This is John
This is John. He owns a flower shop on Third Avenue in the Upper East Side of New York City. It was suggested to me by friends who live nearby that John might be a good subject for my blog.
I introduced myself to John and told him that I would like to photograph him and hear his story as a shopkeeper in New York City. He asked me to see my blog and I showed it to him on my phone. His response was, "that's very nice, but not for me. Come back next week." So, I said of course and sat down. I asked about his shop. He not only began talking but we ended up talking for about 45 minutes. After about 15 minutes, I took out my camera. He made no objections as I began photographing.
I asked John how old he is and he refused to say. I told him that I am 74 and he said that I was a kid by comparison. John has owned the flower shop for 58 years. It had been his father's, who left it for him. He doesn't think he will be here much longer as everything is controlled by the landlords. If the rent keeps going up, he is not sure how much longer he can keep the shop open. He lives nearby. He gets up every morning and comes to the shop. I commented that it must be difficult going to the flower market every day. He doesn't have to, as every morning, the flower truck comes to him. He purchases what he needs and returns what he was not been able to sell. He works seven days a week. If he took a day off, he would lose his stride and fears he would not be able to get it in gear again. He said coming to work every day keeps him alive. He loves Manhattan and said there is not another place in the world like this city.
John was born in Astoria, Queens and grew up there. When he was 10, his father brought him to Manhattan for the first time and he immediately fell in love with Manhattan. He had grown up very poor and shined shoes as a young child. He said he knew how to be the best shoeshine boy there was. If everyone else was getting 10 cents a shine, he would get a quarter. He also told me about his abilities as an athlete. He was a very good baseball player and even got as far as being scouted by the Phillies. But he never got selected. That led to a painful conversation about the New York Mets, how bad they are and how they are overpaid. He bemoaned the two errors made in last night's game that ended in another loss. I agreed with him having watched the game.
John had been married, but once again he declined to give details. He said he now lives with a woman but he is not married to her, although she seems to think so. He has a daughter who lives in Manhattan who visits him often.
Clearly, John has been settled here for a long time. Looking around his little shop, it was clear that things had been sitting there for a very long time. John had his place amongst these things and he looked comfortable there. I was in his shop for almost an hour and only one person stopped in. She seemed to be more a friend than a customer. They talked about a mutual friend who was on his way back from Australia. They chatted for a while. She left without making a purchase.
Clearly getting out and going to work every day is the lifeblood of what keeps John happy and alive in New York City.