The Naked City

“There are 8 million stories in the naked city; this has been one of them.”  As I sit at a prized window table in a hotel cafe on 34th St. and Broadway, I am reminded of that iconic line from days gone by, when we all gathered around the television in the living room  to watch “The Naked City”.  And I wonder: How many stories are unfolding on the blustery side of this window?

I sip my coffee and watch a (presumably) homeless man, carefully loading up his cart and ties down his valuables, following what appears to be a daily ritual. He seems to know where he is headed. Others seem to know him. Yet they each go their way and he prepares to go his. Still, I sip, waiting for the waiter to refill my cup and bring my corned beef hash and eggs.

I surmise that the man had taken shelter for the night beneath the scaffolding  – scaffolding that is so omnipresent these days in the city. I wonder where he will sleep once the scaffolding is removed and the bright, shiny facade of the hotel is again exposed to sunlight. My guess is that he will move on, to another well-scoped-out and protected space.  A young woman pauses to chat with the man. He gives her money. Are they related? Is he the neighborhood leader in the hierarchy of local street people? Is she in trouble? Is it an illicit transaction of some sort? Questions and possibilities pop into my head.

At that moment a thirty-something businessman swerves into view and ties his ‘wheels’ up against the scaffolding. His soft, leather briefcase is slung over his shoulder, as he rewraps a long scarf, before hurrying on to his destination. Traffic is at a standstill just a few feet away on either side of the mid-avenue green plaza, and gridlock is in full effect. Horns are beeping and brakes are screeching, taxis cutting through the intersection, as if traversing a well-charted minefield.  But hordes of ear-plugged urbanites are not distracted, as they swarm in and around each other, en route to somewhere else.

Breakfast is delivered and I get lost in animated conversation with my hubby. Seton Hall won last night! It should prove to be a great tournament, especially since the Pirates are still in it. I love excitement of The Big East Tournament, as each year the city is overtaken by basketball fans.

I look up again and notice that  the homeless man with the tied-up cart is gone. A girl, having just emerged from the subway, is deftly maneuvering through the crowd, to take advantage of the city bike program (obviously something she has done many times). She unlatches her rented bike and takes off – probably to another bike rack across town, were she will reverse the process.

People continue streaming in every direction at the crossroads outside my window, oblivious that I am watching; uncaring that I am sitting next to lovely vase with ornate and colorful designs, sipping my cup of java. Even the Happy Hour banner, billows in the strong breeze, goes unnoticed at this time of day, as folks hurriedly continue on their way.

As we re-enter the crowded city streets and head back to our hotel (ultimately our escape from Manhattan, returning to our quiet suburban existence) I consider this photo.  I captured only a brief slice of time but I wonder about the myriad of personal stories unfolding every day. I wonder when the street people will return to set up house for the night; and I wonder if the young businessman will stop for a Happy Hour martini before unlocking his bike for the journey home.

And I wonder how many million stories there actually are, in the “Naked City” — a sobering thought.

Photo 101:  Day Seventeen: Glass, Squared  “Incorporate glass in today’s image: a window, a mirror, a wine glass, sunglasses, or something else. It doesn’t matter what form the glass takes.”

One Comment on “The Naked City

  1. That was a great story, yet a very true story told through your eyes. And only people of our generation remember the naked city show. Loved that show loved this . Awesome


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