Next block is longer. It begins with a store selling eyeglasses, and — sign of the times — a sign advertising the insurance it takes: a blizzard of names, from big companies (Oxford, Aetna) to labor unions (Local 1199, UFT). Last month, the pita store next door was decorated with turkeys. Eat at the melting pot. A rarity, a bookstore, owed its existence to specialization: wisdom of the East, including astrology readings, “Vedic and Western” (can you comparison-shop destiny?). A nails spa offered attention to the feet, with a chart of reflective zones, explained however in Chinese, so not aimed at my demographic. A hair salon, more shoes, a model-management company. Another cellphone store (for that call from your agent). An electronics store had set out a display, oddly, of luggage; above the roller bags, TVs played a movie of some helicopter chase scene. Then a long and forbidding storefront: NYC Human Resources Administration. It was built like a bunker, and seemed as cheery as Hitler’s. Next to it, the first of several, a vacancy: FOR RENT. 2 Dollar Jewelry is still holding on. A second eyeglasses store also advertised dental groups, laser aesthetics, and chiropractors. Read their fine print. A clearance sale (EVERYTHING $10 OR LESS), a mattress store, more luggage, a serious if homely effort at holiday cheer: artificial Christmas trees, toys in boxes, dolls. The gym was not yet mine. A vast party store, with literal thought balloons: Get Well, Congratulations, Happy Birthday, Thank You. Two running mannequins wear more running shoes. A cute poster blonde shills outerwear. Then the economic gradient drops: WE BUY GOLD & DIAMONDS, and offer NOSE & EAR PIERCING. Between two empty stores, “Get your holiday fashion — Naughty or Nice” (you know which one she’ll choose). Between two shoe stores stood the lone building of distinction: symbolic ladies, scrolls, curves, cornices. No sign what it was built for and no occupants now. Starbucks, Urban Outfitters, and a quilted-aluminum breakfast cart end this block.
Half a block to go. Pizza slices, then a gold & diamonds store that frankly says, WE PAWN. The window is filled with crosses. Candy, cigar, soda, tobacco all fill one awning and one store: Where is Mayor Bloomberg? RENT. The promise of FASHION is slightly undercut by NURSES UNIFORMS REGULAR & PLUS. More cellphones, another spa, more gold, this time particularized: wedding bands, engagement rings, name rings, charms: all the broken hopes. DVDs, more shoes, more luggage. Back and foot rub incongruously share space with an International Christian Fellowship. More DVDs: Conan, samurai, porn. Office supplies and UPS. Almost the last, the biggest space on the block, the Salvation Army. General Booth makes his pledge: “While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight. While little children go hungry, as they do now, I’ll fight. While men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight. While there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight. I’ll fight to the very end!”