lower east side Archives - The Jose Vilson

lower east side

c/o Ellen Sirleaf

A few notes:


Headline I’d love to see: Courageous New Yorkers Remove Sandbags from Goldman Sachs, Bring Them to the Projects pic.twitter.com/RuGizEZo

- @kade_ellis

Jose, who reaches 1,000 posts on this blog tomorrow …


Hurricane Sandy Hits South Carolina Beach

The new moon rode high in the crown of the metropolis,
Shinin’, like “Who on top of this?”

- Mos Def in Blackstar’s “Respiration”

Flashlights. Bottles of water. Cereal. Baby food. Milk. Batteries. Charged devices. Landline phone on deck. Ready-to-eat foods.

As we went through the list at the supermarket, I found myself feeling stupid for thinking it wasn’t going to be that bad. Chalk it up to a New Yorker’s bravado. The citadel that survived the riots of the 70s, the drug wars of the 80s, the Giuliani “clean-ups”, 9/11, the 2003 Blackout, the Snowpocalypse of 20 and last year’s Hurricane Irene could handle just about anything. Plus, Bloomberg had been so reluctant to close schools that I already had my shirt and sweater combinations ready for Monday.

Then I woke up on Sunday with two skies outside my window: the sunny one just above the Bronx, and the opaque one just above us, moving so rapidly northbound, whatever hopes I had for a sunny day became nil. The supermarkets, grocery stores, and barbershops had yet to anticipate the long lines rounding the block. The traffic lights hadn’t stopped its rhythmic flickers, and the Chinese corner spot still doled out chicken wings and pork fried rice in rapid succession. While Luz got me geared up for checking off our disaster list, I just shook my head, incredulous as to what might and would happen.

Three days later, and many of us are still in suspended disbelief.

A piece of my heart still belongs to the Lower East Side, which had its share of tanks parading through its streets and transformers blowing up at the end of Avenue D for the world to see twice in the last decade. My mother still lives in that neighborhood, and she says she’s OK, she always will. A piece of my mind still belongs to the student whose family had an emergency in North Carolina … and sent me a message on EnGrade to ask for all her homework and classroom for the end of this marking period. Her family can’t leave yet, and she says she’s OK, but students usually do.

While real photos from the collateral damage trickle in through my newsfeed, I worry less about the people who see New York City as their personal playground, see NYC as invincible and permanent, and more about the people who, drawn by its image, made their homes here permanently. New York City might be the city of many people’s dreams, but it currently occupies a lot of others’ nightmares. The facade of a building spontaneously falls, cranes dangle 90 stories high, and the 98-year-old pumps slowly drain out our subways.

Mother nature warns us constantly to conserve, to tone down, to stay humble. Yet, one has to wonder, after the cleanup, press conferences, and editorials has passed, how can one not feel over-aspirational with buildings that almost part the sky in two?

Jose, who just had to say it …


Four Letters Down (I Come From)

by Jose Vilson on July 18, 2010

in Jose

Pedro Pietri

“Four Letters Down” (I Come From) by Jose Vilson (draft)

But where I come from isn’t yours
I come from disjointed alphabets, incongruent pronunciations of antique names,
Burgundy stoned buildings arranged vertically, inorganically
With pathways tight enough to hear the shrill screams of murder and mayhem
But wide enough to feel like it’s not everyone’s issue
I come from white lines plastered on fragile concrete and fluorescent murals
On the track following their roads and their wrists
People still unsure whether to signal left or signal for help
I come from yells and whispers in rhythm with the boom-bap and the bomba
The roaches in the toaster playing the maracas with their feet
The pipes in the winter playing the timbales
I come from the land of the Chinese chicken and fries
Next to the Royal fried chicken and fries
Next to the chicken falafel spot with fries and a bogeda with the Coronas
I come from kids no higher than my knees mimicking kids no higher than my waist mimicking kids no higher than my ribs
I come from everchanging landscapes and neighborhood rallies
Wondering whether flotillas is the next possible solution
For the hundreds of poor people getting pushed out of this industrious island
I come from a place where, on Wednesdays and Fridays,
I can stand in a line starting from my house to hear false prophets
Proclaim this house for theirs
But where I come from isn’t yours
Pay what you like for this show, but the change I’m seeking for can’t be found here
It’s found in places that don’t exist,
Nice places where my memories don’t require refurbishing
Where can aspire to building within without moving out
I come from a place where just a street away, presidents of a century past
Drove past us planting seeds of hope in a rather depressing time
And this newest deal is a rather raw deal …


I Am A Community Organizer: The Genesis

September 8, 2008 Jose

This morning, on my doorknob, I got a flyer from some group detailing the negative aspects of Daniel Squadron, a young man who’s running for New York State Senate, representing Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The whole Lower East Side has been abuzz with community activism and political stationing, not so much about the presidential candidate […]

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Gentrifuckation (part 1)

February 20, 2008

Every morning, this is what my walk to the train station looks like: That thing I circled is The Ludlow. At first, it doesn’t look too obstructive … Then, as I start to walk down Houston St., I realize how much it blocks my damn sunlight, the energy I feed off of every morning. It […]

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A Tale of Two Lower East Siders

October 30, 2007

I’m a resident Lower East Sider. I don’t teach around here, but my heart, soul, and body still resides here. So when news from this area comes out, my ears perk up. We’ve had some of the more peculiar and iconic events happen around these parts, yet they hardly get recognized because 1) people didn’t […]

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