‘I Could See All of My Neighbors Sitting Out on Their Porch Steps’

Cab Ride Home

Dear Diary:

It was a warm August day in New York in 1969. I was 21 and just back from Vietnam.

I had been drafted into the Army two years earlier, and my second year in Southeast Asia had been the longest in my life. It ended with me returning to the World — Brooklyn — in one piece as one of the lucky ones.

I took a cab from Port Authority to Bensonhurst. I was in my khaki uniform. The cabdriver, a middle-age man, kept looking at me through the rearview mirror. There was no conversation between us. I was lost in a swirl of emotions.

When we got to my block, I could see all of my neighbors sitting out on their porch steps. Someone had strung up a large banner: “Welcome Home, Lenny!” They were all cheering.

Through my tears, I could make out my parents, my sisters and my girlfriend. I was overcome, completely surprised by the reception I was receiving from the people who had watched me grow up.

What moved me the most, though, was when I reached for my wallet to pay the substantial sum of money showing on the taxi meter.

“Put your money away, son,” the cabby said. “You’ve paid enough. This ride’s on me.”

— Len DiSesa

Double Duty

Dear Diary:

There’s a barber on Lispenard Street who not only cuts hair but replaces watch batteries as well.

Since my girlfriend loves the way he cuts my hair, I thought I’d have him replace the battery in a watch I had inherited.

I dropped the watch off and waited almost three weeks to pick it up, only to learn from the barber that the watch didn’t work, battery notwithstanding.

I was crushed. I went to Grand Central Watch in the hopes that somehow, my barber was wrong.

He was. And when I picked up the repaired watch from the shop, I had a question.

“By the way,” I said, “do you cut hair?”

— Brian Graifman


Dear Diary:

I was walking on a busy Upper East Side sidewalk when a friend texted me. I stepped aside to reply.

Behind me on the corner, a small group of what appeared to be protesters were milling about holding signs with red, green and blue letters.

“Are you with us?” a woman in a houndstooth coat asked.

“No,” I said.

“I’m going to adjust your collar anyway,” she said, moving behind me and gently turning down the collar of my gray wool coat. “I need to adjust your collar.”

“A woman just adjusted my collar,” I texted my friend. “People in this city really have my back.”

I continued walking and passed another cluster of people who were chatting and had similar signs dangling by their feet.

When I got to the end of the block, two women were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians from entering.

“The sidewalk’s closed,” one of them said. “We’re filming.”

I slipped past them, leaving the crowded block. I had just walked onto a film set.

— Leanna McLennan

First Date

Dear Diary:

It was May 1996, and I was on my first date with Dave from Brooklyn. He picked me up at a friend’s house in Bayside and we headed into Manhattan for dinner and a night out at the Back Fence on Bleecker Street.

Dave accidentally drove onto the Long Island Expressway heading east before realizing we were going the wrong way. “Oops,” he said with a smile before exiting the highway, turning around and heading back west.

When we finally arrived in the West Village, we weren’t too confident in our sense of direction, so we left the car at a garage on West Third Street and hopped in a cab. Dave told the driver the address of the restaurant, and the cab pulled away.

We went one block, made a quick turn, pulled over and stopped. Dave and I looked at each other perplexed, but then we noticed we were right in front of the restaurant.

I braced myself for what for what I expected would be a heated exchange, knowing the driver could simply have told us that we were so close to our destination.

Instead, Dave from Brooklyn turned to me with a big smile.

“We’re here,” he exclaimed and then paid the driver.

Twenty-seven years later, we’re still getting lost, even with GPS, and laughing about the shortest cab ride ever.

— Valarie Nierman

Nice Gift

Dear Diary:

I was moving from New York to Minnesota and my boss had organized a farewell party.

It was mid-December, so the gifts I received were wrapped in holiday paper. The largest one was a snow shovel with a big red bow tied around it. Everyone got a good laugh out of it.

After the party, I carried my gifts down to the subway to head home.

A man on the platform approached me. He looked at the shovel.

“Do you think she’ll like it?” he said.

— Curt Meltzer

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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