This was the stairway to friends' homes. This was the stairway to where art was attempted. This was the stairway to normal get-togethers. This was the stairways to places that sold what we needed to buy to accomplish what we were attempting to accomplish. This was the stairway to what we all struggled to accomplish. This was the stairway that was normal to climb to wherever we were going.
City Of Strangers returned to Hotel 17 and those days of home and haven that had a texture now rarely found in most neighborhoods.
Several weeks ago, walking back from a job I never thought I'd excel at, I saw where I had once hoped to live.
It was called the Pioneer. It didn't look this good then.
My father bought a car when we were teenagers so he could keep his job which had been transfered to Long Island, a place people moved to but didn't work in.
Occassionally we used the car for family outings which produced as much dread as staying home. As the car would bump across Broome Street toward some portal out of Manhattan I'd stare at the Pioneer Hotel sign wondering if I could run away there. Close enough to home that I could escape to the hotel by foot but offering a promise of my own portal out of one place and into hope.
Because of a barrage of spammers I created moderator approval on all comments. I still received comments but made sure they weren't offering to do different things to different body parts I didn't have.
I'm not sure how, but within the last week or so "post a comment" was removed entirely. Melanie of East Village Corner pointed this out to me which explained the total silence and did relieved me a bit of the fear I had grown stale and boring. Perhaps there might be some truth in that, but the lack of comments was due to a technical glitch.
I've corrected this so please feel free to comment, say hello, muse, reminisce, or say nothing at all. And I shall go back to worrying about everything I write and do.
Thirty years ago I met Morgan. She wasn't from New York but she moved through my city as its eyes, a witness to its private corners and secret worlds and painful revolution that soon became joyous mainstream. Her hands danced a ballet with her cameras and when decades later I got up enough nerve to pick up a camera my hands danced as hers did. After all, her hands had, for a long long time, been the only role models I ever had.
Like Florence, I was never very comfortable with shiny lobbies and pretty marble granite stone fronts. They always felt like an insincere compliment from someone who didn't even care enough to really dislike me. Instead, in the back, admidst the sculpture of fire escapes, air ducts and bare brick was the relief of being told the truth.
The children looked old enough to be grandparents but each face was a younger mirror of the elderly person clinging to their arm. There was no way I could ask to take a picture ...
...the tall patrician woman with her equally independent mother,no matter how she tried, now unable to walk a few steps without help,
...the man, still looking like an eight year old, but now encased in middle aged weight and wear and tear, his mother now tinier, more frightened than he ever was sitting next to each other her feet not touching the floor.
... the man, sitting alone, maybe didn't have children or did but they didn't know that thousand of miles away his comfort was the hellos of the nursing staff who knew him well and asked how his day was as he waited to be seen.
Old enough to be her mother, I watched the illusion of being cutting edge and all the booze being sold for too much money, while listening to many decades of my life in her smug self-loathing and complaints of life having passed her by at age 24.
An old friend sent my husband a holiday gift of two somber neckties from Sulka, the prestigious menswear store on Park Avenue. George wouldn’t wear either of them, even to a funeral, for fear of looking like the chief pall bearer.
So I decided to return them and cash them in. But Sulka, gracious to accept the return, would not give me cash. “We do not handle cash, Madame, just credit cards,” they explained. Instead, they gave me a gift certificate for $60.
I gave George the gift certificate and suggested he visit Sulka himself and choose something else.
“You choose,” he said. So I tried.
But polo shirts were $80 each and other items were equally above the value of the certificate. Then we decided to give the gift certificate to my father on his 55th birthday. He was flattered, but he in turn gave it to my brother on his 35th birthday.
When George’s birthday came around, the next September – lo and behold – my brother sent him the Sulka certificate, by now a bit ragged from age. One certificate had solved everyone’s gift problem.
So once again, I went back to Sulka’s and only had to add $20 to the certificate to buy my husband two pairs of woollen socks from Scotland. They were by far the most beautiful luxurious and warm socks he would ever own.
That is, until the moths got into them. The moths had good taste.
MY PRIVATE CONEY presents IT WAS HER NEW YORK, the short stories that accompany the work-in-progress video and photo collection of the same name (myprivateconey.com - media link - IT WAS HER NEW YORK). The stories and the media explore the tender rubble that holds both my mother, Florence's and New York's soul as one disappears into old age and the other into gentrification. All are real observations and/or experiences with very little tall-tale telling.
Except when it makes the story better.
Please visit myprivateconey.com for additional information and sample works.