You write really fantastic pieces for the New York Times. How did you first get started there?
I started writing for the Times a fairly old-fashioned way, by which I mean I sort of wrote my way into the paper. It all started in college with a small story that had a miniature-sized byline. It probably should have ended there. But then that (painstakingly) turned into two and then that became three. And then I wrote something that actually got a normal sized byline. And then after that, I was sort of like a cockroach that wouldn't die. But after a while, luck took its course, and I got blessed with a few editors that believed in me, and especially my current editor, who more or less trusts my instincts when I feel I've found a story. And here we are few years later. But one thing that I believe made a difference is that my focus was always essentially the same from day one: the city. The grand, beautiful, textured, story of New York. I was always interested in that story from day one and I knew those were the stories I wanted to write and I think that ended up becoming apparent to the people around me.
You're such an expert on Manhattan and a lot of your work makes a great argument that there is still so much to discover and appreciate in it. Do you spend much time in the other boroughs?
I love that you asked that. Yes, I am a helpless Manhattanite, as you've obviously noticed. The borough gets a snobbish rap these days, especially among media types, but my affection for the island is really just the simple byproduct of growing up in New York since I was 7. Manhattan, of course, was a very different place in the 90s, and it was not necessarily the hub of rising rents and gigantic empty pied-à-terre condos on Park Avenue that it is today. But of course I have love for the all boroughs, and I certainly write about life outside Manhattan too. I suppose I have no real preference when it comes to where the stories are, but since Manhattan has kind of gotten tossed to the side by some, I have gotten lucky enough to find riches by putting a close lens to the island. Huh. Maybe I shouldn't be saying that aloud.
What can people expect from your reading?
I will probably have consumed a stiff drink beforehand at a bar nearby and I will try my best to not be boring. I will also try to shave, time permitting.