New York Stories

We went to The Strand Bookstore (18 miles of books!), twice.

We were supposed to meet Penny and Elizabeth and Rebecca and Tita Gladys but instead we went to The Cloisters.

I was going to catch up on reading Dao Strom’s The Beautiful Order of Girls and Boys because I’d only read to page 82 and the review is due in a month, and someone told me that the bus ride to The Cloisters on the M4 was an hour and a half each way. But the woman who sat next to me, who was bringing her four kids in from New Jersey for sightseeing, talked the whole way there about how nice Filipinos are, and how I must not miss the Lincoln Center Out of Doors concerts; the Mayan exhibit at the Met; and the Central Park Summer Stage concerts. I got a neck ache from having to crane my neck to face her and having to nod yes, yes, yes.

The people in New York are very friendly.

Or, at least, they are in August. The city and everyone in it seemed to be in a holiday mood, notwithstanding the approaching fifth-year anniversary of the World Trade Center, notwithstanding the movie of the same name which was pulling in good crowds at all of the Manhattan theatres.

The first chance we could, I dragged A to the Met and we dashed to see Raphael’s Colonna Masterpiece. We saw diggings and frescos unearthed from the island of Cyprus. A said he wanted to come back.

We saw Manang Bebot, who served us delicious mushroom omelettes and enormous papayas and frothy cappucinos at her E. 40th street apartment before driving us to her gallery in Tribeca, pointing out the apartments of Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert de Niro along the way.

We went back to the Met on a Friday night and went up to the roof and saw the skyline of West Manhattan across the trees and could not understand the installations by Cai Guo-Qiang until we were back in California and read the brochure and found out that the two life-size wooden crocodiles, which we thought were imbedded with colorful plastic push pins, were actually imbedded with “sharp objects confiscated at airport security checkpoints” and were intended to address “war, terrorism, and religious and cultural strife.”

One day, A spent the afternoon by himself in Central Park. It was the day after we had arrived from California and he was still in love with the City. The next day, he reached for his wallet, and it was gone. There followed a period of depression when he thought he had been pickpocketed. We had lunch with Elda and she said, “People rarely get pickpocketed here.” And, in truth, A admitted that the wallet might have fallen out of his back pocket while he was sitting on the grass, on Cedar Hill, watching a softball game.

He went back to Central Park and tried to re-trace his steps. There were now many people trampling over the spot where he had sat. I told him, you will never find your wallet. Consider it your gift to a person less fortunate than you.

But he couldn’t let go of that precious object, not so much because of the money inside but because of the various mementoes he carried around with him– old school IDs, an old Jamba Juice card.

He went to the 86th Street police station and the police there told him that no wallets had been turned in for weeks, months.

Last night, we flew home to San Francisco. My husband picked us up. He had arranged all the mail in a neat pile on top of the dining room table. The most recent arrival, from just this morning, was a small padded envelope addressed to A. The return address was Closters, New Jersey.

My husband was curious. “Did you order something on-line?” he asked A.

A didn’t answer; he took the package to his room. Silence. I knocked on his door. He opened it. He was holding a letter in one hand, and in the other, his wallet.

The letter said:

Dear A——,

My husband works in New York City and found your wallet in the middle of Park Avenue yesterday. He brought it home and asked me to mail it back to you. The only address we found was this one in California, so we hope it gets to you OK.

This was what the wallet contained: 14 cards, a driver’s license, an ATM card, car insurance, medical insurance, club cards, and school IDs. There was no money. And a fortune from a Chinese cookie. Looks like a good one!

P.S. The wallet is dirty from cars running over it.

Best of luck to you,

Linda S.

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