“A Universe Lies on the Sidewalks of New York” is an intriguing reflective essay narrated by Steven Doloff, a man who lives on Long Island, New York, amidst bleak surroundings. Strangely enough, Doloff’s tone throughout the essay expresses his unfazed mindset, despite the dreary environment around him. Doloff’s diction in the second sentence strongly reinforces this claim, especially Doloff’s use of the word “cute” to describe a specific type of bullet. When Doloff comments, “I have found cute little .22 caliber shells," I am flabbergasted at Doloff’s undaunted attitude towards the discovery of a sidewalk littered with bullets (Doloff, 174). Doloff’s tranquil reaction to the whole situation fills me with a strong desire to ask a question as I read. How Doloff did became so acclimated to the hostile environment in which he resides? Another aspect of the essay that captivates me is how Doloff sees the discarded bullet fragments as collectible mementos from his experiences living in Long Island, New York. This part brings some phrases rushing to mind. Doloff’s peculiar collectibles strongly reminds me of the phrase, “another man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
Ironically, it seems like Doloff makes small matters out things that would normally arouse strong reactions from most people. However, he tends to place the smallest and most seemingly insignificant items on a pedestal. For example, Doloff takes time to ponder about where the bullet fragments in his collection came from. It gives the impression that Doloff finds beauty in miniscule things when he reflects, “With every one I have picked up, I wondered the same things (Doloff, 174).” Furthermore, Doloff meticulously describes something as commonplace as gum spots by size and color. Doloff declares the gum spots as “perhaps the most intriguing item on the streets (Doloff, 175).” He seems in awe when he discusses an incident where he watches a street cleaner try to get rid of the gum spots. On page 175, Doloff calls the street cleaner’s task” futile”, which strengthens my belief that Doloff is impressed with the endurance of the gum spots. I like how Doloff metaphorically compares the plethora of gum spots to an asteroid belt in the sixth paragraph. In my opinion, Doloff’s metaphor sheds light on his reflective essay’s slightly ambiguous title, “A Universe Lies on the Sidewalks of New York.” The way Doloff takes something so small like gum spots and places it in a macrocosmic context, is enchanting to me because I’ve never seen this done. Doloff also does something in the latter part of the essay that makes me further marvel at his work here. Through his writing, the patches of gum are actually personified and portrayed as worthy of compassion with the statement: “I almost feel sorry for these untrammeled innocents, these newly attached freckles to the concrete skin of our city (Doloff, 175).” Even though he is talking about an inanimate object, I can kind of comprehend his logic regarding the next generation of gum patches. The sentence inspires me to think about the future, when Doloff’s words will have become true. To reiterate, Doloff proclaims, “They will outlive me and the future belongs to them," on page 175. I can understand where he’s coming from because eventually humans die, but the gum spots will still be around. Lastly, the most relevant part of the essay to me is the last sentence, “It’s not all good news on the sidewalk, but it’s the truth (Doloff, 175).” I think this sentence alone summarizes the whole essay. The last sentence gives the essay an element of “grit lit.” I like this sentence because it illustrates that Doloff is a realistic writer. This sentence may explain Doloff’s nonchalant tone throughout the essay. I have a bias against writers that come off as naïve when they write, so Doloff’s realism is refreshing to me as a reader.
Steven Doloff’s “A Universe Lies on the Sidewalks of New York” is a fascinating reflective essay. In this reflective essay, Doloff reflects on his experiences while living in Long Island, New York. Doloff’s essay inspires controversial thoughts when I reflect on the essay. I usually associate grandeur with the state of New York. Doloff’s writing is obviously the contrary, because he finds value in ordinary things. Through his writing, Doloff belittles things that would normally provoke stronger reactions, but glorifies ordinary things like bullet fragments and gum spots. Even though Doloff’s mentality in this work is perplexing and seems embellished, “A Universe Lies on the Sidewalks of New York” is still a great read without a doubt. This reflective essay has given me a new outlook on the small things in life. After reading this, I wonder if humanity will ever see the world as Doloff does. Perhaps, the human race will one day be seen similar to how we typically see gum spots through the eyes of another species.