Archive for the ‘Neighbors’ Category

Service of “Can I Do Anything For You?”

Monday, January 29th, 2024

When my friend suggested the idea for this post so many other examples popped into my head.

She texted, “‘Can I do anything for you?’ coming from friends seems to be a throwaway comment when someone is sick or recovering from surgery–empty words when they do nothing if there is not anything you need immediately.”

Such friends, especially neighbors, remind me of a guest firmly planted in his/her chair at the dinner table who asks, “Need any help?” and doesn’t budge to clear so much as a matchstick. [I know: Some don’t want help. I’m not talking about them.]

My friend recalled being extremely ill when she was young with an infant at home and too shy, when posed that question, to ask for help which, she thinks, is why she’s especially sensitive when temporarily disabled these days. She told an able-bodied dog walking neighbor in her apartment building who joined the “can I do anything?” chorus that she craved a cupcake from a bakery down the street, as a test. She really didn’t need one.

She wrote: “I don’t mean to sound like I am keeping score but like you I am always thinking about what I can do for others -not expecting something in return. But why ask that question if you don’t really mean it? The locals also stopped even checking in!”

I know what she means. When my broken foot was at first ensconced in a boot, I wasn’t supposed to walk more than three blocks and I exceeded that restriction just to get to the office. So once there, I didn’t move much. The only person who ever asked if I needed anything when she’d head out for lunch or to run an errand was a young temp assistant. Were my office neighbors afraid I’d stiff them the cost of a soda or sandwich or were they simply oblivious?

Not all neighbors are passive, insensitive, or unconscious. This happened to the parents of another friend. They had recently moved to an apartment in Florida from their home in upstate New York when her dad became terminally ill. A neighbor would ring her bell on the way to a grocery store asking for her list. And they knew the schedule she followed to rotate her husband’s position in bed so he wouldn’t get bedsores. She was petite and needed help. One of the neighbors was at her door several times every day, on the dot, without being asked.

Why do we utter “can I do anything for you?” the way we say, “how are you?” without listening to the answer or planning to address the response with action?

Service of Money & Its Impact On Relationships with a Relative, Friend and Neighbor

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Image by Louise Dav from Pixabay 

Money was at the root of three of four questions that Philip Galanes answered in “Social Q’s” in The New York Times last week. Each involved people who were unrealistic about other people’s circumstances. One paid the price and two were tone deaf about others’ financial challenges.

  • A mother wanted advice about what to do. Her daughter had $100,000 in college loans that ma had co-signed. Meanwhile the mother was divorced and wanted to buy a house so she expected the kid to take over the loan. The daughter, a fine arts major making $18/hour at a restaurant, refused to take responsibility.
  • Another was a woman who paid a $400/year theater subscription because her friend was experiencing hard times. As the woman’s husband had found a job the writer wanted to know if she should now ask for half the cost of the subscription.
  • The last was from a person whose neighbor’s home badly needed painting. Painters refreshed three sides of the peeling house. They then stopped, packed up and left. The wall facing the writer remained an eyesore.

I suggest that all three writers reaped what they had planted. Of the mother Galanes asked, did she really think that a fine arts major was going to be able to pay off $100,000? He also wondered why the father hadn’t shared the financial burden. I agree with the Times columnist.

He told the second woman that just because her friend’s husband was now employed didn’t mean that she didn’t continue to have financial challenges and if the money didn’t mean that much to her and she enjoyed her friend’s company at the shows, to pay and not mention the imbalance. I suspect that when she can, the friend will pay her half.

Seems that the people who own a second home that they fully remodeled in a beach community with modest houses none of which had such a do over didn’t look around them. Clearly their neighbors didn’t have similar deep pockets. She wrote Galanes: “When my husband asked our neighbor when she planned to finish the job, she said she ran out of money. Am I wrong to be annoyed? It can’t cost that much to paint one side of a house.” I say kudos to the neighbors who didn’t spend more money than they have. And I bet the whiner thought she was getting a bargain where she bought her house. So much for that.

Do you have examples of people who have issues or misunderstandings with others over money?

Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Service of a Happy Ending: Coogan’s Stays Open in Washington Heights

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

I’m a sucker for happy endings and a recent one that hit the spot is about a 33 year old Washington Heights, NY restaurant/bar, Coogan’s, that was being forced to close when its lease ran out in spring because of a $40,000 rent increase–to $60,000/month–according to

In two days Coogan’s gathered 18,000 signatures on a petition to save the Broadway and 169th Street hangout. Under pressure the landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, agreed to lower the rent increase and the owners, Peter Walsh, Dave Hunt and Tess McDade, are staying put.

Before the agreement, according to, Walsh told the landlord: “’There’s community here, don’t build walls. Don’t pull a plug so fast on a person when they’re still breathing.’” reported: “During the neighborhood’s dark days of the 80s and 90s — which were plagued by drug-related violence — the restaurant remained open, owners told the Manhattan Times. ‘When we opened, we were one of the first integrated bars in New York, and maybe the country,’ Walsh told the Manhattan Times. ‘We were Dominican, African-American, Irish, Jewish, and everyone got along. We embraced the neighborhood. It worked. But thirty-three years ago, you didn’t see that kind of thing.’”

“‘We have served a very, very big part of the Washington Heights community in supplying that big living room that these apartments just don’t have,’ co-owner Dave Hunt told WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman.

“‘Now the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted out and said everybody should get onboard, that certainly helps,’ said Hunt.” WCBS also noted “‘Hamilton’ creator Lin-Manuel Miranda celebrated his birthdays there.”

It also doesn’t hurt when in addition to hefty neighborhood support your cause is picked up by local media such as The New York Times,,,, and for starters.

The owners are good souls—another reason so many jumped on board their cause and why the story resonated with me. Before the agreement happened, quoted the New York Times that the “owners are using their connections to help the 40 restaurant employees find jobs.”

There’s a flagrant contrast between the approach of this small business and the big ones that in spite of their tax windfall from the December 2017 “reform” bill are nevertheless collectively laying off millions—AT&T, Wal*Mart, Comcast, Carrier Corp. and Pfizer, to name some. Maybe we should rename “trickle down”  “riches up.”

Might this David & Goliath story be a template for supporting other worthy small fries against the greedy big ‘uns? Can you point to  instances where an aggressive collaboration by concerned citizens, backed by a celebrity and media, helped achieve a happy ending for a beloved neighborhood business?

Service of Neighborhood Characters

Monday, November 21st, 2016

Neighbor image for post 1 turned I’ve lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn much of my life and I’ve always noticed at least one mystery character in every neighborhood.

It’s no different today.

Nightly I walk home from the office on the west side of Second Avenue. There’s a stretch of restaurants with outdoor seating between 50th and 51st. All summer I noticed an elderly woman at the same spot, either working on a crossword puzzle or hunched over her mobile phone as she is in the photos above and below. There’s a drink on her table–maybe a cocktail–and a napkin on her lap. Perhaps she has already eaten or is waiting for her food as I’ve never seen a plate.

I noticed her because she was impeccably coiffed and expensively clad in a summer suit or dress with coordinated sweater, shoes and handbag–a different ensemble each time I saw her–and always alone. She was also much older than any of the diners around her.

Once I stopped to tell her I admired her fashion style and kept going. In summer, foot traffic is brisk on the slim slice of sidewalk that tables and chairs don’t hog. This doesn’t allow for hesitation by pedestrians rushing past in both directions.

It’s cold now but the outdoor tables were still in place last week and she was the only person at one of them in the lineup of restaurants one night. It gets dark early so she was sitting in obscurity, stooped over her phone, oblivious to passersby, honking and traffic. Her hair was windblown and instead of a drink, there was a coffee cup on the table.

I like to guess about neighborhood characters like this. Where does she live? What did she do for a living? Do her clothes fill all the rooms in her apartment or does she have many closets? It’s fun to make up positive stories.

Are there strangers who pique your curiosity in your neighborhood? Are they more obvious in a city as walking slows motion and better allows for observation than when you’re driving through town in a car?    Neighbor image for post 2 turned

Service of Neighbors

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

We were on the Metro-North Railroad last week when the conductor told us how his neighbors came to his aid on Mother’s Day. We’d been discussing the huge cost of anything related to trees from trimming to removal and installation.

The conductor had bought his wife a tree to celebrate the occasion and after lunch went to dig the hole to put it in the ground. Soon he confronted what most of us find in the soil of Dutchess County, NY: Lots of stones, rocks and small boulders. A slight man, neither his shovel nor his muscles were up to the job.

Noticing his dilemma, a neighbor came over with a bigger shovel and began to dig and soon there were two neighbors scooping out an appropriately big hole and lugging away the mini boulders. Our conductor ran for some beer and watched them finish the job, thankful that his tree was in place and that his only expense was a couple of beers.

This reminded me of a story a former managing editor of The Daily News told me years ago. The paper sent her to an intensive management course for a few days and she shared one of the instructor’s anecdotes. He told the class that at a cocktail party, one of his neighbors admired his vegetable garden and asked him if he might share his secrets. She invited him over to her house one Saturday and he ended up preparing the soil and planting the seeds while she watched.

A few weeks later she called to ask him if he might come over to tell him which were the weeds and which were the seedlings in her garden. As he weeded her garden, she sat on the porch sipping lemonade. “And this,” he said, “is an excellent example of management.”

What part of management is manipulation? Are helpful neighbors suckers for the most part? Do you feel good or like a chump when you help your neighbor either at home, at work or on a committee or board?

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