After ten days in the city, I’m heading back to the snows. Far and away the most striking thing about this visit was the sheer number of unemployed people I met. Last night was the peak of this, at a Christian artists’ party. Of course the artsy folk are going to be underemployed, but this was very impressive. Then I got on the F train at 4 a.m. and found it filled – as I have not seen in decades – with homeless people. There were two or three on every car on the whole train. There were police around, but they left the homeless alone. It was very cold outside.
I talked to one train-sleeper named Steve from West 4th to 42nd. He liked my outfit. “Nice cape, man… damn you get on that thing makes an impression.” He claimed that he “worked Monday to Friday.” You can believe this claim of his or not, but I was there, and I’ve gotten much better at reading people, and he was so sensible and normal-looking (and clean) that I believed him. He said he lost his apartment a week ago. We talked about a topic native New Yorkers often talk about with each other, that we natives have no problems talking to strangers, while the transplants are much more fearful. But his being “out of doors” reminded me of the Great Depression stories I’ve been reading in Wendell Berry’s book Jayber Crow. I told him that and he said the whole situation was like “the Grapes of Wrath.”