Some years ago, my mother and I owned a small crafts gallery and gift shop in the West Village called Terracotta.
There was an older man who stopped in regularly. He never bought anything, but every time he asked, “Got any trivets?” Sadly, the answer was always no.
But then we found some handcrafted trivets that we thought fit nicely with the rest of our merchandise. We eagerly awaited Trivet Man’s return.
One day, after several months of not stopping by, he poked his head in.
“Lazy Susans?” he asked.
— Lauren Gilbert
Old Brown Bike
Walking down West 76th Street, I encountered a young man and woman who were examining a bright neon tag on an old brown Ross cruising bicycle that was locked to a street sign.
The tires were flat, and the seat was missing. The Sanitation Department had marked it as derelict. The owner had seven days to retrieve it or it would be removed.
I told the couple that I had reported many derelict bikes to the city. They usually wound up tagged, I said, but the city often didn’t follow through on removing them.
The man said that was good to know and that he might return with a bolt cutter if the bike was still there after more than a week.
There was some sentimentality behind his intentions. The bike was a model from the 1970s, when Ross still had a factory in Rockaway. He said that he had grown up there and that his aunt had worked at the factory.
As we chatted, another man approached. He said the bike was his, and he had the seat to prove it. He said he had seen us gathered around the bike from his window.
The man I had been speaking with looked disappointed.
Then the bike’s owner asked if any of us wanted it. He said he had planned to fix it up but had never found the time.
With that, he attached the seat, unlocked the bike and handed it over to the young man from Rockaway.
— Daniel Bowman Simon
‘Save the Gluten’
Everywhere you look you see,
“Save the Gluten!” “Gluten Free!”
From delis plain to highfalutin,
“Gluten Free!” “Save the Gluten!”
What’s he in for, long imprisoned,
Mocked, insulted, scorned,
Alone in jail, that life of staff,
They separate the wheat from chaff.
It goes against the grain for me,
I too believe, “Get Gluten Free!”
Why tout the fact he’s not in fruit,
Nor rice, nor corn, the point is moot.
He’s not a tyrant, nor a brute,
Just a stalk of ill repute.
Save the Gluten, if you do,
You can have your cake …
— Lou Craft
It was September 1969. I was fresh from college and in Manhattan for a few days before boarding a ship for graduate study abroad.
My plans changed abruptly when I got a call informing me that the draft board had refused my request to leave the country. I was headed home to California.
“Don’t worry,” the desk clerk said the next morning when I explained why I was leaving early. “It’ll work out.”
Arriving home, I learned that a friend of my brothers who was a lawyer had won me a nine-month reprieve. I would get my fellowship and two semesters abroad, but I had to get back to New York quickly.
My ship berth was no longer available, but I was told that one might open up if someone canceled.
After an early flight from San Francisco, I returned to the same hotel. The next morning, I called the fellowship office. No berth had opened up.
“Just get down to the dock as quickly as you can,” I was advised.
I caught a cab to the pier.
“It’ll work out just fine,” the driver said as I got out.
At the boarding gate, I watched passengers disappear up the gangway while I waited off to the side.
“It’ll work out,” an officer with the shipping company said when I explained my predicament.
The passenger gangway slid away. The ship’s steam whistle shook the dock. The officer checked his clipboard and walked off. My heart sank.
I felt someone grab my elbow. It was the purser. He led me toward the crew gangway, and we boarded just before the ship pivoted out into the Hudson.
“But where will I sleep?” I asked.
“We’ve nothing at the moment,” the purser said as he sent me off to explore, “but we’ll get back to you.”
— Patrick W. O’Bryon
In the early 1980s, I traveled to New York for business several times a year. I especially loved the store windows at holiday time.
On one visit, I stumbled on a tiny jewelry store with an amazingly intricate window display. It was so lovely I decided to go inside and tell the people working that I thought so.
Entering the store, I saw an older woman fiddling with something behind the counter. I approached her enthusiastically.
“I just had to come in and tell you how beautiful your window display is!” I said.
“We know, dear,” the woman said without looking up. “We’ve been here 35 years.”
— Kim Foley