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Graffiti on Grand Ave in Oakland.

Under here.

October 25, 2008

Destructive Uncle
Saturday. I subscribe to The New Yorker as I've subscribed to The New Yorker on and off now since college for reasons that have to do with living just outside of New York City in Westchester County from the age of twelve to eighteen, formative years, where I learned to appreciate, as a member of a family that moved from a small town north of Seattle to the suburban big city, the myths and stories of the writers, artists, theater, humor, caricatures, books and erudite foppishness that made the magazine unique and instructive.

New York culture? American culture? Euro-American culture? The dominant culture? The imaginary culture? Well, all of them, one might guess: one of the fantasies we use to clothe our uncertain place in the world. Or something like that.

I think of the New York City cultural back story being composed of that which I found by watching primarily late night TV: Bennett Cerf and Kitty Carlisle on What's My Line?, any of a hundred motion pictures about the Gershwins and Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, Opera at the Met, Aeolian Hall, Carnegie Hall, Jack Parr (who lived across the River in Bronxville), Sid Caesar's writers, Woody Allen and quite possibly the Marx Brothers. Actually, most definitely the Marx Brothers.

I don't read it through and through. I'm not unlike the unwashed many who thumb through it for the cartoons and no one else I've known (well) has been to my knowledge a subscriber, albeit one or two who are contributors. As I think about it, I read it as much today for its news coverage, Seymour Hersh by himself is worth the subscription. I picked up a subscription to Vanity Fair last week for precisely the same reason. I still read some of the writers: most recently Murakami, Woody Allen, LeCarré, Sedaris and the rest, but I read them more to test the temperature of what's happening anymore in New Yorker fiction.

So, at an early age I learned something of the myths surrounding Harold Ross, the founding editor, and William Shawn, his successor; more of the ins and outs and abouts of the old Algonquin crowd than I know of the Tina Brown era and learned the names and work of a long list of cartoonists starting with the 50's. The New Yorker is my connection to those years of the fifties and sixties, a connection to the myths of my youth as well as a peep into my current very limited understanding of New York (literate) culture.

So, I'm one of the people who subscribes to The New Yorker, someone who doesn't keep it on a coffee table, but in a pile next to the bed (there to get back to those one or two stories or features I never quite get around to finishing); someone who, for most of his life, might buy one or another of their advertised products, who for forty plus years has lived some three thousand miles from Westchester County, who's kept contact with that life and those times because, for good or bad, it formed a not small part of my person: sometimes like a favored aunt, sometimes like a destructive uncle.

The photograph was taken of Graffiti on a sidewalk news box on Grand Ave in Oakland with a Nikon D2Xs mounted with a 105mm f 2.8 Nikkor VR lens at 1/1250th second, f 3.0, ISO 100.