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Doorman’s Doorman

Letter From Manhattan

Every picture tells a story, don’t it? – Stewart/Wood

May 12, 2004

Hope springs eternal in Manhattan, and among the season’s voluminous attributes is the chance that the spray you’re catching from the adjacent subway behemoth is merely pollen’s byproduct and not Chinese flu. Blossoms in Central Park cheer. Passing faces suggest optimism and reflect the fragile illusion that these are sustainable conditions, and not merely a buffer between angry cold and oppressive heat. Things seem to be winding down, or at least unwinding into something else. These disjointed missives are coming fewer and further between and sleeping on an air mattress has lost all romantic connotation. My two blue IKEA plates remind me of another approaching birthday.

The building owner across the hall knocks on Friday night. He’s involved in several business ventures and wants to know if I’d like to run a film school in Florida. His partner with the technical knowledge has backed out. He asks what I’m doing here and then tells me about his other investments; about getting sued and the various levels of progress-halting red tape in the city. He suggests setting me up with his girlfriend’s girlfriend, a beautiful brunette looking for a solid, professional guy. Perhaps a double date next week? He pauses for a minute and then repeats: “what are you doing here again?”

There’s a moment in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven where the myopic biographer-writer played by Saul Rubinek asks Clint how he knew who to shoot first after he’s single-handedly gunned down five men. Eastwood points the gun at Rubinek and says “all I can tell ya is who’s gonna be last.”

***

I’m becoming familiar with the doormen in my neighborhood. My own building doesn’t have one, but I frequently pass the guys manning the fancier joints to either side. Several have taken to shaking my hand and referring to me as “boss.” I’m enjoying the benefits of higher living without tips or member’s fees. I’m like George Jefferson on a free ride. There isn’t much to do if you’re a doorman, except get names straight, help with the occasional suitcase, and comment on the weather. I figure they enjoy a guy like me. I always smile and address them, and on occasion offer worthy banter. This might be my life’s calling: a doorman’s doorman.

There’s also an old folk’s home across the street, Upper West Side style- “The Atria”. Sometimes when I wake up late I’ll open my dark red curtains and see an ambulance pulled up to the curb, providing added dimension on having made it through another night. Ambulance driver seems another respectable profession, like Ving Rhames in Bringing Out The Dead. The gig would certainly supply constant perspective, though perhaps too much fucking perspective, as David St. Hubbins observes in Spinal Tap.

***

Kelly from the Fall pops into the picture, briefly, a few Sundays back. I’m having a slice lunch on Amsterdam when I get his urgent page. When I call and ask if he’s there he replies “who wants to know?” Shortly after, we’re trudging around the Lower East Side, catching up and discussing names for my mythical future bar. Decorum prevents me from listing any of his suggestions here.

He’s in town working a film shoot on Coney Island. We pass a large fleet of production trucks on Broadway, along with various cranes, cables, and makeup trailers. Kelly counts the vehicles and declares the project “big time”’ before deducing that it’s the latest Sydney Pollack epic. “I’m gonna sniff around,” he tells me, and he flips his clip-on shades. I prop my foot against a building and watch as he ducks under the yellow tape and strikes up a conversation with a sound man half a block down. Kelly does all the talking and the man looks puzzled and a bit nervous. He returns with his shades still lowered. “I know that guy,” he tells me.

We finish the day in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where he’s crashing at a buddy’s place in a large, industrial artist’s loft. “You like Jamaican food?” he asks, and before I can form a reply we’re eating at the place downstairs, an informal and just-opened joint brimming with almost too much authenticity. He’s been going there with some frequency over the past week, and they all know his name. I order the jerk chicken and dream of floss while Kelly chews endlessly on a cod fish ball and stares maniacally into the kitchen.

***

It looks as though I’ll be summering in Perth, Scotland. Most of the folks in my new neighborhood do the Hamptons, and I’m nothing if not a trend-bucker. I’m hoping that my newly acquired British passport will open some doors and that I’ll find a local pub sporting free pints on Dual Citizenship Wednesdays. At the very least it will be good to get a break from Manhattan’s sleepy, monotonous charms and spend some time in a real city. Like it says on the bumper sticker: Wherever You Go, There You Are.

2004 Rick Monaco All Rights

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