21 questions

Sarah Vowell Dreams of Bill Nighy and Grange Hall

Sarah Vowell

Photo: Getty Images

Name: Sarah Vowell

Age: 37

Job: Writer, contributor to This American Life; appearing in a live performance of the public-radio show tonight at Lincoln Center.

Neighborhood: Flatiron

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
My favorite New Yorker’s body part is a tie between Peter Stuyvesant’s peg leg and Richard Hell’s Voidoids-era hair.

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
Gastronomically, we’re looking at a tie between Babbo and Per Se (I’m allergic to wheat and they baked me my own personal loaf of corn bread), but the honest if annoyingly folksy answer is that my best meals are always at the Old Town Bar, eating red meat with people I really like.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
This time of year I do a lot of readings and speak at colleges, which means I spend about 2 hours at a podium and the other 22 stranded at O’Hare.

Where do you get your coffee?
Don’t drink it anymore.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
The Vertical Hour starring Bill Nighy. Just when I thought Nighy doesn’t need language — the man can tell a whole story just by wiggling his hips — he mentions the Sex Pistols and I wished I had a tape loop of him saying “Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols, Sex Pistols” I could listen to while I fall asleep.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
[No answer.]

What’s your drink?
Something tragically seltzery nowadays.

How often do you prepare your own meals?
Between zero and 21 times a week.

What’s your favorite medication?
Jonathan Richman records.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A big 1938 railroad map of Montana my dad rescued from a Dumpster in Bozeman.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
I cut my own hair. Not to save money but because I never know what to talk about with the hairdresser. The last time I tried it again it was like an hour of hearing about rollerblading routes.

When’s bedtime?
When I’m tired.

Brunch: pro or con?
Fervently pro. Though a little less so since Grange Hall closed. I still crave their potatoes with anise and bacon.

What’s your thread count?
I always cut off the tags that say. Unless that’s illegal. In which case, eleventy.

What do you hate most about living in New York?
Construction noise. (Hi, building across the street!)

What’s your brand of jeans?
That blue kind.

When’s the last time you drove a car?
About ten years ago Ira Glass and I made a radio documentary for “This American Life” in which he tried to teach me to drive. At the end of the first lesson, my nerves were so shot I drove us straight to a bar.

Who should be the next president?
Like every Democrat I daydream that Senator Obama is as great as we hope but not so all-fired, weep-for-joy great it gets him shot. I also respect Senator Clinton’s work ethic, which would be refreshing after eight years of a man who works about as hard as a Parisian in August. And I think John Edwards has been underestimated — I voted for him in the 2004 primary because of his understanding of class issues and his ability to talk like a person.

Times, Post, or Daily News?
Times, not that I’m proud of it. If not for my subscription to Entertainment Weekly, I’d be entirely uneducated about the things Americans care about.

Yankees or Mets?

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Daydreaming of L.A.? An inexplicable soft spot for Regis? Jaywalking in front of an ambulance? Sure. But especially: recognizing that the all-time most hopeful and hilarious title in the history of broadcasting is WNYC’s annual holiday special “The Jonathan Schwartz Christmas Show.”

Sarah Vowell Dreams of Bill Nighy and Grange Hall