It’s been over a year since I posted one of the “Overlooked Manhattan” series, and it’s time I got back to it with one on East 36th Street, which most New Yorkers only know as an outlet to the Midtown Tunnel.
But there is more! Not only are there secret gardens.
But there are also the Missions for Chad and Armenia.
Got to keep my eyes open in this city. Looking for more.
I was all set to have a big writing day. I was going to do a 2-3 hour final draft of Baller, my tree-planting script, and get it ready to submit . And then, after an inspiring workout, I would hammer out 4-5 hours of Fuck Pedagogy, getting out all the nasty details of the year-long arbitration with a former school.
But it was not to be. I didn’t get into the work until late and then realized the opening to Baller needed serious work which stalled everything. From there it was a bad house of cards, finishing up bits of cheese from the fridge and moving plants to more ideal locations on the windowsill.
And then I decided to write this blog and see if that got me on my merry way. I’ll let you know. (Odds are against.)
The platform was crowded, people on their way home for work, a woman with her two girls, one holding a half-eaten apple, a man slouched forward over his phone, three young women talking excitedly to each other, a man walking through, all of them waiting with her, on the platform across the tracks, the local and express, some glancing up into the tunnel, others barely aware they were there, the electronic board stuck at three minutes and then flashing orange. Ashe closed her eyes. The sound was distant, moving away, echoing out of the tunnel, and then it was above, heavy over the joists, coming through the cement block ceiling and walls. The train was here. It was odd, standing there, as if in a dream, going nowhere, dark and crowded, not scared, not anything, just there. They pushed past one another, some patient, and filled the train. She pressed back against the door to the next car, the cool of metal against her hip, and the train doors closed. It was slow at first, starting, only to lose momentum, starting again, slowing, and then began to gain speed, moving alongside the local train, pulling even, looking back at the people looking at them, and them moving ahead fast, swaying back and forth, clacking over the switches and breaks, flashing past the cement pillars, yellow lights and local stations, until it was almost too fast, and then braking, the woman’s mechanized voice announcing Grand Central, clicking into the station, slowing hard, stopping and the door’s opening for the swell to go out and in. She stayed as she was and watched, the little man dash of the one empty seat, the older woman pause and stand over him, the young women, still there, rotating around their pole, still talking, the young man moving his head side to side with his music, the hand reach in to stop the doors, waiting him and then another, before moving again, deep into the tunnel.
When people tell you about their weekend in the Hamptons, remember that the truth of it is all traffic…neighbors blaring Katy Perry…the construction next door…as well as 45-minute deli lineups. And, only if they’re lucky, maybe 10 minutes of what they claim.
New York native Washington Iriving coined the name Knickerbocker in his 19th Century writing to exemplify the New York character – graceless, indomitable freethinkers – and soon enough the name dotted the city. The Knickerbocker name is ingrained, especially in the older corners, such as the Knickerbocker Post Office, an old brick building on East Broadway in Chinatown. The Google reviews on are less than positive: “Lack of Customer Service! wasted my morning!” “Very negative experience with staff” “The package was either lost or stolen in this USPSlocation.” Knickerbockers one and all.
I am not a cook. I only make one thing: grilled cheese sandwiches. I mentioned my grilled-cheese sandwich abilities in passing during a party, and truth be told, I wasn’t really aware of who I was talking to, nor even really what I was talking about, but I did not tell the person before me, Claus Meyer, that I was good at making grilled cheese sandwiches.
Surprisingly, he seemed interested. “I would like to try that.”
Shortly thereafter I had learned who he was, that he was a famed chef and restauranteur, co-founder of Noma in Denmark, voted best restaurant in the world four separate years.
“You say it is a good sandwich. I would like to try them too.”
And so we invited Claus and his wife for dinner, and, yes, I made my grilled cheese sandwiches, or “cheese toasts” as he called them. And he liked them. “The bread is right. It is crisp. The cheese is perfectly melted.” He had three pieces. “Yes, they are very good.”
My secret you ask? Well, I’ve just started working on my book, Melted Just Right which should be ready in the fall of 2017.
Two homeless men, young, lay side by side in matching boxes, asleep in the dull rising light. The shallow boxes, flat and wide, looking like they had just been delivered for the morning rush, gave no warmth or shelter, no comfort of any kind, just a lip, an edge a few inches up, as if it might keep the bugs and dust out. I had walked almost a full block past before I realized I had to go back to take a picture.
It was a funny image, striking how they looked they had been delivered and slept so soundly for the people streaming past. I had my camera out as I turned around for the shot and saw the young man was awake. I was caught in an awkward stance, looking down at him, mocking him, and dropped my arms and continued past.
“Yeah, that’s right.” The young man muttered after my receding steps. “No pictures.”
15 years after. Not clear blue. But gray and muggy. And quiet. Said Joe Quinn, brother of Jimmy Quin, killed in the North Tower, at today’s ceremony:
For one day, just one day, shut off your television, power down your phone and go outside. Say hello to your neighbor. Volunteer, Engage with your community. Do not sit on the sidelines. Be the inspiration we so desperately crave.
And then tomorrow, by dawn’s early light, put one foot in front of the other, and do it again. Be the unity that this world needs.
“Miss Sinclair.” Officer Duncan sat pert behind his desk and held out a blue index card. “You fill in one of these?”
“I need you to fill it in.”
“I’ll wait for my lawyer.”
He hunched over the desk, his black pointy hair sticking out from his small features and hands, and turned away from her to Officer Manzoni at the desk beside him. “Processing the 10-64?”
Officer Manzoni, intent on his screen, his goateed chin pushed forward, wire-frame glasses tight against the bridge of his nose, took a moment to respond. “Series two.”
“It’s not Series two.”
Officer Manzoni shrugged.
Officer Duncan glanced down at Dee again, almost surprised she was still there, waiting like a child. “1151, you can have a seat.”
Dee waited, looking through the newspapers again and considered the picture of her jumping again, peering at her half exposed breast again and then her arms awkwardly out, her right leg almost straight out, like she had been pushed. It made her stomach turn, looking at herself, thinking how she could have broken her ankle and then remembering the tunnel and the dark and thinking she might actually still be in there, comatose, leaking toward her last breath. She looked around and saw Officer Duncan over her, Officer Manzoni just behind.