Ben Katchor

Ben Katchor

A weeklong electronic journal.
July 11 1997 3:30 AM

Ben Katchor

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Day

           10:00 a.m. A locksmith came this morning to fix the knob mechanism on the front door of the apartment. The old mechanism must be repaired as new knob units are too wide to fit into this door from the 1920s.      11:00 a.m. Walk to Xerox place on 96th Street. Already, at this hour, a crowd of students mills outside of the English-language school, one flight up, on the corner of 100th Street. While packing books, several days ago, I was troubled to see the number of language primers, from German to Hindi, that I had bought over the years but never worked my way through.      The corner of 97th is one of those corners which are always coated with a layer of black filth and grease. On this corner there's a chicken-grill, but on 98th, another eternally dirty corner, there's a bagel store. What business is being transacted on these corners to make them so dirty?      4:00 p.m. Look into old Hallmark stationery store on 102nd Street. This store, several liquor stores, and a card shop across the street are examples of old businesses sold to Korean owners, in which both the stock and the decor are purposely kept, more or less, intact. The stock is dutifully replenished, probably at the urging of an aged salesman, but the particular material culture of which these stores were once common examples has been abandoned. The children of the earlier Jewish owners were uninterested in it as a business, and the new owners seem uninterested in it as anything but a business. In a thriving Korean stationery/gift/electronics store in midtown, you can see the lively dynamic of shopkeeper and customer. The stationery store across the street from me is like a strange translation of an old poem from one language into another. I will have to go to Staples, the Esperanto of stationery stores, and settle for whatever they have.      A young man I know who came to New York City to study Yiddish at Columbia University was sad to discover that on the Upper West Side there is not a single Eastern European-style dairy restaurant left in business. It has crossed my mind to somehow interest an ambitious Vietnamese, Dominican, or Pakistani entrepreneur in opening such a restaurant.

Ben Katchor is a cartoonist. His strip, Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, appears in the Forward, the Washington City Paper, the SF Weekly, and several other weekly publications.