Photograph of Central Park on a beautiful summer day. We can see a few blocky buildings rising up beyond the lush green trees in the middle distance. People sit and stroll through a green-and-blue landscape of lakeside trees and grass.
A view from Central Park, August 2020.

The New York Times has since the 1970s run a weekly feature called Metropolitan Diary, comprising very short and personal vignettes of city life submitted by the newspaper’s readership. I became aware of the section during my first day as a New Yorker, one year ago. I think this early encounter made me much more receptive to the idea of “New York stories” from the get-go, encouraging me to view any atypical experience through this lens.

Two such stories from the past year have “Metropolitan Diary nature”, involving brief encounters between myself and another person who, for a moment, served as an Aspect of New York. I today write these up for submission to the newspaper, trying my best to keep to that feature’s distinctive style. I share them both here as well.

A couple of months after moving to New York in late 2019, an interesting talk at Brooklyn’s NYU campus gave me my first compelling reason to visit a borough other than my new home of Manhattan.

As I got my bearings at the unfamiliar Jay Street subway station, a stranger approached me. “Is this Brooklyn?” he asked.

I felt a strange thrill at being quizzed like this upon my very first jaunt over the river, leavened with sudden doubt that I had even done it correctly. “Yes, it is!” I said, deciding upon the projected confidence of a long-time local.

“Ah, I got on the wrong train!” he exclaimed.

“Oh no!!” I offered.

He scurried back to the tracks, and I resumed my hunt for the correct street exit.

On a hot summer day well into the pandemic, unpleasant news had put me into an especially foul mood, and so I took a walk through the familiar northern extents of Riverside Park near my home.

After spending some time stewing on a bench, I noticed that another man had quietly joined me, several seats away. He sat in quiet contemplation, gazing over the Hudson and taking periodic drags on a cigarette. He wore a complete basketball uniform, and a full-sized sombrero.

Observing him out of the corner of my eye, I marveled at the practicality of his dress on a hot, sunny day. Nobody else in the park wore an ensemble that combined ventilation and shade quite like this man. While I did not know his thoughts as he smoked and meditated upon the New Jersey skyline, and he likely paid me no attention at all, I nonetheless soaked in the quiet majesty of his presence.

Holding this avatar of stoicism close to my heart, I eventually rose to walk back home, calm and ready to rejoin our wounded society.

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