Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sometimes You Get To Go Back To Your New York

The minute I saw him taking a picture of the front door, I knew this was His New York.

The gate of 217 hasn't changed he told me. It was just like that when he was a young man of 18, fresh from Brazil, right after the war, working for the United States Consulate.

Of course, pointing up to the second or third floor, he had just a small room, enough space for a bed. The toilet and anything else he might desire was outside his tiny habitat.

It had taken him 18 days on a ship to arrive in a city so different then. After a very brief stay on Ellis Island - a letter from the Commanding Officer on the U.S. Base in Brazil made sure it was brief - he got a lift into the heart of the city.

"Where should I drop you?" asked the driver.

"At a square," he replied.

There, smack in the middle of the sidewalk, filled with the milling crowd of New Yorkers on the run to someplace else, was the sergeant from the very U.S. base in Brazil where his journey had begun. In a city of millions, what were the chances of him, all of 18, fresh off the boat, finding a familiar face at rush hour?

"I'm writing a book about my life," he told me.

"I can't wait to read it," I replied.

In the meantime, I quietly gave thanks that, while rushing to someplace else, late as always, blasting music, I too got a million-in-one chance to do something I rarely do. I stopped and asked a complete stranger about their own New York.