Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bach on a Summer Night

A string quartet sits beneath the awning,
Army-Navy, Bleeker and Charles.

Warm summer night, strolling, Mason and I
Hear the music and wander to the corner.

Korean market, fruit and flowers brighten the night
Black man, running, out the door.

Shouts, pedestrians turn, eyes wide.
Two Koreans, middle aged brothers?

Pursue…and catch. Fists fly, a can of beans
Rolls out of a pocket, “Oh, please, stop!”

A blond in black tights implores; Can retrieved,
Middle aged brothers return to business as usual.

And the music plays, under the awning
At the corner of Charles and Bleeker.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The last ride down Ludlow Street

A friend posted a story about a NYC cab driver’s encounter with a woman who was leaving her home (permanently). The gist was about the importance of patience. It put me in mind of an experience I had many years ago. It was 1996, I was between jobs, had to put food on the table, and took a job driving for limo company in NJ. Honest work – I learned a lot, and had experiences that I’ll never forget. Here’s one…

I picked up two women who lived in a retirement community in Ocean County, NJ (where such communities are a growth industry). I was to take them into Manhattan where the older of the two, Rose, had a doctor’s appointment. The trip was what was known as a wait-and-return wherein there was a flat fee for the round trip, plus the clock started ticking (at $25 per hour) when we reached the destination and continued until we began the trip back. Rose was about 80, frail, but full of life. She carried a large black purse. Her friend, about ten years her junior, helped her into the car. “I got cash in this purse,” Rose announced. No problem, Rose, we’ll settle up when we get back. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

We chatted on the way into the city. “I used to live on Ludlow St. You know where that is?” I sure do, Rose. Lower Eastside. Tell me about what it was like back then, Rose. And she did. “You heard of Yhonna Schimmels on Houston?” The kinish place. You bet. “I worked there as a girl. Can’t get a good knish ANYWHERE anymore.” I know what you mean, Rose. Only place you can get rullepulse anymore in Minneapolis is Ingebrettsen’s. I explained that rullepulse was a lamb sausage favored by us Scandinavians.  Rose took that in. “Well, then you know what I’m talking about. Your food, my food. It’s important. We remember tastes, don’t we?”

We chatted some more. Seemed that Rose had only been into the city for the occasional quick trip to a doctor. She had not seen the old neighborhood for years. And years.

We arrived at the Doctor’s office. The two of them went in. About an hour later Rose’s friend came out. “It’ll be a little while longer.” She was crying. What’s wrong? “Well, the news isn’t so good.”

Thirty minutes later, they emerged and climbed back in the car. We headed south. I told them, we’re going to take the Battery Tunnel to the BQE and go through Brooklyn. I’m taking Ludlow down to South St. Let’s cruise the old neighborhood.

For the next hour Rose had her nose pressed to the window. Allen St., Rivington St., Orchard St. Around blocks, up and down Houston St. She chattered. She giggled. She told stories about every block. I had the time of my life. When we got back to Ocean County, she opened her purse. “So, how much?” You owe me for the roundtrip, Rose. That’s it.

“That’s it? You’re a nice young man.”

 I’m fifty one, Rose.

“Nu? To me, you’re a kid…”

Thinking about it now, I should have paid her for the memory.