Saturday, October 25, 2008

Evening Train to the Bronx

This week, instead of taking the A train home, I accidentally took the D train from Columbus Circle to the Bronx. I didn't realize my mistake until after W145th street, when it went express for several stops. The car was full. Those with seats sat with eyes closed and heads bobbing, exhausted from the days' work. Those standing clung wearily to the metal bars overhead. After the doors closed, silence enveloped the train. Soon a man began sermonizing in Spanish. Ordinarily I am put off by people who proselytize on trains-- usually they have wild eyes filled with anger and wrath. But this man spoke in the singsong, gentle voice of a priest. I suddenly felt like I was in mass, the subway a cathedral. A momentary peace settled on the train. The man finished, and the train returned to silence. The next station fractured the peace as passengers rushed out, eager to reach home.

Monday, October 20, 2008


My next door neighbor is Mrs. Katz. She is in her seventies and stays home most of the day. When we cross paths, she usually asks me what's the weather like outside? Neither of us can see the sky from our apartments. Sunlight trickles in around the edges of the windows, but sometimes it's deceptive. While walking my dog, I met Mrs. Katz six months ago. "Does he bark?" she queried, a little testy. I assured her that he is a very good dog. "Good," she continued, "I like dogs. But I can't stand cats. Just can't stand them." "But your name is Katz!" I teased. "I know," she said, breaking into a mischievous smile, "Funny isn't it? Just can't stand cats!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bumps Upstairs

I just met Tamara, my upstairs neighbor. Six months ago I moved into this building, and since then the bumps upstairs having been gradually worse (more so now that the weather is cooler and I am spending more time indoors). This morning, I reached my limit. I had debated for weeks about whether to knock on the door upstairs to find out what all these bumps were about. I was nervous, fearing an angry reprisal for interrupting my neighbor's world in my new building. But Tamara is lovely. She is an old Russian Jewish lady, in her late seventies. Her memory is fading (I had to introduce myself three times). She invited me into her place and we talked about the bumps in this building. They bother us both. Now that I have met Tamara, I understand. I don't want to come home one day to a big bump, followed by silence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


My dog likes to sniff everything: newly sprinkled lamp-posts, icecream that escaped a child's tongue and has dried on the sidewalk, discarded chicken bones (where do they come from? I never see anyone walking down the street gnawing on a chicken leg. But if they're on the sidewalk, my dog finds them). This morning he tried to sniff an old man while crossing the street. The man took it in good humor, in fact seemed enamored of the dog (everybody loves my pooch, this is an objective fact). He smiled adoringly down at the overzealous canine. "Well, hello Mr. Nosey," he laughed, then continued stiffly and slowly on his way.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


The other day, while riding the elevator up from the 190th St. A-line stop, I crossed paths with a woman and her four year old (?)adopted son. They must live somewhere near me-- I have seen them a few times before, usually riding in the elevator. Though I know they don't live there. Three other children were in the elevator. They were rambunctious and loud. The little boy, who looks Indian and has silken, raven, straight-as-an-arrow hair cut in a bowl shape, calmly reached for his adopted mother's hand. He kissed it, then smiled quietly up at her. Neither of them said a word as the elevator rose amid the anxious chatter of the others.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wine and Opera by the Hudson

In my neighborhood there is a man who goes into the Heather Garden in Fort Tryon Park almost every night just before sunset. He has white hair and wears a faded denim shirt falling precipitously over a prominent belly. He heads to the terrace overlooking the Hudson and the Westside Highway, and unpacks his bag: a full bottle of wine and a radio tuned to opera. On warm nights, he brings a lawn chair and enjoys the view from the lawn sloping down to the terrace. He comes alone, but sometimes finds others (drinking beer) on the terrace. I once remarked to a friend, "How sad, he's always drinking alone." My friend's reply, "Maybe he's happy." I hadn't considered that. Maybe he is happy. There are worse things than drinking wine and listening to opera while the sun sets over the Hudson.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Falling for Good

Fall is here for good. These days I'm wearing a light jacket (although not yet necessary). How I really know fall is here to stay (and winter's not far behind) is by the sounds. Maybe it's a change in the cloud cover. Maybe it's a change in my mentality. But the sounds of fall are crisper, like the apple cider of the season. Planes overhead sound closer. The hum of the traffic from the West Side Highway sounds more like a rumble than a soft current lapping at the banks of the Hudson. The edges of everything become harder, more defined in fall. In preparation for the snap! of winter.

Friday, October 3, 2008


On the A line the other day I sat across from a middle-aged man busily absorbed in a cross word puzzle. He wore a black shirt boldy emblazoned with "IMPOTENCE: Nature's Way of Saying No Hard Feelings." That got me thinking. Was he a poster grown-up for Viagra? Why else would he broadcast something like that? He didn't look like he had problems in that department, not that it's readily apparent on the subway. But he didn't have the buggy-eyed look of someone who's down on his luck with the ladies. There was none of the bitterness about him common to those who have difficulties with the opposite sex. No, he simply looked seriously absorbed in his crossword puzzle. On the NYC subway you see everything, including an unassuming man in a loud t-shirt.