I was on my way to a luncheon with college classmates while visiting New York last fall, and I wanted to pick up a bottle of wine as a gift for the hostess.
Approaching my destination, I checked my phone for a liquor store in the neighborhood and found one not far away.
Upon entering the store, I saw a prominent display of a sauvignon blanc from New Zealand that cost $15 a bottle.
I explained to the proprietor that I was from Denver, that in Denver dollars the bottle would cost even less and that I wanted to be sure it was an acceptable wine to present to the hostess.
He cut me off.
“Yes,” he said. “You’ll be invited back.”
— Camille Bradford
Jackson Heights Country Club
The Jackson Heights Pool and Country Club.
It might sound bucolic, but in reality, it was three concrete pools, a cement handball wall and three asphalt tennis courts under La Guardia Airport’s strobe-lit landing path.
To us, it was the Garden of Eden, from when it opened in 1961 to its demise in the late ’80s. Night swimming on Wednesdays, outdoor movie Fridays and, always, the Saturday Night Show & Dance.
I was fortunate to be a member as an adolescent and to have worked there throughout my teenage years. My fondest memories involved helping my grandfather, who was the gardener.
There was not much to do when the only grass to tend was a green clump near the kiddie pool that might have measured 10 feet by 20 feet. My grandfather’s quixotic idea was to cover the tall metal fencing that surrounded the area with ivy for privacy.
“Never happen, Grandpa,” I said as we chiseled into the hard dirt and rock to plant the seedlings.
“You’ll see, Jimmy boy,” he said. “Give it time and love. Keep shoveling.”
Within a few years, my co-workers and I were standing on extension ladders and hacking away at the overgrown vines. Tennis players were complaining because balls kept getting lost in the thick wall of ivy.
I visited my grandfather’s grave several years ago, and then drove by where the club had been. What was once a summer playground for thousands was now the Korean Church of Queens and a parking lot.
There was no trace of all those sunburned faces, of Frank checking passes at the door or of the mahjong players up on the roof deck.
Yet on the corner of the property, framing the church’s brick signage, there was one remnant of the past: some of my grandfather’s ivy.
— Jim Rocco
It was a slightly hotter-than-normal day in the summer of 1980. Three friends and I were walking up Columbus Avenue with four leftover slices of pizza (pepperoni, as I recall).
We wanted ice cream, but we were college students on tight budgets and had already spent what we had on the pizza.
We ducked into a Haagen-Dazs shop, where, it turned out, the workers hadn’t had lunch yet.
A few minutes later, they were dining on pizza, and my friends and I were back on the street, each with our own scoop of ice cream.
— Mike Faber
About a decade after my family moved from New York to California, my mother and I traveled back to the city in August for my 10th birthday.
We went to a salon that mother used to love and got terrible haircuts. Tony no longer had the touch, apparently.
After leaving the salon, my mother looked at her reflection in the window of a store that stood where a favorite coffee shop of hers had been.
“Things change,” she said. “C’est la vie.”
It started to rain — the kind of rain that is so immediate and intense it feels like someone flipped a switch.
Luckily for us, we were on the Upper East Side and every building had an awning stretching long and wide to the sidewalk’s edge.
My mother looked at me and smiled.
“All you need is an awning,” she said.
We took off running up the street, stopping to catch our breath under each overhang, laughing and crashing into one another until we made it back to the apartment where we were staying. We hung our wet clothes on the backs of chairs and sat down in towels to share a Diet Coke.
Twelve years later, I was back in New York for college. One August morning, in his mother’s apartment on Madison Avenue, the love of my life broke my heart. I sobbed in his childhood bedroom.
After leaving, I walked up the street. The air was so thick I felt like I was swimming. Then the switch flipped, and the rain came down heavy and hot. In seconds, I was soaked.
I indulged in the drama of the moment, crumpling. People passed on my left and right.
And then, there it was: an awning.
— Zoe Kurland
The 5 Boroughs
I was from the Bronx. He was from Queens.
We met in Brooklyn, married and have lived in Manhattan for 40 years.
We’ve been to Staten Island twice: for one of our now-adult son’s high school baseball games and for the funeral of our sister-in-law’s father.
When we need to get out of the city, we head to Montauk.
This is our world.
You can have the rest.
— Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Illustrations by Agnes Lee