Every year, roughly 80,000 travelers from at least ninety countries pass through the doors of HI New York City, the largest hostel in the Americas. Each week, Narratively’s Daniel Krieger will spend a few hours in the landmarked building on New York’s Upper West Side, listening to their stories…
Who: Glenn Hall, 52, Vancouver
What do you do back home? I’m clubhouse manager for the Vancouver Canadians, a minor-league baseball team. I like it. It’s almost like being den mother to forty guys. But after eleven years, I’m ready for a change.
Why are you in New York? I came east to see my 74th, 75th and 76th Bruce Springsteen shows in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Boston. At the end of a tour, I don’t feel like flying directly home. It takes a few days to digest everything, so I came here to walk around and relax. I’m also here to catch up with a friend from the Springsteen community who I met sixteen years ago. I had come for a string of shows at Madison Square Garden and ended up with an extra ticket. People were selling those for thousands of dollars outside the Garden. But it’s a given among fans that you sell your tickets for what you paid for them. So I offered it to her friend. We’ve been friends ever since.
What Springsteen song says the most about NYC? “New York City Serenade,” about the New York streets – the hustlers, strivers, dreamers, artists, workers – was definitely on my mind this trip. I have visited lots of places in the city, but my favorite thing is still just walking the streets and checking out what’s happening. For years it was a song that had rarely ever been performed. I had heard it only once. However, at the last few shows of the tour, he started coming out and opening his shows with this song. A huge highlight for all of us fans.
What do two Springsteen diehards do when they’re not at a concert? I’m meeting her at the Strand – simply one of the great bookstores of the world. A must-visit every time I am in New York. I can get lost there for hours. I used to live in the baseball section. Now I’m interested in stories of the city and its cultural history. On this visit, I purchased a book written by the longtime receptionist at The New Yorker.
When did you first visit New York? I actually got interested in the city when I was a very young kid growing up in Newfoundland, reading Marvel comics, many of which used the city as a setting. It was sort of my dream city and I finally made my first visit in 1982 when I was eighteen. Stayed at the Vanderbilt YMCA. Rooms were, I believe, eleven dollars a night. Went to movies constantly, hung out in record shops. Most of those places don’t exist now. It was sad to lose the Thalia Theatre and Colony Record Store in Times Square. The place where I always stayed, The Whitehouse Hotel, is not renting rooms anymore. It was on the Bowery, what you might call a flophouse, the cheapest accommodation in Manhattan for many years.
Did you have a New York Moment on this trip? Right after arriving, I was on my way to the Upper West Side hostel when I saw an ices cart a few blocks away. So I got myself a small cup of mango cherry for a dollar. That price hasn’t changed, by the way, since I first got one here in 1982. I’ve never found anything else quite like it anywhere.
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Come back to Narratively next Wednesday for more Hostel People.
This interview has been edited and condensed. HI NYC management has granted permission for this project, but plays no role in shaping the stories and has no affiliation with Narratively.