The Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island

The drawing below is of the Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island. In reality, only the most tame patients would have been allowed outside without restraints. They’d had too may instances in the past where patients kept bolting straight for the East River the first chance they got, occasionally disappearing beneath the dark brown waters before anyone could attempt to save them. Would-be rescuers sometimes died trying.

Nicknamed River Runners, some of these inmates were just trying to get away; the Island of Manhattan was so tantalizingly close. Any decent swimmer unaware of the currents would look across and think, ‘Surely I could make that.’ (No record of anyone from the Asylum having made it could be found, but on rare occasions men from the Penitentiary or Workhouse managed to reach the other shore alive.) Others, who had enough of being brutalized by attendants, or locked inside a crib [a form of restraint] in a dark, windowless room, saw death in the river as an acceptable means of escape.

Blackwell's Island Lunatic Asylum

Why I Can’t Have Nice Things

Normally they claw their way up the curtains to reach the plant. But every summer I put a fan in front of my air conditioner to increase the circulation, and I have to put something underneath it so it reaches the vent. A perfect step ladder to destruction for the cats.

That reminds me, someone brought their cat to the ASPCA hospital. It’s name was Lucipur. The perfect cat name.

My Next Two Events

I know it seems like it’s all-new-book-all-the-time around here lately. But if I haven’t posted already, you really only have about a month to sell your book. It either takes off or it doesn’t, or it continues to sell modestly, but steadily like my book Imperfect Harmony. Aside from that, or a later stroke of luck, it’s over if it doesn’t take off within a month. A month.

My next event is on June 1, at the Harvard Book Store. 7pm, 1256 Massachusetts Ave. Reasons I’m terrified about this one: no one will come because I know so few people in Boston and so few people in Boston know me.

Then I have one on June 6, a talk with New York Times reporter Ginia Bellafante, at the New York Public Library. 6:30pm, Mid-Manhattan branch. Reasons I’m terrified about this one: Ginia Bellafante is very smart and a great writer. If any of her questions have the term “post-modern” in them I’m going to have a panic attack.

The boys. It’s all about getting close to Bleecker, who mostly tolerates them, which is a lot given how completely annoying they can be. They’re always grabbing at his face, biting his tail, some pain in the ass thing. Complete and total jerks, really.

Thank you, Astoria Bookshop and Clinton Book Shop

I am having such a good time at the events for my books, and I’m so grateful to the bookstores hosting events. The hardest part about writing books is selling them! You always hear writers talking about the difficulties of actually writing the things and for me that doesn’t compare to actually getting them into reader’s hands.

My event yesterday included a walking tour given by Judith Berdy, the president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society. Thank you, Judith! Thank you everyone who came! Among them were friends, someone whose great grandmother went to nursing school on Blackwell’s Island, a former Sisters of Charity nun (my book tells the story of a Sisters of Charity nun who was committed to Blackwell’s Island) and fellow morbid history buffs.

A few pictures from the tour. I loved the cool plane that flew into my shot of the Smallpox Hospital ruins.

Blackwell's Island

I took this looking inside the Strecker Memorial Laboratory (a former pathology lab associated with City Hospital) because of the wonderful art deco machinery inside.

Strecker Memorial Laboratory, Blackwell's Island

And this is a plaque dedicated to the hero of my book, the Rev. William Glenney French.

Blackwell's Island

Another Creative Window in an Empty Storefront

One block down from the empty storefront with a bunch of loaves of Wonderbread hanging in the window is another empty storefront with this. They’re cribbing from Andy Warhol. NO. I’m such an idiot. I just realized, this is not borrowing, this is a tribute to Andy Warhol. His magazine Interview is shutting down after 50 years in business. Okay, I’m slow.