A New York Minute, March 1985

By , March 31, 1985 7:32 pm
New York City at night, viewed from atop the Empire State Building. The twin towers of the World Trade Center are clearly visible.

New York City at night, viewed from atop the Empire State Building. The twin towers of the World Trade Center are clearly visible.

This trip was planned in about five minutes in a dorm room at Oklahoma University. My friend Scott Andersen said, “You know what we ought to do. We ought to drive to New York for spring break.”

My 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

My 1973 Volkswagen Beetle.

We set out on a Friday afternoon in my 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. Some months before, I had removed the back seats and replaced them with padded flat panels, greatly increasing the storage space.

This view of New York Harbor from atop the World Trade Center shows Ellis Island, Liberty Island, and New Jersey.

This view of New York Harbor from atop the World Trade Center shows Ellis Island, Liberty Island, and New Jersey.

The first leg of our drive took us through Columbia, Missouri, where I was born, to see an old girlfriend. We were there around midnight.

We drove straight through the night and day for a total of about 20 hours, until we arrived in York, Pennsylvania, at the house of one of Scott’s relatives. The next day we drove to Philadelphia, where we stayed at Scott’s brother’s house for three days.

Alley, South Philadelphia.

Alley, South Philadelphia.

Scott and I took a walking tour of Philadelphia, including South Street.

We spent a day in Washington D. C., where Scott took time to photograph the World’s Greatest Siamese Pickle, which we brought with us from Oklahoma. We also spent a day in Manhattan, mostly walking the streets. I only have a small number of images from those two days because as college kid, I could only afford four rolls of film for the entire trip.

We visited the visitor’s gallery atop the World Trade Center in the day, followed by the top of the Empire State Building that night. While attempting to board the elevator at the Empire State Building, a security guard said we couldn’t bring our tripods. We asked him if we could bring them if we didn’t extend the legs, and he let us in.

Also at night, we visited Times Square, which in the mid-1980s had yet to be cleaned up by the City. We made some images and walked around, looking at the lights.

Fifteen-second timed exposure, Times Square, New York.

Fifteen-second timed exposure, Times Square, New York.

At one point as we walked along Broadway, Scott leaned close to my ear and said, “You know what I always wanted to do in New York? Buy a switchblade.”

Within a second or two, out of nowhere, there was a small, skinny man in a shiny leather coat right next to Scott. “You want a switchblade, Man? I got anything you want. Six inch, eight inch, anything.”

Scott said he also offered to sell weed, cocaine, heroine, etc.

Scott enjoys a genuine Philly cheesesteak on South Street.

Scott enjoys a genuine Philly cheesesteak on South Street.

He talked really fast, and for reasons unknown, Scott went into an alley with him. I waited on the street, halfway thinking I would be driving home to Oklahoma alone. In a couple of minutes, though, Scott and the leather coat guy emerged from the alley. Leather coat guy opened a zippered pocket on the outside of Scott’s camera bag and stuffed an object wrapped in brown paper into it. Then as quickly as he appeared, he vanished into the night.

Scott and I walked around the corner. “I got the guy talked down to $15,” he told me. He pulled out the object, supposedly the switchblade he just bought, and unwrapped it to discover he had just paid $15 for a Clark candy bar.

For our trip back to Oklahoma Scott and I bought a stash of hoagies, cheesesteaks, and Tastykakes. As we were sitting in a restaurant with a map open, planning our drive home, a waiter approached us and asked where we lived. When we told him it was Oklahoma, he looked at our U. S. map for 30 seconds but was unable to find Oklahoma. It was our impression that people on the east coast must think of Oklahoma as one of the big rectangular states out west.

Additional images:

Beach and Sky, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Beach and Sky, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Pier and surf, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Pier and surf, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Scott photographs the World's Greatest Siamese Pickle in Washington, D. C.

Scott photographs the World’s Greatest Siamese Pickle in Washington, D. C.

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

The Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D. C.

KittyKat Theater, Times Square, New York

KittyKat Theater, Times Square, New York.

Lighted signs, Times Square, New York.

Lighted signs, Times Square, New York.

Manhattan shoe shine vendor, New York.

Manhattan shoe shine vendor, New York.

Boat crossing New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty beyond. In 1985, the Statue was surrounded by a scaffold for restoration.

Boat crossing New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty beyond. In 1985, the Statue was surrounded by a scaffold for restoration.

Man and pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Man and pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Thirty-second timed exposure, Georgetown Metro station, Washington, D. C. area.

Thirty-second timed exposure, Georgetown Metro station, Washington, D. C. area.

Sixty-second timed exposure wide view at night of lower Manhattan from the Empire State Building, New York. The streaks in the sky are from aircraft.

Sixty-second timed exposure wide view at night of lower Manhattan from the Empire State Building, New York. The streaks in the sky are from aircraft.

One Response to “A New York Minute, March 1985”

  1. Wil C. Fry says:

    “It was our impression that people on the east coast must think of Oklahoma as one of the big rectangular states out west.”

    As you know, I met and married a New York girl. She assures me the only things she knew about Oklahoma before meeting me were (1) it was a state in the U.S., and (2) there had been a bombing there in 1995.

    She and her friends refer to it as “a flyover state”, as in “move along, nothing to see here.”

    I enjoyed your travelogue. After so many years of shooting digital, it’s a stretch of the imagination to think about being limited to four rolls of film. :-)

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