Rachel Urkowitz, Artist/Designer

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

I Remember

(Growing up in Westbeth, with thanks to Joe Brainard for the form)

I remember riding on the moving dolly when we moved from the A section to the C section of the ninth floor.

I remember how my father hung a rope ladder and a bar swing for us to play on in the middle of our room. I remember hanging from my knees on the swing for what felt like hours.

I remember the fun of sliding down the smooth cement stairs in our apartment, bumping on each step. My brother and I would race down.

I remember playing with dolls with Sacha Penn and Mar Reagon, thinking about the strange suburban life that Barbie always seemed to lead.

I remember dressing our Dawn dolls in their 1960s mod outfits, and the small suitcases they lived in, with tiny hangers for their tiny suits. Dawn was much more of a cool city chick than her enormous, buxom cousin Barbie. Her clothes looked like Halston and Lilly Pulitzer and Chanel.

I remember roller skating in the hallways. My silver skates with the red-and-black stripes were my prized possession.

I remember Pier Giacalone riding his bike around the halls while I wore those skates and hung on to the back of his bike, shrieking with excitement at how fast and dangerous it felt. And someone’s mother yelling at us, and then we weren’t allowed to skate in the halls anymore.

I remember walking home from school with my father through the Meatpacking District, and stopping at the Dufour cookie factory door. The bakers would sell us delicious chocolate and vanilla cookies straight from their oven, and we would eat them as we walked home along the uneven, cobblestone streets.

I remember watching the piers burn down from our window, smoke billowing like a hot storm cloud.

I remember the highway being shut down after a truck fell through it. I remember parking our car under that highway, and how it was always a little scary to me. I remember after the highway came down, and we parked next to the river, watching people getting out of our car one morning. My dad leveled with me and told me they were probably prostitutes who needed a place to stay.

I remember taking pictures of the sunset in winter with the Instamatic camera I got for my tenth birthday.

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