Friday, June 09, 2006

Evening Observations

The last time I bought a bedside lamp was in 1987, at the Montgomery Ward Outlet in Grandview, Missouri. It was brass, with a long thin gooseneck and a metal half-shade shaped like a shell, and it's sat by my beds and blessed my reading for nineteen years, through a million changes, in Missouri, Minnesota, and New York.

Until tonight.

I started looking for a new lamp three or four years ago, to soften the light and make a change. I looked at Tiffany-style lamps (at Tiffany-style prices) in the lighting stores on the Bowery; I fell in love with a tree lamp from Eddie Bauer, which they discontinued before I decided to buy; I thought seriously about a lamp with the Brooklyn Bridge on the shade.

And tonight I took the uptown 6 to the Crate & Barrel on 59th and picked up my new lamp. As I walked across town to Ninth Avenue, I passed the Plaza Hotel, which is now being converted into condominiums. I looked at this and realized, "Some little girl is going to live there and really be Eloise." I hope to God she has better parents.

Then I sat in Central Park and read this week's New Yorker, which features an absolutely devastating and necessary collection of essays, letters, and journal entries from soldiers and medical officers in Iraq. It's not online, alas, so if you've never picked up a New Yorker in your life, this is the week. George W. Bush has a lot to answer for.

Then I had dinner with Jimmy, which was nice as always. At one point I was telling him about Zadie Smith's On Beauty (which is wonderful, wonderful, a thousand times wonderful), and I said, "It's just like Howard's End," and he looked confused and said, "What does it have to do with Howard Zinn?" And actually, that is exactly what the book is: Howard's End by way of Howard Zinn.

Say "Howard's End by Howard Zinn" five times fast, I dare you.

After Jimmy and I said goodbye, I got on the C train to come home. As I was finishing up the New Yorker, noisy footsteps slapped down the car; I lifted my head slightly at the sound, and the footsteps stopped in front of me. The man was tall, thin, wearing flip-flops and long silver track pants, and carrying a see-through tote bag over one t-shirted arm. "Do you have a dollar I can have to buy some junk food?" he said, staring at me as he swayed with the train.

I never know what to do in situations like these. The MTA says you should turn panhandlers down and give money to reputable organizations like City Harvest. Jesus said, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Jesus usually trumps the MTA for me, and here I liked his pants and he was honest, so I gave him the dollar. "Thanks," he said over his shoulder as he slapped on into the next car, and I ducked my head with the embarrassment of having and giving.

At Jay Street I transferred to the F. When I sat down, the middle-aged black man next to me, wearing a hoodie, Yankees cap, jeans, and white sneakers, was reading Marian Keyes's Sushi for Beginners, which made me smile.

It has been a strange week. Enormously productive, and with the rhythms of my life restored to what they ought to be: a good 60/40 balance between work and life, rather than 80/20, as much of this spring felt. I cooked, I read, I sent an editorial letter, I saw friends, I exercised. But it has been raining endlessly, and the song haunting my head has been Lyle Lovett's "North Dakota," from his "Live in Texas" album, and its melancholy, its sweetness, its thinking about love and time passing have shaped and suited my mood.

If you love me say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
If you love me say I love you
If you love me, take my hand
And you can say I love you
And you can have my hand . . .

At home I took my golden gooseneck off my bedside table, unwrapped the balcony lamp from layers of plastic and cardboard and styrofoam, assembled it and plugged it in.

-- picture of lamp will go here when Blogger allows me to upload images again --

It is a change. I am not sure I like the change, or that the lamp is in tune with the rest of my bright and undignified apartment. But I am going to live with it awhile and see how I feel: make a decision, and carry on the way.


  1. I’ve never been to New York… until reading your blog. Thanks for sharing.
    This is for Jimmy: Howard's End = Howard Zinn = Howard's Inn.

  2. One of my friends, just back from studying in Dublin, was talking about reading Zinn and I wondered why he was so interested in Invader Zim.

    I need to read more books that don't turn into movies that involve Happy Meal toys.

    Change is good.


  3. love the line
    carry on the way

    glad you have a lamp to light the road :)

  4. I wish I were clever enough to ask "Invader Zin", but alas, the history nerd in me heard Howard Zinn first.