Ron Chapple licensed
American Landmark
by Howard Richard Debs

In 1995, celebrating 30 years together
we went, my wife and I, to New York
New York to visit the Big Apple.
It was a splurge. We stayed
at the posh Peninsula Hotel,
once called The Gotham built in 1905;
upgraded to a deluxe suite
on high, I can’t remember why
we looked out a window
then impressed by much,
we saw Trump Tower right nearby.
We took in the sights, the Met,
a carriage ride in Central Park,
the Carnegie Deli a now closed classic,
serving insults and mile-high corned beef
since 1937. We hit The Great White Way:
Smokey Joe’s Café music by Leiber
and Stoller; the Tony winner too, Crazy
for You, based On Gershwin tunes from
Girl Crazy, their show of 1930,
American songbook all.
Then to the Lower East Side, the
Tenement Museum, where walls
reverberate with immigrant
voices yearning. We took the
ferry from Castle Clinton at
Battery Park where Grandpa Ben
in 1886 arrived, Ellis Island not till 1892
a point from which to disembark.
Once there, we walked back
in history—12 million passed through
before us in search of their dream.
They first were sent to the baggage
room then down a staircase, watchful
eyes upon them, into the Great Hall
for inspection and examination
to be cleared or detained; the gateway
to the golden door shut and abandoned
in 1954, a developer bid to make it a resort
rescued in August of 1965 by President
Lyndon Johnson’s pen I’ll not forget,
that good thing happened when
my wife and I were wed.

PHOTO: Aerial view of Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty in the background, New York City, by Ron Chapple, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My paternal grandfather, Benjamin Debs was born in Riga, Latvia, in 1884 to Charles and Yetta (nee Markuza) Dobrowitz. Arriving in America at the tender age of two after a brief stay in New York his family moved to Chicago. Among a number of successful enterprises through the years, he established a millinery manufacturing business in the Maxwell Street area, Chicago’s equivalent to the Lower East Side. He is a shining example of the immigrants to America who raised themselves up from poverty through perseverance and hard work. It was a privilege to have his name added to the Ellis Island American Immigrant Wall of Honor.

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AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My wife, Sheila (foreground, right), pictured in the Great Hall at Ellis Island during our visit to New York City in 1995. To me in this picture she seems to be pondering what it must have been like.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Howard Richard Debs is a recipient of the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Award. His essays, fiction, and poetry appear internationally in numerous publications. His photography is featured in select publications, including in Rattle online as “Ekphrastic Challenge” artist and guest editor. His book Gallery: A Collection of Pictures and Words (Scarlet Leaf Publishing), is the recipient of a 2017 Best Book Award and 2018 Book Excellence Award. He is co-editor of New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust, forthcoming later in 2020 from Vallentine Mitchell of London, publisher of the first English language edition of the diary of Anne Frank. He is listed in the Poets & Writers Directory.