TALES OF MANHATTAN
July 1, 2015 Wednesday
Standing outside in the line for a taxi, I talked to an attractive black woman. She said she was a storyteller and she worked with The Moth. I said I listened to The Moth on NPR in Houston. She told me The Moth was presenting a program on July 16. We exchanged contact information so I could get a link.
A nice taxi driver took me to the address. Marie had sent two keys, one for the front door and one for the apartment.
I let myself in the building and brought my two carry-ons, my wheeled duffle bag [too heavy – should have taken a lighter one] and the forty-nine-pound suitcase to the foot of the stairs. Marie told me there was no elevator. I wondered about people who moved in able-bodied and then became disabled physically and couldn’t afford to leave their rent-controlled (a non-Texas concept) apartment.
The building was probably built before the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and must have been grandfathered for everything in the current municipal building code other than a fire escape which I’m sure existed but I’m sure I never saw. I took the two smaller bags and the duffle bag up four narrow flights, pausing frequently and for sure each time at the landings between floors.
My head totally wet from perspiration, I made it to the fifth floor and located the apartment. I put the key in the lock by the handle and couldn’t get it to open. I called Marie, who informed me there was another lock above the door handle lock and that was where the key should be inserted. She also mentioned it was in the instructions. I’m not all that good at instructions.
I got the door open and put what I had carried up inside the door, without looking around. I went down and looked at the suitcase. No way I was going to get that up the four flights, even with rest stops. The bag was wider than the space between the banister and the wall. I opened the bag and took as much out as I could carry and went back up the stairs with the load, thinking even my sister, Cyvia the step climber, would have had a difficult time.
Drenched, I entered the apartment, put the stuff I had carried on a bed in an alcove just past the kitchen, and forced myself down again hoping I could make it in just one more trip. I got down, zipped up the bag, which probably weighed thirty-five pounds at this point – and let me assure you, in a gym, using compact weights, I can easily lift thirty-five pounds – but just try heaving a suitcase weighing thirty-five pounds up fucking stairs so narrow I had to go sideways and that’s another matter.
Resolute, without good alternatives, completely pitted out, I trudged up the stairs, trying not to inflict permanent damage to the stairway (although, at one point, I considered intentionally inflicting permanent damage to the stairway), I made it up and in.
Finally, with all my stuff in the apartment, I struggled to find the lights. As the days passed, I will tell you now, I grew to love this apartment and to have discovered just about everything necessary to know not just how to survive but to live there; but in the first few days, everything was new and either unfamiliarly placed, or non-existent. Nothing was actually hidden. I’m just not all that observant.
The front door opened into the kitchen. It was daylight when I arrived. I saw a lamp on a table by a window opposite the refrigerator and thought surely there must be another light source for the kitchen besides opening the refrigerator, but no switches turned on lights in the kitchen. Maybe the third day I looked upward and saw a chain hanging down from a light fixture in the center of the kitchen. I pulled it and, voila, there was a well-lit kitchen.
I searched for the shower. Opposite the room where the commode was, there was an opaque door and a light switch. I switched on the light, which lit the area inside the door, opened the door, and the shower was revealed. I peeled off my clothes and hung them over a chair so they could dry and took a much-needed shower. Feeling refreshed, I put on shorts and a tee.
I took an introductory walk, in part informed by an email introduction from Marie.
I noticed the Cherry Lane Theater which had a poster saying “Colin Quinn’s New York Story” directed by Jerry Seinfeld was coming and was not twenty steps from the front stoop of the apartment building.
I proceeded down Barrow past Hudson, to go to a store for some provisions. D’Agostino’s. No manly 10-Calorie Dr. Pepper. In fact, they had a limited selection and high prices, but they were there. I was used to the giant grocery stores in Houston. D’Agostino’s calls themselves supermarkets but they aren’t so super.
I looked to see what was going on that evening. The Barrow St. Theater was just a few blocks away and it was running “The Flick” which had won a Pulitzer Prize. I was enjoying the play, which was about people who work in a movie theater which is about to go out of business. At intermission, I went next door to get some gelato and recognized the cousin of a friend from Houston.
First day I’m there and I run into someone I know. Small world. She introduced me to her husband and said they live in a new large apartment in the Upper East Side, as if I was supposed to know that made them special. I didn’t, so it didn’t. She said she wasn’t staying for the second act, her husband was. She was going to go home to read a book. I was thinking she never really liked me much before, and that she was not likely to call me. Her husband didn’t seem interested in getting to know me. I was actually fine with that.
I enjoyed the play, though I’m not sure it was worthy of a Pulitzer.
Cawfee someone else makes is the way New Yawkers start the day. I tiptoed into that by going to a nearby Starbucks on Seventh Avenue and Grove. The wifi was an attraction. I hadn’t figured that out yet how to get connected at the apartment. I got a phone call from someone who, while intriguing, was also totally treacherous. She always had an agenda and I was always too beguiled to see it coming.
Fortunately, the noise was loud and I couldn’t hear her other than she said she was crying because she was worried about me. Even not hearing her rattled me. My phone started going like crazy. My daughter Toni called while I was on the phone from That Person. I tried to get her call, but she was gone when I did. Then Anjali called. Then as I was calling back Toni, her lawyer called. Then I got back to Toni. I checked my email. The stroll back calmed me.
I went to Oscar’s Delicious on Hudson off Barrow because Marie said they had great cheeseburgers. An attractive woman of indeterminate age other than she was much younger than I am, dressed in white jeans and an attractive top was about to sit two tables away. I motioned for her to sit at the table next to me. She did. She exuded friendliness. She said her name was Dora and she was an event planner. She had a glass of wine with her lunch. Said she had been out late drinking and the wine would help her hangover.
I had some flashbacks of my former girlfriend and her drinking and the excuses she would make. Born in Colombia. Raised in NY, Queens. Lives in Hudson Valley. Seventy-mile commute. Separated. No children. A dog. Likes to travel. Seems bright. I bought her lunch and gave her my number (my theory is if I give a woman my number she will be less concerned that I could be a kook). I rested a bit and at 5:30 headed for the HighLine.
Went down Washington to pick it up in the Meat Packing District. It starts where the new Whitney is. Walked all the way to the other end – 34th St? and back. Lots of people, seemed to me a mix of locals and tourists. All ethnic varieties mixed among each other. Good vision of the city. I kept wondering what the Pierce Elevated in Houston will become when a new freeway will bypass it.
The HighLine is nice but I was not as impressed as much as other people have told me they were impressed. I was surprised at the number of residential units built adjacent to the Highline. Don’t those people worry about privacy? Anyway, it was nice but I wasn’t blown away and I did it all. I’m glad I did. Got a hot dog at the far end to sustain me for the return walk. Took a picture of a couple kissing and took many other pictures.
Haven’t had a really good meal yet, but the cheeseburger at Oscar’s was excellent.
Before I arrived in New York, I had made no plans except to go to a party on July 25 celebrating the sale of a company owned by one of my closest friends, and to go to a July 4 party to be held on July 3 in Southampton. My good friend Mike whose law firm had transferred him to its New York office invited me. His long-time girlfriend has an annual July 4 party at her place in Southampton. That sounded like fun so I planned with him how to get there from the West Village. I would take the Hampton Jitney and he would pick me up at the Southampton station. I made reservations for the jitney when I was still in Houston.
Got up at 6:45 am to be sure I would get an UBER at 8:30 to get to the Hampton Jitney. I got out at 8:35. I arrived before 9. I think Uber in NYC is more expensive than a cab. Maybe it was a “surge” time. Arrived early, so I looked for a place to get breakfast. Half a block away, at 350 Lexington Avenue and 40th, I saw Bloom’s. I ordered eggs with bacon and coffee. The service was fast, the food was great, with the bacon perfectly limp as I ordered it, and I will say (and probably repeat myself before this whole thing is over), NYC butter is a delicacy.
(As I re-read this, I note during my stay I passed this area frequently.) Cleaned my plate and got in line to board the jitney. I had a reserved seat on the 9:30 Ambassador. A lovely ride. Free NYT. They showed the film, “The Woman In Gold.” I had wanted to see it. I enjoyed it. I had seen the Klimpt painting “The Woman in Gold” at the Neu Gallery soon after it opened. That made me feel more connected to the film.
Mike picked me up in his new Mercedes convertible (which made me think that I have to get my car fixed after the scrape on the rusty pole at my former girlfriend’s apartment which That Woman who said she cried worrying about me had occupied, as in “Occupy Wall Street”, and which happened after an extremely disturbing visit with her at the apartment.) He gave me a tour of the town of Southampton before going to the magnificent house facing the ocean with the bay at the back. Calvin Klein’s house was next door but I didn’t see any activity.
The July 4th theme was brilliantly carried out and nothing more so than the dessert table. Mike’s girlfriend is a major UJA and supporter of liberal politics and politcians, including a Congresswoman who was in attendance with her husband. I met a lot of people. One had a Houston connection, an Israeli plastic surgeon Elon. He had lived in Houston and trained with the husband of a friend with whom I had gone to elementary school and taken ballroom dancing.
I had an interesting conversation with a woman named Judy. She had a voice condition that made it difficult to hear her, but what I heard was interesting. She left early because she was driving to the Berkshires. I suggested she take a look into Image Gallery and meet Clemens Kalischer. I met lots of people from Wall Street and New York theater and philanthropy. I don’t remember most of them and they remember me less, I’m sure.
Mike introduced me to a guy who was a neighbor of his in his apartment building, which he doesn’t stay at much because he stays with Marcia, “He’s gay but he’s very interesting and a good guy.” We had a nice visit and he took my information and said he would show me Astoria.
There was a lot of conversation about the Iran-Israel deal. Most people there were in favor of it as the best choice. This is of course in direct opposition to AIPAC and the Republicans and Netanyahu. But then these were J Street folks and not AIPAC folks.
So on my third day, I was amongst some of the crème de la crème of the New York Jewish liberal establishment.
Have you been to Manhattan? What are your experiences? Please share below!
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