One of the realities of living in New York is that you cannot become too attached to specific places any more than you can become attached to certain people in your life: the waitress you chat with every weekend, the parking garage guy, the newsstand vendor from whom you buy a paper. Often, they disappear, and you may never learn why. Why was that building torn down? Why did that bar close overnight? Whatever happened to the bartender? And what about Mohammed? He was here yesterday.
Place is as crucial to the architecture of memory as it is to dreaming, and like those New Yorkers who seem to disappear, spaces themselves carry their own memories here. Departed landmarks like CBGB or the Mudd Club are not so much addresses in downtown Manhattan as they are touchstones in the collective consciousness, occasionally reminding us of what was and of how much has changed — not least, ourselves. CBGB is where a 16-year-old Adam Horovitz — soon to be known as Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys — opened for punk legends Bad Brains in 1982; the Mudd Club is where, a few years earlier, Talking Heads, performing just days after the release of “Fear of Music,” coolly name-checked both spots in the iconic song “Life During Wartime.” (“This ain’t no Mudd Club or CBGB / I ain’t got time for that now.”) Moments like these still haunt the city — half recalled, half imagined — even now that the Mudd Club is a condo building where a unit sold recently for $3.6 million, or CBGB has been colonized by designer John Varvatos, plundering the cultural heritage of the very building he now occupies.