I started taking the bus into Manhattan when I was 15. It was the early 80's, and I was in love with the gritty streets of the East Village. Sometimes I would roam around with friends and shop in the boutiques on Broadway that have long since disappeared. Other times, we would get dressed up and sneak into dance clubs.
Looking back, it's rather surprising that my parents gave me that much freedom. I suppose they didn't know that we were scamming drinks at the dance clubs or stepping over cracked-up bodies on the sidewalk or getting lost on the subway.
It was marvelous fun. The early 80s was a time when the city was recovering the devastation of the 1970s, but it was still cheap enough for people to open alternative boutiques and odd after-hour bars. The artists could still afford to live in the city.
This weekend, I walked along that very familiar strip on Broadway between Houston and Canal, and it was no different from the shopping malls on Route 17 in New Jersey.
UPDATE: More nostalgia... The store pins.