Chatting with a bartender in Brooklyn, finding a family photo and more reader tales of New York City in this weekâs Metropolitan Diary.
One day last winter, after brunch and a brisk walk around my Williamsburg neighborhood, my girlfriend and I wound up in an empty dive bar, having a drink and playing pinochle.
Between hands, we chatted with the bartender. She told us she had just moved up from Florida and was really excited to be living in the city.
One day in January, near the turnstile at the exit of the 125th Street subway station, something caught my eye: a sepia-toned photograph that showed what looked like three siblings sitting on a davenport.
The photo was dated December 1941. On the back were the childrenâs names and ages: Peter, 6; Emily, 3; and Thomas, 8.
They were in their Sunday best. Peter was wearing short pants and wire-frame glasses. He had a mischievous grin and was looking toward his older brother. Emily, a lovely bow holding her hair back, had the wary look of a girl who might at any moment be pranked by one or both her brothers. Thomas, handsome in knickers, looked directly into the camera. He appeared impatient, like he wanted to get away from the little kids.
The parentsâ names, Philomena and Edwin, were on the back as well. After an unsuccessful session with Ancestry at the library, I plugged Peterâs full name into Google and found his obituary. I learned that he had been preceded in death by his brother Thomas and survived by his sister Emily, whose married name was included.
I Googled Emily and learned that she lived in a small town in Colorado. Finding her address, I sent her a copy of the photo, with a note asking, âIs that you in the middle?â
I was rewarded with a beautiful note in return. The photo, she told me, had been taken by her father.
She and her brothers, she wrote, had grown up in Onalaska, Wis., and she had loved that davenport. Now she lived near her son and a lake and she had a view of the Rockies. I told her I had grown up in Stuyvesant Town, lived in Riverdale and had a view of the Hudson.
Last year in summer.A man across the aisle from mereading a newspaper.On the back page in big enough lettersthere was an adsomething about a poetry contestbut I had to squintto read the fine print underneathand I leaned forward maybe more than I realizedbecause when I glanced upthe man was looking at me.Did I sayhe was burly and wore a lot of jewelry,a ring on practically every finger,gold chains and a bright shirt, coral color,and he was bald, I think.The sort of person you might notice.We had a brief conversation,after whichI stared at my phone.
The train slowed for Union Square.The man got up and stood beside my seat.His rings clinked the pole.As the doors opened, he said,
My fiancÃ© and I got engaged in February at the Peopleâs Garden on 111th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
Afterward, we walked to one of our favorite places in the city, the Hungarian Pastry Shop, to celebrate.
The people who were working that day had graciously reserved a table for us and hidden a bottle of Champagne in the kitchen. They offered us anything we wanted on the house, took photos and videos and announced our engagement to everyone in the crowded shop. It was truly a memorable day.
Several months later, we returned to the shop for the first time since our engagement. When it was our turn to order, the woman at the counter recognized us immediately.
One night in the early 1980s, I had dinner at my parentsâ apartment on the Upper West Side. It was late and I had to work in the morning, so I decided to splurge on a cab. I hailed one on Columbus Avenue, and gave the driver my address in the East Village.
After the cab turned onto my street, the driver pulled over half a block from my apartment. He turned to look at me.
âThis is where I live,â he said, pointing toward one of the buildings. âSince there is a parking space, Iâd like to go up and eat supper with my wife before I finish my shift.â
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