Monday, August 13, 2012

Tenement Museum and Blue Note - July 26

I have two couple friends, Margi and Gil and Joan and Doug, who are former New Yorkers.  Margi gave me a multitude of ideas of things to see and do in New York. Each morning I take a look at my file full of, among other things, ideas from Margi.

This morning I discover the information Margi gave me regarding the Tenement Museum; which is situated in the Lower East Side at 97 Orchard Street. From over 20 countries, between1863 to 1935 over 7,000 families lived, at one time or another, in this tenement. Generally the Lower Eastside was the next step after Ellis Island that would lead to a better life in America.

For the price of $22 I took one of the two "Hard Times" tours. The only way to visit the Tenement Museum is to take one or more of the tours offered.

Our first visit is the apartment of the Gumpertz family. They lived in the building in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Although it is not clear when the family moved in or precisely when they moved out one event is clear, one crisp day in October 1874 Mr. Gumpertz left the building and never returned.

Our guide asks us to guess what happened to him. Everyone guessed fowl play, everyone except me that is. I know what many men do when the going gets rough; they run. Eventually the mystery of Mr. Gumpertz is revealed. He ran and left Mrs. Gumpertz taking care of the children, alone.

The next and last, family on the tour is the Baldizzi family. The story on the website is different than the story our guide tells. Our guide reports that Adolfo Baldizzi, an expert cabinetmaker, came to America from Italy. He left is wife behind. When she had enough money she boarded a ship and arrived in America. But, on Ellis Island it was decreed she must return to Italy.

She saved enough for a second voyage across the ocean; this time she entered via Canada and crossed the border illegally, and spent the rest of her life as an illegal immigrant.

In 1937 the City of New York required extensive renovation to make 97 Orchard Street fit for habitation. Rather than make the renovations, the landlord shut the building down, with the exception of the two commercial spaces on the ground floor. The Baldizzi family had to leave.

The building lay dormant for over fifty years. The museum opened in 1992.

After leaving the Tenement, I walk through the Bowery. I've been here before, in the 1980's. It was much rougher in those days. The entire island of Manhattan appears to be under the process of gentrification. 

I eventually arrive where I want to be, Greenwich Village. I plan an evening of Jazz at the famous Blue Note.  However, it is still early. The Blue Note will not open for another hour or so. I sit in Washington Square and watch the goings on.  Something very interesting is happening. Shabby looking men are either playing chess or sitting at a chessboard waiting for a partner.

Apparently the guys sitting at the tables are Chess sharks, as opposed to Pool sharks. They sit and wait, hoping for a patsy. Interesting.

Eventually it's 6 p.m., which is when the doors to the Blue Note open.  There is a lower cover charge when one sits at the bar rather than a table. The woman who enters the club just before me is also alone. Actually, I have noticed how many people in New York go out alone, and how welcoming of company they are.

I pay the charge to sit at the bar. The other single woman, who has seated herself at what is likely the best spot in the house, offers to move over and share her spot with me. As it turns out, she is also visiting New York alone. Like me, her home is Vancouver, British Columbia.

 Conrad Herwig and his band play a set titled, The Latin Side of Joe Henderson. Prior to this collection Mr. Herwig has recorded The Latin Side of Miles Davis and The Latin Side of Charlie Parker, both of which were nominated for Grammys. Over the coming weekend he will record The Latin Side of Joe Henderson. He continually reminds the audience and invites us back for the recording session.

The cover charge allows for only one set. The set ends and my temporary companion and myself part company. It has been an enjoyable day.

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