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Safe & Sorry in Herald Square

Elevator in Herald Square Station

Herald Square Subway Elevator

Waiting on the platform for an M train at the 34th Street—Herald Square Subway station on Wednesday, I noticed a suspicious-looking black bag on the tile floor near the elevator. There was moisture leaking from it, which was not a total surprise since that was the day of a heavy snowstorm and everything was pretty watery. It was around 6:15, the rush hour, and many people in the crowded station stopped in front of the bag and hurried on.

I told a sanitation worker about the suspicious bag and walked back to edge of the platform. My gut told me that whatever was in there was harmless, but I was glad I had stepped up and taken a necessary precaution.

“Report suspicious packages. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right?” I said to a young man standing nearby. He had observed the bag, too.

“Yes,” he answered.”When I saw it, I went upstairs to tell a cop, but I couldn’t find one.”

We watched the sanitation worker, who studied the bag and the liquid surrounding it. He untied the drawstring carefully and looked inside. Our eyes met as he walked over to a large garbage can, holding the smaller sack, at a distance, in his hand.

“Ice,” he said.

“Everything happens at this station,” said the man next to me. “This is nothing. I was standing on this platform last month when a woman threw herself on the tracks.”

“Did anyone get her out before a train came,” I asked, thinking about the rescue stories I’d watched on the news.

“No. The B train hit her,” he said, matter-of-factly. “A suicide. It took a long time for the police to come. We were all just standing there.”

“Maybe it was the Holidays,” I answered, hoping I didn’t sound glib. The thought of such a desperate act left me feeling sad and pensive.

“That’s exactly what one of the cops said,” he replied.

The M train pulled into the station and we rode together in silence until it reached my stop.

“Take care,” I said.

“Travel safe,” he answered.

Pulp Fiction on the Upper West Side

Westsider Rare & Used Books Interior

Inside Westsider Rare & Used Books

The next time you’re on the Upper West Side, get out of the the cold and duck into Westsider Rare & Used Books, a haven for neighborhood readers and collectors for over thirty years. Located at 2246 Broadway between 80th and 81st Streets, it’s across from Zabar’s and just a few blocks south of Barnes & Noble. Westsider is an extreme alternative to its expansive neighbor. It buys, sells and trades books, records, CDs & DVDs. The collections are imperfectly organized, but owners Bryan and Dorian and their young staff are eager to help you track down vintage fiction, modern first editions, mysteries, cookbooks, art, drama,  design, architecture, antiques & religious tomes.

The rare book room includes such quirky delights as a First Printing of 1931′s Radio Writing (Including Six Famous Radio Scripts) by Peter Dixon. Another gem is The Decisive Moment from 1952. It contains photos by Henri Cartier Bresson and dust-jacket art by Henri Matisse.

Provocative Paperback Covers

Vintage Paperback Covers

Westsider was previously the Gryphon Bookshop. Raymond Donnell, the original shopkeeper who passed away several years ago, had managed Gryphon Records and Books on West 72nd Street. Some of his musical legacy is alive at Westsider. You will smile as you browse through the Rock, Jazz, Funk and Soul album covers.

Books are double and triple shelved on two floors. You can literally lose yourself at Westsider, listening to jazz and browsing through the walls of books that line the narrow aisles. In the back of the shop, a special corner of floor-to-ceiling paperback pulp novels offers a riveting look at provocative titles and cover artwork that date back to the 1950s. Stock up now and prepare to meet other fans when The 23rd Annual NYC Collectable Paperback & Pulp Fiction Expo comes up in October.

Westsider is everything you want in a tiny bookshop…a vestige of an era when New York neighborhoods were filled with pocket-sized sanctuaries where you could while away the hours browsing for a good book.