Sunday, November 23, 2008

NYC: the literary city

One of the things that always impresses me about NYC is how literate everyone is. Not only does that city of 8 million people sustain the very smartly written New York Times, overflowing with feature-length articles, but it has readership to spare, for the New York Post and others. My theory is that the huge percentage of people who take public transportation to work have extra time- time that Angelenos spend frustrated in their cars- to take in the day's news.

But that theory does not go far enough to explain these two photos. The first is people lined up outside the famous Strand Bookstore and its "18 miles of books." This is in sub-30 degree weather, mind you. Granted, they are there to sell their used books, but the point is that there is a demand for these books, such that they are getting decent money for them. No one in LA cares about books enough to make such a big market for the used ones, that's for sure.

But the best observation I had all day was when we were parked in a (mercifully warm) coffee shop in the West Village, taking in the bohemian surroundings. That's where I spied these two guys, trying their hardest to be low profile, but they could not escape my eagle eye: they were hobos.

OK, maybe they did not arrive at the coffee shop by train, or even NYC by train, but they otherwise fit the hobo profile: borderline homeless looking, but with enough mainstream trappings (e.g., cell phone, ring, relatively clean clothes) to imply that they did not actually live on the streets.

I admit I was actively observing them. I especially liked it when one of them got up and returned with a glass of water that sported a hearty slice of fancy lemon wedge in it. The guy sucked down that healthy bit of fruit straight away. I mean, how often do hobos get access to citrus? Smart man. A savvy "gentleman of the rails," if you ask me.

But nothing could have prepared me for when one of them opened up his suitcase-style drag bag and pulled out . . . a stack of BOOKS. I'm not talking about road maps or girlie magazines, either. These thing were hard-cover. Literature, even.

So, there you have it: NYC, where even the hobos are bibliophiles.

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