Showing posts from 2008

Lost and Found on 42nd Street

The subway stops at 42nd Street and the train clears before its final stop at 57th.

I see a flash drive sitting on a nearby seat and call out to the exiting riders. Nobody claims it.

I’ve returned a lost wallet and had someone do the same for me when mine went missing.
And the Friday before, I had a similar flash drive melt so I was particularly keen to get this one back.

Though I am no spiritual woo woo, I believe in karma. I will always endeavor to return anything of value, even the lost and found prosthetic legs I’ve read about.

I take the flash drive to my desk and pop it in the computer. It’s filled with work files for Oxford University Press publications with 2009 release dates. I find one document that sheds some light: “Files for Myra.”

I call the receptionist and am transferred to Myra’s line. I leave a message.

She calls back minutes later. (One way to get your call returned promptly.)

I read her a list of the files on the flash drive. She says they’re important and that she wil…

A New York Life

My great aunt Helen ‘Chocha’ Kolassa was born in Manhattan in 1915. She grew up on the Lower East Side, on 2nd Street and Avenue A.

The family of six lived in a one-bedroom flat in a building filled with families new to the new world. I visited the Tenement Museum a few years ago and found the tour guide’s stories redundant. Chocha told them to me first.

She turned off the lights for the Orthodox Jewish families on the Sabbath; on sweaty summer nights they slept on the fire escape, for the breezes and the extra space it afforded.

In those days in downtown Manhattan, you made it if you made it out. When Chocha was 11 her family moved to Jamaica, Queens, where my mother was born and raised.

My grandmother and grandfather’s family lived in the upstairs half of a two family home, and my aunt and uncle lived downstairs. My Aunt Chocha and Uncle Eddie are siblings; I didn’t realize they weren’t married until my teens.

They lived in Jamaica for over 50 years. For 40 of those years, Chocha commute…

The Street of Silver Lining

I hear that in New York, where many people don’t drive, your coat is like your car. I figure I must have a good one, so mine is Italian.

I have the coat for a couple of seasons, and I receive enough compliments to keep wearing it when it’s cold out.

But, wear and tear is inevitable, especially with me driving. Last year I have the lining repaired. I try to do this again this year, but I cannot find the proper material to match and the tear in the lining is too severe.

I decide to change the lining.

I once read that the comedian Robin Williams checks his coat at the sort of New York establishment that has a coat check. To the coat check girl, the jacket appears ordinary; however the lining is bright orange.

She notes that this hidden flamboyance is very suitable to his character. I say he looks off his trolley just by looking at him.

I do not presume to have hidden flamboyance, nor am I a comedian. I want a color that looks both plush and presentable. I go for blue.

It is my favorite color si…

Carnegie Hall Underground

Everyone in New York knows you get to Carnegie Hall by practicing. At the 57th street subway station on Saturday afternoon, four men are doing just that.

There’s another way to get to Carnegie Hall: climb the steps.

At this subway stop, just below Carnegie Hall, there’s an alcove waiting area. It is sandwiched between the men’s and women’s bathrooms which are open at the whim of the attendant. These whims are generally not favorable.

The acoustics, however, are. It’s where the Doo-Wop groups from all over New York City convene to practice and perform, singing tunes of the 50’s and 60’s, from groups like the Platters, Coasters, and Drifters, some Sam Cooke, and a few gospel standards.

Purists call this music group harmony and it best describes what you hear.

The long-running WFUV radio program Group Harmony Review is hosted every Saturday night by Dan Romanello since the days when this music regularly tops the charts. It is where I first discover the music.

It is the sound of old school New …

Almost Famous

On Saturday I visit a casting agency in Times Square. The offices are on Broadway, right above the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

I am answering an ad on Craigslist for paid extras.

The agency is called Actor’s Rep. It’s one of these charm schools that charges 10% commission only after you get work.

It sounds straightforward and unfortunately legit.

I’m in for the interview. I sign my name and telephone number into the register and sit to watch a video about the agency.

The boss appears on screen, then a few folks gush about the gigs they land. The whole production has the whiff of an infomercial. (They provide bodies for that too.)

The assistant, Deanna, cuts the show short and invites me into her office overlooking Times Square.

I talk more than she does. This is always the case.

She tells me I will be good for Law & Order. I tell her my brother once has a speaking role on that very show. She tells me she is from Kansas. I resist the urge to quote a line from The Wizard of Oz. I am done making a…

The Apple In Winter

The Apple In Winter: Irish Music in New York.
One of the great lost albums of New York's musical heritage, recorded 25 years ago on Green Linnet Records.
Tony DeMarco (the man in the middle) in 1981.

11th Street Bar, January 2008.

Tony Demarco looks like he could be an associate of the Gambino family, though his line of work is legitimately more lucrative; he is a commodities trader on the New York Board of Trade.
Tony DeMarco is New York Irish though his last name belies his heritage. He grew up in Brooklyn with an Italian father and Irish mother.
Italians and Irish intermarry for generations. Their shared Catholic religion lubricates the relations.
And the Italian women are eager to sign-off their multi-syllable surnames for names like Flynn, as my cousin Diane exchanges for Vigliotti.

I run into Tony a few times around town, always below 14th Street. Last I see him is at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House for a Brendan Mulvihill concert.
Brendan Mulvihill's father tea…