John Dugan has lived exactly 87 years.
“Today is my birthday,” he tells everyone within earshot on the 2 train.
Most of his life has been spent within walking distance of Yankee Stadium.
“I’ve been going there as long as I can remember,” Dugan says. “I worked for a popcorn vendor on River Avenue when I was a kid and would sneak into the bleachers once the game started.
“I didn’t go enough after the war (World War II),” he explains. “There were times when I was too tired from working too much and other times when I was too broke from not working enough.
“But there’s really no excuse for missing too many baseball games,” Dugan admits. “Those are the good times and there are never enough of them. Take it from someone who knows.”
He speaks with a lifetime of experience.
“I’ve been through plenty,” Dugan says. “There’s been good and bad, but I guess that’s how it always is.”
“What’s the worst you’ve been through?” someone asks.
“I don’t think you ever really know,” Dugan explains. “You may think things are bad, but they can always get worse. I grew up during the Depression and thought that was bad.
“But the war was really bad,” he continues. “When I was in France and Belgium and Germany I would have loved to be shivering under the covers in my little apartment in the Bronx.”
“What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen?” someone else asks.
“My wife,” he says. “I met her walking down the Grand Concourse and we were married just before the Army shipped me overseas.
“We were together for 67 years,” Dugan continues. “I lost the best part of me when she died last year. I’ve managed to keep it going, but it’ll never be the same.”
Dugan shakes his head.
“She always baked me a chocolate birthday cake,” he says. “I don’t ever eat chocolate cake anymore because it couldn’t be as good.
“Baseball isn’t as good either,” Dugan continues, “but I still want to go to Yankee Stadium like we used to do together. Sunday afternoon games were our favorite. I’ll go on a hot day and afterwards I will get an Italian ice and sit in the park until dark.
“Yeah,” he says. “I’ll do that one last time.”