A white man ran after a black man about 20 feet behind him on 84th and Broadway in mid-afternoon one day last fall.

I stopped with others and watched; moments earlier I had got off the subway at 86th and done my customary walk down Broadway to turn west at 84th toward home. The two men ran at full speed east across Broadway, ran under the AMC theater marquis and toward 83rd. The black man shot back over Broadway, heading west, the white man still running just as fast, now nearly catching up. I looked to see if the black man was holding anything. Unclear. Maybe 70 to 80 people stood motionless along Broadway on both sides and watched. Cars stopped and a few drivers got out and draped their arms over their doors, also watching. A few people held their hands over their mouths and turned to each other, whispering.

Now, the black man—tall, thin, in his mid-30s—ran up Broadway on the west side, in the street, toward the corner where I and a few others were standing. He had come almost full circle from where I first saw him. I thought this odd, that he would be headed back this way. He ran next to the median, in between the cars in the left lane and the 3-foot high concrete barrier.

A small animal ran ahead of him in the street. The black man caught up to it and, reaching down with both hands, scooped it up in his arms. He held high over his head a small brown and black dog, perhaps a silky terrier. The white man came up behind the black man, and the black man handed the dog to him. A white woman came running out from the east side of Broadway to the two men and was given the dog.

People on both sides of Broadway gasped, and then we all clapped.

photo: Baba Zuwa


Noisy neighbors

The apartment we rented as of November 1 has no curtains yet (Karen and the boys have not moved in, and K has not put her feminine touch on things), and so I have been changing clothes in the dark.

I also am walking very carefully, without shoes, as every footstep on the bare wood floors most certainly would have echoing effects.  The vents that allow forced air throughout the apartment birthed the landlord’s policy of no pets and no smoking inside the building (the latter which is a good thing since cigarette smoke smells much worse than a wet basset hound), and it also means that conversation and piano scales practiced by the ten-year-old one floor below carry quite liberally to our place.349-w-84.jpg

This is all fine by me.

The jury is out, though, how the Lovely K will find this arrangement and how our neighbors will find the arrangement of three young boys above them.  (The boys do have the top floor of this duplex, so their wrestling and antics will be mainly over our heads.)  As I said, there are one if not two children below, and this is a blessing, for whatever sounds of internecine war or parental murderous rage coming from above will be interpreted with more of a knowing mind by the parents below than if there was – say – a middle-aged bachelor postal worker who hated loud noises and had a cabinet filled with semi-automatic weapons.

At 50 East 96th Street, Mrs. Robinson in 5B apparently always called up to my parents in 6B to tell us to hush up.  Honestly, I don’t know what she expected my mom to do in colder months, when we couldn’t go to Central Park or play baseball in the alley that separated us from 60 East.  We’d play in the hall next to the elevator, with tennis balls that no doubt bounced off the heavy but resonating doors of 6A, 6C and 6D, or we’d wrestle in the 50-foot long hallway in our apartment.  Boys are like Jack Russell Terriers:  you have to give them an outlet for their energy.  Our next door neighbors were all more accommodating than Mrs. Robinson, but then again she was about 120 years old at the time and probably wanted to live out her remaining 30 years in relative peace and quiet.

The man who moved into 6D once Mr. Gorman died or moved out was a former top executive at Outside magazine who went into M&As in the publishing field.  He let me come to his office when I was fresh out of college and helped me send out resumes to companies, one of which – Wiley – ultimately hired me.  I don’t remember his name but only that he was a handsome brunette fellow, his wife was a beautiful blonde, and they had two kids and a golden retriever.  Basically, your family photo from Outside.

Our pet, a cat named Oreo, did not make the cut with the new policy we’re living under.  This caused no small consternation – understandably – in our family, even five minutes after I signed our lease and committed $12,300 to secure the apartment.  (This is a combination of a certain number of months’ worth of rent and security deposit.  I’ll let you do the math.)

In the end, we agreed that it would be best that Oreo have a different home from a NYC apartment.  One from which he can escape from time to time, hunt for birds, or at least look out the window and pretend he is a hunter taking a rest.

Autumn 1994

Bandol, the black-and-white cat I grew to love as my own, unexpectedly had to go to the vet. It was not good news.

I had first encountered the feline when I started to date the woman. We were eating Chinese food in her Astoria, Queens apartment and I had given Bandol a taste of my eggroll. She jested, in a mock fortune-cookie tone of voice, “Feed cat. Take home.”

Four years later we were in Atlanta, and the cat was sick, very sick. Something was wrong with his white cells. Something that wouldn’t get better, and he would get sick all over again soon and be in pain. He was only five years old, and the decision was made to put him down. She looked at me in the car and said, “I’m losing you, and now I’m losing him. My two boys.”

This was the fall of 1994.

photo: Wazari

Karen always liked the "big cats" on Discovery

Oreo is going to school tomorrow.Oreo is our 2-year old, black-and-white cat, which we gave to Bennett for his 6th birthday last fall. We adopted him from a woman in Newton who was moving in with her mother and couldn’t keep him any longer. The lovely K. transported him from the transfer point at the Burlington Mall parking lot to our home in a rickety cat carrier in our minivan. Word was that he howled the entire way. Standard for cats. Got him home and let him out in the living room and Bennett’s eyes about jumped out of his head.

He was stoked.

Oreo – Bennett’s name for a black and white animal named after his favorite black and white dessert and renamed from the cat’s former moniker of “Figaro” – spent the first two weeks of his life with us under the living room couch. This did not sit well with Bennett, who must have decided that a video game or dinosaur puzzle, which does not tend to hide or scratch when petted, would have been somewhat of a better birthday present.

Yet all ended well. Oreo and Bennett became fast friends. So fast that Bennett wants the cat to come to his kindergarten classroom tomorrow for “Show and Share.” K. needs to buy a new cat carrier tomorrow prior to going over to Bennett’s school. She wanted a cage open on all sides. I pictured a creature having nowhere to hide in a wire box exposed in a room full of screaming children missing their front teeth. It was not a pretty sight in my mind. I decided to eat a yogurt.

Will Oreo howl the whole time?

Will he pee in his cage? Will he pee outside his cage?

Will my middle son repeat kindergarten because the teacher is angry with my wife for bringing a pee-ing, howling feline into a class of already wild 5- and 6-year old little people?

These are indeed burning questions. We shall see.

photo: ftibor