Monday, May 30, 2016

Research Adventures

Posted by Susan B James on 10:17:00 PM with 1 comment
View from my window on East 116th St
I am in New York City, staying at an Air B and B in East Harlem.
To celebrate my 91-year old cousin Ansley's brand new Master's degree and to do some research for my book.
I am working on two separate novels, both of which have New York scenes. When I started to describe Kate's street and her apartment, I realized I was going on sights and sounds from the time I lived in New York city in the 1960's and 1970's.
Things change.
West 86th with it's sounds of Haitian drums is a memory. It is rich people territory now. Alphabet city in the East Village (Avenues A- D,) used to be a slum. Now it's a ritzy address. My cousins' 4-story brownstone on East 8th street between Avenues C and D which they bought in the 1960's for 24,000, recently sold as four separate units for 1 million dollars per floor.
My fifth floor walk-up on Cornelia Street in the West Village has gone condo.
Was there anywhere a bookkeeper/struggling author could still live in New York? Where? Were there any rent control buildings left in the city? I needed to find out.
Wonderful banister on West 45th
My cousin's graduation celebration gave me a great excuse to come and walk the city and see for myself.

I started by trying to find an affordable place to stay. I was lucky enough to find an AirBnB room in East Harlem in a building with an elevator. (My knees are not fond of 4th floor walk-ups.)
Maybe East Harlem is the answer. Not this building. My room is perfect and my hosts hospitable. But this building is too fancy for Kate.  However the black garbage bags piled up on the curb are just right as is the babble of Bangali at my local Dunkin Doughnuts. As I walk cross the street, the patter of rap from an open car window competes with the mariachi music floating out of the Mexican bodega on the corner.
From my window I hear the rumble of the overhead train,  the occasional siren, and the ever present swish of traffic.
I want Kate in a fourth floor walk-up. In a brownstone with a front stoop,  Maybe with a railing like the one I spotted last night on 45th street above Ninth Avenue. I could always transpose it to another building. All I have to do is find the address.

Tonight I went down to West 17th street to meet my cousin, And I got lost. My head made an arbitrary decision that they were staying on East 17th street. I thought that between Broadway and East 17th street, I might find Kate's perfect brownstone.
After I walked the 1.5 miles to East 17th street, grumbling all the way cause Goofle told me it would be a ten minute walk, I realized my mistake. Since I was now more than thirty-five minutes late, I decided to take a cab to the right address. I learned 17th Street, East or West is far too fancy for a struggling bookkeeper/writer to afford.

I did fine one beautiful place which I might use in another story. Love the Tudor detail. The paneling is smoke blue. To be continued,

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