I’ll spare you the negotiations with Morgan, Rockefeller, and Carnegie. They get repetitive.Continue reading
Good morning all.
I have a request for help going out this morning.
A former student of a friend of mine is about to graduate from my alma mater (how’s that for six degrees of separation), but she can’t get her diploma until she pays her last fees.
She’s a good kid who’s been through some hard times, and she’s so close to getting out. Please do whatever you can to
Even if you can’t contribute, please share.
So Fiorello LaGuardia took me back to his office in the City Hall at the center of New York City’s soul.
It’s a weird day when you can write that sentence.
It was a corner office, as you might expect – or you might expect if you live New York, anyway – and its windows each looked out over a different vista of the City, views that changed each time you looked out the window. First look: Civic Center, like you might see from City Hall in the real world. Second Look: Central Park, looking up from the South, you can see all the way to the Sheep Meadow before it becomes just a mass of trees. Third look: looking out over Batter Park and the Harbor, Lady Liberty lifting her torch in the distance. Fourth look: Times Square at night, showing off its brightest colors.
And so on. This really is the Heart of New York. But then, New York has a lot of hearts.Continue reading
Sitting on the N train
Riding for Coney Island
First visit of the season
A young Hispanic man and I
Him standing and holding a pole
Watch an old woman with a walker
Get up from her seat, carefully steadying herself against the train’s motion as she gets ready to leave.
We meet each other’s eyes
Then look back at her
Respecting her old New York strength
But each of us ready to lunge and catch if the train’s relentless stop-and-start defeats her
As it has the young and surefooted
The train stops. She plants her walker and gets off.
He gets off too. Not with her. He isn’t her nephew or grandson. They don’t know each other.
I go back to reading my book.
Our eyes don’t meet again. We don’t speak.
Three people who never met.
A New York Moment you won’t see on the news.
So last time, I tried to deliver an eviction notice to Bill the Butcher, New York’s personal spirit of violence, on behalf of Boss Bill Tweed, New York’s spirit of greed. It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds and it was not my idea. Much to my entire lack of surprise, Bill the Butcher wasn’t having it and kicked me straight out of his headquarters in the Five Points and into the Collect Pond, which was the same place but about 100 years further into the past. Frankly, I counted myself lucky. Still, to get where I needed to be, I would have needed to take two horse carts, a carriage, a streetcar, and a subway, which would have taken time I just don’t have.
So I tapped my emergency stash. I used the power from a gold double-eagle coin from Bill’s time to power my way up through all those layers of New York City’s memory. It got me where I needed to go, but as will happen when you have an emergency and have to spend whatever it takes, I’m completely tapped out. The coin is still worth millions in the physical world, but it won’t buy me a cup of coffee here in the City’s Soul.
So where was it I needed to go so fast?
City Hall.Continue reading
Previously on The Economancer, my morning commute was hijacked into the Soul of New York City by Boss Tweed, the City’s own personal spirit of greed. He tricked me into accepting a job to evict Bill the Butcher, the closest thing the City has to a war god, from his home in the memory of the Five Points. Unfortunately, since he basically kidnapped me, I didn’t have a chance to properly equip myself for the job.
So now here I am in the Five Points, facing Bill the Butcher with my good luck charm, a gold double-eagle coin from his day, which was worth twenty dollars in his day (which of course bought a lot more than twenty dollars does now), is worth a lot more today, and in my hands is basically a nuke, which is why I carry something that valuable around with me.
I’ve just given him his eviction notice. He’s just metaphorically torn it up and thrown it back in my face.Continue reading
Bill the Butcher’s place was probably something he wanted to have when he was alive. Powerful ghosts tend to do that to any spiritual real estate they control. That made me think that the human man William Poole was in there somewhere, and not just the NYC version of a god of war. He could still want things.
It was huge, the size of a modern warehouse. Probably too big to exist in the Five Points in the mid-19th century. It was a combined slaughterhouse and butcher shop, and I don’t think I need to go into any more detail than that. It neither looked nor smelled pretty.
Bill is hanging out near the door with a few of his buddies, all sitting on barrels and boxes and rickety wooden chairs. I don’t need to guess or ask which one of them is Bill the Butcher. I recognize him the same way I recognized Boss Tweed, which is the same way they recognize me, for that matter: there’s a sense of power that you just can’t mistake for anything else. Some of the “men” in this group are ghosts, while others are just spirits that cling to a predator like Bill like they were remoras. Bill doesn’t look any different than the others, just a 19th century working man in a leather apron and a handlebar mustache, but just beneath the surface is a thing made of hate and blades.Continue reading
I took another bus downtown to the Five Points. Of course, when you’re down in this layer of the Soul of the City, a “bus” is actually a horse-drawn trolley. Oddly enough, it didn’t take a whole lot longer than a bus with a motor would have taken. Travel isn’t about distance from Point A to Point B here.
As if to drive that point home, we pass through a Beatnik-era East Village and a 1920’s Little Italy to get there. I mean, how does that even happen? Little Italy and the Five Points occupied a lot of the same physical…never mind.Continue reading
“I need you to evict Bill the Butcher.”
I raise an eyebrow.
Bill the Butcher is a lot like Boss Tweed himself. There was a real person by that name once. In Gangs of New York, they called him “Bill Cutting”, which is juuuuust a bit too on-the-nose. I mean, it’s like calling the evil family in a certain famous chainsaw-based horror franchise “Sawyer” or “Hewitt”. The real person was named William Poole.
Interesting factoid: both real person and fictional character are actual, buy-your-brisket-from-‘em butchers, in addition to the other kind.
But even more than Tweed, the legend has almost nothing to do with the person, and it’s almost impossible to know if the human man William Poole has anything to do with the thing that now wears the name “Bill the Butcher”.Continue reading
Boss Tweed claps his hands.
“Gentlemen!” he says to the things circling in the air above. “I need a moment alone with Miss Jessalyn, please.”
Then the things are just men in suits, filing out the door. Some of them are leering at me as they go, while others are just blank-faced. That’s one way to tell which of them used to be human and which never were: the ones who used to be human can feel things other than greed.
Tweed sits down behind his desk, sets his axe down on the floor, and leans it up against the desk within easy reach.
Corruption always carries the threat of violence.Continue reading