Lost on Broadway in the Rain


Yes I’m going insane / And I’m laughing at the frozen rain
Well I’m so alone / Honey when they gonna send me home ?
Steely Dan: Bad Sneakers


I have recounted Part One concerning the black wallet; this is the true sequel.
Should I thank my angel once again? But I am ashamed at the ignoble and graceless scenarios I have dragged that angel through repeatedly. It was the same wallet pick-pocketed by a streetwalker over a year before. In spite of such misadventures in sinful error, I still thought New York was cool, and in the fall of 1983 I was doing an internship in the City. The program provided lodging in a hotel on 47th street in Midtown. I was an intern at an arts press downtown near Greenwich Village.

One fall evening, I took the subway back to my hotel from MacDougal Editions, exiting the station near a Japanese restaurant I had seen earlier in the week, in search of a cheap dinner. I went into the restaurant just as a chilly autumn rain began to fall. It was a Friday night. I remember little about the meal besides the Oriental decor and hot noodles in a big ceramic bowl. It was authentic enough to feel like Okinawa in the middle of New York. I slurped the noodles up, then I paid and made my way quickly through crowded, hectic rush-hour streets in the darkness and pelting October rain.

I stopped at a kiosk-type store just across Broadway from the street of my hotel, to purchase something I can no longer remember, probably a candy bar or a drink, and then I crossed Broadway amidst flashing lights and crowds of pedestrians. I was glad to get back, damp and bedraggled, to my silent room. I needed a phone number that I had placed in my wallet earlier; but when I searched for the billfold in my pockets, it was missing. A familiar panic ensued. I always start to sweat immediately when I lose something important. Temperature rising with each fruitless shakedown of my various jacket and pants pockets, it became clear that the wallet was not in my possession. My mind began to seethe with frustration. The damn thing was somewhere in the teeming metropolis outside the hotel’s door, in the black downpour of the streets. If I had any plans for that Friday evening, they were extinguished. I prepared to retrace my steps from the last place I had taken out the wallet: the convenience store on the west side of Broadway. But I held on to the hope that it might be in the lobby, sparing me the need to go out in the pouring rain again, and so I took the elevator down from my hallway.

I searched the lobby from the door to the elevator entrance; peered beneath chairs, searched under waiting-tables, sofas . . . nothing. Inquiring at the desk yielded no further information, so I headed out into the rain. Masses of people were jostling with umbrellas on the pavements, crossing streets, dashing in front of buses, getting splashed by taxis: New York on a Friday evening rush hour in the darkness of a downpour.

The Koreans at the convenience kiosk across the street knew nothing of any wallet . . . or maybe they did but feigned ignorance. Perhaps some drug addict had already found it and scored a bag of junk. Some drunk had already bought his bottle of Night Train with my money. A hundred feet had already trampled it, unseen, into the gutter by now. I searched the sidewalk, but it was hard to see anything with so many pairs of wet shoes and boots tramping in both directions. I was nearly defeated, floating like a fragment of wreckage in the flotsam and jetsam of Broadway after dark. I was ready to give up. A stupor of frustration began to settle in my mind; I stared down at the reflections of neon lights and passing vehicles in the puddles of the rain-slick sidewalk and curbside. I realized no one could ever find a black wallet in this city at night. It was time to resign myself to the loss, give up and prepare to replace my debit card, get new IDs, and chalk it up to ineptitude and carelessness. Out of sheer desperation I kept my gaze down on the crosswalk, oblivious to the crowd surging around me as I crossed Broadway again, trudging east, returning to the hotel in failure. It was so dark on that particular crosswalk that the contrast between the white and black painted stripes was barely perceptible except in the glare of headlights.

I will never forget the inanimate wink my wallet gave me when I glimpsed it, like a small shiny shadow wet with rain, on the black asphalt between two white crosswalk stripes. It was a surreal moment: pedestrians were passing over, on, and around it there in the middle of Broadway. How many cars had narrowly missed or run over it, only God knows. But there it was. I stooped down to pick it up and examined it in disbelief. My cards and the money were there, intact. I clutched the sodden thing and returned to my hotel room. Had I believed in angels at that time I would have thanked my celestial guide for having mercy on me and leading me to recover what I had lost as I crossed Broadway in 1983.

[] broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:12-14

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