Lucy & Gina

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by Leandra Medine
June 7, 2013
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A decidedly heartwarming look at some of downtown New York’s most interesting furniture

“You are from New York and therefore you are naturally interesting.”

I sympathized with this sentiment when Lena Dunham’s Girls character, Hannah Horvath, first said it while talking to her mirror’s reflection in season one but I’m not quite sure I understood the statement’s veracity until last week when I met two of New York’s–as far as I’m concerned–most historical landmarks: a 90-year-old Lucy, and 81-year-old Gina.

What is it about crossing that 80-year threshold that grants a person the ability to sound profoundly more interesting, dynamically more hilarious and evocatively wiser than the rest of us? Is it the substantial weight of a heavy, experiential lifespan sitting just below the vintage belt? Or do opinions, perceptions and conversations become pleasantly inflated in older age? New York is magical in that on any given, rather regular Tuesday afternoon you can find yourself asking these questions and in the blink of a wrong turn subsequently find yourself at the obscure intersection of living example and answer.

On one such Tuesday, I met said intersection. The two fireballs pervading the cloverleaf have essentially made home for themselves on two steel chairs positioned just outside B-Space, an Australian-product-only boutique in Nolita, run by a bevy of attractive young surfers-cum-men boasting accents that–I am sure–would make any female New Yorker weak in the knees. Come to think of it, actually, B-Space has made home for itself on their turf. Both women have lived on that precise Nolita block since their births.

“This used to be my shop,” an older, silver-coiffed woman, wearing a black and silver chain necklace she described as older than her, explained as she noticed me walking by slowly, curiously gazing in through the window. “We had everything in there–pin ball machines, pool tables, gum.”

“Now they’re all Australian over here. Do you want some ice cream? It’s from a brand new place, right down the block,” she asked me while pointing at her 16 Handles cup.

“No thank you,” I declined while she continued on. “I’ve lived in the same apartment, right above this store, my whole life. Rent used to be $20. You know how much I’m paying now?”

I could have guessed.

“$87. Eighty seven whole dollas.”

But I would have been wrong.

Fascinated, I began lowering down to the store’s bench to resume a seat next to my new friend in her steel chair. I’d gathered that her name was Lucy on the account of almost each and every individual walking by, stopping to greet her–”Hi Lucy! Looking good today.”

“They always say that,” she explained to me while her friend, Gina, came and sat just beside her.

“So, $87, really?” I asked.

“I pay $89,” Gina explained. “Who’s the new girl?”

There are plenty of wonderful, older women living in New York City. Evidently, I just haven’t taken enough time to get to know them. Lucy and Gina were a phenomenal place to start, though, especially in light of this weekend’s most underrated holiday: National Best Friends Day. They shared rather stealthy stories from their past lives–noting deceased parents, husbands, relatives–and opting mostly to remain in the present moment where effectively everything was perfect. In that very same moment, the importance of friendship became discernibly clear. After a while, after all, the people you call your best friends become family, don’t they? Here are a couple of our favorite conversational nuggets as transcribed by Charlotte Fassler.

Someone waves

Lucy: Who’s that?

Gina: How the hell do I know? People walk by, they say hi every time. They see us, they say hi, and that’s it.

Lucy: Oh, that looks like Viola’s son. Lawrence?

Gina: Hey Lawrence! Sorry, we didn’t know it was you

Leandra: Do you have any kids?

Gina: She has a son, a big son.

 

Hot Australian approaches on bike.

Lucy: Oh Tina!

Australian: Tina? Close…it’s Tim. Hi Honey

They kiss.

Lucy: Ooooooh! These are new girls.

Tim: New girls, Hi, I’m Tim.

Lucy: Timmy! Don’t say I don’t wear it.

She holds up her arm, clad in a bracelet.

Tim: Yeah, look at you go.

Lucy: He got it for me from Australia.

 

On the evolution of Prince Street:

Gina: Years ago, before all these shops the Italian people had a clothes line from here to here (points at the buildings)

Lucy: It was all Italians. All Sicilians on Elizabeth street, right Gina? Mott street was covered with food all the time, and Chinatown…it’s still there.

 

A slight younger woman walks by with a man, she says hi to Gina

Gina: Hi!

Leandra: You guys know everyone in the neighborhood, huh?

Lucy: We’ve live here a long time

Gina: Well she’s been here long too

Leandra: So do you sit out here very often?

Gina: In the summer, when it’s warm

Leandra: What do you do in the winter?

Lucy: Stay in the house!

Leandra: Go visit each other and stuff?

Gina: Yeah, sometimes—

Lucy: We stay in our own houses.

 

Another passerby continues forward, this one clutching on to a walker

Passerby: Hey How you doin’ — where’s your puppy?

Gina: Upstairs

Leandra: It’s lovely that you all know each other

Gina: Even the junkies know me

Leandra: What’s that?

Gina: Even the junkies know me.

Lucy: Around the corner, there used to be a drug addict store.

Leandra: A drug addict store?

Gina: A methadone center

Lucy: Yeah, the methadone

 

A second hot Australian emerges.

Lucy: Hey where are ya going?

Australian: I have to go to the West Village, but I’ll be back. Be back in an hour.

Lucy: Okie dokie.

Gina: Bring home a hippie?

Australian: No, Jesus.

Gina: Bring something good?

Australian: You want something good?

Gina: Yeah, yourself.

Gina: You know I would like to try corn dogs, they say they’re very good.

Leandra: Corn dogs?

Gina: Corn dogs

Hot Australian: What’s that?

Gina: Corn dogs!

Hot Australian: Corn dogs?

Gina: Corn dogs!

Hot Australian: What’s a corn dog?

Lucy: Oh, I’ve seen ‘em!

Gina: It’s Frankfurters, wrapped around in the–

Hot Australian: Prosciutto?

Gina: No, corn bread.

 

They begin talking amongst themselves with an older gentlemen named Joey.

Lucy: I don’t like no green peppers, only the red ones.

Joey: I love hot sauce.

 

Gina starts looking through photos that were inconspicuously handed to her. They are pictures of children in Mexico. The photos fall out of Gina’s lap

Lucy: Hey. Joe wants to see them too!

Lucy: Hey!

Gina: Hey! There was a bug on it!!!

Joe: I can’t take you no place.

Gina: You’ll take me no place.

 

On family

Lucy: There’s my son!

Leandra: Are you close with your son?

Lucy: Yeah, he’s my only one.

Leandra: Do you still live in the same unit you were in when you were born?

Lucy: Yea.

Gina: Yea. Me too.

Leandra: Do you also pay crazy rent, like $80 per month?

Gina: No way, pshhh. $89.

Leandra: $89?

Lucy: I pay $87. But we’re senior citizens. Some of them pay less than us.

Gina: Mary Jones, Fifty dollars.

Lucy: When I got married I was paying fifteen dollars.

Leandra: What did your husband do?

Lucy: He worked at United Fruit.

Gina: You paid fifteen dollars when you got married? I paid fourteen dollars when I got married.

Lucy: And when my mom passed away I started paying twenty dollars.

Gina: We’re widows now. The weeping willo–widow.

Leandra: You don’t look weeping to me.

Lucy: What?

Leandra: You’re not weep-ing!

Gina: I had a son, he died. All my family is gone now. We just got each other.

REPLIES
  • CDJ

    May be one of the best posts you’ve ever had. My phone bill is more than $87 a month.

    • Leandra Medine

      My groceries, too

      • CDJ

        Ugh, had I known I would get a response, I wouldn’t have been so lazy and would have actually signed in!

      • sketch42

        I think I spend more than $87 a month on coffee.

    • MichaelAron2

      Have you heard the drama? Marc Jacobs cruelly tortures a designer called Angel Barta. He stole her designes and sexually harassed her. Read the shocking details on: styleangelique.blogspot.com

      • SF

        Oh god you’re everywhere

  • Rosemary

    Yep. Loves me the fashion but this is your best.

  • Alice

    Reminds me of my grandpa. Nice post Lea :)

  • Nico
  • http://www.coralsandcognacs.com/ Hallie Wilson

    One of my favorite narratives you’ve ever written… Such a charming story! I may or may not hike down to Nolita this weekend to spy on these two gems from afar. And pop into that boutique, obvs.

    And I’m with CDJ. Pretty much any bill I’ve ever paid is more than $87 a month.

  • Mairzi

    Great post. Reminds me of all the wonderful people I would see with my grandparents on Friday nights back before Little Italy became Nolita

  • Clothes_and_Dreams

    Really nice post! :D

  • Selena Aponte

    SoHo, LES (where my mom grew up) and Nolita used to be the worst slums around.. -amazing how far gentrification, displacement, broken window laws and $$ can turn a once frowned upon ‘hood into the (arguably) most desired real estate market around.

    It’s a treat to run into these ladies every now and then. They are adorable and real New Yorkers. Newbies should take note and a history lesson (or 2) from them every now and then.

  • http://www.fashionsnag.com/ Fashion Snag

    The best post you’ve written so far is this one. I really liked getting to know these two ladies. I find people over 80 to be the most interesting and they definitely live in the present moment.

    http://www.FashionSnag.com

  • http://www.farandwildjewelry.com/ abigail lind

    it just shows you that in new york good things like cheap rent and hot australian friends come to those who wait 80+ years. love these sassy ladies, i’m gonna bring them some corn dogs this weekend.

    abigail
    http://www.farandwildjewelry.com

  • Clarisa Llaneza

    I never comment on this but BEST POST I HAVE EVER READ! hands down.

  • Amanda Perry

    Awesome post, I literally love old people. So great.

    http://www.andwithlovea.blogspot.com

  • EdgifyMe

    I LOVE OLD PEOPLE

  • sketch42

    This is beautiful… At the end of the day, we will still just be a bunch of old ladies making social commentary.

    • Leandra Medine

      If we are really, really lucky!

      • sketch42

        Agree!

  • Somebody from Somewhere
  • http://www.anorexicescapades.com/ BougieHippie

    Leandra your posts are getting more creative, hardy and entertaining. Good job girl!

    http://www.anorexicescapades.com

  • Allie

    Leandra is obviously brilliant. What a phenomenal concept

  • Monica

    I need to inherit this appartment. Can you please tell them I am available for adoption? PLEASE AND THANK YOU!

  • Rebeka Osborne

    I really love this. I also really love that they pay $87 for rent. That’s like, two days of rent for me. Jealous!

  • Francesca Keller

    Amazing post! I have to agree, that if you’re from New York you are interesting.
    Congratulations on an great blog! I have to say I update it daily.

    If you can, check out http://ladolcemoda7.blogspot.com.ar/
    :)

  • Lauren

    Love this post so much. Thank you for sharing.
    hippiesdaughter.blogspot.com

  • Lauren

    Love this post so much. Thank you for sharing.
    http://ahippiesdaughter.blogspot.com

  • www.dylicious.de

    I love it so much! That’s our true life… Thank you for posting this, Leandra.

  • Jules Fashion Week

    so nice!!! you are so funny!!

    http://julesfashionweek.com

  • http://glossylala.com/ GlossyLala

    Great post!!!:))

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  • Dee

    Such a nice read. Thanks for posting!

    ddllxx.blogspot.com

  • http://madamecouture.blogspot.com/ Emma Hager

    Ha, what wonderful women! Love the concept of a really tight-knit community. That is
    something fascinating that I find about certain neighborhoods in cities,
    especially New York. In the midst of all the anonymity that comes with blocks
    and blocks of tall buildings, there are pockets of quiet, shady streets where
    it’s impossible to scoot by without waving to a few familiar faces. I think
    these ladies exemplify the importance to slow down for a few minutes in our
    busy lives, to make and strengthen those human-to-human connections with people
    who are essentially as related as any blood relative.
    Thanks for posting!

  • angela

    I would love to see their photo albums. I am sure they have interesting photos of their neighborhood.
    http://www.style.lelopez.com

  • Margaret Karabetyan

    These sweet ladies are a couple of future Leandras…

    http://fruitlessdating.blogspot.com/

  • jaclyn

    Friendship…I wonder who will be the luck person to be my friend when i get to be that age? Aging friendship is quite the commitment.

    check my blog: http://stylevolver.blogspot.com

  • Soe

    What a great story to start my saturday with. New York, New York…

  • Alba B.

    Dear Leandra,

    is kind of strange that despite recession we still keep talking about money, rent and how all this daily life has become even more expansive in respect to our granny’s times!!!!

    That is somehow absurd because they came out from a World War and they, who are still alive use to have a sense of taste even without any money, smth us (tech generation) are missing.

    Do we have to surpass a war to have a good taste and be glad of small things we have such as LIFE and LOVE.

    Peace.

    abdsign.blogspot.com

    p.s.

    another issue I would like to raise here is how you as Turkish origin do you feel about the last news coming from Istanbul? I know this blog is just a moment of peace and deliberation from important things of what’s happening around, but I am pretty sure with your sensibility you will make a great future post.

  • mint_maison

    Those goddamn drug addict stores!

  • Holly-Bella

    Awesome post. I wish I was from New York…maybe I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I was interesting? LOL xoxo

    http://thepersephonecomplex.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Addison Cain

    This has to be one of my favorite posts. Such a great look into New York culture. I obviously don’t get much of that being from Kentucky. Love it.

    SimplySkinDeepBeauty.blogspot.com

  • laura

    makes me want to live in nyc so bad.

    • Paperstarz

      Think again, most people in NYC are not like these ladies.

  • Dev

    Lucy and Gina look great an all, but where are the pictures of the “hot” Australians?

  • Augusta Neal

    This. Was. Amazing.

  • zoe_whip

    Only in New York. I want her apartment!

  • Anna

    very sentimential
    photographer

  • miss appo

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  • naomi martin

    This is one of my favourite posts – this could be a whole show!!

  • The Style-o-Meter
  • bloomaglow

    Way too cute!!

    http://bloomaglow.com

  • the coattail effect

    this is like looking at a mirror from the future– definitely me and my best friend in 50 years :)

  • Natty

    Good stuff!

  • Anika Zebron

    Though aging does essentially freak me out, this kind of a post reminds that I also can’t wait until I too have nothing more pressing to do that to sit and say whatever the hell I want. Your two new friends are fabulously funny!

  • http://www.imperfectperfectionista.com/ Elina Galuga

    Friggin good. Real – Realer – REALEST.

  • Kellie

    Great story. I love it. Please do some more of this !

  • Bec Loades

    It is people like this who create the character and preserve the soul of a city! Amazing! Love it.

  • Ash

    This reminds me of some of the things my friend’s mom used to say all the time. Once, she told me she was going to get a battleship tattooed across her chest to keep the men away. I miss her.

  • sugarandspicemag

    I read your blog for your style tips and your sense of humor, but stories like these are the ones that make my day. I think it’s wonderful that you featured Gina and Lucy here. If everyone had a “Lucy” or a “Gina” in their lives, the world would be a much better place.

  • http://www.fancyalterego.wordpress.com/ Heather P.

    I can’t wait to be old enough to spend the day sitting around, people-watching, and saying whatever the hell I want to. :-)

  • anastasiaC

    loved this!!

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