Category Archives: Strangers

Not quite white

I was making my way back to work after lunch with a friend at La Loteria, one of the few Mexican restaurants I like in Manhattan.

I don’t like to walk around in Greenwich Village because I always get lost, but I do it because, as anyone will tell you, it’s rare to find good Mexican food in New York. I also like that place because most of the people working there seem to be Hispanic. I’m sorry to be so judgey, but I hate Mexican restaurants that only employ white waitstaff.

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Dance like nobody’s watching

It won’t come as a surprise to learn that I’m not comfortable dancing. That’s exactly why last year, for my wife’s birthday, I signed us up for dance classes. The gift was not me learning to dance, it was my willingness to put up with the humiliation of taking dance classes.

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Worst movie ever

There I was, in a crowded 4 train on my commute to work in the Financial District, reading another horrifying story about the ravages of neoliberalism, when something caught my eye.

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A glitch in the matrix

As I do most nights (and as she described in this lovely article), I was reading to my wife in bed. This time, it was a very strange story about a community of people who believe a ’90s children’s movie starring Sinbad has disappeared, possibly due to a crossover with other dimensions, a glitch in the computer simulation we’re all living in, or simply a conspiracy (read it yourself, it’s amazing). Then the doorbell rang.

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The five lessons I learned from strangers

This morning I crossed paths with the elderly Indian gentleman I see most mornings on my way to work. We went through our usual routine: I smile and say good morning, and he smiles back, performs an elegant flourish with his hand, and responds, “and a very good day to you.”

Not only is his greeting unique, the fact that I willingly interact with a stranger is itself exceedingly rare. Whenever I hear that Will Rogers quote, “A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet,” I think, “That simple-minded Okie clearly didn’t live in New York.” I figured that out the first year I lived here.

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Don’t judge a book by its readers

A girl in college once told me she thought that people who liked the same bands could probably be friends. Her sentiment struck me as terribly naïve, but it’s taken me two decades to question my own assumption that people who like the same books share a sensibility.

Love

Love

Last week my wife and I went to see the formidable Barbara Ehrenreich speak at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn. You might know Ehrenreich from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, her much-celebrated and controversial book about the humiliations and ordeals of blue-collar workers, but I love her for Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, in which she stomps all over our country’s favorite panacea. In short, Ehrenreich’s a bad-ass. Which is why I was so surprised by the kind of people who made up her audience.

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Sorry I asked

As I wait for the train at Queensboro Plaza I see a young woman on the platform trying to make herself heard over the noise. I can’t make out what she’s saying, but it’s clear that she’s asking a question and everybody is ignoring her.

I notice that she’s holding a few brightly colored cords in one hand that seem to match the colors of the subway insignias (green for the 456, yellow for the NQR, red for the 123, etc.), and assuming she’s asking something MTA-related, I walk up to her.

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