Monday, January 30, 2012

Confession: I Meant to Do That


My primary means of survival in New York (in terms of pride) is to pretend that “I meant to do that.”  Exit the subway at the wrong corner?  I meant to do that. This right-turn-only square that I’m making around the block to get back to where I had originally intended to be was a completely intentional detour.  Wait in the wrong line at the supermarket so that I approach the Cash Only cashier with my credit card? I meant to do that.  The company should be aware of its poor notification system.  Walk to a "nearby" independent coffee shop or bookstore to do some work on the computer, then end up walking twenty blocks?  I meant to do that.  I’m just exploring the city.  Push instead of pull?  Well, that was just a stupid moment.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Word

Word up.  This charming little bookshop in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn may rival my current forerunner BookCourt.  I loved it, but for such different reasons that we’ll call it a tie.



The store is small - pretty tiny, in fact.  Its selection is therefore limited (but intriguing).



But of the indie bookstores that I’ve visited so far, this one was the most fun. Although its selection was smaller, I probably spent more time here.  When I first walked in, the first thing I noticed was the aroma of…chili.  Kind of bizarre, but on a cold winter’s day, strangely comforting and just quirky enough to work and make me like the store the more for its scent.  I’m sure it was a staff member (ok, the staff member)’s dinner, but it made the atmosphere homey, like I wanted to curl up with a blanket, a book, and a bowl of chili.

It had a great stationery section, full of hand-printed and hilarious cards; I’m a sucker for unique stationery.

My favorite


 By far, the best part of the bookstore is that it embraces its own booknerdiness.  Check out its Staff Picks page – they’re funny, too.  Word has literary events in-store and in local bars, but it also reaches out to its bibliophile community more than I’ve ever seen: it runs a basketball league exclusively for book nerds (you have to take a book test to be eligible for participation; clearly, they’re working out some dork-picked-last-on-the-playground issues).  There’s also a message board with two sections.  One is an apartment/roommate search, and in addition to the traditional price range and amenities sections, one section asks “Which book will you unpack first?”  The other section, the best section, is a matchmaking section, though I haven’t added myself as a candidate. (Yet.)


Click for a closer view

Friday, January 27, 2012

Confession: Excitement on the Subway

I greeted somebody I knew on the subway for the first time this morning.  Granted, I just met her last night; she led the class I took at the Y.  And we didn't formally introduce ourselves until this morning.  But still - I'm just standing there on the packed express A train, reading my book on the way to work in Manhattan, then I say a few words to another local.  It kind of made me feel like I live here - just a little bit.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Running in the City

Last summer, I began running.  Honestly, I don’t feel as though my life is lacking at all if I never run a marathon – I am perfectly content with avoiding that craziness.  But although I regularly went to the gym and spent an astonishing amount of time with Jillian Michaels via DVD, running is a different beast, one that I actually hate.  I keep up with running not because I necessarily enjoy it, but so that I could say that I don’t run because "I don’t like it and choose not to do it," not because "I can’t do it."

Also, since I have yet to join a gym (lack of funds and all that jazz) and my room barely has room enough for me, let alone Jillian, it has proven a very convenient form of exercise in the city.

I’ve mostly been running in parks relatively close by – Fort Greene Park (a literary landmark in its own right (Whitman’s favorite!); more on that later) was smaller than I expected and honestly confused me – the path winds in and out of the park, abruptly ends, encourages runners to get in the grass?  Prospect Park is great and features a useful three-mile loop, and my nearest subway stop is the end of the Shuttle service that ends directly at the park.  Extra convenient.  I’ll have to say more about the parks and take more photos when the seasons change; right now, despite how nice it is to be surrounded by trees, the trees are bare, the grass is sparse, and the overwhelming impression of the atmosphere is a color: gray.  I’ve opted for park running because of the scenery, because of the marked distances and continuous trails, because of the singularity of purpose: especially when it’s cold, with the zoo and Audubon center closed and the baseball fields empty, everyone is there to exercise.  I usually run in the same direction as other joggers and runners and baby stroller-pushers, so all I see are bodies in motion, Lycra pants and windbreakers in place, headphone chords swaying to the exerciser’s pace like lazy jump ropes.

Today, I ran on the sidewalks for the first time; I needed to complete my run quickly because of the impending rain.  There’s definitely more to look at: parents and grandparents were leading bundled children to school, working professionals were walking toward the subway stop, presumably headed to Manhattan. I definitely felt more self-conscious, more of a spectacle as I passed people moving in the opposite direction who clearly had different agendas.  I also gave them a bit of theater as I wildly flung my arms to keep from completely wiping out on the sidewalk as I slipped on hidden patches of ice.  Twice. 

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the neighborhood running more than I expected.  I ran past coffee shops and restaurants that looked appealing, mentally logging them for future exploration.  Also, in order to continue running, I had to avoid the annoying red hand at the crosswalk.  In the search for the white walk signal, I found myself led across streets that I normally wouldn’t have crossed and staying on roads that I normally would have left sooner.  It gave me a surprising path, an opportunity to explore the neighborhood by chance (or, at least the fate determined by streetlight timers). I’ll have to try it again soon, just to see where else I end up.

On a supplementary, more anecdotal note, because of the heavy use I’ve given my headphones during urban transit and the continuous stuffing in and out of bags and pockets, I had three pairs of earbuds (including my favorite over-ear pair for exercising) break last week.  I’m left with a pair that gently “rest” in (read: constantly fall out of) my ears, and they play more music for my environment than my ears.  Often, I listen to sermons or podcasts like This American Life, but the headphones’ failure to block out the ambient noise of the traffic made me resort to my workout mix for the distinct beat.  My workout mix consists of Sassy Ann’s memories, hip-hop tracks, and cheesy inspiration-types like “Eye of the Tiger.” Today, as my iPod played “California Love” for all those within a 20-yard radius of me to hear, I became aware that I was running through BedStuy, home of Biggie Smalls, and for a brief second, I feared that I, in my ignorance and careless exercising, was going to instigate the East/West feud again.  Upon relaying this to my friend Chase, he replied, “You’re such a little white girl.”  Owned.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Random Sightings, Brooklyn


Must have been a bitter break-up.

Greenlight Bookstore

Greenlight’s relatively new but seemed to have a lot of buzz.  In fact, in a NYMag  blurb, one of my absolute favorite current authors, Jhumpa Lahiri, said, “I’ve already come to think of Greenlight as an extension of my home. Everyone knew Fort Greene needed a bookstore, but I don’t think anyone dreamed it would be as perfect a place as this.”*


Greenlight is also in the neighborhood right next to BedStuy, the adorable Fort Greene, right off the subway a mere two stops from me. The location alone makes it a promising favorite of mine. 

Fun with Hipstamatic.

 It’s well-lit in an airy instead of fluorescent-industrial way.  The display tables were interesting but not necessarily compelling, and the selection was very strong. It features impressive collections by single authors, displayed in a way that makes me ask, “Why have I not read [author] yet?? I must rectify this shocking literary lack.”  Greenlight is clearly an active bookstore, featuring plenty of local author readings, bookclubs, and other community-centric events, and I enjoy seeing a business (especially an independent bookstore) so grounded in its neighborhood.

Why have I not read Murakami yet?

Impressive/Interesting collection
 Greenlight is a good, solid bookstore, but it’s still missing a bit of the coziness that I value.  But I’m willing to give it a few more tries.

*Seriously, check her out; I still like her Pulitzer prize-winning, debut short story collection Interpreter of Maladies (and the story "Sexy") best.  Interestingly, since the quote implies that she lives nearby, the store had surprisingly few copies of her books. I may hang out at Greenlight just to “bump” into her. Stalker alert.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

BookCourt

BookCourt is my favorite bookstore on the quest (so far), for a few reasons.



Strong atmosphere: There is plenty to see and browse, but it’s open enough to let you stand (or sit!) and leaf through a book without being bowled over by the more impatient patrons. There seem to be two sections or sides of the store, and one is dimmer than the other, which features the kids section and the bestsellers, so the distinction is fitting.


Decent discounts: 30% off on all bestsellers, hardcover and paperback.

Current and relevant: BookCourt features plenty of events for Brooklyn authors, and it advertises community news (or, rather, allows people to advertise) on the centrally-located staircase.  Surrounding this staircase is a worthy selection of art journals and literary magazines featuring new and established talent, such as McSweeney’s and The Common. On the New Paperbacks shelf, I found a really interesting book that I considered purchasing (but, in the name of frugality, decided against).  Later, when researching the book, I discovered that the paperback wasn’t scheduled for publication until the following week.  Talk about being on top of the book market!

Unique finds: Downstairs was a bargain as well as a section of fascinating UK editions for which I may have to return.



Friendly staff: Although not all the staff seemed too gregarious, a couple of staff members did ask me if I needed help (in a non-intrusive, non-pressuring manner).  Then, when I was checking out (I had to buy something: a discounted copy of Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – fitting, no?), the cashier offered me a clementine.  Yes, please.

Support from writers:  Local authors seem to like it, too – at least, Jonathan Ames and Nathaniel Rich do.

Convenient location: It’s located right across the street from Trader Joe’s.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Should I Be Scared?

As I was walking home, I looked up to see this "guy" across the street. Hmmm.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Unnameable Books

Unnameable Books – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn



This bookstore featured the most used books I’ve seen yet. Score one for Unnameable Books.  As soon as I walked in the door, I found myself standing next to a fellow in a slightly-tattered armchair, previewing a book.  Score two.

The selection, however, was actually a bit disappointing (though perhaps just on my kind of books), and the prices were short of amazing (although, I probably need to get rid of my McKay bias).  It was also extremely tiny and cramped, which isn’t something I can necessarily hold against a store in New York.  The size and dim light gave off something of an antique store meets garage sale vibe, which I can be into…if I’m in the right mood.


I think it’s a good stop if I’m in the area, but not really a destination.

I think this goes without saying...but by all means, say it anyway.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

UCB

Last Friday night, I went with a small group of friends to the UprightCitizens’ Brigade Theater to watch some improv comedy (inexpensive, too! $10).  We went to the original theatre, which apparently used to be a seedy strip club.  The theatre itself is still very cramped and run-down, but that only added to the immediacy of the comedy, I think. 

The most famous founding member of UCB is probably Amy Poehler.  The group that we saw was The Stepfathers.*  Most people probably recognize Zach Woods the most; he now plays Gabe on The Office, and I found him to be the funniest.  I loved it.  It’s incredible how well they know how to read each other, how to take a joke and run with it, how to create a hilarious backstory out of a surprising one-liner.  They were also adept at referencing old jokes, keeping the random sketches coherent while also feeding off the audience, who, at the recognition of a previous bit, would laugh louder. 

Jokes included hostile yet sensitive robots made out of copiers and laminating machines who were sympathetic to their mad scientist creator's feelings of inadequacy; a troupe of bad trapeze artists whose failures led to decapitation and, somehow, the revitalization of Walt Disney’s cryogenically frozen body; a video store clerk who re-edits all the films to show suicide followed by an image of a crying baby; and more bizarre storylines.

*Before you tell me, I know, I know, I need to see ASSSSCAT.

Literary Landmark No. 6 & No. 7

I thought I’d combine a couple landmarks on a theme: “Hotels.”

Hotel des Artistes
“The most famous building on a block originally filled with artists’ studios,” this site was home to artists of the painting, literary, and entertainment worlds. Its most famous inhabitants of these respective artistic spheres were probably Howard Chandler Christy and Norman Rockwell; Fannie Hurst and Noël Coward; and Rudolph Valentino, Isadora Duncan, and Gary Oldman.


The most sensational event associated with the building occurred on December 10, 1929.  Harry Crosby, nephew of J.P. Morgan, poet and publisher of the Black Sun Press, was found dead with his lover Josephine Bigelow in a murder-suicide that e.e. Cummings immortalized in verse:

            2 boston
Dolls; found with
Holes in each other
‘s lullaby.

In 1919, the Round Table was formed, and the Algonquin was the place for this incredible group of writers to rendezvous in first the Pergola (Oak) Room and then the Rose Room: F. Scott Fitzgerald, H.L. Mencken, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, and so many more.  The group was known for its sophisticated wit and sharp, conversational humor, especially one-liners.  Dorothy Parker once reviewed actress Katharine Hepburn: “She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

Later writers attracted to the Algonquin include Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Gore Vidal, John Updike, Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Art Buchwald, Graham Greene, and William Faulkner, who wrote his 1949 Nobel Prize acceptance speech on the hotel stationery.   My Fair Lady was written in Room 908.




*These landmark reports are beginning to sound more and more like Wikipedia articles.  Oh, well; I still enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Confession: One Outfit, Multiple Days


Living in a city with millions of people renders the possibility of randomly running into the same person two days in a row highly improbable.  Consequently, the possibility of that random person seeing you in the same outfit two days in a row is also highly improbable, but the frequency of laundry days is dramatically reduced.

Writing in the City

It has recently occurred to me that, while I find the quest for a great indie bookstore enormously satisfying and fun, some readers (oh, who am I kidding…my reader – Hi, Grandma) may not.  So, for the non-bibliophiles, I intend to offer a bit more balance, a bit more on the city in general and on my impressions of it, since I can still present the perspective of a newcomer (and, honestly, I feel that I will always have that outsider worldview). As much as I love to be involved in the community and city around me, I take great pleasure in observing as well.  I consider people-watching a sport, and, to put it modestly, if it were an Olympic sport, I’d win the gold.  And the silver and bronze.  While observing the shocked audience and the details on the face of the guy who put the medals around my neck, the tight lips that betray his jealousy of my shocking talent.  Modesty.*

Since I’m still in the interim between arriving and working, I’ve had quite a bit of time on my hands.  While I clearly enjoy the literary endeavors I’ve created for myself, they can only take up so much of the day.  For one, I feel guilty for not buying anything in the bookstores and coffee shops, so it’s becoming pricier than I intended (although I’ve discovered some good coffees and find myself morphing from the non-coffee drinker that I had been previously.  Uh-oh).  For another, once I’ve taken the subway or the bus and walked to reach my bookstore destination, I can really only browse for so long (particularly if it’s not a store that offers nice chairs in which to comfortably preview books).  The transit time vs. the time spent at the destination (especially if I am less than pleased with the bookstore) sometimes doesn’t seem worth it. 

But it has given me time to write.  I say that like I’m some notable novelist or respected blogger with ad space supporting me financially.  False. However, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed writing.  When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, I forced myself to keep a journal, almost daily (I’m still surprised by my commitment to that goal).  I remember finding it so burdensome on some (ok, most) days, especially those that consisted of my routine – going to class, doing some internet work at Moyo, coming home, watching an episode of Date My Mom, which was the only television program in English, going to LochNess with my roommates, etc. I leafed through those journals as I was packing my books in Knoxville, and I found myself confronted with memories that I had buried or events that I had completely forgotten already; I am beyond glad that I kept that journal.  While I was there, I also sent weekly emails to family and friends to keep them involved with my European adventures (those who managed to read those extended essays are probably those same people who have the staunch dedication to read this blog now). Those emails and journals now serve as documentation of an incredibly formative period in my life.

The time to write and the rediscovery of the pleasure of writing has also inspired a chronic desire to write. When a thought occurs to me or some experience surprises me (be it positive or negative), I immediately think how I’m going to phrase it for the next time I write, how I’m going to develop it or extrapolate meaning from it.  Writing has become incredibly therapeutic as I try to navigate my own thoughts, emotions, and fears about moving to New York. Before leaving Knoxville, a friend gave me a journal as a going-away gift.  I loved it, but I doubted how much I would use it since I have been a poorly committed diarist of late; when I begin writing, I feel compelled to write everything, which becomes far too time-consuming and, eventually, burdensome.  But the very next day, another friend urged me to keep a journal.  It was a sign.**

Writing in the journal has proven difficult because of my perfectionist tendencies.  I say that I just want to be reflective because the journal is ultimately private and I can expect no response; I’m writing to no one.  Yet I find myself writing to “future reader” or “future Leah.”  Although I need the space to articulate and write them out, I want my thoughts to be heard and challenged by feedback and others’ thoughts.  Thus, whenever I have a “brilliant” thought, I think about how I’ll phrase it for a blog post.  Even if nobody reads it or comments, I can at least preserve the illusion that somebody does in order to fulfill my desire for correspondence and community.

A famous Jewish novel that I just finished, Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers, has this line: “I used to say to my loneliness: If it will not kill you, it will be the making of you.  All great people have to be alone to work out their greatness.”  I make no claims to greatness, but I can already tell that this solitary experience, along with the rekindled desire to reflect on and write about it, has started to “make” me into someone a little different, and hopefully a little better.  Yet, I don’t want to be completely “great” and alone. So I write in a journal.  And also a trifling blog.

*Clearly I’m having a strange, rambling day.
**By the way, MaryAnn, I’m now (perhaps “already” is a more appropriate term) 2/3rds of the way through your journal.  Thanks again!

Literary Landmark No. 5

Richard Wright's House - Fort Greene, Brooklyn

In this house, amidst harassment from the FBI and CIA for being a communist in the 1930s, Richard Wright wrote his greatest work, Native Son. He routinely awoke at 5:30AM and wrote on the top of the hill in nearby Fort Greene.  In this house, Bigger Thomas was born.  Important happenings behind nondescript doors.

Literary Landmark No. 4

Last week, I found myself on the Upper East Side, headed toward a bookstore (what else?), so I decided to take a slight detour to find John Steinbeck's House.


Kind of unimpressive.  Seriously, go check out pictures of his houses in California and Sag Harbor, where he wrote his great works like Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath.  Apparently, he wrote East of Eden in New York, but in a house that no longer exists.  The only events of note that happened at this address are Steinbeck's fall from a second-story window that resulted in a year walking with a cane and a divorce from his second wife, Gwyn (whose son wrote Jaws). 

However, Steinbeck did have some interesting, conflicting thoughts on New York, which he published in "The Making of  a New Yorker":

"Every once in a while [Gwyn and I] go away for several months and we always come back with a 'Thank God I'm home' feeling. For New York is the world with every vice and blemish and beauty and there's privacy thrown in. What more could you ask?"

"New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous. But there is one thing about it-once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough. All of everything is concentrated here, population, theatre, art, writing, publishing, importing, business, murder, mugging, luxury, poverty. It is all of everything. It goes all right. It is tireless and its air is charged with energy. I can work longer and harder without weariness in New York than anyplace else…"

But while living at this address, he wrote in a letter, "New York is a wonderful city.  I'm glad to be putting down some kind of roots here.  It is going to be the capital of the world.  It isn't like the rest of the country--it's like a nation itself--more tolerant than the rest in a curious way...neither good nor bad but unique."

Monday, January 16, 2012

Shakespeare & Co.



Now a local chain in its own right, catering to the university crowds as well as the general public, Shakespeare & Co. intrigued me most because of its association.  It “shares” the name with Sylvia Beach’s famous Parisian Bookstore, which was made famous primarily by modernists: Hemingway, Joyce, Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and the like. The second store, copied after the first, also became an institution and still stands. I remember visiting it with Mrs. Helmick, the high school English teacher who was an incredible influence on my life and academic path. I was a freshman at Ole Miss but still accompanied the old high school Explorer’s Club on their annual European trip.  At that point, I had no knowledge of the famous bookstore, and I was still such a literary novice that I perceived literature only in terms of books, not their authors, not the places where they worked or received inspiration, not the political or cultural climate that shapes the characters within timeless works.

The group was still exploring nearby Notre Dame and the tourist-centric shops nearby.  Mrs. Helmick pulled me aside and just said, “Let’s go to the bookstore.”  I had no idea that this particular store carried such great historical importance.  Stepping in, it was cluttered, dim, dusty, and a bit disheveled.* Cats roamed freely, and sparse pallets occupied corners, for it is still a place where vagrant writers can crash for the night.  It had none of the grandeur of such a significant institution, and that actually added to its grandeur.  The store didn’t cater to the consumer, to the expectation for good lighting or good hygiene, even, and it didn’t need to.

The Shakespeare & Co. in New York was nothing like this.** The location I visited on the Upper East Side served the Hunter College scene. It was clean, true, but in a very sterile way.  The employees offered no help and gave the impression that they were talking about me, the lone customer.  Not appreciated, kids.  Downstairs, there was a discounted section, but it was random and haphazard, certainly not welcome for browsing.  Perhaps I was in a sour mood, but I was less than impressed. For all that its tagline is supposedly “New York’s Independent Alternative,” it just felt like a smaller Barnes and Noble to me.




*My memory may have tainted the actual experience, as it is wont to do, but even if the details are less than accurate, this is the kind of impression and atmosphere that stays with me, so I deem it an appropriate description.
**From what I can tell, Shakespeare & Co. (NYC) makes no claims to Shakespeare and Company (Paris), but you really can't be a bookstore and pretend the association doesn't exist.  Come on.

Gray's Papaya

I did it.  I ate lunch at the famed Gray's Papaya. It's featured in films, TV shows, a Beastie Boys song, pretty much as well-known in the entertainment industry as a hot dog establishment can ever be.


It tasted like...a hot dog.  Yay.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Culture

A random tote bag led me to my first independent bookstore visit.  In Muffins, a quaint bagel and pastry shop on the Upper West Side, I spotted an intellectual-looking fellow* with a Book Culture bag. Thanks to the iPhone and Google Maps, I found my way to BookCulture near Columbia University.




It’s independent (though now with another, more average-Joe-friendly location close by).  Creaky wood floors, interesting selections of new books downstairs.  I spent a good fifteen minutes looking through the recent release of Alfred Kazin’s Journals, edited by Richard M. Cook.  Kazin was so terse and unexpectedly poetic. Events that I would normally associate with long reflection were remarkably (and, somehow, sadly) succinct:

Yet there were reflections on the city and on writing in general that didn’t need development or the kind of exposition that I tend to provide:

Excuse the shadow of my hand/iPhone...


I left the book behind ($45 and choppily edited – no thanks), inspired to make my own journal entries more reflective, personal, and brief.  No such luck.  Yet.

Upstairs is more practical, more sparse.  Used and new books are mixed together in sections organized by particular professors and their courses for the current semester at Columbia, but there were also sections organized by academic discipline.

I left with two used books, one with an appealing personal inscription written on the title page, giving the book its own history, and one a copy of John Donne’s poetry from 1950.  It’s not a rare edition by any means, but it’s small and has the sense of being read often.  And I’ve always loved Donne, so what’s the harm of another edition of poems I already own?

I enjoyed the store, but it’s by no means ideal.  Because of the Columbia association, I felt like a bit of an outsider inside, particularly because of the distant staff.  Must be that Ivy League affect (perhaps imagined by me).  The search continues.

Impulse buy that I resisted.  But I like.


*You know the type: Conservative style with the slightest hint of dishevelment – an escaped curl, an almost-imperceptible wrinkle to an untucked shirt, elbow patches with a slight wear, a missed toggle button on the coat, a finger smudge on the glasses.

Literary Landmark No. 3

The two self-created New York adventures that I have discussed, finding literary landmarks of New York and finding the best independent bookstore, obviously converge.  After all, great authors inspire, frequent, and support bookstores, both as writers and as patrons.  Even if they’re not listed as a historical literary landmark, great indie bookstores are obviously pretty foundational to sharing books and ideas. 

So when historical independent bookstores cease to exist, the blow is extra strong.

In pursuit of another Midtown literary landmark listed in my book, I walked back and forth on West 47th Street, the Diamond District, avoiding jewelry peddlers and scammers, trying to find the famous Gotham Book Mart.


A true institution, the Gotham Book Mart was founded by Frances Steloff in 1920 on W. 45th Street and moved to W. 47th in 1923 and to another location on the same street in 1946. 

Apparently, it had an upstairs gallery for publication parties; some of its famous parties were given for Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones (a.k.a. Amiri Baraka, who, like Ginsberg, worked at the shop…for only a few days each), Anaïs Nin, Dylan Thomas, and William Carlos Williams.  Obviously, the store was deeply committed to modern poetry. In 1939, Gotham hosted a “wake” “with clay pipes and Irish whiskey…to honor the publication of James Joyce’s masterpiece [debatable; I disagree] Finnegan’s Wake,” and T.S. Eliot became the first member of the James Joyce Society here in 1947. Other notable clientele: W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Randall Jarrell, Robert Lowell, Marianne Moore, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, and more. Oh, I wish I could visit!

It no longer exists. It closed in 2007 (which, incidentally, is five years after the book I’m using was published; it now occurs to me that I may run into similar difficulties with other landmarks. That just makes it more interesting.)The building is now just a diamond store, indistinguishable from the fifty stores like it on the street.

Shame on you, city and materialistic culture.  Shame on you.