Manhattan After Dark

Just Another Night on the Other Side of Town:

The driver took only thirty-five minutes to take me to Avenue A. Two hours early for the literary event I acted as a flaneur walking about the streets around St. Mark’s Place.

Live bands were performing in Tompkins Square Park. I sat on a bench in the park for fifteen minutes. A tall dude decided to sit on the bench right near me when the other benches were empty.

A woman joined him yet didn’t sit down. She circled around talking in front of us. Feared I looked like a turista with the Brooklyn, NY logo tote I carried. My shoes were Missoni Converse.

The secret to surviving in New York City after dark is to act weird. To put on your game face when you’re outside. I’ve figured out that no one will mess with you when your sneakers are Converse.

As I’m sitting on the bench I think: Might it have been unwise to wear a sterling silver necklace out on the street? It was a gift from my mother, she bought it in Mexico in the 1990s.

The tall dude is smoking a blunt next to me. In New York City there’s a new rule: people caught toking marijuana in public aren’t supposed to be arrested. They’re supposed to be let go. That fits with my Green Party mantra that non-violent drug users shouldn’t be sent to jail.

Only it’s not so great when you’re walking down the street and reefer smoke is invading your nostrils everywhere you go. You didn’t sign up to get a contact high just sitting on a park bench minding your business.

The tall dude asks a nearby guy: “Got a cigarette?”

“An American is seventy-five cents.”

The girl is still wandering around in front of us. She can tell I’m not a street person. My pocketbook is next to me on the park bench. She doesn’t try to shake me down, just stands there talking to the tall dude.

It’s a different city than the Manhattan of my youth.

Yet the people are the same walking down the street: wearing an autumn overcoat, or dressed all in black with white sneakers, or carrying a tragicomic backpack.

Fifteen minutes later I get up off the bench and go to my destination.

Yet I will forever remember this scene.



You want to be a writer? Sit on a park bench and observe people. Keep an open mind. Compose sentences like you’re filming scenes in a movie.




New York City Aubade

New York City has been overtaken by multi-million dollar high-rise apartments dotting once downtrodden areas like the Lower East Side.

You have to be rich to live here today. Like Patti Smith–one of my favorite artists–told newbies: Forget coming here.

I’m proud that I wasn’t ever guilty of gentrifying a neighborhood by moving into it. Mostly because the neighborhoods I’ve moved into no one else wanted to live in.

What’s the appeal then of living here? Listen to the song “New York Cares” to understand why those of us who fell in love with Manhattan when we were young are committed to staying.

For a mere $10 dollar cover you can attend a poetry reading.

The host of one event told me: “You look good. You have a tan.”

Actually, I wore Lancome Teint Idole foundation in 260 Bisque N. I have ghost skin and don’t understand the appeal of getting a tan. I have ivory skin with a pink undertone. It’s the foundation I bought after getting the latest Sephora makeover.

You have a 5-minute time limit during the open reading. The clapping is thunderous before and after you read.

The featured readers at the poetry events always want you to buy their books.

I showed up in one of my mod skate park outfits: a cotton black-and-white stripe tee shirt dress, black leggings, and hot pink Converse. I wore a pink bandanna as a head wrap.

As I walked down the street before the event a guy who was a stranger who saw me coming said: “I like your head wrap.”

“Thanks.” I smiled at him and walked on by.

This time of year in New York City is magical and unforgettable. Street vendors sell their wares at tables in the West Village. With a little time before ducking in to read I struck up a conversation with a guy selling jewelry.

“Sterling silver. Not nickel. Don’t take it off when you wash your hands.” He referred to a ring I tried on.

That was good to know as I’ve lost too many rings taking them off in public restrooms and forgetting them. Keep your ring on your finger when you’re washing up. Simply avoid the area where the ring is if it’s a stone like turquoise.

Life is too precious and material things are just temporary joys. They won’t last forever, so wash up with your ring on your finger and be okay with this.

“Are you Italian?” The vendor asked after I paid him.

“Si.” I nodded “Have a great weekend.”

After the event I exited into the cool night. My Levi jacket draped across my shoulders as I hailed a cab.

The chapter titles of my memoir Left of the Dial are actually song titles from the early era in my life when the city was a wonderland.

One chapter “Cotton Crown” was misspelled because the actually song title I believe is “Kotton Krown.” The song is by Sonic Youth and it’s the 1980s anthem to New York City.

The song lyrics talk about mystery and chemistry. As a person who takes medication I was always entranced with the idea of taking control of the chemistry.

New York City will forever hold an allure for us rebels, beautiful dreamers, and creative folk drawn to the undiluted pockets of energy on side streets teeming with cafes and restaurants.

Here and there you can still find vestiges of the Vanished New York. They’re harder to find as For Rent signs dot the landscape where mom-and-pop stores used to be.

Yet walking down the street and being cheered on for wearing a head wrap reminds me that it’s true:

Your dreams aren’t ever too crazy here, they’re beautiful and so are you.