When my young friend turned around, I could not help but notice the shiner under his left eye. Some guys tried to rob him as he got out of his car. A scuffle ensued, with my friend adamantly maintaining that he got in some good blows, but clearly, he also took one. The would-be robbers ran off when a shopkeeper came out of his store, and my friend lost nothing. I commiserated with him and told him about various incidents involving me, the spouse, and the daughter. I asked him if his girlfriend had been with him. “No,” he said, but he saw her the next day. He said that she had been very sympathetic. He hesitated for a moment. A slight grin appeared—his first smile of the evening. Then he said, “Sympathetic sex is very good.”

“To me, the movie [It’s a Wonderful Life] meant that if you become unhappy enough, almost anything can pass as happiness.” Akhil Sharma, Family Life.

I was looking in a bookstore window a few blocks from the theater when I heard three men walking past me discussing the Romanian film I had just seen. One said something about Roman, the main character, and continued by asking, “How could he do that to his beautiful girlfriend?” One of the other men maintained, “She was not that beautiful.” And then the trio of men, without any women accompanying them, drifted out of ear shot.

A man stumbled on the corner. His legs would not hold him up. He fell. With much effort, he got up. He weaved about. He fell again. Two women crossing the street came up to him where he lay in the gutter of the crosswalk. They tried to help him stand. He had a slight build, but he was too much for them. Quickly the cook from the nearby Middle Eastern restaurant came out and helped the man to walk a few yards to a stoop where he could sit. A server from the restaurant brought out a glass of water and a cup of coffee. Shortly afterwards, the cook and one of the women helped the man, who had an expensive-looking haircut, into the restaurant. Someone had called emergency services, which arrived in a few minutes. The two emergency services workers loaded him on to a gurney and then into the back of an ambulance, which drove off. One of the restaurant patrons who had gone over to the disabled man said that he had taken ketamine, a horse tranquilizer. During the entire time, the man had a death grip on his telephone held in front of his chest.

Remember “crack babies”? Twenty years ago, the press was filled with stories about children being born to mothers addicted to crack cocaine, often somewhat politely called “crack mothers,” but often labeled “crack whores.” The kids were supposedly permanently damaged and would harm society for generations to come. So, they should be harming us inordinately right now. Why don’t we hear about that? Is it because those scare stories weren’t true? And a quick experiment. Imagine a “crack baby” or a “crack mother.” Did any of you see a white woman or white child?

Someone who had known me for decades said, “When I first met you, I thought you were incredibly arrogant—the kind of person who thought his feces did not stink.” He pronounced “feces” with a hard “c”.

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