There is an old, unremarkable apartment building in Manhattan on the south side of West 77th Street, near the corner of West End Avenue, that has an odd little duplex apartment on the first floor. A few blocks north, on the other side of the avenue, there is another, equally nondescript, building with a tiny studio apartment on the third floor.
Another block north, on the corner of 86th street, there is an old Methodist church with an ornate bell tower that casts a long shadow beside the crosswalk on sunny afternoons.
Each fall, that church opens its heavy, wooden doors and serves as one of the neighborhood’s larger polling places.
During my sojourn in the city, living for years between those two apartment buildings, I cast ballots in that church in at least four different elections. Each time, each cold November Tuesday morning, voters would wait in the pews while volunteers, mostly children, walked up and down the aisles, carrying small paper cups full of coffee and hot chocolate.
Leaving that church, vote cast, throat warm after gulping the steaming drink, I would walk to the corner of Broadway and down the stairs into the train station. I’d wait there, on the grey concrete of the platform, near the bright yellow line, sometimes leaning on the thick layers of dark blue paint caked onto the steel beams.
That local 1 stop is where I started and ended most days, not many as satisfying as those that began in that old Methodist church, sitting in a pew with hundreds of warm, friendly New Yorkers.