harlem

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

 

This week’s topic for the Weekly Photo Challenge is “Street Life”: a place reveals itself on its streets, from pedestrians strolling during lunch time, to performers entertaining tourists on sidewalks, to the bustle of local markets, and more….

A few years ago, I used to work up in Harlem on 125th Street. It is an area that is very busy, yet, also abandoned. There wasn’t much going on outside of my office building except the big construction pit on the north side of the street, the daytime mugging I once saw, and Bill Murray in a baseball cap standing outside the office. It is a strange intersection of bustling and abandonment, an active ruin. One summer, I decided to take my camera with me. I wanted to document the city streets and the people who pounded the pavement on 125th Street, which is also home to the Cotton Club. It is an area of greys and steel, but also one of bright colors in unexpected places.

**Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a recommended reading list at the bottom. This is a literature blog (I hope!).

Harlem, 125th Street

Cotton Club

Harlem, 125th Street

Recommended Reading List for Harlem, 125th Street
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison; Harlem in the 1920s + jazz music
  • Invisible by Paul Auster; about ten blocks south of the Cotton Club, a tragic event takes place to snowball all of the novel’s characters
  • Open City by Teju Cole; roaming the streets of Manhattan
  • Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney; 1980s hedonistic NYC told in second-person
  • The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolffe; racial tensions run high in 1980s NYC
  • Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger; we could argue over who the true phony is, but regardless this book captures Manhattan streets of the 194/50s

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East Harlem Cafe

Who do you see when you walk into a coffee shop? Writers, of course (or at least those who fancy themselves writers). I’ve recently become aware of a fantastic little cafe in East Harlem aka Spanish Harlem aka El Barrio. Because of the fantastic group, Harlem Writers’ Circle, and the equally fantastic literary journal, Crescendo City, the East Harlem Cafe has become the unofficial literary homebase for emerging talent that call Harlem and its surrounding areas home.

In a neighborhood that is plagued by social problems, the East Harlem Cafe is trying to reach a fundraising goal so that they are able to update their equipment and introduce healthier options (yogurt, fruit, etc.) to the neighborhood (Spanish Harlem is notorious for its lack of fresh food options). Also, the owner has been kind enough to host readings, etc. but must keep the cafe open later than intended. Without her hospitality, there would be no readings or open mics. Most people think of the writerly scene being down in the East Village or whatnot, but there is plenty of totally rad writing happening uptown. Last night, the cafe hosted a reading by some of the writers published in Crescendo City’s inaugural issue.

So, if you can support, please donate or if you’re in New York, stop by the cafe for a coffee or on a Monday evening for a Writers’ Circle workshop.