Never Forget (The Condiments)

In my brief time working in the Wall Street area, I’ve discovered that the shortest route between two points is not always a straight line. Certain streets are completely choked with tourists and narrowed by incessant construction, and should be avoided at all costs unless you want some homicidal inspiration.

Broadway is particularly awful, so if I need to get somewhere on that street, I will often double back on a parallel avenue, walk as far up- or downtown as I need to go, then cut back to the main drag. Though this might seem unnecessarily complicated, it’s actually much faster than trying to wade through acres of gawking Midwesterners (no offense, Midwesterners).

On Tuesday, I ventured away from the office to grab some lunch, and on the way back, I walked uptown on Trinity Place. While not completely crowd free, you can actually move along this street faster than a snail’s pace. It runs behind Trinity Church, at a lower elevation than Broadway. A majestic stone wall marks the church’s western extremity, and a beautiful walkway connects it, mysteriously, to a much more modern office building across the street.

As I walked past the stone wall, I noticed one entrance–called Cherub’s Gate–was wide open. I realized that I’d never been to Trinity Church, somehow, and that nothing was stopping me from going now. So I climbed the stairs and found myself on a tiny little green island of the 18th century in the middle of downtown Manhattan, filled with crumbling headstones, most of which are more than 200 years old.

It was bizarre to walk among the dilapidated tombstones and read their somber, weirdly spelled inscriptions. (“Here lyes Goodye Price, ded of Consumption aged thirty-fyve yearf.”) It was even weirder to see people spending their lunch there, yapping on cell phones, chowing down on deli buffet food in clamshell trays. Though odd, this didn’t seem disrespectful, really. It was a surprisingly quiet, calm oasis in a very noisy part of the city, and one of the few spots in that neighborhood where a person could truly get away from it all for a little while.

I should also add that as I strolled between the graves, I was listening to a Jean Shepherd show from 1960 on my iPod. During that period, Shep’s shows were particularly philosophical and dark. The setting plus the soundtrack combined to give me an eerie, melancholy feeling.

And then I felt something else. Actually, I smelled something else. Something acrid and pungent. Such smells are not unusual in New York, of course, but this smell was not bad per se, just unwelcome. And yet also strongly familiar.

And then I remembered: There was a Subway franchise right next to Trinity on Broadway. I was smelling the unmistakable reek of pickled Subway vegetables wafting through the churchyard. I have smelled that smell many times, coming from my own hands, several hours after eating a six-inch Veggie Delight. I don’t know what they use to preserve those vegetables for longhaul truck travel, but you need auto mechanic-grade abrasive soap to remove that stench from your fingers.

This smell was not faint. The churchyard was drenched in it. The final resting place of Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton, overshadowed by the olfactory shadow of five-dollar foot-longs. If such great men can be overtaken by the thorny talons of Jared, what hope is there for a rest of us?