Passing Trains

Short Stories... All Aboard!


The King of Greenwich Village


The thermometer outside the all-night groceria read 3 degrees. Except for a passing cab's steamy exhaust disappearing along 6th Avenue, the streets and sidewalks were abandoned. Even Greenwich Village’s surliest characters had descended deep into the subways or taken blessed charity to escape the Arctic gale that had roared into the city a few hours earlier.

No, I'd never survive this night outside. My pockets yielded $2.40, maybe enough for a room at the Greenwich Hotel. In all of New York City, this was the only nominal hotel which had, decades earlier, anticipated this night - and my destiny. Occasionally, I had walked under the Greenwich Hotel’s tattered canvass canopy, advertising in faded stencil "Rooms from $1.65". I had imagined what these rooms looked like, smelt like, even questioned whether they were “rooms” at all, but only in briefest of passings. Yet, prompted by the Arctic reality, I left the warm late-night oasis called La Groceria and pushed my way out onto the tundra of 6th Avenue.

The cold, the glacier now moored in the Hudson, transformed the few blocks a hundred-fold with each wind-battered step. As I reached the playground on the corner of Bleecker Street, a blast of Siberian air crashed through the chain-link fence, sliding me dancing and flailing halfway up to MacDougal Street. Still upright, my feet continued one painfully in front of the other, struggling past the empty coffee houses and frost-bitten tourist traps. In the distance, the lights of the inn flickered dimly, a mirage promising survival.

The treachery from the north continued daring saint and sinner as I approached the ancient doors of the Greenwich Hotel. Strands of its disintegrating canopy whipped in the cross-town gale as I ascended the few steps to the entrance. Forcing my chin from my chest, I focused my half-blind eyes on the small iron door knobs, barely visible through the onslaught of swirling snow and hell-born dust...

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