Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Road Well Travelled - Pt. 3 - "Do...Or Do Not. There Is No Try."

Zen breathing...Zen breathing....

I can feel my heart pounding as I make my way underneath the portico of my former building towards the front entrance. More memories come flooding back. The day I moved in; October 19, 1970. We were one of the first families to occupy the building, as they started having the top floor, the 33rd, move in first. We came in a week or so after, living on the 29th floor. I still remember the moving truck, Vermont Movers and Storage, a silver truck with red lettering. (We weren't moving from Vermont, so how they got that name is beyond me. Go figure.) Amazing how I can remember that after all these years and not remember what I had for lunch yesterday, or if I even had lunch. I remember the chaos in the main lobby, with different movers coming and going. The walls of the lobby were unfinished, still exposing their stone finish, and all over them the movers had written the names of families and their apartment numbers that were being moved in that day.

The main entrance to the lobby is locked by a magnetic security system, so I wonder how I am going to get in. As luck would prevail, there is a person coming out of the building, and they hold the door open for me. I don't recognize her. She is older, but not someone I even remotely remember from my days when I lived there. The lobby seems frozen in time to a degree, as it really hasn't changed. The faux wood paneling is still the same, the banks of mailboxes, and the four elevators that, like the NYC subway, have express and local service. I grab one of the express elevators that run directly from the lobby to the 18th floor, and then locally to every floor up to 33. I am alone in it, and press the button marked "29." Another deep breath as the door closes, a smooth movement upwards, and I am speeding towards the source of my anxiety. This is a new elevator, the old one finally replaced only about 4 years prior.

The computer announces my floor as the elevator car eases its upwards flight. It stops, the door opens, and I step out into the familiar; or the not so familiar. Was the hallway always this narrow? Maybe it was, but for some reason, it always seemed wider in my memory.

So I now have a choice: Move on, or get back into the elevator. Luke Skywalker faced his fears in the cave with the image of Darth Vader before him. I could use a lightsaber about now, but I'm sure Yoda would admonish me. I want to try to do this, to face it. Then again, Yoda's words are ringing in my ears; "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

I do. (Yeah, and I remember what happened the last time I said that!)

I make the left turn towards apartment 29B. I'm trying to remember the neighbors names. The Willams's, the Adelberg's, the Albert's (No, that's not right. The Albert's lived on 12.) The Bloom's. (My mom's best friend and mah jong partner was Mrs. Bloom.) The others, I just can't seem to recall. Suddenly, there it is:

I start laughing inside my head, really loudly. I can't believe what I am seeing in front of the door. A shopping cart! A folding, shopping cart, the kind that I would use as a kid when I would go shopping for my mom, or what she would use when she went shopping. They are as much a part of NYC as yellow cabs, and I have never seen one here in Rochester, ever. Now, when I was growing up, they were always silver, and didn't have front wheels, so this was a much sleeker version of the ones I used. Boy, if you wanted to plan to bring back some really great memories, you couldn't have picked a better device. Of course, we kids would use them to race around the hallways as well, much to mom's consternation.

I was tempted to ring the bell on the door, introduce myself, and ask to come in to see the old place, but common sense got the better of me. It probably would have been inappropriate anyway. I got a little closer, just touched the door, and turned around.

As I made my way back, I saw this on the wall near the stairwell:
It took me a second to realize what that plate was covering. That was the old fire alarm pull box that each floor had, and was a source of aggravation to the local fire station, as false alarms were plentiful way back then. You see, as a right of adolescent passage, you were goaded on by your friends to pull the fire alarm, then run away. this had the effect of having these very loud clanging bells going off in the hallway, with all the residents of said floor coming out of their apartments to see if there really was a fire. (Which did happen from time-to-time.) Once you performed this act of anti-social behavior, you were accepted into the fold as "one of the gang." God help you if your parents caught you.

I made my way back to the elevator, and decided that maybe my blog friends would like a picture of me on this grand adventure into the past.

Nyah, nyah...A little game of hide and seek.

While standing there, I am flooded with emotion, almost breaking down. My last memories of here were of moving my mom out, and as I mentioned before, of my father's death. I think though, that this was a catharsis of sorts. and as I called for the elevator, I left feeling better that I did come and let these bitter memories go.

I went back downstairs, exited the front of the building, and looking to my left, spotted the small rise on the side of the building that led to the main thoroughfare that looped all around the development. the hill was once populated by tall poplar trees that were beautiful to look at, but in the spring set my allergies off the chart. Fortunately, It would only last a week, and at that time, they were the only seasonal allergies I would get. Also set into this small hill are the graves of two parakeets, two hamsters, and a guinea pig. Of course, they had to be buried at night, as the private security officers took a dim view of grave diggers. Hey, it's not like we're the Mafia, you know!

I took off back towards my mom's building, and along the way, found a sign of hope.

To be continued....


BenefitScroungingScum said...

Thank you for sharing that journey with us all, it was so evocative. Lovely to see photos too, BG x

AnneDroid said...

Good stuff, again. Thanks for sharing this very personal story.

zoe said...

It's beautiful to have memories like that. Even sad ones. Another wonderful post.

Peter said...

I'm not sure if you ever watched or read "Return to Brideshead": your post is evoking exactly the same emotions about traveling back to that one magic place, holding so many memories.

Bina said...

It's amazing how well we can remember things from the past, especially when we are right there. Can't wait to read the rest.