By the time my husband and I purchased an apartment in Alphabet City, all my idols were dead. I imagined their ghosts making fun of people like me who crawled into the East Village hoping to have babies and a volunteer gig in a community garden. But I was desperate to belong to a neighborhood that represented my values, ideals, and dreams of a creative life—a neighborhood with a storied history and its share of ghosts.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
This is part of our brand new NYC vertical.
When I was a teenager, I'd come into the city on weekends to visit my boyfriend, Gabriel. He lived in this cozy, art-filled Upper West Side apartment--right on the Park. We'd always head downtown to the East Village, especially when he played shows at the Continental--before it was a ten-shots-for-10-bucks place, when it was still a cool music venue.
Right next door was the Bookshop, which would always speak to me; if the club owner at Continental (anyone remember the bouncer with the huge hat?) thought I was too young to come in (despite being the girlfriend of the guy in the band), I'd head to the bookshop and get lost.
Back then, the premise of becoming a writer--let alone surrounding myself with the literary, or going to school in NYC for writing--was as ridiculous as becoming a Hollywood actress. I felt I had no plan, no voice, no money, and certainly no ability.
Gabriel and his parents nurtured me, leaving an imprint that I cannot ever deny. If I'm a product of anything, it's my parents, my resilience, and them. Standing outside that bookshop, peering in at this world, was something meaningful. I didn't realize it then, but it changed me.
As the years went on and I found myself in college in 2005, long after the city had changed--along with my perception of it (it stopped being a giant; it started becoming home), I'd find myself at the bookshop. And again, in graduate school. I even madly kissed someone, drunk on mugs of $3 beer at Grassroots Tavern, against a stack of books.
To speak of loss in New York is strange. There is so much here. There is so much to do, and think about, and so many people. There is the time that has passed, the locations that have gentrified, or died, or been stripped of their identities. And the institutions that watched.
To think sentimentally about any one space in a city so big--where we don't have neighborhoods to ourselves anymore, but an entire playground--seems futile. But those places are what center you. You know that among the millions, and under all the buildings, there's an anchor. What made it all OK. What made it real.
Goodbye, St. Mark's Bookshop.
Lisa Marie Basile is a NYC-based poet, editor, and writer. She’s the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine, and her work has appeared in Bustle, The Establishment, Hello Giggles, The Gloss, xoJane, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press, Uni of Buffalo) and a few chapbooks. Her work as a poet and editor have been featured in Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, The New York Daily News, Best American Poetry, Tin House, Best American Poetry, and The Rumpus, among others. She currently works for Hearst Digital Media, where she edits for The Mix, their contributor network.