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BY CLAYTON PATTERSON | John Lockwood is a neighborhood character who I have known and photographed many times over the years. Anyone who has spent any time on Avenue A is familiar with John. He makes his living washing windows. He owns and runs his own company, Rose Window & Awning Cleaning.
John is getting to be one of the last of the old school, independent, go-to street guys who knows who is who, and what is what, as far as the goings-on in the hood. That said, he is not a gossip, but if there is a need to know, good chance John can give an insider’s tip. John earns his money, is hard-working, honest and a stand-up guy.
Kim Charles Turim is the new night worker at Ray’s Candy Store, and like John, we have known and interacted with many of the same people. I first met, photographed and got to know Kim in the mid-’80s when he ran Penny’s General Store, a basement space at 97 E. Seventh St., between Avenue A and First Ave.
Penny’s General Store was one of those unique, one-of-a-kind, only-in-New York, fascinating places. When you walked through the door, you felt like you were entering a different world. Kim sold a wide variety of local and imported fresh and preserved herbs, tinctures, incense, obscure and difficult-to-find books and pamphlets on subjects like home remedies, hand-printed deity prints from India, a variety of licorice — salted or sweet — from Denmark, throat lozenges from Holland and so on.
Kim is a serious person who has spent years learning about the products he sells. The General Store was not a hippie place to hang out, smoke weed and talk about finding the fountain of youth. It was a place to get information and organic products related to health and wellness.
Kim keeps telling me we are getting to be the last of the L.E.S. characters, the last of the old school, and I guess maybe he is right. We have been around long enough to have earned that title. Not sure if that title is good or bad. But I love to reminisce with Kim.
In our last conversation we remembered our friend Phil who worked at the Pyramid Club. Phil, thin as Sid Vicious, always dressed in black, wore a tight-fitting leather motorcycle jacket, was a cross between punk rock and metal, and gave off the vibe of a street guy not to mess with.
Phil loved useful small gadgets, like flashlights, butane lighters and knives, that fit into his tight-fitting pockets and could be quickly pulled out when needed. Kim and Phil lived in the same crumbling tenement, which was right next door to the underground landmark the Laundromat.
The Laundromat was a real business, but it was the nighttime heroin activity in front of the spot that made the location infamous. The drug operation was run by a Vietnam vet who went by the name of JR. JR was an expert martial artist who ran the White Tiger dojo on Avenue B.
Phil was an expert on the subject of Bag in a Bag, which was another drug spot next to Laundromat. I’m not sure if he worked in the business, but he was a customer and studied the block.
Another aspect that made this spot unique was it was on the same block as St. Brigid’s School. JR sent his kids to that elementary school. His drug business conformed with school hours — it opened after 6 p.m. and closed at 6 a.m.