Thursday, November 3, 2011

West Side Story

The other night I was watching Louie, one of the darkest and brightest shows on TV. I saw something I recognized. Not Louie, we all recognize him. And not the attractive dark-haired woman that Louie has no chance of bedding down. I recognized a building. The all-brick edifice in the background.

I know that building because I used to work there. At least for a couple of summers when I was a kid.
My father, however put in many, many years at that hellhole.

The address is 85 10th Ave. The former home of Brownell Electro.

My dad was the Comptroller and had some sway with the owners of the company, who agreed to put me on in the Accounts Receivable Department so I could earn money for college. Notice I didn't say extra money to buy beer and dope and such. But real money to pay for tuition, books and the cheapest meal plan available at Syracuse University.

If you're familiar with NYC you know this area has been quite gentrified. There's now an elevated walking park, where this scene was filmed and the building recently housed Craft, a genuine Tom Colichio restaurant.  But when I worked there with my father, there wasn't a hipster to be found within a five mile radius.

It looked like some of the grittier scenes from the French Connection or Mean Streets. It was dumpy. It was dirty. And if you weren't smelling the carcasses from the nearby Meat District there was always the default odor of urine and the Hudson River.

Apart from Peggy Fernandez, my immediate supervisor, a short Puerto Rican woman with the largest boobs on earth who felt the need to press her flesh against me to explain the intricacies of cash flow management, there was nothing remotely positive about 85 10th Ave.

In fact, the third floor corner window (my father's actual office), which looks like someone giving an inverted bird, is an apt metaphor. And yet I owe that building so much.

You see, had the experience, the sunrise bus ride commute into the city, the foul smells, the fighting for oxygen, the dark, dank offices, the mind numbing work, the soul-sucking monotony, not been so unbearably miserable I might never had high-tailed it to California with nothing more than $99 in my pocket and the desire to be as far away from Accounting and Chelsea, NY as humanly possible.

So thank you 85 10th Ave.
And thank you Brownell Electro.
You might have taken my father's life and for that I'll never forgive you.
But you gave me my life and for that I'll never forget you.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

I'm not sure cash was the flow Peggy was teaching you about. And of course, I'm a pushover for dad stories. Beautiful post Rich.