The Pizza Toast
I moved to the Upper West Side in January 2007 without knowing anyone in the city. I felt so alone.
On my first Friday night, it was freezing out and I had nothing to do, so I killed time walking up and down Broadway, looking into the windows of shops and restaurants.
Passing a pizza place, I stopped to look inside. A man and a woman, maybe in their 40s, were sitting down for one of those $1 slices that soak the paper plate through with grease.
Once they were sitting, they lifted their slices without saying a word and cheers-ed them as if they were champagne glasses.
I could tell by the way they did it that I was witnessing a tradition. They weren’t alone like me. They had each other and a tradition, a shared experience they returned to again and again.
At least that is what I imagined as I stared in from the cold, tears welling in my eyes. I was so sure then that I would never find someone to toast pizza with me. New York can be the most bustling and yet still lonely place.
But it is also full of people to find. On a frigid night almost 15 years later, I grabbed some pizza with my husband. And when we sat down inside the tiny pizzeria, I made him cheers his slice with mine.
— Lauren Passell
My wife, Tina, and I were both born in New York City. When we married, in 1969, we didn’t have much in the way of furniture or other household items.
In her purse, which seemed like a well-stocked suitcase to me, Tina carried a small book. In it were measurements for things she wanted for our home: a chair, a sofa, pieces of fabric.
The measurements I loved most were the ones she kept for an old church pew she imagined putting next to the kitchen window. The measurements were very precise because the pew could be only so long and so high and could not block the radiator.
When I asked Tina how she would know she had found the right pew if she saw one, she pulled a tiny measuring tape from her purse.
— Jim Trautman
Rapoport’s, a Jewish kosher dairy restaurant on the Lower East Side, was one of my favorites.
The food was delicious, the décor was functional and the bowl of sour tomatoes, pickles and other vegetables always looked like you were not the first customer to serve yourself. And the U-bet chocolate syrup was yours for making an egg cream.
Soon after my wife and I married, I introduced her to Rapoport’s. We both ordered blintzes. They did not disappoint. Although we were no longer hungry, we felt compelled to try one of the restaurant’s legendary pastries for dessert.
I called the waiter over to order.
He looked down at our plates and then into my eyes.
“No dessert,” he said.
I was devastated.
“No dessert?” I whined.
“You didn’t finish your blintzes,” he said.
We looked down at our plates. He was right. My wife and I proceeded to obediently finish the last bits.
The waiter returned with our rugelach.
— Arno Selco
Five Lights at Dawn
Monday mornings, a boy of four
stands in grass by the stoop
and clasps his mother’s hand,
raises his left arm and fist
and pumps the air to see if
the driver of the garbage truck
will toot his horn, which he does,
with a grin, drawing smiles from
mother and son and the two men
who’ve paused at the curb before
tossing more bags in the bin.
— Tom Furlong
A Crisp Bronx Afternoon
On a crisp Bronx afternoon, I prepared our 3-week-old son for his first neighborhood outing, nestling him in his carriage, swaddled in two blankets and a padded snowsuit with matching scarf and mittens.
We shared the elevator down to the lobby with a neighbor who was meeting our son for the first time. The woman, herself a mother of three, smiled sweetly.
“Your baby is too warm and overheated,” she said. “At least take off one of those blankets.”
Imagining my baby sweating uncontrollably, I thanked the woman, took off a blanket and loosened his scarf.
I had almost made it through the lobby to the front door when we encountered another neighbor. She smiled at my son, and then gave me a disapproving look.
“Oh no, your sweet baby will freeze,” she said. “He needs another blanket, and that scarf has to be snug around his neck!”
Too stunned to reply, I smiled at her as the taxi she was waiting for pulled up.
I looked at my baby sleeping peacefully, pushed open the lobby door and let the brisk, wintry-fresh air envelop us as we took our first stroll together.
— Roberta Friedman
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