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Thursday, January 18, 2018

How My NYC Has Changed

When I was 20, and Moey and I had summer jobs downtown* in NYC, many things were rougher. Some were more regal. It was 1981. A dozen differences:
  1. The tabloids reported that robbers were ripping gold chains right off women's necks on the subways. Moey and I parked over at her grandfather’s house to catch the train from Oradell to Hoboken and then took a subway. Her good Pop also warned us about the necklace thefts. Fortunately, we/I have never witnessed such jewel thieving, but I often remember that warning. The subways feel really safe today.
  2. Times Square was a scary, seedy place with peep shows advertised all over--far from the near Disneyland it has turned into now. I love that it's welcoming and low-risk but it's too homogenized, with things you can find all over America, such as Cold Stone Creamery and Applebee's. Really? Tourists come all from all over the world to visit mall franchises?  Still, I like that it's an exciting destination for busloads of kids--and young lovers swinging their interlocked hands.
  3. The midtown Port Authority Bus Terminal was a shadow of its current cleaned-up self. Reports prevailed about handbags being stolen from the bathroom stalls, hands reaching in under the doors. Now the restrooms are nice and tidy, there’s no room under the stall door for a hand—and there are hooks to hang your bag. Also: A helpful attendant [not who offers a hand towel and lotion, as at some fancy hotels]. This woman points out available stalls, etc.
  4. We certainly did not have a Starbucks in the Port. Or a smoothie place or gleaming Duane Reade, which now even sells milk, cereal and other groceries for busy commuters. You were lucky to get a hotdog or bagel. However, I do think the same florist was there on the second level. The handsome young son who worked with his Dad is now the Dad's age, or close to it--his hair is salt and pepper and he is still looking over flowers and greens. He has grown older along with me. I do not see his Dad anymore and think of him when I walk by. He witnessed so much: love stories, bouquets for mistresses, I'm-sorry or anniversary roses bought by bus-bound husbands, philodendron plants headed for hospitals. Happy and sad flowers.**
  5. Bottled water was not a thing yet, or a fashion accessory.
  6. You needed coins to use public pay phones. The ones on the street in Times Square were half-size [not booths] and often smelled strongly of urine. 
  7. Chipwiches were new, and they were really good back then, not cookie-cutter processed. Fresh chocolate chip cookies sandwiched rich vanilla ice cream that was then rolled along the edge in a boatload of mini chocolate chips.
  8. A subway ride required a metal token in the turnstile.
  9. The New York Times was still over on 43rd Street, not in its new digs across from the Port.
  10. And people read #9 wholly in hand, not on their smartphones. If you wore white, the newsprint was a problem.
  11. The World Trade Center stood tall and proud. My first NYC job was nearby and our boss took his staff out to eat for a memorable lunch high in the sky, complete with mile-high sandwiches.
  12. We did not have the National Guard in the Port Authority to protect us, two brave people in camouflage uniforms near the foot of the main escalators day and night. While some things were darker back then, the peep shows and the pay phones, it turns out we were all more innocent, naive to the soul-shaking tragedy that could happen just 20 years after 1981. God save our city.
Until tomorrow. Good night from the #66 bus bound for Montclair. xo
I would love to know how your NYC has changed.

*My Mom died late that May, shortly after I started working. Moey's Mom, Muriel, had helped us apply for government jobs open to college students for the summer. Moey worked for the Department of Labor at 26 Federal Plaza and I worked in the Public Affairs Office for the Army Corps of Engineers. On her hospital deathbed, her pain relieved by morphine, my Mom was proud that I was working in NYC! She loved her hometown.
**I just found this on Instagram. So it must be Gus or John I see.

Saks Florist

Family Flower Shop est. 1972 Owned by brothers Gus & John Located in Port Authority Bus Terminal at 625 8th Ave, New York 212•736•3347


  1. Oh wow, Alice. I came to NYC for the first time in 1983 on a school field trip. We were DEFINITELY told not to wear necklaces because of the necklace-snatchers and not to put our bags on the floor of the bathrooms due to the purse-snatchers.

    1. Oh I didn’t realize how long the necklace thefts went on....I hope all is good....xo