shops, are some of the most common small local businesses you’ll find. They run back to back and during the sunny hours of the day, are never found empty. Noisy train stations became the stages for the best kinds of music. Despite the efforts from the powers that be to keep music out of the underground, many artists thrived on finding the perfect spot to perform, the perfect combination of space, foot traffic, and acoustics. Above ground places like Slugs exploded with the erratic and soulful sounds of Jazz. The corner street bodegas blasting their Hispanic heritage load so everyone can hear. Sounds of Celia Cruz, El Gran Combo, and Hector Colon litter the Brooklyn streets.
    In the reading, Patti Smith mentions the music she hears on her everyday adventures. She links the music to the moments in her life that stand out the most. Her subtle mentions of sounds like Light my Fire speak to her relationship with her “compatriot” Janet. Her memories of “Strawberry Fields Forever” bring back the times during her pregnancy when she would sneak away on Sundays for coffee and jelly doughnuts. John Lennon giving her the strength she needed the most. She also talks of artist like Nina Simone, and tracks from some of the best rockers of the time, that though subtly spoke about, evidently had a big influence on her experience in New York.

    1. What I find intriguing is that despite the fact that dozens of years have passed, New York still resembles its former self in the cities. We still have cultural diversity, busy streets, subways, and a variety of stores. Every block a different smell as there can be a range of feces to outdoor food stands. Although every store is not booming with business, there will always be a moderate amount of work to fill. Cars go by, motorcycles and exotic vehicles with the combination of trains and subways with people talking. The city never really seems to quiet down as there is always some sort of noise or disturbance in it.

  8. Colors danced all around as the sun reflected up above. In 1964, Flushing Meadow Park embraced the world’s fair with open arms. Flags perfectly placed around the perimeter of the great Unisphere as fountains left the people in awe. This was New York’s chance to host the world’s fair where thousands would gather to celebrate the achievements of many great nations. 1964 marked a time of progression as movements like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. A country in tears mourning the loss of president John F. Kennedy persevered by embracing an era of exploration and a brighter future.

    Everyone had the opportunity to enjoy the world’s fair; children and adults explored the park gazing at the large oval pavilion with colored class overhead. The outline painted bright yellow and red and white striped all around the base painted a carnival in the center of the park. Tall structures that looked advanced for the time was truly a tomorrow land. Looking up at the observation towers you might get a kink in your neck, as they stood tall over the pavilion. Climbing up the metal stairs of the observation tower you would see a sight like no other. Overlooking the world’s fair and the pavilion just underneath a perfect painting of the borough of queens.

    The Flushing meadows world’s fair pavilion is one of two pavilion structures that was preserved for future use. Unfortunately in 2019 the pavilion lost its luster at the rust and time took over. The pavilion has rich history, standing strong with so much potential. I visit the park every so often and had the opportunity in 2014 to walk inside the pavilion and stand underneath the once glass ceiling, learning about its rich history.

      1. Rachel,
        I loved how you talked about this park and its purpose in the community. You really set a great setting for a space that hold a grand history. A park is something so simple and so common that we often don’t think twice about the sort of public events that could have occurred in them. A place like flushing meadow park is so significant for not just new Yorkers but for a lot of the world because of its display of flag around a large metallic globe and the celebrations and remembrance of leaders and our country’s past. Though heart breaking that it will never look like it used to, it definitely wont lose its meaningfulness and we can only hope that in the 60s of these next 100 years, the memory and importance still stays.

  9. “We took the subway to west fourth street and spent the afternoon in Washington square. We shared coffee from a thermos, watching the stream of tourist stoners, and folksingers. Agitated revolutionaries distributed antiwar leaflets. Chess players drew a crowd of their own. Everyone coexisted within the continuous drone of verbal diatribes, bongs, and barking dogs. We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity”- Just Kids, Patti Smith.

    Washington Square park of today has not changed much from the visit described by Pattie Smith. It is still a meeting place for the residents of the city and those who are just visiting. Drawn to the iconic arch and the many views that they have seen in various movies. The park still has this chess tables where strangers or friends can play one another. But maybe the crowds they once drew are not as frequent now. Crowds can be found near the street performers that entertain with fillips and dance moves. In the various seats, you can find those who are content to sit and watch the world pass by. The park might see fewer revolutionaries, and folk singers now. They have been replaced by the well to do of the west village or NYU students. The fountain still the center of activity for the park. Tourists sit on the edge and take photos, students study or read around it and in the summer you can find a few brave souls taking a dip in the water. The park has changed but what is still the same is that everyone still coexists in that “drone of verbal diatribes, bongs and barking dog.” As Smith put it. That sound is the sound of a gathering place where everyone can go.

  10. Hillside avenue is a place filled with the middle eastern culture. The smell of halal is frequent and the halal carts can be seen on almost every block. Most of the businesses there are mostly own by Indian people whether its dress shops, salons, restaurants, fast food places, and doctor’s offices. My father is a cook at a restaurant called Usha Foods, it is well known for the variety of indian cuisine at affordable prices. Even though it is predominantly middle eastern, if you go a couple of blocks up or down it will be a completely different world. In the 60s and 70s this place was a melting pot of different cultures and people alike. This is where people work to make a living for their family. People who are immigrants to this land and are in search of the “American Dream”. People who have been here for a while and is just living their everyday life as normal. Normal everyday people is what makes New York City, immigrants flock here to be part of the NYC culture and to support their families. Even though there is a distinction between cultures, they all come together as a community.

  11. In the 1970’s, many people including many artists sought to live in Dumbo Brooklyn. After the deindustrialization, there were few auto repair shops, coffee shops, etc. Since it was mainly residential, it was attractive especially for artists because of the affordable rent and large open spaces for artwork. In 1978, the people named the area Dumbo so that it would deter real estate and large commercial buildings and ultimately, not raise prices in the area.

    Many local artists were known and can be seen in the local newspapers. It wasn’t uncommon to have your local psychic or astrologer in the same little restaurant that your favorite local band was playing in. There would be a local art show all going on at the same time, using the free spaces on the wall to display different artists’ work every month. Dumbo reminded me of the environment and setting in “Just Kids” because of the focus on the artists’ lives. Robert and Patti finding themselves mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally at a young age through art is still the same similar story that lives in all art hubs in New York City today. Pretty identical stories are told from the point of view from family members who grew up there in the same years of the story in the 60s and 70s.

  12. This Is a picture of the beautiful Flushing Meadows Park located in corona. This was taken on a nice sunny day during the 1964/1965 New York World’s Fair. In the middle of the picture you can see the representation of this park, the Unisphere, it is surrounded by water that is shooting up in the air to give an attractive effect to it. There is a lot of people walking around the park that has poles with flags from different countries being displayed because of the world’s fair ceremony. While there is a lot of green life, there are also a few small buildings inside the park. You can see streets leading into the neighborhood. In the background the Shea Stadium is behind the 7 train, which at the moment the picture was being taken the train was also passing by the park. Because of these vivid colors you can make a beautiful image of the this photo that was taken so long ago.


    1. I’ve always felt drawn to Flushing Meadow Corona Park because of it’s close proximity to me, and your take on the park’s past intrigued me. It was interesting to hear about the park and it’s history in relation to the environment which I have easily overlooked in the past. Your writing also made me reminisce about when Shea stadium was still there rather than Citi Field. It is baffling how different the setting and area of a place can change over a period of 50 years.

    2. Hi Juan,
      I also found myself being drawn to Flushing Meadow park because of its rich history in 1964/65. It is crazy to think I drive past city field all the time, and there was a time I refused to call it city field because I knew it as Shea stadium and now that is all in the past. I also find myself in Flushing Meadow park and although the structures still stand its original purpose has faded away.

  13. Jamaica Avenue is one of the main centers of transportation in New York City. Various train lines and bus lines run through or begin their route on Jamaica Avenue. There are also many restaurants and shopping locations on Jamaica Avenue and it is typically very busy and full of different people throughout all times of the day. Back in the 60s and 70s this was also the case. In a photo of Jamaica Avenue in the 70s you can see the line of stores and different shopping locations on the block. You can see that the sidewalks are packed of different people walking around, coming in and out of stores holding shopping bags and crossing the street. The packed sidewalks look like they go on for miles just full of different people going on about their day. You can also notice that there is a lot of traffic on the road and this shows how busy Jamaica Avenue was back then. You can also see various food carts and things of that nature as well. Jamaica Avenue back in the 60s and 70s was a thriving place of attraction and it was full of life just like it is today.


  14. Not to far from Main street, there is this particular Hindu Temple located in Bowne street right in front of the Hindu society building. The architecture of this is structure is natural from Hindu temples, with statues of their god Ganesha filled with golden jewelry, flowers and traditional Indian attire. The inside of this temple has enough of space for a big community of believers. The people not holy come as a prayers but there is a whole system involved on every movement they do, some of them clean the space, some make sure the space is ready for prayer and others help on the cooking. This building welcomes anyone not only those who follow Hinduism. There is an entrance on the side of the building, if you follow it you’ll find stairs leading to an underground area, the walk down is a bit long, but you’ll find the main restaurant from the temple where people can enjoy truly traditional Indian food.


  15. Every time I visit Times Square I always was curious to know about the history of what it used to be. Times Square is a major commercial intersection and neighborhood in Midtown, Manhatten, New York City, at the junction of Broadway and seventh Avenue. It also stretches from West 42nd to 47th Street. Brightly adorned with billboards and advertisements, Times Square is sometimes referred to as The Crossroads of the World. In the early 1960s, 42nd Street between Seventh and Eight Avenue was described by the New York Times as “the worst block in town.” Times Square back then was depicted as gritty, dark and desperate times. Back then in the 60s and 70s there was no bright ads which attracted tourists or technology to make life easier. It was a totally different world than what we know about now. In this picture we can see the famous billboard that many get together to celebrate New Year’s Day as dark and not well lit up. There are no tourists attractions like we know today. The streets are not lit up enough for everyone to see clearly. It was a negative period in time where many people disliked Times Square. Now the times have changed drastically where Times Square is the center of attention.


  16. The washing square park back in the 1960s / 1970s described by Patti Smith and the washington square park today is not quite the same anymore even this there’s still some similarities. The washington square park now have has plenty of things to see and do. The park is really vibrant and full with tourists from all over the world. Today the park had a lot of renovation in resulted in repaved paths, new benches and lighting as well as the the relocation of the fountain to the center of the square. This move enabled the creation of more green space like the trees and grass are greener now then they use to be back in the days. In the precessions, the fountain was completely rebuilt. People come to the park to take weddings pictures, prom pictures and kids come from all over with their family to play around at the kids playground, specially in the summer time the park be so pack. Sometime they held events at the park. There’s a lot of food carts / street food and juice cart at the park which people can just grab and go. There basketball courts for the boys to play. There cafe and small shops where the grown people can just sit and enjoy the view the atmosphere.

    Where as back in 1960s and 70s the washington square park was known for the bohemian musical wonderland. It was all about music and art. Where most of the stores was books, music, painting stores. Everywhere you’ll pass by in the park everybody would either be a up coming writer, painter or musician and they have the same passion and dreams. Example when Patti Smith stated that “entering the perimeters of the white arch, one was greeted by the sounds of the bongos and acoustic guitars, protest singers political arguments, activists leafleting, older chess players challenged by the young”. this to show that that’s why the park was mostly about back then. The buildings around the park would either be old or made out of dark woods and dark bricks. Around the park would be dark and and crusty in some areas.

    In comparison back in 1960s/70s the washington park was all about music, art, comics, authors. That’s why patti was able to stayed in NYC even though she was broke with no money and no place to leave. but after she found her boyfriend Robert who had the same interests as in books and arts she was okay. She was willing to sleep in the streets no matter what because NYC was where her dreams at and she wasn’t going no where. Meanwhile now the washington square park is more complex and there’s so much more to do and so many new inventions. It’s more modern now. Even though there’s a lot of changes. The washington square park is still very cultural diverse today and remains rich in arts.

  17. In “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, the author explained horse-drawn carriages that were stationed between plaza hotel and Paris theatre. Horse carriages are continued to be used in the streets of New York City. Today they are still horse carriages in new york city as a marvelous way for people to get a view of the city. Back then, horse carriages were used for a way for people to get from place to place. When the author describes the metropolitan opera, I had a vision of a ginormous theatre with lights shining and thousands of people waiting in line. She describes the people entering sensing their anticipation. As she observes people’s facial expressions, she can express the excitement the people have during that moment of time as they are entering The Metropolitan Opera. Another comparison that I thought was significant was when Smith was greeted by the sounds of bongos and acoustic guitars, protest singers and political arguments and older chess players challenged by the young. She described that atmosphere” something she’s never experienced before,simple freedom that did not seem to be oppressive to anyone” . A similar experience I remember was riding the subway coming from the city there were a group of dancers doing backflips and break dancing to old school hip hop. I thought to myself “Wow they’re really talented” and I found it interesting because it was similar to the author’s experience. The break-dancers felt a sense of freedom and confidence towards the public through their talent, which was dancing. Towards the end they would go around asking for a donation and people chipped in. The author was roaming New York City in pursue to fulfill her dream as a writer and poet just as the dancers were out fulfilling their dream through dance.


  18. The small town was a year-round tourist attraction spot. The town was known for the sunny weather, friendly locals and delicious food. The distinctive food and culture gave the town a unique touch. The immense popularity later attracted the wrong attention. Displays of wealth made tourists easy targets, luxury watches and smartphones are the first possessions to turn up missing. Cab drivers that have been sitting parked for a while watching people walk past. Two friends leaving a bar viewed as gullible and naïve, with phones and jewelry in full display. They are approached and asked if there in need of a ride, getting into the vehicle without hesitation. The two friends are held at gun point, putting all their possessions into a bag and are driven to a deserted location and told to get out.

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