Tag Archives: new york

Life List #43

If you check out my life list, you’ll see it’s a work (life) in-progress. This year, my goal is to cross five big things off my list. #43, Follow the Diaries, has been 93 years in the making. Here is the story.

In 2005, I was wandering through an antique store in Nyack, New York when I came cross three diaries …

One is from 1914, then 1921, and lastly, 1923. The diaries belonged to Raymond Enders of 27177 Washington Ave, Bronx, New York (and later of 254 East 184th Street). He was an employed by the Italian Discount & Trust Company, a bank, located at 399 Broadway, New York City. The New York Times announced the bank’s establishment in July of 1918. Further history on the bank can be found here and here.

When I opened the well-worn diaries, I found every page filled with tiny, black-inked handwritting. It’s cramped and sometimes hard to read, but every day is carefully accounted for, right down to the weather report.

I purchased the three diaries for $20, took them home and began to read. Raymond’s life was ordinary. He went to work, he went home, he sometimes went out on dates or to the theater or bowling. I never finished reading the diaries, but they’ve always sat on a shelf in my secretary desk waiting for me to open them.

This past November I began looking through them again. New details caught my eye. Buildings in Manhattan I never knew existed (and are no longer around today), walks through Central Park on the same date I had walked through it, 92 years later. The ghosts of Raymond’s footsteps mingling with my solid, present ones.

I began to wonder more about Raymond Enders and the New York in which he lived — so very different and yet similar to the one I inhabit today. Where did he come from? How did he get to where he was? Did he ever fall in love? Get married? Move out of New York? I also wondered about our shared city. New York is filled with beautiful old buildings, most of which managed to stand the test of time and prime real estate, but other brick and mortar structures weren’t so lucky. I began to Google some of the places Raymond wrote about and discovered a New York I never knew, one that only exists in books, the archives of the New York Times or in the memories of the city’s oldest residents.

Just as Raymond spent time documenting his life on paper, I spend mine typing words into the ether of the internet. Both methods of our documentation might eventually disintegrate, but for now, I want to breathe some new, virtual life into Raymond’s words. I want to see New York through his eyes and his footsteps.

Every two weeks (or one month, depending on how active he was), I’ll document two weeks (or a month) in the life of Raymond Enders, either by visiting specific locations he mentions in his diaries or researching the ones that no longer exist, and writing about them. I’m hoping some friends or New York experts might be able to assist me with filling in the blanks … or at least help me read his handwriting. Whatever happens, the journey will be fun and a life will be relived, as I live out my own.

Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

An ongoing series where I share what I’m watching, listening to, and reading. Here are this Monday’s picks:

Watch

As someone who loves to take pictures, and is a big fan of street photography, this story really touched me. It’s nothing short of amazing and is absolutely inspiring.

Listen

It felt appropriate to introduce this week’s Read pick with a song by the author. Especially this song.

Read

I must confess, it took me a while to get into the rhythm of this book. There’s something different about reading poets who turn to novel/non-fiction writing. Their language is laden with a beautiful density. It’s like the breath of their sentences is deeper than that of book writers because they typically have so much less space to work with. Their words are more carefully chosen and layered with meaning. Novelists have that, too, but not in the same capacity as poets. Patti Smith is a poet. Once I let her voice take over, I dove into the depths of words and language. “Just Kids” is about art, sacrifice, and most importantly, love. There were moments where I entirely identified with Smith’s thoughts, feelings and actions. Other moments, the more brutal ones, made me think about art and its place in my life: How much would I be willing to sacrifice for my passion? It also brought to mind this Carl Jung quote:

“The artist’s life cannot be otherwise than full of conflicts, for two forces are at war within him—on the one hand, the common longing for happiness, satisfaction and security in life, and on the other a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire. There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.”

There’s a ruthless passion in both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, but I wondered if Smith ever wanted or needed the force of security. She makes clear Robert Mapplethorpe wanted it, but, during the time period the book covers, I wasn’t so sure about her. They sacrificed themselves physically, mentally and emotionally for the “divine gift of creative fire” and, through their sacrifice, changed the world(s) of art/music/photography/poetry — all of this while they were still just kids.

P.S. It always excites me to read books that take place literally outside my front stoop. There’s inspiration in stepping in the invisible footprints of the world’s great adventurers. While reading this book, there were a few times I stopped, walked out my door and over to the Hotel Chelsea just to read about that very building while standing in the lobby. I drank sangria in El Quijote while Smith’s words took me back to what it was like there in the 1969/1970. New York is a place full of ghosts and magic. Luckily, there are poets like Patti Smith who lead the exploration and became cartographers to the generations of young New York artists who will follow their paths.

Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

Watch

So you want to write a novel …

This video encapsulates it all.

Favorite quote: ‎”It’s Science-Fiction crossed with Chick-Lit, crossed with Literary Fiction.”

Maybe I need to stop going to book parties …

Listen

I know what you’re thinking. This song is incredibly random. It’s coming at you from summer 2007. I remember laying  with my sister on narrow beds in a old world hotel in Rome, watching this video. It was 107 degrees outside. If we sat still, we could feel the central air-conditioning blowing into our room through a tiny little vent. Apart from BBC, the only channel we somewhat understood was MTV Italy. They played this song on a continuous loop. (Guys, remember when American MTV played music videos? Like, when it was the reason the station was created?) My sister loved the fact Italian MTV played back-to-back music videos. It was a novelty compared to the Real World, MTV reality show network she was used to. I was amused by the fact an Italian pop star recorded this song in Spanish and it was a hit in Italy, but not in Spain. After our afternoon of MTV-watching, we started hearing this song everywhere; while walking in the Trastevere, waiting on a two-hour long line for the Vatican tour, on the train to Florence, and in the airport as we boarded a plane (along with a shackled prisoner) to Sicily.

When we returned to the states, Alexandra and I would catch each other humming this song for months after our trip, a sheepish smile crossing our faces when we called the other out on it. This song was a musical souvenir that bonded us in a land where we could only communicate with each other, where words ended in vowels, MTV played music videos, and everyone hummed along.

Read

I’m starting Steve Martin’s latest book this week. I attended a reading and Q&A he did at Barnes & Noble (Union Square) University last week and it blew me away. His prose writing achieves greater heights with each book he writes. Even if he wasn’t Steve Martin (genius and master of pretty much every medium he chooses) I would still be in awe of writing and exquisite sentence structure. An Object of Beauty takes place in the New York art world of the 1990s through to today. I can’t wait to get lost in the word canvas Martin paints in this book.

P.S. If, like me, you’re on the Twitter, you should be participating in #FridayReads