Monday, October 21, 2013

BANKSY AND MR. ZABAR PAINT OUTSIDE MY APARTMENT

I've lived on the Upper West Side most of my 42 years. The childhood I experienced was like no other. It was remarkable, to say the least. Many think New York is just for the rich. Many think it's hard to live here. Many think raising kids here is cruel. Well all I can tell you is as a person who  spent her formative years in a city of never ending change and possibility, I'm always given signs and reminders of why I was raised here, who I am and why New York is exactly where my home is.

Yesterday I woke up to sirens, buses stalling, horns honking and a Banksy painting. On the wall of the building across the street which to me will always be Woolworth's from my childhood (now a DSW), Banksy sneakily painted a young boy slinging a sledgehammer. Almost when the whole day before I realized the huge crowd across the street. All I saw was people and cameras. As I crossed 79th all I could think was in that crowd there was something bad. A dead body? But finally I pushed my way through the people and saw the boy on the wall. The style looked familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Banksy someone said. Ah yes! I remembered the documentary I saw last year late night on Netflix. Banksy talking about his work. His face covered. His voice altered.  Talented AND good at business. The perfect union.

People took endless pictures. I wondered who they all were. Tourists? New Yorkers? It was hard to tell, but everyone was silent. It was like being in St. Patricks Cathedral during the day. Filled with tourists but silent to show respect.  A few people posed for pictures by Banksy's boy by putting their heads on the water sprinkler head next to it. This was to make it look like the boy was hammering their head. All I could think of was when tourists came to NYC after 9/11 and bought American flags from Chinese street vendors and held them as they rode the subway to the wreckage. Like that somehow made them a part of things. Idiots.

So then I wake up this morning to hard violent red graffiti paint sprayed all over the boy. I was horrified and sad. Immediately the possible evil motives and cynicism penetrated my mind. What would make someone do this? Fame? New Coverage? The Devil? Then I thought, well maybe Banksy did it! Maybe he ruins all of his street art just to get more press. But this made my heart hurt. Really hurt. I don't want that to be true. If it is true- please don't tell me. If we've gotten to the point where the only way art can be truly seen is when it or it's maker is destroyed, well I will just retire right now.

But then something happened. Something miraculous. The owner of Zabar's and his management team restored it. They sent over a cleaning crew and sealed it in plexiglass.  Now, Zabar's has been on the Upper West Side longer than I have! In fact I think they may even own the building Banksy painted on. SO here we have the aged owner of one of the most famous specialty food shops in the world, who also happens to be a landlord, restore and preserve the most magical thing that's happened on the Upper West Side in YEARS! On top of that- there's no credit taken. No note to the neighborhood. Nothing.

So now and forever - across the street from my home- stands a painting by Banksy and Mr. Zabar's. And across the street from it is me- a 42 year old New Yorker and optimistic Upper West Sider.