DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON
North - on his first time in New York
Take a picture, take a picture of the son of a bitch. I want a
picture of that bastard jumping.
She wasnt being
difficult, she was being a New Yorker. These are things you quickly discover
when you arrive in their city. I had a key, a heavy suitcase
and was exhausted from the difficult journey from the strikebound airport.
The apartment was on the seventeenth floor - exchanged with a guy I had
never met, but who wanted to live in my rather glum Putney flat overlooking
the Upper Street graveyard.
The lift is
for residents only, she was screeching, trying to hold back her
clutch of horrid yapping dogs, straining on a pearlescent lead. They
were dying to snap at my heels and I was dying to given them a swift
I am a resident, I pointed out for the sixth time, I
have a key.
There was no way
I was going to walk up 17 floors, not for her, not for anyone. The elevator
arrived and she scuttled into it dragging her dogs after her. She turned
around pretty swiftly and tried to fill the space and stop
me entering with the suitcase. Get him Alonzo, get him Susie,
she urged her toy dogs that yapped like car alarms at me. I dropped
my fat suitcase very close to the dogs and one immediately shat himself
on her white summer shoes. We rode on up the elevator accompanied by
whining dogs and the growing stench of excrement.
The view from number
1702 was stunning. I had gotten very lucky. Top floor with a clear view
over, well over the next building really. But what really struck me
was the heat. Somehow the air conditioning was broke and a sign on the
switch told me it had been broken some time. Funny hed not mentioned
that when he told me how great his place was. Believe me, New York is
just not habitable in the mid-summer without cold air.
inside was ninety-five degrees and this was 9 pm. By 3 am, utterly unable
to sleep I was practically swinging out of the window to get some air,
the temperature was still ninety. Fortunately a wet towel draped over
a hardworking fan gives some relief. I lay awake listening to piercing
incessant police sirens and truly I was in a city that never sleeps.
Using a baking Fifth
Avenue apartment in a New York summer isnt the best idea I ever
had, but it was free and the ocean in Rockaway or Long Island was just
a train journey away on weekends should one want to cool off. I had
made plans to see the museums first, then go and swim.
It was on the second day that I had my first genuine Manhattan experience.
I was taking photos of the demolition of a stunning landmark building
circa 1895, a real tragedy when suddenly I heard a shot and a man appeared
at a high window threatening to jump. From out of the dust of the worksite
a man rushed over to me and grabbed my arm, pointing at the man in the
window frame. Take a picture, take a picture of the son of a bitch.
I want a picture of that bastard jumping.
And so, I stood
in the dust and heat and took a picture everytime it looked as if he
was going to jump. Some fifteen times or so as the man beside me explained
that the man on the ledge was his stinking brother-in-law and his sister,
was even now probably lying dead in that building he was helping to
demolish. I did wonder if I should mention all this to one of the many
cops pressing at us from all sides and snarling Get back assholes.
But I figured they probably had enough to do really and the woman was
After two hours
in that heat the man was talked into surrendering and he was lifted
down by some firemen. I was putting my camera away when my erstwhile
companion rushed forward and stabbed his brother-in-law to death, quickly
dropping the knife and waiting for the stunned cops to arrest him.
I missed the shot,
I was very annoyed. As the man was bundled into a cop car a cry went
up and a young, very beautiful woman with a bleeding headwound came
running out of the ruins and shrieked at the cops. They bundled her
into the car as well. I began to push my way through the crowd to get
As I drunk a long
cold coke float in café a block away I thought about all this. The passion,
the death, the wounded beautiful woman who would now discover her husband
dead killed by her own brother, the demolition of a wonderful building
without a thought for history and I could finally taste New York difference.
This was why I was here and not Putney. The noise, the dogs and death
in the afternoon. The TV doesnt lie, this is how it happens.
© SAM NORTH
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