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...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The King Is Here

“The king is here,” Steve mutters under his breath.

Steve is the manager at The Skylight Diner, and The Skylight is almost always busy. That’s partly because of its location on 34th Street, a two-way thoroughfare that conveniently links the Copacabana nightclub to Penn Station with the Skylight in between. It also happens to be around the corner from the 35th Precinct of the New York Police Department (NYPD), attracting a steady stream of hungry nightshift police officers. But mostly it’s the blue and red neon sign framed in stainless steel that beckons patrons at all hours of the night: Open 24 Hrs.

At around 4 a.m. on warm June evening, a guy walks in wearing a red and gold crown – The King. His date wears a glimmering tiara. Most weekends in May and June, just about every 24-hour eatery in the area is full of high school students from Long Island and New Jersey partying after prom. It is not uncommon for groups of prom-goers to rent limousines for the night and come into the “city” for nightclubs like the Copacabana. After 3 a.m., the Skylight fills up with boisterous teenagers in wrinkled tuxedos and tight-fitting dresses.

Inevitably, limo drivers follow their charges into the diner and settle down at the counter to wait for the drive back to the suburbs. One such prom night, Louie sits at the counter. He’s a retired NYPD officer who owns a fleet of limousines on Long Island. But not for long. He is selling most of his fleet and leaving New York, moving to North Carolina next month. This is one of his last trips out on the nightshift. He explains how some of his Long Island neighbors discovered a planned community near Charlotte, North Carolina. He figures that he can make twice what he earns in New York and live at half the cost there. After forty years in New York, Louie is selling out: “Really,” he says, “I mean, yeah, it’s a beautiful city, it never sleeps, it’s wonderful. But between the crime, the taxes,” he trails off. “If you have any real estate in New York,” he says simply, “sell it.”

Louie ends his pitch as Steve walks over. “You don’t know me, right?” Steve asks Louie. “I could tell you a story right now, and you’re gonna call me a moron.” Steve tells Louie about his father’s cousin, who owns a diner in Maryland but wants to retire in Greece. “Listen,” Steve begins, impersonating his father’s Greek cousin, “I had a son your age, he died in a car accident a couple of years ago. I’ve got a daughter, she lives in Atlanta and she doesn’t want to bother with a diner. I’ll make a deal with you. I’m 72 years old. You come down here, you send me $3,000 a month and I go to Greece. And the place is yours.” Steve waits, leans over the counter for effect, and adds, “But I’m still here.”

Louie hesitates a moment, then obediently cries, “You’re a moron!”

Steve smiles and says, “What did I tell you?”

1 comment:

Atlanta Attractions said...

" Steve is the manager at The Skylight Diner, and The Skylight is almost always busy. " ... you're very right