NYC late winter 1926/Alicia Frame setting
Streets stuffed with men in long wool coats, bump into each other and don’t tip their hats. Instead, shoulder to shoulder they eye each other, grumble a few words best not repeated in a lady’s company and shove until one of them backs off and moves on down the street.
A delicatessen is open 24 hours a day. When Alicia first arrives this shocks her. In Paris, the baker wakes early to make the baquettes, roles and pastries, but he closes shop by 5 p.m. and goes home to his family. Here, she finds, it is a city that never sleeps and everyone who wants to get ahead, move faster than the next person, cuts hours at home, carries more than one job if necessary. And, if a person is running a place where folks needs to grab a bit as they rush off to work or after late hours, then it is open 24 hours a day. Thus, Alicia’s neighbor, Mr. Brumbinski, a recent immigrant in Poland, works the midnight to 7 a.m. shift at the corner deli, then works at a sleeve factory from 8 to 4, goes home for a quick meal made by Mrs. Bumbiniski, sleeps until 10 and then goes to work. He does this five days a week and has one day off from the sleeve factory, Saturday. Since most in the garment district are Jews, he and Mrs. Brumbinski go to the Temple and now Alicia, reclaiming her familial faith, often accompanies them to the midday service.
By that time, she has partially recovered from her long Monday-Friday days at Scribner’s that run into the early evenings. She hopes this is going to change when, in late Summer, Philippe will bring Emily to join her. It didn’t take Alicia long to discover that rooming with Miss XXX wasn’t going to work long. A bit of a New York Party girl after work, her roommate liked to dine and drink and arrive back late. This disturbed Alicia’s usual Parisienne lifestyle of early to bed early to rise—particularly when she had become a mother. So looking for her own place which would accommodate Emily and, perhaps as she had promised Emily, a small dog, was how Alicia spent her Sundays. After a cup of coffee and semi stale pastry that Mrs. Brumbinski would salvage from her husband’s take home on Friday, Alicia would borrow their Sunday paper and read the ads for apartments for rent. She hadn’t found a place yet, but, in her rapid adjustment to America, she was becoming more optimistic by the week.
Hadn’t she already endured the rough and lonely ocean voyage from Normandy to New York? As one of the few women on board who was traveling without a husband or child, she had to learn how to avoid the sneers and not subtle invitations from single men of all ages and nationalities. She learned to be in the company of the elderly matrons of various countries who were taking the last major leap of their lives by resettling to America. Some were going to go to New York, but others had family waiting in Chicago, Boston or Philadelphia. Alicia used this time to practice her English and she gained insight into how these women planned to adjust from their home country to this one. When they were greeted by Lady Liberty, all of travelers on the rails—first class, second, and third class such as Alicia, cheered and cried. A new and better life was in front of them and America promises safety, security and opportunity.