One year before the crash

Ostensibly, I’m standing at the northern end of Verdi Square because I needed to go to Levain Bakery on West 74th Street to pick up some cookies for a colleague’s birthday party. But I picked the bakery location so that I could come to Verdi Square.

This space is a teeming mass of people mainly going into and some coming out of the 1/2/3 subway station, as well as the nearly ubiquitous pigeon shit on the benches that would otherwise be delightful to sit on. I almost never sit here; if I do, I always catch myself looking up.

The morning sun strikes the backs of those walking west and then south in the Square, each woman and man obediently following a personal 12-foot-long shadow. Catty-corner to the southeast is the famous Gray’s Papaya, where one can occasionally enjoy a “Recession Special” of two hotdogs and a papaya juice for $5.00. The hotdogs are grilled, not boiled. To the northwest, at 73rd and Broadway, is the beaux-arts Ansonia, the gray lady of the Upper West side. Directly to the north is the one-block-long Apple Bank. It’s block façade beckons the rock climber. The carving over the unused southern entrance says “Central Savings.” On the Broadway side, The carving says, “Erected MCMXXVIII.” Since one year before the great stock market crash, this Roaring 20s-era building has watched over these teeming masses as they wend their way along and down into one of Manhattan’s major arteries.

The 12-foot-long shadows dance clumsily on the hexagonal concrete tiles in front of me.

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One year before the crash

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