Gawker: My Gay Uncles
When I talk about my downtown life as a kid, people ask how old I am. Growing up in New York City in the 70s was more like being an urchin of the 30s than a silver spoon of the 80s. I'm more likely to share recollections with a 70-year old—playing stoop, jumping off the piers—than to wax fondly upon the boy bands, cocaine, and angular sports cars of Ronald Reagan's second term.
At 7 or 8, I ran around the city on my own—torn jeans and army cap—and I wasn't unusual. We were wild, when wildness in New York City was still a refuge for freedom. The city was different. There were still neighborhoods, and people were—has the phrase fallen out of usage?—responsible citizens
It wasn't all niceness. There was the constant street talk, the "Let me see your wallet," the hustling and jostling for position on the sidewalk, physically, mentally, financially. It was a tough city. If you said yes at every corner, you'd be buying fireworks four times a mile. And if the fireworks guys didn't ask everyone, they'd never sell anything. In the West Village, where I went to school (PS41) and where most of my friends lived, there were offers and inquiries; the grown men in the Meat Market. The West Village was a live gay emancipation, a surge of repressed sexual energy, not all positive, and our frail sexual identities, pre-teen, answered with ignorance. ...