‘When the F Train I Was on Got to West Fourth, I Stopped Reading’

Switching to the A

Dear Diary:

I was taking the subway from my apartment in Carroll Gardens to Washington Heights to have dinner with my girlfriend and her parents.

Ordinarily, I would keep my AirPods planted firmly in my ears for such a trip, but this time I was engrossed in a recent magazine profile of Francis Ford Coppola that focused on his plans to sink a chunk of his fortune into a passion project called Megalopolis.

When the F train I was on got to West Fourth, I stopped reading while switching to the A. Once I got situated, I eagerly returned to the article, staring intently at my phone screen like seemingly everyone else around me.

I barely noticed when a man got on carrying a trombone. He took a spot by the center pole and started to play a distinct, lilting melody — one it took me a second to place. Once I did, I laughed to myself and put down my phone to watch him finish the song.

“Thank you, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, walking down the aisle. “That was the theme from ‘The Godfather.’”

Then he exited the car.

— Chris Stanton

Special Skill

Dear Diary:

It was a lovely evening. My wife Andrea and I were walking down a mostly empty street in Brooklyn, returning from a funeral. I was quickly running out of relatives of a certain age.

A man who was walking in the opposite direction veered straight toward us, stopped abruptly and garbled a question through clenched teeth.

I answered, and he walked away. My wife was confused.

I explained that he had been asking for directions with a broken jaw that was wired shut.

Wow, she said, what are the chances he would ask the only person around who could understand him?

My years of being a dentist and talking to people with mouths full of cotton had finally been useful outside the office.

— Sal Selvaggio

Weekend in Flushing

Dear Diary:

My boyfriend had planned a staycation weekend in Flushing for my birthday. We invited all of our friends to join us for an epic overnight of feasting.

We started at the New World Mall food court with mala dry pot and crispy pork dumplings. I filled up quickly but managed to free up space during a walk to the Ganesh temple for the famous dosas and uttapams.

Next up: drinks at a local watering hole with a sizable outdoor space. I nursed a single beer and switched to water, prepping myself for our Korean barbecue dinner.

It didn’t disappoint, and we were treated to endless banchan alongside Mapo’s signature galbi (and, of course. plenty of soju.)

Karaoke was next, naturally. We sang along to Nicki Minaj, Abba, Billy Joel for hours.

“This is crazy” my boyfriend began, “but I could eat … ”

Twenty minutes later we were at Hahm Ji Bach tucking into kimchi and pork belly. I couldn’t believe I was still eating.

The next morning, we pushed onward, sitting for dim sum at Asian Jewels. Other friends joined us, reviving our energy and appetites. Plates of shu mai and turnip cakes appeared and then disappeared in a blur.

We waddled outside. Next up was hot pot.

I turned to my boyfriend.

“This has been great,” I said, “but … ”

“Should we call it?” he said.

I nodded.

We took the subway home. Dinner was salad.

— Rachel Leventhal

Stars Over Central Park

Dear Diary:

The dead are the dirt
that heave up green
notes in the hot dusk
to break the glass
of this islet
riverine sliver
in granite and light
it splits the Hudson flow

into brackish eternities
as we divide the divine
into imagined blood rites
and blank sky painted
by starlings — lying
in the lawn that patches
this cinder ball
backs to a tumid star

our eyes listen to hear
curtained constellations tell
old tales in the pallid night
but our scrambled senses drown
in echoes of that ancient
cosmic shriek — now
the stale staccato sky
holds mostly light of inbounds

to Newark — yet
science webs thoughts
they telescope
to the imagined edge
where murmured skies
were once a glittering
coal bed and tin moons
rose and fell on rocks roots

and strange wings
what if a young Whitman
once lay on this very grass
and cried — my,
how crickets then sung
the milky night
to unseen windows
beyond unseen stars

— G.R. Kramer

First Apartment

Dear Diary:

I was furnishing my first apartment, circa 1982. I bought a velour sofa, a Ming-style side table and a lamp with a porcelain Chinese goddess base at Macy’s.

I decided to return the lamp. When I got to the store, there was a long line at the return counter.

As I was waiting, the man ahead of me turned around, looked at me and then looked at the lamp.

“Take it home and learn to love it,” he said and turned back around.

— Marianne Kobbe

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