A Little Gratitude In Hell’s Kitchen
Recently I was given a task by a long-lost friend found via Facebook: list three things that you’re grateful for every day for a week. This would also give her a peek into my daily life, she said.
I didn’t know what to do about the “gratitudes”—basically I’m grateful for the same things every day: for family, friends and health. It seems petty to say “the subway came right away!” or grandiose to say “booked my tickets to Bali!” (I haven’t). But I did know that I’d try to show her my ordinary day with photos.
That same day, I found myself with an hour and a half to kill in a fairly unremarkable, unloved corner of Manhattan: the far west side of Hell’s Kitchen. Briefly, Hell’s Kitchen runs up the Hudson River on Manhattan’s West Side stretching from the rail yards behind Penn Station at 34th Street north to West 57th Street, bounded on the east by the Garment District and Times Square.
Most of Hell’s Kitchen, like the rest of the rougher edges of Manhattan, is being smoothed out, gentrified, largely lead by the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project which neatly ties in with the High Line. The inevitable luxury residential skyscrapers are marching west towards the Hudson River, replacing the warehouses, gas stations, and other unlovely but necessary infrastructure that supports the waterfront and midtown businesses.
Of course my appointment was “way Out West” by the West Side Highway, where the luxury condos have yet to conquer. I was in a no man’s land of warehouses and unremarkable infrastructure, but full of surprises as I was about to find out. I started to walk.
I began at the children’s playground surrounded by an outcropping of Manhattan schist at Clinton De Witt park on West 54th Street.
Turning south, I followed the West Side Highway past the vanishing sketchy check cashing places.
Past an aircraft carrier asleep at its mooring. A vast museum and memorial.
Just a few blocks away, an intimate and personal memorial and tribute to a fallen cyclist.
Then on to the rail yards at 34th Street where I turned back and walked north up 11th avenue. See them before they’re gone…or at least covered by the biggest real estate development in US history.
Glancing east down 42nd Street towards the heart of midtown. You can feel it expanding, pushing out to the river…
Believe it or not these humble doors lead into the studio where The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is taped—in this unloved and unlovely hood, just blocks away from its glitzy Broadway cousin Late Night with David Letterman. Who knew?
Hell’s Kitchen is where the “high-rise” stables that house Central Park’s carriage horses are. It is surreal to hear the clip clop of hooves and catch a whiff of manure walking up 11th Avenue.
Finally coming full circle —batting practice at De Witt Clinton Park.
The contrasts and made my heart sing and reminded me why I love this city. The beauty of a little bit of nature next to the sketchy check cashers. The grand scale and might of the Intrepid towering over a heartfelt handmade memorial to a cyclist. The epic scale of the rail yards and midtown skyscrapers bearing down on a diner where Sinatra ate. The home of a showbiz comedy phenomenon within smelling distance of the carriage horses. The big and small, the known and the unknown, all jumbled up together—just another ordinary day in New York.
So, what am I grateful for?
Being able to look afresh at what surrounds me and fall in love with New York all over again.
Being experiencing surprise and wonder around every corner in the most unlikely of places.
And for wonderful friends who make me pay attention to all that I have to be grateful for —here’s looking at you, Adele.