When I arrived in Newark Airport this past Friday evening at 10 p.m. I sped off in a spiffy air train on the arm of my protective brother. (He took a snapshot of me in my newly purchased, Calvin Klein leather coat) Surprisingly, most passengers on my plane, bound for Tel Aviv were flip-flopping around, scantily dressed. Was I out of step with the crowd?
Together, we whizzed over to Penn Station at 34th and boarded the no. 1 IRT north bound subway train, final stop, 242nd Street and Van Cortlandt Park. Known as the Riverdale section of the Bronx, this vast, rustic area has marked out horseback riding and walking trails, fresh air, beautiful foliage, mature trees, and elegant homes. Had we dozed off 10 or so minutes past the Dyckman Street stop we might have overshot our destination and landed in this upper middle class section of the borough. The nearby Fieldstone homes are some of the priciest mansions with long, scenic driveways.
Instead we de-trained while still in Manhattan, at 215th Street in the heart of Inwood by the picturesque Hudson River. Another stop north, across the bridge, would have landed us by the Marble Hill Projects, my childhood home.
Towering 14-story buildings with about 10 apartments to each floor sprang up in the early 50’s with veteran’s subsidies. Ironically a handful of these were given Manhattan identities if they were on the right side of the tracks. Others bore the less flashy Bronx addresses. To be sure, I hailed from the Bronx due to a fixed boundary line drawn between boroughs.
You can see our ninth floor apartment of 2831 Exterior Street in this photo view. For twelve years we lived in 9L and if I shouted out for ice cream money from down below, my mother would throw a dime and two cents carefully banded in folded paper that sometimes overshot the sidewalk and landed in the bushes.
Escaped parakeets dotted maple trees along the periphery– most never found their way back home. A few cats jumped out of apartment windows rather than be caught by Housing Authority police. Felines and canines were not allowed so most of our neighbors had guppies, turtles, finches, canaries and parakeets.
It was no surprise that my parents moved across the bridge from Marble Hill to the Inwood section of Manhattan after I graduated FAME’s NYC High School of Performing Arts. With two children off and running to college, they no longer needed 4 and 1/2 rooms. Their new pert apartment, in Park Terrace Gardens, sat atop a hill that bordered beautiful Isham Park and the Hudson. A breathtaking view from their living room window was thrown in for good measure.
Columbia University’s nearby football field invited animated cheers and the swells of crowds each month, enlivening the apartment space.
Sitting regally in the living room, my old Sohmer upright had weathered the journey from the Bronx to Manhattan but was never the same piano in years to come.
I took an opportunity to sit down and plunk out a few tunes. My once dearly beloved sounded like a harpsichord, having lost its voice due to excessive humidity, a nearby radiator, and wide temperature swings. It was a sad reunion.
The visit to NYC would not have been complete without my having taken the no. 1 IRT southbound train to W. 103rd St. with a short walk to Riverside Drive and 105th where I took piano lessons with the late Lillian Freundlich.
As it played out, Elaine Comparone, harpsichordist accompanied me to the neighborhood after we criss-crossed Central Park to take in an art exhibit at the Whitney. It was night fall when we stopped at 311 W. 105th for a few heart throbbing moments to take pictures.
The elegant townhouse looked the same, though as I peeped through the entryway, I observed that the staircase to the first floor had been stripped of carpeting, replaced with highly polished wood. A splendid display of chandeliers lit up the living room as seen from the sidewalk.
Irwin and Lillian Freundlich had three pianos– two Steinway grands, and a 1940’s Mason Hamlin that was used for piano lessons. It was an exquisitely refined musical instrument that I loved the most.
An additional Gallery of photos:
Another window view from my mother’s Park Terrace West apartment:
The Park Terrace West gardens:
The Marble Hill Projects:
The beautiful Hudson River at the tip of Manhattan, appreciated as well from the Bronx side of the bridge that divides the two boroughs.
Crossing the bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx:
From the bridge looking out on the Hudson River: