italo calvino

New York, City of my dreams

Did any filmmaker do dreams better than Bunuel?


Isidora, therefore, is the city of his dreams: with one difference. The dreamed-of city contained him as a young man; he arrives at Isidora in his old age. In the square there is the wall where the old men sit and watch the young go by; he is seated in a row with them. Desires are already memories.
Calvino, Invisible Cities


I loved this piece about Joe Franklin. In 1988 I was a bicycle messenger in New York. Once, I had to make a delivery to his surreal office. It was in a different building then (West 42nd Street, I believe), but this description is spot on:

It had actually been closer to ten, but not much had changed to alter this magazine’s assessment, in 1971, of Franklin’s then office: “If it were a person, it would be a bum.” The new space had no windows and was filled with ephemera: a “Legally Blonde 2” DVD, six empty shipping boxes, two Christmas stockings, a bar of soap in the shape of a hot dog, two stuffed animals (rabbit, Dalmatian), and a healthy portion of Franklin’s collection of a hundred thousand vaudeville records. Stacks of 16-mm. film reels began on the floor and stopped near the ceiling. “Know who had a desk like mine?” Franklin asked, seated behind several piles that seemed like they might conceal a desk. “Albert Einstein.”


The family and I will be returning to visit New York at the end of the month. Last night, I dreamed I was already there. I was alone on the subway with not a dime in my pocket. The train pulled into DeKalb Avenue and I had a choice of dozens of transfers, none of which went where I wanted to go. I scurried over the overpass and back a few times, and finally gave up on catching a train. Once on the surface a couple of kids tried to sell me pot. I shouted something vulgar at them and ran. They gave chase, and one of them caught up and ripped my pink plaid scarf (actually, Heather’s) off my neck. I jumped into a cab that already had three passengers. Every building in downtown Brooklyn was a high rise gilded in neon like Tokyo or Hong Kong. There were ferris wheels as tall as skyscrapers on every block. Fifth Avenue was all restaurants and bars open to the street, like Broadway in Nashville. I made it home, to our old apartment, a top-floor of a brownstone on Seventh Avenue. The place had not changed. Heather was home but I couldn’t see her, and we conversed through the walls.

Scroll to top