I knew a man who ate only apple pie.

At least that is all I ever saw him eat.

This was at a mechanical shop on Adelphi Street in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, long ago.

Nearby, was Brooklyn Technical High School — the acclaimed "Tech," admission by examination only.

Entirely unacclaimed, I had flunked out of that grand institution and recently earned a diploma at night school that, as I always say when I tell the woeful story, was "ignominiously" located in the basement of — yup — Brooklyn Tech.

An early introduction to the heartlessness of irony, I still tell myself, looking back — graduating (without ceremony) from the dreary lower depths of the famous school to which I had managed to gain entry but hadn’t the smarts or good sense to survive. Months later, my diploma arrived in the mail.

Evidently, though, even a Tech reject and agent of his own ignominy was presumed a good enough bet to make him employable, and the shop — heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing — took me on as a draftsman trainee.

In that role, a 19-year-old apprentice might, for instance, spend hours drawing the plumbing schematics for a high-rise city housing development in Coney Island — one waste pipe after the other — and, at lunch time, be expected to take orders from the staff, front shop and back.

Among the tradesmen was an old sheet-metal worker I remember as "Mike," though it as easily could be "Ed" or "George" or "Artie" — any of those sturdy midcentury names — and it was Mike’s unwavering daily lunch order that I recently remembered.

"Mike?" I’d say, paper and pencil in hand.

"Apple pie," he’d answer with a pleasant smile. "Coffee, black."

"That it?"

"Pie," Mike said. "Coffee."

When the lunch orders arrived — the liverwurst sandwiches, the ham and swiss cheeses on hard roll, the tunas on toast, the pastramis, corned beefs and burgers — Mike, sitting on a bench near the front door, wearing a gray cap, rugged hands resting on his thighs, waited without a sign of impatience.

"Thank you, m’boy," he’d say when I brought his food. "Enjoy your lunch, too."

I wondered if Mike — small, slender, strong chin, taut forearms — varied his diet at home, whether he may have favored an apple turnover for breakfast and baked apple in the evening, and maybe a touch of Calvados before turning in, but we never spoke more than a few words each day. Lunch? Pie and coffee.

The other afternoon, I was sitting in my car outside a little bakery on the road named for Casimir Pulaski, the Polish nobleman who became a hero — and died — in the American Revolution, eating a biscuit with cheese and tomato but, really, just dispensing with preliminaries before I could dig into the miniature apple pie that has made the shop one of my favorite spots.

News was on the radio — another COVID-19 update — and I was reading a magazine article by The New Yorker magazine writer John McPhee filled with personal history and recollections from a noble career.

McPhee, 90, is a splendid practitioner, and I was swept away.

He tells of an encounter in Pamplona, Spain, many years ago with a man who looked like — and almost surely was — Ernest Hemingway but emphatically identified himself as another writer, leaving McPhee befuddled. He recalls his friend, author Peter Benchley, who could have quit after an early novel called, "Jaws," but, despite illness, worked nearly until his death at 65, vanquishing, as McPhee says, "the devils that defeat writing."

There was the poignant account of two boys who fell through thin ice on a skating trip and perished in 1943 when McPhee was 12. He was supposed to be the third skater but McPhee’s mother kept him home to serve as usher at the Christmas pageant of the First Presbyterian Church of Princeton, in New Jersey. There but for fortune.

It was one of those interludes, out on an anonymous stretch of Pulaski’s namesake thoroughfare, engine off, lunch bag opened, magazine spread across the steering wheel, when the world seemed complicated and rich, heartbreaking and fearless — a resilient world, after all, in which some people eat only apple pie and others, suddenly old, taking one bite and then another, begin to think, you know, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.