subway solstice

subwaysolstice_6647Underground,
stations hold
spring’s coolness
a little longer
than the summer streets above,
until that moment
when the whole system
pulls in a hot drag
off the sizzling City,
and traps fire
in its tubes
until winter.

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discombobulated

I woke completely confused, an hour before the alarm this morning. Although I’m already a week into my new job, I startled from my sleep unsure of what day my new employers were expecting me to start working.

This came after two busy days in Rhode Island helping Bob get the house closer to ready for sale, bookended by two three-and-a-half-hour train rides (which explain why we didn’t visit New York as often as we had intended when we moved to Providence), plus the added hour subways between Penn Station and Bed-Sty.

I was discombobulated much of the weekend in Providence. As I was falling asleep on Saturday night, back in my own bed with Bob and our dog Marcello by my side, I had been scrolling through Manhattan apartment listings on my phone. For a few seconds I wondered if I could make an open house or two before I met my train the next day. I had to remind myself that I was in Providence currently, and wouldn’t be back in New York until after my train.

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missed connections: losing my iphone as i leave new york

“How is that phone even working?” The fourteen-year-old son of our friend in Paris asked, staring across the bistro table at my iPhone with the kind of casual disdain that French teenagers have perfected.

He was right, of course (as all those French teenagers usually are). My iPhone’s battery had overheated and expanded, pushing up against the screen, which had detached around the edges along the top. It being a work phone, I could have turned it in for a replacement, but knowing I would be leaving the university in six weeks, I didn’t want to go through the hassle, despite risking the loss of all service and connection while on vacation in Europe.

Continue reading “missed connections: losing my iphone as i leave new york”

time capsule to my teenaged self

Dear Jim, Hello from 2015.

I’ll bet that sounds downright Jetsonian to you as a 17-year-old in 1975.

So I’ll settle one big question at the outset: we do not have flying cars.

There is, come to think of it, something called a personal computer that I know you’ll appreciate for at least a couple of its features in particular: it will check your spelling for you. Hold your tears. I know you’ll love that.

And then there’s the Internet, which is also hard to describe, but it will eliminate the need for the family’s old Encyclopedia Britannica. And there’s a whole lot of, well, anything you might ever want (publicly or secretly) on the Internet, such as movies and music and travel guides. And, umm, well, let me just say, kids your age today aren’t even thinking about agonizing over how to convince the sales clerk at the 7-Eleven to sell them a copy of Playgirl.

Yeah, I know about your secret Playgirl stash.

See, I’m you, grown old. I’m you 40 years from now.

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love saves the day

Since yesterday’s explosion on Second Avenue at Seventh Street in the East Village, I’ve been thinking about this photograph.

I took it about a month ago while sitting at a window table in San Marzano restaurant, looking up Second, during one of our February snow storms.

The building on the left, the former home of the quintessential East Village vintage clothing and novelty shop Love Saves The Day, is one of the buildings that collapsed. The woman with the white umbrella is passing in front of the restaurant that was the source of the explosion.

I’ve also been thinking about the staff at Pomme Frites, Sushi Park, Paul’s Burger, San Marzano and the other shops along this avenue. And especially about the residents who lost their homes. We’re anxious to check on acquaintances who work at the restaurants.

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sidewalks of new york

a field guide for taming the wild pedestrian

When I arrived in New York 25 years ago, there was a shared sense on the street that if you didn’t follow the rules you could get hurt.

Figuring out the correct side of the sidewalk and how to navigate taxis, bike messengers, and loose mental patients was part of survival in this tough City. It was also part of being a good fellow New Yorker. You felt proud of yourself as you accomplished the ways of the City. Similar to stepping confidently onto a “people mover” at the airport, you learned what “regular coffee” really meant at a street cart, how to fold your Times so as not to annoy fellow subway passengers, how brief a question needed to be for a New Yorker to answer it, and that you always stayed to the right and moved attentively on the sidewalk.

True New Yorkers knew these things. New New Yorkers wanted to learn them quickly. Visitors wanted to know so as not to draw attention to themselves. We were all in it together. And if you hadn’t figured that out yet, you quickly did, or risked being run off the curb. Continue reading “sidewalks of new york”

f*ck

Last week a friend posted a Gawker video of consummate New York actress Elaine Stritch saying “fuck” while on the Today show to promote Shoot Me, the new documentary about her life.

I actually don’t understand why hosts Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford were so surprised, except to fain chagrin for anyone in the home audience who was offended by it. But I suspect most people would have been more surprised if Stritch had not said “fuck.” She has built a long career on being herself—a crusty New York broad who speaks her mind with unapologetic gusto and humor—and everyone knows it.

My comment on my friend’s post? “Everyone should say ‘fuck’ on the Today show.” Continue reading “f*ck”

gray’s papaya lights go out on 8th street

Eater.com has spent the past few days celebrating the life and death of Gray’s Papaya at the corner of Eighth Street and Sixth Avenue, with photos of its bright orange lettering being removed from its awning and reminiscent post from followers about drunken munchies and Gray’s goofy signage.

I, myself, best remember Gray’s Papaya, and the Famous Ray’s Pizza of Greenwich Village a few blocks up Sixth Avenue (which also recently closed for the second and final time), on my late-night walks home from Bob’s NYU dorm during our first year in New York, when he lived in graduate student housing on Third Avenue and I lived in the Jesuit Community on 17th Street. Continue reading “gray’s papaya lights go out on 8th street”

love songs to blue skies

With art school, parish duties, and New York at my doorstep, I barely had time to be homesick for California, that first autumn in 1989. But I was. I missed Berkeley’s temperate climate and dramatic landscape, the way nature entered everyday life, how people treated one another, the forward-thinking politics, and my friends. Oh, my friends. And the deep, clear blue West Coast sky that saturated Berkeley’s daylight, the shadows, and my mood most of the year.

Having in the past only visited New York during its damp springs and hazy summers, I had no idea that crystal blue skies were a trademark of New York autumns. Continue reading “love songs to blue skies”

faces

After half a century,
every face looks like one I’ve seen before:
this one like that sweet girl from grade school;
that one like this teacher from college;
another like that actress…or waitress…or both;
or like my childhood dentist,
or high school crush.
I catch myself about to speak,
and then remember
they, too, would be several decades older, by now.

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