Saturday, August 15, 2009

East side, west side, all around the town...

Well, actually, just the East Side, specifically the lower bits. I don't know why, but I suddenly had the urge to find this iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge. That one's from 1936, this one's from 1946. Also, if you've ever watched a movie that takes place in downtown NYC, you've probably seen it.

So I googled the streets and headed on down after work. It's an area of the city that I don't think I've ever set foot in before. It's on the very edge of Chinatown, and just beyond the trendy streets where all the hipster bars and clubs are. So in all actuality it's pretty bleak. There are housing projects, dilapidated buildings, empty lots, litter everywhere. It's not horrible now, but I'd hate to see what it looked like for real in decades past. This neighborhood was even noted in Jacob Riis's "How the Other Half Lives," a study of poverty among immigrants written in 1890, and one of the most depressing books I've ever read.

So yes, I took a bunch of photographs to compare and contrast and be all artsy-fartsy. I found a skate park, and a real alley! AN ALLEY! Contrary to popular belief, alleyways are scarce in New York City. If you're watching a movie or TV show in which the setting is NYC and the characters suddenly duck down an alley, chances are it's on a set, filmed in another city, or on location specifically in downtown Manhattan (i.e. Chinatown and below), where the streets and buildings are the oldest -- and therefore they had more space to build buildings back then, so they could leave gaps between them. Presto: alleys. You'd be hard pressed to find a stereotypical alley with fire escapes in midtown and upwards.

But anyway. What I wanted to also say was that my FIREMAN MOJO was workin' like a MOFO. In the space of like five minutes, I saw three fire trucks. One of them was Engine 8 from the firehouse on Varick. It was obviously on its way back to the house as the sirens weren't on and it wasn't careening down the street (and it was one of those rigs that needed a driver in the back). Then I saw Engine 10, followed shortly by Ladder 18. Both of these trucks were headed toward a Pathmark.

The firemen were doing their Friday evening grocery shopping.

This amused me because: 1) firemen shopping for groceries is strangely adorable and hot; and 2) next week's episode of "Rescue Me" will feature the crew shopping for groceries.

I was seized by an impulse quite unlike any other impulse that had seized me before. Across the street in the Pathmark parking lot were two firetrucks, with two potentially hot crews. SHALL I APPROACH? YES. YES, I SHALL. Unfortunately, the firefighters were all inside the store; but fortunately, the firefighters were all inside the store. I say this because I probably wouldn't have been able to function properly if they were around. However, I was not going to go inside to follow the firemen around as they shopped for food, because that would have just been creepy of me.

I went up to Ladder 18 and there was a lieutenant (at least I thought he was a lieutenant, he had the seniority and was wearing a blue shirt, and he looked like Peter Tolan, WTF) sitting in the cab reading a newspaper. So I got up the nerve to politely ask in a voice that was at least three octaves above normal if I could take some photos of the truck. The guy was so mellow and soft-spoken that it threw me off, but he said sure, go ahead, and I chirped a thank you and snapped away, trying to contain my excitement.

There was a pair of boots and bunker pants strapped to the front of the engine. I didn't ask who they belonged to, as I already figured they once belonged to someone the crew had lost. I took a photo and tried to be as respectful as possible.

Then I went over to the other truck, Engine 10. There was a gray-haired lieutenant and a senior firefighter (maybe a captain in casual gear?) with a salt-and-pepper mustache chatting by the cab, so I approached and twittered, "Hi, excuse me..."

The firefighter turned to me and said, "Yeah, babe, what's up?"

Note: I have fulfilled an unexpected Life Goal: to have a firefighter address me as "babe" in a casual greeting. I win over all of you.

So, yeah, I asked them if I could take a few photos of their truck. They were also completely fine with it ("Sure, do what you gotta do," said Salt-and-Pepper Mustache) and so I got to snapping. As soon as I was done, the crew came out of the store. MUST FLEE, FOR THEY WILL BE YOUNG AND HOT. There was a huge babyfaced firefighter getting into the driver's seat. Eeek! I doubled back around the truck, said thanks and bye to the Lt. and Salt-and-Pepper Mustache, and promptly ran into two young firefighters...pushing fully-loaded shopping carts. I was sure they were probies because the probies do all the humiliating grunt work, and they didn't seem to want to be pushing shopping carts. I let them go through the narrow passage between the curb and the truck before I made my escape. But shit yo, they was hot. One of them had a shaved head and the other one reminded me of Mike Lombardi, the guy who plays Mike the Probie on "Rescue Me," complete with metrosexual hair. My cackling: internalized.

Well, then. I fairly skipped back up Pike Street. When crossing over on E. Broadway, I passed a Chinese grocery store, backtracked, went inside and bought two bags of wasabi roasted peas and shrimp flavored chips. And thus my evening was complete.

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