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.