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Dear Diary:

On a hot July weekday, a colleague and I enjoyed dinner and drinks at a restaurant on Front Street in Manhattan.

Two frozen margaritas later, we agreed to do it again in a month.

“You taking the train?” she asked.

“No,” I said, smiling. “I’m going to head over to the Seaport. Catch the last ferry out.”

At Pier 11 at Wall Street, I got the attention of a uniformed worker and pointed to Slip A.

“Ferry to the Bronx still depart from there?” I asked.

“None of our ferries go to the Bronx,” he said, shaking his head.

“Oh, of course not,” I responded, remembering that the Financial District was now a tourist destination. “How about a ferry to Soundview/Clason Point?”

“Yes,” he said, nodding and pointing to Slip A. “Departs at 9:15.”

— Pamela Horitani


Dear Diary:

It was 1985, and I was starting the graduate acting program at New York University — a very big deal, especially for a rube like me from Indianola, Iowa.

After an $85 cab ride from La Guardia — what can I say? I was an easy mark — I arrived at graduate student housing on East 26th Street between First and Second Avenues.

My assigned roommate was Mark, an M.B.A. student from New Jersey who spent most of his time couch-potato-ing. I soon switched so that I could room with my classmate Meghan.

Meg was also a rube, from Hayward, Calif. We decided to learn the city by “walking the greens.” We would set out from East 26th Street and cross streets only where the green lights allowed. It didn’t matter which direction, as long as there was a green light.

One day we found ourselves at East 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. We walked into the Met and our lives were changed forever.

— Tim Thomas


Dear Diary:

A friend and I were walking along East 46th Street when I sneezed. There were two men walking behind us.

“Bless you,” one of them said.

“Thank you,” I said.

A moment later, I sneezed again.

“Gesundheit,” the second man said.

“Thank you,” I said again.

A half-hour later, we got to my friend’s building, on East 47th Street. Approaching the elevator, we saw the same two men. They held the door for us.

“Oh look,” one of them said as we stepped in. “It’s the sneezer.”

— Beth Kehoe


Dear Diary:

My first job when I moved to New York was as a bicycle messenger. For all the negatives, at least I got into good shape and learned my way around town.

The rumor was that they gave rookies the toughest routes. And I was a rookie.

“Pick up the package at Broadway and 125th Street and deliver it to Broadway and Wall Street,” the dispatcher said.

Done. I called in from a pay phone for the next job.

“Pick up the letter at Lexington and 68th and deliver it to Amsterdam and 150th Street.”

And so on. One letter, one package at a time. Not the many letters and light packages that the veterans got, in sequential order: 10 in a row, maybe more — and a real row, north to south.

At one point, heading down Broadway just south of Times Square, racing cabs and buses, as well as other bike messengers, I got ready to turn onto 38th Street. I held out my left hand, signaling to all what I was about to do.

“Don’t do that!” yelled a bike messenger next to me. He was dressed in elbow pads and duct tape and was obviously a pro. “Nobody cares about you and what you’re planning to do! Never let go of your handlebars!”

“OK,” I yelled back. “Thanks for the advice!”

Just then, as I turned, I glanced back at him.

With his right hand, he was grabbing onto the rear bumper of a delivery truck, catching a free ride as far as he wanted down Broadway.

— Doug Sylver


Dear Diary:

We were running late to the venue in Brooklyn, so we took a cab. My three friends got into the back seat, and I hopped in the front.

The driver was playing classic French ballads from the 1960s. He told me he was 79 and had been listening to these songs since he was probably my age.

From the back of the cab, one of my friends shouted that I was French and asked whether I recognized any of the songs.

When we stopped at a light, the driver pulled out an album filled with CDs. He picked one out, put it in the player and pressed play. “Et Pourtant” by Charles Aznavour came on.

“Ah!” I said. “This one I know.”

“Good!” he replied.

The first notes began to play, and the two of us started to sing.

— Olivia Bensimon

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee





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