Ben Katchor


     9:20 a.m. Awoke in an air-conditioned bedroom; forgot it was July.      1:15 p.m. Under the agonizing pressure of a deadline, I finish this week’s strip. As a reward, I take a delightful subway ride to the offices of the Forward to deliver the job in person. For several hours, I am in a state of euphoria which accompanies the completion of my strip each week. Walking along 33rd Street from 7th Avenue to Broadway, I stop to look at the vacant lot that was, until recently, the mysterious 34th Street Arcade.      2:30 p.m. Continue by subway downtown to resume packing the books in my soon-to-be-relinquished “old” studio. Books I haven’t seen for ten years: The Mountaineers, a play in three acts by George Colman, the younger, London 1803; a bound volume of The Penny Magazine of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, London, 1832; East of Fifth, the Story of an Apartment House, by Alan Dunn, New York, 1948.      5:15 p.m. Outside of a health-food store on Broadway, a familiar scene. A black man rummages through the day’s garbage neatly packed in plastic bags at the curbside. The Mexican employee, who just set the garbage out, opens the door and tells him to stop. The black man is angered and says, “This is garbage.” (Implying that it now belongs to no one.) “Come out and fight me for it!” The health-food store employee curses and goes back into the store. We have here, in microcosm, the cause of all human conflict.      8:45 p.m. Ran across the street to the “Associated” for cottage cheese. Waiting on line at the check-out counter, I have two profound revelations: 1) The price of all purchases in all stores should be rounded off to the nearest dollar amount. By this general agreement, we would recoup the time wasted making change and be spared the destructive force of loose coins on the fabric of our pockets. 2) An arrangement should be made so that the buying of groceries can be done in private. No one’s purchases should be subject to the humiliating scrutiny of the person who happens to be next on line. The situation, as it now exists, will someday in the future be looked back upon as an inhumane condition of 20th-century life.      10:00 p.m. Tonight, while waiting outside of a video rental store on 105th Street, I saw two diminutive, middle-aged Puerto Rican men who seemed to have been cast by circumstance into a state of perpetual childhood. One carried a piece of a fishing rod, the other, a small portable radio; both wore short pants. They were walking east, enraptured by the evening, distracted by everything they saw, probably drunk. Were their parents still alive, or were they wards of the State?      2:10 a.m. At this hour, people are inspired by the relative quiet of Broadway to begin screaming. They scream in anger at a companion, or to the public in general.