But what of the Empire Building? It was a thrilling experience to be whizzed in a "lift" a quarter of a mile heavenward, and to see New York spread out like a marvellous tapestry beneath us.
There was the Hudson – more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars.
At a Roman Catholic Church in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Mass is said once a month in Garifuna, an Arawakan language that originated with descendants of African slaves shipwrecked near St. Vincent in the Caribbean and later exiled to Central America. Today, Garifuna is virtually as common in the Bronx and in Brooklyn as in Honduras and Belize.
[Psychologist Anders Ericsson’s] work, compiled in the Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, a 900-page academic book that will be published next month, makes a rather startling assertion: the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers — whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming — are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
Ericsson’s research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love — because if you don’t love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don’t like to do things they aren’t “good” at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don’t possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better.
“Kim’s was the cutting-edge; that was always the business concept,” Mr. Kim said the other day in one of a series of conversations about the fate of his video collection. “But ironically, I didn’t prepare.”
Last September, in a move that swept through the Internet at viral speed, he issued a public challenge. In a notice pasted on a wall inside the front door, he wrote, “We hope to find a sponsor who can make this collection available to those who have loved Kim’s over the past two decades.” He promised to donate all the films without charge to anyone who would meet three conditions: Keep the collection intact, continue to update it and make it accessible to Kim’s members and others.
Offers poured in. Every one failed on one count or another. Every offer, that is, except one.
The soda’s origins are foggy. It’s not clear whether an actual Dr. Brown existed, but most accounts point to beginnings on the Lower East Side around 1870, when the drink was marketed as a health tonic. Dr. Brown’s has no official website, and may be the only brand of celery-flavored soda. It’s canned at a plant on Long Island called Pepsi-Cola of New York, though Dr. Brown’s is owned by Canada Dry.
To find out more, I call the bottling plant and reach Rosalie Mileo, the customer service manager for Dr. Brown’s. I ask her to tell me about the company. “There is no Dr. Brown’s,” she says. “It’s just a name.”
Whatever the ontology of the company, she does concede that Cel-Ray lags considerably in popularity behind the other Dr. Brown’s sodas, which include black cherry, cream soda, root beer, diet cream soda, and diet black cherry. A diet version of Cel-Ray was produced until several years ago, Mileo tells me, and Cel-Ray is most in demand in New York and in Florida, “because lots of retired New Yorkers live there,” she adds.
“Are there plans to stop manufacturing Cel-Ray any time soon?” I ask.
“There are no plans to stop manufacturing Cel-Ray any time soon,” she echoes.
“Can you tell me anything else about Cel-Ray?” I ask.
“It’s not popular,” she replies firmly.
This summer marks the 100th birthday of the late Joseph Mitchell, who helped to redefine the art of journalism. In 1938, when Mitchell wrote his first profile for the New Yorker, the notion of the reporter as stylist was still a novelty. By 1992, when the omnibus ”Up in the Old Hotel” hit bestseller lists, it was ubiquitous. The recent republication of Mitchell’s finest collection, ”The Bottom of the Harbor”, brings back into focus innovations that have faded into familiarity or fallen into neglect. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Our current crop of reporter-stylists would do well to study the qualities that make this book remarkable.
Chief among these is patience. Contemporary magazine journalism often seems torn between ratifying conventional wisdom and railing against it. The twin temptations of sensationalism and contrarianism hover over online discourse, in particular. Not that technology is solely to blame; as a newspaperman in the 1930s, covering the Hauptmann murder trial and interviewing George Bernard Shaw for the Herald Tribune and the World-Telegram, respectively, Mitchell was near the centre of the media circuses of his day. Once the New Yorker freed him from deadline pressure, however, Mitchell conserved his attention for (and lavished it on) subjects he felt it might dignify.
It turns out just about anything is fascinating if you look at it hard enough. What Mitchell chose to look at, in his increasingly lengthy “profiles”, were the remnants of Old New York that were disappearing beneath the city’s relentless growth: waterfront rooming-houses (“Old Mr Flood”), petty criminals (“King of the Gypsys”), Epicurean ritual (“All You Can Eat for Five Bucks”) and, in “The Bottom of the Harbor“, the maritime life of a city most people forget is an archipelago.