Saturday, April 03, 2021


 My husband, 3 children and I were living on West 94th St. in NY City in 1962. Our apartment was on the 11th floor and, although this was a reputable address, it changed very quickly when you turned the corner. The first building on the right was The Whitehall and our bedroom window looked right into it. To say it was low down and tawdry is being kind. It was a mess! I was also in a Writer's Workshop at the time so when the assignment was to write a short story based on a “Portrait of a Neighborhood” this rolled off my pen.



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”.

All shades of humanity pass through the filth-infested hallways of this building just four doors from the respectability of West End Avenue.  Daily a handful of World War II vets wheel their chairs to the pavement. They 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 scantily dressed girls and the driver, a strutting and jewelry encrusted black man, pile out of the car.  “Big Boy, you sure can peddle them white gals”, says one of the vets and t
hey stand around cracking jokes until a police siren pierces the air. As if by osmosis, the group fades silently into the building and the street is deserted. 

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 will 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, corruption and poverty find a permanent home.



Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, that place would keep you from taking an walk around the neighborhood. Sounds terribly sad but scary.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

That was certainly a different slice of life, cheek by jowl with you as it were.

4:12 AM  

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