The cleaning lady chased me out of my office this morning, so I decided to get cracking on some chores I’d shoved under the desk. I retired to the back table of Good Enough to Eat, where I ordered waffles and started filling out an inch-thick application (don’t ask) that required me to answer all sorts of questions whose answers I couldn’t recall off the top of my head (in what month did I move to the apartment where I was living seven years ago?).
Temporarily stymied by the long arm of bureaucracy, I finished my breakfast and strolled over to the neighborhood Barnes & Noble to see whether A Terry Teachout Reader was on sale yet. It wasn’t in New Non-Fiction, so I climbed the stairs to the arts section in search of something to read. There I found three copies of the Teachout Reader shelved under Jazz/Blues, meaning that no one at Barnes & Noble had bothered to look at the contents of my book. Only a year ago, I was basking in the red-carpet treatment at that very same store, including an evening reading and deluxe placement for The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken. Now I’m relegated to Jazz/Blues (though at least I got what booksellers call “face-out” placement, meaning that the front of the dust jacket is visible). As Robert Mitchum says in The Lusty Men, “Chicken today, feathers tomorrow.”
From there I went to the police station to get myself fingerprinted (I told you it was a long form). I’d never before set foot inside a New York police station, and this one proved to be an oasis of dingy, demoralizing grayness in the middle of a cheery Upper West Side neighborhood. I put myself in the hands of a policeman who reminded me of the chauffeur in My Favorite Year, except that he was the most blas