Putting aside a recent dip into life’s and the electronic world’s bumpy lessons (illusive wifi presence) that mauled a useful column into unintelligible mush, ventures into new territory are exciting, metamorphosing experiences. But such change demands both unwavering and lively attention. Thus the Zen Master Ikkyu’s brusk command when asked by a student for “a maxim of highest wisdom.” Ikkyu slashed his brush across his tablet: “Attention. attention, attention!”
This spring two lessons regarding Ikkyu’s wisdom arrived: In The New Yorker, a reminder from a friend passing on his way to Argentina, and in this newspaper.
The New Yorker magazine April 27 published a penetrating piece on one of its well-known writers, Joseph Mitchell. He was a staff writer for the magazine from 1938 until his death in 1996. One of his books was a favorite of Manhattan bar aficionados. It is an attractive, lively long-run history of the McSorley’s Ale House, a day-time favorite of my friends and my wife and I, and located not far not far from where we lived in Manhattan. Simply because of its impressively long history, it was a writer’s dream.