About six months ago, as I was settling into my new job, I was introduced to one of our store’s publishing sales reps. My boss gave me a kind introduction as a ‘veteran bookseller,’ highlighting my previous stints in Los Angeles and London. ‘London?’ the sales rep said. ‘Well, have I got the book for you!’ And then he took out an advanced reader’s copy of Craig Taylor’s Londoners.
He was certainly right to assume so. As the title hinted, the book was about London. Furthermore, it was done in the style of Studs Terkel: Taylor spent a great deal of time talking to people about the city. The book seemed almost tailor-made (hah) for me.
The sales rep certainly thought so, proudly putting the book in my hands six months ago. I haven’t yet cracked it open.
As you all know, the Urchins are in love with London. We never wanted to leave – we were forced to. Would we still be talking about her every day if we left on our own accord? I almost gave up writing on this subject today, because what more is there to say other than I am in love?
Yesterday Craig Taylor was in the store to read from Londoners, and it rained all day. I normally can’t stand rain if I have to walk through it, and I found myself underneath it all, clutching my open umbrella, without my normal impulse to slouch my shoulders and duck into a subway station. Instead I felt the faint desire to walk through the rain, and I did, and I didn’t find it at all oppressive nor stifling. (Sentimentalities aside, this all could’ve been because I was, for once, dressed appropriately.)
In New York, when you have time to kill, be it your day off without a plan or waiting for your next scheduled engagement, letting your impulse guide you can be a very interesting thing. I found myself in Park Slope with about two hours to kill before my work shift started. I more or less knew this particular section of Park Slope because a friend lived there. The first impulse of course was to call her, but then I remembered that I lost her number. The second, almost equally immediate impulse was to find a nice cafe, order a big cup of coffee, open up my book on Harry Houdini, and watch the rain through the window, all while hoping my friend would just miraculously pop in.
I knew of three different cafes in the neighbourhood and my impulse led me directly to Cafe Martin. I walked into the small, wood-lined space, took a seat at one of the tiny, square tables, and regarded my surroundings. It was evident that my impulse led me here because Cafe Martin felt completely European. Martin, the man who made my coffee, even had an Irish accent.
For the past two years I’ve busied my mind with the multiple facets of New York culture, and perhaps now that I’ve begun to grasp and recognise it, the heart once again leans toward the old continent. Taking Italian movies out of library, watching documentaries on Wuppertal at the cinema, reading books on Vienna, listening to English punk and German krautrock, all what I considered natural impulses. But I cannot read Londoners yet. If I did, I may just leave my wonderful spot in Brooklyn and move back to London. (This, of course, may happen eventually but it shouldn’t happen so soon. Need I remind you, and need I remind myself, that I just moved.)
Craig Taylor had a wonderful reading at the bookstore yesterday. It was so crowded that I couldn’t even introduce myself to him. Instead, I stood behind the register, feeling my heart leap against my ribcage every time a place-name was mentioned. Had I had the chance to speak to him, I would’ve told him that I shared his love for the city. I wouldn’t have been able to tell him that I couldn’t yet read his book. Although, perhaps he would’ve understood.
So for now, my copy of Londoners sits on the shelf, waiting patiently for the moment I’m ready to risk everything I have, to surrender my heart completely to impulse. And you may ask, would a book on London really make me drop everything and leave? I’m not entirely sure. I may be that type of person, and London may be that type of city.