Judith Ren-Lay

Judith Ren-Lay
Fri, 07/26/2019 - 09:46
When did you live in SoHo?


Where did you live in SoHo?

At 42 Grand Street between Thompson and West Broadway

What was your occupation when you lived in SoHo?

Artist - dance, performance, music, drawings, photographs, poetry

What do you miss most about SoHo in the 1970s?

Trees on my block, less street traffic, more galleries.

What do you miss least about SoHo in the 1970s?


What is your most vivid SoHo memory?

BEFORE  9/11

This is SoHo 2000
home of the SoHo Grand Hotel 
built by Hartz Mountain
on a church site 
with money made from selling birdseed
encouraging guests to bring their dogs
enticing the newly solvent
and those entertaining big plans
for high livin’
in the near future

in film
or music
or real estate.

Retail rowhouses form a strip mall 
a hooting indoor and outdoor version
of money changers at the mouth of the temple 
all manner of capitalists 
hawking their wares 
over-priced and design heavy
as twittering tourists 
quibble over size 
and fabric 
and how much distance 
can be travelled 
in the guise of the next trend to overtake the  populace.

Through the open windows 
sounds of a street carnival
people out for fun and city life
the evening air newly cool 
after a rare warm 
late spring day of alternating clouds and sunshine
occasionally someone hollers a name
curses and whoops
one voice or another throwing itself out front
to lead the aural agitation,
lend a musical dynamic 
to the lower roars 
of street and outdoor restaurant life

Something reeks here
besides the stench of Holland Tunnel traffic.

It becomes difficult to tell the difference 
between the dull and ignorant 
with whom we must remain on good terms
and the loud and aggressive 
whose vexations must be avoided.

What happens when they are all 
loud AND aggressive
do we run away
or stay and start explaining
and maybe even listen 
giving them the chance to lead us astray.

Insttead I listen to cars whoosh by 
down Thompson Street
summer harbinger noises 
confirm; I’ll be
doing city
as best as one can.

Is there anything else you would like to add to your profile?

All my 40+ years of work has been created in this studio/home in SoHo, but much of my work was performed in the East Village at PS122, The Mudd Club, CBGB's, 8BC, The Pyramid, etc.  Music was created and performed at the Knitting Factory on Leonard Street.  I am fortunate to have my music and dance archives at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts as well as an oral history of my career.  I can't imagine living in any other neighborhood, as this is home to me.  The photo is an interior of my studio.