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...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Guest Blog... The Auditor

It has been some time since we’ve hosted a guest blogger, and tonight it is The Auditor. He works the nightshift in a Chicago hotel and keeps a fascinating, hilarious account of his experiences at Graveyard Shift Chicago. We were recently in Chicago reading from our book at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. A great little bookshop with fine wine and even better beer. If you’re in the neighborhood, say hello to the owner, our new friend, Suzy.

The Auditor, his nom de plume, meant to join us ... but he overslept.

Once I had a couple Australian tourists come to the desk and ask where they can watch some late night Chicago Blues while eating Chicago Deep Dish Pizza on the Chicago Lake Front, preferably in Chicago’s Al Capone’s favorite booth and is within a three block walk. I work in the Loop which is the financial district and things shut down modestly early. There are a few good restaurants and a couple Irish pubs, but if you want the real Chicago night life, you may have to get your hands dirty. Hop on the Red Line going north and get off at Addison if you want some blues. Or hop on the Red Line going south if you are gutsy and want some real blues. Deep dish pizza is not a problem if you want to order in, but you don't need to ask for Chicago style pizza. We know what you mean. As for Al Capone, I know he is the only historic Chicago figure you know of, so you can take a $20 cab north to Lawrence and Broadway and hop off at the Green Mill, one of my favorite bars and jazz clubs which was one of his hangouts. If you're not an asshole, the bartender might even point out some prohibition history. But seriously folks, Chicago has more than violent mobsters in its history. We have our share of recent corrupt governors too.

I work swing shifts at a classy and hip Loop hotel, two nights as a night manager from 11pm to 7am. At night I am a part time web browser, scam artist thwarter, couple counselor, and adult baby sitter. Since it is pretty quiet in the Loop at night, I get much of my amusement with the guests who are plastered by midnight and do not know where to go. I once asked advice from one of my bartenders who deals with drunks all night. “It’s easy,” he said. “You have to be just as crazy as they are.” Good advice. Of course he has the liberty to take numerous shots of Rupplemints to achieve this, so I guess I will stick with writing about them, which has worked thus far.

The rough part of working swing night shifts is obviously the sleep schedule. You have none, therefore are forced to be flexible. I don't know how anyone can work nights full time and maintain a normal relationship and an active social life. It allows me to stay out late at least three days of the week and guarantees that for at least two of them I will be working and therefore not spending money at the Green Mill.

Sure, my friends and family have no idea when to call since there is a good chance they will be waking me up. Sure, I haven't eaten a real breakfast in five years. But my commute is much more tolerable than yours.