Monday, February 11, 2013

In Praise of Exploration

The Ansonia #6, 2005
(Click on image to see larger)

It can take a long time to get to know any place. For fifty-eight years New Yorker magazine writer Joseph Mitchell explored the streets and neighborhoods and life of New York City. He walked, rode buses and subways and frequently combined all three in random ways to start his walkabouts. It’s said he knew every part of New York and its boroughs, from the top of the Bronx to the bottom of Staten Island. He mixed with the swells of the Upper East Side and the poor of Harlem and Hell’s Kitchen. He wrote about McSorley’s, the venerable Lower East Side watering hole, and about the man who tended the African American graveyard on Staten Island.
Joseph Mitchell had intended to write a book about his years in New York, but died before finishing it. The current (Feb 8 & 15, 2013) issue of The New Yorker, however, includes the first chapter of Mitchell’s unfinished memoir. I can’t quote it here for fear of violating copyright law. I also don’t have room for even one of his incredibly lengthy run-on sentences.
But if you value descriptive prose, I encourage you to get a copy of this issue and read “Street Life: Becoming a part of the city.” It’s as grand a celebration of a fully alive city as I can imagine.  

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