Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow

Yesterday we had our first snow of the season, a light dusting that wasn't supposed to stick. But this morning the snow was still hanging around in the Heather Garden. It covered the lamb's ears, outlining them with delicate icing that sparkled silver in the sun. Awhile ago I sighted the last two cardinals of the season. They flitted to and fro, crimson flames amidst the lifeless twigs the trees had become. Now the cardinals are gone, but the sparrows persist. They perch on the backs of benches with their bellies plump in cheerful defiance of winter. A few stalwart roses still try to keep their heads up, but most sag and reveal ragged edges fully aware that they are the last of the season. Soon winter will bring its raw beauty to the Heather Garden.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Late Fall

The Heather Garden is adorned in fall colors-- mature green fading into winter's twiggy brown. The autumn pallette soothes the senses, far from the scream of spring's electric green. The flowers are suitably muted-- light pink roses hang on branches with gently yellowing leaves. And yet, here and there, a spray of color-- bright purple berries that remind me of the flaming red pericanthus berries with which my family used to decorate the Thansgiving table. The passion flowers still cling to the gray stone wall of the Linden Terrace, their wispy lavender petals a reminder of the lasting power of their namesake. Sitting on the terrace, I hear military drumming in the distance. The local Catholic high school band (all girl's, mostly Dominican) is performing Yankee Doodle Dandee. Next weekend Ft. Tryon Park will host the reenactment of the revolutionary Battle of Ft. Washington. Why do people want to recreate man's reason gone awry? But then, that is history.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Farting Dogs

The other day I was riding on the A line heading toward 42nd St. As the train pulled away from Columbus Circle a thin man dressed in unwashed blue jeans and a black bomber jacket entered the car from the connecting door between subway cars. He held up batteries, four silvery ones a pack. In a monotone he belted, "Batteries for sale. Cheap. One dollar each. Batteries for sale. Buy your batteries here. Cheap. Batteries. For. Sale." Noses stayed pressed into papers, no one looked up. The man walked to the other end of the car. As it pulled into 42nd St., he yelled in a fact-crossed mimic of the subway conductor, "42nd St. Change for the B, D, F, shuttle to Grand Central. 42nd St. Last chance to change. Change. Here. For the B, D, F, shuttle to Grand Central." Then, as if bored with the usual routine, announced, "Change here folks. If you're not changing to the D or F you're in the doggone WRONG TRAIN. Change here for the F as in FARTING, D as in DOG trains." The door opened. Amid hidden chuckles he exited toward the farting dog trains. It takes a lot to get a New Yorker's attention.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bethesda Fountain

A little while ago, I took my dog for a walk in Central Park. The early fall sky hung low and gray, interrupted by a few rebellious rays of sunlight. Pooch and I descended the stairway leading from Poet's Walk into the shadows of the arcade below Besthesda Terrace. I gazed up, as I always do, to admire the restored ceiling. Bach filled the arcade: an a capella group hummed in wordless harmony at the other end. Pooch and I listened briefly, but were drawn out of the arcade by a spectacle of light near the fountain. The gray day had become unexpectedly brilliant in comparison to the darkness of the arcade. In front of us, a man held two large sticks tied together by rope. He dipped the apparatus into soapy water and in careful slow motion so as not to spoil his work, set to float a ten foot bubble. The sun scattered into a rainbow on the bubble, and the singers' chords of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" accompanied his creation. Overhead, the angel of the Bethesda Fountain, her skirts swirling as if alighting from flight, stretched down her hand in solace to those below. She did not seem to mind the pigeons on her head, her shoulder, her hand. Why should she? This is one of my favorite spots in all of the city, and on that day, with Bach, the bubbles and the late afternoon sun, it felt like Heaven.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The pomegranates in the herb garden at the Cloisters know that Fall has arrived. The fruits hang like bright Christmas orbs on the trees dwarfed by roots confined by terracotta pots. They add brilliance, the promise of their ruby seeds hiding within. I want to break them open and devour them, my teeth gnashing the hard white seeds, the juice staining my mouth, my tongue, my chin in a river of crimson. Like when I was a child and my mother made me wear an old shirt covered by an apron. She made me go outside to eat the pomegranates from our backyard tree, lest I permanently stain the house. To me, Fall means pomegranates bigger than grapefruit sent from my mother's tree in California. To me, Fall means sitting outside on a clear blue evening, the edges of the air just beginning to bite. To me, Fall means eating pomegranates with abandon, worry-free of stains. To me, Fall brings the fruits of my mother's green thumb, which for my entire life has provided pomegranates with seeds sweeter and juicier than any store bought fruit could ever be.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I have a new route to work, which takes me through a park popular with neighborhood kids and their supervisors. In the afternoons, Dominican men sit playing chess at cement tables with playing boards built into their tops. There are six tables, all made comfortable by the shade of a nearby tree. The men form a crowd that sometimes occupies all the tables, especially on sunny days. They socialize, smoke cigars, and while away the afternoon. Elsewhere, children ride bikes and play soccer in a patch of grass made bald by hours of play. One afternoon, I sat eating my lunch on a bench next to an elderly Dominican man. He was watching two young boys who sped past on bicycles. Grandchildren? One boy, the chubby one, rode carefully and slowly on a bike too small for him. The other boy, thin and full of nervous energy, whizzed past the chubby one, turning to taunt him as he did so. The elderly man called out repeatedly to the little speed demon, "Suave, suave!" He took no notice. I wondered, was this a character trait that would persist for life? Would the speed demon remain a risk taker? Would the chubby boy remain slow and deliberate? Or would life circumstances force them to switch roles?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sidewalk Pizza

Today I was on the Upper Westside and suddenly felt hungry. I bought a slice of pizza from a hole-in-the wall place. It was so small that I decided to take the slice outside. It was a nice evening. The temperature and the dryness in the air reminded me of the Mediterranean. Outside the door to the pizza joint someone had set one single solitary chair: a sidewalk cafe for one. I sat down, balancing the paper plate on my knees and suddenly felt like I was on vacation. It was the same feeling that I'd had when eating the best gelato in the world (sesame and honey) while sitting in front of the Roman Pantheon on a similarly gentle night. Tonight, the passersby screamed for my attention: the twenty-something who repeatedly pulled down her gym shorts over thighs that precipitously narrowed into her knees; the female smoker puffing feverishly on her cigarette; the male smoker limping by in orthopedic shoes; the bulldog in a powder blue t-shirt that read "hug me"; the young woman looking nervously at her male companion whose hair matched the elegant light gray of her silk blouse. Sometimes all it takes is a $3 slice of pizza, a rickety chair, and remembering what being unrushed feels like, to renew one's interest in humanity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Second Bloom

The roses in the Heather Garden are nearing the end of their second summer bloom (the first occurred in late May). They cascade like bubbles of pink champagne down the limbs of the bushes. I know this is a cliche, but I can't help myself. I have to stop and smell them. I have to bend low, putting my nose close to catch their delicate scent (unlike the artificiality of store bought roses, when they smell at all). Early yesterday morning, while walking my dog, I saw a flash of red almost buried in the bushes. It was a cardinal, on his return trip South. I had seen him in early spring, when he was heading North for summer. I stared and he stared back. I wanted to say, You can't hide from me. Your red announces you like the surging energy of unreciprocated love. He remained still and peaceful, unaware that the emerald leaves offered no camouflage to him.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Playground Rainbow

On the Jacob K. Javitz playground, just behind the swingset, stands a mural. It is painted on a brick wall and depicts children of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. They jump, run, and slide along a rainbow that dominates the center of the scene. On the left, underneath the rainbow, the mural reads "Respect each other." Further down the rainbow, the right side reads, "Respect yourself." If the messages are subliminal, I have no objection to their content. On the opposite side of the playground, children run with glee in the cooling spray of the fountains, which have been in constant use for weeks. A few days ago, I discovered a man holding his dog over the water. The dog tolerated the bath without squirming, his face thankful for the relief from the heat. Tomorrow, I will try the same trick on my own beloved Pooch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


The trees in Fort Tryon have come alive with sound. The constant round-and-round rattle of cicadas fills the ears, like thousands of maracas shaken by phantom mariachis who have taken up residence in the trees. The cicadas fill the trees in the Linden Terrace, and accompany me while I silently watch the sky burn with sunset. The cicadas muffle the whispered Russian and crescendos of Spanish from others enjoying the view. They form a constant backdrop to the drama of nature, a reminder that summer's abundance has neared its zenith. At the entrance to the park, a dead cicada lay on the ground, its fairy wings stretched delicate and vulnerable beneath it. I gathered the insect in leaves and brought it home, careful not to damage its wings. My nephew appreciates such creatures, and I saved it for him. It felt like I was saving summer.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Dog Park

Today at the dog park there were at least twenty dogs: big, bold, heavyset mutts; small nervous, yippy Yorkshire mixes; a skeletal, inbred miniature greyhound; and my own Poochini, who defies classification. The dogs chased each other in packs, joyous in their simple existence. It occurred to me that dogs are like men. Or men are like dogs. In any case, they are very similar. The lives of both revolve around running in packs, eating, and (especially) humping. Even if occasionally they hump in the wrong direction-- like one of the dogs today who tried to hump another's head.


Today while I walked in the Heather Garden I stopped dead in my tracks. On the butterfly bush (in full blossom) sat the first Monarch of the season. I have been on the look out for weeks for Monarchs. Amidst the white moths, the buttery yellow ones, and the black and blue butterflies that have recently increased in number, I have had hopes of spotting a Monarch. But they have remained elusive this summer. Today's Monarch paused on a leaf, its outstretched wings moving almost imperceptibly in the breeze. I breathed shallowly for fear of scaring it away. The early evening sun shone on its orange and black window panes like stained glass from a European cathedral. But no amount of effort on our part can contain the beauty of nature. It flitted away on the breeze like the effervescence of early love. I still enjoy the memory of its beauty.

Rose Man

The Rose Man has disappeared from the corner of W178th and Ft. Washington. It happened during winter, when the icy winds blustered up, down, and around the streets of Washington Heights. Gone is the shopping cart that used to greet me with a rainbow of flowers on Friday afternoons. Gone are the long stemmed roses that he carefully chose with a flourish and a smile. Gone are his cheerful eyes that used to meet mine when he handed over the flowers. A different Rose Man has taken his place. He stands in front of the farmacia latina at W181st St. He also has a shopping cart. But in his cart roses hide amidst carnations. These roses are short-stemmed, pre-wrapped in cellophane with sprays of baby's breath and insignificant fern leaves. He hands over the roses with a smile, but quickly looks down to count the money. Business is business. I miss the old Rose Man.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Water Balloons

This summer is all about water: water falling from the sky (all summer long); water droplets filling the air with humidity; water flowing from public spouts in the playground where children in bathing suits cool off on hot, hot days. But especially, water in balloons. It's all the rage this summer. Children laugh conspiratorially in groups on the corner of 190th and Ft. Washington. They fill up the balloons at the drinking fountain just inside the entrance to the Heather Garden. Then they gang up on the vulnerable ones. The balloons, red, blue and yellow orbs, change shape like ameobas in the children's hands. The children unleash a barrage that arcs up and over the sidewalk, ending in a splishsplash on the pavement. Occasionally, the balloons hone in on a target (a little brother or older sister), and the park fills with squeals of laughter.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


The butterflies have returned to the heather garden. They chase each other in pairs or flit about singley, lighting up the garden with a mosaic of colored glass. The lavender is abuzz with overgrown bumblebees. They hide amongst the purple flowers. You have to be careful when running your hand over them to catch the scent. The garden is nearing its peak with layer on layer of green. Purple and yellow flowers contrast intermittent bursts of red, and the roses have been blooming uninterrupted for weeks. The tiger lillies have pounced on the hill near the subway stop, turning it into a field of orange. Children stand with boisterous expectation at the Mr. Softee icecream truck just outside the subway stop, then continue into the park with glee, icecream quickly melting and dripping down their chins. I wish these days could last forever.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Keep Me Close

Yesterday on the way to work I walked past an apartment building whose service door was propped open. On the side of the door that normally faces the inside someone had written, "KEEP ME CLOSE", in rough white lettering against a black background. I stopped and looked through the narrow corridor leading inside the building. It was a sunny day. The brightness of the outside contrasting with the shadows of the corridor reminded me of the narrow medieval passageways of Southern Europe. I felt the same wonder as when I visited Italy and Spain, when I had been tempted to stop at every open door and peer into the treasures inside. Then I looked at the door again: KEEP ME CLOSE had a completely different meaning without the final "d". What would have been a statement of exclusion (keep me closed) had been transformed into a welcome: Keep me close, don't let me go.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Cloisters

Today the sun appeared nearly all day after weeks of rain and clouds. I went to The Cloisters and sat in the herb garden for hours. The quince trees now have little green jewels of fruits that will develop into yellow globes by fall. The pear tree has climbed its multi-pronged trellis and covers one of the walls with mature green leaves. The thistle has overgrown its bed and overhangs one of the walks with prickly determination. But what I most covet is a small potted pomegranate dotted with brilliant red flowers trying to become miniature fruits. The sun's warmth reminded of California. For once I forgot about skin damage and sat in direct sunlight watching tourists and locals absorb the calm. The Cloisters affect everyone the same: stress melts away. When I returned home, I congratulated myself for having developed sunburned shoulders for the first time this summer.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Newspaper Man

For the last year I have been passing the Newspaper Man on the way to work in the morning. He stands at the entrance to the subway, and on sunny days he sets up shop at the top of the stairs near the racket of the bus stop. On rainy days he displays his papers-- The Daily News, The New York Times-- far enough removed from the double doors to keep the papers safe from encroaching puddles. When we first met, he would look at me shyly, then quickly glance away without uttering a word. But he is there every morning, and it seemed unfriendly not to say hi to each other. Throughout the year (cold, unending winter-- he was still there), we exchanged quick hellos, nothing more. His voice is soft, accented with Africa. This morning, after weeks of rain and humidity, the air was thinner, the mood lighter. Spontaneously he said, "Good morning, how are you?" I felt a little triumph-- previously I had been the one initiating the hellos.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Early Summer?

New York is refusing to allow summer in. For weeks we have had clouds and rain. Forecasters have predicted thunderstorms for this evening, and the air sags with humidity. But yesterday, the sun made an appearance, accompanied by a fresh breeze straight off the ocean. I sat near the Heather Garden, and listened to a free concert: a string quartet with the Hudson as the backdrop. Pink roses spray painted the hillside behind me, and I laid on the grass gazing thankfully at the clear blue sky. That evening, the opera man, his denim shirt still stretching over a magnificent beer belly, sat on the hillside in his fold-up chair. As he drank his nightly wine, opera followed the quartet, cascading down the hillside to the Hudson.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sour Face

While walking in the Heather Garden, I have sometimes passed a thin elderly woman. Her thick white hair is always pulled into a loose ponytail with escaping wisps of hair dangling beside her face. With brows knit in concentration and the corners of her mouth turned abruptly downward at ninety degrees, she appears preoccupied. She walks hurriedly in white running shoes, as if late for an important meeting. Her arms swing forcefully, propelling her onward. Occasionally I see her with a man, whose soft face forms the yang to her hard expression. I have wondered, how could a woman with such a sour face attract friends, let alone a man? But there he is, keeping up with her, though with more relaxation.

The other day was radiant with late spring sun, and I strolled slowly, admiring the freshly sprung roses in the Heather Garden. Along came the woman, full of hustle and bustle. Overcome by the beauty of the garden, she burst out at me, "I've lived here since I was a child!" It surprised me. I had invented stories about her, but not imagined this detail. I replied, "Must have changed a lot." Her simple reply: "Yes, yes it has." And then she was off, as abruptly as ever. Since then, I have noticed her stopping to talk briefly to others. It is something new for her, or perhaps I had failed to notice it before. When I pass her on the street, she continues to walk quickly past, her eyebrows knit tightly together. I try to catch her eye, but since that one occasion have been unsuccessful. It might take another chance encounter in the Heather Garden. The butterfly bushes will soon bloom and timing is everything.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Wednesday night I walked three blocks south to visit my friend Sarah and her five month old son Evan. Sarah prepared fish tacos as I sat at the kitchen table keeping her company. I held little Evan on my lap and gently poked his Buddha belly. At first he seemed not to mind, but soon grew squirmy. I turned him around to face me. His face lit up in delight, his eyes big as saucers and directed straight at my chest (reminiscent of my fifty-something super who can't help himself when he sees a pretty girl in a tight tanktop). Evan, overcome with excitement, grabbed fistfuls of my hair. Embarrassed, I pretended that he was distracted by my long curls. Sarah laughed and said "No sense in pretending. Things are really transparent at his age." Some things are hard-wired nearly from birth.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Feeding squirrels

One evening, while I sat on the Linden Terrace and watched the sunset over the Hudson, a man joined me on the other end of my bench. He had a scruffy gray beard and wore a skirt and women's flats. Quietly, he opened a plastic bag and placed a treat for the squirrels on his lap. He waited patiently while a squirrel hesitantly climbed down a neighboring tree. The squirrel rushed onto his lap, snatched up the food and retreated nervously to the tree. The man offered more food, the squirrel accepting with growing confidence. After several more forays, the emboldened squirrel grew lazy. It sat on the man's lap greedily nibbling its meal. Then, incredibly, the squirrel climbed up the man's chest and sat on his shoulder. The man's face lit up with joy. He spoke not a word, remaining calm and peaceful. There was a time when I would have judged that man's eccentricity: a cross-dresser who befriends squirrels. Yet these days I appreciate such gentleness. As the sky faded into a soft lavender, I thought, "He's doing what's right for him, and I'm doing what's right for me."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Suddenly Spring

Spring sprung with a hurry. The daffodils appeared overnight, blanketing the hillside by the W190th St. subway stop in a flurry of yellow. The tulips appeared soon after, standing stock straight, confident in their rainbow of beauty. Then the lilacs started, filling the air with sensual perfume. Not to be beaten, the wisteria hung like lacey grapes in fierce floral competition. Now little bluebells are appearing close to the ground increasingly covered with ferns and ivy. The trees have spread a lime-green canopy of electric green new leaves, transforming the skies into a jungle of green that overfills the eyes with abundance.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Overgrown Tricycle

Today Central Park was bursting into early spring. New Yorkers took advantage of the Sunday for a much-needed return to nature. While walking past the Bethesda Fountain, a man passed me on an overgrown tricycle. The vehicle was a low-rider, and the front tire stretched far out front. Covered in sparkles and streamers, white and pink feather boas trailed behind it. The driver wore a multi-colored top hat, wide sunglasses rimmed with diamonds, and a sequined tuxedo jacket. He rode quickly in a dazzle of color. I turned for another look. A woman wheeling a stroller walked past and smiled at me broadly. The man's eccentricity had brought joy and connection to both of us.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saturday Night Elevator Date

Saturday night I road the elevator down to the subway stop at W190th St. It was 11PM and I was dressed for a party. In the corner of the manually operated elevater, behind a knee-high plastic barrier demarcating her office sat a large woman with carefully curled blond hair: the operator. She acknowledged me when I walked in, but her attention lay elsewhere. Against the wall opposite the woman leaned a thin man half her size. The woman talked quickly, her voice animated by high-school-dance nervousness. The elevator reached subway level. I exited, but the man did not follow. The doors closed and the man road up again with the woman. I returned at 3AM from the party, unsuccessful in seeing the man I had wanted to see. At W190th St., I road up in the elevator with the same thin man and large woman. They were still talking after riding up and down in the elevator for four hours. They were still smiling. The woman looked less nervous. I couldn't help thinking: their elevator date was probably more successful than my fancy SoHo party.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


While riding downtown on the subway yesterday, a mother and her young son sat across from me. It was mid afternoon, the subway car half empty and quiet. The little boy sat in an oversized blue ski parka, the hood pulled over his head. The front snaps of the parka were closed and covered his mouth and nose, while two chocolate eyes peered from under the hood. The mother unwrapped a red lollipop and placed it in the boy's unyielding right hand. The boy continued looking straight ahead, refusing to taste the lollipop. He held it in a stubborn fist at chest level, his elbow bent at a right angle as if holding a pitchfork. The mother admonished him to lick the lollipop, then unsnapped his hood and guided it into his mouth. The boy's lips refused at first: it could have been made of liver. Slowly, as the train neared midtown, the boy warmed to the idea. He began twirling the lollipop around in his mouth, releasing more sweetness once reassured that it wasn't poison.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Riding down to the UWS an old Hasidic man entered the subway train at 181st St. He wore the traditional attire: black suit, white cotton shirt, black felt hat. His clothes hung in folds from a tall, bony frame. His greasy white hair stuck out like straw instead of hanging in a frame of side curls beside his face. His ankles showed bare beneath his trousers and his feet disappeared into worn black leather shoes. His right hand trembled, drawing circles as if endlessly screwing in a light bulb. He sank to the subway seat, his eyelids closing above sunken cheeks that dove into a scraggly white beard. With his left hand he reached across his belly and cradled his right. With this comfort, the right ceased its endless motion and all was still in the solace of sleep.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fuchsia Skirt

Walking on Cabrini Boulevard sometimes I pass an Indian woman in a full circle fuchsia skirt that hangs to her knees. Black leggings cover the gap between the skirt's hem and the brown boots that slouch below her knees. She wears a boxy wool coat, too big for a frame that doesn't reach five feet. A black felt bowler hat, the kind shown in glossy travel pictures of Ecuador, warms her head. Twin black braids escape the hat and swing along her bent back as she sorts through garbage for recyclables. Last Wednesday beside a tree she stashed two treasures: frying pans, one slightly larger than the other, still usable. A man stopped and eyed them admiringly as if to say, amazing the things people throw away in Manhattan. She interrupted her work and said in Spanish through a smile flashing with gold caps, those are mine. His responding smile betrayed embarrassment. He continued walking, she continued searching.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Good fun

Friday afternoon I poured out of the subway door, full of expectations raised by newscasters predicting a warming pattern for the weekend. The warmth had stubbornly dragged its heals, and I braced myself as I stepped onto the street. Beside me walked a father and his toddler son, packaged in an oversized bubble coat. The toddler pointed across the street and yelled, "Look: Mom!" The father swerved as if caught tramping mud across a freshly clean floor, and directed his eyes to the empty sidewalk across the way. The toddler skipped away, looking over his shoulder and giggling at his gullible father.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Shy neighbor

Ellen lives two doors down from me. Ellen has blond hair cut to just below her chin and an oblong face with round cheeks. Ellen has a Jack Russell terrier who she walks on a short leash. The dog is very well behaved (as opposed to mine who befriends every dog he passes). Ellen looks straight ahead while walking the dog. For many months, Ellen did not say hello or even look at me. Finally, I ran into Ellen in the elevator. To interrupt the awkward silence, I introduced myself. Now when we cross paths, Ellen sometimes greets me. Occasionally, overtaken by shyness, she still averts her eyes.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Today I rode up in the elevator with Bobby, a medium-set man in his sixties with a shock of white hair plummeting down his forehead. He said he'd lived in this building for 25 years and asked me, in a monotone Forrest Gump voice, "Where are you from?" I replied that I grew up in LA. His face lit up, and he boasted in a little boy voice, "I lived on Ventura Boulevard. I used to set up singles events in LA!" As the door opened to the fifth floor, his eyebrows raised in merriment, "Once I got thrown out of Charlie Chaplin's mansion!" I replied, "I bet you have some great stories to tell." "Yes sirree," he chuckled as he scampered out of the elevator.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cat Lady

In the basement of my building lives a solo woman with ten cats. When I first met her, she would not talk to me or look me in the eye. Instead, she bent down, talking gently to my dog and carressing his head. These days, occasionally she looks at me, but still she focuses most of her attention on my dog. She never greets me, but goes into raptures about the dog. Occasionally I chide her into saying goodbye. She smells of cigarettes, her apartment dark and crowded with years of living.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Favorite Doll

Saturday riding downtown on the subway a little girl sat in front of me. In her arms she held a shabby stuffed animal, a dog with droopy brown ears. Between the dog's ears nestled a frazzled red bow. Red shoes adorned his feet. Around his neck hung a loose red bow, and on his bottom what looked like red nylon underwear served for britches. Secure in her ownership, the little girl held the dog loosely on her lap. Occasionally she pulled him close and hugged him where the fur had grown worn and thin. If only people later in life could be as constant as one's first stuffed animal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The cobbler in my neighborhood works in a cramped, messy little store filled with the accoutrements of his trade: shoes hanging from hooks, old magazines for customers waiting shoeless, leather shoe inserts, piles of shoeshine, a clock that reads an hour behind schedule. You open the door to his world with a rush of church music. Gospel choirs and organ music fill the workshop. The cobbler speaks with an accent reminiscent of Africa. He is old, with graying hair and a stooped walk. He rarely meets your eye, except when he hands you the products of his work. Then he looks up and calls you friend.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cliffs of Insanity

A snowstorm blew threw NYC all day yesterday. It left crusts of ice covering everything. Daggers of icicyles dripped dangerously from the rooftops. This afternoon I walked to the Cloisters by way of the Linden Terrace. The wind whipped off the river and quickened my pace. I slowed near the low stone wall that looks out over the Hudson onto the view of Englewood Cliffs jutting precipitously to the Hudson. There in the crusted ice on top of the wall someone had written "Cliffs of Insanity". I laughed out loud even though I was alone. With the wind biting into my bones and the overhead clouds turning the sky gray and forboding, the cliffs truly looked insane.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Early Morning Subway Ride

The subway car I chose this morning was half-empty. Strange for 8AM on a Friday. But I knew why before I walked in. A homeless man sat near one of the doors, the seats around him vacant. Riders grouped together at either end of the car, away from the stench. Urine streaked the floor, still wet. The man slouched behind a trolley piled with a suitcase, pillow, various dirty odds and ends: his portable home. He slumped, his head drawn down by eyes focused on the floor. A woman said: would you want to take him home, have him shower in your tub? No answer. With the train's progression toward downtown, more people piled into the car. Soon a woman sat one seat over from the man. He looked up, surprised at the daring of her proximity.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Shoveling Snow

The snowstorm that arrived shortly before Christmas left a legacy of ice that has kept supers in my neighborhood busy. Sometimes they have little helpers. The other day, a mother and her young daughter were hard at work dispatching a light dusting, a gift of afternoon flurries. A biting wind whipped off the nearby Hudson, and the mother worked quickly. The little girl, excited with importance, pranced behind her. The girl, dressed head to toe in pink, used her left hand to scrape the sidewalk with a miniature snow shovel. In her right, she held a pink-sequined handbag. She swung it wide, careful not to dirty it with the work at hand.