Tuesday, December 06, 2005

SOHO (South of Houston Street)

Soho, NYC (Photo courtesy of NoelG)

I had recently asked Noel, should he find himself in Soho, to take a couple of shots of the neighborhood. And much to my great delight he obliged me with five wonderful scenes. I was so overjoyed because they evoked many fond memories of the city that I love (other than Manila).

They say the isle of Manhattan is in a constant state of renaissance, and how true it is. This photograph shows Gourmet Garage at Broome Street and Mercer. This wasn’t here when I left New York. The reigning food emporium around here then was Dean & Deluca on Broadway and Prince Street.

Incidentally, the photos that Noel sent me were mostly of this specific area of Soho I have in mind (West Broadway and Broome), but never mentioned it to him. He could have gone to Prince Street which I had alluded to when I spoke of Dean & Deluca on my email. But as if some stroke of magic, he took some shots of the very spot I would always find myself whenever I went to Soho. Call it my starting point, if you will.

Walking west from this Gourmet Garage store—on the southeast corner of West Broadway and Broome Street—is Kenn’s Broome Street Bar where my friends and I would meet after work before heading to an art exhibit opening in the area or somewhere in the Lower East Side. It was also in here where we would all meet if we decided to have dinner in Chinatown, which is walking distance from here.

Directly across the street on the second floor is The Kitchen (Center for Video, Music, Dance, Performance, Film & Literature) where I saw Robert Fripp perform the early series of his Frippertronics repertoire as inspired by Brian Eno. Robert Fripp, as we all know is the lead guitarist for the English art rock group, King Crimson with Bill Bruford on drums.

Also, from Kenn’s Broome Street Bar, walk south down a couple of doors is where The Cupping Room is. It used to be a small café where we would hang out on Sunday mornings reading The New York Times’ Sunday edition while having a cup of coffee from various exotic countries. Subsequently, The Cupping Room was expanded to occupy the space next door when it became vacant. It is now a spacious fine restaurant.

When we first started hanging out in Soho, it was still mainly a district of various factories. But when the manufacturing industry moved elsewhere—predominantly in Asia and Mexico—like most of Manhattan, Soho was eventually transformed into a posh neighborhood of fine restaurants, clothing stores, art galleries and stunning loft residences. It was a gentrification process resented mostly by the previous residents of fine artists who got evicted out of their cavernous loft studios. Most moved to the Lower East Side. When it, too, got gentrified, they crossed the river to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn; other artists found home in Hoboken, New Jersey.

I will post the other pictures Noel had sent me in the next few days. For now, go visit his site, NoelG, and check out his truly unique style of photography. He’s currently featuring a series of Philippine provincial life photographs; one of which inspired my blog post, My Life With A Pig.

Once gain, many thanks, Noel!


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:26 AM


Blogger Sidney said...

My father once gave me the advice to avoid going back to a place where I was happy. According to him, I would be very dissapointed. Things changes and people move on. If you go back after many years of absence you are in for a big dissapointment. It will never be again the same place where you were happy.
I think he was right.

You sound very nostalgic about SOHO ! :-)

December 06, 2005 6:22 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I think so, too, Sidney. As others would put it, "You can't go home again." Actually, a couple of friends from New York said that it changed to so much; midtown, especially, has totally gone "Disneyfied!"

I think best attitude is always to lower one's expectations, and basically accept things as they are and try to appreciate the changes, for those are the only constant in life.

Yes, there's a spot in my heart for Soho, but due more for its culture and the people from various parts of the world that I was fortunate enough to have met there, as well as for friendships that were strengthened while hanging out there.

As for the physical aspects of Soho itself, as someone once told me, "Don't fall in love with real estate." :)

December 06, 2005 8:46 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting to read about your bohemian lifestyle in SOHO. I agree that it is hard to go back and find what used to be, but then we might also be disappointed if things remain the same.

Enrique, you really know your SOHO. A question for you: What is Manila's answer to SOHO, if there is one.

December 07, 2005 1:22 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm almost tempted to say the Malate area, Noel, but on second thought, Malate is more reminiscent of Chelsea and the West Village.

The Soho I'm most enamored with was the pre-gentrified Soho -- were the streets were agrind with manufacturing activities in the morning, and at night, in a couple of obscure "hole-in-the-wall" cafes the sounds of poetry readings, jazz or experimental music would permeate. And on occasions, the sounds of animated debates amongst artists from the back.

And I don't mean this in an elitist way, because most of the audience were either financially-strapped working students, as well as struggling artists, writers, photographers and etc. You can imagine how afordable the menus were.:) But for the most part, Soho nurtured what I would call the "cerebral dreamers." And I suspect it was what Paris was like for America's "lost generation" (Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and etc.).

But then Wall Street money suddenly came along -- the young and dashing traders and brokers with their multi-million bonuses -- and the neighborhood had to cater to its new residents as well. Is it a bad thing? Hmmmm... no. It just is.

If I may share another interesting observation: Had the Filipinos possess the spiritual maturity that Jose Rizal wished for, the Philippines could have been the Soho of Asia starting from the '50s. Considering Sto. Tomas is older than Harvard and the Filipinos as a race, as we all shall agree, is inherently intelligent and artistic, not to mention beautiful people as well.

Yup, to borrow from Brando, "We could have been a contender."

December 07, 2005 6:04 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Found your blog when I clicked on NEXT.

Another phenomenon is Starbucks-ification of Manhattan. You might find a few other establishments or places that are now replaced by Starbucks!

December 07, 2005 6:31 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

So true, Mike! Starbucks' strategy was to saturate an area with a couple of Starbucks so as to discourage competitors from moving into the turf. It got so rediculous that whenever I would say, "Meet me at Starbucks at Union Square," follow-up question would always be, "Which one?"

But do you want to know my favorite coffee shop hangout? Up on the top floor of Barnes & Noble Bookstore near Lincoln Center. You can horde a bunch of books and magazines, and sit there the whole day reading while enjoying your tea or coffee :)

You ought to check it out, Noel!

December 07, 2005 7:48 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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