Sometimes, it is easy to forget that New York is still a big and scary city. It seems like there is a Whole Foods on every corner, and a Free People fashion boutique even in the worst of neighborhoods. I’ve lived here long enough to remember when it was a really gnarly pit of seedy activity. When I was writing The Believer’s Daughter, I couldn’t help but imagine Grace and Aaron arriving in New York and stepping off of their train at Penn Station in the iteration of that west side neighborhood I remember from fifteen years ago. 34th Street (right by Penn Station) is still my Most Hated Street in New York, followed closely by 14th Street, for excessive pedestrian traffic, unappealing stores (Foot Locker?) and high anxiety about my iPhone being pulled out of my handbag.
I happened to notice this totally dark, gross, rusting locked gate leading to a Women’s bathroom at the Franklin Street #1 train station this week and remembered that way back when, all subway stations used to actually have bathrooms. And people, regular subway-riding people, used to use them. Not me. But these were really once in use, presumably before everyone just started using the bathrooms at Starbucks and the Time Warner Center when they weren’t at home. I can’t even imagine how filthy and stanky this bathroom must be, and thankfully it is locked away like a little water closet time capsule. It serves as a fun and unsightly reminder that New York used to be gritty before all public restrooms had Dyson hand dryers.