UWS Encounters: Sober Adventures, A Meeting With Martina, and the Smell of Money

The AA sign.

“I couldn’t find the door”

I am 35 years sober one day at a time. I recently offered to take a friend new to sobriety to some west side AA meetings I wanted to try. As a beginner, I had been fragile. I expected the same of my friend. When we reached Holy Name Church, I couldn’t find the door. My friend found the door. I love AA. I feel at home there. However, a woman seated in front of us didn’t. She began having a panic attack. My friend moved to her side and talked her through it. Next, was an agnostic AA meeting at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. I again couldn’t find the door, but my friend did. I felt right at home until the fire alarm sounded. I’m seventy-nine years young and as I stumbled down the back stairs to the exit in panic mode, my friend talked me through it. Some people have an inner strength that brings light to others. My friend is one of those people. Nevertheless, next time, we’re going to try a meeting on the east side.

— Anonymous

“…look them in the eyes.”

It was in the early 2000’s that I brought my son (perhaps 7 or 8 at the time) to Central Park on the eve of the U.S. Open. We had heard that Rod Laver would be hitting balls with young players, and Michael indeed got to hit two shots against The Rocket. But thrilling as that was, it was when we first entered the park that we experienced our most memorable encounter with tennis royalty. We crossed paths with Martina Navratilova. I said hi and asked her if I could introduce my son to her — she acquiesced — and they shook hands as his glance went to the ground. Martina looked directly at him and gently offered this advice — “Young man, when you shake hands with someone, you should look them in the eyes.” We have been Martina fans ever since.

— Stanley Sterenberg

“Do you have a ten?”

“I have an acquaintance named Duane who is homeless. I see him occasionally but regularly in Central Park when I walk my dog. He’s in his forties, wears glasses and a long raincoat. He talks to himself, but so do I. I can’t remember when we met; I probably gave him money and struck up a conversation, as I often do with people who are homeless. I tried after that to always have money when I walked my dog in case I saw Duane. Often I’d forget, and he’d say, ‘That’s okay.’ The other day I found him asleep on a bench. I was so happy, because I had money. I pulled out a twenty and said, ‘Duane, here!” expecting him to be thrilled. He thanked me, but something seemed wrong as he put the bill in a pocket inside his raincoat. Seconds later, he sniffed the air and said, “Smells like money. They’re going to smell it at the church where I sleep and think I don’t need help. Do you have a ten?”

— Anna Abulach

Maggie and a mug.

UWS Encounters is written each week by WSR readers, relating memorable interactions in the neighborhood. Send your story to westsiderag@gmail.com — subject: Encounters Submission. Keep it to 175 words or less and include your real name and address. If we post it, you’ll get a byline and a WSR mug! (We won’t publish your address.)

To read more of our Encounters columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. JS says:

      Love this column. Great stories!

    2. Westsidegal says:

      Another option is CA (cocaine anonymous,which is a sub division of AA but ALL substance abuses are welcome. Some AA meetings do not allow you to share your drug abuse, but in CA all is on the table. Been clean and sober for 7+ years now.

      There is a 7:30 pm Monday night meeting downstairs of the All Angels Church on W 80th & Broadway.

      All are welcome.


      • Sylvia m says:

        CA IS ITS OWN 12 Step Program. It is not a sub division of AA. AA is the mother fellowship. AA, CA, NA are all autonomous fellowships.

    3. LUBOMIR FIRKO says:

      I love UWS and a good thing is that the fairway is staying in the business and now open 24/7