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Posts Tagged ‘Grand Central Terminal’

Three Manhattan streets, three different worlds

In beauty, cities, culture, design, life, travel, urban life, US on November 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm

By Caitlin Kelly

Manhattan, an island 13.4 miles long and 2.3 miles at its widest, contains — as American poet Walt Whitman wrote in 1855 in another context — multitudes.

English: Grand Central terminal in New York, N...

English: Grand Central terminal in New York, NY Français : Vue extérieure nocturne de la gare Grand Central Terminal sur l’ile de Manhattan, à New-York (États Unis d’Amérique). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I visited three of them this week.

Midtown/49th Street:

Anchored by several iconic buildings — the New York Public Library, Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building — this is a neighborhood devoted to sober-suited commerce. GCT, opened Feb. 2 1913, is the commuters’ cathedral, thronged daily by thousands of workers streaming in on Metr0-North Railroad from the northern and eastern suburbs of Westchester, (including my husband, Jose), and Connecticut.

The station — which every tourist must see! — is a magnificent bit of Beaux Arts design, with enormous gleaming metal chandeliers, marble stairs and the famous central information booth topped with a clock.

Grand Central Terminal (Manhattan)

Grand Central Terminal (Manhattan) (Photo credit: Nouhailler)

The ceiling is a stunning peacock turquoise, studded with tiny lights and painted with gold constellations.

English: The ceiling of the Grand Central Term...

English: The ceiling of the Grand Central Terminal in New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time of year, it also contains an indoor holiday market, whose vendors are carefully vetted and chosen. I look forward to it every year, and have gotten (and received) terrific, budget-friendly gifts from them.

New Yorker Chrysler Building, oberer Gebäudete...

New Yorker Chrysler Building, oberer Gebäudeteil, vom östlichen Teil der 42. Straße aus gesehen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walk up Madison Avenue and it still feels like the 1940s, as you pass every possible iteration of elegant male garb: Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, J. Press, Mens Wearhouse, Pink shirts, Alden shoes.

I love Brooks Brothers, and have been shopping there since my early 20s when I’d fly in from Toronto and stock up on their cotton shirts. It has  the prettiest ladies’ room I’ve ever seen. Paul Stuart clothing is mostly for the wealthy/creative crowd — network television producers or the heads of ad agencies, but it is spectacular, with shoes like these men’s bitter chocolate suede loafers ($625) or these wool socks, in 10 terrific colors, for $44.50.

A picture of a display in Brooks Brothers

A picture of a display in Brooks Brothers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those few blocks have changed dramatically, not in outward appearance, but in their inhabitants — I once worked for the magazine in what was then the Newsweek building, a venerable magazine now dead. The headquarters of Conde Nast publishing were at 350 Madison when I first met editors there; now in their own building at 4 Times Square, they will move downtown to the newly-finished Freedom Tower, (built to replace the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11.)

This is a part of town where the powerful meet one another in their private clubs, these few blocks a tightly-knit world of wealth, power and restricted access.  Those open only to graduates of Yale, Princeton, Harvard and Cornell all lie within steps of each other.  The Harvard club spans an entire city block, north to south. Step inside its doors (if you dare!) and you’ll viscerally understand the meaning of entitlement.

But walk along West 44th. Street to marvel at the windows of the New York Yacht Club, which resemble the rear windows of a galleon.

Two landmarks face one another at 49th and Fifth Avenue — St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Saks Fifth Avenue. Saks’ shoe department even has its own zip code, and offers a dizzying array of high-priced footwear. One pair of gem-encrusted, six-inch stilettos by Louboutin were offered at $3,200. The people-watching is great, from Russian oligarchs picking up multiple bags-full to the bare-legged beauty in her leopard coat and Gucci heels.

Uptown/70th. Street

The Upper East Side is a sphere of unapologetic wealth, law firm partners who use “summer” as a verb, (on Nantucket, the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard or Rhode Island,) of gleaming black Escalades ferrying hedge funders south to Wall Street and their quiet blond children to private school and their size 2 mothers to yoga or a hair appointment.

The streets are quiet, clean, manicured, filled with elegant townhouses, including that of soon to be ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg, at 17 E. 79th.

My former school, The New York School of Interior Design, is on 70th. street, and Neil’s Coffee Shop, 50 years old, sits at the corner of 70th and Lex, a great place for a burger or a cup of coffee in a classic china cup.

20131114105242

I loved NYSID. Classes were small, mostly female and the rigor of studying interior design seriously was sobering indeed. We had to memorize every floor, wall and furniture style from ancient Egypt to 1900 for a class called Historical Styles. (We, of course, nicknamed it Hysterical Styles, as we struggled to remember the difference between a cassone and a bergere.)

I whiled away a sunny afternoon among the one-per-centers — the woman calling Fed Ex to price the cost of overnight shipping her workout gear from San Francisco, the bright blond in a black mink shawl with a too-tightly-stretched face, the father and son carrying lacrosse sticks into their $114,000 Mercedes SUV, the weary sigh of a woman waiting a second too long for the valet to bring around her car.

I stopped into Creel & Gow, which sells quite extraordinary objects — like this diorama of a walrus.

20131114151038

Love this description of the UES, from the blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York:

One of the things I like about the Upper East Side is that it remains so much itself. It’s not trying to be another neighborhood and it’s not trying to be cool. It’s filled with all kinds of tacky, expensive shops, and none of them are ironic. The rich people there, walking around in full-length furs, look like New Yorkers, and not like Europeans or Midwesterners trying to look like Europeans in New York.

There are also lots and lots of ancient white ladies toddling around, complaining about life, with their hands heavy with diamonds and their eyelids painted pink. They have great faces, and you can watch them go by from the window at Neil’s.

Essex Street

This is where it all began, where wave after wave of European immigrants landed in the narrow streets and crowded tenements of the Lower East Side.

Graffiti, Lower East Side, NYC

Graffiti, Lower East Side, NYC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, the LES is hipsterville, dotted with places like Babycakes, which sells vegan, gluten-free cupcakes, cookies and madeleines (made beneath the original pressed-tin ceiling) or candle-lit restaurant Dudley’s, where I perched at a curved marble-topped bar and enjoyed a tart cocktail made by a handsome red-haired bar-tender from small-town Ohio. There is even a small hotel here, The Blue Moon.

But come here for one of the city’s most moving recreations of urban life, the Tenement Museum, which powerfully explains the daily experience of the immigrants who lived here at the turn of the 19th. century.

Now that the temperature here has plummeted, the connective tissue between these disparate worlds — the status-agnostic subways and buses — is filling up with the homeless, of which New York has a shocking 50,000. They sit with their cardboard signs, pleading silently or asking out loud, apologizing or not.

In the eight years that billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg — who often weekended in the Caribbean — was in power, the number of homeless New Yorkers rose by 65 percent; 21,000 children slept in shelters in January 2013, a new and sorry record.

It has become, increasingly, a city divided.

A mid-town Manhattan afternoon (includes tourist tips!)

In behavior, books, business, cities, journalism, life, urban life, US, work on August 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

My new book “Malled” in the bookstore window! Yay!

If you’ve never been to New York, you probably think “Times Square! Empire State Building! Statue of Liberty!”

Or, possibly, my favorite retail landmarks, Barney’s and Saks, where the 1 percent decide whether or not to drop $12,000 on a handbag. (Yes, that was one price I saw at Barney’s.)

What I enjoy most about Manhattan is how much pleasure, on a good day, you can derive from a mere few blocks. Here’s a terrific daily list — and it’s a long one — of all the free stuff you can do here. It’s run by my super-talented friend Elizabeth who, naturellement, also sings in a band called The Hot Sardines, who often play at the Standard Hotel.

Here’s how I spent my Wednesday this week, a blessed respite from my glued-to-the-computer-alone-in-the-boring-suburbs daily routine:

11:00 a.m. I arrive at Grand Central Station (which you must visit because it’s so gorgeous since the renovation finished in 1998. It also has great shops, with everything from shoes to books to olive oil to cupcakes and Junior’s legendary cheesecake.) My train pulls in on the lower level. I settle in at the little cafe beside the clock for a small panini and a cappuccino.

11:30 a.m. I find out why my cellphone isn’t handling email at the Verizon store at 44th and Madison. (Remember that address if you need phone help.)

11:40 Check out H & M, a blur of $12 polyester. I snag a way sexy red stretch dress and pray, if I stop eating for a week and wear a lot of Spanx, it will look good. I pick up two patent leather bags for $8 each, for my trip to the Decatur Literary Festival next week. I’m speaking at 2:30 Sept. 2. Come visit!

noon Check out Zara. Their accessories are always interesting; I buy a lovely cream wool scarf/shawl with pale gray paisley print.

(Note: I’ve only covered two blocks of midtown, from 44th and Madison to 42d and Madison. Manhattan’s density can save you a lot of time.)

1:00 Arrive at the New York Times building at 8th and 41st. It’s a local landmark, designed by Renzo Piano, covered in glossy white metal bars. I love walking into the lobby beneath the huge metal Gothic letters that mimic the paper’s name. The old Times’ building, 229 West 43d., was old-school, with a tiny lobby in dark granite. The new one is enormous, airy, bright, with a central atrium filled with trees and grass. The guard calls Jose, my husband who works in the business section, and I get my day pass.

Tip: There are two restaurants in the building, on the main floor, in an area not known for good food. Try Schnippers’ for mac and cheese, burgers and fries.

1:20 We eat lunch in the 14th floor cafeteria, with its tomato red carpet, large round tables, Eames chairs and a balcony with benches where you can sneak a snooze. I see, as I always do there, several editors and writers I know, one just arrived from London. Even though I’m “only” freelance, it’s nice to be welcomed and know so many people.

2:30 I head to the business section and have a chat with several female friends who work at the paper. Another editor’s wife, a friend, happens to be visiting as well. Gabfest!

2:45 I pitch another idea to my editor there and he wants it. Score!

3:15 I visit Muji with K, my friend who used to live in Tokyo. She admires their tatami mats and I buy a gray cotton dress, perfect for fall with my new gray and white scarf. If you don’t know this Japanese retailer, check it out for everything from colored pencils to cushion covers to stockings.

4:00 With watermelon coolers in hand, we settle into one of the hundreds of dark green tables in Bryant Park. The park, once closed for many years, has become the most wonderful urban oasis. There’s a carousel ($2), great food, a reading room (!) lending books and magazines, chess players, fountains and many happy people enjoying it all.

6:00 I have two hours to kill before I meet Jose back at Grand Central to take our train home. I walk to the southern edge of the park, deciding whether or not to ride the carousel, when I see three tables covered with…board games. And two people playing a fast and ferocious game of Bananagrams, which I’ve never seen or played. “Can I join you?” I ask. The game is a blast, a faster-moving version of Scrabble. My two partners are quick and literate so we’re racing the clock to yell “Bananas!” to signal that we’ve won. Turns out that Sarah, wearing a Bryant Park polo shirt, is paid to play games all day with whoever shows up. She’ll be there until September 30. I’m so psyched to go back!

Tip: The hardest challenge for everyone in Manhattan is finding a clean, safe, attractive — free — place to pee. Bryant Park has one of the city’s nicest toilets, in the northeast corner, with marble counters and fresh flowers. Grand Central Station, at 42d and Park (two blocks further east), has three restrooms, two women-only, two on the lower floor.

6:55 Crossing Fifth Avenue, I see a steady stream of gleaming black Escalades, ferrying the wealthy Wall Street crowd north to their homes on the Upper East Side. While the rest of us hoof, subway, bus or cab it, this daily migration is a reminder of how economically divided the city really is.

Tip: The only reason we really, really, really hate tourists? They stand still in the middle of the sidewalk, stopping in front of the rest of us who are always in a big hurry. Or they walk really slowly, sometimes three or four abreast, blocking our way. Once you exit a building, pretend the sidewalk is moving and will, like the ones in airports, will throw you off if you don’t pay attention. Pay attention!

7:00 A quick tour of Sephora, seeking a birthday present for a younger friend, I buy a bar of Fresh Hesperides soap, which smells divine and will last for a month.

7:50 Walk past Posman Books, one of my favorite indie bookstores, which — to my deeply grateful astonishment — is displaying my book in the window. I’m thrilled, as some of the country’s top book, magazine and publishing editors and agents shop there. Chat briefly with an elegant older woman shopper who lives in Zurich, buying Aristophanes.

7:57 Buy popcorn and chocolate milk for dinner to eat on the train. Jose finds me at the platform and we head north.

Coming to New York? Go here!

In business, cities, culture, Style, travel, urban life, US on May 28, 2012 at 12:11 am
English: Interior of Oyster Bar Restaurant, in...

English: Interior of Oyster Bar Restaurant, in Grand Central Terminal, New York City, USA. Photographed by Daniel Case 2006-12-29 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve lived in New York since 1989, in a suburb just north of the city. Ironically, I often introduce my city-dwelling friends to places they’ve yet to discover there.

I spent the weekend in the city, borrowing a friend’s apartment while they are away.

It’s a holiday weekend here and the city is filled with tourists — maybe even some of you!

Here’s my short and highly personal list of things I think worth discovering, some well-known, others much less so; you’ll notice these are mostly adult-only.

Many are old-school, 100+ years old and still going strong.

Feel free to add your suggestions!

Bars

The Pegu Club: elegant, a long gorgeous wooden bar, delicious old-school cocktails, on Houston. (pronounced HOW-ston street.)

Temple Bar: been there forever, marked only by a small white lizard light in the wall. The best bar for a sexy first date, it’s tiny, dark, cosy, grown-up.

King Cole Bar: in the St. Regis Hotel, on Fifth Avenue. Do NOT arrive in jeans, hoodie, sneakers. Dress up and enjoy the fantastic mural by Maxfield Parrish behind the bar.

Old Town: I love this place. Opened in 1892, its wooden booths and super-steep staircase are a step back in time.

McSorley’s Ale House: Originally open only to men, this scruffy spot in the East Village has been around since 1854.

Fanelli’s: Cut glass doors, tiny tables, a back room, a mix of tourists, businessfolk, NYU students, this one’s been going since 1863.

The bar at Fanelli’s

Dublin House: Dive bar!

Restaurants

Brabant Brasserie: Why eat Belgian food in NYC? Because it’s delicious, well-served and well-priced. I ate there three times in three weeks after discovering it this year. The East 50s are a food desert, so this is a real find for the area.

Lucky Strike/Pastis/Schiller’s/Balthazar: All owned by the same man, and all sharing a stylish weathered charm. Settle in at the bar with a magazine and a cold beer and watch the beautiful people (at Balthazar and Pastis) in those oversized antiqued mirrors.

The Red Cat: One of my favorites. Welcoming, good food, a pretty room, an old-timer with charm.

Toloache: We love this place! I’ve been coming here since it opened and its chef not yet well-known. A two-level room with an enormous mural of tile, gorgeous cut-tin hanging lanterns, welcoming service and such great food. This is Mexican food at its delicate, small-portioned finest. Good before the theater; right at the corner of 50th. and Eighth Avenue. (pronounced Tolo-ah-chay.)

The Oyster Bar: In the bowels of Grand Central Station (see below,), sit beneath Guastavino’s curved tile ceiling and enjoy an oyster pan roast or fish stew. Check out the overhead lights with their fleets of boats — shown in the photo with this post. Born in Valencia, Spain, Guastavino invented this handsome form of curved ceilings, patented in the U.S. in 1885.

The Hungarian Pastry Shop: Fuel up here with hordes of Columbia University students with an espresso and strudel. Then cross the street and visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

La Grenouille: Oh, go on. It’s wickedly expensive, but this is one of the classic New York City experiences: quiet, slow, delicious. It’s set into a former townhouse and opened in 1962. Huge floral arrangements, waiters in waistcoats. The real deal.

Museums

The Tenement Museum: This is truly a don’t-miss, if you want to understand something of this city’s history, and how America came to be. Tenements were narrow apartment buildings with shared bathrooms where many working-class immigrants settled after arriving in New York, fresh off the boat from Europe. The museum re-creates the period look of three families’ homes. Moving, emotional, this place isn’t — like most museums — a celebration of wealth and power.

The Japan Society: I so love this place. The building has an interior garden and pond. Their current exhibition, of Japanese Art Deco, is fantastic — on until June 10. The block also holds the UN’s church, a stunning 1960s period piece right next door.

The Neue Galerie: I’m crazy for Secessionist art, which is what you’ll find here in an exquisite Beaux Arts mansion. Have a coffee or lunch in its lovely Cafe Sabarsky and read a newspaper tucked into one of the classic wooden reading rods. Heaven! (pronounced Noy-uh Galerie)

New-York Historical Society. Check out their current exhibition — on beer-making in the state, with samples at the end! — on until September 2. Here’s a review of it.

Stores

Bergdorf Goodman: Such gorgeous stuff. (The Men’s store is across the street) The Fifth floor is marginally more affordable. Great shoe department. Eat in the cafe and sit in one of their adorable balloon chairs with the ladies-who-lunch. Elegant, old-school, fantastic views.

Macy’s: Still has wooden escalators. This place is enormous and exhausting, but offers a tremendous selection. Its red star on every shopping bag is a tribute to R.H. Macy, the former 19th. century whaler who had a red star tattooed on his hand before going into the retail biz.

Who doesn’t need a pop-up ES Building and a few taxis?

J. Crew: Not a New York company, but well-loved by the classicists/preppies among us. Cardigans, ballet flats, great shirts and T-shirts in the softest of cottons. The flagship at 44th and Madison is worth a stop. Men and women’s clothing.

Chelsea Market: This converted biscuit factory at 15th. and 10th Avenue is now an afternoon’s worth of fun: fantastic food shops, bakeries, florists, chocolate, a bookstore, a flea market. Love this place!

Aedes de Venustas: If you love exotic and unusual fragrances, this is not to be missed. Christopher Street has lots of lovely shops and this one offers brands you’ve never heard of. (No idea how to pronouce this one!)

Grand Central Station: This glorious Beaux Arts building, from 1905, has a brilliant turquoise curved ceiling with the constellations painted on it in gold. It’s where commuter trains arrive from New York and Connecticut. Renovated in the 1990s, it now houses a terrific array of shops and an excellent food court downstairs with Italian, Mexican and Indian food, among others. Posman Books is a fantastic indie bookshop; Cursive offers lovely gifts and Papyrus has gorgeous stationery. Try the Junior’s cheesecake. Yum!

Paul Stuart: OMG. Stroll through, quietly humming “If I were a rich man”….Triple-ply cashmere in jewel colors, gorgeous jackets, shirts, shoes. I want it all. An affordable piece are their knotted silk cuff-links. Men’s mostly, some women’s.

Brooks Brothers: I’ve been shopping at B-squared since I used to smuggle their cotton shirts back into Canada. Classic, great quality, this is an old-school piece of New York. Nothing is wildly fashionable, but the look is elegant and understated. You can find almost anything you need here, from a great-looking umbrella with a bamboo handle to a dopp kit to a silk scarf or a polo shirt for your 8-year-old nephew. Men,women, kids.

Tiffany: Oh, all right. I never go there because the tourist crowds are insane. But the place is gorgeous and the upper floors offer more affordable options. A sterling Tiffany keyring, $125, is a pretty cool souvenir.

ABC Carpet and Home: Not cheap, but well worth a visit, if only to the main floor. Lots of lovely items, from candles to stationery to china.

Edith Machinist. Go! One of the city’s best vintage stores, on Rivington Street in Nolita. Tons of great shoes, boots and purses. I scored a silk Genny dress (from the 1980s) for $180 five years ago…That was a bloody fortune in my world, but I’ve gotten a ton of wear out of it. Love this place.

Fishs Eddy: So fun! Pick up some glassware or a platter decorated with New York designs. Cheap, great quality.

C. O. Bigelow Apothecary.  If you can’t find it here, you don’t want it. Founded in 1838, it offers lots of great fragrances, Roger & Gallet soaps, Marvis toothpaste, even lovely jewelry and headbands. But no photos allowed! The staff is a little ferocious, but go anyway.

Porto Rico Coffee & Tea. I never fail to leave PR without a pound of Earl Grey tea or a mug or some allsorts or a pound ($9.99) of freshly-ground cinnamon or pumpkin spice coffee. Huge burlap sacks overflow with coffee beans and enormous battered tea tins line the walls. Pick up an iced cappuccino 0r, as I did this weekend, a fab string bag for your goodies, in a rainbow of colors, for a big…$5. Best part? Two large benches outside to sit on and watch Bleecker street parade by. This place has been in biz for 105 years. I hope it lasts another 105 more!

Don’t miss this one!

Yaso. Most stores in pricy Soho come and go with lightning speed — this one has been here since the 1980s. Women’ clothing only, the style is European, edgy, minimal, in linen, wool, silk. Clothing in neutrals: gray, black, cream, brown, tan with some great jewelery and scarves. Be prepared to spend — you won’t find much less than $175-350+ but these are investment pieces you’ll wear and enjoy for years to come.

Global Table. Run! If you love beautiful glasses, dishes, trays, anything tabletop.

Here’s a list of 38 indie stores here, 13 of which are in Brooklyn, from RackedNY. The list is brand-new. I have to confess, I don’t think I’ve been to any of them…But I’m not a huge shopper, have very specific taste and am larger than a size 12, which probably means a lot of their stuff isn’t for me. But accessories, yes…

Living In A Target-Rich Environment, As The Times Square Car Bomb Reminds Us

In cities, Crime on May 2, 2010 at 8:55 am
Landsat 7 image of Manhattan on September 12, ...

Image via Wikipedia

I read the news last night at home, in the suburban apartment where I live — after spending the day in Manhattan.

Anyone who lives or works or plays, and many of us do all three, in Manhattan do so, since the attacks of 9/11, with the knowledge we are, certainly a delicious, tempting and obvious target for terrorism.

There are so many places a bomb blast would wreak tremendous havoc: Times Square, eerily emptied last night after a bomb scare; Grand Central Station, the commuter terminus for thousand of trains arriving daily from the northern suburbs of Connecticut and New York; Port Authority, and its bus commuters; Penn Station, the Amtrak hub and arrival point for commuters from Long Island.

Not to mention the trains themselves– as Spain discovered in March 2004 when terrorists attacked their trains (191 dead, 1841 injured) and the subways and buses within the city, as London learned on 8/8/2005.

According to Wikipedia:

New York City is distinguished from other cities in the United States by its significant use of public transportation. New York City has, by far, the highest rate of public transportation use of any American city, with 54.2% of workers commuting to work by this means in 2006.[4] About one in every three users of mass transit in the United States and two-thirds of the nation’s rail riders live in New York City or its suburbs.[5] New York is the only city in the United States where over half of all households do not own a car (Manhattan’s non-ownership is even higher – around 75%; nationally, the rate is 8%).[6]

… New York City also has the longest mean travel time for commuters (39 minutes) among major U.S. cities.[7 …Of all people who commute to work in New York City, 32% use the subway, 25% drive alone, 14% take the bus, 8% travel by commuter rail, 8% walk to work, 6% carpool, 1% use a taxi, 0.4% ride their bicycle to work, and 0.4% travel by ferry.[12] 54% of households in New York City do not own a car, and rely on public transportation.

I take the subway, of course, but don’t love knowing I am such a potential victim there; the bus is really, really slow and taxis expensive. Every day, my sweetie rides a commuter train (also a great target) into the city, then walks through many of these areas to reach his office. I worry every day.

He has been responsible and loving enough to make sure, God forbid anything does happen, I am financially protected in case of his death. Would we have taken these steps if we lived somewhere rural and bucolic — or Germany or Italy or Canada? I doubt few places are now free of terrorism or serious unrest.

I used to work at the Daily News, in a building that also houses the Associated Press — an absolutely essential element, still, of traditional, international mass news-gathering and dissemination — and a local television station.

I couldn’t decide if that made us a juicier target (attack those decadent lying reporters!) or whether it might spare us, since whoever attacked us would so badly want our shocked, outraged, 24/7 coverage.

Do people think like this in Salt Lake City or Tampa or Oakland or Seattle? Either one of the coastal Portlands?

We’ve discussed what we would do if it all happens again, which is why I know exactly where to find my passport and green card and a credit card with room on it for a fast airline purchase. That seems unlikely and unworkable, and lousy to leave my partner behind — although in his newspaper job they would need him.

We’ve talked about how or if one would flee this area…boat? canoe? kayak? car?…and figured it would all get apocalyptic and Mad-Maxish very, very quickly. A gun might well be necessary for self-protection. I see a nuclear power plant from my window, barely 10 miles north. Not a happy sight in these times.

Our county of one million people — including some of the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful, from David Rockefeller (who lives nearby and whose helicopter thuds over my balcony multiple times a day as he commutes to Manhattan) to Martha Stewart — has never practiced an evacuation plan. Too disruptive, they said.

Now, that’s intelligent planning.

I don’t live in a conscious pulse-quickening kind of fear. No one can walk around in that state for years.

But anyone who lives in or near Manhattan knows this constant white-noise sound in the back of our heads. Waiting for the next time.

A Taste Of Random Violence: Scary, Sudden, Unexpected

In behavior, cities on March 25, 2010 at 8:10 am
USA 2006 (October 4th) New York, New York City

GCT's interior, where it happened. Image by Paraflyer via Flickr

I picked my sweetie up last night at 7:00 p.m., coming off the commuter train from Manhattan.

Unusually, he said, “I have something I need to tell you. Let’s sit for a minute.”

He had been walking through Grand Central Station, (also called Grand Central Terminal) to catch the 6:20. GCT at rush hour, if you haven’t experienced it, is a very crowded place, people rushing, running, slipping across the weathered floors, skittering crazily down the steps to get to their train on time.

It’s become a lot worse in the past year because so many people, selfishly, stare into their Blackberries or Ipods or Itouches or phones while they walk — imperiously expecting you to see them coming and, as if they were royalty, step aside.

Tonight, my sweetie, a man of medium height wearing a pale winter jacket, barely brushed a stranger’s left sleeve as he walked past. The man, a Caucasian, middle-aged, casually dressed, not visibly drunk or high — recoiled with a hugely exaggerated motion. When my partner tried to politely move past, the man leaned into his path, then stepped in very, very close and, shouting at the top of his lungs, said: “Don’t push me!!!”

My partner, a Buddhist who has been in many tense news situations as a photographer, including a war zone, said calmly but firmly, “I didn’t push you.”

The man was, he said, so close he could have spat into his gaping maw as he shouted even louder, with scared bystanders watching: “Yes, you did!” Then ran away.

After a 40-minute ride, my partner was shaken and still deafened. The event was so quick, there was no time to call police — GCT is filled with them, and with uniformed soldiers with sidearms. Where were they?

I, too have been the victim of sudden, vicious verbal violence, both in public in New York, and when I worked retail here, which sped up my decision to quit that work.

In both instances, he and I could tell that our attackers were quite probably mentally ill,  Who knows the real source of his volcanic rage — his marriage ending? A terrible diagnosis? Being out of work for years?

As much as we feel compassion for people so tortured by their own demons, these encounters are truly terrifying and left us both shaken for a while afterward. Both of us were badly bullied by strangers when we were younger, which has left its own deep scars.

Whoever the next target is, I hope it’s not you.

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