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Dear Diary:

I was on my sunset walk when I came upon a gorgeous ballerina in her mid-60s performing a barre routine at the water’s edge. She had an impeccably sculpted figure and a silver French twist.

I watched in awe, aware of how attuned, patient, and gloriously ravenous I was for honest, heartfelt, live performance.

The woman’s grace evoked an exquisite romanticism, and she commanded attention as though she were a principal dancer on the Lincoln Center stage.

When she had finished and slipped back into her shoes, I approached her.

“Your dancing was sensational and I wanted to say thank you,” I said. “You’re stunning and completely made my day.”

Her face lit up.

“Thank you for saying so,” she replied.

— Bearclaw Price

Dear Diary:

It was 1976. I was 28 and living in a studio at 81st Street and Columbus Avenue.

My younger sister, who was home with our mother for the holidays, came into the city from Larchmont by train for dinner and a movie.

We picked a nice rom-com playing near Lincoln Center and started to walk down Broadway from the restaurant where we had eaten. The cold was penetrating; the wind was fierce. My ears and nose felt frostbitten.

On our way, we passed a theater where “The Omen” was playing. I had always avoided horror movies, but at that point I could hardly feel my toes.

We turned and contemplated the marquee. Gregory Peck: How terrifying could it be? We ditched the original plan and went in. Very. Bad. Decision.

Afterward, there was no way that I was going home alone to my empty studio. We rode down to Grand Central together and took the train to Larchmont, and I spent the night at my mother’s.

I’m pretty sure I never watched another horror film.

— Deb Reich

Dear Diary:

As a fairly recent transplant to New York, I enjoy exploring and learning about the city, always with a camera in hand.

Sometimes people get upset or angry when they see the camera. Maybe they are on the sidewalk selling knockoff merchandise they shouldn’t be selling. Some storekeepers seem to think a photo of their merchandise translates directly into a lost sale. It doesn’t happen often, but enough that I have become wary of being “caught” taking a picture.

Recently, I visited a favorite diner in my neighborhood, Sunnyside, Queens. The grill cook made me a sandwich that I thought looked interesting, so I took a picture of it.

“Are you taking a picture of that sandwich?” he said in a booming voice.

Yikes! I thought. I’m caught!

He approached me.

“Give me that,” he said before taking the plate away from me.

He sat the plate on a counter by the grill and, with his back to me, started making vigorous motions with his arms, knife in hand. I was getting more concerned.

After a minute, he turned around and put the plate back down in front of me. He had cut the sandwich into smaller pieces that he had meticulously built into a pyramid.

“There,” he said with a big smile. “I make it look better!”

— Tom Newby

Dear Diary:

In 1971, I was 16 years old and living on the Coast Guard base on Governors Island. One Sunday morning I took the short ferry ride to the southern tip of Manhattan.

Directly across from the terminal was a cement stairway with high walls. The acoustics of the space were ideal for playing my soprano recorder. The area was mostly deserted that morning as it usually was on Sundays.

After I had been playing for a few minutes, an older man in a fedora and a three-quarter length coat appeared at the bottom of the steps. He was holding a violin case.

“What do you have there?” he said in a heavy accent.

Reflexively, I stood and pulled the recorder to my chest.

He made a gesture with his free hand toward his violin and spoke as if to a very young child.

“No, no, see?” he said. “I have my own.”

Detecting no threat, I handed him the recorder. He turned it over in his hands, studying it before handing it back.

“Keep practicing,” he said. And then he was gone as quickly as he had appeared.

— Steven Hanson

Dear Diary:

I was catching a Madison Avenue bus near Grand Central to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I was prepared with exact change. But as I was about to deposit it in the fare box, the bus driver said it was free to ride that day.

I asked him whether it was a holiday of some kind? Playfully, he said he wouldn’t tell me.

I smiled and said that he had to tell me when my stop came.

When it was time for me to exit the bus, I asked him again: Why was there no charge?

“Because the box is broken,” he said.

— Joyce Fama

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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