Age and occupation. How long have you lived here, where did you come from, and where do you live now?
Im 31 and I work in the Art Reference Library in the Brooklyn Museum. Most people assume that since I work in a library Im a librarian, but Im not there yet. Just because you wear a tall white hat and checked pants doesnt mean youre a chef either. Im still going to school for my MLS. Did you know that librarians need masters degrees? Its true. Dont let anyone fool you. I do everything from ordering supplies to answering reference questions, so Im a sort of jack-of-all-trades here. But thats just my day job.
I grew up in NH and, after 25 years of living exclusively in NH, I moved to Greenpoint, Brooklyn in 1997 -- directly from that other city of dreams, Dover, NH. I decided that Id try it for a year and if I didnt like it Id move away. I havent budged since. Still, the fresh air, the big house bought at a reasonable price, the big lawn, the big dog, the small car with the high MPG, the Super Shaws -- theyre all very appealing in their own way. But Id have to give up so much. Once I get rich being a librarian I suppose I can have a city home and a country home and everything will just work out fine and dandy.
Three from Chris Gage
1. You've been a long-time resident of Greenpoint, which is on the G Train, a notoriously much maligned subway. Please impart our readers with the philosophy you use to cope with its infrequent arrivals and general difficult nature?
Wouldnt it be nice if Charles Mingus composition GG Train (written back when those double letters made sure you knew it was a local) could have given the G train the kind of romance that Ellingtons Take the A Train gave that train?
My philosophy is that the G train should be thought of as an object of seduction. This sounds idiotic, I know, but bear with me. When youre standing on the platform, you should think about how much you love the G train, how much you want it to come to you. If you stand there fuming and cursing about the G train, you may have to wait a long time for it to arrive. I know that sounds ridiculous for a subway philosophy, but after nearly seven years of riding the G train, I have empirical evidence that if you (or at least I) love the G train, want the G train, even desire the G train, it will come to you like a lover -- or at least like a well-trained pet. Ask anyone I know who has caught the G train with me more than a few times and theyll tell you that its uncanny how quickly the G train comes when Im waiting for it. Id say 80% of the time I dont have to wait more than a couple of minutes. Oftentimes, its better than that -- just as I finish coming down the stairs, as I hit the platform, the train pulls into the station. Its kinda like my own underground limo.
But to be fair, 20% of the time Im like most other people, standing on the platform waiting for half an hour wondering just how long it takes a train to go two stops -- from Court Square to Greenpoint Ave. Im reminded of this guy who was waiting for the G train one Sunday morning on the platform opposite me. It must have been eight or nine oclock in the morning. There were quite a few people on both platforms and wed all been waiting a good twenty minutes. It was quiet- no one was talking to anyone and Im sure everyone was thinking what this guy started yelling, Dondé esta el tren?! Wheres the fucking train?! Its rare that one half-crazy guy can read the minds of 50 people at once - in two languages no less -- but there it is.
2. As one who works at the Brooklyn Museum, what's your verdict on the facelift that hallowed institution recently received?
Im no architectural critic, but I have to say that its a vast improvement on what was there. As you may know, there used to be steps on the front of the building, but they were removed in the 1930s. The steps brought you in to the third floor -- they were twice as high as the front steps of the Met. Ive seen some photos of those steps -- they were majestic and really made the building wear its neo-Classicism on its face. There are apocryphal stories of people being blown off those steps by the winds that whip down Eastern Parkway. But, back to the new entrance -- yeah, I like it fine.
3. I hear that you've been working on the mystery of whether Walt Whitman actually ever was a librarian in Brooklyn. Can you give us a brief overview of your work thus far?
The library where I work traces its roots to the Brooklyn Apprentices Library (the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library, founded in 1823, eventually became the Brooklyn Institute of Arts & Sciences which, in the late nineteenth century eventually became the Brooklyn Museum). The chronology in the back of the 1967 handbook of the Brooklyn Museum states, 1835 -- Walt Whitman becomes the temporary librarian. Library closes because of lack of interest. I dont know if the writer of that chronology meant for the statement to be so provocative or not.
What I know so far (from our own institutional archives which cover the earlier incarnations of the Brooklyn Museum) is a single entry from the minutes of a meeting of the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library on January 31, 1835, stating, in part, "Walter Whitman acting Librarian presented a Report this evening . . ." As far as I know, no one here at the Brooklyn Museum has found any further evidence connecting Whitman to the Brooklyn Apprentices' Library beyond the above quoted entry. Whitman wouldve been 16 at the time. It very well could be him, and its a sort of unquestioned institutional fact around here, but Im just not satisfied and am trying to find out whether Whitman really was part of the organization. In any event, he never wouldve set foot in the current building that houses the Brooklyn Museum (it opened in 1897, Whitman died in 1892). Incidentally, I have an old, wooden ruler in my desk that has a nice patina from having been used for many years. I pretend that its Whitmans ruler -- the only trace he left of himself and his tenuous connection to the Brooklyn Museum.
Im not sure that qualifies as brief. What Ive learned by working in a library: dont expect a short answer when you ask people what theyre researching.
Time travel question: What era, day or event in New York's history would you like to re-live?
I think going to a Brooklyn Dodgers game at Ebbets Field with Marianne Moore would be great.
What's your New York motto?
Ladies and gentlemen, this G is going express -- express -- the next stop will be Hoyt-Schermerhorn. Express stops only on this G. Its rare, but it happens, and its as good a motto as any I suppose.
Best celebrity sighting in New York, or personal experience with one if you're that type.
Susan Rotolo, or Suze, called my boss at work since Ms. Rotolo is an artist and my boss was the curator of an exhibition. I had a sneaking suspicion that I knew who this was and I confirmed it by doing just a little bit of research: this was indeed the Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylans one-time-girlfriend pictured walking down a NYC street with Mr. Dylan on the cover of The Freewheelin Bob Dylan. Thats not a sighting and hardly a personal experience, but hey, its more interesting than having seen Barbara Walters on the street.
Just after midnight on a Saturday - what are you doing?
Doing something you can only do in New York -- reading the Sunday Times.
Where do you summer?
Le Point Vert -- a village on the west end of an island off the Mid-Atlantic coast where children still play in the street and I can walk to a creek.
What was your best dining experience in NYC?
Last spring I was walking down the street in the Village sharing a black & white -- a good one, from Veselka -- and drinking a coffee with my girlfriend. Id been living in New York for almost six years and Id never had a black & white cookie. I couldnt imagine what would be so great about them so I never gave them much thought (plus, I veer more toward the savory than the sweet). I mean, its just a big cookie with black and white frosting on it, right? No! Why had no one ever told me that they actually taste like cake! Does everyone know this? I think if they did, theyd eat more black & whites. Ive had many more since then and I keep a slip of paper in my wallet rating them. So far, Ive not found any as good as the ones at Veselka.
Just how much do you really love New York?
As much as I love the G train.
Of all the movies made about (or highly associated with) New York, what role would you have liked to be cast in?
I think Id like to be the Japanese man in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three that is part of the group that Walter Matthau gives a tour of the subway control room to. He lets Matthaus character, whos been saying all kinds of ridiculous things thinking his guests dont speak English, know he speaks perfectly good English at the end of the tour. If not him, maybe Id like to play Popeye Doyle or Batman.
If you could change one thing about New York, what would it be?
The weather. Spring would last more than four days and the summer nights would cool off to, I dont know, 70 degrees or so. Of course, then maybe more people would move to New York. Wait, who am I kidding -- who moves to NY for the weather? Ah, but that could all change.
The End of The World is finally happening. What are you going to do with your last 24 hours in NYC?
Hmm. Theres a manhole cover in Times Square that doesnt actually cover a manhole, but instead covers a wormhole. I think Id open that, climb down -- or whichever direction you go once you enter a wormhole - and see where it took me. I dont think Im ready to shuffle off this mortal coil quite yet so I can only fantasize about how to cheat fate.