Last night on the No. 3 train, a blind beggar with a white cane sang “Amazing Grace,” altering the third line to, “Was blind, but now I’m free,” thereby preserving a kind of metaphor and a kind of integrity. He followed up with “Maria” from West Side Story in a very high tenor. He was frighteningly thin and missing most of his teeth. Without speaking, a young woman dropped some change into his cup. He said, “Thank you, Miss.” How did he know?
I’m puzzled by the absence of Spanish-speaking beggars on the subway. New York has a huge Hispanic population that includes both those likely to give and those who need to receive. Perhaps when I wasn’t paying attention, Gov. Pataki pushed through an Official Language Act.
To a reception at The Explorers Club for D., a friend from high school, the new writer-in-residence for Victoria magazine. Near where we picked up our name tags was a 10-foot stuffed polar bear. An editor told me there was a whale’s foreskin in the men’s room. A publicist said that this year, Victoria’s theme is “The Return to Loveliness.”
Sample copies of Victoria were on display: It looks as if a set of Ralph Lauren sheets had decided to start a monthly. The current issue, announcing D.’s ascendancy, features an editor’s note called “Dear Friends,” by which is meant the hundreds of thousands of strangers who buy Victoria. This month’s note, “Passages—Beautiful and Comely,” starts: ” ‘Sunrise, Sunset’—so begins a memorable song from ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ which always poignantly reminds me of time.” This month it reminds her that the fashion model on the cover of the first issue, 10 years ago, is now older. Ten years older. But she is still lovely. Lovelier.
D.’s new post does not oblige her to show up at Victoria’s offices. She is “in residence” at the magazine in the sense that Nabokov is in residence at my house: He frequently appears there in print.
Kids say the darnedest things. Sophie, age 9: “Hey, dad, sing, ‘We Sail the Ocean Blue,’ but in the first person.” (So begins a memorable song from HMS Pinafore.) Her shift in POV yields, “When my balls whistle free o’er the bright blue sea, I stand to my guns all day.” Her ingenious discovery, combining grammatical precision and childish smut, is utterly endearing. In one’s own child, of course. Still, I think the joy she finds in the 19th century would delight the staff of Victoria magazine.