The best metropolitan newspaper of 2023: readers speak


Dear Diary:

A few years ago I was taking a walk around the Wall Street area when I decided to go into a delicatessen.

I ordered a sandwich and started chatting with the owner while he prepared it. Our conversation eventually turned to the location of the store.

I asked him if being in the financial district had ever led him to participate in the stock market or if it had led him to receive valuable advice from informed clients.

He stopped preparing his sandwich, put down the knife, and looked at me with a perplexed expression.

“Every day, those runners come here,” he said. “They get their bagels, sandwiches, donuts, coffee, cigarettes…”

He paused again and pointed towards the door of his shop.

“…and every day, they're on the sidewalk, pushing and shoving a door that's clearly marked 'pull.'”

—Steven Scharff

Dear Diary:

I took the Q on 96th Street. I was on my way to Hell's Kitchen to grab a quick dinner before watching “RuPaul's Drag Race.”

A woman got up on 86th Street and sat next to me. She was probably in her 50s, had curly blonde hair and she was taking a call because she was about to lose service.

As we approached 72nd Street, the woman reached into her purse and pulled out a sandwich: smoked salmon on pumpernickel bread.

The train was full, but she was determined to eat this sandwich. As we approached 63rd Street, she started rummaging through her purse again. This time she pulled out a pepper mill.

Seemingly oblivious to everyone around her, she took apart the sandwich, ground some fresh pepper on the salmon, and put the grinder back in her purse. She then she started to eat.

Now everyone was looking at her. Some people laughed to themselves.

“Wow,” a man said to the woman. “That was quite an experience. She'd never seen that before.”

He cleared his throat and smiled.

“This is New York City,” he said. “I always carry my pepper mill. You never know when you will need it.”

– Lala Tanmoy Das

Dear Diary:

It was July 23, 2010, and I was in the delivery room at Beth Israel Hospital to give birth to my son.

My then-husband and I were excited and nervous. My mother was visiting from Montana: a big city vacation to meet her first grandchild.

I had been induced that morning and my labor was progressing slowly. We spent the day joking around, going over the baby names we had chosen, waiting for the action to really begin.

By the middle of the day, my contractions were getting stronger and more frequent. Late in the afternoon, my midwife decided it was time to turn things around. She described the next steps: She would break her waters with the goal of strengthening contractions and speeding up labor.

“But first,” he said, “I have to move my car.”

– Jenna Pike

Dear Diary:

During a morning walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park with my daughter Ella, I saw a blue soccer ball on the sidewalk adjacent to the grass fields of Pier 5.

A quick look at the area did not reveal any players who could have kicked a ball that far out of bounds. She asked if we could keep the ball, and after a brief moral dilemma, I picked it up and brought it with us.

When we got home, I cleaned the ball with a washcloth in the kitchen sink. When I did, I discovered a name and number in a faded marker. I texted the number, explained that we had found the ball, and offered to return it.

“Save it,” the response text said. “My kids lost that ball seven years ago on that field. They are all grown up and don't need it anymore. I hope their daughter enjoys it as much as they do.”

– Brian Price

Dear Diary:

My friend Tom runs a popular whale watching cruise out of Sheepshead Bay. Recently, Buddy, an avid whale watcher and good friend, passed away. One of Buddy's wishes was for Tom to scatter his ashes in the ocean that he loved so much.

So, on a beautiful summer afternoon, Tom canceled his usual evening cruise and hosted a private memorial service. More than 80 of Buddy's friends and family came to say their final goodbyes.

Among the passengers was a serious-looking young woman who sat silently alone. None of the other people, including the crew members, knew who she was.

The ship sailed and the service went very well, with lots of laughter, some tears, and people telling their favorite stories about Buddy.

When the ship returned to the Brooklyn dock, Captain Tom spoke to everyone as they departed. When the young woman approached him, Tom thanked her for coming and told her how happy she was to have shared such a beautiful evening.

“Honestly,” he said, “this was the worst whale watching cruise I've ever been on.”

—Phil Nicosia

Read an entry from the editor's Metropolitan diary and the illustrator's reflections on how to work in the column It was a useful anchor in your life in 2023.

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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