Dorothy Parker Mysteries

Our Town

It Seems To Me . . . was the byline of Heywood Broun’s
column in The World


A couple of years ago, a cousin of mine visited from Italy.  On a tour of Manhattan, we pointed out the various new buildings and revamped landscapes replacing the ones we had shown him on his last visit twenty years before.   Unlike the great, ancient cities of Italy, New York City is constantly changing.  When asked for his impressions, he stated, truthfully, “Let me know when it’s finished.”

So, this past weekend while visiting with my good friend, Jeannette, she gave me a tour of all the places in Queens I had not visited in more than twenty years, and I was amazed at the transformations.  Where had all the factories gone?  The waterfront of Long Island City on the East River has a spectacular view of Manhattan’s skyline  (East 42nd Street just across the way), is a place I had never been to, because it was years ago a run-down factory area and rather forbidding waterfront.  What a surprise!  What an upscale, trendy neighborhood it had become.    I saw the Silvercup sign, and the smell of bread baking instantly drifted into my mind, if not my nostrils,  from the days when I “rode the rails” (the subway) to and from my home in Whitestone to Performing Arts High School on West 46th Street in Manhattan.   Now it is a movie studio.  Only a few places remain pretty much intact:  Queensview and Ravensview, where several school friends grew up back in the 1960s.  And the beautiful tree lined streets and stone and stucco and Tudor style homes of Forest Gardens, like a centuries-old English village; it is oddly nestled within 142 acres and is one of the oldest planned community developments in America, consisting of eight hundred homes, apartments and townhouses dating back to 1908.  Charming!

I am returned from the city and continuing work on the sixth novel of my Dorothy Parker Mystery Series.  The books are a labor of love, because the venue, the soul of each book is the city in which I was born.  I was born in Manhattan, went to school in Manhattan, lived and worked in Manhattan, and it is a part of me.  I always thrill at the sight of its skyline as I approach over bridge or sail up its harbor.  I imagine my father’s arrival by ship in 1921 and his first sight of the Statue of Liberty.  I never fail to get up early when I’m returning from an ocean voyage to stand at the ship’s rail to see the welcoming Lady Liberty.  The first time I flew over Manhattan it was at night, and it was like looking down at the stars.  I am always enthralled by its history, its progress, its ever-changing and expanding spirit of enterprise.  A few weeks ago my friend Jane posted on Facebook Dorothy Parker’s reflections of New York City in a 1928 McCall’s Magazine essay.  It was timely, and I had to smile, because in the first scene of my first chapter of this new novel, I expressed Dorothy Parker’s sentiments about New York with the same fervor as she had but without ever having read the article below.  We, and all those who love New York City feel this connection.  To all who have lived here, it speaks for us:

“My Home Town”

It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.” And I do—that’s the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Someone, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.” I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton—or they told me it was Chesterton—said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!” I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it—by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia—even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.” It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York. – Dorothy Parker


Until next time,