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Needle Park/Verdi Square

by 09/18/2022
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

How many years since “needle park”? In the late 60’s, in the evening on the way to the 72nd St and Broadway subway station, I would make my pass through the park and see junkies nodding out and discarded needles on the pavement. The underbelly of con artists, thieves, prostitutes, and addicts, all lurking in the […]

Dr. Zizmor’s Big Idea

by 07/31/2022
Neighborhood: Subway

“So, when you’re not here at Barney Greengrass serving smoked fish, you’re a writer, eh? That’s interesting. Interesting. We should talk. I have a big idea. We’ve got to talk, yeah.” These weren’t the first words Dr. Jonathan Zizmor had ever spoken to me, but they marked a transition in our relationship from my simply […]

Subway Stories

by 05/22/2022
Neighborhood: Downtown Brooklyn, Lower East Side, Prospect Heights

Cars and Crimes and Trains My wife (we weren’t yet married at the time) had a fairly new ’81 Toyota Starlet stolen in Brooklyn. We took a city bus to the police precinct to report it stolen (no over the phone reports back in those days). Halfway there, we insisted that the driver stop the […]

Moving to Queens

by 03/06/2022
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights, Sunnyside

I lived in Manhattan for most of my considerably long life, until moving to Queens four years ago.  In my early adulthood, Manhattan was still affordable, so affordable that the people who worked the jobs that sustain city life—cops, teachers, garbage men, hospital and transit workers—could afford to live in certain areas of it. So […]

The Underground Poet Revisited

by 02/06/2022
Neighborhood: Subway

Before the interwebs, it required more ingenuity to get noticed. That’s why I conjured up my “underground poet” scheme in the early 90s.  I was already a published poet by then, and at a huge art show at the Javits Center two of my framed one-liners were purchased by a French art dealer. When he […]

Selected Observations on Urban Fauna

by 01/23/2022
Neighborhood: All Over

Illustrations by Aurélie Bernard Wortsman  __________________________ A contemporary take on the medieval bestiary, featuring the actual and apocryphal creatures that share our constricted urban space. The following is the first installment in a series of observations on urban fauna, text and image gleaned from the lifelong perambulations on asphalt and cement by two native New […]

Next Stop the Twilight Zone

by 02/28/2021
Neighborhood: Subway, Upper East Side

One afternoon this summer I was on the subway. All was normal. Well, except that we are in a pandemic, which makes venturing down into NYC’s netherworld — one with poor ventilation and tons of non-mask wearers – feel like I am putting my life in my overly sanitized hands. It all seemed surreal. The […]

Still Standing

by 01/05/2020
Neighborhood: Park Slope, Subway

It was not so long ago that I would ordinarily drive into Manhattan from my home in Park Slope. However, I had a rule that I wouldn’t take my car to anywhere above 23rd Street. About five years ago, because of an increase in traffic, I moved my boundary to 14th Street. But recently, things […]

Random Encounters Underground 

by 11/10/2019
Neighborhood: Subway

Flushing Ave. on the M The train stops and the doors open, except one door panel is cut out (locked closed, to prevent it from opening). A tall, skinny, black dude on the platform tries to board the train and, wham! He walks right into the closed panel. He steps back and catches his breath. “Whoa…,” just […]

Bullet Train: Testimony and Confession

by 07/08/2018
Neighborhood: Port Authority, Subway

On the evening of April 17, I was waiting for the train like always, far enough away from the edge—standing sideways to brace myself from that wildebeest who might push me onto the tracks. I waited and looked for the train to arrive, as if staring would make it come faster. It never works. We […]

Four Years

by 12/31/2006
Neighborhood: Upper West Side

We are driving in from the country, out where we go to school, a little town in a valley and a school on the hill. We come in from the west, over the Bridge with the sun sliding around the tip of lower Manhattan, mocking the Lady’s little torch, basking in its own reflection off […]