Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore

Touch so brutal and illuminated

Filed By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore | August 02, 2007 8:51 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: cruising for sex, David Wojnarowicz, gentrification, Giuliani for president, New York City, NYU dorms, Stuyvesant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Union Square

I don't remember how I first discovered Stuyvesant Park, maybe it was some guy who brought me there from the porn shop on 3rd Avenue. It was one of those frigid nights when you think the rain should be snow but it's not, it's rain and somehow that makes it colder. The park was dark or as dark as downtown gets the gates were closed, they looked closed but they weren't and when we got inside there was someone waiting in the rain and I thought oh, this is the place.

But also David Wojnarowicz wrote about Stuyvesant Park, I remember he’d found shelter there but that was long before, by the time I moved to New York he'd already been dead five years, shelter was harder to inhabit. So much longer ago it seemed when I'd discovered David in an obituary, can I even call him by his first name? Stuyvesant Park is a strange corner of downtown, without the grandeur of Union Square or the counterculture allure of Tompkins Square Park but it was a corner where I found touch so brutal and illuminated, gentle too but this also was disappearing thanks to Giuliani and gentrification, surveillance and chain stores, NYU dorms and other crackdowns on public sensibility.

When they started locking the gates it didn't really matter, everyone moved to the steps of the church where people were also sleeping, sometimes there was overlap and sometimes the adventure winded down steps, into below-ground alcoves dead-ending at doors. I'm not sure what these spaces were designed for, probably not the shivering embrace of hands and mouths and eyes and cocks, bodies grasping yes. In these makeshift rooms or thrusting right up against the gates of the park like that was some kind of shelter just desire, maybe someone would look out that was enough and sometimes the cops were there too but then everyone would walk around the block, a good way to discover other not-quite-hiding places, you could memorize landmarks for next time then return with more information, people always returned that's what I counted on.

Now the gates are always locked, after polite hours when everything used to start. No one even walks around the perimeter, searching. Maybe it's not as blatant as a gleaming white tower on Rivington, but gazing in sometimes it's hard just to remember, the way gentrification even robs you of imagination.

Mattilda blogs at

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