A New York Story

A New York Story

     She is beautiful; leaving the building, she tosses her shiny dark hair, her blue eyes are focused and intent.  As she exits the fitness studio in Brooklyn Heights, she is met with sheets of rain. She runs through a list of options, none of them optimal.  The subway stop is several blocks away, the bus will take half of an hour to arrive and she is cold and sweaty. Not one to splurge often on a taxi, she decides to spend some of her hard earned money on a ride guaranteeing a swift arrival home and a moment out of the rain.

Looking up the street, she cannot believe her luck as her arm shoots up—there is a cab with its light on and it pulls over, its hazard lights flipped on.  Jumping out of the driver’s side of the car, the middle aged man runs over to the halal cart by the side of the road, purchasing some food. She waits for the driver to return, and asks if the cab is free.

“Yes Miss!” he quickly replies, as they both approach the car. She closes her umbrella, shaking off the water and drops her large bag on the backseat before getting in. She gives him her Brooklyn apartment address.  He seems confused.  She is not surprised.  Most taxi drivers get lost in the borough of Brooklyn.   The woman tells him to take a left on Lafayette. He proceeds down the street, laughing.  “You will be my teacher today, Miss! May Allah bless you.”

As the car wends its way along Lafayette, the driver follows the directions the woman gives him.  He asks her if she can possibly pay cash.  She had been planning to use her credit card, and pulls out her wallet.  Rifling through her cash and cards, she finds that she only has six dollars in cash.  She tells the driver that she is sorry, but that no, she does not have enough cash for the ride. He replies that that there is no problem.

A moment later, he looks in the rearview mirror, making eye contact with the woman. “Ah!” He says to her, “I am going to turn the meter off.  This ride is on me! You look much like my daughter.” She says thank you, saying that he is kind. “No,” he replies. “When I look at you I see her.”

She asks “does your daughter live in New York?” He replies to her, a hint of sadness in his voice.  “No Miss. She lives in Pakistan and I have not seen her in three long years.” She wonders if he has ever returned to Pakistan, and asks the driver if he has gone back home to visit. She learns that he is afraid of flying and that the trip to Pakistan would be too expensive.  He tells her that he is afraid of driving in snow, making her laugh.

They pull up to the apartment on Monroe Street.  She digs through her wallet, giving him all of the cash and change that she has. The cab ride was twelve dollars and her cash is woefully short.

“May Allah bless you!” the driver says, as she exits the cab, snapping open her umbrella.  The rain pelts down, drenching her sneakers.  She steps into a puddle, finding her footing on the curb.  “Thank you very much,”  she says, shutting the door of the cab.

Unlocking the door of her apartment building, she turns around, waving goodbye to the driver.  She enters the building, finding herself smiling in spite of the grey, the rain. She shakes her umbrella closed and begins to climb the stairs.

The Case for Millennials

The Case for Millennials

These days, all one must do is open a magazine, scroll through the news, or speak with a friend, and the topic will surely wend its way to “the problem with Millennials.” Technically, the Millennials are the demographic with a birth year beginning in 1980 and ending in the early 2000’s. They follow Generation X’ers and are referred to as “Echo Boomers.”

I, for one, am fed up with the complaints lobbed against this group of adults. I read that they are self-centered, that they know how to text, but don’t pick up a phone, that they are not team players and float from job to job on a regular basis. This only skims the surface of  Millennial bashing: they are taking an awfully long time to grow up, are refusing to emigrate from urban areas to suburbs, they insist on “safe spaces” and require kid gloves in college. Indeed, these folks spend enormous sums of funds on avocado toast, have very particular tastes in vegan food and the like, and insist on “pour overs” for their coffee of choice. After spending all of this money on specialty foods, they complain about being broke, and run to Mom and Dad.

Come on people. I’m talking to you, Baby Boomers. Let’s get real. I’d like to take a trip to the not-to-distant past: the past of the Baby Boomer, the DINKS, the YUPPIES. Let us not forget our own unrivaled reputation. How can you forget the criticism heaped upon our own generation? We were born between the end of World War II and the late 1960’s. We rejected the values of our elders, protested Vietnam and wore ripped Levis blue jeans. Yet we wound up becoming the wealthiest, most active and most fit generation to date. We increased consumerism, and were criticized for our excess. We thought of ourselves as a “special” generation. We were the first generation to grow up with television, influencing advertising, aimed right at us. And what was wrong with all of this? We were self-centered (sound familiar?), refused to grow up, and postponed having children. We basked in our professionalism, our success, our double-incomes. Compared to our parents, who married young and had children in their 20’s, we stretched out our adolescence as far as we could, indulging in income-fueled lifestyles.

So the Millennials like their avocado toast—we indulged in fancy triple cream cheeses and became wine connoisseurs just to spite our whiskey-drinking parents. The Millennials shop in vintage and consignment shops. This should put us to shame! We were the generation to embrace labels—starting with those oh-so-famous Brooke Shields Calvin Klein jeans. Trendy nightclubs, hot restaurants, fancy cars? We invented them. We are the disposable generation. Does your closet look too crowded? Don’t worry—you will feel zen-like if you toss it all and start from scratch.

Still smarting from some of the Baby Boomer criticism, it pains me to hear similar insults heaped upon my children, who range in age from 31 to 21. Yes-I have three Millennials of my own. They are launched in the world, and live in Millennial-havens: Brooklyn, Oakland and Wesleyan University. What’s a Mom to do? Well, for one thing, I take great pride in their accomplishments. I see how frugally they live to make a go of it in their hip neighborhoods. Yes, their rent is sky high, but I remember my parents blanching at what I paid in rent when I moved to the Big Apple.

The Millennials are too connected to social media and the Internet, the criticism goes on.  Hey folks–It was accessible to them, growing up. What did we expect? That they would begin typing papers on their MAC’s in elementary school, text friends and set up Facebook accounts only to ditch all of this when they began to work? No, Boomers, that’s not how it works. Think back—what was new and revolutionary in our day? You’ve got it! Television. Television was going to supersede books and radio. There was a time when MTV threatened to obliterate the radio, and the concept of listening to music. All of this concern was nonsense. Books have not disappeared, and music holds a greater part of our hearts than ever before. Let’s give our Millennials a chance to balance their lives too. The 20’s are a notoriously difficult decade. One must find oneself and set the course for a future that looms, but is a bit murky. Down the road, I feel confident that my children will limit the Internet and television for their children, just the way that I did. After all, we did raise them with our values. Some of that must have sunk in!

Rather than bash the generation of young adults finding their way, let us celebrate and support them. Accept who they are and appreciate their talents. Yes—they can do wonders with technology and if we are honest, we are a wee bit jealous of this. Accept who you are, Boomers, and take this wonderful generation under your wings. They are thrifty, eco-conscious, and well educated. They came of age during a tough recession and are still trying to find their way out of that hole. They live in cities, take the subway and reduce the carbon footprint. They are much more conscious of their impact on the universe than we ever were, and will make their mark, just as we did.

Millennials, live your dreams, make a difference, and ignore the critics. I, for one, am on your side.


“Hello honey,” she said, just as I would have said to my son.“Where are you right now?” she continued, with a sense of urgency. This piqued my interest. It was an unusual question to provoke such angst. I leaned forward in my blue printed chair and looked through the contents of the bag at my feet, ostensibly looking for a book, a pen, maybe my iPad, or a magazine.

“Uh, huh, ok,” she said quickly. “If you are there and you plan to stay, here is what I want you to do. No hanging around Melvin. He is no good. And no staying past 8 o’clock. No good will come of that either. Don’t’ want you getting into trouble. You hear?”
The train slowed as it crossed over the bridge in Trenton, and then gathered momentum, swaying side to side. The car smelled of disinfectant and sweat. My chair sagged from much use. I shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“And what are you wearing?” she continued, speaking softly, but intently. “Yeah, you know I don’t like you wearing that. It worries me. I have told you before.”
There was a pause. What was he wearing? I flipped open my magazine and studied the perfume ad. It showed two extravagantly dressed, beautiful young models, riding a horse bareback across an open field. Her arms wound tightly around his waist, and she rested her head on his strong shoulder. They wore Wellington boots, providing a stark contrast to the tuxedo, the evening dress.
“Take the hoodie off. Take it off right now. You want to make sure that everyone can see your face. Did you shave today? What you doing with your hoodie on and what you doing with Melvin?” She was whispering loudly now. I could hear her clearly if I leaned my head to the left of my seat and rested it against the glass window. The wheels of the Amtrak car screeched, drumming against the track that bore it to New York City.
“Yeah, and then what will you do? Call me when you get home, please. Right away. I will be back later tonight. I want to see you in the house when I get home. In the house. When I get home.”
She sounded agitated; a mother, worried about her child. The hoodie–it reminded me of another story: a boy, with skittles–a neighborhood vigilante, racial profiling, and then a shooting. The boy had been only seventeen. One year younger than my son. I sat up straight, closing my magazine.
“And will you stay there, for now? Or will you be somewhere else before you come home? Oh yeah? No, I don’t think so. I really don’t think so. don’t go there, Earl. Please. At least you are safe in Center City, until it gets darker. Was that Melvin’s idea? I don’t like him.”
My felt felt warm and a dizziness washed over me. My boy was probably sitting in a large classroom right now, or sleeping in the secure dorm room of the University. The campus was protected by an interior quadrangle, security staff, emergency phone boxes on every corner and required card identification slots for all entrances and exits. He was privileged, and white. He would be relatively clean. We had purchased a few new articles of clothing from a shop before he headed up to school earlier that fall. They would probably be wrinkled now–maybe dirty. We would meet at a vegan restaurant on 117th and Broadway. The dizziness passed. I pressed my lips together and closed my eyes.
“So, Earl,” the woman continued, softly. “You know that I would be there, if I could. Have you heard from your father? No? I see. You take good care of yourself. You know that I love you. I want to see you when I get home. Goodbye, Earl.”
Focusing on my glossy magazine, I skimmed over a story about making your life the best that it can be. I heard the woman on the phone stuff her phone in a bag and inhale. A newspaper snapped open, and she exhaled.