Things Ain’t What They Used To Be


“This was it?”

“Yes. The fourth floor. You cannot count the times your grandmother would carry the bags up those stairs. Hundreds. Thousands.”

The girl looked up the block. A group of Puerto Rican teenagers sat on a stoop, boys and girls both wearing the same white t-shirts and baggy khaki pants. A boom box thundered out Latin pop, broken and distorted as it echoed off the high walls of the neighborhood.

The old man saw her face, its alarm tinged with disgust.

“A different neighborhood then. We called it our shtetl.

She did not ask him for a translation.