Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We're In The Money

Photo by Yehudit Mam

Actually, no. We are not in the money. Like almost everyone we talk to these days, we are nowhere near the money. But the good news is that we are working a freelance gig in the Financial District. We are among the money!
A lot of people around here hate working in the Financial District. Well, I am loving it. It is funky!
I am working at a building on Broad Street, almost across from the NY Stock Exchange. Broad Street used to be a beautiful curved, wide street; that is, before the terrorists made everything around here into a crappy barricade. Still, it has a je ne sais quoi that transports me to the olden days. I can imagine the horse carriages and the cobblestoned bustle of old New York as it was learning to make money. There is a completely preposterous Hermés store amid the police checkpoints and the canine squad and the bad food joints like Au Bon Pain, Cosi and Pret a A Manger. And a big Tiffany's around the corner. Maybe, every day, when they finish robbing us blind, the wheelers and dealers go downstairs and get their honeys a diamond ring or themselves a silk tie. I don't see no one else raiding the shelves at Hermés.
I love this street with reams of tourists taking pictures of the stock exchange and the statue of George Washington across it. Not far from here is the Customs House where Herman Melville toiled, perhaps not knowing that soon thousands of embittered Bartlebys would populate this teeming neighborhood.
I had lunch with my friend Ildy at Fraunces Tavern, which is ancient, and has just reopened after being flooded by Sandy. It stinks of mold and the food is bad, but it hails from the 18th century. The narrow streets with archaic names like Stone and New and Ann are peppered with old landmark buildings among the steel behemoths. On New Street, there is a crummy barber shop where they also buy gold. In contrast to every other neighborhood in this city that has been prettified, gentrified and generified, here it is still ugly, which is wonderful.
And it is so crowded!  It's where the robber barons and the plebes meet. There are ridiculous fancy restaurants for the Masters of the Universe that seem to offer exclusively carnivore menus in very masculine decors, as befits the alpha males working above them. For the rest of us drones there is a lot of shitty food to be had, with nary a place to sit down, in the guise of endless Subway chains, horrible delis, nefarious Chinese dumps, revolting pizza places etc. However, I have been able to locate some decent food. Sophie's Cuban, a franchise of dependably greasy and yummy Cuban food is on forlorn New Street and it's cheap and plentiful. Today, I had a spectacular pho at Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches on Nassau St. Yesterday, I had a very decent Vietnamese sandwich at Baoguette. Tomorow I may try the Korean Taco place, which doesn't even have chairs. None of these joints goes to the trouble of decorating. They all look like dumps. Many of the fast food joints are tiny enough that drones are discouraged to eat out. You see armies of them brown bagging their lunches to their desks, like modern slaves. Like those men who manned the oars at the crack of whips on Viking ships.
Everything reminds you here of the haves and the have nots and nowhere in NY are they in closer proximity to each other. I just love how horrible it is.
If you walk north from the NYSE, you hit Nassau street, which is New York's version of every funky, graceless street that exists in every big city in the planet. Narrow, dirty, crammed with ugly, cheap clothes stores and fast food places.
The Bank of New York building on Broadway has a spectacular art deco mosaic lobby. It is breathtaking. The neoclassical building of the Chamber of Commerce looks like a beautiful, forgotten cake, dwarfed by ugly giants.
On top of it all, this area was pretty screwed by hurricane Sandy, so many businesses are closed, and there are many noisy trucks still draining water from basements. There is little sunshine in this narrow heart of New York. I am afraid my love affair with this part of town may not last long.

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