The editor of this newspaper asked me to introduce myself, since I’ll be contributing a sort of diary. So try to forgive me for blatantly tooting my horn. Some highlights: I’ve written for publications such as the New York Times and Newsweek. The most recent of my five books, Family Circle, about generations of a left-wing family, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and was nominated by the publisher Knopf for the Pulitzer. My first book was a diary of my divorce (still selling briskly), so hang in for risky revelations. A final toot: because of my recent articles about Seinfeld in the Times, Larry David named a woman on his show who yells at him (they all yell at him) after me, and after another Times article in the late 1970s, Woody Allen made me a muse for his film Manhattan.
One of my favorite city sports is eavesdropping. My curiosity about people fuels my writer’s life in our great city, where millions of us tread in each other’s footsteps.
I once sipped tomato juice for an hour while a nearby stranger described a one-night stand to an envious friend. And, the other day, I was not in the least minding my own business as I unfurled my red-bordered cloth napkin at the Madison Avenue restaurant E.A.T. Two strangers slurped the Tuscan vegetable soup; one wore a tight striped shirt (so bespoke as to appear pasted to his upper body), a pinkie ring and pleated plaid pants. (A terminally hip version of the Duke of Windsor mix of plaids and stripes). He had to be English.
A furtive glance at his companion revealed a guy about 20, likely a New Yorker because of his shorter hair.
I quickly ascertained they were brothers-in-law and the New Yorker was a Yalie. The Brit idly praised our Republican vice-presidential candidate because she shoots and dresses her own moose. He suddenly added, “Anybody who doesn’t thrill to their first kill is a wuss.”
At the table on my other side, a young mom was venting to her angelic adolescent daughter in a ponytail. “It’s just bad—so bad,” she said.
I restrained myself from glancing at her daughter’s facial expression. One impulsive glance can destroy an entire crime scene. (I’m talking social crime, of course.) Sometimes, a pregnant silence ensues, chairs scrape the floor and my fascinating strangers disappear into the mush of humanity that constitutes the city I love.
Back to E.A.T.
The poor mom was on a roll, “Any girl who gets high at an ice cream social at school…”
Alas, I missed her daughter’s response.
Conditions were imperfect. Loud chatter echoed off mirrored walls. I noticed the angelic child shaking both suntanned knees.
Better write to her father, said her mom uncertainly.
I’d chewed three baby artichokes when the British aristocrat on my other side began to reminisce about skinning a fox after hounds chewed it to death. My gut lurched into free-fall, as he described hacking off the poor animal’s tail.
Damn the artichokes, I was riveted. (I wake up to pet my cat when she has nightmares.)
Suddenly the mother pipes up. “Your brother’s not performing at pre-school. I’m enrolling him in music classes to acclimate him.”
“Do come for Christmas fox hunt, semi-illegal, of course,” said the Brit, signaling for the check.
I didn’t hear the younger man’s response, but I know what mine would be.
Susan Braudy is a writer who lives in New York City. Her column appears in this paper every other week.
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