Grace

My mother idolized Ingrid Bergman. Dubbed “Miss Shakes” for her nervous energy, Gracie interviewed Buddy Rich and Vince Lombardi for her high school newspaper; later she worked on “Queen for a Day,” the radio version, broadcast over the Mutual Network from studios at the one address she never, ever forgot, 1440 Broadway.

In photos from her wedding Gracie bears a resemblance to Sylvia Plath, though the same might be said of many youthfully apprehensive brides of that era. I have lauded her inspiration and lamented the depths of her emotional unease.

My beloved mom began our final conversation by asking for the time: when I indicated 10:30 she worriedly replied: “then we’ll need to make the Eleven” (o’clock Mass of her nursing home imagination). But if taunted by the Irish waterfront’s militant tribalism and her own anxiety disorders, Gracie’s world remained ever suffused with the richly eclectic voices and passions of the great metropolis: it’s out there, she promised.
With you always.

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2 responses to “Grace

  1. Brian Withers

    Hello Mr. Fisher:
    I have just read “On The Irish Waterfront,” and want to say that it is a superb read. My grandparents Terrence Dunn and Anna Murray Dunn lived on West 45th Street near 9th Avenue. They both died (my grandmother in 1920 from the flu epidemic and my grandfather from a broken heart in 1925) when my mother Virginia was a young girl. My mom was taken in by my grandfather’s family and attended Holy Cross Church on West 42nd and Holy Cross school on West 43rd. She told me many stories about my New York Irish relatives and I cherish them. Mom was handed to various relatives as she grew up and attended George Washington High School in Washington Heights. Later on in life after my dad George passed, my mother became a teacher for twenty five years. She died in the spring of 2006. Though I don’t know if my grandfather ever had a thing to do with longshoremen, I do know he was a grand man. Even though Hell’s Kitchen was a rough place, in each family there were warm and tender moments. Incidentally my dad was a magazine illustrator, and I am amazed that at a time when he was illustrating the novel of the month (romantic stuff – not at all political) for Redbook from late 1947 to mid 1950, that the docks were so contentious and that Father Carey and Father Corridan were so brave in facing corruption and outright crooks. They may not have been given proper credit for their great efforts, but your book certainly sets the record straight. I also feel that Budd Schulberg deserves a lot of credit. And Marlon Brando, despite his negative sense of his role in the film, was magnificent. In fact the entire cast was phenomenal. It’s a film I could watch over and over again. As a young New York City teacher I lived in an apartment off 8th Avenue in Chelsea for two or three years in the mid 1960s, and never realized that it had been the center of such controversial clashes just a few years before. Thanks for writing a great book, and thanks for listening. Best wishes, Brian Withers

  2. Thanks so much for kindness and stories, Brian. I take all my students–and others–to pier at foot of W. 70th; waterfront opens up beautifully to the south from there, especially historic Hell’s Kitchen piers.

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