New York is the city that never sleeps. But this renowned insomnia would not be possible without the more than 200,000 men and women who work the nightshift – the fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors and cab hacks, cops, docs, and fishmongers selling cod by the crate. Inverting the natural rhythm of life, they keep the city running as it slows but never stops.

In our book, NIGHTSHIFT NYC, we tell the stories of New York City nightshift workers. This ethnography of the night investigates familiar sites, such as diners, delis and taxis, as well as some unexpected corners of the night, such as a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan and a fishing boat out of Brooklyn. We show how the nightshift is more than simply out of phase, it is another social space altogether, highly structured, inherently subversive, and shot through with inequalities of power. NIGHTSHIFT NYC presents the narratives of those who sleep too little and work too much, revealing the soul of a city hidden in the graveyard shift of 24-hour commerce when the sun goes down and the lights come up.

But there is more to the story than found its way into the pages of the book. Here you'll find more stories of the night in New York City and around the country. And we hope you will add your own stories and comments in the months to come. Stay tuned and check back often...

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Page 99 Test

Ford Madox Ford once wrote: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." Aside from having probably THE best name in the history of literature, Ford was an insightful character - inspiring an entire blog dedicated to his assertion. If you've never seen Marshal Zeringue's The Page 99 Test blog, you should check it out.

And while you're there, take a look at our contribution to the ongoing test of Ford Madox Ford's famous theorem. Here's an excerpt:

Page 99... describes how Sunny, a self-described Palestinian, came to New York from Ramallah, speaks Hebrew with Israeli regulars, and doesn’t let politics interfere with commerce.

But the main reason why it’s an accurate test of the quality of the whole is that it speaks to the immigrant experience in New York City, which became a key theme. Page 99 discusses the difficulties immigrants face when owning businesses in New York City. There are the usual entrepreneurial struggles to acquire credit and capital, and to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, but these are compounded by their newcomer status and language barriers. Digressing a bit, to Page 98, a 2007 report from the Center for an Urban Future found foreign-born New Yorkers to be more likely than native-born to start businesses, sometimes twice as likely. Immigrants from some Middle Eastern countries start businesses at more than twice the rate of native-born New Yorkers, sometimes four times as often. But, back to Page 99, for entrepreneurial immigrants from the Middle East, things changed after September 11, 2001. Deportments and detainments shut down many of these small businesses. For those still open, their owners and workers routinely face being called terrorists.

However, Page 99 also reflects the whole by capturing the specific to show the myriad ways nightshift workers live inverted lives. Because Sunny is wide awake, he has the time and patience to talk with a sleepless child. Because he will be awake and off work when she wakes, he can enjoy breakfast with her. Because he understands the strange logic of working nights, he can grant her wish for a cheeseburger for breakfast. These are the benefits of a life out of phase. But there are, of course, costs. He must talk with her by telephone because he cannot be there in person. He eats breakfast with her because he’s asleep while she plays during the day. And he’ll surely raise a few eyebrows for bringing her that cheeseburger for breakfast.
You can read our entry in its entirety here.

And...if you're in NYC this Sunday, February 1, join us for a reading at Sunny's bar in Red Hook at 3pm. More details on our website:

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