You are currently viewing the stories for January, 2004

Spare Change with Bullets

by 01/31/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

A slightly built African-American man in a standard-issue beige trenchcoat murmured as we passed on the street. “Say, you wouldn’t mind giving the time of day to a Black man?” “What can I do for you?” “Well, I’m just here at St. Luke’s, you see, for the methadone program, and I have to get home, […]

Cat and Prostitute, 1969

by 01/31/2004
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights

It was 1969 and cats were everywhere in Morningside Heights. Multitudes of feral alley prowlers, storefront dozers, and the gray cat who was allowed to sit in the open, unscreened window of the fourth floor apartment across the street. He was always reaching toward pigeons with a wistful paw, even though the pigeons were never […]

Personal Space in the 181st Street Elevator

by 01/31/2004
Neighborhood: Washington Heights

Twenty-one children (the first of whom were triplets), and twenty-one grandchildren. And two wives, if you’re wondering. Thirteen with the first wife, nine with the next. He’s not married anymore. He grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, when it was still Brownsville, Brooklyn. Now he lives in Springfield Gardens, Queens. On public transportation it takes him […]

The Going Away Party

by 01/31/2004
Neighborhood: Central Park

Michael had long used us as a test audience for his trendy nihilism, togging up in punk, new wave and goth to suit his status as a Parsons grad student. We, his undergrad pals from Syracuse, continued to feign shock, through ten shades of hair color, safety pins inserted in various extremities, kilts, bondage pants […]

Harlem on My Mind

by 01/30/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

Melting orange popsicles, dripping ice cream cones, slushy cherry ices and candy all day long–all reminders of lazy summer days spent growing up in Harlem. A day that began for me not long after dawn. Peering out of my living room window, I see that the Harlem world is just beginning to stir, but I […]

Ghetto Superstar Maurice Ashley (He Plays Chess)

by 01/30/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

Eliot Majors, age 9, slides his queen diagonally across the chessboard, then inexplicably halts one square short. Check. Several watching youngsters groan. “Nooo!” cries one, clutching his chest, and falls to the ground in dramatic disbelief. Maurice Ashley, age 34, removes his dark sun glasses and his leather jacket. “You sure you want to do […]

On the Anniversary of Not Seeing Her Again

by 01/30/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

Manhattan is the capitol of the unexpected encounter. There are no dogs barking to warn you of the unexpected, no dust being kicked up on a long curving dirt road as a stranger approaches. So it was that I found myself standing in Nussbaum & Wu, wishing that her presence had kicked up a little […]

Do Black Children Scare You?

by 01/30/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

I sit in a tree with pen and paper in hand, planning to writing a letter. The branches under me are smooth and rough in patches, warped like an elephant’s trunk. The shade of the tree, the cool breeze and warm sun make me feel good, and calm, and in control. An elderly man stands […]

Grant’s Tomb

by 01/30/2004
Neighborhood: Harlem

The garden in Riverside Park is fragrant and full of kids playing, but only several hundred yards away Grant’s Tomb maintains its atmosphere of austerity and stillness. The sign on the plaza outside the Tomb, under the sycamores, reads NO ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. And immediately one thinks of whiskey and of the General in his Union-blue […]

Blackout ’77: Conclusion

by 01/20/2004
Neighborhood: All Over

Thursday morning was many different mornings, just as the night without lights had been many different nights. One woman, rising before the sun, stuck her head out of her bedroom window. Never before, she said, had the street been so quiet. Nor the sky—in Queens!—so full of stars. A twenty-two-year-old who hadn’t been to bed […]

In Schrafft’s

by 01/16/2004
Neighborhood: Upper East Side

Having finished the Blue-plate Special And reached the coffee stage, Stirring her cup she sat, A somewhat shapeless figure Of indeterminate age In an undistinguished hat. When she lifted her eyes it was plain That our globular furore, Our international rout Of sin and apparatus And dying men galore, Was not being bothered about. Which […]

Life on a Park Avenue Balcony

by 01/16/2004
Neighborhood: Upper East Side

In his long running quest to be a perpetual houseguest, Sherban had developed a new strategy: balconies. Something about a balcony reassured apartment owners that oneÕs presence was only temporary, enjoyable almost. And life on a balcony turned out to be refreshingly casual, al fresco. By contrast to a Ôspare roomÕ or fold-out sofa, one […]