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59. Because Our Most Notable Recent Exile Can’t Stop Thinking About Us

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Ishould say what I loved and lost, what I pine for with my starved senses, my bereft body torn from its Dean Street roost by this decision by my traitorous brain: tilted slate underfoot, juices of this or that sandwich dripping down my chin, sentimentalized abuse by this or that shopkeeper or civil servant (oh, I love a New York parking ticket! Awarded at precisely 8:31! And even better with some pigeon shit on it! I think I’ll wear it as a badge on my forehead today!), the geometric intimacies and odor-cornucopia of a brutally overfilled subway car. But it doesn’t really operate that way, the NYC self-and-place machine in my head. I love and hate, disgorge and devour, exalt and revile my old-and-always home just as fiercely and the same way each time I’ve fled, only to find it stalking me around any mental corner. Truthfully, I’m the worst traitor precisely while standing on those akimbo sidewalks. (My favorite sandwich in Boerum Hill lately was full of Montreal smoked meat. I do miss those platters. Please send.) I pledge allegiance best from afar (I’m writing about Queens these days). Oops, self-regard back in picture. There’s the rub. Possession is nine tenths of the law? Well, I’m possessed. Too mixed up with the place to love it without loving myself (ditto hate). Admit it: You too. Jonathan Lethem

Lethem, author of Chronic City and Motherless Brooklyn, recently moved from Brooklyn to take over David Foster Wallace’s position at Pomona College in California.


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