Manhattan 2005, part 2


A year ago this month, The New York Times invited me to try out as a copy editor. I filed these travel dispatches originally by e-mail. [part one | two | three | four | five | six | seven]

So freakin’ humid

Folks around here tell me it’s August weather, a mix of drizzle and heat and severe humidity. It’s miserable, and I’m used to it.

fossilwatch.jpgI’m out on Fifth Avenue to hit the library. I’m also out for the real purpose of my trip, this Fossil watch. But, it’s barely readable, so I skip it. Always try before you buy. Sigh.

The main branch of the library is closed (on a Monday!), so I skip across the intersection to the smaller branch. It’s bustling with patrons, and libraries are the new hot spots, thanks to Net access.

Even here, trying to read up on the Times, it’s not much better, comfort wise.

By the time I reach the office to have lunch with my patron, I’m soaked with sweat, drizzle and probably five kinds of I don’t wanna know.

On duty

Returning to the office for my evening shift, I’m in full suit and tie, and sweating. Not from nerves, from the walk and the weather. I immediately doff my jacket and roll up my sleeves. I’m not ready to go to work. I’m ready to melt.

I get the nickel tour, and it’s like most newsrooms I’ve visited, only larger. But you still have the stained rugs, the cubicles lined with odd photos and clippings, the funny-but-only-to-those-who-work-here postings, etc. The 11th floor has a long winding hallway lined with framed tributes to Pulitzer winners, most of whom I have little or no knowledge of. Luckily, there is no quiz.

As I settle in for editing, it’s all too familiar. The copy editors and loud and weird and somewhat miffed. “I gotta get this story back. Shakespeare’s got it tied up fixing it.” “We’re never gonna close these pages!”

But then, during the tour earlier, we pause a couple of times, once at the desk of reporter Judy Miller, who’s going to be on Page One tomorrow, not for one of her stories — because she is the story. Thanks to the Supreme Court decision, she’s likely going to jail to protect a source, even though she never wrote a story.

In the Foreign section, a framed photo serves as a reminder of a stringer in China jailed since November, for doing his job.

Those two examples are far more impressive than all the Pulitzers put together.

Bright lights, small city

Close to 11, I call it a day. No sense in agonizing over these two tryout stories any longer.

Times Square is rainier now, and the lights don’t command as much attention with visitors keeping their eyes down and dry. I’m still the best-dressed hick on Broadway.

Still a bit peckish, I wander past the apartment building to Cité Grille for something to take with me, a portabella, arugula, goat cheese on focaccia. Naturally, restaurants are open to all hours in Manhattan.

A handful are at the bar, and the servers amuse themselves with a shiny sleek digital camera. I let slip a “y’all” in ordering, unusual for me.

A few minutes later, I get my to-go order, complete with bonus mystery jar that the server is snickering about. “The chef included this for you,” he says.


Back in my place, the sandwich does the trick. And the mystery jar turns out to be little pickles and carrots in brine or some preservative. Nope, still don’t get it.

It sits on my small kitchen table, a strange souvenir in a stranger land.


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