Ben Katchor


     8:15 a.m. Something’s wrong with the hot water this morning–it’s cold. The superintendent, whom I’ve seen only once, is away on a strangely generous vacation of one month. The man covering for him may not be acquainted with the intricacies of this building’s 60-year-old boiler. I’ve heard that when these old systems (designed and installed at the time of the building’s construction to feed its unique arterial system of radiators and pipes) are replaced they never work as well, and so most of them are repaired and kept going for as long as possible.      10:00 a.m. Hot water returns.      11:00 a.m. I’ve only seen the morning rush hour on Broadway once or twice. Thousands of outwardly well-adjusted, presentable individuals dressed for business wait at the bus stops or walk purposefully toward the subway. After 11 o’clock the streets of upper Broadway are left to an astounding assortment of idlers, home-workers, eccentrics, and the mentally ill. Having lived for the past 15 years near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan, where many of these business people are going, the spectacle of Upper West Side residential life is new to me. On a short walk to and from the Xerox place on 96th Street, I noticed the following:      A woman with a large, helmet-like coiffure of densely matted orange hair.      A Chihuahua with manicured bright-red nails, wandering nervously on the corner of 101st Street.      Various men trying out their new toupees in public.      Self-conversationalists. Several people talking to themselves at the top of their voices.      A couple and one man who refuse to accept the fact that their tropical vacations are over. They walk the street in pool-wear (bathing suits, terry-cloth jackets), with unhealthy suntans.      A grown woman propelling herself uptown on an adult-sized scooter.

       What idiosyncrasies do I exhibit? A man with a battered portfolio rushes up and down Broadway on an imaginary mission of great artistic importance, and yet he’s careful to cross onto the shady side of the street to protect his delicate skin.

       10:05 p.m. Decide to go out to Jerusalem Falafel for a Syrian “bird’s nest” pastry.