UWS Encounters: Peter Jennings, a Central Park ‘Star,’ and The Happy Bus

Peter Jennings. Photograph by Anders Krusberg/Peabody Awards.

“Anything down there?”

Around 1999 I was out on Central Park West at 70th Street with my two boys, then five and three years old. They heard a train rumble underground near a grate and dropped to their stomachs over the grate, staring down. I was looking down at them when I heard a man say, in a rich and familiar voice, “Anything down there?” My boys did not look up or answer. He smiled and moved on. When he was gone I said to my boys, “That man was Peter Jennings and let me tell you he has asked questions and actually gotten answers from a whole lot of people!” Sometime later, it occurred to me that he was not just being friendly; he was a journalist, and may have been genuinely interested in whether something newsworthy was happening under Central Park West!

— Lauren Lese

“The Man in Central Park”

The man in Central Park
Walks behind his overstuffed cart
Slowly navigating his way
We pass each other every day
We smile and chat
Nothing more than that
But I often wonder why
I got to live looking over the park
While he sleeps alone wrapped up in the dark
Never knowing if he will be fed
Whether he’ll wake up or end up dead

One day not too long ago
I photographed him, stooped over, from afar
But on his birthday he posed like a “star”
His spirit shone through
as he tilted his head
His soul was exposed
as his heart had been fed
He stood proud and tall
My lens captured it all
I printed and framed it
And wrapped it with flowers

I ran back to find him
had been a few hours
He looked at the photo
and with a smile so big
He reached out to hug me
like a babe in a crib
We shared a moment
that I’ll never forget
Both hearts had opened
and both needs were met

                                 — Elle Tyler Gould

“The Happy Bus”

I was on the M104 bus a few days ago, when a man and his son, about three years old, entered the bus and walked towards the back. No sooner did the bus take off than the kid began to scream annoyingly and unrelentingly. After several minutes of this, the bus driver came onto his speaker system with a mellifluous basso voice, and announced in an upbeat way: “This is the Happy Bus. There is no crying on this bus because this is the Happy Bus.” With that, the kid stopped crying, and that started the entire bus talking. “You did it! It worked! Good for you!” shouted the passengers. Everyone was smiling, including the driver. It was indeed The Happy Bus.

— Barbara Adler

Encounters writer Marianne Hettinger with her WSR mug. Photograph by Alakesh.

British writer E.M. Forster wrote, “Only connect!” Send your memorable moments of connection on the UWS to westsiderag@gmail.com — subject line: Encounters Submission. Keep your stories (or poems) to about 150 words or less, and include your real name and address. The name’s for a byline; the address is so we can deliver a West Side Rag mug to you if your story is posted.

To read more of our Encounters columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 8 comments | permalink
    1. Sonnie Goldman says:

      Lived on 67th street from 1989 til 1998. PETER Jennings moved into building a few years after we did, great guy and a gentleman

    2. Liifeoong UWS says:

      That poem was beautiful

      • David says:

        I have a question I have not been able to get an answer to. It is somewhat related to the topic at hand. Does anyone know where the old Cafe Central was located? My wife would tell me about it fondly and of stars she would see sitting outside at 3am. Sadly, she passed away.I live between Broadway and WEA on 75th Street.I think it was on the west uptown corner of 75/ Amsterdam but may have been on the corner of 76/ Amsterdam. Does anyone know exactly where it was? What is there now? Much thanks!

        • Ann Youngerman says:

          Café Central was on the NW corner of 75th and Amsterdam to my recollection. It was a buzz with ballet dancers and Bruce Willis was one of the bartenders. James Taylor used to frequent the place as he lived on nearby West End Ave. at the time. Ahhh for the memories!

        • Elizabeth says:

          David, I did a little searching and came up with 320 Amsterdam Avenue, at the corner of West 75th. A 1981 article (Dec 28) from “New York” magazine includes a photo of the interior and a brief write up that confirms your wife’s impressions: “You want to see beautiful people? Simply stunning people? Café Central is a hotbed of Upper West Side loveliness. Dancers come here; so do soap-opera stars and other aspiring actors…” I can only wish I’d had the chance to walk by this hub of gorgeousness at 3 in the morning!

    3. Roseann Milano says:

      I met Peter Jennings in Macy’s furniture department a long time ago. He was shopping for a sofa and was sitting there pondering and I was confused about what I really wanted. We talked about our requirements. He wanted to make sure the sofa he picked for his office could stand the beating it might be taking from his little kids. And I thought that was particularly human for a famous news reporter.

    4. Watto says:

      Eight years ago, a month after I lost my Mother and was feeling totally down and sad, I was in Bed Bath & Beyond with a friend. As we came down the escalator, I spotted a woman shopping for a garbage can. I recognized her immediately as the incredible and wonderful Angela Lansbury. We were scheduled to see A Little Night Music several weeks later. We approached Ms. Lansbury (something as a native New Yorker I normally would never do) and told her we were going to the show. She was lovely. She asked when we were seeing the show and said, by that time, the kinks should be worked out. She chatted with us a bit more then we went on our separate ways. What an amazing and warm woman!