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?

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