It’s only the first equinox of the year but the sun is hot enough to burn skin and that, combined with its glare from the sidewalk, makes me feel like it’s mid summer. There are men hanging around the blue-green IRT station railings, bobbing like fighters to the rhythms of their jive talk, dozens by the curb at the crosswalk over 125th Street but not too many gliding to a landing at either place, hence the ample sidewalk surface allowing the sun to heat things up.
A blind man stops and quietly asks of no one there “Can someone please help me across the street?” two or three times before I take actual heed and offer my service. He is Malik, and asks that I take his arm to escort him to the front of Cohen Optical on the other side of Lenox.
His gratitude comes as a recommendation for the best soul food in Harlem. “Come a little bit closer, hear what I say: Charles’ over on Eighth Avenue at 131st Street, which, in the mornings, is the sunny side.”
Twenty minutes later I’m inside Charles’ Pan Fried Chicken and figure to get the smothered pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, and okra stewed with corn, onions and tomatoes out of the way before I come back for the life-affirming scent and taste of pan fried chicken. I and ten or twelve others, mostly chicken eaters, are lunching and watching Django Unchained (with commercials) on the restaurant’s screen.