“He did a triple take worthy of a goofy 1930s comedy”

Dear Diary:

I had recently been asked to paint a portrait of a friend’s mountaintop cabin. So I did, positioning it atop a field speckled with tall grass and red and white wildflowers.

Not completely satisfied with the paint, I brought it to my outdoors class at the Art Students League so my instructor could help me.

We were there, near the Meatpacking District. Twelve trestles were formed on a building that was still a little unlucky amid its share of trash and grime.

A passerby, an old bearded man, walked from student to student, associating each painting with each perspective of the small building.

Dressed in colorful, loose clothing, this street-corner art critic scrutinized every easel, sometimes reacting with a comment, sometimes pausing for a question.

When he got to me, he looked at the grimy building in front of me and looked at the painting of an idyllic cottage on my easel. Then he did a triple take worthy of a goofy 1930s comedy.

“Ma’am,” he said, “if that’s what you see, more power to you.”

—Anne van der Does

Dear Diary:

I was walking through my neighborhood in Crown Heights on a Saturday night when I passed an older man and woman sitting on the sidewalk listening to music on a phone.

I was recording a vocal note for myself, but as I walked by, I smiled and did a little dance to the music.

“Come back, darling! cried the woman. She said it was her birthday and we danced to “Angel of the Morning” together on the sidewalk: “Just call me morning angel, angel, just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.”

After a few minutes and smiles and hugs all around, I moved on.

I realized that my phone had recorded everything. Maybe now, when things get me down, I’ll listen to this encounter and think of two strangers dancing together for a while on the sidewalk.

— Yehuda Fogel

Dear Diary:

My mom needed basil for Sunday night dinner. I walked to the corner store, cash in hand, Crocs barely on my feet.

It was a sunny day in Brooklyn, and everyone was out. Looking to my left, I saw a woman wearing a feather hat with a small Pomeranian. His hat was unremarkable compared to his actions.

She reached into her purse and pulled out a large cannoli. Instead of putting it in her mouth, she leaned over to the dog to give it to him. Then she pulled one out for herself.

I walked another 15 blocks to get one too.

—Arianna Gold

Dear Diary:

A few years ago, following the death of a loved one, I desperately needed to regain my zest for life. I decided to fulfill a long-held wish to travel across the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2.

Flying from my home in Kansas to La Guardia Airport, I looked around for the driver who was to take me to the pier. Finally, I noticed a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman wearing a long, flowing robe and holding a sign with my name on it.

I approached him and explained who I was.

“Ah,” he said in a rich accent, “you are the woman of the plains who wants to go to sea.”

Without thinking, I sat up and squared my shoulders.

“Yes,” I said in a strong, determined voice. “I am.”

The trip was a success.

—Deborah Detrick

Dear Diary:

I have a Leica camera which I think could use some tuning so I went to the Leica store in SoHo.

I explained to one of the staff that although the camera was working perfectly, I thought it might need some adjustment.

The man examined her carefully.

“Yes,” he said, “I see what you mean, but as you said, it works perfectly. Let’s have the store manager take a look at it, because he has the most d ‘experience. “

The manager emerged from the back of the store and proceeded to examine the camera. He agreed he might need an adjustment.

“Oh, I hope they don’t have to send this to Leica,” I thought to myself. “Nothing at Leica is cheap.”

The manager pulled out a few tools and started making adjustments. First one thing, then another.

“There,” he said. “Like new.”

“How much I owe you?” I asked.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he said. “Exit the store, turn right and walk down Prince Street. Turn right and go to the café right there and bring me a honey, ginger and lemon tea.

At first I thought he was joking, but soon realized that was not the case. So I dutifully left all my things in the store, went out to get the tea, and came back.

“Thank you very much,” the man said when I returned. “We are all square.”

—Michael Silfen

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee


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