Monthly Archives: December 2016

a colloquy regarding Vladimir Nabokov

 

 

 

At Elisabeth van der Meer’s awesome site on Russian literature,

https://arussianaffair.wordpress.com/

there was a post the other day about Dostoevsky.

The following is an exchange between myself and another respondent to the post, based on an observation I made about Vladimir Nabokov.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2016

 

 

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Roger W. Smith:

This is a typical post for this site. Which is to say that it is extremely well — I should say, beautifully — written and very informative. And, it makes one want to go back and read an author one hasn’t read for a long while. It seems that everything essential has been said about Dostoevsky, with nothing superfluous. Critics write whole books and never get as close as this to the heart of the matter.

A couple of thoughts re Dostoevsky. I am wondering, is he not — as regards style — somewhat like a writer such as Balzac, in that he didn’t give a hoot about style, basically. it was the story and the characters that mattered?

An opinion that I have formed, not based on an extensive acquaintance with his works, is that Nabokov is overrated. Brilliant, but nonetheless, overrated. I recall reading critical writings of Nabokov in which he refers slightingly to Dostoevsky and seems to rank him much lower than contemporaries such as Tolstoy.

A final comment. The illustrations on this site are always chosen, one can see, with great care, and they enhance appreciation and understanding.

 

 

Benn Bell:

I would like to say that I agree with him that your article is an excellent piece. You already know that I love Dostoevsky and have read him extensively. But I must disagree with Roger’s comment on Nabokov and cannot let it go unchallenged. I have also read Nabokov extensively and I find the notion that he is over rated as a writer quite absurd. Between the two of them I would rather read Nabokov any day.

 

 

Roger W. Smith:

I have taken note of your comment and see why you might differ with me.

In response, I would be inclined to say the following.

I don’t know Nabokov that well, having read some of his stuff, e.g., “Speak, Memory,” “Despair,” “Pnin,” and “Lolita” (in part).

“Lolita,” frankly, left me feeling wanting, impoverished. I could not get into it.

I have also read, in whole or part, the following critical works of Nabokov: “Nikolai Gogol” and “Lectures on Russian Literature” (parts)

Does this make me an authority? No.

But, I got the feeling that Nabokov is:

— undoubtedly brilliant;

— somewhat superficial or arid in terms of the emotional depth of his works.

Regarding the second comment – so called superficiality – I feel that Nabokov does not have or achieve in his writings the emotional depth of a Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, that his works do not strike the same deep chords. It seems to me, from my personal experience as a reader, that often one, while being impressed if not amazed by the pyrotechnics of Nabokov auteur and his ingenuity and linguistic ability, finds oneself left wanting more emotional nourishment from his works.

“looking for beauty”

DSCN0286.JPG

 

 

I just ran into a youngish woman on 60th Place in Maspeth, Queens, where I live.

I was taking an afternoon walk and at that moment was taking a photo with my camera of a beautiful tree in front of a house on the side of the street.

The woman said to me (I quote verbatim):

I like that you’re looking for the beauty in the world. … You’re looking for the beautiful moments, simple moments.

Then she high fived me.

Such a nice and perceptive comment.

— Roger W. Smith

     December 11, 2016

“Humanities 12, The Pre-Socratics, the Theory of Forms; Baseball”

 

 

 

“Humanities 12, The Pre-Socratics, the Theory of Forms; Baseball”

by Roger W. Smith

 

 

In the country of baseball, time is the air we breathe, and the wind swirls us backward, and forward, until we seem to be reckoned in time and seasons that all time and all seasons become the same. Ted Williams goes fishing, never to return to the ballpark, and falls asleep at night in the Maine summers listening to the Red Sox on radio from Fenway Park; and a ghostly Ted Williams continues to play the left-field wall, and his flat swing meets the ball in 1939, in 1948, in 1960. In the country of baseball, the bat swings in its level swoop, the ball arcs upward into the twilight, the center-fielder gathers himself beneath it, and Dixie Walker flies out to Willie Mays.

 

— Donald Hall, Fathers Playing Catch with Sons: Essays on Sport (Mostly Baseball)

 

 

 

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At Brandeis University, a college with a heavy liberal arts orientation which I attended in the 1960’s, I took a year long course in my sophomore year: Humanities 12, “Nature and Value.” It was a philosophy course.

In the first semester, we studied the Greek Pre-Socratic philosophers. In the second semester, we read the works of philosophers such as Kant and Hume.

Philosophy has never been my strong point. It leaves me confused and mystified.

The professor for the first semester, the course on the Pre-Socratics, was Peter Diamandopoulos.

Professor Diamandopoulos, who died recently, was at that time a rising academic star. He became dean of faculty at that time and went on to become a university president, serving successively as the president of Sonoma State University and then president of Adelphi University. Details of Diamandopoulos’s compensation package at Adelphi resulted in a conflict of interest investigation, which got wide publicity, and his removal from his post as president.

The second semester of the course was taught by an eminent philosophy professor, Henry David Aiken, who had just left a tenured position at Harvard and joined Brandeis in the fall of 1965.

I barely recognize Professor Diamandopoulos, a Greek-American who was born on Crete, from photos on the Internet, taken in his later years. When I took his course, he had a young, pudgy face and jet black hair.

I was at a complete loss in his course. To me, his lectures made no sense. There is one and only one thing that I remember from the course: that a Pre-Socratic philosopher was known for his observation that “whatever is, is.” Of course, I didn’t remember his name, but I Googled the statement. It was made by Parmenides of Elea, a Pre-Socratic philosopher from either the late sixth or early fifth century BC.

I had a sense of reductio ad absurdum when I heard the statement repeated over and over again by Professor Diamandopoulos.

Professor Aiken, whom I had for the second semester, seemed at times to be verging on mental instability. I cannot say this with anything like certainty. I had no knowledge of his actual mental or psychological state. But he acted histrionic while lecturing. He would pound the lectern and would be almost shouting in his high pitched, squeaky voice. Again, I had almost no idea of what he was talking about and did not understand most of the readings. (Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason was just words and was basically unintelligible to me. I should make it clear that this says nothing whatsoever about Kant and a lot about my own stupidity.)

Again, as was the case in the first semester with Professor Diamandopoulos, I remember almost nothing, except that the professor repeatedly used Aristotle’s phrase Zoon politikon (political animal). He said it again and again, pounding the lectern for effect each time.

At some point in the Humanities 12 course, we read Plato’s Republic, translated by Allan Bloom. It actually made some sense to me. We also read Plato’s Timaeus, which I found to be interesting and very well worth reading.

 

 

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An aside.

At the end of the second semester, there was a final exam, as usual. I had gotten a B in the first semester under Professor Diamandopoulos.

I did as well as I could – it was an essay exam. I was pretty good at writing answers to essay questions even when I knew very little, but this time I felt it was hopeless. I had learned hardly anything, had retained practically nothing, was just about as ignorant of philosophy at the end of the course as at the beginning.

In those pre Internet days, it would take a while to find out one’s final grade. We would put a self addressed postcard inside the blue book when we handed it in, with “EXAM GRADE _____ / “FINAL GRADE _____” printed in ink, to be filled in and returned by the grader.

A week or two later, the postcard came back, indicating that I had received an A for the second semester. Not even an A minus!

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t figure out how. As I recall, my grade on the midterm, which would have been factored in when calculating the course grade, was low.

I thought about it for a few days. I had a summer job on campus. I decided that there must have been a mistake and that I had been given someone else’s grade. So, I went to the department office. Of course, none of the professors was there, but I explained the situation to the department secretary. I said to her, in so many words: “I just got back my course grade for Humanities 12b. It was a straight A. I hadn’t been doing well all year. I’ll bet it was a mistake and that my exam booklet got mixed up with someone else’s. I don’t deserve an A, and I don’t want someone else to get a lower grade that they didn’t deserve when it was intended for me.”

The department secretary looked at me kindly and said, “I think you had best let the grade stand.”

 

 

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Which brings me to baseball. You may be wondering, quite rightly, how did he get there?

Well, although I was at a loss in philosophy, I did enjoy reading Plato. I remember learning about his Theory of Forms (also known as the Theory of Ideas).

I have, when engaged in idle speculation, sometimes thought about Platonic forms as they do or might apply to what I perceive in the world around me.

I have often thought of baseball teams as illustrating the Theory of Forms.

Baseball teams, as is well known, have identities — “personalities,” so to speak. I have thought this may have something to do with the stadiums they play in, e.g., Yankee Stadium, the corporate headquarters for an efficient, well oiled winning machine made up of ballplayers who function as cogs in the machine and interchangeable parts; Fenway Park, a cozy, quirky place for ballplayers with separate identities and non conformist personalities who sometimes screw up and don’t always win; and so on.

Anyway, I have thought about this more specifically in terms of the players’ POSITIONS.

Why is it that the Red Sox have always seemed to have great left fielders (but, not necessarily, great center fielders)? It seemed as if, when Ted Williams retired, there had to be another Williams caliber player to take his place. The Theory of Forms required it.

Why do the Yankees, who had one star after another in center field, never seem to have had a star left fielder?

Why do the Red Sox seem to have historically had bad fielding but good hitting infielders (second baseman after second baseman who couldn’t make the double play)?

The Dodgers an ace (or perhaps two at the same time) with future Hall of Famer credentials?

Why have the Mets never seemed able to find a good third baseman (at least until recently)?

And so on.

I am sure you get the point.

An interesting idea, or a stupid one?

You tell me.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     December 2016

My Grandfather, the 1912 World Series, and Harry Hooper’s Catch; Plus, a Couple of My Own Favorites

 

 

In the 1912 World Series, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Giants four games to three, with one tie.

The eighth and final game was played on Wednesday, October 16, 1912, at Fenway Park in Boston. The attendance was 17,034. The location of the game was determined by a coin toss, which the Red Sox won.

In the game, Boston rallied for two runs in the tenth inning to win the game and the Series, thanks to two costly Giants fielding misplays.

In the fifth inning, Giants second baseman Larry Doyle hit a long drive to right but was robbed of a possible home run by Red Sox outfielder Harry Hooper, who made a great running catch in front of the low fence.

My paternal grandfather, Thomas Gordon Smith, witnessed the catch, as he told me years afterward.

Hooper’s catch was described as follows by Red Sox pitcher Smoky Joe Wood, their ace (who pitched in the game in relief), in an interview for the classic book by Lawrence Ritter (who “moonlighted” as a finance professor at the New York University school of business) The Glory of Their Times:

Larry Doyle hit a terrific drive to deep right center, and Harry ran back at full speed and dove over the railing and into the crowd and in some way, I’ll never quit figure out how, he caught the ball — I think with his bare hand. It was almost impossible to believe, even when you saw it.

Red Sox center fielder Tris Speaker, one of the greatest outfielders of all time, called Hooper’s “running, leaping catch,” as he described it, “one of the greatest catches I ever saw.”

This accords with what my grandfather told me. “I was at the World Series game when Harry Hooper caught the ball and fell into the stands,” he said.

 

 

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To return to the overall game, and its dramatic denouement.

Smoky Joe Wood, who had taken a pounding on the mound the day before, entered the game in the eighth inning in relief of the Boston starter, Hugh Bedient. Christy Mathewson was pitching for the Giants.

The game went into extra innings with the score tied at 1-1. The Giants scored a run in the top of the tenth inning, making the score 2-1 in their favor. They were three outs away from a World Series victory.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, the Red Sox rallied for two runs to win the game.

The last half of the tenth featured a famous misplay, “Snodgrass’s muff.”

Red Sox pinch hitter Clyde Engle (batting for Smoky Joe Wood) led off with an easy fly ball to Fred Snodgrass in center field. Snodgrass dropped the ball, and Engle reached second base. The next day’s New York Times described the play as follows: “And now the ball settles. It is full and fair in the pouch of the padded glove of Snodgrass. But he is too eager to toss it to [left fielder Red] Murray and it dribbles to the ground.”

The next batter was the above mentioned Harry Hooper, he of the miraculous fifth inning catch. He flied out to deep center — Snodgrass making a fine running catch, right after his error — but Engle advanced to third.

Red Sox second baseman Steve Yerkes was walked by Mathewson, putting the winning run on base.

The next batter was center fielder Tris Speaker (a future Hall of Famer). He lifted a foul popup on the first base side, but Giants first baseman Fred Merkle, pitcher Mathewson, and catcher Chief Meyers allowed the ball to fall untouched in foul territory. Snodgrass later claimed that Red Sox bench jockeys had disrupted the players’ timing.

Given new life, Speaker singled home Engle to tie the game 2–2, Yerkes advancing to third. Mathewson walked the next batter, left fielder Duffy Lewis, intentionally, loading the bases.

The next batter, Red Sox third baseman Larry Gardner, flied to Josh Devore in right field deep enough for Yerkes to tag up and score, and the Red Sox won the game and the Series.

The Boston outfield consisted of Duffy Lewis, left field (famous for “Duffy’s Cliff”); Tris Speaker, center field; and Harry Hooper in right. It is considered one of the best outfields of all time.

(How is it that the Red Sox seem to usually have great outfields? They had a pretty good one in the fifties when I was a young fan: Ted Williams in left; Jimmy Piersall in center; and Jackie Jensen in right. Then, later, there were the outfields comprised of Red Sox stars such as Carl Yastrzemski, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, and Dwight Evans, in various combinations.)

From a Wikipedia article, at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1912_World_Series

Fred Snodgrass’s error went down in history as “the $30,000 muff”, a reference to the difference in the winning and losing shares, $29,514.34. (Note: this figure was calculated with respect to the total amounts of the two teams’ shares.) After the series, Snodgrass tried to explain, saying “I didn’t seem to be able to hold the ball. It just dropped out of the glove, and that was all there was to it.”

Christy Mathewson later wrote that “As I look back upon the 1912 series, when we lost to the Boston Red Sox, I see it was the same. Pitchers, outfielders, the whole team collapsed under the strain.”

My grandfather was age 27 at the time of the final game of the 1912 Series. He was employed as a bank teller in Boston. See photo below.

 

 

T. Gordon Smith

Thomas Gordon Smith (1885-1967)

 

 

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Addendum:

 

Harry Hooper’s catch is not often written about, but it was one of the all time great catches.

I would like to mention two of my favorites.

Opening day at Yankee Stadium on April 14, 1967 pitted the New York Yankees against the Boston Red Sox. Rookie Billy Rohr was the Red Sox starter; it was his first Major League game. He was pitching a no hitter through eight innings.

In the bottom of the ninth, left fielder Tom Tresh led off for the Yankees. He hit a long drive to left field. Left fielder Carl Yastrzemski, who was playing shallow, made a remarkable over the shoulder, tumbling catch to preserve the no hitter.

Yastrzemski’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

Unfortunately, Rohr lost the no hitter when the next batter, Elston Howard, singled.

Then there was the catch that Dwight Evans made in Game Six — game six of the 1975 World Series between the Red Sox and the Cincinnati Reds, that is.

In the top of the eleventh, with Ken Griffey on first, Joe Morgan hit a deep drive to right field that looked to be headed over the fence. Evans, however, made a spectacular catch near the visitors’ bullpen to rob Morgan of a homer, then he made one of his herculean throws to double Griffey off first. The first baseman was none other than Carl Yastrzemski.

Evans’s catch is viewable on YouTube at

 

 

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   December 2016

office politics (reflections upon, plus some thoughts about writing as it relates to IQ)

 

 

 

I had a varied and spotty career in my work life.

I was a freelancer for a few years, interrupted my career to pursue a graduate degree, but spent most of my work life working in offices.

I always hated it. The office environment and culture did not suit me.

It was claustrophobic. One basically has no privacy, feels no freedom to be oneself.

The pettiness, narrow mindedness, and gossip – the constant security of one’s slightest actions, peculiarities, behavior, comportment, grooming and dress, feelings, moods, whims, attitudes, opinions (God forbid that they should be original or controversial), and so forth — were irritating and depressing. The routine mind numbing and ossifying.

 

 

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In my last office job, which lasted over twelve years, I had a boss whom I admired in many respects but also resented.

He was a hard taskmaster.

He prided himself on his savoir faire and intelligence, not without some justification.

He admired my intellect, but he also felt qualified to lecture me, which I found somewhat annoying. He took it as a given that he was the more knowledgeable one.

In the office in midtown Manhattan where I was employed, there were two distinct factions which hated one another.

There was a sort of renegade faction opposed to the current office manager.

The renegade faction allied itself to a powerful figure in the office who had major clients. In retrospect, it seems that he overestimated himself, but people were intimidated by and afraid of him.

The members of his faction seemed to spend an awful lot of time kibitzing and putting down others.

The leader of this so called renegade faction eventually lost out in an office power struggle. He was not chosen as the next office manager, which he had expected. He left in a huff, as I was later told. He filed a wrongful termination suit (unsuccessful) against the firm.

My boss made what I thought was a sage observation while this power struggle was going on but before the denouement. He said he never participated or engaged in office politics. If others started to gossip about or badmouth coworkers, he would abstain.

“The problem with office politics,” he said, “is that if you choose a side, you may end up being on the wrong one.”

That is precisely what happened with the renegade coterie. They left the firm, individually, sequentially — unhappily and under circumstances not favorable to them –shortly after their de facto leader had himself left.

 

Roger W. Smith

  December 2016

 

 

 

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Addendum:

 

I got to thinking yesterday, for some reason, about this post and about the leader of the “renegade faction” in my former place of employ described therein, anecdotes about whom were intended to illustrate a general point I was trying to make.

A couple of other details occurred to me.

Only a few days after I had joined the firm, I attended a company conference on the West Coast which was devoted to cross fertilization among associates from different offices. That was the first time I became aware of a high ranking employee, Mr. ________, who would later become leader of the “renegade faction.”

The first time I saw him, he was in a corridor of our hotel prior to the beginning of the day’s proceedings. He looked like he had just woken up, and he was carrying a copy of the New York Times which he had purchased at the hotel magazine shop. He appeared lost in thought and somewhat disheveled and looked like a prototypical New York intellectual.

That’s _______ _______,” someone said. “He’s brilliant!”

It turned out that almost everyone in our office held Mr. _______ in awe. Mostly because of his reputedly large stable of devoted clients and his mesmerizing hold on everyone as an absolute authority on employee benefits who was not to be gainsaid.

But — I found out over time — he was no Einstein. Not a genius. His reputation for intellectual prowess, such as it was, was not deserved. (Which is not to say that he wasn’t intelligent.)

He once took his secretary and me to lunch and talked briefly with us about his education. I gathered that (if I recall correctly) he did not attend college right after high school, but went back to school later. The school, which I had vaguely heard of, was a local school with no great reputation. Certainly, not a prestigious university. It may well have been a nonaccredited school. He obviously finished and got some kind of degree in a narrowly focused course of study. Whether it was a bachelor’s degree, I don’t know.

The renegade leader’s secretary showed up at my desk on a workday once and dropped a seven page long, double spaced, typed draft on my desktop. “_______ wants you to edit it,” she said. I did not work for _______’s department, but it was assumed that I would do it immediately with no further discussion. It turned out that what he wanted me to do was edit the draft of remarks, or a speech, he was planning to give to some office, company division, or professional association.

It is actually the kind of work I like to do. I dove right in. Soon I was scratching my hair. The content of the speech may have been okay, but his thoughts were expressed horribly.

However, I have always fancied that I can wordsmith and make read decently just about any piece of English prose — on any subject, technical or nontechnical — written by an adult with a modicum of education and a knowledge of English as a first or second language.

Among the awkward phrases I recall — the renegade leader kept failing miserably at getting his thoughts across, at crafting phrases and sentences — was “Russian red tape expert,” used in the following sentence about employee benefit laws: “A Russian red tape expert would be proud to issue 49 pages of closely printed regulations. ….” I changed it to “Communist apparatchik.” (Upon reflection, I think that “Soviet apparatchik” might have been better.)

I labored over the speech for about two hours and returned it to the renegade leader’s secretary. It was received without a word. I never heard anything from him by way of follow up or got any thanks. I was proud of my work. I still have a copy of his draft with my edits.

It is true that a lot of so called geniuses — this includes true geniuses — cannot write well. It also seems that many of the greatest writers of all time, while showing obvious intelligence, let alone brilliance, in certain respects — did not possess IQ’s that would make them eligible for Mensa.

Just what the relationship between a genius for writing and being in the “gifted” class (as early childhood educators would term it) with respect to intelligence is, is not obvious and raises potentially interesting lines of inquiry.

 

— Roger W. Smith

   March 17, 2017

“Trump Takes Manhattan”

Trump Tower, post election.jpg

 

re:

“How Fifth Avenue Is Coping,” by Matthew Schneier, The New York Times, November 23, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/fashion/fifth-avenue-holiday-shopping-donald-trump-tower-protesters.html

 

 

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The above referenced New York Times article is about the massive traffic headaches that have already been created – and which are looming – mainly on Fifth Avenue and on streets and other avenues in Manhattan in the vicinity of Trump Tower. Trump Tower, the main residence, for the time being, of President-elect Donald Trump, is located on the east side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets.

A couple of points that I would like to make before discussing the contents of this particular article, which thoroughly describes the problem.

— New York City, it goes without saying, has always attracted people with star power: celebrities and magnates. Yet I have always thought and felt that it’s the sort of place which nobody can dominate. It is such a huge and such a great city that it cuts everyone down to size. I know that when I first moved to New York, as a young adult, I was awed by it. It seems to have that effect on everyone. It’s a welcoming place in many respects in that the atmosphere is so tolerant, of different races, lifestyles, ethnicities, persons high and low, and so forth. It’s welcoming, it’s also overwhelming. It seems to have that effect on everyone. It attracts; it excites; and, it intimidates. It has a way of cutting people with big egos down to size.

— New York is one of the world’s greatest cities for walking. Fifth Avenue is among the best places to walk. Stretches of Fifth Avenue include some of the most expensive residences in the world and luxury stores. Yet, the avenue is accessible to all. The sidewalks are wide, the pedestrian traffic is not limited by any means to one social class, and it’s a just plain fun avenue to stroll on. It is aesthetically pleasing, rarely gets overcrowded (to the point where passage is difficult; an exception might be right in front of Rockefeller Center, where there is a giant tree on display during Christmastime; crowds are found there at this particular time of the year at certain times on certain days). The glamor, elegance, and upbeat quality of the avenue and its denizens from around the 30’s to around 100th Street seem to rub off on everyone; the pedestrians always seem to be cheerful and unstressed. You rarely seem to see something depressing.

It looks like this is changing. It makes me very unhappy. Actually, angry.

 

 

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What the Times article says:

— The “festive spirit” normally observed on Fifth Avenue during the holiday shopping season has been “dampened a bit by the long guns of stationed police officers and the regular presence of bomb-sniffing dogs.”

— Famous stores on the avenue have been blocked by police barricades.

— Anti-Trump protests have shut down traffic. (Perhaps the protests are abating now.)

— Gawkers loitering on the sidewalk outside Trump Tower have presented a problem, both for pedestrians and security.

— Pedestrian access to the east side of Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets, where Trump Tower is located, has been restricted.

— When Trump moves to the White House, the situation is not likely to ease. It is expected that he will still be spending considerable time at his Trump Tower residence. And, Trump’s wife, Melania Trump, and the couple’s son, Barron, are to stay in New York in the near term.

 

 

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Last week, I had an appointment at the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street to have my iPhone battery checked. It was raining hard. I was doing a shopping errand for my wife at a department store at Fifth Avenue and 39th Street.

I love to walk in Manhattan, and having to go from one place to another gives me a reason and incentive to walk. So, I headed north on Fifth Avenue, my preferred route and the most direct one. An alternate route would not make sense, and I much prefer Fifth Avenue to Madison or Park.

But, I had to make a detour at Fifth Avenue and 56th Street. There were barriers on both sides of the avenue (east and west) which served the purpose of a sort of funnel. Pedestrians were lined up on either side of the avenue, awaiting an ID check that would enable them to pass. A depressing sight. I have never seen this before in New York.

I was thinking what are they lining up for? It’s not worth it. Probably they wanted to be able to walk past Trump Tower and get a glimpse of it. Big thrill!

 

 

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I was reminded of an experience I had somewhere between fifteen and twenty years ago. I was walking during midday in Bryant Park, which is right behind the New York Public Library. The park runs between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and between 40th and 42nd Streets.

I was on a gravel pathway right behind the library which abuts the park. There were few people around, and my path crossed that of ex-mayor Ed Koch, who was strolling the other way on the same pathway. Neither of us was in a hurry.

We made eye contact.

I did not speak to Mr. Koch. I probably should have said, “Good day, Mr. Mayor.” But I kept going without speaking.

I had the distinct feeling that he knew that I knew who he was – in short, recognized him.

He peered at me. I had the feeling, intuition that he was thinking to himself, looks like an interesting face, an intelligent person (me).

We exchanged congenial glances.

I was reminded about something I read about Walt Whitman when Whitman was working and living in Washington, DC during the Civil War. Whitman often spotted President Lincoln riding by on horseback for business or pleasure. “I see the President almost every day. We have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones,” Whitman wrote in 1863.

Mayor Koch, when I encountered him on my stroll, similar to the experience Whitman had when he saw President Lincoln riding by, seemed to be an ordinary citizen, no different than any other New Yorker. That’s the way it should be. Donald Trump is not larger than life. He should not be allowed to shut down Manhattan.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     December 2016

 

 

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Addendum: See also

 

 

“With Trump Using Tower as Base, Fifth Avenue Grinds to a Halt,” The New York Times, November 16, 2016

 

 

“Donald Trump Loves New York. But It Doesn’t Love Him Back,” The New York Times, December 9, 2016

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/12/09/nyregion/donald-trump-new-york-protests.html

 

 

“Businesses Near Trump Tower Say Security Is Stealing Their Christmas,” The New York Times, December 23, 2016

 

“One-Man Traffic Jam Will Hit City When Trump Visits,” The New York Times, January 27, 2017