Sunday, August 18, 2019 19:06

The Subway Grate

“…I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway…” Glen Campbell


I spent the summers of 1986, 1987 & 1988 in New York City being an intern for the now defunct Bear Stearns. I left NYC for the last time in 1988 meaning that it’s been almost 25 years since I’ve been there (and truth be told, I don’t feel the slightest desire or interest in returning).

What this means is that my memories of NYC remain extraordinarily pristine and reflect a NYC that no longer exists. The only NYC I know is the NYC most eloquently written about in “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (with perhaps a hint of “American Psycho”). From the previous paragraph, it might sound like I was miserable those three summers…but nothing could be further from the truth. I have some very vivid and powerful memories including:

• Being out front of the Plaza Hotel and watching Reggie Jackson run out and try to quickly hail a cab.
• Being probably 100 ft. from Bo Jackson’s second best outfield catch (after this one).
• Seeing Herbie Hancock & Stanley Jordan play Carnegie Hall, the Monkees play Jones Beach, Robin Williams live at the Met (which was his first cable special) & being with 800,000 people in Central Park for the concert honoring the reopening of the Statute of Liberty.
• Spending an evening in Harlem at the Apollo when it wasn’t cool or safe for someone like me to do so.
• Dinner at Windows on the World (which did not exist after 9/11).
• Running the Central Park Reservoir regularly (which was featured so prominently in Marathon Man) and being saved by a guardian angel from falling into an partially open manhole after one particularly debilitating run.

However, there is one really “minimalist” story that sticks in my head as much if not more than the others:

For part of the Summer of 1986, I stayed at the 92nd St. YMCA on the Upper East Side (where I later learned that Harry Connick Jr was also one of the residents…there weren’t a ton of people there and he might have been one of the guys I saw a lot in the hall). It was conveniently located just a relatively few blocks from the 86th St. Green Line Subway Station which I took on a frequent basis.


Now, somewhere the East Side of Lexington Avenue between 87th and 88th is the Subway Grate which is the focus of this blog post. Which grate is it? I have no idea. When I cast eyes on the approximate spot where this story takes place for the first time in over 25 years, almost nothing (besides the subway grates) look remotely familiar to me. I have only the slightest hint of familiarity that I’ve ever been in this area…yet, I can see this area in my mind with extreme clarity how this area was back in the late 80’s.

I remember walking north on the street…it was probably reasonably early and there weren’t many people out. A woman was walking ahead of me. She was wearing a long, flowing skirt and as she walked over the subway grate, a train passed by at a very high rate of speed. Before she could realize her skirt blew up way above her waist. She was wearing black panties.

She quickly pushed her skirt down and then looked around to see if anyone had seen what happened. I was maybe 30 feet behind her. She realize that I was likely the only person to witness what had happened. She gave me an embarrassed smile and I smiled back. Then, she went on her way and I went on my way.

Now had she not been wearing underwear, that might have been a better story…and I might not have waited all these years to tell it… :.) However, it’s not often that famous movie scenes get reenacted in my presence…and I got to see the PG-13 version in the flesh.


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