Seen. Sticker on a muni-meter on Bleecker Street, two nights ago.
Dig this New Yorker ”Talk of the Town” item (May 1, 1943) by Joseph Mitchell.
It’s a perfect miniature of his work–a poem, really–his book of revelations:
An air-raid warden we know, a young woman who holds down the desk in her sector headquarters in Greenwich Village twice a week from nine to midnight, is occasionally visited by the policeman on the beat. This policeman, who is elderly and talkative, dropped in the other night, sat down, grunted, placed his cap and nightstick on the desk, and said, “I’m a man that believes in looking ahead, and I been walking around tonight thinking over the biggest police problem this great city will ever have; namely, the day the war ends. I got it all figured out. I know exactly what’ll happen. Half an hour after the news gets out there won’t be a thing left in the saloons but the bare walls. Then the people will tear down the doors on the liquor stores and take what they want, a bottle of this, a bottle of that. Then they’ll go to work on the breweries; they’ll be swimming in the vats. Old ladies will be howling drunk that day. Preachers won’t even bother to drink in secret; they’ll be climbing lampposts and quoting the Bible on the way up. And some young fellow will trot up to the Central Park Zoo and break the locks. The elephants will be marching down Fifth Avenue, and the lions and the tigers, two by two; we’ll be six weeks getting the monkeys out of the trees. And they’ll ring all the church bells until they crack; they’ll jerk the bells right out of the steeples. And you know that big sireen in Rockefeller Center; somebody will get hold of that, and he won’t be torn loose until they shoot him loose. And they’ll unscrew the hydrants all over town; the water will be knee-deep. And people will be running around with their shoes off, wading in the water and singing songs. I can see the whole scene. And the ferryboat captains will give one toot on their whistles and run the ferryboats right up on dry land, and the bus drivers will run the buses right into the water. And the passengers will take charge of the subway trains, and they’ll run them right up into the open air. You’ll hear a racket and a roar, and you’ll look around, and here’ll come a subway train shooting right through the pavement. And husbands will be so happy they’ll beat their wives, and wives will beat their husbands, and the tellers in banks will gang up and beat the bank presidents, and and the ordinary citizens will tear down big buildings just so they’ll have some bricks to throw.” The policeman laughed and slapped his knee. “What a day of rejoicing!” he said. “What a police problem! I hope to God I live to see it!”
I’m on the train the other day on my way to work. A woman I worked with almost twenty years ago gets on and stands in front of me. She doesn’t see me and I look down at my book because I don’t want to make conversation.
We weren’t friends but worked in the same restaurant for about a year. Well enough to remember, long enough ago to forget. I read my book and then looked up, her crotch a foot-and-half away from my face.
We got off at the same stop. She didn’t look at me and I didn’t get the satisfaction of her seeing me but not being able to place the face.
[Drawing by Adrian Tomine]
Last night I was waiting on the uptown platform at 103rd Street. There was a kid playing the guitar across the tracks and at first I didn’t notice him but then I couldn’t help but listen. He wasn’t playing a song just jamming. I waited for him to finish so that I could applaud. He was good. But he didn’t stop. So I saw that my train wasn’t coming yet and ran up the stairs, crossed over to the other side, ran down the stairs and threw a dollar in the kid’s guitar case.
“You are doing work,” I said.
When I got back to the uptown platform I was able to capture this just before my train rolled into the station.
Listening to that dude play made my day.
[Photo Credit: Frederick JG]
My grandparents lived across the street from the Museum of Natural History and my brother, sister, and I visited them almost every weekend. They weren’t the kind of grandparents to get down on the floor and play with children so when they wanted to get us out of the apartment they took us across the street. It got so the museum was like an extension of their place–over-heated and boring. That’s what I remember of it, anyhow. We had to be well-behaved. Man, it was tedious.
I stayed away from the museum for years and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I went back. And I realized it was a great, mysterious place. I especially loved the scenes like the one pictured above and recognized then how big an impression they’d made on me as a kid.
[Photo Credit: Joel Zimmer]
Waiting to cross the street last night in my neighborhood, guy walks up next to me, late forties, early fifties. We see a car nearby looking to park. Guy says to me, “He’s not going to find a spot. I just came around the block, nothing, drove around again and found one. I always have luck since I came here.”
I ask where he’s from and he says California.
“I always find a spot and after the hurricane people would be waiting hours for gas, I went, twenty minutes I was done.”
He was bragging. The light turns and we cross the street.
“Well, it’ll come around and even out,” I say. “Karma does that.” I don’t mean to use to word Karma but that’s how it comes out.
“No, I’m a good person so I’ve got nothing but good Karma. That can never touch me in a bad way. Just remember if you are a good person you’ll always have Karma on your side”
I thought of saying something else but let it and him go.
[Photo Via: Eye Heart New York]
When I was growing up my father told me that the best hot dogs in New York were from Nathan’s. The real Nathan’s he said was out in Coney Island and he even took my brother, sister and me out there a few times. Mostly, though, when he was inspired to treat us, he brought us to the Nathan’s in Times Square.
Remember the spot?
[Photo Credit: Retro New York]
I’ve talked a lot about The Ginger Man, my old man’s bar of cherce when I was a kid. Well, one of the coolest things about that block, 64th Street just off of Broadway, was this:
I found this picture at The Time Machine, a cool, though defunct site by Neil J. Murphy. Worth poking around.
Thanks to the consistently stellar Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York for the tip.
There used to be a cop that stood on the corner of 103rd Street and West End Avenue when I was a kid. Early 1970s. His name was Wallace. He had a nightstick. We stopped and said hello to him every time we saw him. He always had a smile and it never dawned on me that cops were just cops, men without names, because of Wallace.
[Photo Credit: Dick Leonhardt]
Sunset in Manhattan. I remember walking up Broadway during the summer as a teenager. As I crossed each block, I’d look down past West End Avenue and chart the sun lowering in the sky until it had disappeared beyond the Hudson River and the sky was pink and orange. It was like a walking flip book. Then the lights from the stores and traffic signs and cars popped on the city street. Magic hour, that surreal moment between night and day when everything seemed like it was out of a movie.
From Charles Simic:
No city displays its mixture of beauty and ugliness as brazenly as New York does. It’s one thing to see a city with cathedrals and other church towers from an approaching train as one does in Europe and another to see Manhattan with buildings of every size thrown together more or less haphazardly and its streets packed with humanity all coming into view simultaneously. I still can’t believe my eyes every time I see it.
[Photo Credit: A crowd watching the news line on the Times building at Times Square, NYC, on D-day, June 6, 1944. Large-format nitrate negative by Howard Hollem or Edward Meyer, Office of War Information...via New York History]
Nothing says New York, or at least Manhattan, like a water tower. I remember looking out of the window at my grandparent’s apartment as a kid. They lived on 82nd street between Columbus and Central Park West. On the ninth floor. I’d look north at the cityscape and I knew why I liked Edward Hopper’s paintings. I’d see the brownstones and on the top of them the water towers. I never understood what they were for, how the water got in or out of them.
Today, I just know that I feel comforted when I see them.
[Photo Credit: The Great Retro New York]
Man, just another great shot from the New York Times‘ tumblr site. I remember this Times Square ad well. Actually gave me the chills seeing it again.
I had the King Kong lunch box and thermos when I was in first grade. Dag.
A friend of mine sent me this New York Times piece by Corey Kilgannon the other day:
Thirty-three years ago, an office worker named Ludwika Mickevicius left her native Poland and became Lucy the bartender in the East Village.
Her proletarian toughness and heavy Polish accent played well with the punks and rebels at Blanche’s bar on Avenue A, near Seventh Street. Ms. Mickevicius became so synonymous with the place, the owner renamed it Lucy’s and then sold her the business 15 years ago.
As the East Village cleaned up around it, Lucy’s remained the prototypical dive bar: a comfortable cave bathed in low red light, with a dingy dropped ceiling and worn linoleum on the floor. One arcade game, one jukebox, two pool tables, two small drinking tables, a dozen stools and a heavy oak bar. All are steeped in the character of Ms. Mickevicius: straightforward and practical. No frills, no nonsense, no whining.
“Many people hear about me and they come in and say, ‘Lucy, don’t change anything; we like it like this,’ ” she said. “Plus, change costs a lot of money.”
The story would have made Joseph Mitchell smile.
My friend used to go to Lucy’s years ago. He told me:
A past relationship of mine, we were a pair of heavy users, and recognized that we were in love. We hung out at Lucy’s, never called it more than that, in the bag, leaning on the bar making sure we continued the “feeling better” part. We squeezed each other and made out. We loved to scream at each other. Lucy had to break us up or shut us up. Her advice: “Why don’t you both get married”! Stoned and drunk we looked and said “why not?”
From that point forward we were going to get married. Started speaking to each other about living together. But within two weeks, I could not find her. I spoke to a friend of hers who had told me that she couldn’t handle it and just got in her car and drove west, ending up in San Francisco. She cleaned up and I finally heard from her, apologetic. She ended up marrying another artist/grease monkey out there and seemed happy.
Within a year I got a call, Her husband dryly stated that she died of an overdose, in a corner of a room with the needle stuck in her arm. He sent me her driver’s license and her death certificate along with one photo I always loved of her.
I still miss her, or maybe I really miss what could have been.
[Photo Credit: Robert Simonson]
Found on the walk between uptown pre-schools a few weeks ago: one of New York City’s greatest mysteries.
To me, anyway. The first time I remember seeing sneakers strung across telephone wires I was in the Bronx around Yankee Stadium. I asked why, and I’m sure I received an answer, but the answer didn’t have sufficient tack to stay with me.
Here are a bunch of theories, though not exclusive to New York. I like the idea that when you get a new pair, you throw the old ones up there. And since my wife snapped this pic on a block between my kids’ schools, let’s be tooptimistic and rule out the crack, murder and gang-related explanations.
I saw a father and his two sons walking up 238th street this morning on my way to work. The two boys were on either side of him and couldn’t have been older than four or five.
As I passed them one of the boys said, “Daddy, how does a one hundred-year-old-man walk?”
The father smiled but I didn’t hear him answer.
That’s a good question, I thought.
“Slowly,” I wanted to answer but they were already gone.
Picture this: I’m over-dressed in my goose-down winter coat this morning looking like the goddamn Stay-Puft marshmallow man. My backpack is loaded with gifts that I’m bringing to my family’s Chanukah party tonight. I’ve got two shopping bags, one with more presents, the other with the cabbage salad I prepared last night. By hand, dammit, I sliced four heads of cabbage–thin!–by hand.
“Why don’t you just use the machine?” said the wife.
“Tradition!” I say, referring as much to the masochism as the end result.
So I get on the subway with all my junk, neck still sore from leaning over the cutting board, and sit at the end of the car, next to the wall, so that I’ll only have a person to my right. In no time, the train is crowded. And then, at 181st street, the subway moment I dread–hot food.
Two people, two sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches. Nowhere for me to move. Trapped.
And they housed that shit by the time we got to 137th street. Believe it.
Bruce’s Garden is a beautiful spot in my neighborhood. When my wife and I went looking for an apartment, the vibrant garden nestled onto the “pro” side of our decision-making process without us even realizing it.
On Wednesday night, Bruce’s Garden hosted our annual holiday tree-lighting ceremony. Hot chocolate, cake and carols, then a roaring countdown. Then more carols. Sometimes, there are even rosy cheeks and suggestions of snow, but not this year.
As we sipped our hot chocolate and waited for the countdown, I saw a police cruiser with lights flashing speed down the dead end of Park Terrace East toward Isham Park. The car did not come back out. Nobody else seemed to notice. There were five police officers in attendence for the festivities, but I didn’t see any of them leave the garden.
About a hundred yards away from where we stood, four thieves attacked a man walking through the park on his way to meet his family in the garden. He’s a big man and he fought back, but he couldn’t prevent the mugging. He was injured but he drove around the area with the police officers looking for the muggers. They didn’t find them.
I don’t want to speculate on the nature of the crime, the criminals, nor the victim other than to say that it was clearly brazen. The ceremony was well publicized. The police were prominent, the crowd vocal.
The things that keep us close to the city crash into the things that push us away. I can pretend that by choosing the right route home, or by carrying myself a certain way that I can avoid being jumped. That’s a fine delusion when I’m only thinking about me, but I’m not thinking about me anymore.
Someday, I’ll celebrate my last Christmas in New York City. Maybe it will be this one.
[Photo Credit: Carla Zanoni Dn'Ainfo]