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Among the fading memories and revealed histories is a cabinet of new acquisitions gathered by Bill Scanga, which offers present-day things that may soon become relics: A Nathan's fork, snacks from a nearby bodega, a protest pin that reads "We're no Soho."
One of Herman's favorite exhibits is a window, complete with signs and artwork, recovered from Petrella's Point, a much beloved newsstand that once stood on Canal and Bowery.
"That newsstand inspired me to paint directions on the Reliquary," says Herman, still somewhat moved by its loss. "I used to take people there when I was a tour guide."
Tour guide, museum curator, long-haul truck driver, art handler, and sculptor are just a few of the things on Herman's résumé. The latest addition is a New York City fireman, with Hook & Ladder Company 104.
"Ahh, yes, the many worlds of Dave Herman," says George Ferrandi as we watch his company's fire truck pull up to the City Reliquary's "September Tribute" block party. At the University of Florida, Ferrandi was Herman's sculpture professor; she also performed with him in an art circus.
"He probably hasn't told the firemen about the circus yet," says Ferrandi with a chuckle.
"I didn't have any real circus talent," clarifies Herman before hopping on the truck to greet his fellow firemen. "I was just the ringleader. I just made a connection with the crowd. As a sculptor, I did things like construct an old-fashioned barbershop and give people haircuts. It was like performance art presented by a nonperformer. Not very good at all. That's why I had to start the museum."
As Magnolia, a rock duo composed of 11-year-old girls, take the stage, I sit down to a game of Connect Four with a video artist named Gregory Rossi. Harley Spiller, the Reliquary's "Inspector Collector" and the Guinness World Record holder for the largest menu collection, brings us prawns and chile peppers on a stick. A group of neighborhood kids bait us with hide-and-go-seek while the crowd dances to Magnolia. For one moment, everyone seems to be finding pure joy in the city that Herman helps us not to forget.