I Miss My Home Town
The city shimmers in the night sky.
I take my walk after the sun goes down, and sometimes a magnetic force pulls me to the crest of a hill facing west.
My home town is out there, but at the moment I cannot construct any excuse to visit, much as I miss it, blessed to live in a lovely close suburb, as far from the city as I can stand.
Sometimes I think of the great walks I have taken in recent years.
Last winter, just before the plague struck leaderless America, I took the A train, thinking of Billy Strayhorn's immortal song, saxophones racing uptown, and got off at 125th St. and strolled east to Third Ave. and then south to 80th St. for my monthly lunch with some baseball/writer pals. Every block was an adventure, now a distant memory of a lost city, Atlantis on the Hudson.
* * *
How is New York? Fortunately, The New York Times had one of its very best writers, Dan Barry, write the text for a section of photos by the equally artistic Todd Heisler, in Saturday's paper, also available online:
* * *
Their artwork in the NYT makes me miss New York even more.
Some losses are irreparable, including the fabled Irish baseball pub, Foley's, run by Shaun Clancy. When the plague hit, Shaun realized he could not recover the losses in the foreseeable future, so he put his memorabilia in a warehouse, and retreated to his home in Queens, my home borough.
As it happens, his home is -- that is to say, was -- exactly two miles north of my family home, both on 188th St -- his in Auburndale, mine in Holliswood.
Last week, as Shaun sold his house, we finally arranged our long-discussed socially-distanced meeting. I picked Cunningham Park, the park of my childhood, where my family had corn-and-hot-dog picnics and I played sandlot baseball and kept an eye out for a girl who lived a few doors from the park.
For our long-delayed meeting, Shaun and his companion, Kristie Ackert, baseball writer for the Daily News, and I sat at a picnic table in the shade and drank iced coffees and talked about Ireland and Queens and how Kristie covers the Yankees without access to the players. I told Shaun again how much Foley's has meant to my jock pals from Hofstra who are mourning our decade of occasional lunches at the back table. He's got a place in Florida, and Kristie will be there a lot when she is not watching the Yankees in empty ballparks.
I miss my friends...and I miss Foley's...and I miss the magic place that glitters off to the west on a summer evening.
* * *
I see your silver shining town
But I know I can't go there
Your streets run deep with poisoned wine
Your doorways crawl with fear*
*The Pride of Cucamonga, Philip Lesh and Robert Peterson. Sung by Lesh with the Grateful Dead.
8/22/2020 02:13:08 pm
Oh man Two class acts, George and Shaun.. Good luck Shaun!
8/22/2020 03:41:55 pm
Now hear this! All of you, please, hear this: George is so right to recommend the Dan Barry/Todd Heisler piece in today's Times. Don't miss it.
8/22/2020 04:03:01 pm
Two of New York’s all time best,
8/24/2020 08:02:47 am
Tom from St. Louis....been to Foley's on the day he saw "Hamilton."
8/23/2020 04:16:23 am
8/24/2020 08:19:28 am
Dear Altenir from Rio, now Lisbon: Yes, visitors felt part of Foley's right away, just walking in the narrow aisle and hearing New York and Irish voices, construction workers and students and staff....Shaun was the MC but so were the people who waited tables -- notably Kathy, who always admonished Curt in NY tones to skip the shepherd's pie to eat something healthier. He never obeyed her.
NYC’s subways, buses and highways are its necessary arteries, but it is really a city for walking.
In A Walker in the City, Alfred Kazin recalls his childhood in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn with such tactile specificity that readers, too, will smell "that good and deep odor of lox, of salami, of herrings and half-sour pickles" that emanated from the neighborhood pushcarts. His story is set in the working-class Jewish community of New York City in the decade preceding the Great Depression, but this classic memoir of the first-generation American experience resonates universally. Kazin depicts his younger self as a smart, unhappy kid who dreamed of escape from a confining local landscape. He found in books the road map to a freer territory. In Kazin's case, this was "the city" ("everything just out of Brownsville") whose glamorous institutions--the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden--spoke of an American past and an intellectual community that this son of eastern European immigrants was determined to make his own. (And he did, with his pioneering 1942 critical work, On Native Grounds, published when he was just 27.) Yet Kazin came to understand that the roots he had been so anxious to tear up were the source of his deepest identity. His loving portrait of his past acknowledges the crucial importance of belonging, even as it affirms the compelling necessity of escape. What could be more American? (Amazon.com Review - Wendy Smith)
8/24/2020 08:34:00 am
Mendel: we read each other's minds. As I read Alan's note, I flashed on Kazin's wonderful "A Walker in the City," and flashed back to Mr. Lichtenstein's English class at Hofstra, late 50s. Yes, I think of Kazin and Lichtenstein on my walks in neighborhoods. One time in the late 70s, when I was covering religion, there was a disturbance in Brooklyn...to get the feeling of the neighborhood (Crown Heights?) I put on my yarmulke and walked...and walked...all was peaceful. Your writings give me some on-the-ground feel to your city, Jerusalem. Keep writing. GV
8/24/2020 08:27:13 am
Alan: thanks for the memories. Yes, the city has hundreds, thousands, of neighborhoods, I'm sure you held your neighborhood together with your store -- part of the reason you opened again after the blackout, I've been blessed to be visit great corners -- Coogan's in the Heights, Bill Rhoden's introduction to Chocolat uptown, and my beloved L'Angolo, run by Pino, where Massimo from Firenze and The Village made me feel like a regular. All those clean, well-lighted places, homage to Hemingway. GV
8/23/2020 11:15:29 pm
Thanks George. Bittersweet story. And a great photo.
8/24/2020 08:30:05 am
8/24/2020 09:00:10 am
Michael: Thanks. I did try to talk Shaun into investigating Bell Blvd. but he respectfully mentioned Donovan's.... I don't think Foley's II is coming soon to a neighborhood near me. GV
8/24/2020 02:20:36 pm
8/24/2020 04:59:21 pm
Randolph: THAT is an O. Henry story.
8/25/2020 10:01:05 am
8/25/2020 10:23:28 am
8/25/2020 10:39:58 am
8/24/2020 05:38:22 pm
8/24/2020 10:42:03 pm
8/27/2020 08:07:28 am
Bruce: your Paris story reminds me of a much more prosaic diner on Long Island, when I worked at Newsday -- the Stewart Grill, half a mile from the office. We were in there just about every day -- coffee, meals, whatever. I moved to the NYT in 1968 (!!!) and did not get back to the diner for five years. I wandered in one day and George the counterman looked up and said, "What'll it be, George?" Like yesterday.
8/27/2020 09:48:01 am
8/27/2020 02:50:06 pm
George, You said, "As you can sense, I feel part of another part of the world, country roads, take me home, Eastern Kentucky, SW Virginia, Rocky Top Tennessee, Almost Heaven West Virginia." Know what I wish? I wish that, after you'd done those two interviews − in Mexico, in 1979 − with the soon-to-be-assassinated Archbishop Romero (who you said you were so struck by), you'd come here (El Salvador) to cover him at home for a month or so; if you had, I'm sure you would have added El Salvador to your list as another part of the world that you feel part of.
8/27/2020 02:56:30 pm
Gene: I can only judge from a few forays into the countryside when I was in Mexico a few times -- during the Pope's visit in 1979, a Mass in some hilltop village, in Nahuatl language, with trumpets instead of organ music, and a definite feel of spirituality.
8/28/2020 03:18:23 pm
8/27/2020 03:01:12 pm
Gene: I was driving in Florida when the car radio said he was assassinated.
8/28/2020 09:16:08 am
(NB: This note from Gene refers to a comment by Bruce that has vanished during some restructuring by George the Techie. I will try to find it. GV.)
8/28/2020 09:50:55 am
8/28/2020 03:14:29 pm
We're going to get this sorted out, right now.
8/29/2020 11:10:16 pm
Joining late, but loved catching up. On FB Brooklyn Dodger Nostalgia, I have been chatting about OM the Ebbets destroyer and responding to some who think parking was the problem.
8/31/2020 01:14:45 pm
Ed, good to see your name (and read your latest):
8/31/2020 02:57:57 pm
HI Back, George and to the world’s most literate fan club.
9/1/2020 06:58:42 am
Wow! Much more than a walk in the City, a journey through time and around the World. Almost full circle, I'll reach:
9/2/2020 10:35:31 am
9/2/2020 10:56:26 am
9/2/2020 11:31:29 am
Bruce, since photos dont copy, I’ll send you text:
9/2/2020 11:40:14 am
9/2/2020 11:47:11 am
9/3/2020 01:39:42 am
video from nyc 1911
Comments are closed.
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.