The summer after I finished high school I came to New York with my mother. I'd been to New York a handful of times before, usually to visit relatives, and it never failed to amaze me. I grew up in small towns in California, at times without electricity or running water, let alone anything fancy like stop lights. So you can imagine how Times Square and Yankee Stadium and 42nd street before it was cleared of street hustlers, hookers, and seedy porn shops seemed to me an entirely different world.
My parents grew up here -- in a different world as well, a 1940s and 1950s New York shaped by European immigrants of two world wars, an industrial city on the rise. I know of that New York from stories, many of them told by my dad, sitting in his brother's kitchen in New Rochelle with my cousins and...
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