Digging Around in the Past

Took a trip to NYC this past weekend with the wife. First time we’ve been away from the children overnight since… I don’t even know.

We left home at six thirty in the morning, arrived in Manhattan just before noon via the George Washington Bridge, took the Henry Hudson / West Side Highway down to the Wall Street area. We stayed in the original Flatiron building on Pearl and Beaver streets.

We decided to keep our trip simple, not overdo it, so we headed up to SoHo and just walked around, checked out Washington Square Park, searched for a falafel bar where I used to eat, a bar where I used to drink, and a school I’d once attended. Couldn’t find the falafel place, learned that the bar had changed hands so long ago the bartender didn’t even know about it, and the school was no longer there. Just pieces of my life, like drinking itself, now gone.

The subways downtown are a mess, and at one point we were on what should have been the A train but somehow had become the F, on its way to Brooklyn. An odd couple of tourists were trying to get to the World Trade Center and asked me if they’d gone too far. Not too far, I told them, but the wrong direction. I decided to get off at 2nd Ave and take this weirdo train back to West 4th and try to get a different train, and the couple followed us off the subway. They had British accents; he was in his late seventies or eighties, wearing socks and sandals, she was a bit younger, with Asian heritage, and missing an arm.

At some point we realized there were no trains going on the other side of the platform so we had to cross to the other side of the tracks altogether and the couple, who’d been trailing us, mysteriously disappeared. But the wife and I jumped on a train, took it back two stops, got off again, found the 4 train, expected it to take us down to Fulton Street, but it dumped us several blocks earlier at the Brooklyn Bridge so we just got out and walked.

The downtown / Wall Street area is actually rejuvenating. There was a lot of flight post-9/11, but the region is rebranding itself as a residential district, and people are moving in, schools and parks are being built. My wife’s cousin, an entrepreneur working on software to spot Wall Street fraud and help prevent another 2008 crisis, took us on a tour, and we marveled at Frank Gehry’s architecture, strolled around the Seaport, and talked politics and finance.

We ate sushi, went to the movies (I fell asleep watching ‘The Lost City of Z’), and generally had a pleasant, relaxing time, save for the subway fiasco.

The cabs are all converted now, with hybrid engines, smaller and very quiet, drivers using GPS to get around. There are copious “Citibikes,” where you take a bike from a kiosk in one place, pedal it to wherever, leave it at another kiosk when you’re finished. It had been almost twenty years since I lived in the city, and I thought it was really coming along.

On the way back home we went through Westchester County and stopped at some of the old haunts – the apartment in Fleetwood where I lived with my dad for a few years, and the city where I was born, Bronxville, and we grabbed a couple slices of pizza in Yonkers.


Characters in my books are often from Westchester or NYC; Brendan Healy in the Titan series was from Hawthorne, and he returns there to investigate the death of a friend in the book ‘Survivors.’ In ‘Dead Gone,’ agent Tom Lange is originally from Yonkers, where we was raised in the foster care system with his brother, Nick, then they moved to Florida. And in my newest book, 'Buried Secrets,' which comes out this August, one of the characters, Jimmy Russo, is from Staten Island.

I love it all. Not sure if I’d ever want to live there again, but it was truly exhilarating to be back.

It was also nice to return to our little home in the mountains.