Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
Yesterday was for me Melville’s “damp, drizzly November in my soul.” When I feel like this, when I “find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;” I don’t like Ishmael head to the sea. I head to Broadway—steering clear of coffin warehouses and funerals—and have myself a long meander.
I headed downtown from 11th Street, past the cheap shoe stores and quick service restaurant. Past the still-green students of NYU walking slowly in suburban clumps and smoking cigarettes in the mist.
Broadway down here in the Village is not like the Broadway youth, the Broadway of the Upper West Side. That avenue was seedy, intellectual, bum-filled and slightly threatening. Especially in the low-hundreds where the old single-room-occupancy hotels filled the street with the hollow-eyed and unshaven. (Decades before it was a hipster look.) The Broadway by Columbia was different still, filled with radical students with hair like a wild-fire and bookstores spilling out into the street and cheap restaurants like Chock Full o’ Nuts when 32-cents got you a cellophane-wrapped sinker and another quarter got you a small dose of joe.
I walked only down to Bleeker then turned around and headed uptown to the Strand, where I hid in the stacks for a while and resisted the urge to buy seven more books.
Then, back to work.
I had knocked off no hats.