‘I Decided I Needed a Slice of Junior’s Strawberry Cheesecake’

Needing Junior’s

Dear Diary:

On a fall evening, I decided I needed a slice of Junior’s strawberry cheesecake right away.

At the time, I lived in an apartment in the St. George section of Staten Island with a view of the Statue of Liberty. I walked to the terminal and waited for the ferry.

Then came a lovely ferry ride to Manhattan with the city lit up in all its finery.

Then a walk to the subway station and a ride to DeKalb Avenue.

Then a walk to Junior’s, where I ordered a slice of cheesecake to go.

Then a walk back to the subway station and a ride back to Manhattan.

Then a walk back to the ferry terminal and more waiting for the ferry.

Then a ferry ride back to Staten Island and a walk home.

Hours after setting out, I finally sat down to enjoy that decadent slice of cheesecake, alone in my apartment, with the lights low and Sonny Stitt playing softly on the stereo.

Years later, making that trek remains one of the best decisions of my life.

— Vincent P. Barkley

Greenwich Village ’65

Dear Diary:

The year was 1965, and I was 7. My parents, my brother and I drove from Fort Wayne, Ind., to New York to visit relatives in Oyster Bay whom I had never seen before and never saw again.

Sometime during the trip, we came into Greenwich Village from Long Island. It was the one time I ever visited New York City.

I had my father’s hand, and as we walked, a young, bearded hippie holding a lit cigarette passed us. The cigarette brushed the back of my hand, and sparks flew.

With perfect poetic cadence, the fellow holding it looked down at me.

“Watch it, man,” he said, “you’re gonna get burnt.”

He called me “man,” and that is the only memory I have of my only trip to New York City.

— John Rittenhouse


Dear Diary:

I pulled up to the gas pump and got out of the car, uncertain about whether there was an attendant on duty. Then a burly man in an orange safety vest emerged from the convenience store, his bald head glistening with sweat.

I asked him to fill the tank with regular and said I was paying cash.

Facing away from me, he began pumping the gas. There was a hot wind coming off the Kill Van Kull, whipping the tattered pennants along the gas station’s cyclone fence.

I turned into the wind, shading my eyes as I stared at the salt mounds across the street.

“Salt blow over here?” I asked the man.

“You don’t see it, but it gets all over everything,” he said.

“Does it bother you?”

“It didn’t used to,” he said. “But the other night, I was out to dinner with my wife, and I asked her if the food tasted salty, and she said, ‘no.’ ‘It must be me,’ I said.”

He topped off the tank to the dollar, and I paid him. He headed back inside as I got in my car and pulled away.

Waiting for an opening in the passing traffic before exiting the lot, the mountains of salt directly in front of me, I licked my lips.

— Tom Diriwachter

East Ninth Street Bakery

Dear Diary:

I am remembering with nostalgia a bakery on East Ninth Street near First Avenue that I used to frequent in the 1970s.

It was run by two brothers who sold bread by the pound in loaves they stored in large drawers.

“Hello, dear,” they would say when I entered. “If you eat this bread, you can live forever! You never need to eat anything else!”

They would cut a slice from a loaf, put it in my hand and direct me to taste it on the spot to make their point. There were lots of rye and dark pumpernickel loaves.

One brother began to lose his memory, and it was touching to see the other care for him as they carried on the business.

Eventually, the brothers died, and I heard on the news that one had secretly built up a small fortune that he passed on to a nephew.

To this day, I think I could live forever if I could have that bread again.

— Evelyn Saphier

Ushered Out

Dear Diary:

I was at a Broadway theater waiting for the show to start when a couple approached the people in the row in front of me.

“I think you two are in our seats,” one said to the people sitting there.

As they compared one another’s tickets, an usher arrived and had a look.

“You’re right, these are your seats,” he said to the couple. “However, you are in the wrong theater.”

— Tim Voegeli

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Illustrations by Agnes Lee

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