Eventually, we got bored and headed back to Manhattan. Returning to the Village, we ran into another bus of actual tourists. Pulling alongside it, we all ran to the right side of the bus and whooped and yelled at the tourists. My satirical commentary underscored a huge cultural divide caused by intolerance that we still see throughout our society today.
The next day, much to my father’s embarrassment, I showed up on the front page of the Daily News. The Bus Tour to Queens was also featured in the New York Times and on the Associated Press wire service. Our adventures were broadcast on The Today Show. After so much publicity, the Greyhound company approached me to see if I would consider doing more tours to other boroughs.
1968 was a seminal year for cultural upheaval. Lyndon B. Johnson was president, and the country was embroiled in the ever-more unpopular Vietnam War. “National Turn in Your Draft Card Day” inspired people to burn their draft cards, and there were war protests in the streets. On April 4th, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Soon after, Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles, and died on June 6th.
The federal minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, and, nationally, the average monthly rent was $130. The average cost of gas was $0.34, and a movie ticket cost $1.50. Now, 50 years later, young artists can’t survive the same way we could back then. The creative nucleus that drew so much attention has become decentralized. The Lower East Side, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Tribeca, Little Italy, and Chinatown—then hotbeds of creative and artistic energy—have all become too expensive. Gentrification and rapidly rising costs of living have caused an exodus to the outer boroughs—Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx—and even to New Jersey. People are being forced to move to the very same boroughs their grandparents ran away from. There’s still a commercial element to the art scene in Manhattan, but artists can’t afford to live there. Sadly, the outer boroughs are getting so expensive that maybe the next logical step for artists is to stay on the bus!