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‘My Children Often Call Me Old-Fashioned. I Prefer Traditional.’

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Dear Diary:

My children often call me old-fashioned. I prefer traditional. Either way, when they tell me that cash currency is going the way of the dodo, it is with reluctance and some regret that I must admit that they are right.

On a recent business trip to Seattle, I did not use any cash during my three days there. Car service, plane ticket, light rail, hotel, food: All paid for with a credit card.

Back home, I was on my regular walk to work one morning when I stopped at a coffee cart on East 69th, as I do every weekday.

I ordered the usual, coffee and a pastry, and handed the man a $5 bill.

“That’s $3.50,” he said. “You should have the two quarters I gave you in change yesterday.”

— Robert Krasner


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Dear Diary:

I was on a crowded downtown No. 6 train just below 86th Street at around 10:15 a.m. A young man with slicked-back hair and polished shoes was studiously flipping through what looked like a stack of dog-eared flash cards.

I edged closer to see what he was studying. A new language? Actuarial formulas?

“Vieux Carré,” one of the meticulously handwritten index cards said.

So, I thought, he’s studying French.

“Manhattan,” said another.

Maybe early U.S. history.

“Old Fashioned,” said a third.

I smiled. He was cramming for his bartender’s exam.

— Amy Parsons


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Dear Diary:

I was getting coffee at a bodega in Crown Heights on a Saturday morning. While I waited to pay, I listened to the woman in front of me rattle off her lottery numbers: 1987, 1989, 820.

The speed at which she recited the numbers to the cashier made me it clear that she bought lottery tickets often. I began to wonder: She had such confidence in her numbers, how did she choose them?

The first two seemed obviously to be years of some significance. The year a child was born. The year a grandchild graduated from college. The year the woman had gotten married.
The year she had gotten divorced. The year she had started buying lottery tickets. The year her father finally told her he loved her. The year her friend got sober.

The last number, 820, had to be an address. The first building she ever lived in. The first apartment she ever bought. The place where the love of her life lives. The number of the apartment building she plans to buy if she wins the lottery.

I wish I’d asked her.

— Sarah Joyce


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Dear Diary:

I moved to New York City from Georgia in 1969 after a hitch in the service. Two Marine buddies and I split the third floor at the Northern Dispensary on Waverly Place in Greenwich Village. (My uncle, at New York University’s School of Dentistry, made it possible.)

Raggedy hippy was the style then. I can remember antiwar protests, gay liberation demonstrations, fire engines, cops, ambulances and garbage trucks filling the neighborhood at all hours.

The three of us were regulars at the Lion’s Head and the White Horse, but eventually we grew into our individual lives and moved on to marriages and careers.

One February some 25 years later, I dropped my son off at a friend’s home in Westchester. It began to snow. I decided to pass through Manhattan on my way back to Pennsylvania.

I parked on Fifth Avenue near Eighth Street and walked to Waverly Place. The snowfall was getting heavy, and it was late. The streets were empty and except for some noisy merriment from a corner pub, it was quiet.

Walking further, I looked up at the old triangular building. The windows and doors were boarded up. It was a dark, snow-speckled silhouette against the streetlight. Nearby, General Sheridan was still keeping watch over his square.

I called my wife on a pay phone, got back in my car and made my way back home.

— Mike Malsbury


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Dear Diary:

My 5-year old goddaughter, Lily, was playing with her scooter near the Museum of Natural History.

It was cold out and she was wearing a down coat that covered her in padding from her neck to her ankles. She also had a helmet on. I was fairly confident that she couldn’t possibly get hurt.

Of course, she fell and started to cry. Thinking that her tears were more from being startled than hurt, I hugged and reassured her and offered to call her father.

In the time it took to take out my phone, I noticed a purple welt forming across her nose, the only uncovered part of her body.

We rushed over to a hot dog cart on the corner. In what must have been a panicked tone, I asked the vendor for some ice.

A woman standing next to us turned around, looked at Lily and then looked at me.

“I think she’ll be O.K.,” she said in a tone that was reassuring but also made me feel as though I should perhaps calm down.

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