It is quite astonishing that nobody has before been struck by what I have in my eye. People go round all the while writing about Old Greenwich Village, the harbour, the Ghetto, the walk uptown. Coney Island, the Great White Way, the subway ride, Riverside Drive, the spectacle of Fifth Avenue, the Night Court, the “lungs” of the metropolis, the “cliff dwellers,” “faith, hope, and charity” on University Heights—a cathedral, a university, and a hospital, “lobster palace society,” the “grand canons” of lower Manhattan, and about every other part of and thing in New York except this most entertaining section which I am about to discuss.
Now, I never lived on Mars——
You know “Sunday stories” in the newspapers are continually bringing a gentleman resident on Mars to marvel, with his fresh vision, at the wonders of this world.
As I say, I never lived on Mars, but, what amounts to the same thing in this case, perhaps, I did live all of my New York life, up to a short time ago, below Forty-second Street. I gathered from reading and conversation that there were districts of the city above this where people dwelt and went about their daily affairs, just, I supposed, as fish do at the bottom of the ocean, and beasts in the jungle. But I knew that I could not breathe at the bottom of the ocean, nor be comfortable in the jungle.
However, it’s this way. The person to whom I am married declared that she could not live below Forty-second Street; said that that was not done at all, nobody “lived” below Forty-second Street. So the matter was settled. I moved “uptown.” Of course, by stealth I continue to visit the neighbourhood of Gramercy Park, as a dog, it is said, will return to that which is not nice.
The beauties and the advantages of the region in which I now live have been pointed out to me. It is quite true that everything hereabout is new and “clean.” Here the streets are not infested by “old bums” as those are in that dirty old downtown. Here one is just between the beautiful Drive on the one hand and our handsome Central Park on the other. Here there is fresh air. Here Broadway is a boulevard, and, further, it winds about in its course like the roads, as they call them there, in London, and does not have that awful straight look of everything in that checker-board part of town. Here everybody is well dressed. And even the grocers’ and butchers’ shops are quite smart. All this is indisputable.
But all this is a description of the physical aspects of this part of town. What I purpose to do is an esoteric thing. Through the outward aspects of this part of town, its vestments, the features of its physiognomy, I will show, as through a glass, the beatings of its heart. I will exhibit the soul of it, interpret its spirit, make plain for him that runs its inner, hidden meaning.
The part of town that I mean may be said to begin at Seventy-second Street; it runs along Broadway, and comprises the neighbourhood of Broadway, to, say, a bit above One Hundred and Tenth Street. Now we shall see what we shall see.