In Which Our Hero Takes Stock of the Neighborhood
Updated: Mar 2
By Sam Needleman
It was once ordained, by a soul whose name and major have since given over to the winds of time, that: “On the Last Tuesday before NSOP, a discerning denizen of Morningside Heights shall mark the turn of our Scholastic Calendar by surveying our environs and offering an insightful Review of their findings: a henceforth-entitled State of the Neighborhood Address.”
In assuming this annual duty last week, Verily Veritas aspired not only to buttress his ascent toward cultural eminence, but to reward himself one afternoon’s respite from the onerous, as-yet-unrevealed-to-the-world intellectual pursuits that have occupied him all summer. Gleeful at the opportunity to ponder and pontificate in the great outdoors, Verily set out upon our steamy boulevards, his service hound and unimpeachable sense of self in tow.
“Ah, the breeze, the great August reprieve!” Verily bellowed, mistaking a burst of sewer steam for a gust of wind. “How she tumbles off the Hudson and cascades up West 113th Street! What a cruise—and a muse—shall this afternoon prove!” Alas, upon traversing mighty Broadway, Verily expended an unforeseen sum of energy, and found himself wheezing on the far curb and hastened to assuage his physical exertion with a dash of light fare. The maîtres’d—nay, swine-hosts!—at Le Monde and Community condemned him and his sweaty brow to the stifling realm of the al fresco, so Verily thought to exhibit his characteristic whimsy by trying the newly minted Wu + Nussbaum.
“What does the chef recommend today?” Verily asked an employee inside.
“Uhh… We have some everythings left, and one poppy,” the man replied, motioning toward a meager array of bagels.
“Nothing gluten-free?” Verily demanded. He made his best effort to control his temper, but the subject was sore; just the week prior, the doctor had selected gluten as the latest ingredient from which Verily ought to abstain, another installment in the series of mini-experiments undertaken to identify the source of his chronic tummy aches.
“Sorry,” the man said, shrugging. “We ran out.”
Verily retrieved from his shirt-pocket a ballpoint pen and a leather-bound notebook that he had reserved for the afternoon’s observations, which were primed to be both ample and profound. He scribbled a note—“New joint: abomination!”—and then, satisfied with his judgment, stepped out of the establishment to continue his noble fieldwork.
“I’m due for an Absolute Bagel,” Verily proclaimed. “They understand me!”
Surely, no soul with such sound body and mind as our Verily could deign to walk to West 108th Street on this sweltering day. “Taxi! Taxi!” he cried, until one eddied at the curb. Peering out the window as the cab drifted downtown, he glimpsed— indeed, was struck by!—a cavalcade of first-years crossing West 112th Street, undoubtedly revelling in their lunchtime liberation amid a strenuous day of Orienting themselves. Verily was forced at once to confront his condition and to record it. He retrieved his pen and notebook once more and logged: “My days at this institution, and on this dear Earth, are finite. We must cherish our intellectual camaraderie before it dwindles—and dwindle it shall!”
As Verily’s conscience struck this melancholy chord, he caught sight of a fellow-dwindler down the block: Book Culture, that neighborhood bastion of discourse and discounts that Verily’s plebeian neighbors, in their insatiable thirst for Amazon, had gravely threatened earlier this season.
“Driver!” he yelped, in a cry of spontaneity that only the grandest of emotional realizations can produce. “Let me out immediately!”
Verily strolled toward Book Culture and gazed longingly at its facade. His appetite having long since disappeared, he fetched his pad and pen once more and scrawled a eulogy far too poignant to reprint.
A bookstore worker, taking note of the one-man spectacle outside, approached. “We’re open!” she said. “Come on in!”
But our Verily didn’t hear her, for he was engulfed in the beauty of his tribute. Satisfied—yes, quite satisfied!—Verily began his long walk home.