My Saturday morning routine in Manhattan is one that brings me tremendous joy. I take the C train to Columbus Circle and then walk to Alvin Ailey Studios on 55th and 9th. You know that adage, “You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching?” That’s me! Standing near the front, surrounded by what has become “my regular group,” the instructor leads us through a high energy Zumba-esque routine and within minutes everyone’s energy is contagious. After an hour of sweating prayers, I feel like the weekend is off to a wonderful start.
This weekend after dance, I needed to run an errand on my way home. With Passover’s approach, I was planning to cook, but my favorite kitchen grater was no where to be found. (After my third move in 2 years, there are still a few small things waiting to be found—the grater being one of them.) So I stopped into Sur La Table, quickly found the stainless steel grater, paid and without taking a bag, popped it into the top of my backpack.
I headed back to the subway, passing by Turnstyle, a bright and cheery market in the tunnel at Columbus Circle. It’s filled with pastries, organic juices, poke bowls, empanadas and even grilled cheese sandwiches. As I continued towards the subway, there were flower stalls, a window filled with bath and body products, a hat store and a pet shop—all ready for the impulsive shopper in all of us. I was drawn to the smell of coffee and decided to contribute to the economy at Starbucks. The menu listed a new iced almond milk, cinnamon macchiato. Perfect!
So, what I wanted to write about is not really about the above, but what happened after I got on the subway headed home. For some reason, a number of trains had been cancelled this weekend. As I got on the subway, a young man and I conversed briefly about having to take the Express A train instead of the Local A. (Contrary to popular belief, we New Yorkers are friendly. Yes, we walk briskly and multi-task on our phones, but if we interact, it is wholeheartedly!) The young man and I sat next to each other for the 30-minute ride uptown. I guessed he was Israeli, but he corrected me. He was a Venezuelan Jew, born to a Moroccan mother and a German father. He mentioned that he was traveling to Miami the next day for Seder. So then we talked food! As we discussed the difference between Sephardic Seder and Ashkenazi Seder, he noticed the grater peeking from my backpack. I told him I was going to be grating pounds and pounds of zucchini for “Almodrote de Kalavasas” (zucchini pie) for 25 people and my anxiety was a little high. He laughed.
We talked about Miami, café con leche, and his new job. We laughed about the similarities of culture and commiserated over the overwhelming family obligations during the high holidays. In the end, we agreed that no matter how much we complain, these traditions are incredibly beautiful.
When the train doors opened at 125th Street, the young man got up. As he stepped out of the train, he turned back to me and said, “Happy Pesach.” As the doors closed, I realized I didn’t even know his name. I suddenly wanted to yell, “Avi? Joel? Jonathan? I have a smart and beautiful daughter who is your age, can I have your phone number?” Thankfully, I didn’t. As I settled back into the plastic seat I smiled, realizing I was probably channeling my grandmother Esther.
Happy Passover. Happy Easter. Happy just Happy.