Saturday, June 30, 2007

The life of Riley

Luc Sante has a great list-like accumulation of paragraphs titled "Commerce" in an altogether appealing anthology called New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (it's sort of like Wayne Koestenbaum's delightful "My 80s" only totally different). The effect of the bits he strings together is cumulative, but here's a good one:

For years there was a general store, of the most traditional sort, on 9th and Second. I did my photocopying there, bought aspirin, string, drywall screws, mayonnaise, and greeting cards on various occasions. You could not imagine that they could possibly carry the exact spice or piece of hardware of style of envelope you needed, since the place was not enormous, but invariably an employee would disappear into some warren and re-emerge with your item in hand. In my memory I am always going there during blizzards. Another sort of general store stood on the corner of 14th and Third. It may have had another name, but its sign read "Optimo." It was cool and dark inside, with racks of pipes and porn novels and shelves of cigar boxes and candy. Of its two display windows on 14th Street, one featured scales, glassine envelopes, and bricks of Mannitol--the Italian baby laxative favored by dealers in powder for stretching their merchandise--and the other held shields, badges, and handcuffs. I often wished that Bertolt Brecht had been alive to admire those windows.

And he ends with this:

When S. inherited his father's estate, although it was not a major sum, he promptly retired. That is, he quit his job, moved into a room in the George Washington Hotel on 23rd Street, and took his meals at the doughnut shop on the corner. He read, wrote, strolled, napped. It was the life of Riley. He might have continued in this fashion indefinitely had he not made the acquaintance of cocaine.

Great stopping place, eh?!? (Think of how much better a novel House of Mirth would be if Wharton had just stopped a little sooner...)

(Courtesy of Ed.)

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