Thursday, March 10, 2005

Gorp tempore

A faithful Dizzyhead mentioned that the evergreen Cindy Adams, coiner or at least primary employer of that eternally corny yet infinitely utterable catchphrase "Only in New York, kids—only in New York," had this to say about The Gates:

"East Siders staring at the tourists staring at the orange schmattes hanging in Central Park. 'Gives a new meaning to the words Central Park Zoo.' "

I crossed the park on Tuesday for my weekly novel-writing session at the NYSL, and noticed a whole row of Gates lying on the ground. It's over! *Cuncta suo tempore*, I thought—I'm not sure what that means, but it's the title of one of my numerous abandoned fictions.

The phrase would presently become significant. My usual routine at the NYSL—just predating the opening of the Gates—was to hole myself up in one of the two "research/typing" rooms on the 12th floor. I would get there as soon as the library opened, take the key for room "A," generally from librarian Marie. But Marie wasn't there—and the room was already occupied, though I was just 15 minutes late. Fortunately, the 12th floor stacks have a secluded (though doorless) nook, where I set up shoop. It provided an excellent view of Room A, now usurped. My usurper was not in the room for quite a while—only a userless laptop was visible. I grimaced as the snow began to fall.

It turns out that the library is now reverting to its policy of accepting reservations for the research/typing rooms—and in the course of the week following my last visit, all the Tuesday spots (indeed, most spots in general) appear to have been gobbled up. This is all outrageously uninteresting, of course, but the breaking of a routine, at this stage of novel writing, has thrown me in a bit of a tailspin. The 12th floor nook is nice, a bit uninsulated. The only problem with it is that it's in the stacks, which means I need to keep my wandering in check if I want to get anything done.

(Skip this paragraph if you like.) And so on Tuesday I looked at a gardening book by Vita Sackville-West, Wayne Koestenbaum's short biography of Warhol, my former colleague C.Carr's excellent collection of performance art criticism, ON EDGE, and a monograph on "The Level Club," a Masonic hobnobbing spot/hotel on West 73rd Street, long since out of commission. From this curious little book, I learned some things, such as that in the 1960s, 25% of the country's registered drug addicts lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (Which explains why I live there! Just kidding, Mom!) I also learned a bit about the Hall of the Knights of Pythias, the ornate building on West 70th Street, which is mentioned on the first page of Bob Dylan's CHRONICLES. The Knights of Pythias were a fraternal organization, with some Masonic overlap, founded in 1864 to foster brotherhood between North and South; its members abhor extremism and violence in politics and daily life (that last bit is more or less a quote from the book). It's the only fraternal organization whose charter was approved by an act of Congress (signed by Lincoln). As it turns out, the place on 70th Street (you can't miss it if you stop into Café Mozart for a cappuccino al fresco) wasn't officially connected with the Knights—oh, anyway, you see what the problem is. If I work in the stacks, I dip into a million books. It's great as an idea tinderbox, but I'm at the stage where concentrated writing is more important. I go to the library, really, to escape *my* library—the hundreds of books cramming the shelves of my apartment.

The nook is dedicated to a NYSL benefactor from days of yore, one John Cleve Green—next time, I'll copy down more of the inscription, which takes up an entire wall—and bears the motto CUNCTA SUO TEMPORE. Latin-loving (Latino?) Dizzyheads, tell me what this means! The CUNCTA is done with a V for a U.

Outside the snow was swirling. I had no gloves. I wore a silly floppy-brimmed hat and a raincoat against what had suddenly turned into freezing weather, after a marvelous Monday that had basked in the low 60s. I kept thinking of the guy in METROPOLITAN who assures the rich kids that his flimsy coat *has a lining*. I picked up a prepackaged Cobb salad at Butterfield Market and got hypnotized at the cash register by a mysterious-looking snack item called "Bridgehampton Gorp."


Blogger BW said...

So that's what you were doing pre-1:30 on Tuesdays?

I've been doing most of my reading at Foyle's, which is the oldest bookstore in London and has a nice (organic) cafe. Also, it's good to people watch. But since I have to do any writing on my computer (which is why the journals I brought with me remain mostly blank) I can't do any writing anywhere else, for better or worse...

5:54 PM  

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