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Thursday, May 20, 1999
By Paul Ford
The crank from Queens grabbed me on the train. Here's what he said.
On the Ftrain, between Kew Gardens and Delancey Street.
Any good stories in that paper? No, me neither. I read the Times every day but today is boring. I can't get through the Sunday edition, either, it just piles up. You live in Queens?
Why would you want to come out here just to walk around? 179th St? That's the end of the line. Walk around Jamaica? That's a slum. Don't go there. You're just riding around, you should walk around Forest Hills, for exploring. We just went past the Forest Hills stop. Where are you going?
Carroll Gardens. That's a nice place to live. Did you play football? You're a big guy, you know. Well, good for you, you have your knees, then. I see you have the page open there, you're thinking of seeing a movie?
The Winslow Boy? I saw that. It's good. It's Mamet. Very Jewish. Me too. He just sits up there and writes Jewish. I saw Notting Hill.
It was all right, I liked it. I don't like Hugh Grant or Julia Roberts. No chemistry.
I have a neighbor with a dog that won't stop barking. I have to get out of the house. She's evicted in August. Normally I'd just stay home and read, but the dog. I makes me crazy. I keep calling the cops. I was going to sue her, I'm a paralegal, I passed the bar in another state but New York I just couldn't.
I went to Cornell, Library Science and History. Did you ever go to Ithaca? I always wanted to maybe be a historian, do some graduate work, modern world history. Let's say I'm 36, you know, maybe even a little older. It's too old to go back. I thought I might look at the League of Nations, and see if it hadn't broken up, if maybe World War II could have been avoided. I don't know. We have something like that with Bosnia now and NATO, sort of a League situation at the end of the century. I try to keep reading up on it, but the kind of work I'd need to do to catch up and go back now, my financial situation isn't so good. I'm in some trouble there. I wasn't the best student. I'm reading the Columbia Classics Library, I'm on Hume and Kant.
Yeah, Hume has the idea that morals come out of social reasoning, that they're derived for the prevailing social good, and Kant had the social thing, non, non something.
The thing is, no one cares about that stuff. The new people coming into the country, from China and India and France, they'll go to college for business, or something else, but they don't care about philosophy. They just don't. Even the Jews, a few generations down, they don't have the same caring about school. My grandfather did, but not my generation. We're Americanized. This is an anti-intellectual country, it's a shame. Who reads T.S. Eliot? And then you find out that the only thing holding T.S. Eliot together, the center of his work, is that he's an anti-Semite. So there, what do you have?
No, it's true. The Waste Land. It's anti-Semitic. No one reads literature. It's a shame, all that knowledge is going to be lost. So, what are you doing now?
Oh, sure. I thought maybe you'd want to get a slice or a beer. I understand. Look, I overshot my stop, I need to get back uptown, I'll switch here, Delancey.
I'll probably just go to the library, that goddamned dog.