The Lower East Side of Manhattan — what a rich and vibrant place! Bustling, lively, small shops, ornate old buildings — so many sights and sounds. Just today, Alex, David and I took a trip we’d planned for a while down to the Tenement Museum for a tour. It was fun and gave me some writing fuel as well.
Our first stop was lunch at Katz’s world-famous deli — the joint was jumping and it was plastered with photos and autographs. I ate my pastrami sandwich right under Barbra Streisand’s nose. We stopped on an errand, then headed to the Museum’s bookstore to browse around and wait for our tour. What a find: a treasure trove of books about New York — everything from stories by F. Scott to How the Other Half Lives by Jacob Riis.
On our tour we stepped into a small building and visited two railroad apartments where we learned the histories of the families who lived there. In one apartment there was a small stack of books — dime-store romances that the young teenage girls who worked in sweatshops doing piecework would consume when they had some free time, which wasn’t often, since they worked six hours a day.
In my mind’s eye, I could just see these young girls poring over these novels in the tiny tenement parlor looking out over a crowded, noisy street in Lower Manhattan — and dreaming of other worlds. Who knows? Maybe they might have even read a story like the YA novel I’m writing. This trip reminded me how energizing it can be to take a break from our workday routines and plunge into other people’s lives for a while through a film or a play or a visit to an unfamiliar neighborhood. Any of these experiences can give us fresh eyes and enrich our writing.