One Son

[Brian. April 24, 2018.]

No, the title of this post is not something I stole from a menu from one of the many Korean eateries on W. 35th Street.

And, if you look at the photo above…(I always use a lead-in graphic for my posts), I can tell you certain things:

It’s a profile of my son, Brian.  No, he is not dreaming of traveling to France.  No, he does not make a living balancing things on his forehead (maybe he does, maybe I missed something). And, no, he is not conjuring a suitcase.  If he had that kind of talent, I’m confident he’d be conjuring something more interesting that a valise with faded travel stickers.

We were at a restaurant just south of Macy’s and a few blocks from where he works.  During the dinner I looked at him and recalled that I didn’t have a good profile picture of him.  So I asked him to pose against a neutral wall, not considering the piece of old-time luggage that was mounted there.

Before we rejected the desert menu, I was busy thinking.  I had written many blog posts that highlighted places and people who I hardly knew.  Interesting interactions with people who I, most likely, would never meet again.

I’m proud of those posts, but it occurred to me that I had not highlighted my own children enough.  I had mentioned them in many blogs, but never were they a main subject of my encounters.

When I first moved to Manhattan in the very early 1990’s, Brian was about five years old.  I was going through a divorce.  My father brought him down to visit.  I took my dad to Bethune Street where he worked for the Bell Labs in the 1930’s.  Brian came along.  He was a tiny guy in the big city.

Later, he came down with a friend.  I have a picture of him in front of the Twin Towers.  He says he remembers the day clearly.

Even later, he came to live with us while he attended Baruch College to complete his undergraduate degree.  We had a challenging time fitting him into our one bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side.  For me, it was good-bye Letterman while he slept on the fold-out sofa.

He graduated and before you could say “congratulations”, he had a job.

Now, he buys us dinner…we are the ‘out-of-town’ now.  He tells me which train to take to get to some obscure place in one of the boroughs.  He has a lady friend and they live in Astoria.  Ironically, he lives just blocks away from where my wife grew up.

I’m awed by how my son has grown up.  I’m amazed at his success.  I’m proud to have him as my son, my only son.  No one will carry the Egan name into the future except him.  And, I’m not pushing anything.

I love my son beyond what I thought was possible.  He is everything I tried to be in my life…funny, outgoing and charismatic.  Where I failed, he succeeded.

Look at the photo below.  It seems like just yesterday that I took the picture.  I’ll always think of him with the little stick in his right hand.  The look on his face says to me: “I’m a good boy, daddy.”

I hope the sweater is still in around somewhere.  In a trunk maybe.  Then someday, if he has a son of his own, he may be able to have him pose for a similar photo.  And, maybe he’ll write a blog about much he loves his little boy.

Oh, yes you are, my one son.  My Number One Son.

Love you Brian.

[Brian. ca.1990]

All photos are mine.

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I Am…

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It was the day before the inauguration.

I found a local gym that offered a month to month membership.  No long-term contract.  And, it was only$49 per month.  Ok, there is no pool (I don’t like to swim anyway and ALL pools have water that, to me, is just above freezing.  “Heated pools” …just a myth.  And, I tend to get water in my ear which keeps me from hearing clearly and forces me to keep poking my forefinger in my ear to clear it out (it never works). And, there is no sauna in this gym, which is fine with me.  My apartment is warm enough and I don’t really want to sit in a tiny room with a few older naked men.

I’m Irish, not Swedish.

So I worked out on a bike for about an hour.  Got my heart rate to about 107 and I left sweat on the arm rests.  I had Spotify on my iPhone and was listening to some modern “Americana” music.

Then I punched the “cool down” button.  I had burned off several hundred calories which I was about to replace a block away at the Amsterdam Ale House.

I went upstairs, without  a shower (remember the above reference to naked men) and pushed the door to Broadway.  I was met by an enthusiastic woman and a guy with a camera. [To get to my gym, you have to enter the lobby of a small off-off Broadway theater.  The gym is down stairs.]

The woman had a sheet of paper.  She asked if I would just say ‘who I was’ and what I was ‘fighting for’.  I misunderstood what she said and thought that I would have my picture taken.  I felt that I looked like Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future.  I needed a haircut and felt tired and miserable.

A day later I walked into the theater lobby to go down to the gym.  It was then that I saw the papers lining the walls.  The papers I turned my back on.  The sheets of paper that I had declined to write a phrase and a comment.

As I read the sheets, I felt ashamed I didn’t have my own on the lobby wall.

I left the gym that afternoon…not with sweat on my forehead …but with a tear on my cheek.

Read some of these!

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My Personal War With The Xlerator

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[Photo credit: Patrick Egan]

There ought to be a law…

What I am about to say might be familiar to some of my readers.  These thoughts and descriptions appeared, in a slightly different form, in my book In The Middle of Somewhere.  It was in the chapter that dealt with public bathrooms on a cross-country road trip in 2013.

But, recent experiences during my very recent stay in New York City has prompted me to take to the keys and renew my war with a certain hand dryer…The Xlerator.

It’s my opinion that this device (which I’m seeing in more and more restrooms) should be monitored by the FDA, OSHA and quite possibly NASA.  In the name of “environmental awareness” i.e., “saving trees”, we are being subjected to a hand dryer that MUST exceed the regulations of decibels emitted by a small device.  The dB’s are easily equal to that of a Boeing 747 as it prepares for takeoff…or a Who concert.

It’s a know fact that the police can give a citation to anyone violating the dB’s in a particular area with a “boom box” or an unmuffled car (or motorcycle).  So, where is the EPA in the men’s room?

While in NYC last week, I happened to use the men’s room in the “Cellar”.  This used to be a space for kitchen supplies and Godiva chocolates.  Now it’s Mens Wear.  More specifically, the underwear section of Mens Wear.  When I left the bar in Rowland’s Restaurant to use the facility, I could hear the roar from as far away as Tommy Hilfiger.  By the time I got to Calvin Klein, it was oppressive.  When I took a left at Jockey, it was deafening.  And I wasn’t even in the men’s room yet!

So, without getting too specific, I emptied my bladder and, feeling the germs of public surfaces (I held onto the escalator to the lower level), I washed my hands.  The only dryer available was the dreaded Xlerator.  I hit the ON button.

The roar and pitch was so great, I forgot my recent nightmares and concentrated on keeping my ears from bleeding.  If that happened, it would present a whole new set of problems.  I would need to go into a stall and get some toilet tissue to stem the blood flow from getting to the collar of my new shirt.  (Besides, that would likely lead to minor hearing loss with damage to the stereocillia in my middle ear.  I would then miss the subtle notes in a Metallica song).

Not to mention the explaining I would have to do to onlookers.

If you happen to come face to face with the Xlerator, I suggest cotton for the ears and finish drying your hands on your Guess jeans.  Good luck if you’re wearing a family heirloom ring.  God help you if you’re wearing a prosthetic finger.  The force of the blast of hot air could launch a small dirigible, peel your finger nail polish past the nail itself and strip the paint off a ’57 Chevy.

If you’re wearing a wedding ring, take it off before taking a whiz…but don’t forget to put it back on when you get back to the bar.  Otherwise, your motives will be suspect.

I only want clean hands, not an experience that might well leave me hairless on the backs of my skinless hands.

Beware Product Development is out there and working on a better and more powerful hand dryer.

God bless you, and good luck.

Allison, Me And The Ghosts Of Judy Garland

marquee

“Who could ask for anything more?”

                     –Ira Gershwin

Ok, so I pulled a few strings.  Actually, it was only one string.  The daughter of my wife’s boss (Dr. Chris Walsh from Mount Sinai Hospital), was playing the lead in the hit Broadway show, An American in Paris, on the night of September 7, 2016.  We purchased the tickets and made a discreet phone call to Dr. Walsh.  Would it be possible if he had a word with his daughter, Allison Walsh, to give us a backstage tour after the show?

playbill

alysononstage

[Allison during the show]

It worked out like it does when you have some strings to pull.  All we had to do was be at the stage door after the show and mention we were guests of Allison Walsh.  We were on the list and we were led into the bowels of a storied and famous Broadway theater, The Palace.

The show itself was fabulous.  Allison, a trained ballerina, stood out as a total professional and got a standing ovation at the end.  But, I’m not a theater critic.  I’m going to take you behind the scenes and below the stage where so much real action takes place.

stagedoor

[Stage door]

3ofusbackstage

[Me, Allison and Mariam]

After descending miles of spiral staircases, we found ourselves in a warren of rooms and hallways filled with costumes, dressing rooms.  There were ropes and cables and sound boards and schedule lists and mailboxes.  I couldn’t imagine the action that took place down there during the show.

makeuproom

[One of the make-up rooms]

I thought I’d impress young Allison with the fact that we were both veterans in the Big Show, the glamorous life of a star, knowing the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd.

“I had the male lead in the Senior Play when I was in high school…back in 1965,” I said, feeling confident she’d see me as another thespian as herself.

She stared at me and said: “Oh, really?”

I estimate her age to be around twenty-five.  So she would have been born in the early ’90’s.  That would be about twenty-five years since I had the male lead in the senior play.  No wonder she seemed a bit quizzical at my comment.

Allison led the two of us (and another couple who had known her in high school) through the quick changing rooms and the wig room and back up another mile of stairs to reach the stage.  I caught up with her and said: “Is this place haunted?”  I whispered the question, not wanting to frighten or alarm the others.

allisonwig

[One of Allison’s wigs]

“Many who work here say it is,” she replied.  “They say that Judy Garland has been seen many times.”

We five arrived at the stage.  The house was empty.  There was a “ghost light” center stage.  We posed for a few pictures and I stood for a moment, thinking I was alone, looking out at the empty seats.  I nearly strained a muscle in my neck trying to look up to where we had watched the show (the nosebleed section).

Suddenly, the empty seats became filled with 3,000 Judy Garlands.  They stood and made a deafening  applause.

“You’re over the rainbow,” I heard the Judy who sat in the front row shout.  “You were amazing!”

I didn’t think that Judy Garland ever saw my senior play…then I turned around and saw that Allison was standing in the shadow of the Ghost Light.

“We loved you, Allison!”

I stood back and realized that my moment in the spotlight was long ago.

“Not to be mean,” said one Judy,in the third row, addressing me, “but you aren’t over the rainbow…you’re over the hill.”

I knew the real star of the evening was Allison.  She made a gracious bow to all the Judy’s…waved and then left. Stage right.

“Hey, wait for me,” I called as I hurried to catch up with the others.

stagelight

[The Ghost Light]

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[Allison poses with an aged tourist]

We thanked her and said our good-byes.  I nearly got run over by a taxi as I stepped out to get a shot of the marquee.

I am grateful to Dr. Chris Walsh for arranging our tour.  I thank Allison Walsh for taking the time to show us around, knowing that she was probably exhausted after the performance. (I would have been heading for the nearest pub if I were in her place).

So, what did we do then?  Mariam and I headed for the nearest Irish pub to reflect on our strenuous tour of a great Broadway show.  If you haven’t seen it…go!  It’s closing in a few weeks.

And, just in case you think I made all this up…

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Between Patience and Fortitude

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Despite what my weather app informed me about this afternoon–that the temperature was heading toward the low 40’s, I’m still having the feeling that my wool jacket (more of a pea coat) is merely for show.  The cold wind slices through me like a Triscut dips through Roasted Red Pepper and Garlic Hummus.

I’m chilled through four layers of silk, fleece, wool and thick cotton flannel.  There’s no cold like New York City cold on the second day of March.  Spring may be three weeks away on the calendar, but it’s ten thousand miles from where I stand waiting for the M3 to take me down 5th Avenue to the Main Branch of the Public Library.  To my back is the Plaza Hotel and behind my left shoulder is Central Park.  Perhaps that’s the source of the cold wind?  The snow-covered Great Lawn?  The ice of Wollman Rink?

No, it’s not the park.  It’s the never-ending frost that clings to my flesh and bones…and mocks me in my ear, saying: “It’s no use wearing clothes, Boy From The North Country.  I’m the cold that will follow and find you.  May as well be naked, my friend.”

I consider this.  A holding cell at a mid-town precinct has got to be warm.

Here’s the M3.  I’m saved from having to make any decisions.  I’m going to a special place in a heated bus.  I step off the coach into several inches of slush from last night’s snow fall.  I push past the tourists.  I’m standing on the third step of the library.  I climb the partially shoveled stone steps, passing between the two lions that guard this monument to culture.  The lions are named Patience and Fortitude.  Someone told me that they were named by Mayor La Guardia in the 1940’s.  The point being that in those trying and harsh times (WWII), those are the virtues that all good New Yorker’s need.  I didn’t have time to fact-check this (when he was the mayor) but the pamphlet says they acquired their names in the 1940’s so I’m going with that version.

FrontOfPublicLibraryLion

[Patience. Or is it Fortitude?]

I push through the revolving doors and find myself in the Astor Hall.  The architect who built this must have had access to unlimited white marble, for that is what I see everywhere I look.  On either side of the great room, sweeping staircases takes me up to the second floor.  I slowly climb the steps, sliding my hand along the foot wide marble railing.  What famous author had his or her hands on this stone?  I’m told that my favorite poet, Bob Dylan, came here to research the Civil War when he was writing a song called, Across The Green Mountains.  Maybe his hand paused where I am pausing.  Perhaps an atom of Bob is still embedded between the Calcium Carbonate molecules of the marble?  Then it occurred to me that he probably took the elevator.  I looked at the dark stains on the white stone.  When I get to the top, I dig for my bottle of Purell.  I make my way to one of the public reading rooms.  [The world-famous Rose Reading Room has been closed for nearly a year.  Apparently, part of the ceiling had fallen.]  I can think of worse things that can fall on your head while you’re sitting in the famous room and reading a boring book.  Like an idea for instance.

But, I’m not here as a tourist.  No, I am here to work on my novel.  It’s going to be a ghost story.  I plan on it being scary and tension-filled, like the half-time shows of the recent Super Bowls.  And, this is where I can get inspiration.  Most American writers of the last 50 years have been in these rooms.  Literary ghosts must walk these halls.  I’m sitting in an oak chair as I write this.  Who once sat here?  Norman Mailer?  Scott Fitzgerald?  Jane Smiley?  Jennifer Egan?

Yes, I’m sitting in an oak chair.  The table is massive and also oak.  There are four of these tables in this room (Room 217, if you ever make the trip.  See the guy behind the glass partition who is in charge of research?  I’m in the corner nearby.)  I look around the room and see many laptops, each with a bright white apple glowing from the silver lid.  Oh, there’s a Dell.  Poor devil.  I have a new MacBook Air and the battery life is 12 hours, but some of those less fortunate have older models.  They need to feed their computers with juice, so the library had positioned power bars in the middle of each table.  Some of these are so overloaded, I worry about an explosion.

WiFi MAYHAM ON FIFTH AVENUE!

I can see the Daily News headline now.  I just hope I’m in the men’s room when it goes.

I find my memory stick that holds all 13 of my completed chapters.  It slides into the USB port like…(I could use a dirty metaphor here, but I do have some standards.)  I’m going to write a frightening chapter.  I need to concentrate on building tension.

Then my inner critic peeks over the top of my laptop and with devilish eyes and a mocking grin says:  “Who do you think you are?  You can’t write.  This is crap.  You have no talent…go find something useful to do for society, like picking up litter on Staten Island or scraping chewing gum from the subway platform of the B train.”

He’s right.  I’m no Stephen King.  I’m not John Steinbeck.  I’m not even E. L. James.  I begin to unplug my computer, when I realize that I have a 12 hour battery.  I feel so independent.

I must have patience.  Good writing doesn’t come easily.  Just ask Nora Roberts.  No, I must plug along.  And, I must have fortitude.  I must kill the demon inside me that holds my fingers from typing a scene so scary that you will keep the lights on all night.

My fingers return to the keyboard.  I glance at the time display in the upper right hand corner.  They’re going to close in a little over 30 minutes.  Then I realize that I’ve spent all my time writing this blog.  Now I have to pack up and walk back to the hotel on 28th Street.  Only now, my load will be heavier, with all these words in the memory of my laptop.  They were only in my head before I sat down.

In a few minutes, I’ll head to the revolving door.  I’ll pause to open my shoulder bag to show the security guard that I’m not taking the Gutenberg Bible or the Declaration of Independence.  He knows me because I’ve been here before.  He’ll wave me out and wish me a fine night.  I’ll say the same to him.

Then I’ll stand on the third step, between the two lions, facing the rush hour traffic of 5th Avenue.  Maybe I’ll go behind the library and walk through Bryant Park.  I’ll watch the ice skaters.  I’ll try to turn my collar to the cold and damp.

Music will be playing.  I’ll put my ear buds in and listen to Townes Van Zandt.  Or Iris Dement.  Or Mary Gauthier.

I’ll walk down 6th Avenue to 28th Street and go back to my hotel room.

I’ll have a smile on my face as I walk and shiver, along the busy sidewalks.  I’m smiling because this time tomorrow, I’ll be sitting by a pool in San Juan.

The poolside, in the late afternoon, in Puerto Rico.  Now, that’s a fine place to write a scary chapter.

I’ll just need patience to stay out of the sun for a little while and fortitude to keep me from diving too often into the warm deep blue waters of the deep Caribbean.

CordsInLibrary

[Adaptors in the process of feeding. Watching them made me think of Guatemalen vampire bats sucking on a dead goat.]

AstorLobby

[Astor Hall]

PublicLibStairway

[Two of a thousand arches]

An Ice Queen and Prometheus on a New York City Night

GirlOnIce

A month ago I wouldn’t be able to stand where I’m standing tonight.  Impossible.  Unless I was willing to share the same physical space with seven other people.

I’m looking down at the skating rink at Rockefeller Center.  Four weeks ago, thousands of tourists and locals were cramped in and around the small park that encloses the rink.  The tree!  There was the world-famous Christmas tree, with thousands of lights, in front of one of the entrances to the former NBC Building (“30 Rock”).

Tonight, only a few dozen people wandered about taking photos of themselves.  Nearly everyone was oblivious to the rink below…there was no one down there.  I leaned against the stone wall and took a closer look.  After all, this was one of the most iconic New York City sights of them all.

I saw a young woman waiting for the Zamboni machine to complete its hypnotic oval loops.

She would be the first on the smooth new coating of ice.

My mind went back to a night in the early 1980’s.  I was in the City with my daughter, Erin.  I had just purchased a single ticket and rental skates for her…at a fair price, I may say.  The total cost was about $12.00.  (Tonight the price topped $40.00.)  That night, years ago, was New Years Eve.  It was 11:00 pm and this was the final skate of the day…of the year.

Erin was first in line behind the chain gate.  When the attendant opened the latch, my daughter would be the first onto the ice.

At 11:00 pm sharp, the skaters took the ice.  Erin skated like the ten-year-old she was, a little awkward, a little unsteady, but full of self-confidence and grace.  I was proud of her courage to take such a public risk.  If she fell, thousands would watch her hit the ice.

“But, dad, what if I fall?  Everyone will be looking.”

These words never left her lips…even if she ever thought about them.

Tonight, I had those same fears for this complete stranger  On this chilly evening, she had only two sets of eyes watching her.

Those of Prometheus.  And mine.

She skated out to the center of the rink, directly toward the gold-guilded god that looked out over the ice.  She advanced slowly, like a virgin to be sacrificed.

Watching her.  Watching the way she moved, I knew she was never looking for the fire from Prometheus, his approval or mine.

She was skating for herself.  She took her position to begin a long and sinuous trip around the rink.

I turned and began to walk toward 5th Avenue to hail a taxi.  I didn’t need to see anymore.  She had all the attention she needed and it was in her own soul.  I glanced back toward the fire-god and the rink.  A few cameras flashed.  The skater, this woman unknown to me, would end up on a camera roll and later erased or a Facebook post to a cousin in Reno.

No, I didn’t need to see anymore.  Her first confident steps told me her whole story.

Park Avenue on a Rainy Day

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I am standing in the rain at the intersection of the Mythical Avenue and Ordinary Life Street in New York City.  If there’s a map at your side, look for where E. 92nd Street crosses Park Avenue.  That’s where I am standing, safely protected from the speeding traffic, on the landscaped Mall that separates the uptown two lanes from the two downtown lanes.  In the Spring and Summer, the various block associations would pool their resources and have the Mall planted with thousands of  flowers, usually tulips…so red and so yellow that your eyes would water.  During the holidays, the small trees would be lit up in beautiful lights.  All along a quiet oasis of real earth on a strip that extends for fifty blocks to the south and another hundred-fifty blocks to the north…give or take a few. You’ve got a map, count them.

It’s a mid-January afternoon and the trees are bare and the planting areas are mulched.  I saw several faded and broken blue holiday lights remaining on one of the trees.

When I was growing up, I loved to watch old movies…those set in the ’30’s and ’40’s and New York City was the backdrop.  Park Avenue became for me, as well as with much of America, the “street of dreams” where the rich lived in enormous apartment houses.  “Penthouses” and “Park Avenue” were one and the same.  No wealthy person lived in a penthouse on First Avenue…at least not in the movies.  In these old films, the limousines would pick up the Cary Grants, the Ginger Rogers, the Ray Millands and the Grace Kellys and whisk them away to the Stork Club or the Copa.  No matter what time of day or night, the men wore tuxedos and the women carried themselves like goddesses in satin gowns, boas and ermine.

I am standing in the rain and looking south.  I can barely make out the ghost of a 50+ story building in the mist.  Once upon a time it was famously known as the PAN AM building.  Now, giant letters spell out MET LIFE.  The building sits atop the renowned Grand Central Station.  I’ve heard that Peregrine falcons nest in nooks of the giant neon letters.

South of Grand Central, the avenue becomes Park Avenue South and then ends around 14th Street.  I turn around and look North.  In only four or five blocks the avenue looses its famous allure and continues onto the upper reaches of Spanish Harlem, ending abruptly at the Harlem River Drive.  Much of the northern length is made of three or four-story walk-ups.  But, like most other sections of Manhattan, the luxury high rises are springing up everywhere.  The rentals, co-ops, and condos are growing like ferns on a forest floor.  The cost of a one-bedroom would choke a horse.

But, I’m standing along its Gold Coast.  I watch.  People on corners stick their hands out from under their umbrellas to hail a taxi.  The doormen hail cabs for their tenants.  They help unload the kids from the backseat of a giant S.U.V. or the bags of groceries from Whole Foods.  Sometimes a doorman will sneak away from his post to grab a coffee from a deli on a side street.  The deli displays pastries that would make anyone crave gluten.

A small group of high school girls cross the Avenue, talking so fast it may have been a different language.  At least they’re talking.  Not one of them is on her cell phone.  The girls are in identical kilts and knee socks…the school uniform.  They wear bright pink or green backpacks.  Three teachers lead nine children to an after school program.  The kids are holding a loop on a length of rope.  They are in pairs.  The ninth child is holding hands with the last teacher.  I hope she wasn’t left out.  I prayed she was not excluded from the other eight.  A group of five high school boys, passed the high school girls.  Their pushing and jostling stops for a few minutes.  They’re thinking of the soccer game or the rugby game…or the girls in the kilts.  One or two boys turns to get a last glimpse of the strange group of creatures…these girls.

One of the girls glances back.

There were quite a few school kids on the streets.  I checked on a street map later and found that from where I stood, there were at least 22 schools (mostly private) within an 8 to 10 block radius.  Somewhere I read that the Starbucks on the corner of 96th and Madison was centered in the largest cluster of private schools in America.  Of course.  I remembered that at least two of the girls were clutching a mocha.

A police car, with lights flashing and siren blasting is heading west on 87th.  An ambulance, with lights and siren wailing is running the lights northward to Mount Sinai.  Another, smaller ambulance, no siren and no lights is going south to 76th, toward Lenox Hill Hospital.  I hoped it was empty.  Was it traveling slowly because the occupant was beyond an emergency?

School buses of all sizes crept along the Avenue.

I looked down the Avenue and saw hundreds of red tail lights of cabs attempting to run the stop lights.  The red dots seem to go on as far as Ohio.

It came to me that there were no public buses on Park Avenue.  The only trucks were moving vans.  I surmised that this had a lot to do with the amount of rent along the Avenue and the fact that buses and trucks were not in keeping with the quality of life along one of the richest thoroughfares in America.

I thought again of the old movies.  Those were the glory years of this part of Manhattan.  The glory is still here…for those who can afford the extortion rents (or the condos or the co-ops).  The S.U.V.’s have replaced the Lincoln Town Cars, to some degree, anyway.

When I lived in Manhattan, I was an Upper West Sider.  But the private school I taught in for almost 13 years was on the far east side.  My school was so far east that the East River flowed a few meters below my home room window.  I could see Queens from that window.  I could see the abandoned asylums on what is now Roosevelt Island.

I often walked home and my walk would always take me across Park Avenue.  I would cross slowly, absorbing the history of the fabled avenue.  I was never envious of those who could afford to live in that area.  I knew that no matter who they were or what their portfolio contained, they all had their own broken hearts, pains, guilt, and illnesses everyone else had.  The people had season tickets to the Metropolitan Opera, the box seats behind home plate at Yankee Stadium.  These were movie producers and actors.  I would see ancient ladies with their nurses who were mostly black, being pushed or helped along the Avenue.  This did not surprise me.  There is a great deal of “old money” here and it was for most of its history, a white persons world.  People of color came from the Boroughs as maids and care-givers, nannies and companions.  Many of those old folks probably have forgotten where the family fortune came from in the first place.

Park Avenue is a symbol of all that is dreamy, wealthy, opulent, poor, class-ridden, lonely and depressing in the Greatest City in the World.

Yes, I would cross nearly every school day, wiping sweat from my forehead on warm summer afternoons.  On harsh winter evenings, I would wish for a longer scarf while wading through a foot of snow and small ponds of frozen slush at the corners.

But, in the Spring, I would always stop and smell the flowers–those tulips–those dazzling tulips.

Today and for the next few days, my home was a hotel room.  It’s only a few blocks from the corner of 86th and First Avenue, where I would stand to catch the cross-town bus…when I taught here…when I called New York City my home.

I held firmly to my new blue umbrella as I stood under dripping clouds and watched life happen around me.

On Park Avenue.  On a rainy day.

 

ParkAveMall