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‘I Turned to See a Man Behind Me Wearing a Sweater That I Also Own’


Dear Diary:

I was at the butcher waiting for the two sweet Italian sausages I had ordered. I turned to see a man behind me wearing a sweater that I also own.

“I own that same sweater,” I said.

“I love this sweater,” he said. “Barney’s on the Upper West Side?”

“Madison Avenue store,” I said. “Ten years ago?”

“Probably 12.”

“I wish they’d had other colors,” I said.

“I agree.”

“My wife hates the sweater.”

“Mine, too!”

“I only wear it when she’s not around,” I said. “I feel guilty about that, like I’m cheating on her.”

“Your secret’s safe with me.”


I paid for the sausages.

“That was weird, no?” I said to the man in the sweater.

“Yeah,” he said. “Pretty weird.”

— Robert Schwartz


Dear Diary:

The fire hydrants along Fifth Avenue
speak German, French, Spanish, Mandarin,
and in a pinch, they spray wet English
words into little puddles.
The rain has the same
inclination. It falls from the sky.
Its wet words tell us hello and goodbye.
They’d like to mingle.
They prefer not to encounter umbrellas.
They enjoy reflecting in puddles
the blue sky, seven thousand people
walking by, not caring if the puddle
knows their name
or has any kind thing to say
as rain puddles do most of their talking
when they get stepped on.
They leap up. They crawl
from their shallow places
and speak their minds.
The splash says it all.

— Ernest Slyman

Dear Diary:

I was getting out of the Army and going to my first job interview. It was at 140 West Street in Lower Manhattan, the headquarters of what was the New York Telephone Company at the time.

After a short interview and a review of my credentials — I didn’t have much: a bachelor of business administration degree and seven years in the military — the personnel manager put me in a cubicle. He handed me a test and said he would be back in an hour to collect it.

Sixty minutes later, he returned, collected my test, graded it and interviewed me again.

It was a short conversation. He said I had done very well on the test and that the telephone company wanted to hire me.

Then he told me the salary. It was not huge, but — one interview; one job offer — I was shocked, and pleased.

After recovering somewhat, I told him that it was my very first interview and that I would like to see what else might be out there for me.

“Take your time” he said. “Look around. Just remember: When you are ready, we have a job for you!”

I did look around, but in the end, the words “we have a job for you” carried the day.

I retired 26 years later.

— Paul Ashley

Dear Diary:

Before it became gentrified, the Lower East Side was a great destination for shopping and food on a Sunday afternoon. It had a diverse mix of bargain stores that sold, among other things, hosiery, fabrics, brassieres, hats and pickles in a barrel.

The Grand Street Dairy restaurant was the epitome of comfort food. It was the place to go to for borscht, pierogi and blintzes. But you had to be prepared for dealing with the sometimes obnoxious and intimidating waiters who had worked there for decades. Simply asking for a glass of water generally brought a sneer.

One Sunday my husband and I were meeting a friend there for lunch. We arrived on time, took a booth and waited for her to show up.

A waiter came over to take our order. We said we were waiting for a friend. Over the next half-hour, he approached our table four or five times, getting increasingly angry when he asked for our order and we said we weren’t ready.

Finally, our friend arrived, sat down in the booth and started waving frantically to the waiter.

He approached the table.

“Lady,” he said. “I waited for you one half-hour. You’ll wait five minutes for me.”

— Susan Brenner

Dear Diary:

Back when I taught at Brooklyn College, which is at the last stop on the No. 2 line, the best part of my daily commute from the Upper West Side was the trip home because I was assured to always get a seat.

One day, arriving at Wall Street, where the train always filled up, I looked up from my perch to see a woman who was clearly pregnant.

I immediately offered her my seat (my father’s ghost would never have forgiven me if I hadn’t). Thank yous and you’re welcomes followed.

The next day, same commute, same woman entering at Wall Street, same routine, same exchange. I figured we were transit buddies now.

“See you tomorrow,” I said.

“Nope,” she answered with a smile. “This is my last day before maternity leave.”

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