Where Am I?

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by 08/03/2012
Neighborhood: Washington Heights

I shift from foot to foot as I wait in line to see the Mona Lisa. The line snakes around the corridor of the second floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My mother and Aunt Regina insist that we must see this wonderful painting. Helen holds my hand and tells me that Leonardo da […]

Richie Two-Ax

by 12/29/2011
Neighborhood: Gowanus, Manhattan, Park Slope

When my father walked onto the construction site of the Western Electric Building on Broadway and Fulton, he asked a dark-skinned guy in hard hat where Richie Two-ax was. The construction worker eyed my father’s neatly pressed slacks and asked, “Who are you?” “I’m his friend? He told me to meet him here for lunch,” […]

69 Years After

by 03/24/2011
Neighborhood: Greenwich Village, Lower East Side, Uncategorized

In the spring of 1980 I was a cocky new teacher of English as a Second language, fresh from education grad school, with innovative pedagogy that I couldn’t wait to try out on students. My first job in New York was a gem: “Vocational ESL.” It was funded by the feds and I’d gone to […]

Hemmed In

by 02/14/2011
Neighborhood: Midtown

This is a story about my grandmother, who was young in Manhattan in the 1920s. Speakeasies, nightclubs, drop-waisted dresses, bobbed hair, cloche hats, waist-length strands of dime-store pearls. Even for a middle-class workaday office girl like Frances Thornton, those were heady times. She was among the first of the gals in her office to bob […]

The Piano

by 09/14/2009
Neighborhood: Across the River, Bronx

The old upright piano was in the living room from my earliest recollection until the day my father died. He must have brought it sometime in the early ‘50s, soon after he’d gotten married. Dad would spend hours playing Brahms, Schumann, Clementi, Chopin. At the end, he would always start playing an old Russian folk […]

The Last Lesson

by 09/07/2009
Neighborhood: Across the River, Brooklyn

Our hands had not touched–other than to acknowledge each other’s presence or successes–in over thirty-five years. Now his open right hand lay by the side of his softly draped figure, a whisper’s distance from where I was sitting. A curtain, walling off a roommate, shadowed us from the bright day. “Remember how we agreed I’d […]

My Family’s Fatal Relationship With Public Transportation

by 08/22/2009
Neighborhood: Brooklyn, Park Slope

My family has a particular vulnerability, a fatal relationship really, with public transportation. Aunt Aneila, running to catch a bus, was hit and killed by a post office truck on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn long before I was born. “Mowed down like a dog,” my mother used to say. Uncle Donald had a heart attack […]

George Isn’t Homeless

by 10/12/2008
Neighborhood: Across the River, Manhattan

“Hi George,” I said, with a wave, as I rushed toward the subway. George, who was sitting in his low-to-the-ground folding chair at his usual post in front of the liquor store, sat up bolt straight, as if I had touched him, giving him a shock of static electricity, and said with some outrage, “How […]

Undertow of Summer

by 08/05/2008
Neighborhood: Midtown

My radiant, delusional mother, my two older brothers, and I lived in second-rate hotels and one-bedroom apartments in Manhattan from 1961, when I was five, until 1967. We’d sporadically get locked out of wherever we were staying for not keeping up with the rent, have our possessions confiscated, and spend the night sleeping in Central […]

Little Devil

by 07/01/2008
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

After work on Tuesdays, my mother comes home to the apartment in the Ansonia Hotel where we live with my grandmother and takes me to acting class. The year is 1952. I hate acting class even worse than I hate second grade! My mother says I will learn how to speak with “charm and grace.” […]

Supporting Mick Jagger’s Habit

by 03/31/2008
Neighborhood: Astoria, Queens

In the glory days of Steinway Street, there was an establishment called Record Spectacular. A combination record store/head shop, it was located between 30th and 31st Avenues, on the west side of the street…and was a meeting place of sorts for music aficionados, potheads, and other 1970s misfits. I still remember walking wide-eyed into Record […]

Redemption Birthday

by 03/31/2008
Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan

My dad was the Ralph Kramden of St. Peters Avenue. He always had some plot, some scheme to try to make extra money. The first I remember, he played the number. No, not “Lotto,” but the real, old-school number “played” to scary old men in the back rooms of candy stores that sold wormy Chunky […]