Someone else, handing him leftover pizza, told me his name just the other day. As if it makes any difference whatsoever, my knowing his name, having watched him wander the neighborhood for at least two years now. Commercial rents are too ridiculous even for Café Corner: he’s been bedding down on the sidewalk fronting one side or the other of the former Figaro since the beginning of 2016. You’ve probably seen him yourself. He is harder to look at than some, a disfiguring cyst sprouting from his filthy forehead like a monster’s evil eye.
Here at The Common, we’re all about place, so we’ve been experimenting with more ways for readers to experience the locations of our pieces. Using this map, you can explore all the dispatches we’ve published set in New York City. Get to know Eli the Seltzer Man, the nighthawks on the Upper West Side, and more!
Nuyorican Poets Cafe
236 E. 3rd St., New York City
Celebrate spring, fresh new literature, and The Common at our Issue 13 launch party and benefit! Join us for a night at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, featuring Honor Moore, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Bethany Ball, and Mensah Demary.
Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split, winner of the 2012 Kundiman Poetry Prize, the 2015 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the 2016 Best Poetry Book Award from the Association of Asian American Studies. Che is a Vietnamese American poet and teacher, originally from Los Angeles and Long Beach, California. She received her MFA in poetry from New York University and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from Poets & Writers, The Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, Kundiman, Poets House, and The Asian American Literary Review, among many others. Her poems have been published in Hyperallergic, Hyphen, poets.org, and AAWW’s The Margins. Her work delicately probes the liminal spaces between cultures, identities, nationalities, and bodies.
Leaving New York City: an Interview with Cathy Linh Che
Downtown, already snagged between two countries, I make stock footage for an English return—block after block, hobbling in unwalkable shoes, uptown from the Ground Zero memorial where, today, Obama laid wreaths and tousled the head of Cannizzaro: a one-year-old boy on 9/11.
From the elevated train in Queens, I’d glimpse the phantasmagoria that was 5 Pointz. A riot of color and occasional faces covering every inch of the old, block-long factory, it felt hallucinatory. In a minute—not enough time for the eye or brain to take it all in—the images vanished and the train rumbled underground, heading to Manhattan.
Even tight, feared spaces can expand, morphing from the past
into the fuzz of nostalgia, which I’ll try to avoid here,
e.g., #1, me at 16, looking for the “model studio” listed
in the Manhattan Yellow Pages. Toting a portfolio, I climb
the stairs of a West 40s walkup worn as another century.
“Models?” “No, that’s Cheekie, 2 flights up,”
one red talon points to heaven and off I go.
“You’re from Garbage Island,” a college friend said.
He wasn’t wrong. My hometown housed Fresh Kills, once the largest landfill in the world – so vast it could be seen from outer space with the naked eye. My classmate was from Queens, which, according to the rest of the city, was still a notch above Staten Island, the forgotten borough of parks. The borough with New York City’s trash.
Scents conjure up times, people, and places distant from the here and now. At the heart of Kate McLean’s Sensory Maps is the power of aromas, their ability to trigger and concretize emotion and memory. McLean, born and raised in Britain, was inspired by the idea that we form our experience of place through sensory perception. She has researched, recreated, and charted the dominant scents of several cities to paint urban portraits through smell. This ongoing cartographic project is partially intended as a corrective in a world that strongly favors visual and aural information. Through capturing and diagramming the defining smells of a place, McLean tells a city’s history and describes its character. Like postcards and souvenirs, the heightened awareness of scent can enhance a visitor’s memories; for the residents of a community, local scents are signifiers of history and identity.