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Dear Diary:

When I was attending Barnard College, my best friend and I would often walk downtown from the campus on weekend mornings. Full -speed ahead and singing excerpts from musicals at the top of our lungs, we owned the world.

One day, a taxi driver cut us off at a crosswalk.

Indignantly, we banged on the trunk of his cab and reprimanded him.

The window rolled down to reveal the curmudgeon behind the wheel.

“Aw, get over it,” he said. “Worse things have happened to better people.”

My friend and I looked at each other incredulously and said the same thing aloud at the same time: “Better people?”

— Catherine Puranananda

Dear Diary:

My aunt, a lifelong devotee of the opera, began taking me to the old Met from the time I was 16. Her excitement for a performance often washed over me as well.

By the time I was 20, Lincoln Center was the opera’s glamorous new home, and, feeling very grown up, I decided to head into the city on my own to hear “La Bohème.”

I entered a waiting taxi in front of the Port Authority.

“Lincoln Center,” I said smartly.

“Opera?” the cabby asked as he pulled away from the curb.

“Yes,” I said.

“You like opera?” he asked, somewhat surprised.

“Oh yes,” I answered gamely, trying to act the part of my aunt.

With that, to my utter surprise, he burst into a high falsetto voice and began singing “Ave Maria.”

I was flabbergasted. How are you supposed to react trapped in the back of a cab speeding uptown with a driver singing his heart out?

He caught my eye from the rearview mirror. I think he sensed my discomfort, but he kept singing with a broad smile on his face.

Then I thought of my aunt and realized she would have gotten a kick out of this.

His solo ended about the time we reached Lincoln Center.

“Bravo!” I said, handing him the fare and climbing out of the cab.

“Thank you.” he called out. “Enjoy the show!”

“Oh, I already did!” I answered as I walked onto the plaza.

— Leonora Green

Dear Diary:

I’m taking the A train
Going uptown
Looking for a street
Called Memory Lane

I’m aching to hear a Harlem refrain
At a swinging old club of renown so
I’m taking the A train

We’re smoking now I can’t complain
One brass token takes me
Uptown, not down
I’m taking the A train
That boy with the horn
Did he retain
The art of blowing such a
Bittersweet sound?
To find out
I’m taking the A train

That famous old club
Oh, what was its name?
The Duke played there
And taking his word
I’m taking the A train

I remember through the smoke
Black eyes asking,
Am I Blue?
A screeching riff of steel wheels
Carries me uptown through
The Isle of Dreams
I’m taking the A train

We’re slowing down
Here I go
Uptown not down
I’m taking the A train
Looking for a street
Called Memory Lane

— Sharon Williams

Dear Diary:

In the early 1960s, I was a student at the School of American Ballet, New York City Ballet’s official academy. I loved all of the company dancers, but Jacques d’Amboise was my all-out favorite. It was seeing him in Balanchine’s “Apollo” that led me to the ballet school.

Forty years later, I was working in London and saw that the National Dance Institute was offering a two-week teacher-training program in New York. Jacques had founded the institute in 1976 to give New York City schoolchildren firsthand experience with the arts.

I was aware that I was well past the usual recruitment age. A friend who knew Jacques from their early City Ballet days together wrote to him on my behalf, and I was accepted into the program.

At our first workshop, Jacques walked into the studio.

“Where is Kaye’s friend?” he shouted.

I maneuvered my way past the other dancers and stood facing him. I told him how much seeing him dance Apollo on that small City Center stage had meant to me.

He started humming a few bars of the Stravinsky score, rising to demi pointe, his arms circling his head.

He was Apollo once again.

— Madeleine Piepes Nicklin

Dear Diary:

I was riding the N train from Manhattan to Queens on a sunny Saturday afternoon recently when a woman in a brightly printed sundress and large round glasses leaned out our subway car door at the Lexington Avenue stop and yelled, “Alfredo!”

A gray-haired man sitting across from me piped up.

“Fettuccine,” he said.

I laughed. I was the only one among the dozen or so nearby passengers who seemed to have heard and gotten the joke.

A few minutes later, after the train had surfaced from under the East River and pulled into Queensboro Plaza, the man rose to leave the train.

He turned to me as he stepped out the door.

“So long, linguine,” he called out.

— Cynthia Wachtell

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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