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Saturday, August 3, 2013

#New York Idle by John von Daler

                 I was fourteen years old and, during the daytime, alone in #Manhattan. It was September, 1958. My father had to go to work from nine to five after being transferred from Oklahoma. My mother took off to Westchester and Connecticut to look at houses.
                What does a kid do all day? Life of Riley. Dad's company paid all the bills while we stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel.
                Breakfast? Room Service, of course. Continental Breakfast with a croissant, fresh orange juice, jam, coffee and the New York Times. Made me feel like I was at least sixteen.
                Then a walk with Mom first to the elevator (G'mornin' to my friend, the elevator guy) and then through the hidden city beneath Manhatten, the stands, the musicians, the fast food, and finally Grand Central Station before the face-lift, dark and mystical, full of black holes that lead to the rest of the world. While commuters flooded out of the trains, I put Mom on a local to Bronxville or New Canaan and waved goodby.
                Then the idea was to thread my way up a new stairway each time to street level, downtown? or uptown? into the light at any rate. I could do the Metropolitan Museum or check out the Public Library or look at all the weird stuff around Times Square. There was central park or the East River or Greenwich Village (to get lost in).
                After a few hours it was back to the Roosevelt and the highpoint of the day: lunch in the restaurant below street level. Nonchalant, I walk in, look for a seat, pull out a shady magazine with beautiful women in terrifyingly Gothic situations, and order a club sandwich and a large Pepsi with ice and a lemon. I eat and read and belch softly and then I flag down a waiter. It's paying time, the best moment of all. He comes with the check, nods familiarly, asks how I'm doing while I SIGN the check with my name and room number. Then I just get up and leave.
                Then I take a little tour of the building. I check out The Rib Room where they carve out huge pieces of beef from carts just like at Simpsons on the Strand in London. Everything is all right there. I take the elevator to the Roosevelt Grill to make certain Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians still are tooting that muffled music: like a huge harmonica blown through cotton under water. Sure enough, they're playing again tonight. I talk to several of the elevator guys and show them a few pictures of the innocent ladies in distress in my magazine. Then it's back to my room, feet up and maybe I fall asleep.
                The most important detail in all this is: AND EVERYBODY ELSE IS IN SCHOOL. In Oklahoma they are sitting at desks in the heat. In wherever I'm going to live later on (Norwalk) they are sweating it out, too. I'm here in New York without a duty in the world, without books, without my violin, and without teachers or parents for that matter.
                I spend the afternoons taking the tour around Manhattan or checking out Madison Square Garden or loitering along 42nd Street or watching the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall (they look bored up close, but really great from the third balcony). Mom and Dad get home at about five and then we eat somewhere, always out, always paid by somebody else. We see China Town, Little Italy, The Scandinavian streets, Broadway. We go to shows. We attend Whitey Ford Day at Yankee Stadium.
                You would think that all of this gaudy good fun must cost something. We all know that fate at some point moves in and settles the bill. No such unluck.
                When we finally move to Connecticut, my school adviser figures out that with all the good courses I have been taking in Oklahoma I should move up a grade in Connecticut. So I skip a year and a half of school. And never look back.
                God, I love New York!

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