Monday, July 25, 2016

PORTRAIT of a NEIGHBORHOOD… 1962


In 1962 my husband, our three children and I were living on West End Avenue in NY City. Our 12th floor bedroom windows overlooked a seedy apartment building ... The Whitehall. It was just around the corner from where we lived and had a lot to do with our decision to move. A few years later I joined a Writer's Workshop and this was my memory of that time.

                                                  The Whitehall, 1962

To me, “off-Broadway” is not a theater production but a massive, out-dated hotel for transients on New York City’s upper West side. Hanging from the marquee is a grimy cloth banner that proclaims this to be “THE WHITEHALL”.

Although it's just four doors from the respectability of West End Avenue all shades of humanity pass through the filth-infested hallways of this building. Three slovenly dressed men in wheelchairs sit deceptively still in the sunlight. Then a pedestrian walks by and they spiel off obscenities from mouths twisted with hatred.

A maroon convertible purrs to a stop in front of the hotel. Five girls and the driver, a handsome black man decked out in pink, pile out of the car and stand around cracking jokes with the men. “Big Boy, you sure can peddle them white gals”, says one of them.

Suddenly a police siren pierces the air. The group fades silently into the building and the street is still. Only the men remain, their faces closed as they watch the squad car approach. The police rush into the building and the men place bets on who they’ll pick up this time. They all lose.

It’s just a family quarrel and the police are still breaking it up as they drag the couple to the squad car. The man holds his arm, blood seeping through the dirty towel that he’s twisted around it. “She used a bottle on him”, say the men knowingly.

And so it goes at THE WHITEHALL, the transient hotel where only vice and corruption find a permanent home.


6 Comments:

Blogger Marie Smith said...

Great description of a bad scene. It was good you moved out of there. You saw the other side of life for sure.

3:28 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Has it since been gentrified if it even still exists?

4:09 AM  
OpenID schmidleysscribblins.com said...

A sad comment on the downtrodden among us. Many of these people were probably mentally ill.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, that is a really visual picture you painted with your words. You took me right there. It is a shame that people really do live like that on a daily basis. Most of us don't know how lucky we are.

11:04 AM  
Blogger joared said...

What a colorful account! Can't possibly imagine why you'd have wanted to move with so much excitement! *grin*

1:05 AM  
Blogger possum said...

Wow, what entertainment at your fingertips! Yikes!
Another reason why I hate cities.
Give me the peaceful country life!

4:26 AM  

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