The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘City Life’

Diamonds and Pearls

April 25, 2016 | by

From a 1916 Vanity Fair cover.

“How are you?” asked a smiling acquaintance on the street. 

“Well, I’m pretty down about Prince—but aren’t we all?” I said reprovingly. 

“Oh yes,” she murmured. “Of course.” I saw her blinking quickly in an effort to summon tears. “It’s the end of an era, isn’t it?” Read More »

The Cheese Guy

April 18, 2016 | by

From a 1930 Italian cheese advertisement.

I used to like buying cheese. You could say it was one of the small, reliable pleasures of my week. I never bought a great deal—usually just a small piece to eat for lunch with some bread and fruit—but I enjoyed the process of tasting and learning and then bearing home the neatly wrapped little waxed-paper bundle.

The cheese guy was nice, too. Knowledgeable without making a big show of it, authoritative without snobbery, and pleasantly detached. It was this detachment, in a way, that allowed me to enjoy the transaction—he never made a big fuss about my being a regular. I felt slightly invisible, but in the best possible way. It would have been awkward if he’d been flirtatious or overly friendly. And he never made me try more cheeses than I wanted, which I thought was nice.  Read More »

Always Right

April 11, 2016 | by

New York City subway, May 1973.

The other day I noticed something for the first time. “Please allow all customers off the train,” said the recorded voice over the subway sound system. Customers. Not passengers, not riders: customers. 

What did it mean? Something bureaucratic, obviously—but philosophically? Had the transaction at last been stripped of all artifice? Had the civic connotations of public transit been cast off in favor of naked commercialism? Or was this a simple acknowledgment that we’re paying for the ride—and that, in the way of all American customers, we are always right? Read More »

Crying in Public

April 8, 2016 | by

From a 1897 German cartoon.

Whenever someone talks about how they never meet any native New Yorkers—this is an odd cliché people are given to—I want to tell them, just go to Fairway Market on a Saturday with no makeup on. You'll see everyone I went to high school with, and their parents. Read More »

Brief Encounter

April 1, 2016 | by

“Polite New Yorker”

Guess who I ran into this morning? Three guesses. And if you guessed Jacob, my neighborhood friend, you’re right! 

I was enjoying a toasted, buttered bialy, a coffee-cart small, and a newspaper on a traffic island, when who should sit down on the bench opposite but my old comrade-in-arms! He was looking very natty in a bright green fedora and tweed jacket. On his lapel was a button that read POLITE NEW YORKER.Read More »

The Sweet Smell of Success

March 31, 2016 | by

Perfume ad, ca. 1920.

It all started about a month ago. A close friend was celebrating a big birthday, and I planned to buy her a set of nice lotions and potions in a pricey scent I knew she loved. So I looked up the address of the shop, walked across the park, headed uptown, and entered its ritzy, expensively perfumed confines. The man standing inside didn’t look up.

“Hello,” I said.

He ignored me for an uncomfortably long moment, then looked up and said, “Did you want something?” Read More »