By JOE ROGERS
It was a beautiful spring Saturday in New York. My wife, Maria, and I were walking south on the East River Esplanade. We were about 10 blocks from Gracie Mansion, walking with a veterinarian, Fred, and his wife, Cynthia, who are friends of 30 years. Cynthia and I were in the lead. We rounded a bend and came upon a young woman of perhaps 20, who was with her boyfriend and near tears.
"Can you help us?" she asked to my surprise. I thought we had encountered a lovers' spat and asked what the problem was.
"In this little tree, there's a canary," she said. "Look up there. My boyfriend tried to rescue it, but he can't reach it."
She indicated a sapling about nine feet high, canary in it. "It probably flew out from one of those windows," she said. Cynthia and I looked up. There were probably 500 to 1,000 windows overlooking the spot.
"I can't help you, but we have a veterinarian with us," I said. "Perhaps he can."
On cue, Fred and my wife rounded the bend. He listened to the predicament. The young woman was not leaving until she was sure the canary would be safe.
"Look up at all those windows," Fred said. "From one of them, almost certainly, this canary flew to the tree. It's about 3 p.m. In another three hours the sun will start to set and, as unbelievable as it may sound, the canary will leave its perch here and fly to the window from which it escaped earlier."
The young woman was greatly relieved and thanked us. We walked on.
"Did you just say that to comfort her?" I asked Fred.
"No, that's the truth," he replied.
James A. Warth
Over a long and happy career of eating in New York, I have learned two important rules of etiquette: don't make eye contact with anyone, unless you want more bread or the bill; and don't stare at other people's food.
Imagine my dismay when, on a recent evening at a stylish Greenwich Village restaurant, the two young couples at a neighboring table not only pointed at my food, but also laughed at it.
A friend and I were finishing a delightful dinner with dessert. He ordered passion fruit soufflé. I ordered cheese.
The plates arrived: his soufflé, redolent of the passion fruit, rose to a perfectly browned peak in an oversize teacup and was accompanied by a large dollop of sorbet smoothed into a small ladle.
My three small wedges of cheese lay unassumingly on a rectangle of glass, with a few slices of apple, a couple of dried apricots and some almonds on a side dish.
I would not swear to it, but I think one of the women at the next table actually sputtered as the waiter placed our desserts in front of us. They did not even try to control themselves.
"Waiter," two of them practically yelled, guffawing loudly, "I'll have the soufflé." I tried to assume the quiet dignity of my cheese, which was excellent, by the way.
Several years ago, I was walking on the Avenue of the Americas and noticed a crowd gathered on the next block, clustered around looking at someone or something on the ground.
As I drew closer, I ran down the list of possibilities in my mind — perhaps someone had a heart attack, or maybe it was an injured crime victim. It could be a gang of vigilantes surrounding a wanted criminal.
When I got to the scene, I strained to look over several shoulders, eager to find out which guess was right. To my surprise and delight, I saw a small kitten cavorting with a ball and a group of enchanted animal lovers cooing at him.
My wife and I recently visited the Mongol art exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were leaving the exhibit gallery on the third floor as closing time approached, and my wife was particularly eager to visit the gift shop before we left.
We have visited the museum frequently, but were concerned we might make a wrong turn and lose valuable time, so we slowed our pace and asked a uniformed guard, "What's the fastest way to get to the gift shop?"
Without missing a beat, he said smoothly and with a perfectly straight face: "Jump."
We paused a second and then broke into laughter, while he simply smiled gently at the perfection of his delivery.
When we had recovered, he pointed us to the elevator, and we descended swiftly to our destination, reveling in the perfect New York combination of culture and wit. Philip M. Huyck
Ken Lustbader saw a true combination of New York City and French attitude: a handwritten sign in the window of the Lafayette French Pastry shop on Greenwich Avenue stating, "We have fresh bread, you don't."
During the recent National Volunteer Week I led a group of 25 of my Fleet Bank colleagues to the playground next to the Jacob Schiff School in Harlem to paint benches and a retaining wall that surrounded the playground.
At the end of our day, as I was putting some finishing touches on my section of the wall, some fifth graders stopped to visit as they were heading back to class after recess.
They cordially thanked me for our efforts and made some comments on my painting ability.
Then, one young man approached and asked if what I was doing was considered "community service." I told him that it was.
He then leaned a little closer and said, "Yeah, I got in trouble once, too."
My mother, a woman in her 80's who walks with a cane, boarded a 14th Street crosstown bus the other day.
The only barely available seat in the front of the bus was between two older men, also with canes, who looked as if they had spent the night on the street.
As my mother stood there not knowing quite what to do, the men shifted, making room for her.
As she settled into the space between them, one of the men looked right at her and said, "A rose between two thorns."