“Just looks like an old guy to me.”
A friend and I were walking through Theodore Roosevelt Park on the path from Columbus to CPW, and as we passed the dog park I noticed a familiar figure sitting on a bench reading. I stopped my friend and said, “Isn’t that Philip Roth?” She turned and looked and said, “Just looks like an old guy to me. Why don’t you ask him?” I wanted to but hesitated because I had heard that he didn’t like being bothered by fans. But then I thought, how many more chances am I going to get, so I walked back a few steps and said, “I’m very sorry to disturb you, but aren’t you Philip Roth?” He said, “I was when I came in.” I would have liked to shake that writing hand, and ask him what he was reading. But I said goodbye and left it there. Goodbye and we will always love you.
— Shoshana Vasheetz
“It’s the only illegal thing you’ll ever do.”
In the late 1990s, I moved to West 87th between CPW and Columbus. The northeast corner of 87th and Columbus featured several row houses, whose lively stoops showcased sunbathing, music blasting, parties, mini flea markets, and indelible characters, including an older gentleman in a rainbow umbrella hat. I pondered why my neighbors socialized on a steamy stoop rather than in the cool shade of Central Park just a block away. Apparently, they curiously observed me too. One hot summer day as I rushed to meet a friend, I glanced across the street and stopped in my tracks. Someone had opened the hydrant in front of the row houses, and everyone was splashing in the iridescent water blast. I was so transfixed by this picture of old New York that I failed to notice the rainbow hat man approach. He broke the spell when he shouted, “Go ahead and jump in! It’s the only illegal thing you’ll ever do.”
— Christine Elbert
“Welcome to the majors!”
I returned to the UWS after a thirty-year hiatus residing in Western New York. Gone were the neighbors mowing their lawns and extending casual greetings to familiar faces. One spring day I stopped to talk with an older gentleman I often saw watering his petunias in front of his 95th Street townhouse. I introduced myself as a newly arrived neighbor who appreciated flowers. I let him know that I was a retired attorney and asked about his field. He told me he had been a teacher and theatre director. I asked if it was high school productions. He smiled and replied no, Broadway. I inquired if it was anything I may have heard of. Without a hint of bravado, Lloyd Richards let me know that he had directed Sidney Poitier in Raisin in the Sun, had brought the August Wilson plays to Broadway, and had been Dean of the Yale School of Drama. I managed to keep my composure as we shook hands and I headed home with the thought: “Welcome to the majors!”
— Ian Mackler
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