Kay Rothman's MapSites -
Putting Lab School Writing on the Map

23 St. and 2nd Ave.


It is peaceful, calm, quiet, and beautiful, as it always is around Gramercy Park. It is a place thicker with trees than most of the neighborhood, and a place where the clarity of sing-song bird chirps can sooth you so. It smells of trees, grass, flowers, and, I scrunch up my nose, fertilizer. The tiny birds make me jump with their jerky movements. They are like mice. Yes, I think, they are the mice of the bird world.

But, a mere block away, through the petite brownstones and beyond this little fantasy world, you find yourself on busy Third Avenue, teeming with lively people and dirt. It is so amazing how an atmosphere can change so drastically.

Walking out onto Third Avenue it is sunny, and there are no more canopies of trees. Here the streets are dirty, and it doesn’t smell nearly as nice, but I feel relaxed. This is not because it is pretty here, or the smell is a little bit nice here, or it is peaceful here, or is even relaxing here. It is just a comfortable place to be.

People wearing light jackets or sweatshirts walk down the street. They are walking their dogs who anxiously try to scuttle away, to smell something that catches their eye. Or some people are talking to friends, or possibly just enjoying the last day of the weekend watching the cars wiz by. Everyone is doing something. It makes me feel like I belong, because, as I can clearly see, everyone else belongs too, and I mean everyone.

A kind looking man and woman walk down the street wheeling a baby carriage. The woman sees me taking notes and smiles at me. “What kind of work are you doing?” She asks.

She does look like a kindly woman, and this is, for the most part, a friendly neighborhood, but either way this is the city, and you shouldn’t talk to strangers. “I’m taking notes on the city,” I reply quickly and quietly, halfway turning my back towards the woman, kind of making a signal that I cannot talk.

She smiles again, “Well, now you can write down that you met a woman who asked you about your work.”

I nod and cross the street, but I do not write her down in my notes.

If you are to take a brief look at my neighborhood it basically looks like any other part of Manhattan. Tall buildings, and big cars speeding by on the streets. There are lots of them too. The occasional bike rider on weekends, and graffiti on unkempt walls. The main stores: Delis, restaurants, diners, bagel stores, supermarkets, and pizza places. There are adds on walls, and payphones and bus stops on every block.

So my neighborhood has its good and its bad, but I love it all.

The story was posted on 2004-03-26