Saturday, May 24, 2008

32 things I miss about new york

Today's NY Times memorializes New York Past, citing gone-but-not-forgotten institutions like automats, subway tokens, the Dodgers and other things endemic to the city when I moved here in 1979, meaning to stay just a year or two. For some of us, New York is like those old Roach Motels (where bugs check in, but they don't check out.)

Other icons of Manhattan that I used to think were forever:

1. grafitti "art" on subways

2. The Mill Luncheonette and its sublime egg creams (the first time I had one, I wondered where was the egg)

3. checker cabs with jump seats that folded

4. John Lennon

5. Pan Am sign on the Met Life building where I used to work

6. Alphabet City--such a better name than the Lower East Side

7. selzer delivered in colored glass bottles in wooden crates (although I cancelled our service after it brought in roaches)

8. Not having to dial 212 when you called someone in the city. Phone numbers had letter code "exchanges" that told you where someone lived: MU meant Murray Hill, CH meant Chelsea. So you'd know if a prospective hook-up was GU (geographically undesirable)

9. Andy Warhol

10. Studio (nobody said 54)

11. Rumplemeyers

12. orange paper transfers for buses

13. phone booths where you could make a call on the street in peace

14. Gimbels (where I bought our dining room table at its going out of business sale)

15. used book stores

16. Claremont Stables

17. cabbies who spoke English

18. buying subway tokens (with cutout Y) at the newsstand

19. straps on the subway to help keep your balance

20. Woolworths (where my toddlers were entertained by the birds in cages long enough for me to shop)

21. Being able to leave your toddlers safely for a few minutes in the pet section of a Woolworth's

22. Tower Records

23. Columbia Bagels on 110th & Bway

24. Fulton Fish Market

25. Plaza Hotel where I used to take my daughters for tea and a look at the Eloise portrait

26. Breakfast with Santa at Lord + Taylor, before the store opened, when counters were covered with sheets.

27. Thalia Theater which screened movie classics on the UWS

28. Russian Tea Room (not that I went there more than twice, but liked hearing about it)

29. Maxwell's Plum (hangout for young creatives)

30. smoking cigarette billboards on Times Square

31. the skyline

32. The chatty subway conductor on the #1 who had a running commentary all the way to South Ferry. His sardonic announcements like "Do persuade yourself to join us. Allow the doors to close" put you in a good mood, even if was Monday, even if you were going to work.

A few things I do NOT wax nostalgic for:

1. "window washers" with dirty squeegees who used to attack your car when you came out of Lincoln Tunnel

2. being afraid to walk in Central Park after, say 4 pm

3. dueling shoulder-mounted boom boxes on the subway. Although some riders play their IPODs loud enough for me to want to reach across and thumb down the volume.

4. ugly old Bryant Park 

5. meetings in smoky offices

art credit: My Father in the Subway III, 1982 (oil on panel) by Max Ferguson


Anonymous said...

Ah, the good old days....every underpass in the Park was a gay pickup place, the hookers by the Grayhound Station usually sported penises under their miniskirts and punks with mohawks asked for handouts admittedly for beer money. At least you could pretty much afford to live here then...

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

I'd forgotten about those hookers, Auntie. Thanks. Welcome back.

Joker said...

Though my time in NYC was short lived here are some things I miss from NYC.

1. Meeting random people on the subway. I don't mind talking to strangers and I can't help but feel inclined to make a comment always.

2. The Cup-o-Soup from Times Square.

3. Bubble Tea.

4. Walking home from work. Yes I passed through some ghetto places but smile, mind your own business and acknowledge people and you realize that they're just people.

5. Being able to always find a mildly empty bar with cold beer. Screw dance clubs.

6. Grey's Papaya.

7. Taking my guitar for a stroll to central park.

8. Seeing the Hudson at sunset from a distance.

9. Going to China Town to a place probably owned by triads to have some delicious food.

10. Karaoke bars and the freedom to make a total fool out of myself.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

Impressive list, Joker, thanks. I fondly remember that Cup o soup.