Shelley Secombe, Photographer

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

Sunday mornings used to be the opportunity for breakfast out and sometimes a day trip for bird-watching. For the past sixty-odd years, we’ve always had a car in the city (a “beater” parked on the street). I drove to my job on the Upper East Side and loved the freedom to explore on weekends. My husband preferred to “sleep in,” so I’d pick up my friend Anne Marie in Stuy town and head for Long Island or New Jersey spots.

One Sunday morning–it must have been at least a decade ago–I set out early carrying all my gear: camera, binoculars, extra batteries, hat, sunscreen, snacks, water, etc. I also picked up a bag of trash to drop in the Dumpster parked at the west end of the courtyard. Cutting through the lobby space now known as the Project Room, I went out the door and headed for West Street, where my car was parked. I tossed the trash in the Dumpster and went to load the car. I searched my pocket and found the keys, then checked my stuff for money . . . but where was my purse? I was sure I had it when I left the apartment. O.M. G., could I have thrown it away with the garbage?

Panicked, I ran back into the courtyard, nearly colliding with James, a nice young man on the maintenance crew, who was sweeping. I explained my fears and, in a New York minute, James climbed up into the Dumpster and rescued my purse, which was fortunately right near the outside edge on the top layer. That’s the truth–I never felt so lucky!

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