Citymeals on Wheels recipient Michael in his Kips Bay apartment.

“I’m the happiest guy you’re going to meet!” says Michael with a huge smile. The 69-year-old has been living in the same apartment in Kips Bay for the past four decades. It’s rent-stabilized — Michael doesn’t think he’d be able to afford it otherwise.

Living there as long as he has, Michael is friendly with many of his older neighbors. Three years ago, as it became harder for several of them to leave their apartments, Michael was the one who reached out to Citymeals on Wheels on their behalf. Since then, Michael and a few of his neighbors in need have been receiving home-delivered meals.

During the pandemic, though, the number of friendly faces dwindled. A couple moved to Florida, one woman moved to New Jersey to live with her son, another passed away. Now it’s just Michael and his upstairs neighbor, Bonnie. She’s in her 90s. When the meals arrive in the morning, Michael likes to call her to give her a heads up, so she has a chance to “put on her face.”

I'm the happiest guy you're ever going to meet! 

Michael was born and raised on the Lower East Side, where his grandfather owned a bakery. Part of the thriving Jewish community, his grandfather and customers primarily spoke Yiddish. It was his father’s first language. Michael has fond memories of celebrating Jewish holidays with his family: "For Hanukkah, my mother would cook up everything, and it would be just fabulous. She would always make something special for dessert. We loved her egg kugel—it was to die for." Even when Michael moved away for college, he would always fly home for Hannukah and attend services at Riverdale Temple. 

 Michael’s father didn’t take over the family business. Instead, he started one of his own — a construction estimating service. His work took him all over the world, often for months at a time. When Michael was a teenager, his father took him along on a business trip to Thailand. Michael and his brother jumped at the opportunity. For the next few years, Michael lived in Thailand on and off with his dad. He quickly adapted to the new country, making friends and learning the language. He became so used to the food, culture and weather that coming back to New York City was a shock. Michael recalls arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in December during a snowstorm. Used to a much hotter climate, he’d worn shorts and a tank top. His dad was wearing a light linen suit. “My dad was frozen, and I was blue,” he says.

Michael graduated college and went on to work with his father. He used his time off to travel. He’s been to every country in Asia, as well as a couple in Europe. His home is filled with keepsakes from his adventures — photos, art and statuettes. Hanging on a wall in the living room is a black silk print, embroidered with gold thread. That one’s special. He bought it on his first trip to Thailand.

But, nowadays, Michael rarely leaves his neighborhood. He suffers from nerve pain and experiences numbness in his legs. He goes to physical therapy to manage it, but if he’s walking more than a block or two on foot, he needs his walker. Grocery shopping is hard, which is why he appreciates the meal deliveries, especially the holiday boxes he receives for Passover. “It’s fantastic, I love them!” he says. And, of course, when he misses Thailand, there’s a great Thai restaurant nearby that delivers.

Michael wishes he could go back to visit, but at his age, he doesn’t think he could handle the 20-hour flight. “If I get off that plane, they’ll have to pry me off that seat with a spatula!” he says with a laugh. These days, Michael has to content himself with a short day trip, to visit his brother or niece and nephew. Luckily, as the happiest guy you’re going to meet, he’s more than content. If he had to be stuck in one place, Michael would choose Manhattan every time. “I love the city,” he says. “I’m not going to move to the boondocks — up north, there’s nothing there! I’d visit other places but, no, I’m not moving.”