Walking with E.B. White in NYC


I was back in NYC accompanying my daughter on an apartment hunt in Brooklyn. A number of years ago I lived there, briefly. Times have changed. In my day finding an apartment in NYC was largely a matter of securing a sublet through a friend-of-a-friend. Today, agents host open houses and publish floor plans with photographs of rentals online, much like selling properties.

Getting about NYC on foot has changed too. No more notes in hand, maps in pocket, or memorized directions. Where we used to count blocks, look at street signs and be cognizant of numbers, now it’s follow your phone. Walking GPS style. Everybody’s doing it. It’s a different world.

That must be why, while trailing my daughter who was being led by her phone, I met up with a kindly old gentleman dressed in a gray overcoat and hat. He looked as baffled as me, in part; the other half of him was very much at home. No wonder, it was E.B. White, writer and contributing editor to The New Yorker magazine for more than 50 years. And here I thought he had been at rest on his saltwater farm in Maine all this time.

Just the thought of of New York and some folks rise to their feet with Sinatra’s song, “New York, New York,” ringing in their heads. Some settle in with Bobby Short’s melodies, while others get bubbly with Cole Porter. To me, E.B. White was, and always will be, not only the voice of the magazine, but the voice of the city.

I’m not sure my daughter even knew he was there on the apartment hunt that day. She was out ahead, as I said, but both E.B. & I walked rather slowly, preferring to see things as we go.

Not much of a conversationalist–he’s still making notes in his head for The New Yorker, I told myself–he nevertheless came up with just the right words every time.

At each appointment I went in to tour the apartment with my daughter, while E.B. lingered on the sidewalk. He just turned up his collar, adjusted his hat, and waited. Then we’d fall in step again. We did this all day, all over Brooklyn, through a dozen appointments. In short, a delightful day.

The apartment hunt, you ask? It ended on a well tree’d street in Boerum Hill. Sometimes it all comes down to a certain slant of light, and we found it in a lovely old home there.

“It’s where any one of us would place a writing desk,” I suggested to my walking companion, pointing out the window from the sidewalk. He looked up and nodded knowingly.

And with that he tipped his hat and walked off in the direction of the Brooklyn Bridge. Back to his beloved Manhattan.




Filed under apartment hunt

23 responses to “Walking with E.B. White in NYC

  1. Susan Parkhurst Sudia

    WOW….What a treat! Hope an apartment was found as well! Best, Sue


  2. Alice B. Acheson

    Lovely, lovely, lovely posting — and it brought back so very many memories!

    On the other hand, I loved your comparing “today’s” hunt to days of yore.

    How lovely that you were able to accompany your daughter, albeit a bit farther behind.

    All best, Alice ========== Alice B. Acheson, Book Marketing/Publishing Consultant P. O. Box 735 Friday Harbor, WA 98250 360/378-5850 http://sites.google.com/site/alicebacheson a little elbow room wrote on 11/27/2018 2:31 PM: > WordPress.com > a little elbow room posted: ” BY KIMBERLY MAYER I was back in NYC > accompanying my daughter on an apartment hunt in Brooklyn. A number of > years ago I lived there, briefly. Times have changed. In my day > finding an apartment in NYC was largely a matter of securing a sublet > through” >

  3. Deb

    Lucky you, Kim! Once More to the Lake…

  4. eabegs

    Warms my heart!

  5. Val Gaithier

    Your writing is nothing short of amazing! The fact that you share your personal adventure with your daughter with such eloquence is heartwarming! While the adventure was a memory now that you’ve penned that memory it will remain tangible to her forever! You, my friend are a inspiring spirit!

  6. Craig

    The great E.B.! Beautifully crafted…

  7. This is great! Coincidentally (not!) I’ve been reading E.B. White’s New Yorker writings as well as a book of humor essays he compiled and edited. I love the image of the two of you walking the streets of New York and taking in the scenes with patient discernment and appreciation.

    Excited for Ash’s new adventure!

    Peace, Gil


    • I once binge read everything of E.B. White’s I could get my hands on. Don’t mind if I do it again, it’s that good.
      Come join us in the city sometime and show me your old stomping grounds–around NYU, right?

  8. Elizabeth Ahrens Yourgrau

    Your gentle and thoughtful companion felt so real. What an honor to have the companionship of such a private, not to mention deceased man.

    “James Thurber described White as a quiet man who disliked publicity and who, during his time at The New Yorker, would slip out of his office via the fire escape to a nearby branch of Schrafft’s to avoid visitors whom he didn’t know.
    Most of us, out of a politeness made up of faint curiosity and profound resignation, go out to meet the smiling stranger with a gesture of surrender and a fixed grin, but White has always taken to the fire escape. He has avoided the Man in the Reception Room as he has avoided the interviewer, the photographer, the microphone, the rostrum, the literary tea, and the Stork Club. His life is his own. He is the only writer of prominence I know of who could walk through the Algonquin lobby or between the tables at Jack and Charlie’s and be recognized only by his friends.”

    — James Thurber, E. B. W., “Credos and Curios”

    Loved your story of apartment hunting. Perhaps you’re moving into a new style of writing. What could you or your readers call your ability to so believably weave a historical person into your life? I hope to meet E.B. when I’m next in Brooklyn but know that’ll only happen if I’m with you. Thought you should know that your his friends and family called him Andy for most of his life.
    And leave it to a sister to note that you lived in NYC quite a few “number of years ago”.
    And here’s to our both having a daughter with a fiance’ in Brooklyn.

  9. Trent Copland

    You are both living in the past. Ha ha!

  10. Val (Monty) Gauthier

    Had to correct the spelling of my last name!

  11. Kim, absolutely lovely. So evocative. I think this is the first magic realist piece you’ve written — or am I wrong. More, more.

    • Thank you. I don’t know how to tell you but I’ve had visitations before. After her death, Mom appeared in numerous blogs: Cut Flowers, Paths of Desire, My Imaginary Mother in Winter, Flip Flops in January, and then with Barbara Bush in In Remembrance of Ladies Who Lunch.
      Clear as day, what can I say? And now this sweet old gent.

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