"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

New York Minute

By Ben Belth

When I arrived at SUNY Purchase for college orientation in 1992, I was greeted in my dorm suite by a tall Puerto Rican dude wearing a Magic Johnson Lakers jersey. He looked like what I wanted to feel like: big, capable, calm. He was busy wrapping black tape around the frame of his messenger bike.

Whatsup, he said and tightened his hand around the bike’s front fork. I didn’t answer right away so he stopped what he was doing and looked up. I said whatsup? You look like…he smiled and bugged out his eyes and said BLEUUAAH!

Country mouse meet city mouse. Ben meet Jay. He was older than me, about 21 already. Had a daughter and a criminal record. Was trying to find his footing, too. But he was confident. Had two girlfriends inside a week, one who was late night Robin Byrd, the other who was daytime TV. He had charisma to burn and he lit it off from both ends. He was a sometime dealer, sometime philosophy major. Trouble. But he never got in so deep that he couldn’t charm his way out. He took good care of his daughter. We had a soft spot for each other, being so different but lost touch after I moved away from school.

Then 10 years later, there he was. There I was. Living in the same north Manhattan neighborhood.

I’d see him around all the time. Me with my little kids, him still shucking and jiving. His daughter was all grown and in college herself. Jay had moved from dealing trees to dealing Tees. He had a line of shirts that he sold at the local café and all the hipsters loved them. They were authentic, smart, cool without being corny. Just like Jay.

My wife and I got sick of the city. We moved to north Westchester, far, but not too far. After 19 years, I was a country mouse again and Í didn’t miss the subway yet, I didn’t miss the food yet. I didn’t miss anything except Jay.

So I went back and found him at the café. Gave him a dude hug. He gave my son a pound. I turned to see who else was hanging around and when I turned back, Jay was gone. Just like that.

My son asked me where Jay went? I shrugged and ordered a cup of coffee. A New York Minute was all I really needed anyway.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  New York Minute  NYC

Tags:  ben belth  inwood

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 17, 2011 9:35 am

Nice piece. So funny. Hey, that's my bro writing, you guys.

2 Ben   ~  Oct 17, 2011 10:08 am

NY Minute is my favorite segment and I'm honored to be a part of the great writing here at the Banter.

3 Jon DeRosa   ~  Oct 17, 2011 10:09 am

Ben, you mean your heart didn't become heavy with regret when you heard about the recent increase in brazen daylight crime?

Great story, hope to see you here since I won't see you there anymore...

4 Ben   ~  Oct 17, 2011 10:17 am

Jon, I'm always here. Reading and learning from you guys.

And no. No regrets. We miss the folks, the incidental way you meet up around playgrounds and parks. But a big patio and open invitation have been the right medicine. Lemme know if you need a country break! I wanna see J.'s curveball.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 17, 2011 10:22 am

I remember when the guy in question above was in his former business he had a card with the PBS logo. But instead of Public Broadcast System it said Public Budda System.

6 ms october   ~  Oct 17, 2011 10:42 am

nice piece ben.
that's the cool thing about ny minute. and even though much of this feature is specific to nyc living a ny minute is really just a state of mind.
glad you were able to run into this fellow and keep it moving.

[1] you we figured that! :}

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