Darkness Descends on the East Village

Darkness Descends on the East Village

By the late 1960s, the streets were growing meaner. “The ‘Make Love Not War’ thing was big in the East Village,” Agosto Machado said, “but I’m painting it with rose-colored glasses. It was still iffy and dangerous in the late sixties and early seventies. If it was iffy, you had to walk in the street along the cars, or you had to zigzag to avoid certain blocks.” Ed Sanders lived in one of those iffy areas, on Avenue A, where he was attacked as he opened the door to his apartment in April 1969. “I was rushed from behind by two guys who tossed me to the floor and pushed a knife against my throat, chanting, ‘Where’s the amphetamine—where’s the amphetamine?’ with an insistence that portended arterial insert.” It was a case of mistaken identity in a drug deal gone wrong, but fortunately one of the guys stopped and said, “Hey, man, the guy that burned us didn’t have no red boots on.” Sanders’s rock ’n’ roll boots may very well have saved his life, but the incident convinced him to leave the neighborhood he had called home throughout the 1960s. The area had grown more grim thanks to a combination of spiraling poverty, decaying city infrastructures, harder drugs, and sleazy opportunists drawn into the counterculture.

From Chapter 19 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore


Ed Sanders Residence
196 Avenue A, New York, NY 10009