Old New York’s Walking, Talking Encyclopedia
A nonstop gabber from the Lower East Side finds bliss in sharing his seventy-two years of NYC wisdom with anyone willing to tag along.
Tourists on a guided neighborhood jaunt through Midtown Manhattan might expect to hear about the square footage of the Empire State Building or some other anodyne fact. They probably don’t expect to hear this:
“[We] peed in the middle of the road. [We] would stand right here and we would see who could pee further into the street.”
A semi-fanatical self-taught scholar of New York City history, seventy-two-year-old tour guide Mike Kaback tends toward hyper-personal digressions. To the tourists who follow him around, he is very much an embodiment of New York.
“I’m shvitzin’ up a storm here,” he said on a recent tour, in a strained New York accent amplified by a red microphone resembling a clown nose. Kaback had stopped his tour group at a strategic intersection in the Flatiron District. Pauses are rare—reserved exclusively for shvitzing or other essential needs. Moving or stationary, he talked nonstop, his confident but sputtering speech accompanied by frenzied gesticul…