Brexit, the Economy, and World Peace Deliberations on a NoLIta Street Corner


Hearts in NoLita
Hearts in NoLita
When Manhattan, the world's ultimate canvas, and dear friends from the Old Continent come together, every minute counts. The anticipation and urgency to be on time accented my self-reproach for switching to the E train at Jamaica instead of riding the LIRR all the way to Penn Station. Who knew this line had so many local stops along Queens and as many in Manhattan?

Stressed, I surfaced from the Spring Street station at SoHo Square and headed in the wrong direction. After some censored comments to self, I was back on track, rushing to the point I was to meet Pam and Graham. By now I was running over half an hour late.

New York City, the great equalizer

Caught by another unsympathetic red light, only two short blocks from my destination, I was in no mood for an exchange with the two persons standing beside me and bending over to look at me.
And then a familiar voice, in that distinct, "from across the big pond" accent, rose above the traffic noise - and my exasperation.
"Eleni, that IS you!"
Yes, that was Pam standing beside me, also running late and rushing, with Graham, to our meeting point! Trying to accommodate an errand before our meet-up, they got on an uptown express train by mistake and ended up on the Upper West Side before they could turn around and head downtown again.
Manhattan, with its massive but overwhelming at times subway system, chaotic traffic, and late morning pedestrian congestion, is a great equalizer.
Where else in the world would legendary British punctuality and Mediterranean-inbred tardiness cancel each other out?

Audrey, meet Pam

The greetings and hugs completed, enter the dilemma. What do I show them that they haven't discovered on their own? After all, Pam and Graham could easily qualify for honorary New York residence status. They visit the city at least once a year and probably know Manhattan as well as any certified tour guide. Pam has captured stunning photos of city spots unknown to me; Graham knows at least as many vintage book and record stores on Bleeker Street as I do.
So, it's Audrey to the rescue; we'll start there and then improvise. Audrey of Mulberry, Tristan Eaton's mural on the wall of Caffe Roma at Mulberry and Broome, seems a natural companion for Pam's first photo. An icon of style and a stylish lady in the same frame, it's elementary!
Audrey of Mulberry NYC

Lamenting the loss of Little Italy

As we make our way down Mulberry Street, the core of what remains of Little Italy, I can't help but ruefully reminisce about this once larger and vibrant New York neighborhood. The authentic Italian color and vivacity is still present though stifled in space and muffled between the discount outlets that pop up with relentless frequency and unmerciful lack of regard for history and aesthetics.
Friends visiting NYC
We strike a conversation with an Italian restaurant owner who is as iconic as his establishment. No, he informs us, it isn't Chinatown that is gobbling up Little Italy; it is the transitioning profile of real estate investment in the area which will, in turn, push everyone out.
Tucking this sobering thought aside, we seek levity in the elements around us.
Graham obliges without undue pressure or an offer he can't refuse!
moments in Little Italy NY


Around Little Italy

Italian flavor in Little Italy NYC

The camera clicks away and, thus, we leisurely walk down Mulberry, turn on Hester, and come up Mott Street. There are constant reminders of the changing character of the neighborhood everywhere. I look at the layered bins of dried fish and Asian vegetables and spices and wonder if they'll have the same fate as Italian sauces and bakery goods that were once in abundant display around here.
bok choy sold in New York
Bok choy on a Mott Street counter.

Asian market dried fish

Asian market Mott Street NY
Dried fish, Asian vegetables, Dragon Fruit.

The woes of the world with an eye on fruit vendors and NY street fashion

On the corner of Mott and Broome we stop for a breather, to shift pace, and tackle even more sobering issues: Brexit, the value of the British currency, the future of the Eurozone, Trump, Hillary, the possibility of nuclear war, and the dubious negotiations for world peace. However, the only successful negotiation we can predict is taking place a few feet from us. Unaware of our concerns, a street vendor, with more sales pitch savvy than most world leaders, is about to lighten the load of her counter by one perfect pomegranate.  Her customer's yellow patent leather pumps catch our glance and put the situation in perspective. World problem resolution can wait; bleak thoughts have no place in a neighborhood of color, art, and extravagant display.
fruit vendor on Broome Street NYC
Fruit stand on Broome Street NYC
Sold!

SoHo street art and landmarks 

So off we go to explore the colorful murals of NoLIta and SoHo, anguished only by the number of artworks to see in our limited available time. The camera is back on duty, impatiently pausing between clicks each time one or more pedestrians intrude in the composition until it resigns to the reality that they are also part of the neighborhood's artistic mosaic. Yes, that component of the mural should not seem to come out of the subject's head, but this is not about adhering to the rules of photography. It is about celebrating and capturing the moment, the mood, the friendship, and the tradition.


The red door of historic Engine 55 Fire Station on Broome Street.

Back on Lafayette Street in search of another icon's traces

Time is ticking away and we will soon have to part, though not before Pam accomplishes her own side mission. So, on to Lafayette Street to find David Bowie's last residence.  The structure looks like an office building, not a residential complex. But that is typical of gentrified neighborhoods. I step aside and let Pam's little miracle camera have its turn.

store window NoLita

"All's well that ends well."

We say our goodbyes on the corner of Crosby and Spring and reaffirm our next get together. They are off to tick off another item on their exhaustive New York bucket list and I'm ready to tackle the long ride back to Long Island. I don't have to race the clock on this leg of the journey. I stroll back to SoHo Square, stopping to take in the views down Greene and Wooster Streets, watch people enjoying end-of-October mildness in outdoor restaurants and cafés, see a couple of street acts, and admire the mosaic at the Spring Street subway entrance wall.
Wooster Street SoHo
View from the corner of Spring and Wooster.
street performer SoHo
Spring Street SoHo in October
Spring Street subway station mural
The mosaic on the northbound entrance wall of the Spring Street subway station.

Spring Street SoHo station mosaic

Yes, all's well that ends well.
No, it was not David Bowie who said that, but another of Pam's favorites. One of unknown melody in voice but a harmonious way with verse.

Photos: October 25, 2017