Visiting the old ‘hood—behind a mask

Rush Hour
Rush hour

It was time. After over five months, I needed to face down my anxiety and fears. (Not of Covid-19 germs, surprisingly. We New Yorkers had beat back the curve under the savvy leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo. We were, and are, “New York Tough.” And smart.)

I took the Metro-North train from my home, an hour and twenty minutes north of NYC, behind a mask for the longest time in my mostly at-home sheltering of the last five months. Reading, what else? The New Yorker. Roz Chast is always my preferred interpreter of generalized-anxiety-disorder, and she covers Covid pretty well, too.

But what would it feel like? I had lamented the changes in my city for years, bashing greedy corporate culprits responsible for the decimation of the unique texture that was once every neighborhood’s rightful claim. Now you need to be very observant to see what once was.

Silver Monuments

My first apartment was a typical tenement, and now is spiffed up with a restaurant and outdoor seating.

156 E. 2nd

I sugar-coated when I described the building and apartment to my friends and family back home, in 1971. But my authentic enthusiasm was that of an 18-year-old who was living her dream:

E. 2nd St. map address

 

Wed. Nov. 10, 1971

Dear D____ ,

     First of all . . . we got an apartment! Hooray! We found it in 1 day, & we’re moving in tomorrow evening. The neighborhood is not too hot—Lower East Side—but the apartment itself is so nice. It’s in a pretty old building, & when the landlord showed it to us it was being completely renovated. It’s only $180/mo., & has loft beds (double size) built into the bedrooms and underneath is a clothes rack & desk built into the wall. The living room has one wall entirely in brick, & the kitchen is big (compared to most NY apt.’s) The bath tub is in the kitchen, but it’ll have a shower attachment & curtain. There’s a new sink, a big refrigerator, & a small stove. We just can’t wait to move in & start making it a home. But before we do anything we have to spray for cockroaches. They’re all over the city, & do they give us the creeps! It’s neat cause Alan [the landlord] is giving us $125 to furnish it (from thrift shops, Salvation Army, etc.) So it’ll be fun buying furniture. And he gave us free (but used) wall-to-wall carpeting. I just can’t wait.Hell’s Kitchen and Couture Dreams

copyright Sharon Watts

So, now—2020—how did I feel? People were out, mostly masked, and street energy was good. But I was disoriented. Not sure if I was mourning the changes of the last 5 months or the last 50 years, or was it all rolled up into one scribbly cloud? I couldn’t wait to get home and take my mask off, and sit in my little yard—my comfort zone. I know my boundaries need to be stretched from time to time, and I’ll be heading back to the city soon. I wonder what that tenement apartment rents for now. Let’s see.  And I wonder if the cockroaches are gone. 

3 thoughts on “Visiting the old ‘hood—behind a mask

  1. It is nice to read about your NY, again, and good to see you in the picture! O, yeah… I can imagine that it is hard to recognize what we miss now, the time from 5 months, or something, else…. I don’t live in NY, but I feel kind of the same, for example, last time when I was the first time after a lockdown in the restaurant (outside). P.S. great photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can practically guarantee the cockroaches aren’t gone. In fact they’ve been having a heyday in my very nice upper west side building since the exterminators weren’t allowed in for the first few months of covid. Love your photos and the letter (who else but you has such great relics?) and the tub in the kitchen!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s