21 questions

Ethicist Randy Cohen Promises to Visit His Mother Soon

Randy Cohen.

Name: Randy Cohen

Age: 63

Neighborhood: Upper West Side

Occupation: Writer, and host of “Person Place Thing,” a radio show on WAMC, whose first live show, with David Rakoff, will be at 92YTribeca on March 14. Previously: “The Ethicist” columnist for The New York Times Magazine.  His new book Be Good: How to Navigate the Ethics of Everything will be out in September.

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
Frederick Law Olmstead, for giving us the finest urban park in America.  Him, and Jeremy Lin.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
I’m an unsophisticated eater, so anything someone else cooks and serves with lively conversation.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
It’s pretty much clerical work: sit, type, fret.

What was your first job in New York?
Emptying ashtrays at the Electric Circus, which sounds like a euphemism for something incredibly erotic but, alas, is not.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Is BAM on Broadway?  Kevin Spacey’s Richard III.  My favorite part: when he turns to the audience and mouths “What the fuck?!”, a line I’d completely forgotten Shakespeare wrote.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
Seldom.  But always to those Mexican musicians on the 3 train.

What’s your drink?
Red wine, bourbon.  Sequentially, not simultaneously.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Breakfast, always.  Lunch, usually.  Dinner, about one night out of three.

What’s your favorite medication?
Boswell’s Life of Johnson.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 NYC subway map.   And “A Literary Map of Manhattan,” showing the homes of fictional characters who live here.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
I pay $20 at a place on Amsterdam run by Russians, but people with rich luxuriant heads of hair might spend more.

When’s bedtime?
I keep agricultural hours: lights out by eleven.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
The new, thanks to Janette Sadik-Khan’s terrific redesign.  I worship at her shrine.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
It’s unfair to call him a vulgarian; he lacks the courage and imagination to achieve vulgarity, as a glance at his tepid, soul-crushing buildings on the Hudson will confirm.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
The pervasiveness of the private car — dangerous, polluting, noisy, and largely unnecessary.  Hey, not unlike Donald Trump.

Who is your mortal enemy?
By now, it’s probably Donald Trump.  Thanks for starting trouble.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
Too long ago: to visit my mother in Reading, PA.  Soon.  Really.  I promise.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
I had to add many names to my list of people who — inexplicably — are not in jail.  That, and the demolition of my life savings.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
online for local coverage; Times on paper for everything else.

Where do you go to be alone?
I’m a writer: I spend the working day alone.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
The NYPD routinely stops and frisks you although you’ve done no wrong.  I guess that makes you a young black or Latino New Yorker.

Randy Cohen Promises to Visit His Mother Soon