‘My First Piña Colada Was the Summer Before Seventh Grade’

Dear Diary:

My first piña colada was the summer before seventh grade. My Aunt JoAnne let me sneak a sip of hers on a family vacation.

Thirteen years later, I found myself ordering one on a humid Sunday afternoon at a bar in Williamsburg. The taste of each gulp reminded me of my childhood, and my widening grin began to make my cheeks feel sore.

I stopped grinning when I got back to my Lower East Side apartment and discovered that my front door wouldn’t open.

Without hesitation, I dialed Richard, my super. I’m not sure why I didn’t call one of my two roommates first, but I knew I could depend on Richard regardless of it being a weekend.

He answered his phone immediately.

In what seemed like less than a minute, he was turning onto Ludlow Street in his car. He punched the administrator code into the keypad, and we waited to hear the door click open.

“When was the last time you had a piña colada?” I said.

— Erin Graisser

Dear Diary:

When I was a teenager growing up on Long Island, I spent several summers as a camp counselor in Vermont.

My best camp friend was a guy from Boston named Gus. We played this silly game all summer: One of us would sneak up on the other, slap him on the back, yell “gotcha last” and run away.

On the last day of my last summer at camp, I was climbing up the stairs of one of the buses when I felt a smack on the back and heard Gus scream, “Gotcha last!” The game was over and I had lost.

Seven or eight years later, I was working in Midtown. I walked past the public library one afternoon and looked over to see Gus talking with a group of people on the steps.

I had a very important decision to make. And having become a mature adult, I made the sensible choice.

I sneaked up behind him, hit him on the back, shouted, “Gotcha last!” and ran down Fifth Avenue.

— Barry Stone

Dear Diary:

The air was thick on my walk back from Astoria Park. I had only been living in the neighborhood for a couple of months, and I was already contemplating whether I should even have come back to the city. Nothing was going quite right, and I didn’t feel at home.

Suddenly a torrential downpour started. I ran to take cover under the roof of what looked like a legion club of some sort.

An older man stuck his head out the door and said to come in and take a seat.

Inside were tables with food and posters of pinup models and sports memorabilia hung on the walls. It was clear that a card game was about to start.

A few minutes later, the man who had urged me to come in and a couple of other guys came to me with a huge garbage bag and scissors. They proceeded to make me the nicest trash-bag poncho I had ever seen. We all started laughing as I put it on, and they asked if it was all right.

“Perfect,” I said.

I was almost back to my apartment when the rain stopped. Astoria was starting to feel like home.

— Melissa Trauscht

Dear Diary:

In a rather cramped McDonald’s on Second Avenue, I watch as a woman in a wheelchair rides backward away from the counter and down the narrow aisle to the front of the store. There, she backs into a tiny space near the entrance.

Later, around the corner, the same woman boards the M96 that I am taking to the West Side.

I notice her again at the north corner of Broadway, waiting to cross 96th. Vehicles pass and turn around us as the crosswalk timer counts down.

Suddenly, the woman’s chair shoots backward with great speed over the sidewalk cutout and into the street. Fortunately, the way is clear.

As I cross, I notice she has a foot in a cast, propped up in the leg rest of her rather low-tech chair. All this time, she has been using her good foot to propel herself in reverse. I realize that she must have deliberately kicked herself into the street.

I keep my eyes on her. With barely a glance over her shoulder, she gets ready to kick herself backward over Broadway.

— Paul Klenk

Dear Diary:

It was a long time ago. I am now 92. At the time, I lived on the Lower East Side.

I was almost 13. There was a big snowstorm, the biggest in several years.

The Sanitation Department hired us to shovel snow for a dollar an hour at the corner of Delancey and Essex Streets in front of the Essex Street Market.

They gave each of us large snow shovels with long handles, and we went to work. I shoveled away vigorously.

One of the other workers, a grown man, shouted to me.

“Hey, kid,” he yelled. “Have you got rocks in your head? Slow down. We have got to make this job last.”

I did as I was told.

— Aaron Schwartz

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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