The horse-eating project I’m working on involves some historical research, which involves dusty old records, which involves going down to the historical branch of the Detroit Public Library and summoning boxes out of storage. The librarians turn them over with a pair of white cotton gloves, which you are expected to wear when you handle anything within. It’s hard to type in them, however, so there’s a lot of on-and-off when you’re taking notes.
I’m generally not sentimental about ephemera. I can think of nothing less worth having than an autograph. And yet there’s something about holding a piece of letterhead embossed Sullivan & Cromwell, 45 Wall Street, New York, New York. Just a piece of paper, and more than 50 years later, and it still screams white shoe. As does the signature: J.F. Dulles.
A couple years ago, I interviewed a graybeard from our legal community. What’s changed since you started practice in 1969? I asked. The work, not so much, he said; it’s still about money and how it’s divided, and it always will be. But the pace, the old days of chin-scratching and deliberation — that’s gone forever. A client would call with a question, and you’d tell him he’d be hearing from you. Then there was time for thought, and research in libraries, notes on a legal pad. Then you summon the secretary, dictate a letter, maybe revise the letter, type it in duplicate or triplicate, put it in the outgoing mail, onion-skin copies for the file. At every step in the process there was time to change your mind, consider further, refine. No one expected a reply sooner than the next day’s mail, and that was considered a blistering pace. Thought percolates, reduces, strengthens its flavors.
No more. Funny that we have a slow food movement, a slow travel movement, but slow thought is considered lazy. Dude, I saw that on Twitter like, two hours ago.
Speaking of movements, the NYT Thursday Styles section, home of bullshit trend stories of all sorts, has a story today on what you might call the slow blood movement, i.e., freezing your ass off. Today, a clot of the impoverished, the self-righteous and the just plain whack who endure, nay embrace, a life without furnaces.
I’ve read so many of these I can recite them in my sleep, but here’s a theme I see more often these days:
Attitude, not clothing, is what thaws Daniel McCloskey and his roommates in Pittsburgh. Last year, Mr. McCloskey, 22, bought two poorly insulated turn-of-the century clapboard houses for $41,000 in the Lawrenceville neighborhood there, and turned them into a writer’s retreat he named the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writer’s Co-op. …Mr. McCloskey offers monthlong residencies to emerging writers, which is to say a free room in the house at the back. There is a furnace, but his finances are low and mostly it stays off. …Mr. McCloskey warms himself up by spending time in coffee shops, he said — “an hour will do it” — and by maintaining an upbeat demeanor. Doesn’t his girlfriend, with whom he shares a drafty attic room, get grumpy?
“What makes her grumpy is using resources,” he said. “We’re all about staying positive.”
Ah, yes: “Using resources.” Way to sell a greener America, Daniel’s girlfriend — champion a lifestyle of miserly one-downmanship (“I keep my thermostat at 55” “Well, I don’t have a thermostat”) that turns on the embrace of a miserable lifestyle and fingerless gloves. Also, rationalization:
If it’s 20 degrees outside, as it was last week, it might be 15 indoors, so Ms. Gallagher will stoke the fire and go for a long walk; when she returns, the room can be 50 degrees, and 60 by bedtime, though it slides precipitously toward freezing as she sleeps. “The main reason why I do these winter trips,” she said, “is that when your house is 15 degrees, the only problem you have is getting warm. Focusing on survival is right up there with a Zen retreat when it comes to clearing the mind.”
It’s not the cold that’s the problem. It’s you that’s the problem.
For the record, I think most American houses are overheated, and that a chilly nighttime temperature is actually conducive to better sleep. But I like toilets that flush and prefer to focus my mind on work, not survival.
Eh. It’s their house, after all.
OK, now to commence eating the horse. First, a workout to strengthen the body. And one bit of bloggage: Man buried in Haiti rubble survives with help of his iPhone. He was rescued 65 hours later. I imagine he amused himself in the interim playing Wurdle.