1982: Approaching the New Year



Neighborhood: Harlem, Tribeca

The Times Square ball has dropped, giving birth to 1982, unnoticed by me and my friends who have been prowling the city streets for hours. We ricochet from one dimly lit bar to another, drawn to brain-damaging music and access to drugs. In the Mudd Club, where we’ve landed, the entrance to both bathrooms is jammed; getting in or out involves persistence and the timing of a pickpocket. It’s not that everyone needs to pee; no, it’s because the bathrooms are where it’s possible to cop a line or two from an addled stranger. At this hour, though, it’s difficult to maintain the high. My restless friends decide to head uptown to a party in Harlem, and I tag along. We grab a cab that has just dumped a load of underage kids and take it to 125th street — a lovely old brownstone, but the party is much too crowded.

I am crashing; the night’s glow is tarnished and whatever it is I’m looking for, it’s not happening. I slip out the door and walk east. In a stroke of good fortune I haven’t earned, a bus pulls up that’s going downtown and will stop within a block of my apartment. The bus is full, but soon enough I spot an empty seat, and the bleakness I’d felt begins to lift.

The warm bus, and the predictable rhythm of stop and go, every few blocks, is comforting. Soon the streets are calmer, the bus practically empty, and, wonder of wonders, thick flakes of snow are drifting down. I look around me, hoping others have seen this beauty, but there is only an older man seated across the aisle from me. He looks familiar, but it is not until the bus slows for the next stop and the man rises from his seat and nods briefly to me, an adieu of grace on this New Year’s Day, that I recognize him. Allen Ginsberg gathers up his satchel and carefully negotiates the steps down to the curb. The driver shifts gears, the engine rumbles, and I pull myself together to get off at my stop. Against all odds, I am almost happy.


Susan T. Landry is a writer and an editor. For life-blood money, she is a medical manuscript editor, editing articles for medical journals; and for pleasure and less money, she is also an editor of other writers’ stories. She founded and managed an online literary journal about memoir, called “Run to the Roundhouse, Nellie,” which is no longer publishing; Susan previously edited the print journal, “Lifeboat: A Journal of Memoir.” She lived in NYC for many years, and on the Bowery from 1978 to 1991. Susan now lives in Maine.

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§ 3 Responses to “1982: Approaching the New Year”

  • TSB says:

    Lovely sketch of a moment in time. It is enhanced, for me, by my growing love of New York City busses, for reasons you capture.

  • Susan T. Landry says:

    Thank you!
    I still love the buses of NYC. When I visit the city I walk a lot, but I rarely pass up the opportunity to take a bus up a long avenue. Years ago, I was thrilled to discover I could take a bus from the Bowery to my friend’s apt on the Upper West Side.

  • Alice Smith Duncan says:

    Love this one, Susan.

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