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.