If you really want to see marginal people, visit the post office. I have come think that only those of us on the fringes of society dare venture there. If you work in an office, well, you use their postal supplies to mail letters. If you have access to the internet, well, you can also order things like stamps and envelopes online. But if, say, you live under a rock or spend a great deal of your time at the Port Authority or hanging around the statue in Rutherford Park on lower Second Avenue, well, then you go to the post office.
Yesterday, waiting in line to buy stamps--many, many stamps, thus precluding my use of the multiple stamp vending machines--I noticed two such fearsome creatures. One was a hobbit in army camo. He had a pointed beard, an eye patch, and a cane--I kid you not. So wee he was that in order to submit his missives into the slot, he had to kind of shimmy up his cane and wedge his hob-nail boots in a crack in the wall.
Two windows, #13 and 14, purported to sell stamps. #13 had a line behind it and #14 did not. So I stood behind #14, until a sage man whispered to get the hell to the back of the line. I did, whereupon a 3 foot 8 inch tall nun wobbled up to window #14. She had on full habit, wheezed, and certainly was buying postage to send the letters of needy children to Santa. No one whispered anything to her.
In a somewhat related freak note, the new book by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast came out this week. I am looking forward to perusing it, and someone I met last night could easily be a character in one of her vignettes. You know, she is the neurotic woman whom visions of Ebola virus and middle age keep up at night.
I met this character at a dinner at Gramercy Park's National Arts Club, of which I am a member. From the caged birds roosting on the second floor to the eighty year olds playing snooker in the basement, the club is quite eccentric. As was my dinner companion. He is obsessed with the poetic form of haiku. Everything he says can relate back to verse. A few of the folks at dinner were from Montclair, New Jersey. Haiku man says,
"Montclair--Iliana Rigilio is from Montclair, and she is very important in the world of haiku."
One of the guests works at Newsweek magazine. Haiku man says,
"She is so wonderful. Twenty years ago she let me review a book of haiku and it was the best day of my life."
The poet James Merrill used haiku to brilliant effect as a kind of resting space in his long poems about Japan in his penultimate book, The Inner Room. Generally, I am not a practitioner--let alone fetishizer--of the form. I did, however, pen one about an old boss of mine with a Napoleonic complex. The kind of boss who would leave messages on my work voice mail at four in the morning and phone me from a booth at 57th Street's Brooklyn Diner just so it would look to other patrons as though he were networking. Of said boss I wrote:
Sign of a bragger,
Telling Bianca Jagger,