"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

New York Minute

I was cooking yesterday afternoon when a knock came at my front door. It was a neighbor. She was crying so I invited her in. She is not from this country and just received news about one of her parents who is ill. She hoped to return home in time to see them before things got worse and asked if I could feed her cats while she’s gone.

“Of course,” I said. I hugged her. She smelled of cigarette smoke. I was surprised to find the smell reassuring.

She talked some more and aplogized for her tears. I listened and told her that she didn’t need to apologize. I offered to cook her some food, told her she could stop by later if she needed company. She said she was okay and I didn’t want to push.

Man, I can’t imagine what it must be like to live so far from your family.

[Photo Credit: Lanier67]

Categories:  Bronx Banter  New York Minute

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1 rbj   ~  Feb 7, 2011 10:41 am

Four 4 years during law & library school I was in the Pacific NW, while parents were in NY. That seemed like a long distance. Now I'm not willing to be more than a day's (long day's) drive from family.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 7, 2011 11:09 am

Some people, especially women, wear the scent of cigarette smoke better than others. I generally can't stand the smell, but on women it can be pleasant, or even alluring.

3 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 7, 2011 11:19 am

Oh, and good on you, Alex for being the kind of neighbor a neighbor can rely on.

4 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 7, 2011 11:31 am

2) I know, isn't that weird? Maybe it reminded me of my grandmother who smelled like cigarette smoke underneath her perfume. And hell, yeah, got to show up for your neighbors.

5 Sliced Bread   ~  Feb 7, 2011 11:51 am

[4] yeah, but before you can show up for your neighbors you have to be the kind of person they'd feel comfortable enough, or respect enough to "impose" on. To me, it speaks very well of you that a neighbor, a casual acquaintance would ask for your help. Believe me, not everybody is as accessible, or approachable - and not just in the big city, but everywhere. Good show, bro.

6 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 7, 2011 12:02 pm

Shoot, thanks man. I always feel the way to feel a sense of community starts with yourself. If you don't spread that feeling how can you expect to get it back? At least in a big place like NYC.

7 thelarmis   ~  Feb 7, 2011 12:19 pm

i'm an ex cigarette smoker. i generally abhor the smell anywhere, anytime, on anyone...

yeah, being neighborly isn't always so easy. i'm generally very quiet and private and can be seen as aloof. but i've got a great rapport with my 2 new neighbors and always kept a handful at my old apt. complex. there was an elderly man downstairs from me and i checked on him regularly for an entire decade. wasn't always easy; esp. when the lifelong southern baptist somehow found out i was jewish! but i kinda felt a responsibility toward him and felt good to monitor and be there for him...

i'm about a thousand miles away from my family, who are all up in NY. it's the same country and time zone, but man, it's really far away. would be sooo much better if i could see them more regularly...

8 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Feb 7, 2011 5:03 pm

[0] Well done, AB. Sucks being very far away from your family..thank ye gods for Skype.

Smoking here is declining, though still much more prevalent than in US. It has changed though, when I first go there "No Smoking" seat at a restaurant or bar meant they take the ashtray away..now Kanagawa-Prefecture (right south of Tokyo, where Yokohama is) has a new law making banning smoking in most public places except for select bars and eateries..

9 ericmccarthy   ~  Feb 8, 2011 7:20 am

Yup being away is hard. My wife and I have one foot in Germany and the other in NY. One of us is always away. The Germans have a word for their hometown/region and the feelings it evokes, Heimat, which strictly translate mean home or home country but it's more than that. Hard to describe, and this feeling is spoken by Germans passionately when they're away.


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