‘He Did a Triple Take Worthy of a 1930s Screwball Comedy’

Feedback from an amateur art critic, a dance in Crown Heights and more reader tales of New York City in this week’s Metropolitan Diary.


Dear Diary:

I had recently been asked to paint a portrait of a friend’s mountaintop cottage. So I did, positioning it atop a speckled field of tall grass and red and white wildflowers.

Not completely satisfied with the painting, I brought it to my plein-air class at the Art Students League so my instructor could help me with it.

There we were, near the meatpacking district. Twelve easels were trained on a building that was still a bit down on its luck amid its share of litter and grime.

A passer-by, a bearded older man, walked from student to student, matching each painting to each perspective of the little building.

Clad in colorfully dappled, loosely fitting clothes, this street-corner art critic scrutinized each easel, sometimes reacting with a comment, sometimes pausing for a question.

When he got to me, he looked at the grimy building in front of me and looked at the painting of an idyllic cottage on my easel. Then he did a triple take worthy of a 1930s screwball comedy.

“Lady,” he said, “if that’s what you see, more power to you.”

— Anne van der Does


Dear Diary:

I was walking around my Crown Heights neighborhood one Saturday night when I passed an older man and woman sitting on the curb listening to music on a phone.

I was recording a voice note to myself, but as I walked by I smiled and did a little dance to the music.

“Come back, honey!” the woman yelled to me. She said it was her birthday, and we danced together to “Angel of the Morning” on the sidewalk: “Just call me angel of the morning, angel, just touch my cheek before you leave me, baby.”

After a few minutes and smiles and hugs all around, I kept on going.

I realized my phone had recorded the whole thing. Maybe now when things gets me down, I will listen to that encounter and think of two strangers dancing together for a moment on the sidewalk.

— Yehuda Fogel


Dear Diary:

My mother needed basil for Sunday night dinner. I walked to the corner store, money in hand, Crocs barely on my feet.

It was a sunny day in Brooklyn, and everyone was out. Looking to my left, I saw a woman in a feather hat with a small Pomeranian. Her hat was mundane compared to her actions.

She reached into her purse and pulled out a large cannoli. Instead of putting it in her mouth, she reached down to the dog to give it to him. Then she pulled out one for herself.

I walked an extra 15 blocks to get one too.

— Arianna Gold


Dear Diary:

A few years ago, following the death of a loved one, I desperately needed to rediscover my joy of living. I decided to fulfill a long-held wish to travel across the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary 2.

Flying from my home in Kansas to La Guardia Airport, I looked around for the driver who was to take me to the pier. Finally, I noticed a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman wearing a long, flowing robe and holding a sign with my name on it.

I approached him and explained who I was.

“Ah,” he said in a rich accent, “you are the woman from the plains who wishes to go to sea.”

Without thinking, I stood up straight and squared my shoulders.

“Yes,” I said in a strong, determined voice. “I am.”

The trip was a success.

— Deborah Detrick


Dear Diary:

I own a Leica camera that I thought might need an adjustment, so I went to the Leica store in SoHo.

I explained to one of the staff members there that although the camera worked perfectly, I thought it might be need an adjustment.

The man examined it carefully.

“Yes,” he said, “I see what you mean, but as you said, it works perfectly. Let’s have the store manager take a look at it as he has the most experience.”

The manager emerged from the back of the store and proceeded to examine the camera. He agreed that it might need an adjustment.

“Oh, I hope they don’t have to send this to Leica,” I thought to myself. “Nothing about Leica is inexpensive.”

The manager took out some tools and started to make adjustments. First one thing, then another.

“There,” he said. “Good as new.”

“How much do I owe you?” I asked.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he said. “Go out of the store, turn right and walk down to Prince Street. Make a right and go to the coffee shop right there and bring me back a honey, ginger, lemon tea.”

I thought he was kidding at first, but I quickly realized he wasn’t. So, dutifully, I left all my stuff in the store, went out and got the tea and returned.

“Thanks a lot,” the man said when I got back. “We are all squared away.”

— Michael Silfen

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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