I came to New York in 1991. Arriving with a only one suitcase and a vague plan for an extended visit. After my many years in Japan, New York was a bit of a culture shock. The subways did not have schedules (How could this be?), many of the public phones didn’t work, the streets seemed way too wide, all the electronics people used seemed very antiquated… As a highly adaptable species these impressions were soon replaced by familiarity and affection. As I walked up Madison Avenue late this afternoon I was reminded of this early 90′s New York.
Hailed from the middle of the street by a well dressed man in a white Lexus SUV. I answered his summons and gave him the directions to JFK he was asking for. Speaking to me half in Italian, half in English, he explained he worked for Armani and gave me his business card. He then proceeded to explain as best he could that he was my friend and that he had a fabulous deal for me (presumably because I was his friend). For tax reasons he had to give away 3 men’s leather jackets—a quick application of butane fire from his lighter demonstrated they were genuine—if only I would buy one women’s leather jacket that he also had to get rid of. He was certain my wife would love it. He had her pegged. All for free. Except he needed $600 dollars for the women’s jacket. He showed me his passport and matched it to his smooth Armani business card (with only his first name on it). Not having $600 in cash burning a hole in my pocket to buy 4 leather jackets that I did not like or need (and which, if I ever had ever brought them home, would have resulted in hours of painful excoriation), I turned him politely down and completed my journey back to the office.
As I came back out of the office to go home an hour or so later the police were hitching up a white Lexus SUV suspiciously similar to the one I had just seen piloted by a dapper Italian stranger/friend. All this brought back a tinge of nostalgia for the days of a rougher-round-the-edges New York that we thought we’d seen the last of many years ago. Well, maybe it’s back, wakening from a 15 year nap.