Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Block

We lived on a city block that wended its way beyond five story apartment buildings to the Grand Concourse and the Lewis Morris building, the 176th Street D subway station, on and on until it turned, hurried beyond an empty lot and in time returned to my building.  Perhaps my memory elongates the block, but I think it was an unusually long walk.

The thirteen story Lewis Morris building dwarfed all the other buildings. But it wasn’t only size that differed—a number of the apartments were rented by physicians and professionals. My friend Pat’s father owned two apartments—one for his office and adjoining that was the family apartment. The Lewis Morris building located at 175th Street was still connected to 176th Street because the streets didn’t end—just rolled into each other. No need to step off a curb, look both ways and cross over.
But what a difference in size and economics. My friend Ellen’s father was a dentist with an office and family apartment at the Lewis Morris. She had her own room. And her parents owned a car.

Wade Junior High School school yard faced the entrance to my apartment building. If you continued walking past my house and toward the Jerome Avenue elevated train station you passed the neighborhood butcher store—where you could buy freshly slaughtered chickens. I loved walking into the shop and creating patterns in the sawdust that covered the floor.

When I was old enough to walk down by myself I loved to go to the Chinese Laundry and pick up my father’s shirts. The owner didn’t speak English and handed out receipts written in Chinese. My father liked his shirts starched. Each shirt, after being starched, ironed,  folded around a shirt sized piece of cardboard, placed in a box, and then placed on a shelf with the other half of the receipt waited to be picked up.

Once I removed  the cardboard pieces from the shirts thinking my father wouldn’t notice. He noticed and wasn’t happy. My mother attempted to reinsert the cardboard to no avail. I promised to never remove the cardboard, never to unfold the shirts, never to check to see the stiffness of my father’s white shirt collars.

My father agreed to save every piece of cardboard, including the box. So I continued going to the Chinese laundry, picking up the long receipt, and occasionally staying to watch him iron.


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