Monday, August 17, 2015

A Week to Remember

Crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan. 5:30 PM. Jeff Hirsch.
Monday, August 17, 2015. The weekend was very hot in New York. The kind of hot you always fail to recall in the middle of winter when you’re complaining about the cold. Humid. This was after several days of lovely summer. And so it goes. Today, the weatherman says, will be just as bad, or worse. I’ve already been thinking about the autumn when you begin to need a sweater or a jacket. Doesn’t seem so bad after all, does it?

The week. On the avenue. I took this picture  of the very young couple resting by the litter barrel this past Wednesday afternoon about three o’clock on the southeast corner of Madison Avenue and East 57th Street.

They didn’t look the part – homeless, penniless, down and out. In other parts of the city, the homeless begin to look the part. But this “look” is now often the case of people you see panhandling on the streets, especially in midtown near Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, which is just about the highest rent for retail and commercial businesses.
Your imagination fills in the story. A bag of potato chips, a couple cans of soda, vitamins (?!), and heavy fatigue having set in. If I wanted to leave them a “gift,” there was no place to put it without waking them up. They forgot why they were there.

Many will conclude this is a matter of drugs. Maybe but I’m not so sure. Even if there has been drug taking, what led to this? That is the crucial question. Whatever it was, it happened not very long ago, from the looks of them. Maybe that morning. They were both cleanly dressed and clean. Those very young fragile feet had never seen much walking. Were they runaways? From what?
The day. Last Thursday was one of those. I took this picture of the Crown Building at 1 PM, right after I got out of my cab at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue.

This is on the northeast corner. For many years it was the jewel in the crown for I. Miller shoes. I took the photo because in the midday Sun the gold on the building was glistening. I couldn’t get it with my camera. Ferdinand and Immelda Marcos once secretly owned the Crown. It was bought in 1991 by Elliot Spitzer’s father for $93 million. The Spitzer family sold it last December for $1.75 billion. Bulgari occupies the ground floor.

I’m running the photo despite my disappointment because after taking it, I went over to Michael’s, finished up about  ten to three, and walked back to this corner on my way home.
It was a sunny afternoon, not too warm. The pavements were not crowded but busy. The light to walk across the avenue had just gone on. I walked onto the crosswalk, moving east – the only pedestrian at that moment – along with a big white SUV which had also just got beyond the light turning on to the avenue.

I had the right of way but I hesitated for a moment to see if he would stop and let me pass. He did. And as I passed I gave the driver a wave of thanks and began to move quickly.

At that very moment of crossing, coming from the opposite side of the avenue where Tiffany and the Trump Tower are, was a homeless looking man, in shirt and pants; dirty and soiled, a mane of shoulder-length tangled, greying hair, a lined and weathered face and hands of indeterminate age, not old but not young. He seemed in a rush but as he quickly approached, he moved so close to me as if we were both being crowded in by many. There was no one else on the crosswalk, and suddenly as he got so close that he could touch me, he slammed his forearm into my belly with a powerful blow of such force that it hurt like hell. And scared the shit out of me.

Shocked and scared, I kept on walking at a brisk pace, never looking back. At Madison and 57th, a taxi pulled up at the light and I got in -- my head still full of fear and rage and fear. I’d noticed the eyes as he was heading toward me, and was already wary of his behavior – which is why I tried to casually move out of his path. Yet he came at me with such clarity of direction and so quickly (seconds), that I wondered what or whom he thought he was  seeing. It was as if he had crossed the street to do what he did to me specifically.

Paranoia. Then there was the stomach. It hurt like hell. Never having been an athlete I never experienced what a friend of mine said is known in football as a Forearm Sliver. Until this moment. It occurred to me that my attacker had used that move before, maybe on a team somewhere back there.

The incident filled my head with all kinds of thoughts about the crazed attacker and the safety of walking the streets of New York no matter where or time of day.

I called my doctor when I got home to see if there was anything  he needed to know. The doc suggested I see him Friday morning and have a Blood Count taken to be sure there was no internal bleeding.

There wasn’t. The doctor’s nurse said there are seemingly more and more schizophrenic people in the streets.

Friday afternoon. This is the afternoon when the refuse from the buildings is put out on the curbsides for the sanitation men to pick up later on in the evening. This particular spot is always occupied by an individual collecting the cans and bottles for re-cycling. I call them the new entrepreneur. Down and out, yes but not really. Enterprising is more like it. Not glamorous and gilted, and also real labor. But they’re out there doing it every Friday afternoon waiting for the next shipment to emerge from the basement of the apartment building. I’ve never seen this woman before. She has replaced the man who has been working this spot for a few years. Their diligence and organization and speed is impressive.
There are several Hispanic woman working in the neighborhood on these days. Many are working very late at night. Sometimes in day time, they may have their small children (age 5 or 6 or 7) with them playing with each other as mother does what she has to do.

They all share certain characteristics. First of all they are well  groomed – like this lady in red. Their clothes are often fashionable in terms of color, and they are neat and quick and efficient at their task. So are their children well-groomed and well behaved while their mothers labor. There is pride of person there. Second of all, and always first of all, they’re working to put food on the table. They are not waiting on some corner on some avenue with a cup. They’re doing what immigrants in this country have been doing since the mid-19th century: doing whatever job they can get to put food on the table and shelter the family.

When this lady finished this spot, it was cleaned out. Shortly thereafter, another young woman, with the large bags in the shopping cart  passed by, moving quickly. On to the next ...
Friday evening, I went to dinner with an old friend who lives at Fifth Avenue and 61st Street. I met him first at his apartment where he has a terrace with views to the north, the east, and partially to the south. The second shot is of the penthouse (the three floors in white) at 2 East 62nd Street where Joan Rivers lived.

The triplex co-op was recently sold. Joan bought it many years ago when she was moving back from Los Angeles. She’d been looking at an apartment in a building across the street from this building, and she could see empty windows on the top three floors. When she asked her broker about it, she learned that it was recently on the market but needed a lot of work because it had been occupied by a woman who lived there most of her adult life and had died in her 90s. “That’s for me!” Joan said, and looked at it, and bought. Many wonderful times were spent by many friends there. And the indefatigable Joan worked and wrote.

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