A week or so ago, I was walking down 238th Street to the subway when I passed a cardboard box full of junk on the curb. Usually, I keep going, but this time, the junk wasn't plain old junk. It was readable junk.
Somebody, for whatever reason, was throwing away a box full of old mystery pulps and novels. Detective stories, which was the first genre I ever really got into, back in my Hardy Boys days. I fumbled through; there were a whole bunch of them, in pretty good condition. The paper was yellowed and some of the covers were in danger of coming off, but they were readable. (I later discovered that many of the pulps have been restapled together with heavy-duty wood staples.)
An old Jewish lady, the kind you wouldn't believe if you saw her in a movie about New York but is perfectly plausible in reality, stopped next to me, and we chatted while I looked some of the stuff over. She was as enthusastic as I was, albeit for different reasons. For me, it was the excitement of finding previously unknown pieces of American literary history. For her, it was pure nostalgia. A small crowd eventually gathered, of all types (or at least all types who live in this neighborhood, and they're the interesting types anyway).
I had somewhere to be, so I grabbed a random stack of pulps and one novel and hightailed it. At a newsstand next to the station, I got a plastic bag to carry them in. I've just now started into the first pulp; so far, I've read a Phillip Wylie novelette about a murder in the American Museum of Natural History and started G.K. Cheterton's "The Oracle of the Dog." They style is easy to date, of course, but I was surprised at the pseudofeminist undertones in the Wylie story. And I've learned in just a few pages why guys as varied as Judd Winick and Neil Gaiman respect Chesterton's work.
This encounter cemented why I love New York. You just wouldn't get something like this happening in Houston, or even Atlanta. Life may take me anywhere, but if I end up staying here 'til the end of my days, I'll be happy.