Helene Hanff and a Letter From New York

A friend sent me a copy of Helene Hanff’s Letter From New York. What a pleasure. She’s writing about New York in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. I moved back to New York and New York City in 1981, I think it was. I was here when she was here! She describes a New York that was already starting to disappear, although theatre (not like it was) and dog communities are still here, and other things will never change. She also writes with a certain timelessness. But I was into punk rock when she was writing, and CBGB’s, and soon after that, the internet. But I chase concerts in churches the way she did, and bemoan the fact that they are no longer free.

I was thinking if I described my New York, people in their twenties would have a similar reaction. I’m living in a bygone city. Actually, people in their twenties are now all out in Brooklyn, which I’ve always loved, but still don’t spend a lot of time in, out of sheer laziness.

Depending on which block I walk to the subway, I pass by these guys. The owner puts them out on the street daily to see the sights.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

2 thoughts on “Helene Hanff and a Letter From New York

  1. I just went back in time 42 years to the NATO base where I graduated from high school and there were people there who were clearly nostalgic for the old days but being in the present is all we can do or be, so it’s easier if you don’t fight the feeling. Sort of a Buddhist way of looking at it. Less dukkha if you accept what is now.

    That said, here’s the little slide show I made after the reunion and all sorts of people tell me it is making them verklempt!

    As for your parrots, I have a neighbour who has a parrot who she takes out on walks by putting it in a mesh backpack with a frame and a perch in it! You can hear the parrot talking as my neighbour walks by the house to the park. It’s hilarious.

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