A town named Patti Smith

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«Sand a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now “, wrote Colson Whitehead referring to New York, a city doomed to perpetual change. It is with this phrase in mind that I set out on the trail of Patti Smith and her love for the place where she has lived since the late 1960s, with only one break to follow her husband. Fred Smith in Detroit. But if you once could be sure of finding it at CBGB, or in St. Mark’s Place, the mythological road ofEast Village where i Rolling Stones they were shooting video clips, Jeff Buckley she recorded her first EPs Velvet Underground they performed every night, today the places where you might meet her have changed a lot.

First of all, her passion for coffee, handed down to her by her mother. For years, his favorite blend has been that of ‘ino Café (21, Bedford St.), where he sat at his usual corner table sipping black coffee and reading his beloved writers. Since it has closed, it is not uncommon to come across it at the Dante NYC coffee (79, MacDougal St.), also in Village, whose history intertwines reality and legend: it seems that, in the first half of the twentieth century, the green and cream sofas were reserved for the widows of the Italian-American mafiosi who met there every afternoon at four. From the 70s onwards, the place has become a destination for characters such as Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg e Bob Dylan, and today it is also famous for its excellent Negroni.

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Among the favorite places of the author of cult books such as Just Kids e M Train, there are obviously bookstores, especially if independent and Downtown. Those who see it most often are the booksellers of McNally Jackson (52, Prince St.), a Nolita, not far from the fascinating Elizabeth Street Garden, a community garden full of statues beloved by his daughter Jesse and where a stop in the company of a good book is a must.

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The cover of In New York with Patti Smith by Laura Pezzino (Perrone, pp. 163, € 15), geographical biography, or “geobiography” which traces the stages of Patti Smith’s New York “passage”.

Many of the places that Patti Smith frequented in the warm years of her training no longer exist today. Among them is the legendary CBGB, club symbol of punk at 315 di Bowery Street, in the East Village. Marked by the legendary red and white sign, he had seen performing, in addition to her – who had started her career as a performer right there in 1974 – Ramones, i Talking Heads, i Blondie, Johnny Thunders, Richard Hell e i Television. In its place, today, there is the store of fashion designer John Varvatos, who left one of the interior walls intact with the original posters and is still a pilgrimage destination. Rock fans, on the other hand, can still count on the historian Cafe Wha? (115, MacDougal St.), where the most famous bands continue to perform every night, even if there is no doubt that the turmoil that characterized the Village between the 70s and 80s has now moved to Brooklyn, the borough where a fledgling Patti Smith would perform today, a few blocks from the very first New York home she shared, at 160 Hall Street, with Robert Mapplethorpe, who would become one of the most important photographers of his generation. Back then the rent was 80 dollars a month (today they get to pay 8 thousand) and, from the window, every morning Patti saw a large white mulberry, the same one that still grows opposite.

Among the coolest clubs in Brooklyn today I am there Knitting Factory (361, Metropolitan Ave.) a Williamsburg, born as an art gallery and transformed into a mecca of the rock scene, complete with poetry reading and its own music label, and the Brooklyn Made (428, Troutman St.) a Bushwick, recently inaugurated with a concert by Jeff Tweedy of Wilco and which is about to become one of the reference points for the entire city.

What became of the mythical Chelsea Hotel (222, 23rd St.), with a dark red facade in Victorian Gothic style, whose 250 rooms have hosted the best artists of at least three generations, from Patti and Robert to William Burroughs, gives Andy Warhol a Janis Joplin, gives Leonard Cohen a Madonna? Today the building is undergoing renovations and will soon become a luxury hotel, thus losing much of its cursed charm. Anyone wishing to sleep in the rooms once frequented by David Bowie, Bob Marley, Sting e Bob Dylan, among others, has only to book at Gramercy Park Hotel (2, Lexington Ave.). The reason for so much success among celebrities? The strict privacy policy, but also the exclusivity of its interiors curated by Julian Schnabel and decorated by works of Warhol, Basquiat, Haring e Hirst.

For those who wish, however, to take a trip “out of town” always in the footsteps of the priestess of punk, the goals are two. The first is Coney Island, where she and Robert had the famous photo of them taken, beautiful and with the air of bandits, in front of the Cyclone roller coaster (right here was built the first amusement park in history, still active), strolled along the promenade and ate the famous hot dogs of Nathan’s (1310, Surf Ave.) which still stands today. The other is Rockaway Beach, where in recent years Patti has revived a small house devastated by Hurricane Sandy, which he renamed “my Alamo” and where he spends days of solitude and creativity. This peninsula is worth a visit Queens (reachable in 40 minutes by ferry from Sunset Park to Brooklyn) which is the only place where surfing is allowed in New York. Here Woody Allen he shot scenes of Radio Days, while i Ramones cantavano «It’s not hard, not far to reach. We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach». Chissà che seduti a un tavolo di Uma’s (92-07, Rockaway Beach Blvd), where Patti always orders Korean-style carrot salad, or strolling along the 11km of beach you won’t end up meeting her.

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