Tag Archives: ny

The Diaries: January 1914

In 2005, I came across three diaries belonging to Raymond Enders, a resident of New York City. In these diaries (from 1914, 1921, & 1923) he meticulously recorded his daily life. In 2011, I will retrace his steps and share some of the highlights.

January, 1914

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Saturday, January 3rd: Cloudy. Rain.

“To business. To Wanamaker’s …

Wanamaker’s was a department store located on Broadway between 9th, 10th streets and 4th avenue. The building has withstood the test of time and a fire that resulted in near ruin to the interior and the subway beneath it. Today, 770 Broadway itself doesn’t look much different, though the street itself is crammed end-to-end with buildings. Wanamaker’s is now home to my local Kmart. Pretty fancy exterior for a discount store.

——

Wednesday, January 21st

Cloudy in the Am. Then Clear & cold Pm. To office, then to courthouse. NY State supreme Court. Pt. 1 J. Davis. To Serve on Hans Schmidt Trial. Examined by Di– Att Whit–yan* & excused by council for Schmidt. Saw Schmidt…

Hans Schmidt was a priest who was affiliated with St. Joseph’s Church on W. 125th street. He confessed to killing Anna Aumuller, dismembering her body, and sinking it in the North River. The NY Times has the story.

* — used whenever I cannot make out the handwriting

—–

Saturday, January 24th: Rain. Mild

To office – to Home – to Harlem. Had dinner at Hotel Theresa with Billie…


The Hotel Theresa was built at 125th street and 7th avenue in 1913. First opened as an “apartment hotel,” it boasted 300 rooms and a style that the NY Times noted could look Islamic or Art Deco. Ironically, the “Wonder of Harlem,” was only open to white people until 1940. By 1941, it was the the place for African-American athletes, musicians, writers, and the likes of Malcolm X. (and even Fidel Castro), passed through the hotel.

—–

Sunday, January 25th: Clear. Cold.

To Criterion theatre. Show charming …

Located at 1514-16 Broadway, the Criterion was an entertainment complex opened by Oscar Hammerstein. From the Internet Broadway Database:

“In 1895, Oscar Hammerstein opened an entertainment complex for which one fifty-cent ticket admitted you to two main auditoriums (Lyric, Music Hall), two small theatres (Concert Hall, Roof Garden), an Oriental cafe, bowling, and billiards. On June 29, 1898, the debt-laden Olympia was auctioned. Charles Frohman leased the Lyric and renamed it the Criterion. In 1914, it showed movies as the Vitagraph, but soon returned to live theatre.”

On January 25th, the show Raymond would have seen is was a comedy called “Young Wisdom” by the playwright Rachel Crothers, who was one of the few female playwrights whose plays were running on Broadway. In her lifetime, she had 37 plays produced, most of which revolved around the themes of women, society and gender politics. All were comedies. The NY Times gave “Young Wisdom” a highly favorable review.

Despite the daily records of Raymond’s life, there are many details I’m missing. The general information either leads me in too many different directions or down a dead-end. Passing references to restaurants that have been lost with time. The addresses of buildings no longer in existence. I sense I’ll be left with many questions. I might never find out if Raymond gets married to one of the many women he consistently spends his evenings with or what becomes of him after 1923, but the journey is part of the fun.  I never knew about the Hotel Theresa in Harlem; or the fantastic entertainment complexes that populated the Times Square neighborhood. It was also a pleasant surprise to discover the existence of a prolific female playwright — one who seemed to be writing about what she wanted and was successful at it to boot. I’m learning a lot, but mostly I’m learning to be patient; to deal with not knowing every detail and being ok with that. It’s the happy accidents and little gems of old New York , a glimpse of what it once was, that thrill me the most.






Monday’s Watch, Listen, Read

Watch

I come from a dog-loving family. We’re all (more than a little) obsessed with our canines. Combine that with anything from the band OK Go (makers of one of my top five favorite videos) and you own a little slice of my heart. Behold:

Listen

‘We are stardust/we are golden”

I cannot intro my “Read” pick without first mentioning Joni Mitchell. In my mind, there’s a spiritual kinship between the two. I’m not able to imagine the life of one without hearing the haunting melody or twisting canyon-ed words of the other.

Read

“But there was the schoolgirl who used to be me.”

I first read Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem in ninth grade, when I had no idea what good writing actually was. I was at The Strand, killing time while waiting for someone or something, on a sunny, spring day. I remember following an older man around the store after seeing him pick up a book of Dorothy Parker’s poetry . I had read Parker in school and liked her work, so my 14-year-old self assumed this guy knew what he was doing when he entered a bookstore. He caught me following him shortly after. In an effort to hide myself, I grabbed a copy of a book on the nearest table and examined the back cover. The man called out to me, “Joan Didion. That’s a good one. Buy it now and you will appreciate it later.”

Reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem was my first time experiencing journalism beyond the ink-smudged pages of a newspaper. Didion’s writing startled and excited me. It was sharp and her tone in Slouching felt very specific to the 1960s. There was a brusqueness, or more so a matter-of-factness, to it that made me a little uneasy. Her essays transported me to places like Haight-Ashbury and introduced me to people such as Howard Hughes. Joan Didion wrote about what it was like to be young in New York and there I sat, young and in New York. I didn’t yet understand her feelings of a city growing old after living in it for eight years. I could not nor should I have understood it; it wasn’t my time to look back. My brain absorbed what I was reading, but couldn’t process it. Instead, I had enough foresight to store up words and dog ear pages for the moment my life and my experiences would one day catch up with these words.

I reread Slouching in college, confident I had grown up and could fully appreciate all it had to offer. From there, I moved on to The White Album, Play It As It Lays, Salvador, Political Fictions, Vintage Didion, Where I Was From, and The Year of Magical Thinking. But reading Didion’s nonfiction is like adjusting your eyes to the darkness, at first you can’t see anything, then slowly, shapes start to form and objects recognized. Finally, you can see everything in the moonlight almost as clearly as you can in the day.

I continue to reread these books every few years. As I do, more details become clear, there is more I understand and to which I relate. There are also more things that scare me and make me uneasy, because Didion tells the truth without the comforting veneer of metaphor. I suspect this is a pattern I will continue throughout my life. Rereading, understanding, relating. The very best books allow you to revisit them every few years and come away with new discoveries. An ongoing excavation. But with every reading, you still navigate those first chapters with your old map, tracing over surfaces, blowing away dust, until you begin the now familiar pattern of digging, deep and hard, into the ground; each time unearthing a new treasure to carry with you.

Reflection

I originally wrote this post on 9/11/09, but wanted to repost it again this year since it still sums up how I feel, where I was on that day, and what we should all remember.

Mirror, Mirror

This is a day where I look in the mirror and I don’t judge myself. I am happy just being alive.

Eight years ago I didn’t know how many of my extended family members and friends were still alive. They were trapped in in stairwells, on the streets of lower Manhattan, in college dorms surrounded by clouds of smoke, and, fortuitously, stuck with flat tires on bridges instead of delivering an order to Windows on the World, or had decided to take a meeting uptown instead of in their office in Tower 2, overslept and were still on the train enroute to work at Cantor Fitzgerald, and even in a chemo treatment instead of at their desk in Tower 1.

I was in Ithaca, NY safe in my college apartment, glued to the TV and trying frantically to get through to ANYONE on my cell phone. I was relaying news updates to a high school friend via instant messenger, since she was living in Morocco and they were censoring the news. By 5pm everyone we knew was accounted for, but many others were not so lucky.

Take a moment to look in your own mirror, to reflect on the life you’ve lived over the past eight years. Hug your family a little tighter, kiss your partner a little longer. Relish the simple “I Love You” as you sign off a call or say good-bye. Appreciate every minute of the day, because, as we learned in 2001, it can all change in an instant. la vita è bella.