Mapping Manhattan

    Becky Cooper travels the city with a blank image of Manhattan, asking unknown people to fill in the areas that are important to them. One author writes in the places where she lost her gloves, umbrellas, earrings, books, etc. A recurring theme in the book is how Manhattanites stick to certain areas and don’t venture beyond. This is something I can relate to, as I never ventured into Harlem until I started working as a substitute teacher back in 2002. By that time I had been living here for six years. I only went into Harlem to teach, never for a construction job or takeout delivery. I worked a Rice High School, right on the corner of 123rd and Lennox (or Malcolm X. Boulevard, if you prefer) and every time I went to the Staples store, everybody thought I worked there (big white guy, shirt and tie.) Whenever I’m in that area, I always remember those days, even though the school is now gone.

One lovestruck New Yorker colors “her” city in pink (after all, she’s a kid) and marks the tops half – titled “I’ve never been there” – in yellow. A grown woman draws in the sites of her first NYC trip (at age 7 in 1967) where her grandparents showed her the city in the era of Eloise. She saw a little man with a funny moustache and pet ocelot (later ID’d as Salvador Dali) and the MOMA sculpture garden (she thought it was someone’s backyard). Then she had lunch at a Times Square automat.

Every New Yorker has fond memories of their time here. I could draw a map of every art store where I bought materials, some of them closed, some have simply come under new management.