There are only 17 meatpacking plants remaining in the area of Manhattan Island south of 15th street and west of Hudson. In the 90’s, investors recognized the potential of the old warehouses, converting them into trendy clubs with names like Ceilo and Lotus, and overpriced boutiques that attracted models and foreign travels. Soon the bloodied aprons and rubber gloves began to fade, replaced with stiletto heals and Louis Vuitton bags worn by hipsters and trendsetters who stand in long lines and pay $15 for a drink.
Only a few hours after the clubs close and the cabs have vanished from the cobblestone streets, the sun rises. As the morning yawns and the sun stretches its golden limbs, the last remaining figures of the forgotten trade make exchanges from the shipping docks of the now fabled warehouses. They are the lone cowboys from a legendary time who were firmly taken by the arm and ushered along, as moneymaking machines moved in.
Marcelleria, where I work, is one machine. In most languages, the name translates to butcher. It was originally a meatpacking plant, then the owners of the restaurant gutted the place, leaving only the hooks and oversized scale. Despite it’s slightly morbid history, I find the place cozy and welcoming.
The staff of waiters are all Albanian men who immigrated to the U.S. between ’97-and 2000. This was a time period in which the once communist party went through an intense period of anarchy and rioting after the economy, which was built upon a network of pyramid schemes, collapsed. Eventually the UN got involved, a series of short-lived socialists governments established a semblance of order, and finally democracy prevailed (we’ll not really, but hey, the looting stopped).
I haven’t met any other Albanians, so I can’t tell if this is a cultural trait, but they are constantly serving (which is of course appropriate considering it’s their job). But, when I sit down to eat diner with them at the end of the night, they are always asking me what I need and immediately get it for me. If I ever try to take a dirty plate of theirs they jump up and grab it from my hands. It’s amazing, as soon as one person has gone to get me a glass of water someone else is approaching me to see if I need any bread.
After work I planned to meet Sara, my roommate, and her friend Courtney, at Lotus, the ultra-trendy club I mentioned earlier. I got off at 11:30, changed into jeans and boots, and walked up the block to join the line that had already formed. Thankfully I was on the guest list. I’m not so assimilated to New York that I’ll pay $20 to get into to a club where the drinks cost $15. There were three levels inside. The basement was a packed dance floor, the main level was a restaurant with a disco ball, and the upstairs was divided into private sections. I made small chat while I waited for the girls to be delivered to the front door. Things were going fine, I was even having fun. Then my phone rang. They had arrived but there was some issue. I took the stairs down, got a bracelet at the front and went out the side exit.
“What’s goin on?”
“Oh, we can’t get in and Courtney’s really go to pee.”
I turned to the closest bouncer and told him that these were my roommates and that they were here for the birthday party. Apparently I said something wrong because this line sent the man into a fit of rude comments. Somewhere there was a misunderstanding. I tried to figure out the problem by politely asking questions, only to be refuted and accused of using my smile and charm to try and get my friends in. “Eh…?” I had no idea how to respond. He wouldn’t look me in the eye, only just told me to go tell it to my “mom, dad, boyfriend, and sister.”
Well… we left. I said goodbye to the group upstairs and hailed a cab.
Still fuming, the phone began to ring, interrupting our venting. “Is that yours?” Sara asked me.
I looked down and there flashed the mobile. “Hello? I don’t know who this is, but I just found this phone in a cab,” I answered.
“Yeah, it’s mine. I left it.”
“Oh, ok. Where are you?”
“Were at Penn Station. Can you have the cab driver come here? I’ll pay for the fair.”
We made plans to drive the lost item to her location, a half-hour the opposite direction of where we were going. Only after five minutes Courtney started feeling sick next to us. “Oh man, I don’t feel good. Can you unroll the window?”
Suddenly it hit her. The chicken she digested earlier in the day didn’t agree with her stomach. I handed my extra bag over, which was unfortunately porous, and we redirected our cab driver to our apartment. Thus, went our night. A lovely string of events that was thankfully only temporary.
The next morning we had pancakes with blueberries. Pancakes always make everything better.
I’m heading down to Trader Joe’s today to get some groceries. Commuting 45 minutes just to buy some “cheap” goods. They’re still more expensive than any store in Columbia, the lines take 30 minutes to get through, and the selection isn’t very expansive, but will save me 20 or so buck in the end.
I’ve decided to check out Greenwich village too. It’s the section of town that’s famous for artisans and writers. Back in the 1950’s Englishman would visit a few pubs cause they reminded them of the one’s from home. Soon they attracted others, by the 60’s the beatnik movement in New York blossomed in this area of town.
These days the property is over-priced, no starving artist can affort to reside in any of the million dollar studios. It remains a beloved spot though, despite how commercialized it’s become. It’s also close to NYU, which it certainly benefits from.
Here’s a link if you’re curious….
I’ve got an idea I want to try out… I’m asking all you stalkers, oh, I mean readers :) to pick a spot that you’d like me to visit and on my time off I’ll check it out, blog about the experience, and include photos.
I have nights off on Tuesday, and Wednesday, Thursday afternoon, Friday till 4 and Saturday (day) and Sunday open…
This is a fun way for me to see other parts of the city… and a great way for me to stay in contact with everyone.
Much love, blessings, hugs, and kisses to you all….
It’s been twenty days. Twenty days in this city. I originally planned on writing each day; of course I’ve failed this goal. Realistically, it would be impossible anyway. I write pages at a time when I do sit down with my computer. I often marvel at people who are able to write short posts. Sometimes I consider breaking my blogs into sections, like meals, one for breakfast lunch and dinner. It would be a bit odd though, having three blogs a day, just to avoiding gorging the reader. Instead, I’ve come to terms with scrawling thoughts…
The roads glistened from the fallen mist, and the city lights reflected off the streets like freshly polished dressed shoes. I’ve come to enjoy my commute home. It allows me the time to relax after work and lose myself in the passengers beside me on the train. One woman kept her eyes closed the whole way to her stop. It must have been 50 blocks. It amazed me that she was able to shut it all out for so long. There’ve been times I’ve attempted to, but I am always drawn to the different faces. Hers was a deep caramel color. She had soft eyebrows that arched like seagull wings high above her closed eyelids. I tried to memorize this face, realizing that I would most likely never see it again. It’s a habit I’ve taken to. Embedding people’s images into my mind. Storing them away for no specific purpose other than to recall them occasionally.
Yesterday, after my first day at work, I met a man while waiting for the bus. It was 1 a.m., too late for me to be greeting strangers, but I’ve failed to forget my Midwestern manners. I’d been waiting for close to ten minutes when I finally relented and sat down on the bench to rest my feet. It was the coldest night I’ve had in New York so far. There were taxies passing by every few minutes and expensive cars–Porsches and jags, waiting at the stoplight. We were the only two people who were still willing to take public transportation at that hour.
“Do you live around here?” I asked.
“Me, no,” he said. “You?”
“No. But, I was just wondering if it was like this every night.”
Despite it being late, it was busy. Girls in leather pumps and black tights crossed the street, tightly squeezing the arms of their boyfriends.
“Yeah. It’s pretty crazy. It’s cold, you know. So I come here to relax.”
“What? That’s doesn’t make much sense to me,” I said.
“I’m a bouncer at this club over there on 13th. I’ve gotta stand outside all night anyway. I’ll be out till 5 a.m. So I just come here to unwind for a while.”
“So how long you been here?”
“I saw you. I thought you were pretty, but I didn’t want to say anything cause I didn’t want you to think I was some late night crazy.”
“I wouldn’t think you were crazy for calling me pretty. Sitting at a bus stop in the cold though…”
“You ain’t got no gloves.”
Before I can finish my sentence he starts to take his own off. “Here. Take these. A gift from me.”
“No. No. I’ll be fine. I’ll keep my hands in my pocket.”
“No,” he said. “Here.”
“Thank you,” I said and accepted his gloves “That’s very unlike a New Yorker.”
“I know. Don’t go being nice to everyone,” he said.
“No. I usually try to be as heinous as possible.”
“There’s your bus.”
I stood to leave.
“I hope I see you again. What’s your name?”
“Maggie. What’s yours?”
“Man. Hey, our names start with the same letter.”
“Yeah, they do.” I laughed, and then turned to climb on the bus.
He waved as the bus drove away.
I work on 13th street too. Saturday was my first night at a restaurant called Marcelleria’s. Hosting brings in 12 bucks an hour. The tips for taking people’s coats amounted to $100 that night though. I may be sacrificing my weekend , but the work is an unconventional form of entertainment. A woman came in that looked like Melissa Ethridge. She had a straightforward look. Confident, like a man’s. When I used the restroom later in the evening I saw her come out of the one marked “Gentleman’s”. I wonder if it was Melissa Ethridge.
After all the customers are done eating, the server’s, busers, runners, manager, and owner–who all happen to be Albanian, get together and eat dinner. There’s a huge bowl of pasta and a platter of chicken passed around. I sat, the only female, reveling in my first bite of meat in a few weeks. I could hardly make sense of their conversation, their accents were so thick, but it didn’t matter. It was a group meal. I smiled the whole time I ate. Content in the familial activity.
This morning I went to church on Park Avenue. I never imagined I would ever write a line like that. Anyway, it was pretty cool. The pastor made a smart sermon, and the people seemed down-to-earth…
I was wondering on the walk home, what would it be like if you didn’t meet one of the people you’re close to. Think back about those experiences, the connections made through their relationship, the good times gone and the bad times never lived… can you imagine?