(South Street across from The Paris Cafe – Photos by Joe)
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart also be.”
Luke 12:34 –
Believe me, I don’t give away all of NYC’s secrets. Especially those associated with that block of small brick buildings on South St. between Beekman St. and Peck Slip. At one end are vacant fish market offices, and at the other is The Paris Café, established in 1873. In my eyes, the sadly dilapidated row of buildings, save The Paris, sits in its own little cloud within the boundaries of historic South Street Seaport.
The rundown row carries the truth not only of time, but of another age. Particularly in the seemingly sterile tourist district, where many of the pre-20th Century brick and mortar buildings have been brought back to old world splendor.
Before I ever even noticed a strange cloud or apparition on that block, I saw the buildings as windows to the past. Now I know them as “curtains and doors” to which ghostly images permeate, yet still think of them as windows to the past, ones that for certain do not hold their secrets very well.
I headed across Pier 17 at South Street Seaport to meet my lady friend(LF) and the pizza and Chinese delivery guys(aka num and nuts). On the wooden pier is a three story mall that has an open deck, which wraps nearly around the upper floor.
Behind me was a pesky white guy from Queens named Terrence. He had just met me that hot and humid evening, and wanted details on a ghostly neon light over one of the aforementioned buildings on South St.
I stopped abruptly and shook my head. “Dude!” I cried in a derogatory manner, though that’s how that word always rings in my head. I looked away for a second. This guy just won’t leave me alone. “Another time, I’ll catch up with you. I’m just not in the mood to play tour guide to the supernatural tonight.”
“Maybe it would be, um, it would be easier, now!” Terrence said, his face round with plump cheeks and expressive brown eyes. “The blue neon light has, um-has started to brighten.”
“Man, you’re from Queens and you’re white, you’re basically a tourist!” I cried and paused to read a text message on my cell. My friends were wondering what was holding me up. I glanced at the skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan before I took in Terrence’s face. It was pure white, no greasy sunblock residue–and the bastard didn’t sweat . . .
Cell in hand, I pointed my thumb at him. “Listen, dude! If you don’t stop following me, I’ll never help you!”
Terrence sighed with head and shoulders hunched. His frame had the shape of a bloated question mark. At over six feet and near three hundred pounds, he didn’t exude a hint of aggression or force of character.
“Okay,” he said, twisting his mouth and nose in a near quarter-circle. His large body heaved with sadness as he skulked off.
(Pier 17 at South Street Seaport)
I went into the seaport mall and met my friends. We had a few drinks on the outside third-floor deck. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out in NYC. I can grab a beer or a cup of Joe and kick back on a lounge chair, all while admiring the most famous East River crossings, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Upper Bay.
I had told my friends about Terrence and what he was looking for. After we left the mall and came to South Street, we all gazed up past Beekman at “the brick row of buildings” on the west side of the street.
“I can see the neon blue glow,” my LF said, wearing a black tank top and shorts. Num and nuts, who both wore bahama shorts and cotton-white button-down shirts, nodded like bobbleheads.
“Yeah, and the fat white guy–see him, that’s Terrence,” I said, pointing to where he stood between two parked cars. There was a touch of the blue glow atop his head, which was cocked in an odd manner, as if his neck was broken.
“Let’s go over and take a look,” my LF said.
I stiffened. Let everyone look, but I’m not giving away this secret.
We took up on the other side of the street from the row of buildings, in a parking area under the elevated FDR highway. Terrence came over and joined us with an enthused smile. “This guy thinks I’m a tour guy to the supernatural,” I said, just before I reluctantly introduced him to my friends.
He guffawed with a twinkle in his eyes. We wasted no time in admiring the blue neon light. It was “strongest” by the Fish Market Restaurant, which sat near the middle of the block.
(Fish Market Restaurant)
Num and nuts drifted into the street, which isn’t separated from the parking area by a sidewalk. All of a sudden, a tall tourist bus with Ontario plates towered directly over them! None of us had seen it coming. It would have been a scarier moment, had not the Canadian driver smirked and shook his head as if it was a routine occurrence. He pulled away without a sideways glance.
“Let’s get out of here,” I said.
“We’re missing something,” my LF said, to which everyone seemed to agree.
Except me! I didn’t say a word. I wasn’t giving this secret away even though I clearly saw what they were missing and knew if I pointed it out, it would be clear as day to them.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Thirty – June/July 2010