New York Tales from Curious Borough Dwellers

001 : Tam Nomgum in The Staten Island Hotel, Staten Island
Born 1981 in Maryland, USA. Tam Nomgum currently works as a student. Why New York? It’s near Philadelphia! He digs the following Gotham bits: The Metropolitan Opera, Per Se, the Long Island Railroad, Seinfeld and the view of Manhattan from Jersey City. He is, however, a bit miffed by the Yankees, how much stuff costs, the Port Authority, Friends and "nut stank" (from the street vendors). For more info on Tam Nomgum you should send an email.

image: Johnny Vulkan

“...the hourly clicking of Oxfords and high heels across the parking lot.”

You don’t choose the Staten Island Hotel—it, like death, chooses you.  And the moment I glimpsed its dim, crusty yellow lights after five hours in my parents’ Camry on our emergency trip to New York 11 years ago, I knew that my family was next on the hotel’s hit list.

The Staten Island Hotel and its excessively convenient location to our upcoming funeral activities in Brooklyn and Elmont temporarily interrupted my 16-year-old life and that of my family just after my great-aunt’s heart failure permanently interrupted hers.  But as a teenager, I didn’t care if I was in New York for a funeral.  I just wanted to make the most of what I saw as one of my first voyages to the big city.  That evening, my older brother and I talked for a while about sneaking into Manhattan and catching a taping of the Daily Show[1].

But our room’s yellow pages didn’t help us find Comedy Central’s studios[2].  Kept from the flashy New York I imagined, I had to look elsewhere for entertainment.

So across the hall in my parents’ room, I found what entertainment I could in watching my father as he sat at the desk, his suitcase still closed and all his papers with driving directions spread on the bed, as he called his colleagues from the room phone to ask them to cover his work for the next couple of days. It was then that someone decided we shouldn’t go hungry all night, and of all the restaurants in New York City, we opted for the hotel’s and its bland, runny pasta and shoddy service. During dinner, my aunt made the waitress switch the X-Files[3] off the dining room TV, halfway through an episode. The show was apparently too violent—or maybe too fun?—for my younger cousin.

Even though she got rid of the X-Files, my aunt couldn’t do away with the night’s real main attraction: the screaming below my room’s window and the hourly clicking of Oxfords and high heels across the parking lot.  I now realize that the Staten Island Hotel chose those businessmen and their hookers just like it chose us.

At the funeral the next day, a relative I’d only seen twice in my life told me, “It was so good of you to come.”  Later that night, I was relieved that I didn’t have to tell that relative, “Actually, I caught a show and had a great meal while I was here.”  Instead, with comfort, without guilt, I could recall that all I did on my big night in town was to treat my hotel like the sleazy purgatory it was—and to have no fun whatsoever.  That was my New York City.

referenced works

  1. At that time, the Daily Show was still hosted by Craig Kilborn.
  2. Tam, it turns out they are here.
  3. Oh, Agent Mulder, where have you gone to?

location information


017That's when I knew I wanted to live in New York: in the midst of those fragile bralets and bodysuits.— Ling Ma

016The guns, we tell the police later, were black like ice.— Tara Deal

015...my own talisman against the folly of my youth.— Andrea Jarrell

014Y'all in a band'r somethin'?— Abraham

013Perhaps it was the lanky teenager with the bright red book-bag that made me think I saw Adam.— Carrie Teicher

012I remember flattening myself against the streaky windows of the PATH train like an insect.— Erin Fisher

011I glanced up to see another shape hit the sand.— Ken H. Judy

010Vibrating almost imperceptibly in the breeze like a woody tuning fork.— Rob Giampietro

009Then the jazz stopped and the radio said the war had started in the Middle East. — Roland Kelts

008Shirtless Boris Yeltsin’s skin reddens as he reads a book.— Michael Maiello

007Port Authority was there with open, non-judging arms.— Khoi Vinh

006His almost-loss was my almost- nonexistence.— Matthew Rand

005On the cold hard floor of the orphanage, I sang, longing for the day that they would come and rescue me.— Jen Egan

004He was a lawyer, after all.— Kristin Gardner

003The parking lot gate was open, and we ran in with the skateboard.— Lorraine Martindale

002We arrived on completely Russian streets, with Russian signs and a familiar rudeness.— Kseniya Melnik

001...the hourly clicking of Oxfords and high heels across the parking lot.— Tam Nomgum


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