By Karen Rempel
Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of all poems…
Do you recognize this geometric structure? I am sure every West Villager does—it is instantly recognizable! It is of course the New York City AIDS Memorial at Seventh Avenue and West 12th Street.
Unveiled for World AIDS Day on December 1, 2016, this unique landmark is part of “my New York.” After visiting for lengthy periods during 2015 and 2016, I moved to New York and the Village a mere month after the memorial’s unveiling, on January 1, 2017. This is a new piece of New York, connected to history but built after I first set foot here. As a newcomer myself, these striking angled white lines give me a sense of place. I live just a block away, and whenever I pass by my heart wells up, touched by the spirit of New York that this memorial embodies.
St. Vincent’s Hospital was at the forefront of AIDS care in New York City. Founded in 1849, the Catholic hospital opened the first AIDS ward on the East Coast in 1984. I missed the drama of the loss of St. Vincent’s Hospital, which closed in 2010, and which eventually led to the creation of this triangular park and memorial. But now the memorial is part of my personal history.
The entire memorial is a cohesive combination of elements, integrating artistry and poetry that infuse the site with meaning. Artist Jenny Holzer chose and inscribed passages from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself into paving stones: 8,992 words etched in granite spiral around the memorial’s central, water-shimmered black granite disc. When my mom, Donnette, visited me from BC, she discovered the memorial on a Village walk. Entranced, she followed the words, circling in and in to read the entire poem. Like a Sufi mystic, she dizzied herself combining movement with poetry. Have you done this too?
With its magical healing powers, the central disc is a stand-in medicine wheel for me. Glistening black in the night, precisely oriented to the four directions, it’s the urban equivalent of walking the wheel in the desert or forest. I come here when I need guidance, and ask the spirits of the four directions to help me. Clarity emerges after emptying my mind and listening to the stillness within the sounds of New York. I wonder if the 100,000 souls lost to AIDS whom this memorial commemorates have combined their voices into the spirits of this land. What powerful earth, water, air, and fire is New York spirit!
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
“Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass
This issue begins the third year of Karen’s Quirky Style. Thanks to Andrea Thurlow for kicking it off in style with this stunning dress from her new collection. You were right about the boots! And thanks to Photographer Phil—he has taken his photographic arts to a new level with this image.
Black tuxedo dress with pink satin-lined kimono sleeves. Engineered by Andrea T. 147 West 35th Street (by appointment only).
Pleaser patent leather thigh-high boots with silver heels. Fetishwear trade show, Vancouver.
Black-diamond-chip rectangle drop earrings. Earrings Plaza. 1204 Broadway.
Silver bracelets. Street Fair on Bleecker Street.