Bench by the Plaza
While visiting New York a few years ago, I sat down at the end of an empty bench across from the Plaza Hotel to wait for my wife, who was with a friend nearby.
As I watched people coming and going at the Plaza, I felt the presence of someone standing next to me. I turned and saw a small older woman staring at me.
“You are sitting in my place,” she said quietly.
I stood up and offered her the spot where I was sitting.
She thanked me, and I moved to the other end of the bench.
Neither of us spoke another word.
— Michael Brown
Whatever It Takes
A few weeks ago, I finally got to do something I had been looking forward to doing since I moved to New York: seeing the city through the eyes of my aunt-in-law, a tried-and-true New Yorker who left the East Coast for the West some years back and was back for a visit.
She and I left her hotel at 103rd Street and Broadway and raced down the steps to the No. 1 station to catch an uptown train.
To our dismay, it was 10 minutes away.
“Nothing we can do but wait!” she said.
The train, unsurprisingly, was packed when it arrived. The doors opened, and my aunt-in-law hopped into what seemed to be the last open space.
“I can’t fit,” I said.
“Oh, you can fit,” a voice from inside the car said.
Suddenly, four arms were reaching toward me, grabbing me and pulling me into the car from the edge of platform. They held onto me until the doors closed and the train began to move.
— Abbey Foote
Rock & Roll
In 1976, I was 15 and working in the back room of my parents’ Upper West Side typewriter shop, Osner Business Machines.
The air was pungent with the smell of lubricants and cleaning solvents. The floor-to-ceiling shelves were stuffed two and three deep with typewriters of every size and shape. A makeshift cowbell jangled when the front door opened.
My father greeted each new customer from behind a yellowing linoleum counter, equally attentive to person and ailing machine. When someone paid with a credit card, he would pass it to me. My job was to call the card company for authorization.
One day, after taking an American Express card, I did a double-take at the name embossed on it: Lou Reed.
I poked my head out, gesturing wildly toward my father. On the other side of the counter, I glimpsed a figure in black leather.
“Daddy,” I said, “that’s Lou Reed!”
My father, who tuned in to the local Yiddish-language radio station when he wasn’t listening to WQXR, offered a dubious response.
“Who’s Lou Reed?”
I rolled my eyes.
“He’s a rock star,” I whispered.
My father, unimpressed, returned to the counter. I tiptoed behind, my mouth agape as I stared at the familiar, craggy, handsome face.
“Mr. Reed,” my father said in his thick Polish accent, “my daughter thinks she knows you?”
Lou Reed blinked. One corner of his mouth quivered into the slightest of smiles.
“Well,” he said, returning my gaze, “she might.”
— Anne Adelman
in the beginning
was the taxi ride
the woman in the park with gloves
a scarf a large fur coat
she eyes Manhattan
& the cold vertical
winter of going up
to catch the last sunset the dipping moon
the vision of a girl
lying in grass body receptive
to a self-portrait staring
from a building American gangs
meet Chinese whisperers meet
Indian maharajahs meet the Dalai Lama
going to Times Square a hairy man
jumps from his hole of fragrance
the woman in the park begins
each morning by calling a taxi
by making love to her Polynesian dreamer
by living with him on an island city
the hairy man jumps from his hole
— Iain Britton
A little after 10 o’clock on a rainy Friday, the back end of a small sedan lit up as it drove backward down 80th Street toward Madison Avenue. It did not seem unusual given the plethora of double-parked cars on the block.
Rather than straighten out and begin to drive forward, the car continued in reverse through the intersection. And then it turned right.
This was the rare part. Because Madison Avenue runs north, the only legal turn at 80th Street would be a left.
I called 911.
“There’s a car going the wrong way down Madison,” I said. “He might hit someone.”
The woman at the other end of the line said she would notify the local police precinct and that they would call me.
Three minutes later, the police called. Did I know where the car was?
Yes, I said, I was looking at it. It was in front of a hydrant facing the wrong way.
Had I gotten the license plate number?
The caller said they would “get the guy,” but I heard no sirens and saw no flashing lights, except those of the car lighting up storefronts as it slowly made a U-turn. The driver even stopped at the light.
Then it went on its way. As did I. As did the rest of the city.
— Martin Rather
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Illustrations by Agnes Lee
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