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Look Homeward, Brooklyn

by 09/07/2012
Neighborhood: Brighton Beach, Gramercy Park, Long Island

We move the summer before ninth grade from our four-room apartment in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, to a four-bedroom Colonial house with a two-car garage on the south shore of Long Island. A town where every street is a drive or a place or a court. A place where kids play softball in the street and […]

Thanksgiving 1979

by 09/07/2012
Neighborhood: Gravesend

At a Scherma family holiday meal there was usually mayhem. Thirty people including Sadie, chief chef, and Frank and their four sons and their families and friends and Aunt Angie sat around a set of long tables. The youngest kids were placed nearby at a separate table. There was always too much food and the […]

Donald

by 08/24/2012
Neighborhood: Sunnyside

Daniel and Donald were the boys who lived next door to me when we were growing up. Well, they weren’t boys, really, but it was before the expression “teenager” was popular for those past childhood. By the time I was old enough to notice them – and their mother, a widow, Grace Grant – they […]

Faces

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 […]

A Walk on Columbia Street

by 08/01/2012
Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill

If you never saw Columbia Street before 1960, you missed a lot. The street is still there; the sidewalks, the street sign, but the stores, the people, the charm are all gone. That strip of avenue is unrecognizable, now lined with barrack type housing and no character at all. The house where I was born […]

A Special Hidden Place

by 06/21/2012
Neighborhood: Central Park, Midtown

“Henry, why must you be such a baby?” I say to Mr. Henry Longfellow, my piebald dachshund, as I carry him in my arms across Central Park West on our way into the Park next to Tavern on the Green. I am not young or especially strong. Carrying an overweight dachshund is not easy. Henry […]

Mother’s First Vote

by 06/19/2012
Neighborhood: East New York

 My mother turned twenty-one, voting age, in 1932, during the worst of the Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was running for president for the first time, trying to unseat Herbert Hoover. My mother had no job, but she had a cousin who was, of all things, not just a Republican but an active Republican. A Jewish […]

The Gift of Tongues

by 05/25/2012
Neighborhood: West Village

It’s 1979 and the grown-ups are out of control. They are getting divorced and either going to law school or Studio 54. They are in therapy; they are smoking pot, taking lovers, coming out and finding themselves. My parents are married, but my mother buys Donna Summer’s Bad Girls and uses my Stagelight blue roses nail […]

Get Busy

by 05/22/2012
Neighborhood: East Village

My friend Flip didn’t read, he told me, because he was all about music. Slick, shiny, high-gloss music. Nothing got him more excited than discussing “production values.” He’d play dance remixes for me and practically conduct them as some new version of an awful song stomped and restomped its way through a cathedral-like reverb chamber […]

An Upper West Side Tragedy Set To Music

by 05/18/2012
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

He always said, “Hello, I’m so glad to see you? How are you?” even when he no longer knew our names. Starting in the last year, he didn’t care about answers. He cherished his long career as an impresario in the world of music, selecting and programming concerts for major institutions in New York City. […]

Growing Up Beastly

by 05/17/2012
Neighborhood: All Over, Letter From Abroad, West Village

In 1986 I became an international pop music recording sensation. I don’t mean that at the age of 15 I admired and tried to emulate Ad-Rock, a squeaky, strutting third of the fresh hip-hop phenomenon the Beastie Boys—I mean I was Ad-Rock. His band mates—Mike D and MCA—were my homeboys. Sure, there had previously been […]

Old Enough To Die In Brooklyn: The Mortician’s Lament

by 05/10/2012
Neighborhood: Cobble Hill

When the previous resident of my apartment, who was still living in it when my girlfriend and I viewed it for the first time, told us that the funeral home downstairs hardly ever held services, the effect on me was less than palliative. Jenna nodded thoughtfully in the way real estate shoppers are prone, apparently […]