New York Tales from Curious Borough Dwellers

005 : Jen Egan at The Alvin Theatre, Manhattan
Born 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut. Jen Egan currently works as a center director for a learning center in Manhattan. Why New York? She feels that anything could happen here. She digs the following Gotham bits: The egalitarianism, passion, and curiosity of its people; the diversity; the energy and pace; the movies and readings; the subways. She is, however, a bit miffed by the buses, trying to walk across Times Square, roaches and doormen. For more info on Jen Egan you should send an email.

image: Eigo Nagase

“On the cold hard floor of the orphanage, I sang, longing for the day that they would come and rescue me.”

For six months, I waited. I knelt over my stereo, lowering the needle into the groove for “Maybe,” singing the song over and over, pretending to be the orphan Annie, who was in turn fantasizing the life of intimacy and affection that her parents were leading. In my imagined rags, on the cold hard floor of the orphanage, I sang, longing for the day that they would come and rescue me. Paperclipped to April’s page in the calendar hanging on the wall were two tickets for Annie, my first Broadway play.

On the day itself, I hurtled along, my hand in my aunt’s, watching hundreds of swinging legs, avoiding sharp knees and bouncing heels, breathing the scent of exhaust mixed with roasting pretzels from the street vendors.

At the show, the words to the songs kept welling up and forming on my lips—I strained forward in my seat, soundlessly singing along. Stifling this urge took all my concentration, and by intermission I needed a break. My aunt and I joined the throng that carried us, inch by excruciating inch, up through the lobby and onto the sidewalk.

I remember most clearly the Alvin’s[1] row of glass doors, each framed in brass. Standing on the sidewalk I was a few tantalizing inches from the theater, the marble lobby and the darkened world of the play and, at the same time, only an arm’s length from 52nd, its bulging manholes, its taxis, urging each other down the narrow street, people slipping between them to cross. Unlike our suburban streets, the curb here was almost nonexistent; the sidewalk flowed seamlessly into the street. The scent of burning sugar mixed with the excitement of the day. I was on the unendurable edge of something; proximity- to the imagined and the real; it was all so tantalizingly close, the whole city so full of possibility and opportunity and yet, what could I do? What could I, at the age of six, do?

I held the playbill. It curved in the damp heat of my palm. The theatre lights flickered as if a storm was coming. I looked to my aunt. “It’s going to start,” she said. “Are you ready?” I took her hand and followed her back into the theatre.

referenced works

  1. Renamed the Neil Simon Theater in 1983. Annie closed after 2,377 performances on January 2nd of the same year.

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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