This Gig's for You

By Baldwin, Tryon | Commonweal, September 22, 1995 | Go to article overview

This Gig's for You


Baldwin, Tryon, Commonweal


One morning last spring, as I left my building for work, I discovered a young woman dancing--well, actually, gyrating is more like it--on my front stoop. She wore very short cut-off blue jeans and a flowered-print halter top, and I first saw her through the glass front door of my building, from behind. It was only after I opened the door and passed by, pausing long enough to say "Excuse me," that I noticed the film crew in the street.

Like most New Yorkers, I'm normally oblivious to the film industry; it's not unusual, especially in my neighborhood, to stumble upon a group of people armed with cameras and boom mikes: "N.Y.P.D. Blue" is set in my precinct; parts of Die Hard III were filmed nearby; and finding an N.Y.U. film student is easier than finding a cop. Still, this woman was twisting on my doorstep, which doesn't happen everyday.

I should explain that I live in the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park, in a part of Manhattan that has undergone something of a hipster renaissance in the past few years as well-heeled arty types and dressed-down college kids have made it their home. Nose rings and tattoos abound, and Mohawked, leather-clad teen-agers, their bodies pierced in half-a-dozen ways, roam the streets reciting their group manifesto: "Spare change for a cold beer, man?"

At times, this "scene" can be a bit much, and a few months ago, as the weather warmed up and as more people began spending more time on the street and in the park, I started to think about moving--not just from the neighborhood, but from New York. Still, that morning, I was more intrigued than annoyed by the woman on my stoop, and I crossed the street to watch. Looking back at my building, I saw that a young, broad-shouldered black man sat on the steps and played the bongos, while the dancer, a slim Hispanic C. woman, twisted and flailed behind him. …

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