I went to the New York Public Library for an afternoon walk. There was an exhibit called “Lunch” that focused on the impacts of this city and its culture on the midday meal, and I must have spent about five hours reading every inch of those displays. A part of me felt sad that so many of the artifacts were stuck behind those glass cases but I knew it was for the better, to preserve them. But really I just wanted to hold those Scooby Doo lunch boxes and 19th century journals, smell that old paper and the years etched between those rotting yellow edges, to feel the brush of ink dried over so many decades and Presidents. There’s magic in something ancient, a fairy tale in old notebooks and library cards.
Deep down I’ve always had the mind of a historian: fascinated by the past, coloring dull greyed photographs with the illusory brush of reverence. I was there on 42nd street having automat lunches, wailing on corners for dollar apples, lining with the Negroes boycotting Woolsworth. But these pictures, these snippets of facts and anecdotal stories never really capture the true chagrin of existence. These people knew suffering, knew poverty, knew Stalin and Hitler, knew hunger, knew Great Depression’s and bigotry, knew The Five Points, knew disparity and the struggles of the human heart. I could only read about it, awed and unaware of the dirt and callus on each hand to pen these recorded griefs turned window-shop reflections.