47th & Mohammad

By: Madeline Klosterman/The American in Italia

Mohammad stood behind his vending pushcart on Manhattan’s 47th street. He wore a heavy coat and a plaid winter scarf wrapped around his head like a turban. He was bundled up against the cold and chilling wind that barreled down Broadway.

He had a prime location outside of the M&M candy store in the chaotic hustle of Times Square and kept company with a Nigerian selling knock-off hand bags and Russians peddling framed images of the Brooklyn Bridge.

I worried about him after the terrorist attacks in Paris and the general suspicion of Muslims that ensued. I was somehow certain he must be affected by the events in France. I walked over to see how he was.

“Salaam, Mohammed,” I yelled, my voice barely audible above the city din.

He looked up at me, smiling. “Salaam!”

I passed Mohammed daily on my way to the gym at lunch hour. He always seemed happy despite having to face the elements daily. He kept a prayer mat close by. If he wasn’t standing behind the grill, I could find him on his knees praying mere inches from the street curb.

“It’s too cold today, Mohammad,” I said, huddling under my coat.

“Yes, yes,” he said smiling with a shrug. “What can you do? This is life.”

“It is indeed,” I replied.

Mohammad began his usual series of questions. “How is your family? How are your parents? Is everyone okay?”

“Yes, everyone’s fine, thank you,” I said lying, wanting to avoid personal details.

“Thank God,” he said, raising his hands toward the sky then laying them on his heart. “Thank God.”

I shrugged my shoulders in response. He knows I’m an atheist but he doesn’t seem to care. God is what he knows.

I learned over the years that he emigrated from Jordan. “There’s no work there,” he once told me. “I had to come here to eat. I still try to send money back.” He has two grown sons and his wife died several years ago.

On this particular day, with so much discussion of Muslims in the news, I was glad to see he was his normal cheerful self. I detected no worry on his face.

“Come, let me give you something to eat, something to drink,” he said, waving his plastic-gloved hands over his grill of kebabs. “Whatever you want.”

“No, thank you, Mohammad. I’m going to work out now.”

“Maybe on your way back then? You have to eat something.”

“Maybe,” I said, smiling and went to the sports club in the next block. He seemed fine, but maybe he simply didn’t want to talk about what was on his mind.

When I returned from the gym, Mohammad was waiting for me. “Come, I want to ask you something.”

His face grew quizzical and I thought perhaps things were not all right after all. Maybe he might now open up and share his experience being Muslim in America or speak out on current events. I was concerned and listened with attention.

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

He cocked his head and set his eyes to twinkling. “You know I don’t have my wife and I work here all day and go home alone. Don’t you need someone to be with?”

I smiled big, outside and in. For all my concern about my Muslim friend, he was just tying to pick me up — a different and more reassuring kind of current event.

“Ah, Mohammed. That’s very sweet of you to ask, but no, I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

He shrugged unbothered. “You are such a nice girl. Maybe you will change your mind, Inshallah.”

I smiled with relief, waving as I went on my way. “Salaam Mohammad.”

Now it’s official. I can report to France no crisis here. At least not on 47th street where my friend Mohammad is just fine.

Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

2 thoughts on “47th & Mohammad

  1. Thank you for this story. We are human we come to this country to start a new life. We choose and love this America God Bless you


  2. Wow, superb blog format! How long have you ever been running a blog for? you made blogging look easy. The total glance of your website is magnificent, let alone the content!


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