SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - NYC Life Was Strange, Park Bench Shenanigans, Backwoods Looks Better

By Bob Weaver

About 60 years ago I had my first visit to New York City, a wide-eyed country boy driving right into the city like I owned the place, using a city map.

I was just reminded of the trip by a former Roane woman, then a teenager, who we took to New York Presbyterian Hospital in 1967, accompanied by her parents. She was suffering from a tumor of the leg.

While recently visiting the John H. Taylor Funeral Home in Spencer, with his help, we connected with the lady one more time. She was amazed about my recall of the event.

Perhaps the most memorable experience was seeing life in the Big Apple, sitting on a park bench in front of the hospital for about half an hour.

It was in the edge of the Bronx, mostly occupied by Hispanics.

Across the street from the hospital was a neighborhood park, and for the first time in my life I witnessed a public display of sex between a man and woman on a park bench. I thought they must do it differently in New York.

A few minutes later, smoke began to pour from a tenement building and the NYC Fire Department responded. I think the fire was on the third floor of the eight story building.

Firemen began to utilize a hook and ladder truck to pour water into the apartment, while women and children poked their heads out of upper story windows to chatter, apparently discussing the fire or what was for supper.

Peculiar to me, being a volunteer fireman in Spencer, that the occupants didn't evacuate the building, as kids climbed up and down the ladder truck, much to the dismay of the firemen. It seemed like a social affair.

I thought, in West Virginia we'd have the good sense to get everyone out of the building, but what do I know.

A short time later, a really drunk man exited the subway a short distance from where I was sitting. He fell down on a metal grate, cutting his head, blood spurting.

Then a whole crowd of folks exited the subway, walking over the fallen injured man.

This really did astound me, thinking in the hills of West Virginia we would go the aid of people we didn't even like.

I walked over to the man, tugging him to a nearby wall and propping him up, extracting my clean white handkerchief and apply it to his bleeding head.

Yes, back at that time every guy carried a clean white handkerchief.

The drunken man assured me he would be fine, as I returned to my bench.

The NYC experience was an eye-opener for me, but across the years, I learned, after visiting the city several times, that life is a little different there.

It was a pleasant reunion with the Roane County woman these years later.

I think I've always concluded, returning to West Virginia from NYC, it was a pretty good place to be.