What It’s All About
A friend of mine was visiting from Rio de Janeiro and staying in an apartment on the Upper West Side. I met her there and we prepared for a day out on the town.
After leaving the apartment, we got on the elevator, where we were greeted by an older woman with two small dogs.
I could not help smiling as I read the slogan on the woman’s shirt: “What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about?”
“What does that mean?” my Brazilian friend asked.
How to explain it?
I looked at the woman.
She looked at me.
Then we did what any respectable New Yorker would do. We did the Hokey Pokey and we turned ourselves around.
— Joanne Goodman
2 Good Seats
It was 1993, and my teenage son was begging me to take him on a road trip from our Wisconsin home to New York to see one of Simon and Garfunkel’s reunion concerts at Madison Square Garden’s Paramount Theater.
He found a number to call for tickets in the back pages of Rolling Stone.
“I have two good seats just for you,” the man who answered said in a heavy New York accent.
Hesitantly, I gave him my credit card information.
“How ya gonna pick these up?” he asked.
I had no idea.
“Tell ya what I’m gonna do,” he said, before offering the name of a restaurant near the Garden. “You ask for Johnny when you get there. He’ll have your tickets. And make sure you give him a nice tip.”
My wife thought I was crazy to think this was on the level, but my son and I took off for New York. We found the restaurant a couple of hours before the show was to start. And sure enough, Johnny was there with our tickets.
And, yes, we gave him a nice tip.
— Richard Moore
I was prone to forgetting at least one important thing — wallet, phone, keys — when I went out, but I always remembered to bring along a notebook and pen.
On days when my headphones were what I had left behind, I shortened my long commute to my job as a nanny on the Upper West Side by sneakily sketching my fellow train passengers.
Those who were asleep were ideal subjects; those who were awake would inevitably ruin the pose as soon as they become aware of what I was doing.
Once, a few years ago, I was on the D train a when I noticed a young man who was sketching an older woman across from him as she snored.
Having a clear view of his profile, I took out my supplies and started to draw the artist as he drew. I felt strangely guilty, as if I were violating his invisibility as a fellow train sketcher. Still, I couldn’t resist.
With the train pulling into 34th Street, I scrambled to finish sketching his hair while he gathered his things before getting off. As he stepped out onto the platform, I tapped his shoulder and handed him the sketch.
There was just enough time to watch him process what he was looking at: the frown from being touched by a stranger to the embarrassed laugh as he saw his face on the page.
Then the doors close, and we pulled away.
— Lila Elias
My wife and I were outside the prewar walk-up apartment building in Long Island City that was our home for several years when we spotted a man walking a cat on a leash.
“How novel!” I said to the man.
We went inside and the man and his cat did too.
“Oh, you live here?” I asked.
We made our way up the four flights to our door. The man with the cat, behind us the whole way, stopped at the door next to ours. He put a key in the lock.
“Oh, you live right here?” I said, now incredibly embarrassed.
“Yes,” he said, before disappearing into the apartment. “I’ve lived here for eight years”
— Allison Hope
Many years ago, when my children were little, my friends and I shopped at Natan Borlam’s children’s clothing store in Brooklyn.
The store carried beautiful clothes from Europe, as well as Florence Eiseman dresses for girls and Merry Mites and Gay Sprites clothes for toddlers, all at a fraction of their retail cost.
There were no price tags. You selected what you wanted and got in line. Natan would then look everything over and give you a final price. It was strictly cash only.
One day, there was a woman in line ahead of me whose arms were overflowing with clothes.
“I only have $42 with me,” she said to Natan when it was her turn at the register. “So please add it up and tell me what it costs before you ring it up.”
He took the items from her one by one, folding each neatly and piling them on the counter.
“Forty-two dollars,” he said brightly.
— Elizabeth Levine
Illustrations by Agnes Lee