Age: “I’d rather you didn’t ask”
Neighborhood: Hell’s Kitchen
Occupation: Author, most recently of The Kid, out next week. She’ll be appearing in conversation at Barnes and Noble with journalist Katherine Lanpher next Tuesday, July 5, at 7 p.m, alongside vocalist Uzuri (the Gypsy Diaries) and DaVon Doane of Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble.
Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead?
Some days it’s James Baldwin, other days Basquiat. Baldwin: I thought of him the years I lived in Harlem. I think Harlem shaped him, as it did me, even though I wasn’t from there. Jean-Michel Basquiat: It blows my mind to go in the educational section reserved for kids at the Brooklyn Museum, where his parents brought him to indulge and encourage his passion for art, and then to walk past Green-Wood Cemetery in Sunset Park, where he was buried. As short as his life was, the art he created, how he created it, and where he created it makes him one of my New York stars.
What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
Bouley was great.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I write or agonize over not writing, or teach others to do the same (write, that is; they already know how to agonize).
What was your first job in New York?
I worked for the phone company. I was a telephone operator.
What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Fela! It was totally alive, especially the dance! I had actually seen him, Fela, perform live at the Apollo years ago; but of course I never had the backstory to his life the Broadway show gave.
Do you give money to panhandlers?
Yeah, if they can sing.
What’s your drink?
Coffee, a lot. Starbucks: Café Americano: four shots. Also the soy latte is so good (I think because the soy milk they use is sweet).
How often do you prepare your own meals?
Most of the time.
What’s your favorite medication?
What makes you think I’m on medication?
What’s hanging over your sofa?
I’m not into home décor.
How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
You can see my main man Speedy at Astor Place Barbershop for $20. Why pay more?
Between midnight and 3 a.m. (My goal is to achieve the bedtime Jane E. Brody recommends in her “Personal Health” column in the New York Times—way before midnight and like for eight hours — but I’m not dead yet.)
Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
What’s so great about drug addiction, teenage prostitution, or having some pervert slit your throat and throw your ass in a trash can? I like the new Times Square, I like going with the tourists to the B.B. King Club to see Etta James and Arrested Development!
What do you think of Donald Trump?
Show me the death certificate, the long form!
What do you hate most about living in New York?
All these years, all these marches, all these police, and a woman’s still not safe on the streets or sometimes even in her own home.
Who is your mortal enemy?
The people I hate don’t even know that I’m alive. That’s one of the reasons I hate them!
When’s the last time you drove a car?
I don’t do things like that.
How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
I wasn’t planning on retiring anyway.
Times, Post, or Daily News?
Today I bought the Times and the Daily News and checked out the Post over the shoulder of the guy next to me on the R train.
Where do you go to be alone?
London or Paris.
What makes someone a New Yorker?
Fire in the belly, desire, ambition, they moved here from somewhere else and made this town theirs!