It was an afternoon in mid-October. The rain had fallen most of the morning so when I arrived at the wet slippery steps of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library on 5th Ave., the scattered metal tables were mostly empty and wet. I posted a photo of the wet tables on Instagram. It got a little more than a mild number of “likes”…I’ll settle for anything right now.
I made my way through security and up three floors to the newly reopened Rose Reading Room. It had been closed for about two years (I lost count) because the ceiling in one part had collapsed. In the years that the Rose Room was closed, I had to be content to write a chapter or a blog in a small but quiet auxiliary room on the second floor.
At least there, it was only a short walk to the Mens Room. I could leave my laptop and notebook at my seat, which was harder to get than tickets to a Miley Cyrus concert. [ Hey, I meant the seat at the reading room not the men’s room.]
But, here I was at last…in what is arguably the most famous reading room in America. It was stunning. It was fabulous and it was breathtaking. I looked at the ceiling mosaics and the endless rows of reference books. It didn’t take my breath the same way that the Trinity College Reading Room in Dublin had done. It was breathtaking because I was sitting in an oak chair that may have been the resting place of John Steinbeck’s bottom while he wrote The Grapes of Wrath…it was hard to tell.
I came in and saw the sign that said “NO PHOTOGRAPHS”. I searched for a table that had multiple AC outlets. My MacBook Pro was getting dangerously low on juice.
I found an ideal spot and quickly took a picture from my iPhone…before anyone would notice and come to drag me out and shame me in front of the scholars at work. It was so quiet, you couldn’t hear a paper-clip drop. I made a slight cough when my iPhone clicked. No one seemed to take notice. Safe now, I turned off my “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” ringtone and settled in.
Checking my desk number, I saw that I was sitting at #275. I plugged in my charger and took out my notebook, pretending to be studying something very serious. Instead, I was wondering who had spent hours at #275 and what they are writing?
It could have been Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Thomas Wolfe, Jay McInerney, Luke Sante or even Bob Dylan, who came here to read all he could find on the Civil War before writing “Beyond The Green Mountains”.
It’s safe to say that all the great American writers sat in one of these chairs at one time in their lives. After all, it’s a well-known truth that everyone has to live in New York City at least once in their life. Say what you want…it’s still the Cultural Capital of the World. But I couldn’t get my mind off the fact that I was now sitting in one of the oak chairs.
And, so I sat…wrapped my scarf around my neck like a French intellectual, and began writing. I didn’t write the Great American Novel but I wrote a blog called “The Blind Date”.
It got a nice reception on WordPress…but it didn’t get me the Nobel Prize.
That’s coming later.