‘That First Subway Ride Was Punctuated by a Whooshing Sound’

First Ride

Dear Diary:

It was 1964, and I was at Port Authority after getting off a Greyhound bus from Austin, Texas. I was headed to a job at the Texas pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, where I would hand out quarters from a booth to parents putting their children on kiddie rides.

“How do I find the subway to Flushing?” I asked a young man rushing past me in the terminal.

He picked up my light blue suitcase and led me to the subway platform while I carried the matching light blue makeup case. I was too tired and too grateful to be suspicious.

That first subway ride was punctuated by a whooshing sound noisy enough that other riders began to glance in my direction. I realized it was coming from the makeup case on my lap.

With a red face, I unlatched the lid to find a can of hair spray going off. What could I do on a subway car with an inert can emitting a stream of sticky lacquer on its own?

I slammed the lid back down and pretended that a whooshing makeup case was the most natural thing in the world.

I think that’s when I became a New Yorker.

— Sally Lehr


Dear Diary:

I had just gotten my dog, Ruby, and was walking her in my neighborhood near Union Square.

As we passed an outdoor cafe, a woman I did not know reached out and clutched my arm.

Alarmed, I pulled away.

“Oh!” she said, “you got another dog!”

I stared at her blankly.

“No,” she said. “You don’t know me. We live in the apartment building across the street from you, and my husband and I always used to watch you carry your old, sick dog down the stoop every morning and put her in a cart to take her to the park.”

Her eyes began to fill with tears.

“And then one day you stopped, and we just knew your old dog had passed,” she said. “Well, it just broke our hearts, dear! But now you have a new puppy — just wait till I tell my husband!”

As I walked away, I had the strangest feeling.

— Eileen O’Connor

Game Night

Dear Diary:

I was traveling home on the subway when the blackout started. The car was packed, and there was not a lot of room to move.

After a few minutes, I felt someone rubbing on my back. Then I felt someone else doing the same.

I turned my head to see what was going on and smiled.

My jacket was suede, and a couple of people were playing tic-tac-toe on it.

— Gary Posilkin

The Elusive Ellipsis

Dear Diary:

From Park Slope to Poughkipsiss,
Better fear the sly Ellipsis,
Since this piece of punctuation acts borracho, boozed, besotted.
Vaguely vacuous? Contraire!
Knows full well why it is there,
Disingenuous, duplicitous and dotted.

These egotistical ellipses,
They do not shoot from their hipsees,
Omitting words and phrases that to them reek of redundance.
While parentheses appease you,
(Adding meaning, sure to please you)
Ellipsis says, “Cut to the chase, enough is not abundance.

Who needs words that are superfluous,
Like chocolate on a Charlotte Russe,
When anyone can understand the clues in context lurking.”
And so, they never hesitate,
To edit and manipulate:
“You do not need to spell it out when dialogue is working.”

Truth be told, it’s tough to fathom,
Had I a choice, I’d really rathom,
Simply finish up the sentence though the meaning is implicit.
Reader, draw your own conclusion,
And eschew the rude intrusion,
Eclipsis the ellipsis and you will not be complicit.

I could go on and on, but why?
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the inference …

— Lou Craft

Green Suede Wrap Coat

Dear Diary:

At 17, I had saved enough money to buy a green suede wrap coat with a fox collar. To me, it was magnificent.

My hometown, Rockville Centre on Long Island, seemed too small for my beautiful coat. So, I devised a plan to cut school and take the Long Island Rail Road, myself and my coat, into the city, where it belonged.

After getting off the train at Penn Station, I headed east to Fifth Avenue and then north to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where I lit a candle and said a little prayer, asking forgiveness for the sin of skipping school.

Saks Fifth Avenue was my next stop. My coat was worthy of a stroll through that beautiful store.

From there, I went to Tiffany. My coat and I stopped at every counter on the first floor before heading upstairs to the silver department to buy a small pen for my purse.

The cost? Seven dollars. It was 1967.

The coat and I visited several other shops, had a grilled cheese sandwich at the Automat and made it back to Rockville Centre without getting caught.

A few years later, we moved to Manhattan and went on to enjoy many adventures over the next many years.

— Carolyn Russell

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