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‘She and Her Roommate Had Bought a Sofa From a Woman in Queens’

Dear Diary:

We had just finished moving my daughter into an apartment on DeKalb Avenue when she said that she and her roommate had bought a sofa from a woman in Queens and that we had to pick it up before 5.

It was starting to sleet, and I was contemplating how three women with little upper body strength were going to lug a heavy piece of furniture up three flights of stairs.

We got the sofa into the back of the van easily enough, but when we returned to the apartment we struggled to get it through the doorway.

A young man in an overcoat and hat walked by.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “Can you help us carry this sofa upstairs?”

“Of course,” he said, picking it up at one end and calling out instructions for how to angle it up the stairs.

After we had gotten it upstairs and I was on my way down, I asked the man if I could give him some money.

“Oh, no, absolutely not,” he said. “I live next door. I’m your neighbor.”

— Madeline Monde


Dear Diary:

It was a Saturday morning, and I had ridden the Lackawanna to Hoboken and taken the ferry to Manhattan. I was heading for Cortlandt Street and the electronics stores on Radio Row.

As I left the ferry terminal and started to cross the very wide area in front of it, I noticed a street sweeper busily going back and forth.

The driver saw me, a teenager with a camera hanging around his neck. We were the only two people in the area. He turned the sweeper sideways to show its best side, posing for a photo. I obliged and we waved good morning to each other.

Then he went back to sweeping, and I went on to Radio Row. It’s long gone now, razed to make way for the World Trade Center.

— Jim Ransom


Dear Diary:

It was early one evening, and I was in the Second Avenue subway station in the East Village. I was on my way to Brooklyn for a friend’s birthday party.

An accordionist playing polka classics was on the platform. She wore a 1950s-style dress that made her look much older than she probably was.

As I waited for the F to arrive, I stood by one of the riveted steel columns preparing a last-minute gift: an old wrench from my tool collection.

I like giving such objects away to friends. Despite being rusted and worn, the tools convey an honest beauty. They become art objects in my mind after losing their function.

The final touch was adding a note on the side. I used an old plastic label maker from my childhood, clicking out the letters “H-A-P-P-Y B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” on faux-wood patterned tape.

A train pulled into the station as I cut off a final piece of plastic. The woman with the accordion wandered toward me while she continued to play.

“Don’t label me,” she said with a smile.

— Scott Santoro


Dear Diary:

I was walking my 14-pound rescue dog, Ellie, across the intersection at 70th Street and West End Avenue. A work crew was installing gas lines nearby.

The noise was quite loud from the drilling in the pavement, and I hesitated before crossing. But it seemed safe enough, and I held onto Ellie as I made my way across the street.

As we approached the workers, one of them, a tall, burly man, was bending over to install a sign warning drivers to slow down. Ellie dashed toward him and started to bark.

The man jumped up, surprised and then embarrassed at being frightened by a little dog.

I started to apologize, but a man I took to be a supervisor walked over and interrupted.

“Don’t apologize,” he said. “I wanted to bark at him all week.”

— Judith Mandel Lampron


Dear Diary:

After leaving an unusually bad sales call, I headed to the subway station at 18th and McDonald Avenues to catch the F.

When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I heard a train coming into the station. Racing up the steps, I saw that it was going in my direction.

Pulling myself up by the handrail, I made it to the platform just as the train doors were closing. Rushing through them, I stumbled and fell face first onto the floor of the car.

There I lay, sprawled out, face down, briefcase still in hand, looking like a giant X with my legs still out the doors.

Several other passengers got up to ask whether I was OK. I rolled over, stood up and thanked them all.

A few stops later, an older passenger walked past me on the way out the door and said: “Have a blessed day.”

Every day I try.

— Jim Katzenstein

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