A stoop party is a lost art here in New York City, we New Yorkers have become more and more introverted as technology on our smartphones provides us with tools to reach out to lost friends located on all different corners of the Earth. With our attention focused on escapism in cyberspace we forget about home, our extended family, neighbors old and new, physical contact with others. As humans our natural inclination is to congregate, to mass and come together as one. Here in Hell’s Kitchen; a place where cultural invasion and succession is embodied best, on a Saturday morning the spirit of the past was resurrected as a small group of residents celebrated togetherness in the balmy and later soggy embrace of a storm named ‘Irene’.
While most New Yorkers and residents of the tri-state area stood on the lines of their Duane Reades, Food Emporiums, Home Depots and bodegas, I sat on the familiar gray, cold yet welcoming slab of concrete I have turned into my office during the dog days of summer. On my stoop I sat with the music of the 90’s that made my child hood, and my dear friend Tootsie Roll; a thirteen year old Shih Tzu, with black and white fur, a dog slightly worn out by the times, but still embodies enough of her original youthful energy that has provided me with moments of nostalgia and smiles.
With bands of clouds sweeping overhead, often delivering a sneak preview of what was to come that evening, I sang out loud, bopped my head, and said hello to my neighbors most of whom were relatively calm and jovial. I was soon joined by the Montelvans; an Ecuadorian family, and my dear friends. When I see their faces and hear their voices I am immediately captured and over whelmed by a wave of shared experiences. It is in that moment, in the company of the Montelvan family that our hurricane stoop party began.
We sat on old newspapers, unfolded our collapsible lawn chairs, shared stories, enjoyed libations from a seemingly bottomless cooler and concentrated on the deep, broad silence, eerily reminiscent of only two experiences in my life. As the skies turned over and the last vehicles made their way crosstown to destinations unknown, the Nassiveras came out to join us at 321 with their chocolate lab Abigail. LJ and his wife Rosie expanded the love of the stoop by providing a nerf football and a second cooler filled with necessary hurricane provisions, thus extending an event that started in the morning with a man and his dog.
There we were, a community, a melting pot of color and language, assembled on the stoop, waiting for our guest of honor, Irene. A game of long toss started in the middle of the street, and as traffic stilled trickled through the veins and arteries of Manhattan, a classic warning would blare out “CAAAAAR!”, the color commentary would pause and the game would halt until the all clear was given “GAME OOOON!”. As the storm clouds grew darker in color the Montelvans dispersed to their 5th floor apartment leaving just myself, the Nassiveras and our two dogs, in the background the music still played from Pandora Radio, over the battery operated speaker system I own.
Taking advantage of this extraordinary opportunity, provided to us by atmospheric conditions barely understood by me yet alone the news and its’ anchors, we made a bold pilgrimage to a place residents of Hell’s Kitchen only walk through when absolutely necessary. TIME SQUARE. It was time to explore Father Duffy Square.
The pedestrian park was still buzzing with the locust like tourists. Their hands filled with bags from an assortment of stores, as last-minute shopping consumed their minds, they went from building to building in a methodical chaos understood only by them. The thought on our minds was whether or not it was safe enough that LJ and I could throw the ball around. Seasoned athletes in our own right we went forth with the idea, sure that we would not be harassed by police and confident in our ability to throw a ball safely. Random souls joined in, Fire Fighters and Police Officers visiting for the World Police and Fire Games, couples, and teenage kids with their fathers. There we all were at the international cross roads of the world, anticipating a hurricane, running post routes, play actions, curl patterns and statue of liberty plays. No longer on the stoop but very much so sharing the sense of community it provides, Hell’s Kitchen went global and possibly viral as I secretly hope a tourist captured us on their camera phone to share on facebook, or youtube.
A rain began to fall, one more consistent to the characteristics of an impending hurricane, so the Nassiveras, myself and our dogs trekked back home for dinner, dry clothing and a little reprieve from the rain. Now dinner at a stoop party is not normally done indoors, but this was an exception to the rule. We still managed to have a delicious pot luck dinner of potato knishes, Nathan’s hot dogs, chili, and skirt steak. After a few phone calls to friends and family we reconvened on the sister stoop of my building at 323; a building that was once home to my mother’s large family and thus holds a dear place in my heart. A building that has served as the setting for many family events.
Rather than seeing the faces of the past LJ and I were greeted by new ones: tourists from Kent who were renting out an apartment for their New York vacation, a Frenchman from Normandy, new neighbors from every corner of the country. We exposed ourselves to the elements, some ventured out covered by umbrellas, and others haphazardly sloshed around in the rain embracing their inner youth, gone but not long forgotten. It is difficult to describe the precipitation that fell on us, but it was more like cascading streams of water rather than singular, flat, large drops of rain. Heavy laughter broke out as one neighbor performed yoga barefoot on the sidewalk. While the storm wreaked havoc on the outer lying Burroughs and the city’s suburbs, there was peace, laughter, dancing and soul on 47th street that lasted until 3 a.m.
Irene enticed our little clan to escape the cloud and live in the moment, to get away from our technology and make friends the old fashion way. There are no pictures of this event, there are no tweets or status updates, we left it all out there, on the stoop, to be revisited again someday in the future, or somewhere in our mind. A tradition re-branded by the times and resurrected, if only for that moment.