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December 2019
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Shaken, Not Stirred

Shaken, Not Stirred, originally uploaded by elefanterosado.

I met retired New York City police officer Gilberto Isac Flores Concepción at The Cuba Cafe in Chelsea. He laughed when I asked if I could take his picture.

“Ain’t nobody want my photo,” he smiled.

But I did. In fluent English and Spanish, Mr. Concepción told me about life as a police officer in the Bronx. He told me about a bullet that coursed through his stomach, and how his grandchildren like to draw on his scar and cover it with sand whenever they are at the beach. He has raised three children and five grandchildren. He served in the U.S. army during the Vietnam War.

When I told him how pleased I was to speak Spanish with someone who spoke so slowly and clearly, he told me that he speaks “palabra por palabra,” the way the language should be spoken.

“Why these Puerto Ricans need to speak so fast for? Why are their tongues in such a hurry?”

He likes to have a drink at The Cuba Cafe because it was there when he was growing up as a kid in the same neighborhood. His mother still lives down the street, three blocks away. He said he’s been trying to move her to his house in Puerto Rico.

But when I asked why he didn’t move to Puerto Rico in his retirement he responded: “You kidding? I’m a New Yorker. Be missin’ this place too much.”

He always orders the same drink.

“I ask the bartender for a 007. And they best be knowin’ what that is.”

This might just be my favorite of over a hundred shots I took in New York.

Bottoms up, Mr. Concepción.

8th & 21st Streets, New York, NY.