In the summer of 1990 I worked at the old 4 World Trade Center on the commodities exchange, the one made famous in cinema in “Trading Places,” although somehow the gravitas of where I landed my first-ever paying job only partially sunk in at the time. As a high school student, I drove with another kid to the PATH train in Harrison and rode in every morning. Worked four days a week for $250 cash checking trades for a dollar futures trader. Nice work at 17 if you can get it.
At lunchtime I either went to the fancy Wall Street McDonald’s, the one with the piano player and doorman and carnations on the tables, or to a terrific old-world coffee shop that used to be across the street from 4 WTC, sort of a cross between a diner and Katz’s Delicatessen, where I’d get honest to goodness New York knishes, and I’d eat them with a sprinkle of salt.
I don’t think I ever went up into the towers. 4 WTC was a low-rise, maybe 8, 10 floors, high enough that the day the power went out taking the stairs was annoying. I remember thinking that the trade center was both impressive and mildly disappointing in a “gee, it’s kind of desolate at street level” kind of way. Finding that coffee shop and that McDonald’s, walking up to the music store at J&R on Park Row, meandering all the way over to the South Street Seaport, now, that was New York.
Of course, the Trade Center was New York, too, inimitably, and remains so in our hearts and our memories, 12 years on. Tomorrow morning I’ll be in the neighborhood again, commuting in the reverse of that summer, in what is now a rather different slice of the city. There’s an old-school deli on my walk between the 2/3 and the PATH that I like to stop in for breakfast on the way. I haven’t asked about their knishes. I think I may.
Correction: this post originally listed the futures exchange address as 7 World Trade Center.