after-midnight snack in Harlem

Found this in my “online” file — an unfinished bit I had written after my first visit to NYC a few years ago:

Thinking about food reminds me of my lunch in that nameless (literally) little soul food cafe in Harlem last year. I am happy to still find in my memory bank that rum cake and the homemade ginger beer. The spicy chicken with beans and rice. Nothing fancy, just incredibly satisfying. I took the remains of it, walked back through the rain to my little cell at the 135th St. YMCA.

After an evening hanging out with Liz in the E. Village (and a great early dinner at Amy Besa’s Cendrillon), the food was there in the paper bag waiting for me when I returned, alone, after midnight. The room itself was not very welcoming, with its metal door, askew curtain rod and thin drapes; the window looking out on tenement rooftops and a bridge across the dark river. But good food can be such a comfort when you are far from home.

A minute ago I looked up the 135th St. Harlem Y online, and found these names of people who stayed at the Y and/or performed in their Little Theatre:

Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Dr. George Washington Carver, Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Arthur Schomburg, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone and Eartha Kitt.

Damn. I love New York.