This Is New York

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Tony Judt was
a very clever and learned Brit who taught in the Big Bagel and died
last August from that dreaded Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was
extremely brave until the end, writing and lecturing from his wheelchair – so
convincingly that some nice guys banned him from speaking just before
the end because of his opposition to Israeli policies. (They called
him an anti-Semite although Judt was Jewish, which is par for the

Judt wrote
an essay about “My
Endless New York
” which was a gem. At times I think only
foreigners can catch the city’s pulse – New York, of course,
not being America. The city has never been homogeneous. The finest
thing about the place, we are told, is the variety of its sideshows.
Sixty-five years or so ago, A. J. Liebling spoke for the city, writing
about boxing and the man who laid out the gloves and headgear for
the pugs at Stillman’s Gym, or Hymie the Jew who operated sleazy
clubs on 52nd Street, or Miss Ira, “the Harlem modiste”
who sold turbans to ladies who liked to impress the men late at
night. Liebling wrote of New Yorkers so submerged in one environment,
such as the Garment Center or Jack and Charlie’s, that they
lived and died oblivious of the other worlds around them.

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22, 2010

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