Posts Tagged ‘Times Square


Look Both Ways

Sometimes crossing the street in New York City is a flirtation with disaster. Times Square is a far more dangerous neighborhood than many. The volume of foot traffic, taxis, delivery trucks, police and emergency vehicles — it’s overwhelming.

Whether the pedestrians are tourists or business people, most of them can’t be bothered to get off their cell phones or stop texting or look away from the person they’re telling such an important story to wait a sec, yo, you gotta hear this, wait a sec, dude! — or even to follow traffic signals. Look both ways before crossing the street? We gave up that bunk back on Sesame Street. This is New York City, baby!

That’s not to say pedestrians are always at fault. Walkers rule over drivers in a lot of ways in New York. Sometimes traveling on foot really is faster. And if it’s not, dammit, I’ll make it faster. I gotta get across the street now! So of course sometimes the motorists, the cabbies, the cops consider it their duty to educate pedestrians by giving them a horn-honking thrill, making a thinly veiled threat. My friend calls cabs “yellow flying death.”

On a rainy night this week, leaving work for the bus back to Philadelphia, I wove through clusters of spiked umbrellas and danced around puddles to cross 7th Avenue… Broadway… to the opposite corner… toward 8th Avenue. And freedom. There were fewer people out than normal because of the rain. But also because of the rain, the reconstituted city filth made any sidewalk and street an oil slick.

A very specific sequence of sounds occurs when a moving car strikes a human body. Even if you’ve never heard them before, even if you don’t witness it with your eyes, they’re distinct enough that you know instantly what is happening when you hear them. It’s not a cracking of bones. It’s not a splash of blood and wet parts.

Continue reading ‘Look Both Ways’


Keep the Change

In New York, one is blessed with good bagels. The best I have found are Kossar’s Bialys on the Lower East Side and Times Square Bagel. There must be dozens of others in the five boroughs, but these are the ones I have made a part of my life.

I found them on accident, between the subway and the office. But you can easily tell which ones are the good ones. The interiors are not clean. Poppy seeds and sesame seeds are scattered across the floor, as if to draw an army of birds. Large salt crystals and flour and flakes of dried garlic and onion. There are no fancy light fixtures or display cases. These places concentrate on the baked goods,not the presentation.

On the way in to work, I stopped at a cafe across the street from my building for a bagel and a banana.

One bland bagel with entirely the wrong texture, plus one banana, which took more energy and expense to transport to New York from the tropics than I can possibly justify with any nutritional benefit, came to a total of $2.50.

He readied his two quarters as I handed over three dollar bills

He dropped the coins into my hand, and before I could walk away, he slipped a bill out of the three I had given him.

He had slightly raised his chin and looked at me down the length of his nose. It was regal or perhaps arrogant. It could even be taken for suspiciousness. Maybe I had given him too much and it was gentle mocking to be more careful with my money.

I reached out and cautiously took it.

Maybe he was mistaken and only thought I had handed him $4 or that the total was really $1.50.

Yes, maybe I was going to end up on top here. Get more than I deserved. Take advantage of someone else’s mistake. I always feel tested in these moments. It was only a dollar. No great loss to him. But what did I think I was getting away with? How petty.

I lingered a bit in this moment, and I decided to say something.

“I gave you three dollars,” I said.

“Yes,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow and cocked my head slightly.

In that moment I realized what that curious look on his face had meant. He was not making an error, nor had I given him too much. His grand expression was one of serene endowment. I am giving this to you, he seemed to say.

“Buy Lotto,” he said. “350 million.”

I’m accustomed to bartenders buying me the odd drink. But I’m not a regular at this cafe. Why would he give me a buck?

Maybe he knows how crappy his bagels are.

Why would he give me a buck? Why not?

the untallied hours