Best Metropolitan Newspaper Article of 2021: Readers Speak
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A few years ago, one fall morning, I decided to walk to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and spend a few hours there before meeting a friend for lunch.
It was one of those days when the weather couldn’t decide between clear and sunny or cool and cloudy. I picked up a sweater from the closet, wrapped it around my waist, and set off.
After wandering the galleries of the museum for a while, I headed south on Fifth Avenue to meet my friend. The sun had just disappeared behind a large bank of gray clouds, and I was glad I brought a sweater.
Standing in a corner waiting for the lights to change, a man at a hot dog stand waved and called me.
“Ma’am, are you walking to 72nd Street?” ” he asked me.
He reached under his cart and pulled out a light blue windbreaker.
“Could you please bring this to my wife?” ” he said. “She has a hot dog cart like this.”
“Sure,” I replied, grabbing the jacket just as the light turned green. The man smiled and waved his hand.
About 10 minutes later, I spotted a shiny steel hot dog cart. A woman stood nearby, her shirt collar pulled up against the cool breeze.
“Your husband sent you this,” I said, handing him the jacket.
“Oh, thank you very much,” she replied with a smile, quickly putting on the jacket. “He is a good man.”
– Faith Andrews Bedford
I walked out of an East Side funeral home in the bright June sun. I examined the white plastic bucket of my mother’s ashes, then raised my arm to hail a cab.
One of them stopped, but something caused me to wave it. I stuffed the bucket into my backpack, loaded the bag on my back, and started walking.
For about an hour, I took my mom to visit some of the landmarks of our lives in New York City.
Past the old Drake Hotel, where we dipped to grab a handful of mini Swiss chocolate bars from the cavernous bowl in the lobby.
Past Saks Fifth Avenue, where we squeezed into overcrowded elevators operated by “elevator men” calling out floors with deep baritones.
Past the MoMA sculpture garden, overlooked by my mother’s first New York apartment.
Past the Pierre Hotel, where my mother tricked the receptionist into giving her a room when she ran away from home as a teenager.
Past the long gone Auto pub in the General Motors building, where my parents threw the best birthday party ever.
Past old Rumpelmayer’s on Central Park South, where my mom would take me for some vanilla ice cream soda on special days.
In Central Park and on the park alley, which my mother urged many taxi drivers to take to “save time.”
And, finally, houses the empty Upper West Side apartment.
Thanks, mom, for sharing these things with me. How happy I was that day to reciprocate.
– David London
That was a few years ago, and we had four front row seats on the central balcony for a performance of “Othello” at the Metropolitan Opera. A young couple who did not know opera accepted an invitation to join us.
During the cab ride from the restaurant where we dined to Lincoln Center, we unraveled the intrigue for our companions. With four passengers in the cabin, I sat in the front seat and recounted in the back.
The cab’s arrival at the Met coincided with my account of Iago’s plot regarding the hidden handkerchief. I tried to hand the price over to the driver as we got ready to go out. He stopped me.
“No one is going to leave until I hear the end,” he said.
– Vern Schramm
I recently went for a run and ended up in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Just before I got home, I was stopped dead when I saw a large piece of wood leaning against a pile of garbage bags. It was garbage night, but until now I hadn’t noticed the garbage I was running past.
It wasn’t just any piece of wood. It was my office.
My dad built the office for me in 2010 when I moved into what had been my second apartment in Chelsea. I had used it for six years before selling it to a woman on Craigslist. I was moving to Brooklyn and it wouldn’t work for me in my new apartment.
Now, I thought, after four years, that shouldn’t be working for her either.
After 10 years of existence, the desk – its wooden top separated from its rusty pipe legs, which were nearby enclosed in transparent recycling bags – was finally at the end of its life.
I felt myself gush. I put my dad on FaceTime and pointed my phone at the piece of wood.
“Do you know what this is?” I asked.
He did it, immediately.
I said goodbye to the office one last time, wiped away my tears, and continued my run home.
– Jennifer Fragale
Every morning before I left for school, my mother gave me emergency accommodation. This was back when cell phones were a luxury and you couldn’t turn a corner in New York City without seeing a pay phone.
“Only use it if you absolutely have to,” she said as I slipped the coin into my pocket, where it would be next to the one she had given me the day before.
I spent Fridays after school at a small hair salon in Corona, Queens, either getting my hair cut or accompanying a friend who was getting one. Every Friday, an older Dominican entered the store pulling out a red and white camping cooler.
Inside the cooler was a black bag. Inside the bag was what I had been looking forward to all week.
The smell of fried dough would overwhelm the combined smell of talcum powder, barbicide and bay rum that had lingered in the air all day. A well-formed nose might also pick up the scent of onions, olives and seasoned ground beef. Chicken too, if there was any left for the man.
“Empanadas, a dollar and twenty-five,” he bellowed as the barbers continued to cut their hair without flinching.
Every Friday, I dug deep in my pocket and fished for five quarters, one for each day of the week.
It’s an emergency as good as anything, I told myself before making my request.
“Do you have any chicken left?” “
– Carlos Matias
Read a editor’s note on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Metropolitan Diary, and artist thoughts on the column illustration over the past three years.
Read all recent entries and our submission guidelines. Contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @NYTMetro on Twitter.
Illustrations by Agnès Lee
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