‘I Whisked Myself Down to the Street in Search of a Guy With a Clipboard’

Defying the Jackhammer

Dear Diary:

I work in the voice-over industry, which shifted entirely to recording from home during the pandemic. I already had the quintessential New York City home studio: a closet, treated with foam and sound-dampening tiles, where I recorded countless auditions and jobs.

So I was prepared in 2020 when I landed a series of national television commercials that would run for months and into the holidays. It was a big deal.

I savored the news for a moment before the sound of Con Edison working outside reminded me that the gas lines were being replaced. My studio may be pin-drop quiet, but nothing defies the mighty jackhammer.

I whisked myself down to the street in search of a guy with a clipboard.

“Wondering your Monday schedule from 1-2 p.m.?” I shouted when I found him. “I’m a voice-over actor and I booked a commercial and … ”

“Monday, huh?” he shouted back, scanning the clipboard. “We have work planned that’s going to be pretty loud.”

My heart sank.

“But these are crazy times,” he said. “Let me see what I can do.”

When Monday morning arrived, Con Ed was loud at work. At the stroke of 1, though, the street fell totally silent. It stayed that way for an hour.

— Sarah Sweeney

Observations on the D Line

Dear Diary:

5:23 p.m.
Five boys sat apart
With no regard for posture
Slumping in their seats
Afraid to look away
From their video games
5:30 p.m.
Two angry women sat together
Both had braided hair
They appeared to be swearing
In a dialect foreign to me
When melons escaped
Their grocery bags
5:36 p.m.
A woman across the aisle
Stared and called me tourist
When I asked how she knew
She mentioned I was smiling
5:38 p.m.
Then she told me she was sad
But how sad she couldn’t determine
Her chest kept getting in the way
Making it impossible to tell
If her heart was bruised or broken

— Danny Klecko

In Search of Shep

Dear Diary:

Eddie and I were in eighth grade. We paid 30 cents for a bus from Rockville Centre on Long Island to Jamaica, Queens, and then 15 cents to ride the subway to Manhattan. It was 1958.

Our goal was to wander the city and then meet our hero Jean Shepherd, the radio raconteur who would later write “A Christmas Story.”

Shep had a Sunday night show on WOR where he told long stories and introduced us to Robert Service’s poetry. Being one of his fans felt like being part of a cool club, with inside jokes and references.

At 13, Eddie and I were adventuresome but not menacing, and most people just ignored us as we made our way around town.

The steamer Ile de France was docked in the Hudson, and we walked up the gangplank. After we had been exploring the ship for a while, a man asked us what we were doing.

“Nothing,” we said.

He told us to leave.

Later, we walked to WOR and waited for Shep. Just before 9 p.m., he pulled up on a Vespa.

“Hi,” we said as he hurried into the studio.

He waved.

“Hey guys,” he said.

We got on the subway and headed home. It was a great day.

— Jerry McGovern

Kari Patta

Dear Diary:

I cannot cook without my kari patta (curry leaves) plant, so I lugged my tall, gangly one with barely enough leaves to prepare one dish from Maine to a lightless rental apartment in Morningside Heights.

Eventually, I transferred the plant to my well-heated office, where it just about survived under fluorescent lights. Two years later, I moved into my own apartment in a prewar building and brought the plant there.

Looking for a sunny spot to put it one hot summer day, I chanced upon a large, neglected, open space near the building’s basement. I surreptitiously dragged my leafless, eight-foot plant there and attached a note: “Please don’t throw away, belongs to new owners of 62.”

Later, while watering it, I met another plant lover who expressed regret over how badly neglected the spot was.

When the next summer came, with the help of my plant-loving friend and a small check from the building’s board, I filled the area with flowers and ornamental plants, and I started an herb garden for everyone to use.

As summer passed, the place filled up with residents drinking tea, sipping wine and eating at a dining table someone had brought out. I got compliments and made tons of friends. My kari patta plant became lush and full of leaves.

— Helga Do Rosario Gomes

Nice Dishes

Dear Diary:

I was admiring a set of dishes at the Housing Works shop on Columbus Avenue. They looked shiny and new.

I said something to the young woman standing next to me about how beautiful the dishes were.

She turned toward me and smiled.

“Please don’t say another word,” she said, “because if you do, I will have to buy them, and I can’t afford it.”

— Susan Kalev

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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