The Way We Were: New York
I came to New York in 1991 with little more than one suitcase and a vague plan for an extended visit. After many years of living 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 member of a highly adaptable species, these impressions were soon replaced in my mind by a sense of familiarity and eventually affection. As I walked up Madison Avenue late this afternoon, I was reminded of early 1990s New York.
I was hailed from the middle of the street by a well-dressed man in a white Lexus SUV. I answered his summons and gave him directions to JFK. 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 three 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 four leather jackets that I did not need or particularly like (and that, if I had ever brought them home, would have certainly resulted in hours of painful excoriation), I turned him politely down and completed my journey back to the office.
All for free. Except he needed $600 dollars for the women’s jacket.
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 I thought we’d seen the last of. Maybe it’s back, wakening from a gentle nap.
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