Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Flashback August 1996: A two-week tribute for Merlin

We posted the following item on Aug. 18, 2010 ... Every year since Merlin died in 1996, someone creates a memorial for him on Avenue A at Sixth Street where he lived for eight years on the sidewalk. Bob Arihood has a photo of this year's memorial here.


I wanted to follow-up on the Merlin's Memorial post from yesterday...

Bob Arihood, who took the shot above, documented the scene on Avenue A and Sixth Street on Neither More Nor Less after Merlin passed away on Aug. 16, 1996...

As Bob wrote:

A wake and vigil of considerable moment, lasting for the better part of 2 weeks , was held in the neighborhood at Merlin's corner . Some nights the sidewalk and street around the memorial were so densely packed with people that it seemed that everyone in the neighborhood and the surrounding communities was attending , crowded together ,all kinds of folks , from all professions and callings , from high and low paying their respects to Merlin .

Here's Merlin on his corner as many people here remember him...

Per the Times from July 1996:

There are few certainties in this changeable city. But on Avenue A and Sixth Street, a place that has been convulsed by change in recent years, one thing has remained constant through the riots and real-estate booms: Merlin, a 41-year-old homeless man who uses only one name, has made the intersection's southeast corner his residence for eight years. Neither blizzards nor blistering heat have routed him from atop a set of wooden pallets in front of a Con Edison substation.

"People move in and out of the neighborhood, but I never budge," he said last week, lounging beneath a pair of tattered umbrellas, his only guard against the sting of the sun. A stroke has left him partly paralyzed, and frostbite cost him several toes three winters ago.

To strangers, he is but another intrusion on the East Village's gritty streetscape, a reason to avert their eyes. But to many local residents, he is a cherished asset: a timekeeper, a message center, a town crier and a source of good, solid conversation. "Merlin is a social hub," said Tatiana Bliss, 25, a local artist. "If you're looking for someone, Merlin probably knows where they are. If you want to leave something for a friend, he'll make sure they get it. He makes this crazy city feel like a small town."

Jeremiah also writes about Merlin today, asking the following: "Could such a memorial happen for a homeless man in the East Village today?"


Marty Wombacher said...

Nice tribute and memorial. R.I.P. Merlin.

Melanie said...

I remember Merlin. RIP Merlin. Nice tribute. Bob--great photos.

Anonymous said...

Interesting which deceased crazy street person gets a memorial, and which doesn't. I wonder who chooses?
Probably happens just like anything else.

I always wonder what happened to the old guy who wore the huge helmet made out of paper bags who hung our at 7th and A.

Melanie said...

@anon 4:20PM--Do you refer to the old Polish man??If so--he was set on fire by some street punks and died in the late 1980's. RIP to him too. He was nice and used to sweep the street and help the shop owners out. His death was very tragic and made me cry. Still does.

KairosKim said...

Merlin the Sweet.
Always a smile and good vibe from that man. I still think of him when passing his spot, especially if going to Key Foods cos he like some saltines and sardines if I could spare it.
Great picture of him!
Thanks for the memorial notice EVG.

Anonymous said...

@Melanie (late reply)
I am horrified to hear that. He was such a emblem of the neighborhood for me at that time.

I recall Ben Katchor featured him in an episode of "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer" once.

Anonymous said...

Merlin got a memorial because although he had some serious issues, he wasn't threatening. You didn't get the sense that he was angry at the world, or a scam artist. Maybe because he was paralyzed. Certainly it helped that he was White. He and bunch of other neighborhood "characters" were featured in a documentary called 7th Street.