It was a warm Sunday afternoon at a bar near the Brooklyn waterfront. A jam session was going on out front. There were as many players as listeners.
A man and a woman, a couple, were called up to lead the group in a song. They stepped forward — him with a guitar; her with a violin.
“No matter what happens” the man said mysteriously, “keep playing!”
Everyone expressed their agreement, and the couple started into “Say, Darlin’, Say.”
As the violinist continued to lead the group through the song, the guitarist stepped back and circled his hand over his head, signaling them all to keep going.
Then he stepped forward without his guitar. He knelt down, a deep red blush flowing up the back of his neck and rising in his face as he reached forward holding a small jewelry box.
Cheers went up. The woman stopped playing. The guitarist stood up and enfolded her in his arms. She encircled his neck with her fiddle and bow.
The music rose and swirled around them.
— Kristina Lynch
The Fisherman’s Tune
Early on a summer Saturday, my husband and I boarded a downtown No. 2 weighed down with beach paraphernalia. It was 6:30 a.m., and the train car was almost deserted.
Across from us sat an older man holding a tall fishing rod.
After we had been riding a short time, I realized that someone was singing “But Not for Me.” I looked across the car and saw that it was the fisherman. When he got to the end of the song, he sang it again. And then he began to whistle it.
As a hopeless whistler, I was filled with admiration.
He stopped whistling and looked at us.
“Going to Coney Island?” he asked.
“No,” my husband said. “We’re catching the ferry and going out to Rockaway Beach.”
“Nice beach,” the fisherman said.
“I gather you’re a Gershwin fan,” my husband said.
— Karen Snow
In Lower Manhattan
I was waiting for the BM1 near the Custom House in Lower Manhattan.It was pouring rain, and I was completely soaked.
A bus going to Staten Island pulled up alongside me and stopped.
The driver got out.
“Here,” he said, handing me an umbrella. “Take this.”
— Allen Bodner
I was home for the Thanksgiving holiday and had arranged to meet a friend in New York City. We planned to take in a Broadway musical. It turned out that he could not make it, so I decided to attend a show by myself.
It was before the days of the TKTS booth, when you could sometimes get lucky and score a ticket at the box office.
I went to the Shubert Theater and was able to do just that. “The Apple Tree” was playing, and Phyllis Newman was taking over the lead for the matinee performance on what I believe was her first day in the role.
I was familiar with Ms. Newman from listening to the “Subways Are for Sleeping” cast album and was excited to see her perform live.
Later, as I walked down 44th Street on my way to the theater, I found myself behind a tall, distinguished man in a camel’s hair coat. He was carrying a huge bouquet of roses, and he turned down Shubert Alley near the Astor Hotel while I proceeded to the theater’s entrance.
When the curtain went up, I discovered I had been walking behind Alan Alda.
— Rick Farrell
I believed — as single, lovesick 20-somethings who have read too much Joan Didion tend to do — that there was nothing more New York than getting a drink by myself.
Maybe I would swap intimate stories with a handsome bartender while he mixed me a custom cocktail. Maybe I would lock eyes with another lonely patron who was nursing his own nightcap before heading back to his own empty studio.
So, one balmy Friday night in late August I decided it was time to go out for that solo drink. But where?
My first stop was a new restaurant that had opened on my block, a place that I knew catered to a younger, artsier clientele and served tasty cocktails.
But as I glanced through the window, I saw that almost all of the bar stools were occupied and that most of the people were drinking in pairs. The lone bartender looked harried, and she was buried in her phone. I didn’t even make it to the hostess stand.
The second bar seemed more promising: darker lighting, lively atmosphere, extensive wine list. But to my disappointment, there was already another girl enjoying a nightcap by herself, and she had captured the bartender’s full attention.
Get over yourself, I thought as I headed toward a wine bar around the corner. This time I marched right inside and clambered onto a stool.
The bartender came right over.
I lifted my gaze to match his, ready for my New York fantasy to take off.
“Sorry,” he said breezily. “We’re closed.”
— Julia Liebergall
Illustrations by Agnes Lee