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New York City

Signs of the Times - "Face Mask Required"

Happy face with mask

 

As 2020 wore on, and COVID-19 became part of our lives, more and more Americans took to wearing face masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus.  Some wearers made the best of it and made fashion statements with these protective coverings.  However, I became more fascinated by the more mundane signs displayed on the doors of stores, restaurants, office buildings and apartment buildings instructing those entering to wear a face mask.  Unlike mass-produced signs purchased from a hardware store that say 'Welcome' or 'Closed', face-mask signs have more personality.  And much like snowflakes, it seems that no two are alike.  Here are some I've seen in Greenwich Village in the past few weeks that got my attention.

 

- HUMOROUS -

 

Cuomo

 

Pleasure chest
This sign was displayed on the door of The Pleasure Chest.

 

Pj clarke

  With buddha

 

- THE POLITE APPROACH -

 

Another smiley face with mask

  Per tutti

  Polite sign

Alex barbershop

  Masksign protect you protect me

 

 

- CIRCLES -

 

Acne studio

  Color factory
  Chelsea radiology

 Nail salon

 

- NO FRILLS -

 

Liquor store sign

 

Wine store

  Sullivan st

Xmas store on christopher

  Masksign simplistic

 

- CLUTTERED -

 

Near the iufc

 

Corner bodega

  Vape shop

Cluttered

 

- BI-LINGUAL -

 

Caution cuidado

Cuidado careful

  Bilingual

 

Bilingualfacemasksign


 

- OFFICE BUILDINGS -

 

Oct 25 varick st

Varick st

  Corporate

East 40th

Masksign post office

 

- APARTMENT BUILDINGS -

 

Jackson square lobby

  West 17th

 Jones st

Barrow st
  Masksign soho apartment

 

- RESTAURANTS -

  Organic crepes

  The spaniard restaurant

Mexican restaurant on greenwich ave

  Pre-emptive

 

- FINALLY ... THE MOST COLORFUL! -

 

Masksign most colorful


The Evolution of Office Work In the Past 40 Years - A First-Hand Account

Selectric with correcting tape

 

2019 was the 40-year anniversary of me beginning my first job out of college (Penn State), which was working in the media planning department at New York ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves.  This milestone had me thinking about the "primitive" work conditions I encountered in the spring of 1979 and the changes I've witnessed since then (most which didn't take place until the 1990s).  At this first job the big advance was the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter, which had a cartridge that enabled allowed the user to go back one space and erase a typo.  Here are some other big advances:

 

Caller ID

This advance, which was first introduced to our office in the early 1990s, is the one that I still marvel at the most.  Before caller ID we answered our desk phone without knowing who was calling (shudder!).  Since there was no voice mail, if I didn't answer the call it bounced over to my secretary who scribbled down a message on a pink "While You Were Out" tablet.

 

Caller id phone
 

Desktop Computers

They arrived shortly after Caller ID.  Before then we accessed research databases using a few computers that were kept in the research library.  And users had to use a sign-in sheet to reserve time.  About 15 years later (2010) laptops, for the most part, replaced desktop computers.  This portability allowed for working from home and taking them to meetings (but making it a challenge for a presenter to make eye contact).  

E-Mail

Replacing paper memos, e-mail emerged in the mid-90s but its availability for the first year or so was limited to staff who were in upper management positions.  Similarly, web access was initially restricted.  Then about ten years later e-mails could be accessed on employees' company-supplied Blackberries, then to personal smartphones.

Dress Codes

Not a technical breakthrough, but the loosening of dress codes coincided with the proliferation in technology.  Before then suits, or at least shirts and ties, were expected to be worn every day until Casual Fridays started in the mid-1980s.  As you can imagine dressing up every day could make working in the summer very uncomfortable (especially since the subways weren't air conditioned until the 1990s). 

Secretaries

These hard-working employees (whose title was changed to administrative assistant 25 years ago) carried out countless tasks that were largely menial, but crucial.  Today, alas, we perform tasks that they once did, making us a bit less productive as we spend time doing timesheets, making travel plans, filling out expense reports, scheduling meetings and reserving conference rooms.  However, one task that we now do that has actually made our lives simpler is doing our own typing and preparing reports and presentations.  This enables us to make revisions immediately and do things in exactly the way we picture them in our head.  Also, we can complete projects without negotiating time with others when we had to share secretaries.

 

Tess in working girl

 

Research Library

All of the audience and media/marketing research data we used came in the form of hardbound books and "pocket pieces", and there was a substantial library full of these books; they were constantly being updated (monthly and weekly).  Sources that were used extensively would end up having torn or missing pages, or the binders were put back on the wrong shelves or taken from the library and not returned.  40 years later there are no books published, or libraries, as everything is digitized and accessed from websites. And although missing pages is no longer an issue a new hassle is keeping track of personal passwords for each database.

 

Classic - library 1991
Here I am in Foote Cone & Belding's meda research library, circa 1998.

 

Arts & Crafts

We created flowcharts of advertising schedules by manually drawing arrows and writing in numbers.  And when the flowcharts were shown to clients they were often enlarged on huge white boards.

Evolution of Audio-Visual Equipment & Copiers

We progressed from overhead projectors with acetates to Powerpoint presentations, then to webexes that enable us to view presentations remotely.  Scanning documents replaced faxes, copiers replaced carbon paper - and copiers evolved to be able to collate, staple, produce color copies and copy on both sides.  And Excel replaced paper spreadsheets and pencils.

The Clean Air Act

Through the mid-90s smoking was permitted in offices and conference rooms.  Then it was allowed if those in a presentation or a private office agreed.  However, drinking liquor/beer at the office still occurs (at least at ad agencies).

 

Smoking in the office_shutterstock

Leisure Time at the Office

40 years ago no one would think of openly playing solitaire at their desk or doing shopping, but now lots of time seems to be spent playing around because if it's being done on a computer it looks like work (or listening to music through headphones or earbuds).

Farewell to Face-to-Face Encounters

Finally, an increasing number of of meetings/presentations are now done via Skype or webexes.  Recently, the agency where I work announced that it was doing away with landlines; calls will now come thru our laptops or cell phones using a phone app found on Microsoft Teams.  Some frustrating drawbacks to these new forms of voice communications are technical glitches, audio issues, and persons asking questions/making comments from different locations talking over one another. 

 

When I began my career, "old-timers" would tell me about how work used to be done - adding machines, doing calculations by hand, working in the summer when air conditioning wasn't a given (offices had ceiling fans).  Today I find myself in that role, but I often remark to younger colleagues that relative to the ways business was conducted in the past, today's technological advances seem magical, making the responsibilities I have now seem almost fun rather than being tedious.

 

Changing times

 

 

 

 


New York City in the 21st Century - A New Type of Ghost Town

Risoteria for rent

 

When I was a kid we learned in school about "ghost" towns, which were once bustling towns in the West and Great Plains that popped up due to farming or the mining of natural resources.  They thrived until the minerals were depleted  or because of persistent drought and were then abandoned.  This was also the fate of many factory towns in the Rust Belt in the last few decades of the 20th century.  Now, in the 21st century, some neighborhoods in Manhattan are bringing to mind ghost towns as their stores and restaurants go out of business on an all-too-regular basis after landlords jack up their rents to unreasonable levels.  Each day when I return home from work I brace myself for yet another "Space for Rent" sign in the window of a store I used to patronize.

 

Retial space available

 

To quantify the magnitude of these closings my friend Maury and I spent a recent weekend canvassing Greenwich Village and Chelsea to see for ourselves how pervasive the situation was, and we came across not 50, not 100, not 150, but 208 retail spaces that were closed.  We found the omnipresent "For Rent" signs on fifteen streets, with the greatest concentration on Bleecker St., 8th St. and Christopher St.  And if we had walked on every street in the West Village and Chelsea the number would likely have exceeded 250.  While this is a disconcertingly high number, an article on the website DAN Info reported that the area with the most empty storefronts wasn't Greenwich Village, but SoHo and TriBeCa.

 

Vacant Stores and Restaurants

What's so troubling is that many of these vacant storefronts were businesses that served the residents of their neighborhoods - delis, laundries, shoe repair stores, and barber shops - only to be replaced by high-end retailers that cater to tourists.  Some of these storefronts can stay empty for a year or longer (the spaces formerly occupied by Manatus restaurant on Bleecker St. and Barnes & Noble on Sixth Ave. have been vacant for more than two years), but landlords have no incentive to find new tenants in a timely fashion.  In fact, it's considered a business loss which is a tax write-off.  As these establishments sit empty, they detract from the quality of life of the streets they're located on (especially since there are multiple locations on each street).  I feel rage boiling up inside of me when I walk by these eyesores knowing that the primary reason for them sitting empty is unrestrained greed.

 

Retail space

 

A SAD GALLERY OF EMPTY STOREFRONTS

 

Space for Rent
On Christopher St., the sign on the window reads "Trendy Retail", which is code for "rent is $25,000 per month".

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Hsbc 14th and 6th
Stories about the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl era were often accompanied by a photo of a shuttered bank. However, this photo isn't from Nebraska, but the bustling corner of W. 14th St. and Sixth Ave. where HSBC boasted a once handsome branch office which has now sat empty for 18 months.

 

Chelsea vacancy
8th Avenue in Chelsea

 

Chelsea
Across the street from the Chelsea storefront above.

 

Corner of bleecker and sixth former american apparel
The corner of Sixth Ave. and Bleecker St. was briefly an American Apparel store. Before that it sat empty for a year after being a Banana Republic for many years.

 

Hairdresser note to clientele
On this door of a shuttered hair salon on W. 10th St. the owner has a message of thanks to customers. The salon had been in this location since 1997.

 

Restaurant across from me
This site of a former restaurant is at the corner of Barrow and West 4th Streets and is across the street from my apartment. It has sat empty for two years.

 

Eighth street eyesore
This eyesore on W. 8th St. is just off tony lower Fifth Ave. Once a branch of HSBC Bank, it's been in this condition for years.

 

Spa belle
Nearly as ubiquitous as Starbucks, six Spa Belle's have been shuttered in Chelsea and the West Village due to a glut of competing nail salons.

 

Associated
The closing of a supermarket is always a concern for residents, especially one like Associated, known for its low prices. It had been an anchor on W. 14th St. for more than 25 years.

 

Polo store
The retailer with the most square footage on Bleecker St. was Ralph Lauren's Polo store, but apparently the bragging rights were no longer worth the expense.  On the window shoppers are directed to other stores in trendy neighborhoods: East Hampton, West Broadway and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

 

Simplicity
Just one of 25 empty storefronts on 8th St. - only Bleecker St. has more.

 

Restaurant for lease on bleecker
This restaurant is east of Sixth Ave. Empty storefronts can be found in equal numbers regardless of which side of Sixth Ave. they're on.

 

Big blue for rent sign
I have enough photos to create a decent-sized Pinterest board. This empty store is on W. 14th St. between Fifth Ave. and Union Square.

 

Store for rent
Not all signs are fancy ones. This one is on the window of a former consignment store that had been at this Jones St. address for more than 30 years.

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Update. Since writing this post in September 2016 the vacancies continued to grow, especially on Bleecker St. in the West Village  The space that used to be Manatus restaurant on Bleecker St. has sat empty for six years, the former site of Barnes & Noble at the corner of West 8th St. and Sixth Ave. has been empty for seven years and the grand building at the corner of Sixth Ave. and West 14th St. that was occupied by HSBC Bank had languished for nearly four years (before it was taken down to make room for condominiums).


Law & Order: The Misdemeanors

Nypd carSome of my high school classmates back in Pittsburgh can't quite fathom the thought of living in Manhattan, but I thrive on the fast pace, and the perceived danger is a bit overblown.  Sure, I've had some experiences with it but, thankfully, nothing serious.  Since moving to New York City in 1981 I've been a victim of a crime six times.  Five of the six occurred in the 1980s, and the last time was in 1998.  Two of my apartments have been burglarized, my wallet has been lifted at work twice and I've been mugged and the victim of a scam one time each.  (Truth be told, I've committed a number of "fashion crimes", but that's the subject for another post.)

 

 

April 1981 - At TriBeCa Apartment

This was my first apartment in NYC.  It was in a loft space on Lispenard St. in TriBeCa that I shared with a husband, wife, baby and a vicious cat (whose name was 'Mouse').  The break-in occurred one month after I moved in.  Although the door was locked, the prefabricated wall was knocked down to gain entrance.  The loft was in a building that I was later told the landlord was trying to get renters out of the apartment and turn into a commercial building.  My stereo was stolen along with four rolls of quarters that I hadn't had a chance to take to the bank.  I moved out two months later (as did my loft mates).

 

Lispenard street tribeca

 

July 1983 - At West 15th St. Apartment

Like the apartment in TriBeCa, this burglary also occurred one month after I moved into it.  The apartment was on the ground flood and had a garden with a door, but the burglars entered through the front door, using tin snips to cut into the door, then putting their hand through the incision and unlocking the door from the inside.  They stole a vacuum cleaner, our answering machine, some subway tokens and, inexplicably, ate a half grapefruit that was in the fridge, but what hurt most was their stealing of my boyfriend Rick's 35 MM camera,which had a roll of undeveloped film in it with pictures from Memorial Day weekend in Provincetown.

Later in the evening we got a call from the manager of the Lindy's restaurant across the street from Radio City Music Hall.  Someone had tried to charge their meal using my Mastercard, which had been taken out of the pocket of my bathrobe (they were thorough). 

 

Grapefruit  

May 1986 - At Jones St. Apartment

This was a scam rather than a burglary.  And it occurred at the front door of my apartment building in Greenwich Village.  A young man with a dog rang the doorbell and I answered.  He told me that he lived on my street and was walking his dog and discovered that he had locked himself out of his apartment.  Although his grandmother had a spare set of keys, she lived in Brooklyn and the young man didn't have money for cab fare.  I gave him $15 and asked if he wanted to leave his dog with me but he said he couldn't because it was abused as a puppy and didn't take well to strangers.  A few hours later it dawned on me that I'd likely been scammed and would never be repaid.

But to my surprise he returned, supposedly to repay the money I had loaned him.  However, he only had a $100 bill and needed change to pay the taxi, which for some reason, was parked a few blocks away.  This time I was onto him so I told him I'd break the $100 if the taxi came in front of my apartment building.  Of course, this didn't happen.  So, although I was still out $15 ($33 adjusted for inflation) I felt somewhat better knowing that my loss wasn't greater.

 

Conartist 

 

October 1988 - NW Ayer

On Halloween my wallet was taken from my suit jacket that was hanging behind the door in my office at ad agency NW Ayer.  I had $200 in cash in it and ten credit cards (back then I had cards for department stores in addition to Visa).  A few days later a colleague found the wallet jammed behind the toilet paper dispenser in a stall in the men's room.  It was this incident that got me to start using an ATM card rather than take out money I'd need for the next few weeks.

 

Stolen wallet cash

 

December 1989 - Number 1 Subway

This is the only time I was physically robbed.  After a doctor's appointment down in the West Village at lunchtime I went back to my office on W. 50th St. and took the Uptown Number 1 train.  When I got into the car there were three teenagers sitting opposite me.  One addressed me as Inspector Gadget because I was wearing a black trench coat.  Shortly after the doors closed they came over and surrounded me, the ringleader sitting next to me on my right.  He said I looked like I could easily spare my cash and if I didn't give it up I'd have to contend with the fellow standing to my left who had his hand in his coat pocket, suggesting there might be a weapon.  Fortunately, I only had eight dollars on me.  And I was very happy they didn't take my wallet.  After they ran out at the W.23rd St. stop an elderly man sitting across from me chided me for giving them my money as they also tried to get some from him but he refused.  When I got off at my stop I told the token clark (in the pre-MTA card era) and he called the police. 

A month later later I was asked to come to to the Transit Police station in the Port Authority building on 42nd St. to look at photos ("mug shots").  When I told the officer that the perpetrator was white he came back with a rather thin book.  When I expressed surprise he told me with a bit of a weary chuckle that all of the other binders on the shelves contained mug shots of blacks and Hispanics.  I pointed to one guy but after he was contacted he claimed that at the time of the mugging he was attending a parole hearing with his father.  Frankly, I was partly relieved because I wasn't certain the fellow I pointed out was actually the perpetrator.

 

Subway entrance

 

March 1998 - Foote, Cone & Belding

Once again my wallet was lifted from the inner pocket of my suit jacket was hanging behind the door of my office (back in the era before "open architecture" work spaces).  This time I only had $27 in the wallet and one credit card.  Then a week later I got a call at home from a customer service person at Omnipoint Communications in eastern Pennsylvania who wanted to verify that I was ordering cellular phone service.  When I told her I wasn't she then confided that she had someone on hold who was attempting this purchase using my credit card.  She became suspicious because the person sounded like a "negro" (her word) and she thought it was strange that he'd have my last name.

 

Customer service  

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Remembering All of the Office Views in My Career

Worldwide plaza nyc
Worldwide Plaza
3ParkAvenue.NYC
3 Park Avenue

Over the course of my career I've worked at nine different addresses, all in Midtown Manhattan, from 34th St., north to 58th Street, and from Third Ave., west to Eighth Ave. - an area covering all of 1.25 square miles.  In the past ten years office floor plans with private offices have largely been eliminated in favor of "open architecture" layouts, with workers sitting side-by-side and facing each other (not unlike garment workers in Bangladesh, but instead of sewing machines we have laptops!).  Of course, it's been an adjustment for those of us who worked in the private office era, but not as difficult a transition as I feared.  And I have great memories of those offices, some of which afforded spectacular views.  What follows is a list of those varied views - think of it as my office resume.

 

 

800 3rd Ave. (between E. 49th and 50th Streets)

My first office situation, which I shared with a co-worker, was on the 39th floor and looked south down Third Avenue.  (1980-1981)

 

800ThirdAve.ScaliMcCabeSloves
Here I am at 23, a junior media planner at ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves, and I had an office with a great view.

 

285 Madison Ave. (between 40th and 41st Streets)

Although taking a job at Young & Rubicam was a good career move, it was quite a step down from my previous job in terms of office and view.  My office, a converted supply room, looked north onto E. 41st St. so there was little in the way of light.  285 Madison was an old building with windows that could be opened.  (A few years before I moved to Y&R an account executive had jumped to his death.)  Later I moved to an office on the other side of the building and my view looked south onto 40th St.  I had light but not much of a view.  (1981-1987)

 

1345 Ave. of the Americas (between E. 54th/55th Streets)

My office at ad agency NWAyer was on the 39th floor and looked south onto the roof of the Hilton across the street on 54th St.  (1987-1989)

 

Burlington.building.movingday

 

BurlingtonBuilding.view
The view from the side of the floor looking north was far superior than mine, but I could stroll over to see it.

 

Worldwide Plaza (W. 50th St./Eighth Ave.) 

NWAyer relocated from urbane Avenue of the Americas to this brand new 50-story skyscraper on the "frontier".  This would be the furthest west of any of my work addresses.  At the time the new neighborhood was a bit sketchy but my office on the 34th floor, which looked west over the Hudson River, afforded views of spectacular sunsets (and on hazy days the view of New Jersey was obscured).  In the brutal winter of 1994 I had a great view of the ice-covered Hudson.  In the last six months I worked there I moved into a spacious corner office on the building's southwest corner, but I often had to draw the shades because of the blinding afternoon sun.  (1989-1995)

 

Ice.covered.hudsonriver
The Hudson froze over during the frigid January of 1994.

 

RobFrydlewicz.CornerOffice.NWAyer
Those were the days ...

 

GM Building (Fifth Ave. between 58th & 59th Streets)/

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington & Third Avenues) 

My first office at Foote, Cone & Belding was on the 18th floor and looked north onto 59th St.  If I looked at an angle from my window I could see Central Park.  Then a few months after I started we relocated to the old Mobil Building at 150 E. 42nd St. (across the street from the Chrysler Building).  There I had three different offices, none with views that were noteworthy.  (1995-2002)

 

GM Building.RobFrydlewicz
Left the corner office behind for a sizable increase in salary - a fair trade-off.

 

3 Park Ave (34th St./Park Ave.)

This vied with Worldwide Plaza for the best views.  There were no towering buildings obstructing the view in any direction (the Empire State Building loomed three blocks west, enhancing the view).  My corner office on the 36th floor (for those keeping score, this was my second corner office) looked southeast so I got plenty of light all day.  Fifteen months before I started at Carat the 9-11 attacks occurred and co-workers told me of the chilling view they had of the towers.  I was working here on the day of the 2003 power blackout and had to walk down 36 flights of steps - without the aid of emergency lighting, which didn't work. (2003-2006)

 

Carat.3ParkAvenue
The glare from the sun obscures the view through the window shades.  (If only there were smartphones back then I'd have a whole album of the views!)

 

622 Third Ave. (between E. 40th and 41st St.)

26 years later I was back on Third Avenue, but eight blocks further south. This is the only office I had that looked east.  I usually had the blinds drawn because of the morning sun, but in the late afternoon the sky could have a nice light pink and blue glow created as the sun was setting (especially in the winter months).  The work environment at Universal McCann was the most toxic of any I'd experienced and my only respite was gazing out the windows.  (2007-2008)

 

1540 Broadway (corner of W. 46th St.)

Working part-time for Viacom, this was the first time I worked in an office with open architecture, but I still had a spectacular view.  Our building overlooked Times Square and my work space was situated in the southwest corner of the 23rd floor, offering me a view of the large electronic billboard on the building where the ball dropped on New Year's Eve.  And the building's cafeteria had a great view overlooking the area around the TKTS booth.  This was also the first office where I owned a smartphone so I was always snapping photos of the view.  (2012-2014)

 

TimesSquare.NewYearsEve.Afternoon

 TimesSquareOfficeView

 

TimeSquareVista.Spring2014.RobFrydlewicz

 TimesSquare.Christmas2013

 

150 E. 42nd St. (between Lexington/Third Ave.)

This is my second time working in this building, but 13 years apart, and working for a different company (actually, it's Carat, the company I worked for at 3 Park Ave.) and with a different layout.  I'm situated on the 12th floor, once again with open architecture.  My department is situated on the southwest corner and the view looks down Lexington Ave.  There are also windows that look east so there is light throughout the day.  (2014 - present)

 

150E42ndSt.view
View from the 12th floor, looking up at the buildings on the corner of Lexington Ave. and E. 41st St.

 

Winter.view.midtown.2015
The sun doesn't need to be shining for there to be interesting views. This photo was shot during the never-ending winter of 2015.

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Recalling Celebrity Sightings in New York City

LeonardodecaprioSubway-celebs-1 Living in New York, friends who live elsewhere often ask me about the celebrities I've seen.  This got me thinking about how many sightings I've had in the 40+ years I've lived here.  I'm sure many pass by me unrecognized because they're under hats, behind sunglasses, or I'm just not looking at faces as I go about my business.  (When I walk around my neighborhood in sunglasses during weekday afternoons I often wonder if tourists think I'm a celebrity.)  What follows is a list of nearly 80 celebs I've spotted, who I've grouped into the following categories: My Neighborhood; On the Subway; At Fire Island; At the Gym; Elsewhere in Manhattan; and Those I've Spoken To

 

- IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD (Greenwich Village) -

Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Actor) - I've probably seen him most since he lives in an apartment building across the street from me.  I've seen him walking with one of his his kids, one time on a bicycle, another time chatting on his cell phone.  The last time he was sitting outside with his family at a restaurant on Hudson St.  (This was written less than a week before his untimely death on Feb. 2 in 2014.)

 

Philipseymourhoffman.newyork

 

Matthew Broderick (Actor) I've seen him a number of times, sometimes with his son, and once (in Sept. 2019) with wife Sarah Jessica Parker as they crossed Seventh Ave. South and walked to the Sheridan Square subway station (uptown side).

Susan Sarandon (Actress/activist) - In the winter of 2013 I spotted her shopping for veggies at Citarella, wearing a kerchief and sunglasses.

Jake Gyllenhaal - I spotted him walking down Christopher St. alone at the intersection with Seventh Ave. South.  Others I've passed on this street include Johnny Galecki from the Big Bang Theory, Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps and, in separate sightings, SNL alums Seth Meyers and Andy Samberg.

 

Jake-gyllenhaal-night-crawler-night-reporter-02

 

Bebe Neuwirth (Actress) - Three times I've sat across from her at The Village Den restaurant on Greenwich Ave.

Emma Stone (Actress) - She turned onto 6th Ave. from West 10th St. (on the block where Citarella is) and was walking behind me and I recognized her hearty laugh.  It was winter 2012 and she was wearing a very pretty purple-colored coat that contrasted nicely with her auburn hair.  She was with a young man.

 

Emmastone

 

I've walked past John Waters, Isaac Mizrahi, Ric Ocasek and Wallace Shawn all in the vicinity of the corner of 6th Ave. and 12th St.  By coincidence, I was going to see Waters' new movie Serial Mom (spring of 1994) when I spotted him.

Aziz Ansari (Comic/actor) - He was rushing somewhere while looking at his cellphone, heading west on W.4th St. after crossing 7th Ave. South.

 

Aziz.ansari

 

Jason Sedakis (Sat. Night Live/actor) - He was walking along Bleecker St. (where he used to live).

Willem Dafoe (Actor) - Walking in front of Gourmet Garage.

Lauren Bacall (Actress) - She was shopping at Balducci's on 9th St./6th Ave (before it was bought by Citarella).

Leontyne Price (Opera singer) - Spotted just south of Bleecker St./7th Ave. South.

Everett Quinton (Off-Broadway actor) - He's probably only recognizable to a small number of New Yorkers who recognize his work with the Ridiculous Theater Company (which used to be across the street from my apartment).  I've seen him on numerous occasions walking about or having a meal at Manatus on Bleecker St.

 

Everett.quinton

 

Michael Urie (Actor) - He was walking into the CVS at the corner of 6th Ave./Washington Place.  This was in the fall of 2014 and he was finishing up his run in the one-man show Buyer Cellar at the Barrow St. Playhouse and this sighting was about an hour before the curtain.

 

Michael.urie_buyerandcellar

 

Barry Diller (Movie/TV executive) - He and a much younger man were eating next to us at Mi Cocina.  This was in the late 1990s.

Mary-Louise Parker (Actress).  I was standing behind her and her daughter in the checkout line at Gristede's.

Harvey Weinstein (Film executive) - He was attending a dance performance at the Joyce Theater.  I also saw him crossing 7th Ave. South near Charles St. heading to the restaurant Morandi.

 

Harvey.weinstein

 

Anderson Cooper (CNN News Anchor) - On time he was riding a bike, the other time coming out of the David Barton gym in Astor Place.

Tim Robbins (Actor) - In May 2002 I was standing behind him and one of his sons on the up escalator at the Village East movie complex on 3rd Ave./12th St.

Jesse Eisenberg (Actor) - The first time I saw him he was walking into the restaurant Dublin 6 on Hudson St. wearing a ski cap.  The next time he was checking out at Gourmet Garage during the time he was directing/acting in the play The Revisionist (with Vanessa Redgrave) at the Cherry Lane Theater in the Spring of 2013.

Louis CK (Comic/actor) - I was eating dinner in a Thai restaurant at the corner of Cornelia and Bleecker Streets when he walked by alone, hands in pockets.  Then during the summer of 2013 I saw him with his kids on Grove St. in Sheridan Square.

 

Louisck

 

Liv Tyler (Actress, Steven Tyler's daughter) - She was walking out of my apartment building, and I have no idea who she might have been visiting.

Mark Adsit (30 Rock) - He was strolling through the Union Square Christmas fair with his wife and child in 2012.  Then three years later I saw him, also in December, at the West Village restaurant Gaetana's (corner of Christopher/Greenwich Streets).  This time he was with a woman who may have been his mother and he was sporting a beard.

 

Mark.adsit

 

Gregory Hines (Deceased dancer/actor) - Dining with friends at an outside table at a restaurant on Hudson St.

Lee Delaria (Comedian/actress) - She was walking up 5th Ave. and was dressed like she was shooting a scene from The Hunger Games as she was wearing a long black leather trench coat with black boots and was sporting a severely cut/punk hairstyle.

 

Lee.delaria

 

Malcolm Gladwell (Author, contributor to The New Yorker) - I've seen him a number of times walking in the neighborhood.)

John Cameron Mitchell (Director/actor) - He lives on Greenwich Ave., where I've seem him a number of times.  The last time was in April 2014 when I was going to work and he was in my subway car.

 

John.cameron.mitchell

 

Kyan Douglas (Hair stylist from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) - I was eating dinner at Bus Stop Cafe with a few friends and I spotted him there with a group of eight guys.

Parker Posey (Actress) - On a Saturday evening n Feb. 2014 she was sitting at the bar chatting with friends at Gene's, an old-school Italian restaurant on W. 11th St. that attracts a neighborhood crowd. 

Zachary Quinto (Actor) - My most recent encounter, in June 2014.  He was wearing a backwards-turned baseball cap, t-shirt and jeans and was walking his two dogs on the main path of Washington Square Park heading in the direction of Sixth Avenue.  And he wasn't wearing glasses.  

Alec Baldwin (Actor) - On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend 2016 he pedaled by on his bike in the middle of the afternoon, turning from Greenwich Ave., east onto West 10th St. heading to 6th Ave.  He may have been coming from Equinox Gym, where a friend of mine has seen him working out.

 

Alec baldwin on bicycle

 

Wynton Marsalis (Jazz Musician) - On Election Day 2016 he and one of his children were walking into my polling place at PS 41 on W.10th St. as I was leaving at around 9:30AM.  He was wearing a suit.

Kyle Mooney (SNL writer/actor) - I was walking behind him on Sixth Ave. between Waverly Place and Washington Place on a fall evening in 2017.  I've also seen him at my gym (NY Sports Club).

Andy Cohen (Bravo executive) - As I was taking a run along Hudson River Park on a warm Saturday afternoon in April 2019 I made split-second eye contact with Andy Cohen, who was sitting on a park bench with his baby, a cute dog (which is what got my attention) and a younger woman.

 

Andy-cohen-baby-benjamin

 

John Mulaney (stand-up comic) - On an unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon in November 2020 (it was the day Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election) I spotted him strolling with a woman pushing a baby carriage in Hudson River Park across from Christopher St. (I assume they were his wife and child).  I wouldn't have noticed him, but when I heard his distinctive voice I looked behind me and saw him.

 

John mulaney

 

- ON THE SUBWAY -

Cherry Jones (Tony Award winning actress) - She was seated and chatting with a friend on the downtown #1 train.  Then in April 2014 I saw her entering the West 14th entrance to the #1 train on 7th Avenue.

 

Cherry.jones

 

Keith Hernandez (New York Mets) - I spotted in my car on the downtown Lexington line during mid-afternoon, standing alone.  This was years after he was Met.

Chris Parnell (Sat. Night Live) - Seated, reading a folded up piece of paper, perhaps a script.

 

Chris.parnell

 

Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) - He was waiting for the uptown Express train with friends at Times Square station late on a Saturday night.  I was heading uptown after seeing Bye Bye Birdie in the winter of 2010.

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) - On my way to work one autumn morning in 2015 I saw him going through the turnstile at the West 4th Street subway station.  He was carrying a skateboard.  Because of his height the turnstile was at neck level.   

Norm Lewis (Actor) - Coming home from work on the 1 train downtown in the summer of 2017, I got out at 14th St. because the train was skipping my stop (Christopher St./Sheridan Sq.).  Standing next to me on the platform was Broadway actor Norm Lewis, wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  For the life of me I couldn't remember his last name and this, combined me being tired and wilted from the warm platform, kept me from telling him that I enjoyed his performance in Porgy & Bess that I saw in 2012.  We both got on the next train and he got out at my stop and then went to Starbucks in Sheridan Square.

 

Norm lewis  

 

David Muir (anchor, ABC World News Tonight) - I was on the uptown platform at the Christopher St. station on a weekday afternoon in late March 2018 when he came through the turnstile and sat down on a bench.   

Richard Kind (actor, Spin City) - On my way home from work on the evening of Sept. 25, 2018 he passed me on the stairway leading up from the subway platform at the Times Square station.

 

- AT THE GYM (Crunch/Archive Building) -

Dean Winters (The All-State 'Mayhem' guy) - Working out with a trainer.

Andrew Sullivan (Blogger/political commentator) - On another occasion I was walking behind him, his husband and dog on Bleecker St. near the now-closed Manatus restaurant.

 

Andrew.sullivan

 

Rupert Everett (Actor) - Saw him on numerous occasions in 2000 and 2001.  He usually wore a cap, white sweatshirt and blue sweatpants.

John Lutz (30 Rock/comedy writer) - A regular on the treadmill beginning two or three years ago.  Over the course of this time he slimmed down noticeably.

 

John.lutz

 

Chris Meloni (LA Law/HBO's Oz) - I stood behind him at the water fountain.

Sandra Bernhard (Comedian/actress) - I also spotted her in the checkout line at Citarella where she was dressed all in white (including a hat).

Calvin Klein (fashion designer) - This was my most recent sighting (January 2016) but it wasn't at Crunch, but at the New York Sports Club on Seventh Ave. South, which I switched to in 2013.  During a Saturday afternoon weight workout I saw him working out with a trainer.  I overheard them discussing men's briefs.  Calvin was touting the 2xist label while the trainer was raving about the H&M brand.  This sighting surprised me because I had heard CK was a member of the more exclusive Equinox gym.  After this sighting I saw him at the gym three or four other times.

 

- FIRE ISLAND -

Neil Sedaka (Composer/singer) - He was one of many guests who attended our house's annual Hat Party, in August 2003.

 

Neilsedaka

 

Sam Champion (TV weatherman) - This was in the late 1990s when he was still the local weatherman on Channel 7.  The first time I saw him he was playing in the surf with his dog.  The second time he was sashaying ever so slowly down Fire Island Boulevard with his long haired boyfriend at the time.

Jerry Mitchell (Tony Award winning choreographer) - Saw him at Sip'n Twirl during evening tea dance, summer of 2013.

 

Jerry.mitchell

 

Andy Cohen (Bravo exec/Real Housewives) - Buying cold cuts at Pines Pantry grocery store, August 2013.

David Geffen (Record executive) - He briefly owned a house at the end of the walk where my house was the was previously owned by Calvin Klein - who I also saw out there.

 

David.geffen

 

Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) - Mr. Personality, I've passed by him on Fire Island Blvd. and seen him at low tea.

 

- MANHATTAN, NORTH OF 23rd ST. -

Judd Apatow (Movie director) - During the summer of 2009 Apatow, his actress wife Leslie Mann, and their two daughters were standing behind me in the ticket line for the Titanic artifact exhibition at the Discovery Times Square Exposition Center.  And then very recently (April 2014) I saw him walking with one of his daughters along Bleecker St. near Bank Street tin the West Village.

 

Juddapatow.lesliemann

 

Brooke Shields (Actress/model) - In the early 1980s, when she was still in her teens, I saw her walking through the first floor of Bloomingdale's with her mother.  She looked very self-conscious, walking quickly, eyes downcast and biting her lip.

Ron Darling (Mets pitcher) - I was walking to work in the late 1980s when I passed by him on East 30s/Madison Ave.  He lived in Manhattan's Murray Hill neighborhood at the time.

BD Wong (Actor) - We walked past each other in the Manhattan Mall a few weeks before Christmas 2008.

 

Bdwong

 

Liz Smith (Gossip Columnist) I was having lunch on the outside terrace of El Rio Grande on Third Avenue and East 38th St. in the spring of 2008 when she walked through the tables on the way to her apartment building which was adjacent to the restaurant.

Frank Perdue (Businessman) - I rode in the elevator with him at my office building at 800 Third Ave.  His account was with the ad agency I was working for at the time in 1980 - Scali, McCabe, Sloves.

Al Franken (Comedian, US Senator) - Another elevator encounter, this time in my office building at 3 Park Ave. in 2004.  Franken was on his way to the liberal radio network, Air America.  This was before he was elected to the US Senate.

 

Alfranken

 

Buck Henry (Sat. Night Live comedy writer and actor) - He was my first celebrity siting, occurring in July 1979 as I was walking to the big post office on 3rd Ave. between 55th & 56th Streets (FDR Station) with a co-worker at lunchtime. 

Hal Linden (Barney Miller) - Like Buck Henry I spotted him on 3rd Ave. in the 50s while I was out for lunch.  This was during the Spring of 1980.

 

Hal.linden

 

- CELEBS I'VE SPOKEN TO -

Andrew Rannells (Broadway and TV actor) - This encounter was on a Friday afternoon in April 2014.  He walked into the Karavas pizza joint in Sheridan Square as I was waiting for a slice I had ordered for a late lunch.  I told him that I had just seen him perform at the Broadway Cares event, "Broadway Backwards", where he sang The Man That Got Away

 

Andrew.rannells

 

Victor Garber (Broadway, TV and movie actor)- I was going to a Wednesday matinee of Evita in August 2012 and spotted him waiting for the #1 uptown local at 14th St.  I walked over to him and told him how much I enjoyed him in Showtime's sitcom Web Therapy (in which he plays Lisa Kudrow's gay husband).  I've also seen him walking in front of Gourmet Garage. 

 

Victor_garber_webtherapy

 

Paul Schneider (Parks & Recreation/the movie The Family Stone) - I saw him on 6th Ave near my apartment as I was exiting the ATM at HSBC.  At first I didn't recognize him because his hair was long.  I told him that I was sorry he was no longer on the show and he told me that he left because his character wasn't developing the way he had hoped.

 

Paul.schneider

 

David Hodo (Construction worker character from the original Village People) - He was a guest at a brunch I attended in March 2013 on the Upper West Side.  He wasn't introduced as the construction worker, but a friend of mine took me aside and told me.

Tanner Cohen (Actor) - In 2008 he starred in a sweet gay-themed film Were the World Mine, which I saw.  Then a few months after I saw it I was walking through H&M on lower 5th Ave. when he walked into the store.  I stopped him and told him how much I enjoyed him and the movie - this was the first time I ever spoke to a celeb.

 

Tanner.cohen

 

 

 

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Memories of Superstorm Sandy: A First-Person Account

Sandy_cloudsAs the monster storm named Sandy approached New York my chief concern, as it was with Hurricane Irene the year before, was my living room window.  Measuring 8 X 8 feet, this large panel of glass shakes whenever strong winds come from out of the east.  With the forecast warning of winds gusting between 60 and 85 miles per hour, I lined the window with cardboard from discarded boxes collected from the supermarket.  I did this the evening before the storm hit while watching the final innings of Game 4 of the World Series (which would be the final game as the Giants swept the Tigers). 

 

Since Manhattan has no overhead power lines I wasn't overly concerned about losing power; therefore, I was thrown for a loop on Monday afternoon (Oct. 29) when Con Ed sent out a robo-call alerting its customers that power might be turned off as a precautionary measure because of the prospect of flooding where its generators were situated.  I wasn't prepared for this so I scrambled to find a flashlight and the few candles I had in the apartment.

 

Sandy_subway 

 

I stayed indoors all day keeping my fingers crossed as gale force winds shook my building and rattled the windows.  Then, early in the evening, perhaps because of cabin fever, I ventured outside with my friend Tom, who lives in the apartment building next door.  Perhaps foolishly, we braved the high winds and walked over to the Hudson River to see what conditions were like, dodging the occasional tree branch or trash can rolling down the sidewalk.  When we got to the Christopher St. pier the river was just beginning to splash and spray over its banks from the storm surge (which meant the water level of the river had risen six or seven feet).  This was at around 6:00.  A few hours later the water had risen high enough to cover the West Side Highway and flood shops adjacent to the highway.

 

Sandy_pier

 

Sandy_surge

 

Back in my apartment, the lights flickered a few times as I ate dinner.  Then, shortly after I had finished eating and washed the dishes, the power went out at 8:15 - and stayed off until Saturday morning (a period of four-and-a-half days).  I went on Facebook where I saw status updates from friends reporting on the flooding that had begun in Manhattan.  A bit later I heard police announcements from speakers ordering people to stay indoors.

 

Sandy_flooding_nyc

 

Because three grocery stores are within walking distance of my apartment I rarely stock up on food.  However, with the impending storm creating panic shopping, on the Sunday before the storm I decided to buy provisions for a few days while there was still food on the store's shelves.  Now with the power off I regretted this decision as I now had a well-stocked fridge.  Luckily, the weather was on the cool side (40s at night, 50s during the day) so I didn't lose anything in my freezer and I ate the perishables I had over the next few days.  (I drank a pint of vanilla ice cream like it was a milkshake.)

 

 

Channel7_Sandy

 

I awoke on Tuesday morning and not only was there still no power, but my cell phone and laptop needed recharging.  In my laptop's waning moments I read that most of Manhattan above 38th Street had power, so I called my friends Bob and Audre on E. 43rd St. in Tudor City to ask if I might stop by to recharge my devices.  Before I ventured up to their place I stopped by Tom's apartment to see if he had any interest in walking there with me to do the same.  He was very happy to see me because he had no cell phone service through AT&T and wanted to phone his boss.  Luckily for him, my cell provider was Verizon.  When he called he learned that the hospital he worked at on the East Side was closed because of serious flooding. 

 

As we walked to Tudor City from the West Village (40 blocks away, the walk took about an hour) we passed by Washington Square Park and surveyed the extensive tree damage there.  Tudor City, too, had large trees blown down. 

 

Sandy_washsqpark      

 

Once at my friend's place I heard for the first time the extent of the damage suffered throughout the area.  Walking back home later that evening was a creepy experience because there were no lights south of 38th St., and the streets were eerily quiet.

 

Sandy_darkened_streets

 

The next day, Wednesday, was Halloween but Greenwich Village's famous Halloween parade had been cancelled.  However, the gay bar down the street from my apartment, the Monster, was open.  It had a generator along with a plentiful supply of candles and stayed open as long as its supply of ice held out.  The darkness outside made for an appropriately spooky atmosphere.  I went there with my friends Andy, Maury and Tom and we stayed for about half an hour.  Because public transportation was still largely shut down the gathering of patrons was limited to people from the neighborhood, which was nice.

 

Sandy_halloween 

 

Venturing back out into the pitch black night, we were curious if any restaurants might be open.  We lucked out on Christopher St. where a Peruvian place, Lima's Taste, was open - with a very limited menu.  To provide light the wait staff wore headbands that had small flashlights attached to them!  And although the streets were dark it wasn't too unnerving because very few ghouls or goblins were out - and there was a police presence.

 

After roughing it on Tuesday and Wednesday, once subway service was partially restored on Thursday, I decided to stay with my friend David who lived in Astoria in Queens.  It was wonderful having power, heat, hot water, and TV once again.  I stayed there until Saturday afternoon when I got a text from Tom telling me the power had been restored to our neighborhood.  Once home, the first thing I did was go to the gym - which I hadn't been to in a week.

 

Prior to this nearly five-day blackout the longest I'd gone without electricity was 20 hours during the blackout of Aug. 14, 2003.  However, that experience was more trying because it happened on a 90-degree day.  As with that blackout I considered myself fortunate.  Despite the inconveniences Sandy caused, at least I had running water (those living in high-rises weren't so lucky because of water pressure issues), and I only had to walk up five flights of stairs.  And, of course, I was so much more fortunate than those residents who lived near the ocean and had to contend with the loss of more than just their power.

 

Sandy_aerial_view 

 

 

 

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The Stonewall Riot - The Beginning of Gay Liberation (June 28, 1969)

Stonewall_uprisingWhen homosexuals and transvestites took to the streets of Greenwich Village in the wee hours of the morning on June 28, 1969 to protest constant harassment and mistreatment by the NYPD, I was 12 years old and living in Pittsburgh.  I was unaware of what was taking place - and who knows if the disturbance even received new coverage in the Steel City.  And even if it was reported, I wouldn't have understood much since at my age I didn't even know what a homosexual was.  (A few years later I'd learn a lot after sneak-reading my older sister's copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex.  The author didn't provide a very positive lesson, but it was a start.)

 

Judy_garland_closeupThe only memory I have that has some connection to this seminal event was the death of Judy Garland the week before the riots.  I heard the news on the car radio as me and my family drove to church.  At the time my only association with her was as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and not as a gay icon.  Legend has it that her death was a contributing factor to the riot as her funeral was held earlier that day (a stifling hot Friday) and bar patrons weren't in the mood to once again be harassed by police.  However, this this link has since been more or less dismissed.

 

Supreme_court2Not to digress too much, but 17 years later I was living in the belly of the beast, the West Village, just a few minutes' walk from Stonewall.  On July 1, 1986 I participated in a sitdown protest that blocked traffic on Seventh Ave. South for an hour or so.  It was in response to the Supreme Court's decision (Bowers v Hardwick) upholding Georgia's sodomy law.  And so I had my own opportunity to participate in some civil disobedience. 

 

Getting back to the disturbance at Stonewall, an event that ignited the gay rights movement, the account that follows was provided by Liz Solomon, a former co-worker of mine, who grew up in Greenwich Village.  She kindly volunteered to recount her memories of that night.  Take it away Liz ...

 

First off, let me say that the thoughts and language of this mini-memoir are those of 1969, not 2013.  I cringe at some of the things we said and did back in those days.  But more importantly, I'm a firm believer in historical accuracy trumping political correctness.

 

It's important to understand that the West Village of 1969 was a very different place than it is today.  For one thing, it wasn't called the West Village, but rather "Downtown", "West Side", maybe "the Village".  Furthermore, it wasn't the home of celebrities, models - and especially not the rich.  It was a regular working class/lower middle class neighborhood with dock workers, butchers (the Meat Packing District actually processed meat back then!), truck drivers along with a scattering of white collar workers and government employees.

 

Greenwich_village_map

 

Greenwich_village1960sWe always knew there gay people interspersed in the neighborhood, but it had yet to take on the "gay ghetto" vibe that came later in the 1970's.  (When I was in high school and college, guys I dated from outside the neighborhood often gave me a hard time about walking me home when they learned where I lived because it might be bad for their "image" if the were spotted there!)  Did we welcome those of different orientations with open minds?  Much as I'd like to say yes, we were kids and it was 1969.  But it wasn't a matter of thinking that homosexuals were deviant.  No, they were just different, and there was getting to be more of them in OUR neighborhood and they were beginning to take over the docks after dark, previously the urban version of "lover's lane" for a neighborhood of frisky, hormonal teenagers. 

 

No doubt some of the local boys felt a bit uncomfortable or threatened by overt displays of homosexuality (not that they would admit it), but any harassment, name calling, or even occasional fisticuffs was really more a matter of "turf", not orientation, and would have been worse had the interlopers been from, say, 17th Street.   

 

Stonewall_riotWhich brings me to that last weekend of June 1969.  I admit I missed the first night entirely.  The police raid on the Stonewall Inn happened after 1AM and at the time I had a curfew so I was long home under lock and key.  The next day was Saturday and a family obligation kept me off the stoops and out of the loop until after dinner.  The minute I could, I broke away.  The air was buzzing with incredulous and somewhat amused chatter about how the gays actually fought back, throwing stuff, shouting about their rights and turning the tables on the police - at least for a while.

 

StonewallThis animated discussion continued as more and more kids joined the "hanging out" group.  Then someone suggested we walk over to Sheridan Square (two blocks away) to witness firsthand what was going on.  It was about 9:30 and, WOW, was it ever crowded with an agitated throng shouting previously unheard messages of gay pride and solidarity.  Cops were everywhere with their billy cubs in hand, ready to swing them.  The tension was beyond anything I could remember in my young life.  Anyway, we were just onlookers since this wasn't our fight.  Except that anyone starting trouble against our tormenters from the 6th Precinct, who enforced truancy laws and chased us off street corners, was officially OK in the neighborhood kids' book.  The enemy of our enemy was our friend, thus did some dispassionate teenagers get involved in the opening act of the battle for Gay Rights.

 

Stonewall_bookThe group I was with was pushed to the other side of Sheridan Square towards West 4th St.  Fires had been lit in garbage cans and there was considerable harassment (but restraint as well) on both sides.  There was a lot of shouting, and a few outright beatings but, alas, once again my curfew loomed (plus a small grace period) and I had to make my way to the safety of home a few blocks away.  Thus, my participation in civil disobedience, albeit in the periphery, came to an end.

 

Gay_liberation_buttonThe following year, on June 28, New York held its first Gay Pride Parade.  It began with a nervous group of a few hundred, but as the parade headed north from Greenwich Village more joined, and by the time the throng entered Central Park it had grown to 2,000 participants.  Since that day a number of other key moments in LGBT history have occurred in late June: the unfurling of the first rainbow flag at San Francisco's parade in 1978; the Supreme Court's striking down of the nation's sodomy laws in 2003; the debut of MTV's gay-themed cable network, LOGO, in 2005; the legalizing of same-sex marriage in New York State in 2011; and in 2013 the Supreme Court overturned DOMA.      


"Storm of the Century" Immobilizes Eastern U.S. (March 12-13, 1993)

Snowtotals-13mar93 On Feb. 26, 1993 New York, and the nation, was shaken by the terrorist bombing in a parking garage at the World Trade Center.  Two weeks later Mother Nature was preparing her own assault as a monster storm swept up the East Coast.  I didn't pay much attention to news of the impending storm until the night before it hit, a Friday.  After work I had gone out with friends to Splash, a sprawling new gay bar in Chelsea.  Once home I turned on the Weather Channel to hear about the approaching "white hurricane".  (And the first day of Spring was just one week away).

 

The storm's full fury hit New York Saturday morning (March 13) and continued thru mid-afternoon.  (This photo, near my apartment in Greenwich Village, was taken at around noontime.)  However, after ten inches of snow had fallen a changeover to sleet and rain began in late afternoon, keeping the accumulation down.  I was outside when the changeover began and the sleet pellets really stung because they were being propelled horizontally by winds gusting between 40-60 mph.  The noise the sleet created as it lashed against the windows in my apartment was deafening.  I was concerned that my floor to ceiling living room window might blow in so I pulled down the blind.  

 

RSCN1730
Sheridan Square, Greenwich Village

 

 

Happily, I suffered no window damage, but after the storm subsided (at around midnight) that's when my problems started.  Hearing a dripping sound, I looked up and saw that the ceiling in one corner of my living room was cracking and buckling.  It turned out that the snow on the roof (I lived on the top floor) had piled up high enough to cover a drain pipe, so melting snow had nowhere to go and collected in one spot.  I was thankful to be home so I could move my sofa and TV out of harm's way.  However, I couldn't get in touch with my building super so I had to make due with a collection of pots and pans to collect the dripping water.  However, the steady "ping" of the dripping made sleep nearly impossible. 

 

RSCN1723

 

The next morning I got up early and found the super shoveling snow.  He was unable to go up on the roof and clear the blockage because snow was drifted against the door so he brought up two large trash bins to my apartment to collect the water which poured out when he poked a few holes in my ceiling.

 

Compared to other parts of the Eastern US New York was spared paralyzing amounts of snow (a nearby street in my neighborhood is pictured).  Elsewhere, however, there were record accumulations not only in the Northeast (Pittsburgh had 26", Syracuse 36") but in the South as well, e.g., Atlanta had 9"; Birmingham 13"; Chattanooga 23".  Even Mobile, Alabama on the Gulf Coast, reported three inches of snow!  The Weather Channel would later rank the storm, which affected nearly half of the US population and left more than 250 dead, as one of the top five weather events of the entire 20th century. 

 

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Waverly Place (March 14, 1993)

 

If you'd like to read about other New York City snowstorms I've written a post on my weather blog, New York Weather Archive, that recaps the snowstorms we've experienced since 1970.  To go to it please double click here.  And on this blog I've written posts on four other famous NYC snowstorms:  

The Lindsay Snowstorm (Feb. 1969)

Blizzard of '96 Brings New York & Mid-Atlantic to a Halt (Jan. 1996)

New York's Biggest Snowfall of All Time (Feb. 2006)

April Blizzard Stops New York, Puts Spring on Hold (April 1982)

 

Finally, snowstorm lovers may find the book Northeast Snowstorms by The Weather Channel's winter storm expert Paul Kocin of great interest.

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Revered Anchorman Walter Cronkite Retires from "CBS Evening News" (March 6, 1981)

Walter_cronkite

 

March 6, 1981 was a Friday and the streets of Manhattan were a sloppy mess following a snowstorm the day before that dumped nearly nine inches of wet snow (the biggest snowfall of a relatively snowless winter).  But the day's big story was the evening broadcast of the CBS Evening News, Walter Cronkite's last as its revered anchorman. I caught the last five minutes of this newscast after getting in from work (ad agency Scali McCabe Sloves).

 

Cronkite's retirement sticks with me largely because his final week on the air coincided with a big life event for me.  After living in Bayonne, New Jersey for two years I had moved into Manhattan earlier in the week.  Truth be told, it was an impulsive decision made after my brother got married at the beginning of February.  We both lived in Bayonne, so when he moved to another town I figured it was a good time to move into the "big city".  I put an ad in the Village Voice and ended up in a peculiar living situation with a family in their TriBeCa loft at 60 Lispenard St., a dreary alley-like street out of a Dickens novel, just south of Canal St.  It was me and the Sears family: artist-husband David, his Harvard educated stay-at-home wife Linda (a real chatterbox), their curly red-haired baby Jonah ... and a vicious white cat named Mouse.  

 

Lispenard-Street-between-Church-Street-540x746

 

I lived there for just three months when the landlord pressured us to move because he wanted to convert the building to commercial-use only. (He was probably the one behind our loft being burglarized a month after I moved in.)  Happily, I found a much better situation up in the West Village in a 2-bedroom apartment with another family of sorts - Gary and Jason and their doberman, Sabrina.  The Sears family moved as well, but Mouse was left behind after he jumped across the air shaft and sat on the windowsill of the neighboring building - and that's where he stayed. 

Lispenard_st_sign

After retiring Cronkite kept a low-keyed presence in the news arena but narrated the occasional documentary and served as a pundit regarding his views on the changing news media. (He memorably had a number of unflattering things to say about his replacement, Dan Rather, in a CNN interview and an article in The New Yorker, shortly before Rather's retirement in 2005).  Naturally, he penned a best-selling book, A Reporter's Life, in which he revisited some of the key historical moments that he was a part of as a reporter.  Cronkite lived to be 92 and died in the summer of 2009.

 

Walter_cronkite2

 

And that's the way it was ... on March 6, 1981.