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 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.