The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘encounters’

Back Away Slowly

October 8, 2015 | by

A woman diagnosed as suffering from hilarious mania. Color lithograph, 1892. Image via Wellcome

Contrary to popular wisdom, in my experience many of the best comebacks are not cutting. L’esprit d’escalier is all well and good, but take it from me, zingers aren’t what they’re cracked up to be: when you grow up in a family that fights almost exclusively below the belt, you learn to wound early, and also that the act of attacking leaves you feeling bad, not triumphant. I’ll never forget being snapped at by an angry customer in a deli as a small child. “Ignore her, Sades,” my dad said loudly. “She’s an unhappy, lonely person with no one in her life who cares about her.” I’ve forgotten her expression of shocked misery; I know that only from my dad’s rueful telling. Read More »

Daily News

June 16, 2015 | by

Photo: Joe and Jeanette Archie

One morning, I stopped by a Greenwich Village kiosk to buy a newspaper for my commute. When I would’ve walked away, the vendor’s voice stopped me, and I looked up to meet merry, twinkling eyes. “You,” he said roguishly, “are the most beautiful customer I have had all day!”

This seemed unlikely. True, the day was young. But I was looking particularly awful: the night before I’d attempted an “extraction” on a pore that, in a magnifying mirror, I had deemed clogged, and now it looked like I was suffering from either a bad allergic reaction or from some kind of strange bug bite. I hadn’t bothered with makeup. I was also wearing a cavernous sweater of my boyfriend’s. But what did I know? Maybe this guy’s other customers were a real bunch of dogs.

“Uh, thanks,” I said, not wanting to be ungracious in the face of such gallantry. Read More »

Recurring Characters

June 3, 2015 | by


Maruyama Ōkyo, Peacock and Peahen, 1781.

I was settled with my papers, my coffee, and a cheese Danish at a bench on a Manhattan traffic island when someone sat down next to me. I glanced up and recognized a now-familiar face. It was the same elderly man I’d first seen in a local supermarket, berating a clerk; last week, I’d encountered him again on Amsterdam Avenue and attempted to buy him a pineapple. He was ubiquitous—or I was. I gave him a cautious nod of greeting.

“Hello,” he said, smiling warmly. “It’s a beautiful day!”

“Yes,” I agreed. He didn’t seem to recognize me. Read More »

Sailing with Faulkner

April 13, 2015 | by

Welty watering in her garden.

Eudora Welty watering in her garden.

A letter from Eudora Welty to Jean Stafford, September 2, 1949. Faulkner and Welty had met once before, when she presented him with the National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Fiction.

William Faulkner took us sailing on his sailboat on a big inland lake they’ve cut out of the woods there—waves and everything, big. We were late getting there—got lost and went to Blackjack, Miss.—and then when we found the lake there was Faulkner, cruising around, and headed right for us, through the dead cypresses and stumps and all, pulled down his sail and took the oar, and hollered, “You all better take your shoes off and get ready to wade,” which we did, sinking—got pulled on board and then we all sailed around, all quiet and nice—what a wonderful person he is, the most profound face, something that nearly breaks your heart though, just in the clasp of his hand—a strange kind of life he leads in Oxford, two lives really. We never, either time I’ve been with him, talked about anything bookish of course—it’s his life, not his opinions,—that seems to be with you all the time. He can do or make anything, and can sail beautifully. We got in his 20 year old Ford touring car which he hunts and fishes and goes over the farm in, with holes in the floor (“well, I know where all the holes are”) and when we couldn’t open a back door he said, “There’s a cupboard latch on it,” you ought to see that car.

Theory and Practice

March 25, 2015 | by


Walter Gramatté, Trinker (detail), 1922.

Let’s say you’ve had a long day, have a rare evening to yourself, and decide to treat yourself to dinner out. You sit at a restaurant bar with a good book, a glass of wine, your own company. You choose your meal, start to disappear into a story, and then—bam—it’s spoiled by the intrusion of a chatty neighbor. You give your book a regretful, longing look and resign yourself to the opposite of pleasure. 

There are few moments more purely happy than those dedicated to uninterrupted reading, and few more galling than those in which that peace is shattered, abruptly, by a stranger. Read More »

Simon Says

January 12, 2015 | by


Photo: Toy Whirl, via Flickr

Not very long ago, family friends got in touch with me. Their son, Luke, was moving to New York for med school; it would be great if I’d see him and told him where to go in the city; he would be in touch. He was. 

“This is three hours of my life I’ll never get back,” I said bitterly to my boyfriend.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“Oh, nothing. He’s fine, from what I remember. He’s a perfectly nice guy. But, well, frankly … his parents carry on like he’s some kind of celebrated wit.”

“How do they do that?” Read More »