I woke up wondering what exactly made this place feel like an institution. I even came up with a name for it: Toll (as in ask not for who the bells tolls).

  • But first things first: there are at least three types of institutional levels in NYC: at the top if INDEPENDENT LIVING. That is usually for people with money who physically and mentally don’t need much help.

Often you are in a little community of multi-room houses. You have cooking privileges, and lecturers come by and tell you about things like cosmology, or fashion, or whatever people show an interest in.

Nobody walks in to your space without your permission. The main thing is that you are close to a string to pull to summon help.


    I’m tempted to call this ASSISTED DYING, because residents are slowly dying. No, not all of them. But whatever you call it, one of the reasons it feels like an institution is because you conform to a schedule .

    There are two meal shifts: early and later. The early shift is 7:15am, 11:15 and 4:15. The late shift is an hour later. You don’t choose your food or know ahead of time what it will be. You don’t control the time, place, or what will be consumed. You don’t control who you sit next to (which is decided by random when you arrive) but after a while the denizens begin to move from their assigned tables and re-arrange themselves so they’re sitting with people they enjoy.

    Just about everyone here has a walker, or a rollator. A few people get by with canes. But just about every one is hunched over to some extent.

    I woke to find that Nan, the woman who sits at the table next to mine who is enjoyable for her fast comebacks and whimsy, is in the hospital.

    I sat in her place at the table next to a 95 yo deaf (mostly) woman who ran a brokerage company in the midwest for 50 years. You can’t take any book here by its cover.

    The wait staff (CNAs) are a ,mixture of frantic women and kindly women. Veronica is always in a hurry to clear the first shift to make room for the second shift. She is in a constant sweat to get you and the rollator out even when you are just relaxing and finishing the cold coffee.

    Miranda, a black girl in her mid twenties, goes out of her way to make the meal pleasant . If the half blind lady needs help, she comes by, and says, the boiled egg is at 12 o’clock. The sausage is at 3. Etc. If Pat needs help cutting the food, Miranda will stop what she’s doing and cut it up for her.

  • And then there’s the Nursing Home. I think that’s worse than either two categories I just listed but I’m not so sure. There’s a woman named Lannie who has been here three months and she is striving to get back to the nursing home she came to Toll from. She wants to sit down with me and give me the lowdown on Toll. That should be interesting.

    Lannie talks like a sailor. Every other word out of her mouth is F**** BS, or something that you would have to categorize as a curse. She is Brooklyn Italian through and through, and according to her, all her uncles and her father was a made man.

    She has asked several times if I can recommend a hit man and how much it would cost. I told her I probably could but with so many connections why would she need me?

    She says they all got wrapped up in a fuckin’ raid and are in various prisons or graveyards…

Published by Dave

My name is David Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City. Or I was before I had two strokes. I now write from a Nursing Home.

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