July 31, 2005
Tudor City perches on a hill overlooking FDR Drive and the East River. Comprised of apartments, parks, shopping and restaurants, it’s often referred to as “The City within a City.” The nickname fits, Finn MacCool muses as he crosses the street and heads into one of several parks within Tudor City.
The pocket park in front of the building he calls home is alive with activity on this perfect summer day. A tall boy playing catch with another boy overreaches his mark with his throw -- kid's got a hell of an arm, Finn thinks to himself -- and the baseball flies over Finn's head. He leaps into the air to catch it just before it continues on it's trajectory straight into the water at the fountain.
Laughing, Finn sends the ball back to the boy closest to him, who's waving his arms in the air wildly. "Not a bad catcher, am I?" he calls as he tosses it.
"You wanna play, mister?" the tall boy calls back.
"I'd love to, kiddo, but I gotta get home. Got some reading to do. Maybe some other time."
Finn loves the The City, as he's learned to call it. He was beyond excited when he was transferred to the New York office of his management consulting firm, but his first couple of years in the city brought an unfamiliar feeling of claustrophobia into his life for the first time. He’s a Texas boy, and grew up knowing only wide-open spaces and distant horizons, where the whole of outdoors was his playground. The concrete canyons of Manhattan came as a bit of a shock. Tudor City with its green parks was a happy find. Central Park is great, but the little parks of Tudor City are at his doorstep. They bring a breath of fresh air in the truest sense.
That was not always the case, Finn knows. When Tudor City was originally built, its planners made sure that the buildings all turned their backs on the slaughterhouses in the area, lest wafting aromas offend the middle class residents they hoped to attract. Some area residents claim they can still detect lingering odors, but that’s hogwash. Ha. So to speak.
He wouldn’t want to live any place else. Oh, sure, his apartment building in Tudor City is an old pile, and like a lot of old folks, it can be cantankerous. But it’s also got barrels of charm and history out the wazoo, history that sometimes sneaks up on a guy and smacks him upside the head.
Take yesterday, for example. Just as his Sunday fell victim to the foibles of his crotchety old kitchen, a bit of history did just that.
It was a beautiful afternoon and Finn was looking forward to getting outdoors. He was planning to head over to Central Park and see if he could catch a pick-up game on one of the diamonds near Columbus Circle. But like many best-laid plans, they came to a screeching halt when he headed to the refrigerator to grab a bottle of juice to take with him. A puddle of water was creeping across the kitchen floor, adding a shine the linoleum hadn’t seen in quite a while.
“Oh, that’s great. Just fucking great.”
He turned off the water and fetched his toolbox from under the rubble littering the floor of the hall closet. When he opened the cabinet beneath the sink to see how bad it was, he saw that the cabinet floor supporting miscellaneous bottles of cleaning stuff was pretty much ruined. So much for the ballgame.
After he threw a few towels down to soak up the mess, he headed to the hardware store. The store is just a half a block away, another perk to living in Tudor City. He bought some wood to repair the cabinet floor, and while he was at it, he got a new elbow for the pipe, since obviously the plumber’s tape he’d tried to make do with the last time didn’t work.
In a matter of minutes, Finn was back, stretched out on the floor in front of the sink. When he pried the warped wood from the bottom of the cabinet with his trusty crowbar, instead of the mucky mess he’d expected to find, he got a delightful surprise. The leak had apparently not seeped through the cabinet floor, because the space beneath was dry as a bone. And resting there, nestled comfortably in decades of dust and a few unidentifiable droppings Finn chose not to think about, was a 1945 copy of Chronos Magazine. The cover photo was of Abie Cohen, a major league ball player back in the day, and an early resident of the very apartment Finn lived in now.
Finn knew that Cohen had lived in his condo when he bought the place. It had been one of the major selling points for him. Baseball and history, his two favorite things? What could be better? Abie Cohen was one of Finn's heroes, and he was one of America's heroes too. He was s fantastic catcher, sure, but it wasn't only that. He was a man of real courage.
Finn was thrilled to find the magazine, and set it aside to read later. Fixing the damn sink had taken all afternoon, and then he had a date with that cute redhead from IT, so he never got to it. Now, as he heads home from work, he can’t wait to read it. He quickens his step.
The delicious smell of brisket and cabbage drifting in the open window float by like a wave of cartoon aroma, tickling his nose awake and jerking it from the dream he’d been having. The rest of Finn quickly follows, and he realizes that he’s starving.
The living room has fallen into deep shadow. Huh. I must have dozed off, he thinks as he swings his legs from the couch and sits up, sending the Chronos magazine on his chest sliding to the floor.
He stands and heads for the kitchen, thinking as he shook the sleep off, that was one hell of a dream.
July 31, 1945
He emerged from the subway on 7th Avenue. The air of celebration that still lingered in Times Square -- though VE Day was several weeks ago -- brought a smile to his face as it always did. There were times when he thought he’d never make it home from Europe to enjoy it. He had much to celebrate.
“Hey, Pal, how you doin’?” The familiar whiskey-and-cigarettes voice rasped its daily welcome.
“Great, Joe. You?”
It’s like a scripted vignette. Every night, he stopped at the newsstand just outside the entrance to the subway, and grabbed a paper. And every night, he and Joe, the grozzled old guy who had been at this corner since forever, exchanged the same words.
That night, the script was a little different. The image of his own face on the cover of a magazine caught his eye immediately and he improvised.
“Hey, wow, Joe, look at that!” He picked up the magazine and flipped to the article about himself, feeling a little thrill of pleasure. He put it on top of his newspaper, and dug in his pocket for some coins to pay Joe.
Joe winked as plucked a dime from the hand holding the money. “Yup. Yer famous. Didn’t know I was dealing with such a hotshot. Magazine’s on the house. I been saving it for you, Pal. They went like hotcakes.”
“Gee, thanks, Joe. You’re a swell guy, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”
He clapped Joe on the back, then turned the corner at 45th Street and headed toward his apartment. He couldn't wait to read the article. There was also a piece about Tudor City, where he’d lived since he came to New York as a rookie to join the Dodgers a lifetime ago. That was a bonus.
He couldn’t wait to show Leah. She was going to be over the moon.
Concluded in Part 2
Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.