The Ladies of New York
From Aisha Udo to Councilman Garodnick:
Dear Mr. Garodnick,
My name is Aisha Udo. I am ten years of age and I currently attend the fourth grade class at P.S. 302. When I grow up, I’m going to be a councilman just like you so that I can make changes in my neighborhood. I want to make my neighborhood become more attractive and livable, just like you have begun to do for me. I really like it now. Ever since you got together the funding for the community gardens, I feel proud to tell people where I live, but they don’t believe that my neighborhood could have anything pretty or maybe even beautiful. I smile because they haven’t ever seen the garden on 135th Street. They’ve never seen the mural painted on the back wall. They’ve never sat there to write a poem, or even glanced long enough to know just how beautiful that garden is. So I watch them pretend to hide their discomfort as I think of the tulips and even the growing weeds bursting through cracks in the sidewalk, and I smile and I smile and I smile because they don’t have any idea what they’re missing. They’ve never seen a garden like mine. Maybe that’s just because they don’t know where to look.
Visit sometime?—You’ll know where to look.
From Paige Turner to the Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance Division:
To Whom It May Concern:
I’m writing regarding the upcoming termination of my unemployment benefits. Honestly, ridiculous. I don’t think you’ve taken into account the number of secretarial jobs I’ve applied for and the number of times (45) I’ve been turned down. Not that I haven’t been totally and completely qualified for these positions. I am a fabulous typist. My fingers move faster than a cat chasing a feather boa. Additionally, my interpersonal skills are unsurpassable. Honestly dahling, I put Oprah to shame (now Barbara Walters on the other hand… never mind). Not to mention my inner fashionista; never a hair out of place—perfect attributes for a front desk job.
I happen to have a hunch that these little job rejections are due to gender restrictions, which I thought were illegal. So much for equal opportunity. I thought my qualifications would outweigh any prejudice against…well… drag queens but I guess I’m wrong. So go ahead, take away my insurance, too. You’ve already taken away much more important things. But I just thought that you might want to know that six months with no job is a lot worse than you think and so is punishing someone for their gender orientation.
Posted to UrbanMom.com by Karen Putnam:
A warm “hey” to all those urban moms like me out there reading this post!
This humid and sticky summer morning, my precocious little 4-year-old, Jonathan, and I were on our way to the park walking down 5th Avenue. All of a sudden Jonathan started screaming, “It’s snow, Mom! Look it’s snowing!” Now as other sane mothers would do on the hottest day in July, I looked at my kid and sighed. “I wish it were cooler out too, Johnny.” Though I must admit that the idea of imagining snow in 100 degree temperature seemed like a pretty cool J idea, coming from a four-year-old. I took his sweaty little hand and headed over to the snow cone guy dishing out big, round, colorful icy scoops into tiny little pleated white cups. “Snow!” Johnny shouted again. I looked down at his drippy, sticky, blue hands and said, “Snow cone, Johnny!” He thrust his chubby little finger forward toward an excited crowd separated by wooden barricades. Big puffs of snowy fluff were being spewed from a huge fan-like machine. I looked at Johnny again with disbelief. “It sure does look like snow but… it’s not. It’s-it’s…” I shoved my way through the crowd and found myself standing in front of a tall guy with a nametag who looked like he knew what he was doing. “Sir, what exactly is this?” He looked at me as though this should be completely obvious. “It’s snow, ma’am. We’re filming ‘Mr. Popper’s Penguins’!”
Juliet Cohen’s phone interview with Betty Klein:
Juliet: Hey, Bubby! How’s Florida?…Grandma, are you there?
Betty: Oh it’s you, Juliet dear. How are you, Bubbula?
Juliet: I’m doing great thanks! What’ve you been up to?
Betty: I just finished a sweater for you! You’ll love it. It’ll be perfect for those New York winters.
Juliet: Thanks, I could really use that. Actually, New York’s exactly what I was calling about. Do you have a few minutes? I wanna interview you for a history project on New York in the 30s.
Betty: I’m happy to help. For you Juliet, anything! One second, let me grab my coffee.
Juliet: So Bubby, I’m going to start recording now.
Betty: I’m ready!
Juliet: Okay, so what are the first things that come to mind about New York back in the ‘30s?
Betty: Juliet, it was the Great Depression. Poverty like nothing you’ve never seen. Oh, let me see. The Third Avenue El! Oy, it made such a rumble. I’m glad they finally put it underground. And only a nickel for a subway ride; imagine that. What is it now, Juliet?
Juliet: $2.25, Grandma.
Betty: Two twenty-five? Talk about inflation! I could’ve gotten 41 rides on that much money back in the day! And speaking of nickels—how could I forget the automat. You would’ve loved it, Juliet. One nickel or two popped into a vending machine and boom, a piping hot, delicious meal that you wouldn’t believe.
Juliet: Anything else off of the top of your head?
Betty: Oh yes! One more thing. How could I forget? The corner candy store where a penny could get you whatever candy you wanted, and ice cream that was less than a dime. All the kids on the block would go there for a treat. It was a tight-knit neighorhood. All the kids grew up together, played together, went to the same school together. Not all this business with arranging for play dates. What? Play dates? You went outside and you played. But those were simpler times. There’s the oven. I left my chicken in too long. I really don’t mean to rush you off the phone, Dear, but I need to take it out of the oven. The girls are headed over for Mah-Jongg and dinner any minute. Maybe I’ll make it up to New York this summer. In spite of those hefty prices, I sure do miss it.
Big Apple Tour Bus Driver, Berta Anton:
“Welcome to Big Apple Tours! My name is Berta Anton and I’ll be your driver today. Hop on! Hop off! Get ready to see some of the greatest sights in New York City.”
There they go again. I said Berta, not Bernadette. And this darn traffic! I wonder if I’ll ever make it to…
”TIMES SQUARE! Next stop Times Square!”
Shoot, where did I put that stupid list? Oh, here we go:
“Don’t miss the hustle and bustle of 42nd Street, center of the theatre district! Check out the beautiful bright lights of Broadway– the Great White Way. Like nothin’ else you’ll ever see. Get your tickets for the Lion King, Mary Poppins, Wicked, and all those other outta-towna’ favorites… Forget the bare plains of Iowa or the empty parking spots at the mall. And don’t forget to grab one of those ‘I ❤ NYC’ T-shirts.”
Something no New Yorker would ever be caught dead in.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Bus Driver, where can I get some edgy, urbane, chic outfits? Is Bergdorf’s or Saks near here?”
What a fitting question for a bus driver in a shapeless, pale blue, polyester uniform!
“No Ma’am but we’ll get there in a couple of stops. It’ll be 5th Avenue, I’ll announce it.”
God, a day on this bus sure reminds me how much I love New Yorkers.
Sydney Allard, Age 13, Grade 8, Hunter College High School, Silver Key