21 questions

Writer Steven Johnson Is Competitive About Twitter

Name: Steven Johnson
Age: 40
Occupation: Writer, The Invention of Air and five other books; co-founder, outside.in
Neighborhood: Park Slope

Who’s your favorite New Yorker, living or dead, real or fictional?
Too many to choose from, but I will say this: Every time I see the quotes from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” etched into the Brooklyn Heights ferry platform, I tear up a little. So Whitman it is!

What’s the best meal you’ve eaten in New York?
I grew up in D.C., and when I was 9 my grandparents took me to New York for the weekend. The first night we had dinner at the old Rainbow Room and I was just mesmerized. I spent the next twelve years fantasizing about moving here for good.

In one sentence, what do you actually do all day in your job?
I have too many jobs to answer in one sentence, so let’s just say I answer
e-mail and surf the Internets. That’s 90 percent of it at least.

Would you still live here on a $35,000 salary?
I lived here happily on a $9,000 stipend in grad school, supplemented by a
little temping. But I didn’t have three boys back then. So probably not.

What’s the last thing you saw on Broadway?
Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll with Rufus Sewell.

Do you give money to panhandlers?
I rarely see panhandlers here in Brooklyn, actually. We don’t have the sidewalk density to support them. But when I do see them, I probably give them something 50 percent of the time.

What’s your drink?
Red wine almost exclusively. The healthy choice!

How often do you prepare your own meals?
We cook at home probably four nights a week. It’s a growing part of our routine.

What’s your favorite medication?
Brooklyn’s epic Gorilla Coffee. I literally bring bags of the stuff with me when I’m on the road.

What’s hanging above your sofa?
A vaguely Impressionist painting of the Chrysler Building from the forties that
my dad gave me.

How much is too much to spend on a haircut?
For me, probably $50. But I usually end up spending a bit more.

When’s bedtime?
Sometime after Stewart starts and before Colbert ends.

Which do you prefer, the old Times Square or the new Times Square?
I think they’re both pretty awful. I love NYC, but midtown is one of my least favorite places in the world.

What do you think of Donald Trump?
Does he read this? He could have me killed, right?

What do you hate most about living in New York?
The older I get, the more I miss the greenery of the countryside — and the winters get harder. I wouldn’t call it “hate,” though.

Who is your mortal enemy?
I genuinely don’t think about enemies. Not being Zen about it; it’s just not a category that means a lot to me. But if there are other Brooklyn writers with more Twitter followers than me, I guess they’d qualify. (I’m looking at you, Hodgman.)

When’s the last time you drove a car?
Just the other day. We have three small children, so there are limits to
taking the subway everywhere.

How has the Wall Street crash affected you?
Not in any material way yet, but all your long-term plans just feel more fragile.

Times, Post, or Daily News?

Where do you go to be alone?
I like to play golf as a single player on the public courses around here: Dyker Beach, or Bethpage. There’s always a little conversation with the other players, but mostly it’s five hours walking by yourself. It’s strangely meditative.

What makes someone a New Yorker?
Isn’t the beauty of it that anyone can become a New Yorker just by moving
here? It’s a city of immigrants, after all.

Steven Johnson will appear with Lawrence Lessig and Shepard Fairey at the New York Public Library’s “Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy,” Thursday, February 26, 2009 at 7 p.m. Details here.

Writer Steven Johnson Is Competitive About Twitter