and I went to hear writer Pete Hamill
speak at Brookline Booksmith. Hamill is a native New Yorker whose current book, DOWNTOWN, is a history and memoir of Manhattan. He has served as editor-in-chief of both the Daily News and New York Post, and is in many ways a quintessential New Yorker.
I first met Hamill on January 30, 2003, when he signed his novel FOREVER. At the time, I had emailed him to ask if he remembered my father, because Dad and he had worked at the Dialy News at one point during the same time. Hamill asked me to bring photos to the reading, and when I showed them to him, he said, "Yes! I remember this guy."
Tonight, Hamill remembered our first meeting. I was very moved.
His talk was hilarious. He told the story of A.T. Stewart, the guy who invented the department store and how his remains were stolen for ransom, and the widow refused to pay because, as she told her lawyer, "My husband's already dead!" He also said the following two things, transcribed by gnomi
On how fast the city changes:
"You come back and find your favorite coffee shop has become a Starbucks -- a member of the Axis of Evil, with Victoria's Secret and The Gap."
On listening to a Chinese immigrant playing an Eastern tune on an unfamiliar string instrument -- Hamill eventually realized that the musician was playing the blues for all the immigrants in the history of New York City:
"I wanted to give him a hug. I gave him a dollar...which in New York is like a hug."