g r e g fuchs

Still Making the Neighborhood Scene at the Tender Age of 82

Dolores Castellano arrived in Soho decades before it became the epicenter of consumer culture, when it was still known as the West Side. More than 60 years ago she left her parents' home on the Lower East Side and never returned. Although it's only about one mile away, the cultures were worlds apart. She has lived the rest of her life on Thompson Street—in love, raising a family, becoming Italian, and having a ball.

Dolores always makes a stop in the Hat Shop, where we first met. Usually she'll be seated in this chair sharing tales. Alison Collins, once an employee of the shop, says, "Dolores is like your best girlfriend, mother, and grandmother all rolled into one."

Dolores no longer plays bingo, cards, or the numbers but she still gets her lottery tickets at the corner store. She believes in a supernatural power of numbers that are important to friends and family. She wants to know your birth date, phone number, or whatever digits happen to be in your head; it's the lucky number.

Every Sunday at noon, Dolores goes to the hair salon. A perfectly styled Marilyn Monroe hairdo, her signature, besides her terrific personality, is the ingredient that makes her standout in a crowd. It's her one luxury, her most valued asset.

Living on a fixed-income, basically just social security, makes simple grocery shopping a challenge. Weekly, she buys enough food for herself as well as the half-dozen people on the block for whom she lovingly cooks lunch. Her eggplant is delicious.

Thursday is seniors' day at St. Anthony's Church. With about one hundred other women from the neighborhood, Dolores eats lunch and swaps news. One woman joked that the men were out fooling around; another that all the women killed them.

Dolores has lived the majority of her years on Thompson Street in this apartment. Remembering her loving and passionate marriage, she told me that all of her girlfriends would ask for sexual advice. Dolores was a notoriously great lover.

This story was photographed and written for the Clamor September/October 2002 issue on aging in America.

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