By James Maher
Name: Glenora Blackshire
Location: Houston Street and 1st Ave
Time: 4:45 on Monday, June 22
I’ve been in the neighborhood for 21 years. I came from Chicago to go to graduate school. I spent two weeks on a couch in the kitchen on the Upper East Side and hated it. Came downtown and saw a neighborhood that was exactly like the one I left in Chicago.
I moved to 1st and 1st. I don’t know, the neighborhood still felt like it had a lot of life to it. You could live here and hope to do things with your life. Rent was still cheap. It was right before the landlords went crazy. I was there for four years, then I moved across the street, and then I moved to 5th and B.
I’m a filmmaker. I came here to get an MFA in directing. I got that from the Actor’s Studio program at the New School. I was in the first class that graduated there. It was theatre direction but my background was journalism and I had a couple of kids that knocked the directing out for awhile.
When I finally came back to it I put together my journalism background and I had a bit of a filmmaking background. I started making little documentaries. I ended up making movies for liquor companies. Oddly enough, my first break in being a filmmaker and being able to make money at it was because I had been a bartender, as opposed to my background at all. I worked as a cocktail waitress at CBGB when I got out of graduate school. I worked at the Bowery Ballroom. I ended up being the editor for Richard Kern.
I was a bartender at the Bowery Ballroom and from that Diageo picked me up. They had me start making movies about Smirnoff and Guinness and stuff like that. Now I shoot a television show that’s on CBS called Toni On! New York; I’m the camera girl. We eat and drink our way across New York.
The thing that still makes it amazing here is that I walk out the door and I know tons of people in the street. It’s almost like living in a small town and yet you’re in the middle of the big city. Sometimes I look at other neighborhoods… like the West Village. I like the West Village, only because perhaps it imparts more of the feeling of being a successful artist, whereas I think the East Village somehow clings to the idea of the outsider, rebel artists, which you know, is a fun idea, but after while you gotta make some money, especially in this town. You know, maybe I wish for that sometimes.
I think it becomes less and less of a community as these giant ugly glass buildings get put in and as the stores turn into another Duane Reade or something like that. But I think that somehow there has been a group that has managed to just hang on and this is what I love about living here.
The ones of us who are still around, we’ve all known each other for so long now. I’ve seen people’s children grow up, people have seen my kids grow up, they give me reports on what my kids are doing. That’s wonderful, just to know that maybe somebody’s watching out.
But then there’s also this thing that I think all of us who are here or have been here for awhile — there’s something we all understand about this place and why it’s so special. And maybe it’s even hard to put your finger on it, but we just know what it is and that’s why we love it so much.
James Maher is a fine art and studio photographer based in the East Village. Find his website here.