This week we profile Untapped Cities writer Douglas Capraro, who focuses on quirky New York City lifestyle discoveries like graffiti in the New York City subway, the bizarre at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, and then and now photographs of NYC from the 1970s.
What’s your “day job”?
Since graduating from SUNY Purchase College this winter with a degree in literature, I have succesfully avoided getting a “real” job (or going to grad school, for that matter) by bouncing around different internships and surviving on a multitude of different freelance writing gigs. Otherwise, I divide my time between writing, recording, and playing shows with my band Dead Tenants and writing part-time for Dead Borough, a start-up website created by a small group of my friends.
What’s your favorite Untapped spot in your city?
The most memorable Untapped location that I’ve visited in NYC would have to be either the abandoned Creedmore Psychiatric Ward in Queens or the Underbelly in Brooklyn. There is something sacred about visiting an abandoned area, something eerie but equally beautiful. Abandoned places like the Underbelly have a certain purity to them that serves as a stark contrast to the way everything else in NYC can become real estate that’s easily bought, sold, knocked down, and transformed on a whim. Sometimes, the simple act of being truly “alone” in one of these underground areas feels almost voyeuristic.
Favorite piece you’ve written for Untapped?
I view every piece as a valuable and intellectually fulfilling endeavor. I never cease to learn something new about the city I’ve grown to know so well. But, if I were forced to choose, I would say that my favorite piece was about Jurne and Matt Litwack’s Beneath the Streets book. Matt visited the Untapped Cities HQ in person, so we were able to talk about his experience growing up exploring the NYC subway tunnels.
What’s the most memorable thing that happened while interning at Untapped Cities?
Every story I write for Untapped Cities is a valuable and eye-opening experience. I always discover something new, even when I am writing a short post, that broadens my understanding and appreciation of New York City. As far as specific instances are concerned, I would say that walking around revisiting the locations from the “Dirty Old New York City” photographs was especially eye-opening. Finding the locations in these photographs was difficult simply because of how drastically and recognizably the landscape has transformed over the years.
What’s your favorite obscure fact about the city?
I still can’t get over those giant beavers (from pre-historic New York of course).
Best Celebrity Sighting?
The most memorable celebrity sighting I’ve ever had was when I met former Battles frontman (now an acclaimed avant-garde composer) Tyondai Braxton at Best Buy on 14th St. I was just beginning to expand my musical horizons from the hardcore punk of my youth into more subtle and complex styles of music, which was aided in no small part by discovering Battles’ critically acclaimed album Mirrored. Braxton was easily recognizable and after I made an embarrassingly tremulous introduction, I was surprised to find how receptive and flattered he was that I had recognized him. He even went as far as to go into detail about where the band rehearsed and where the different members lived around New York City. My appreciation of Braxton and his work came full circle when I got the opportunity to interview him this summer for the Gothamist.
What are some of your favorite websites?
The Quietus is my favorite website by a long shot. I have never agreed with the opinions of a website so unanimously before and their well-informed, un-pretentious, irony-free, and enthusiastic writing reminds me why I fell in love with music in the first place. Dangerous Minds is also a lot of fun. Though I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody, I am a devout fan of the (now defunct) Mark Prindle Music Review website, which is almost like reading Lester Bangs if he had an even more unforgiving and self-consciously primitive sense of humor. Lots of inside jokes and a genuine enthusiasm about the music he loves.