Sunday, May 22, 2016

Heavy Traffic

The young mother held her baby to the window of their Madison Avenue apartment one recent morning and pointed down at the hopelessly snarled traffic.

It was late by commuter standards, almost 9:30AM, and it seemed like everybody and his brother had decided to cram into this particular thoroughfare.

I was riding—or crawling—through that very same traffic and that mother and child were about the only pleasant sight during a particularly rotten morning ride.

It was such an odd contrast, seeing this tender scene in the midst of all this traffic and commerce.

I didn’t know there were apartments in the building, but then the realtors in this city would stick condos in the clouds if they could pay gravity to look the other way.

I was going into a work a little later than usual and I was paying the price. I knew the traffic would be bad, but I had no idea it would suck this much.

We had just crept by the Syndicate Trading Company building on 37th Street, which has become something of a low level fascination for me.

The company is no longer around, but like a lot buildings in New York, the present shares space with the past.

The only reference I could find to the place was in Nancy Lemann’s novel Malaise, which said the Syndicate Trading Company “traded commodities, then insurance companies, Caribbean utilities, newspapers, venture capital investments, and eventually natural resources.”

The company later moved to Midtown, according to the book, but the building and its distinctive sign is still with us.

Riding on Fumes

It’s a remnant of another era that conjures up images of old time stock tickers and men in top hats who smoke cigars in exclusive clubs.
The city is changing every day, or so it seems, but there are still plenty of old buildings to remind us of New York’s incredible history.

I wonder what the city will look like when the baby in the window grows up.

Will the building that he or she lives in now still be there? Will someone finally pull down the Syndicate Trading Company building and put up some modern atrocity and charge obscene amounts of money for people to live there?

I eventually got to the office, but it was a struggle.

And less than 24 hours I was flying up Madison Avenue in an express bus that was really living up to its name. I had gotten up much earlier this time to take a 7 AM boxing class at one of my gym’s facilities on 49th and Broadway and it was shockingly unlike the previous day’s slog.

The traffic was so light at this early hour and I couldn’t have been traveling through the streets of Manhattan any faster if I had been riding in a fire engine.

This wasn’t my normal gym day and I was tempted to blow it off, but ultimately I decided to rise and shine for my morning abuse.

That turned out to be a great move. The class was great and I ran into not one, but two, really great guys that I knew from other boxing classes and had not seen in ages.

“It’s like old home week,” I declared, just before the torture began.

I’m going to stay in touch with these guys because unlike Manhattan traffic time never slows down.


Ron said...

Rob, I know I've share this so many times before but your writing style is such a joy to read! Another great story!

"but then the realtors in this city would stick condos in the clouds if they could pay gravity to look the other way."

I love the way you said that!

Philly is similar to NY in that we too have architecture where the present shares space with the past, and I really like that. I enjoy seeing all the great, old buildings tucked between modern architecture. It gives the cities, such as Philly and NY a special feel.

Sounds like you had a great morning that day!

Loved the vintage photos you used for this post.

Have a super week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, thanks so much! Don't you love how this old buildings still hang in there--even when they're turned into a Starbucks or a fast food joint? So many of them have this fabulous carvings and symbols, which is really a lost art.

And I love old photos too!

Take care, buddy, and have a great week!

Bijoux said...

Your traffic is excruciating. I remember last time I was there, the bus couldn't pull up in front of our hotel, so we circled the block. An hour later, we were back! Ugh.

Time marches on, so keep in touch with old friends!

Rob K said...

Oh, yes, Bijoux, the traffic here is legendary1 Old friends can get together and complain about it!