You may remember that scene in the infamous final episode of The Sopranos when one of the guys walks out of a Little Italy restaurant and then the camera pulls back with a wide shot of the street to show Chinese businesses closing in on the old neighborhood. If you didn't see it, never mind.
When I walk south along the tenuous and uncertain blocks of the northern Bowery these days, I get a feeling that everything is up in the air, unsettled. No one building, either built or under construction, makes a definitive statement. It IS like the current state of the New York Yankees, one that has finished the season but will try to be different next year. That was the point I was trying to make in a post the other day. Anxiety and uncertainty, along with too many choices, leads to a depressing state of affairs.
When I reach the transition of the northern Bowery to the owned and operated Chinese blocks to the south, I immediately feel better. First of all, we have colors - reds, greens, pinks, merlots, and what have you, vivid background awning colors advertising with clear and large signs, in English and Chinese, the lighting shops, hotels, bakeries, social associations, and more. No more subtlety, no more understated lack of assurance. The individual businesses are filled in, for the most part, providing a sense of unity.
Note: The Bowery 2007 Walk, now complete, will appear in a few days, along with a map, on the sidebar of this website. A pedestrian interpretation of Stephen Crane's Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893) will follow in due course.
See the complete walk here.