Thursday, January 23, 2020

‘In Tereza’s eyes, books were the emblems of a secret brotherhood. For she had but a single weapon against the world of crudity surrounding her: the novels. She had read any number of them, from Fielding to Thomas Mann. They not only offered the possibility of an imaginary escape from a life she found unsatisfying; they also had a meaning for her as physical objects: she loved to walk down the street with a book under her arm. It had the same significance for her as an elegant cane from the dandy a century ago. It differentiated her from others.’
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Among the many worlds which man did not receive as a gift of nature, but which he created with his own mind, the world of books is the greatest. Every child, scrawling his first letters on his slate and attempting to read for the first time, in so doing, enters an artificial and complicated world; to know the laws and rules of this world completely and to practice them perfectly, no single human life is long enough. Without words, without writing, and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity. And if anyone wants to try to enclose in a small space in a single house or single room, the history of the human spirit and to make it his own, he can only do this in the form of a collection of books.’
                                     -Herman Hesse

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

It’s not quite what it thinks of itself

How could a proudly liberal city like New York not be doing right by all its school kids? How could it allow so many of its school kids’ reading levels to year after year be so below average? And how could it allow its system to be, some say, the most segregated system in the country? And how can its neighborhood libraries have such paltry hours? Not open evenings or on Sunday. How liberal, how progressive is all that? Why haven’t the daily papers held the city’s feet to the fire about school kids? Why did the papers write a thousand articles about ‘Hamilton’ instead of doing that?

Monday, January 6, 2020

FIRST DAY BACK ON CHAMBERS STREET IN TWO WEEKS. Longest I’ve been away. I really enjoyed the holidays here and in Cleveland. But this is what I’m supposed to do. So it’s good to be back.

Friday, December 13, 2019

LAURIE ANDERSON walked by the sign this morning and smiled with that face and nodded at the message. Big knit cap on, bright ski jacket, shortest adult you’ll see all day.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

AT NIGHT I CHECK TOMORROW MORNING’S WEATHER FOR 8:00 when I begin to hold my sign for an hour. I check it on my iPhone knowing not to trust its little clouds with blue rain needles that are often showing for the next day. Now it’s posting a snowflake at 8:00. So often it’s wrong, I’m not counting on seeing snow. I hope I do though. Nothing’s finer for me than snow. As a kid in Western New York, snow came down big out my bedroom window. I could see it piled on top of the basketball rim and in the net of my hoop across the driveway. It won’t be that kind of big snow if there’s snow at all in the morning. It’s seldom very windy here. The snow falls nicely. I’ll know when I get up.

Monday, December 2, 2019

I DON’T TAKE SUBWAY PHOTOS on my way to hold the sign; only on the way back. This morning though the downtown train wasn’t crowded and I had nothing good to read, and across from me three or four people were arranged in a way that looked like a picture. I reached into my pants pocket and brought out my iPhone. I held it horizontally like I was watching ESPN highlights and when I was about to silently press the button to take a photo, I noticed a woman just to right of the group I was aiming at put a bright yellow windbreaker in front of her face and slide down a bit in the seat. I thought maybe she was tired and wanted the coat to be like covers. As I refocused my efforts, I noticed her putting the coat over her head. I put my phone down. Then I put it away when I saw she was from Mexico or Central America and was afraid I was taking pictures for ICE or some government group that was looking for people like her. She was maybe middle-aged, strong light-brown beautifully-lined worker’s face with graying hair pulled back. Plaid shirt and jeans. I tried to subtly wave my hands in a way to let her know that I was nobody to worry about. The few minutes left on the ride, I though about how alert she and other immigrants have to be now. Good luck to her.