Friday, October 28, 2005
Postcards from Buster
So you’re wondering—at least four of you—just what it is I’m doing that’s so important as to prevent me from blogging about Harriet Miers and Fitzmas. Well, I’ll tell you.
As a member of the Modern Language Association’s Executive Council and as a nonvoting member of the Delegate Assembly Organizing Committee (2002-05), I attend a four-day meeting every year in late October, one goal of which is to plan for the meeting of the Delegate Assembly at the MLA Convention in late December. Thanks to our painstaking efforts in this October meeting, the elected delegates to the December convention (roughly 300 of the 10,000 attendees) will be fully apprised of the difference between MLA motions and MLA resolutions, MLA moving violations and MLA parking violations, and (most important) MLA defensive holding penalties and MLA pass-interference penalties.
But here’s the really important stuff: on Wednesday I realized that my right shoe had developed a tear in the vamp and would need to be repaired. So I brought it to the cobbler at the southernmost subway entrance to Grand Central at 41st and Park, who informed me that he could fix it within 48 hours by replacing and restitching both soles for the price of $60. While my shoes were in the shop, I spent my spare time tooling around New York in sneakers at a reasonably healthy clip, which reminded me about the days when I worked after school as a foot messenger. How long ago was I a foot messenger? So long ago that there were foot messengers in New York. Almost thirty years ago, folks. This would be long before the development of things like “e” “mail” and “facsimile” “machines.” And I learned, back in those days, that if you walk against the flow of traffic and the sequence of the traffic lights on Manhattan’s north-south avenues (in other words, south on Madison, north on Fifth, south on Sixth, etc.) at the rate of 45 seconds per block (or 4 mph, since there are 20 east-west streets per mile), you will hit one intersection just as the light turns green, the next just before the light turns red, the next just as the light turns green, and so on to infinity or until you hit a body of water.
This principle still holds true today. Just fyi, for those of you who are walking around Manhattan in a hurry—at least four of you. Walk against the lights, 45 seconds per block.
Now, all the time I was walking briskly up and down the north-south avenues as a foot messenger twenty-eight years ago, my high school classmate Patrick Fitzgerald was preparing to embark on the college career that would prepare him for the law school that would prepare him for the Department of Justice job in which he would eventually prepare the indictment of one I. Lewis Libby on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, making false statements, and
engaging in consensual extramarital oral sex (damn! we didn’t get him for the really important stuff!). And because I’ve been spending all my days in meetings whose purpose it is to keep track of how my professional literature-and-language organization keeps track of its scholarly enterprises and its members’ working conditions, my understanding of national news is necessarily fragmentary and incomplete.