Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts

( 2 )

Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Detroit: An American Autopsy

"Except for a few drinks, nothing is free in Charlie LeDuff's blunt and touching Work and Other Sins. The laughter and wisdom are hard won, the lessons are often painful... the sad tales and wit from the bar rail are endless and timeless." —The New York Times Book Review

Charlie LeDuff is that rare breed of news reporter—one who can cover hard-to-get-at stories in a ...

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Work and Other Sins: Life in New York City and Thereabouts

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Overview

From the New York Times bestselling author of Detroit: An American Autopsy

"Except for a few drinks, nothing is free in Charlie LeDuff's blunt and touching Work and Other Sins. The laughter and wisdom are hard won, the lessons are often painful... the sad tales and wit from the bar rail are endless and timeless." —The New York Times Book Review

Charlie LeDuff is that rare breed of news reporter—one who can cover hard-to-get-at stories in a unique and deeply personal style. In Work and Other Sins, he gives his incomparable take on New York City and its denizens—the bars, the workingmen, the gamblers, the eccentrics, the lonesome, and the wise. Whether writing about a racetrack gambler, a firefighter with a broken heart, or a pair of bickering brothers and their Coney Island bar, LeDuff takes the reader into the lives of his subjects to explore their fears, faults, and fantasies as well as their own small niches of the globe. The result is an at turns riotous, dirt-under-the-nails, contemplative, salty, joyous, whiskey-tinged, and utterly unique vision of life in the Big Apple.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Blunt and touching... Rendered with respect and the style of a cardsharp." —The New York Times Book Review

"[This] extraordinary collection of profiles is an ode to the regular Joe." —Entertainment Weekly

"LeDuff has a knack for prying smoky poetry, bleak humor, and heart-on-the-sleeve drama from the denizens of New York’s various underbellies." —Men’s Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143034940
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 409,805
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.43 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Charlie LeDuff

CHARLIE LEDUFF was a staff writer at the New York Times and a reporter at the Detroit News, and is now a television journalist for Detroit’s Fox 2 News. He contributed to a Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times series and has received a Meyer Berger Award for distinguished writing about New York City. He is the author of Work and Other Sins, US Guys, and the New York Times bestselling Detroit: An American Autopsy. LeDuff lives with his wife and daughter on the edge of the Detroit city limits.

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Read an Excerpt

“Goodbye to Mr. Hello and Goodbye”

Robert E. Mitchell will retire on March 29, 2001. He will take his belongings and his doorman’s pension and go back home to New Orleans, where he plans to grow old on the front porch with his relations.

No one need apply, as Mr. Mitchell’s job was filled just days after he announced his retirement. “That’s the way it goes,” he said at 4 one afternoon as he dragged his broom and dustpan around the perimeter of 801 West End Avenue, a pre-World War II building with seventy apartments on the west side of the avenue between Ninety-ninth and 100th Streets. “Time moves along and things are forgotten. Including the memories of you.” There are, after all, eight thousand doormen in the city, according to the Service Employees International Union.

And maybe the new guy will make the residents of 801 forget that for thirty-three years, Mr. Mitchell was the man who mopped their hallways and shoveled their snow. Or that he was the man who took their children by the scruff of the neck when he saw them doing wrong. Or that he was the man who ran down the wig-wearing mugger who attacked their mother. Or that he was the man who discovered their dead locked away behind the doors.

But it seems unlikely, if the card the six-year-old girl gave him the other day is any indication. “I love you. Please don’t go, Robert,” it read.

Nearly every block in New York has its mayor. Some acquire the title through milk crate endurance, passing away the hours in the same spot on the same corner, becoming such a fixture and spectacle that people just start calling out, “Hey, Mayor.” But others earn it by giving of themselves.

“He was my second father after my father moved away,” said Beck Lee, forty, who grew into a man in Apartment lB. The neighborhood was tough in the sixties and seventies, Mr. Lee said. Schoolchildren were robbed so often that fathers gave their children broken watches and expired bus passes to give the muggers.

But the children developed their own method of self-defense. They learned to stall, pat their pockets and wait for Mr. Mitchell to catch sight of the larceny from his perch near the building’s column.

In the seventies, there was a parade of fathers who packed their bags and walked out through the marble foyer for the last time. Mr. Mitchell was there to help them with their bags. And he was there to help the women put a fresh coat of paint in their apartments and move their furniture around. He was there to teach their kids the curveball. He was, Mr. Lee said, a surrogate man of the house.

Mr. Mitchell cut a handsome figure in his gray uniform with white piping. He wore a colorful sweater, a threadbare tie and smooth hair the color of the uniform. At sixty-five, he is thin and stands erectly. When the neighborhood started changing in the eighties, and the silk stocking crowd moved in, they asked him to wear a hat. He refused. He has never worn a hat on the job and is proud of it. They do that on the East Side. He’s a West Side doorman.

“I opened this door so much they’d run out of numbers if they attempted to calculate it,” he said, standing in the cold foyer in thin shoes and no coat. “I’m going to miss this building. It’s been my whole life for half my life.”

September 28, 1967, was the beginning of that life. That’s when the unemployment office sent him to the building’s superintendent. “The super told me, ‘If you like it, you’ve got the job for life,’” he said. “I been here ever since.”

The true gentleman never insinuates himself into other people’s business, Mr. Mitchell said. He keeps to his own, never talks about things unless asked and never talks about people in the building, period.

“Which doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I know just about everything that goes on around here. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a good doorman.”

Maybe the people of 801 West End Avenue will forget him, he said. But he’ll be thinking of them on his porch down in Louisiana.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2014

    I was born in Detroit, but left with my parents at an early age.

    I was born in Detroit, but left with my parents at an early age. I've been back many times, and the place fasinates me. Leduff did an
     excelent job of discribing what is happening there now, and he did it without boaring me to death. Another book on Detroit, by a
     different author, used a lot of statistics and dates, but Leduff described Detroit by using stories of the people who live there. If
     you're interested in Detroit, I think you'll like this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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