New York has felt like a second home since my parents first took me there as a teen in the early eighties. I grew up in rural coastal North Carolina, but the Mets became my team in 1979 when we got cable TV, and WOR carried 162 Mets games. On that first trip, I made my way alone to Paragon Sporting Goods in Union Square to buy Mizuno baseball cleats. Over the past twenty years, I’ve made more than 150 trips to the city while researching the photographer W. Eugene Smith. I now know a lot about arcane matters, like the history of Manhattan’s wholesale flower market, Long John Nebel’s overnight radio talk show, and underground angles on the midcentury jazz and drug scenes in places like Staten Island.
The city feels further away from me today, and it’s literally true. I moved earlier this year with my family to Bloomington, Indiana. Our house in Durham was 480 miles from Grand Central; from Bloomington, it’s 760. For nearly three decades I’ve listened to late-night sports radio on fifty-thousand-watt WFAN through a transistor beside my bed. Now I have to use a stream, which doesn’t feel the same; the conversation on WFAN isn’t quite the vernacular it used to be either.
Moreover, the pall of Trump is wide and heavy, even in cities he lost by forty points. In August, I drove four hours, from Bloomington to Chicago, to hear the improvisations of the Eric Revis Quartet, and each time I looked down the Chicago River and saw the six-story letters spelling TRUMP on the side of his building, it felt like Biff’s rule in Back to the Future II. Read More