Gramercy Park

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Wanna feel that burn from a good work out? Well, join the “I live in a fifth floor walk up club, today and burn, baby, burn (insert Saturday Night Fever soundtrack reference).

The fog lifted subtly from the serene East River. A yellow boat steered elegantly against a backdrop of an industrialized, but bustling Brooklyn. The Chrysler Building was engulfed by an adorably fluffy cloud.

This spectacular show was witnessed from my bedroom window. I adored my bedroom and it’s view, which were on the 14th floor of a brick building on Manhattan’s East Side. Although, I didn’t have a doorman, gym or functioning laundry mat in my building, there was one amenity, which tickled my fancy the most.

An elevator building, oh boy. Ever since I was a lad living in a closet in Queens, I dreamt of being lifted up into the sky. More importantly, I strategically chose my location for one very important reason.

“I would like an everything bagel withe scallion cream cheese. Oh and a large coffee, please,” said I with my mouth watering. Throughout my years in New York, I always lived around the city’s best bagel shops. In my east side apartment, I lived dangerously close to Essa Bagel, one of the city’s most highly revered bagel shops.

One faithful morning, I finished my scrumptious bagel and headed toward Gramercy Park. Unexpectedly, I heard a classic New York accent garner attention from my eardrum. “Hi honey, question?” asked the voice. An elderly woman stood in all black. She was wheeling a granny cart. It’s the closest New Yorkers get to driving. Granny carts are ideal for loading up with groceries and laundry. Her cart appeared especially heavy.

“Can you help me take my cart up? I’ll give you ten dollars,” she said. I have always hated lifting anything heavy, but at that moment, I graduated to a “pushover” status and agreed to shlep the cart up to her apartment.

“Thanks dahling, my apartment is over there,” she said. The charming grandma lived in an enchanting apartment block in Gramercy, an affluent neighborhood in Manhattan’s east 20’s.

I entered her building’s lobby, which looked like every other New York walk-up building. “My apartment is on the sixth floor. Remember, drag, and don’t lift the cart up the stairs. I’ll wait down here,” she said. “Oh, the Karma Gods better serve me up something wonderful for this one,” said I, internally.

The voyage up commenced. Instantly, I hated having to drag that heavy cart up the stairs. Also, I wondered, how old people survived in a walk-up. “Are you okay up there? Remember drag, don’t lift,” said, our lovable senior citizen. Her New York accent intensifying. Even on a winter’s day, the sweat poured. Every set of stairs was even more daunting than the last.

Eventually, I reached the top. I was awaiting a medal for my courageous voyage up. Exhaust-idly, I walked down the staircase. I reached the lobby. “Hey you looked stress,” she commented. “I am fine, thanks,” I replied. “Here’s ten bucks, thanks so much dahling,” she said, after going through an archaeological dig in her purse.

I really wanted the ten dollars. My conscience took over. “Look, it’s fine. I have a full time job. Consider it a favor,” said I. “Buy yourself a coffee or something, she said. I still wanted the ten bucks, but I walked out. “No, it’s really okay. Lovely to meet you. Have a great day,” said I. “Thanks again,” she replied, while cracking her coconut exterior and revealing a sweet smile.

I stepped into the bitter winter cold, which was quite refreshing after that work out. Passing the beautifully guarded and very private, Gramercy Park, (the actual park, which the neighborhood derives it’s name from) I thought to myself, “gee, must be tough being old and living in a walk-up, glad I could help that nice old lady out.”

Months later, I traded my elevator building for a fifth floor walk-up in Harlem. After dragging that granny cart up sixth floors, I had proper training in maneuvering a walk-up. I do daydream of living in an elevator building again. These days, I don’t need that gym membership, since every step up to my apartment feels like the equivalent of running the New York marathon.

 

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