Part 4 in a Series — Part 1 is here
by A Tortured Redemptionist
Sunday, August 5, 2007 – Midnight
I’m becoming intimately familiar with the southernmost 2-3 (4?) miles of Manhattan Island, one of the bustling, historical, and economically critical parts of New York City. Just the city? No, the state. Just the state? No! The nation – the world. My world of exploration I describe as: from the Battery, at the lowest tip of Manhattan, to 16th Street, where the Abbott sits just east of Third Avenue. I’ll make it 23rd Street since I often get off at that PATH stop and walk down to the Abbott. Anything south of 23rd, if I haven’t been there, I’ll be there.
Friday evening, for example, prior to a midnight Saturday a.m. shift, I left from the Financial District and headed over past the Municipal Building, and down along East Broadway, just north of the Manhattan Bridge, I veered east and began walking north, mostly along Henry Street north of Allen. It’s mostly tenements, graffiti-strewn and rank with garbage odors. Not a great neighborhood, yet the people who were out and about were mostly decently dressed Chinese, sitting on their porches cell-blabbing. Except for the cell phone, a late summer evening rite for people living in crowded buildings. Only further north, in the around Clinton street, the gunshot-riddled Vladek Houses, you get a sense of not wanting to be there too much later than I was.
Occasional flashes of lightening and some low thunder presaged the rain that came furiously just as I arrived at the intersection of Montgomery and Columbia. I stopped briefly under a slight overhang outside an entrance to Baruch Houses, another set of projects that predominate what was once known as the Corlears Hook neighborhood.
Tried to wait out the rain, it wasn’t abating, so I took off up Columbia to Houston, and then across 2nd Street to the alphabet avenues. A rough looking bunch of dudes at 2nd & D, past them, up to Avenue B where the nightlife crowd was bouncing (dudes) and flitting (babe) from drinking place to place. Then a walk through Tompkins Square Park – not really that courageous an amble, although maybe a little later it would’ve been.
There are a finite number of paths to take from the lowest part of southern Manhattan to where I need to be, the Gramercy Park/Union Square neighborhood. East Village, West Village, Lower East Side. Straight up the gut – the quickest jaunt up Broadway. Yet it would likely take months and months to walk each and every block. That’s not my intention, but when there’s time, there’s no better exercise than some Manhattan wandering, to appreciate the scale of the city, to marvel at the buildings, and the people. Who knows, as this account of Redemption by Midnight servitude could eventually mean it when I say, “I’ve walked every single block in Manhattan south of 23rd Street. It’s not really a “Herculean” undertaking, but for the incredible sights, sounds, smells and zounds of the Manhattan Milieu it’s something I’ll be darned pleased to have done.
P.S. (and isn’t there always a “PS” in Manhattan): Just wrapping up this little blurb, ran around the corner to the bodega on Third. Standing there waiting to pay, a guy comes tromping in piggy-backing a dame. She’s barefoot and tanked, and falling out of her dress: for her one tit was as visible as if I could reach out and use her nipple like a radio knob. “Moscow, can you read me, Moscow? Over…” The guy wasn’t paying attention, he sure wasn’t, because when she slid off his back, she just kept sliding, right into a wrack of peanut-like snacks. That prompted some clarity of thought to the point where she as she struggled to her feet (Mr. Ride-giver not helping) she declared, “that was not cool.” Despite the uncoolness, though, she quickly re-hopped Mr. Ride’s back and off they set down Third to who knows what ungodly follows therefrom.
Saturday, July 14, 2007 – Midnight
New York, New York. Gosh I love the “City,” especially that specific section where I’m spending so much time – work time – lately. For many it’s love/hate. I’ll always just “love New York,” with its endless parade of humanity. Who doesn’t like humanity? For some, it’s too much humanity. A reason to disdain Big City Life, the constant jostle, the bustle and burly. The potential for just unfriendly or unpleasant encounters, rude and self-centered people. And those are the “safe” people by comparison with some city prowlers. By day by night at high noon and midnight’s stroke, New York’s packed humanity jostles and heaves on. Grimly, glamly. Glumly, and numbly. Someone’s gotta watch out and watch ‘em. Your Midnight Doorman.
There is just too much happening all the time in Manhattan, sensory and sensually enlivenment. When you can, if you can, Manhattan offers a banquet, a bursting feast.
Every whim and wish of the endlessly creative human imagination. “You want it? You got it!” Babes? Oh, babes! I suppose that works the other way, too, and both ways: “Guys? Oh, guys!” Put enough people on one island, provide some leeway, stand back.
A meal you wouldn’t mind was your last? Sure, sure, it’ll “cost ya,” though.
Ahh, that cost. It’s heavy where it matters most: the pocket. I suppose every multi-million-resident “world city” is a fun place when you’re heavy a’pocket. The high-life, like cookie-cutter maalled-America, is a commodity, too. It’s just an exceedingly yummy commodity. You’re in a swank hotel in New York, it ain’t much different than a swank hotel in any other Big City? You’re in that rarefied, coddled embrace of pamper, it’s lovely wherever you’re so swaddled. What’s different among places? The people!
Just a few blocks west & north from the Abbott, the Gramercy Park Hotel entrance presents understated and subtly inviting light. It doesn’t glare impolitely into the surrounding quiet and leafy and dark residential blocks adjoining Gramercy Park, among some of Manhattan’s chic-chi toniest. The enclosed, gated park isn’t public, you need to live in one of the Gramercy buildings that offers “key” access. I see people in there behind their locked gate, it looks odd. The people “inside,” some, I’d bet love to see outsiders gawking in on their privilege. Yicky, it’s a tad tasteless. But, it’s their park.
You want to know about “doormen?” The Gramercy Hotel doormen, or more accurately, maybe, “greeters,” are decked in very sharp duds. A cab pulls up, they’re right on it, opening the door in “what do you need” fashion. The luggage guy is right there too with a cart, whisk whisk whisk. A tastefully dressed couple emerges from the cab and is accompanied to the entrance, door held open. They disappear into the pampering embrace from their weary jet-set. No apparent money changes hands, but at some point it does. Cash, mmmmm, handy cash. Mmmmmm.
Wouldn’t be surprising if the Gramercy had commissioned a designer to boutique-style their staff threads. Crisp white shirts and black vests and trousers. Tasteful material, no “clown brown” polyester for the Gramercy greeters. No gold, tacky sleeve embroidery and pants stripe, humiliating symbols of slave-wage bondage. These guys are young, trim, full-haired, attractive enough where you think, “this doorman/greeter gig is a way station for that dude.” I mean it could be a way-station to some lady guest’s room, that’s how “fab” these doorman/greeters are. They probably don’t make too much if any more salary than your average residential doorman, though I’d bet the tips double it. And they probably make big-bill scores too, $20’s, an occasional $50. Not to mention the “glam” factor of working at the “Glamercy” Park Hotel, which caters to A-list notables and never-ask-a-price affluent. Bruce Willis was hanging there a week and a half back while here in NYC promoting his latest Die Hard movie. I suppose this kind of Glamercy elbow-rubbing has its appeal; I’d just love the tips, I think, thanks.
It was thirty years ago this overnight, July 13/14, 1977 when the lights went out in NYC. The looting burst forth to reveal a city on edge, and this anniversary is getting some nostalgic play. “Son of Sam,” Reggie and the Yankees, all considered in a book out now several months, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning, a line uttered by Howard Cosell during a Yankee broadcast, as the camera panned out of the Stadium and alighted on some blazing building. We’ve come a long way, thirty years, and where. Oh where, have they gone?
End of the 4-Part Series