The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘strangers’

New York Values

May 26, 2016 | by

O’Hare International Airport. Photo: Cory W. Watts

The same day I ate the hot dog—indeed, the same layover—I found myself in conversation with a group of other travelers. One commented on the crowds, and another said, “Tampa’s not a small place but it’s nothing like this,” and they all talked about the energy of the city versus the pleasures of having moved to Florida. It was very friendly. Then one woman said, “Not New York, though. I hate New York.” Then they all piled on with gusto, discussing the general crumminess that is New York, the rudeness, the filth, the overwhelming pace, and all manner of other clichés. It all happened so fast that I didn’t have a chance to jump in and defend my hometown.

I didn’t even have a defense, as such. People from other places seem to feel New York is a thing they need to have strong opinions about, like the election, or cilantro. And the truth is, most of us really, really don’t care. At least, those of us who are from here. Never having made the choice to move here, it’s akin to the affection and irritation one feels for a family member. Especially since our families are, you know, here. Read More »

Queen Bee

March 3, 2016 | by

An ad for French honey.

Yesterday I had one of those moments of everyday wonder that helps tint a life. I’m still not sure where it came from, exactly. I was getting a stirrer for my tea at a downtown coffee shop—no place fancy or very expensive—and there alongside the sugar and the milk and the napkins were the little packets of honey. Packets of honey! Suddenly I thought, Wow! Honey is made by bees! It was found in the pharaohs’ tombs! And here it is being given away for the price of a cup of water. I realize strict vegans must think about this all the time, and maybe it’s no more extraordinary than the ready availability of salt and pepper, once prized and fought over; or sugar, with its fraught history; or, for that matter, water itself. And yet, it was the honey that struck me. You never know what will jump out for you. (Somehow the fax machine has always remained the most wondrous piece of technology to me, more like Wonka Vision than anything more modern.) Read More »


January 12, 2016 | by

Amador Lugo, Perro con Gatos, 1933.

Back when our family dog was not dead, he would vacation at the home of a woman named Janet. Hank was a pound mutt with shepherd coloring and terrier brains and a sensitive, Mr. Chips–like face that spoke of past sufferings. He and my dad were inseparable, which made his visits to Janet’s a big deal.

Hank adored my father; they frequently duetted on renditions of “Memory,” and the dog spent hours sitting in my dad’s office while he worked. My dad never minded his mange or his foul breath. The only other star in Hank’s universe was a former baby toy of mine, a truly revolting specimen known as Bear, which one tried to avoid touching as much as possible. Read More »

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 »

Too Complicated for Human Brains

March 24, 2015 | by

Gary Indiana’s art “recasts voyeurism as wonder.”

EGI 7601 high res

Untitled, 1976, collage, 10" x 8".

Gary Indiana does not have a Web site. If you Google him, you might find his writing scattered among street views and crime reports from the destitute and dangerous place he chose to name himself after. When I asked friends if they knew his art, they told me, Only that LOVE sculpture—the one by Robert Indiana—or, worse, they began to sing that song from The Music Man. Those who do know him, though, rank him among the great American novelists, even if most of his books are out of print. When I looked, all had been checked out of the public library.

Maybe someone like me—curious, researching—had found them first, because at sixty-five Gary Indiana is having what you might call “a moment.” The third solo show of his visual art opened on Sunday night, and when I spoke to him on the phone the following day he told me three more exhibitions are scheduled this year. His books are being reissued, and a “kind of memoir, though we’re not calling it that,” is due in September. Read More »

Squeaky Wheels

November 7, 2014 | by


Photo: Vladimir Kirakosyan

Yesterday was very rainy and everyone was cranky. I was covertly trying to take shelter under the edge of a stranger’s golf umbrella while I crossed the street, when suddenly there was an outraged blast of honking horns and an explosion of profane shouting from several drivers. We all looked over to the opposite intersection, where a large, elderly man in a sateen Yankees jacket and one of those woven plastic fedoras was making his leisurely way against the light, against traffic, and, in the process, blocking the way of a large truck. He seemed oblivious, or indifferent to the commotion he had caused.

A block later, I was in the supermarket, pushing a basket with a broken wheel through the produce section. Someone bumped into me hard. I turned in irritation, but then saw it was the same oblivious old man in the Yankees jacket and figured it was hardly worth it. He banged into me again, in DAIRY. He was banging into people all over the place. It was late; I had the grim realization that I had come down with a cold. Always dispiriting, in its petty way. 

I got into the elevator to go down to the bulk section, where I planned to buy some dried beans. There was one other person inside: the guy in the Yankees jacket. 

“They’re liars,” he said, before the door had even closed. “Liars. This is the second time they’ve lied to me. About queso fresco,” he said pointedly, when I didn’t ask. Normally I live for this kind of thing, but I just wasn’t in the mood. I stared stonily at the placket of buttons, willing the elevator to hurry. Read More »