November 10, 2016
Paramount Hotel, Manhattan. A blast of cold air comes in through the wall under the radiator. Encountered B , my Chinese student, at the Asheville airport. Our seats were together, and I spent the flight to Charlotte satisfying his apparently limitless curiosity about how to become a writer and professor in America. His eagerness is fetching, but his single minded careerism a little disturbing, as he has no conversation but how to get into schools, how to get grants, how to play the American literary market. He was on his way to Boston to confer with a famous Chinese-American writer–missing both my class and Wiley’s, which is NOT the way to get into an American grad school. He favors animal stories, and revealed the surprising fact that Ernest Thompson Seton is highly regarded in popular and academic circles in China. “He is the big example of all animal story.” I read him eagerly as a boy, but I doubt his name has ever been whispered in an American university.
At Newark Liberty I stood, with others, for one hour and twenty minutes in pouring winter rain waiting for the airport shuttle which is meant to arrive every 15 minutes. I finally went back upstairs to demand my money refunded so I could take a taxi, and was polite until the ticket lady let her face go blank and said, “no refunds of any kind.” I asserted that there was by God going to be a refund, and it accelerated from there. Finally she talked to someone in a red jacket, and though there was no refund, a bus appeared almost the instant I got back out onto the street, and another one behind it to deal with the overflow that had built up in that time. Said I to the woman standing beside me with her little pug sheltering in her sweater, “Trump has been President for ONE DAY and already things are falling apart–“
First billboard we saw on Manhattan was for The Great Comet.
Despite the shuttle bus, got here, drank at the Iron Bar, which I like, toddled around Times Square until the pain in m joints drove me to the white cubicle that shall be home for 5 days.
Evening: Went, as I love to do, to Bryant Park and fed the birds. Saw a yellow crowned kinglet, and had a catbird sitting on my table eating croissant practically out of my hand. Bought figurines from a woman who was born in Ecuador, who hates and fears Trump with better reason even than the rest of us. Went to Grand Central for coffee. Many of the seats at the various restaurants were filled with the homeless slumped over sleeping the sleep of exhaustion, one arm stretched across their meager possessions. Drank at a bar on 8th Avenue which I recognized was, under another name, the restaurant where Bruce and Jack and I signed the agreement to do Edward the King.