542 Notes From New York Part II
This continues the narrative/diary/posting about last week’s trip to New York. Continued from 5/4/09
(Very) Little Italy. Honey, I shrunk the neighborhood. Mott Street? A few restaurants. Also in the neighborhood, some Malayan restaurants. But Angelo's Restaurant remains. "Hey, Angelo, you got free wi-fi?" "What. You think this is Starbucks?"
Chinatown. The "furious energy" that used to personify this place just isn't there. Neither are half the stores nor half the people. Chinatown at midday used to be an exercise in crowd self control. Not now. Nothing to control. The restaurants and fruit stands remain. You still wonder where they get those orange bags that every store here has, but you can't find anywhere else. It still bustles. Sort of. Chinatown has seeped into (Very) Little Italy. And, yes, there really is a mascot, a guy who says his name is Giuseppe Chong, about 30 and behind the counter at a souvenir stand that sells shirts that say "Chinatown NYC" and those that say "Bada Bing!" The jewelry business is, to be charitable, slow. So much so, that clerks and managers will come out and "greet" you if you linger at the window for more than a split second. This is and old habit in...
The Diamond District. They've been doing that for years. More now than ever. Time stands still here. Sort of. Ancient Hassidic Jews dressed as if this were the 18th century walk the streets, work the shops and ... what's this? They may dress that way and think that way and live their lives that way. But they also listen to their iPods and keep the Blackberry handy.
Harlem: They're renovating the Hotel Theresa at 125th and 7th. The Apollo is advertising a salute to Israel. The McDonald's is still the slowest in the country and the Sikhs still don't let you pump your own gas. The streets are crowded, but the traffic's lighter. And it was possible to stand on a corner for more than ten minutes without hearing a police or fire siren -- which seems out of character.
The Upper East Side. Unchanging. No one here would admit times are tough. It would be unseemly.
Is this town dirtier than ever, or does it just seem so after a few years away? It's interesting. It's dispiriting. It used to be home.
--The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey must have thought traffic over the George Washington Bridge generally moved too fast to maintain the mandated level of motorist torture. So they fixed things. They eliminated an entire eastbound lane on the 80/95 approach and now everything's back to boil-over normal.
--The crosstown trip on 125th street was almost a speedway in comparison to 80/95. And the Triboro Bridge was enchantingly and uniquely easy. Must have been an off night.
--In a side trip to Long Island, the good news: the motel room was spacious and clean. The bad news: it flooded spontaneously at about two in the morning. The good news: the new room is much nearer to the coffee machine and the "free continental breakfast."
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®