David Greenberg,

David Greenberg,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 30 1998 12:30 AM

David Greenberg,

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       This morning I get on the subway to Brooklyn. By my reckoning, this is the fourth time I've visited Brooklyn since moving to Manhattan three years ago. But it seems to be increasing, since friends are moving there because of Manhattan's exorbitant rents. How exorbitant? They say you should pay 25 percent to 33 percent of your income toward rent. I pay roughly 150 percent. And some people want to abolish rent control! What this city needs, obviously, is not less but more rent control--much, much more rent control. Rent control on every building. Rents that rise no higher than the rate of inflation. Rents fixed by law by a panel of citizens all earning less than $30,000 a year.
       Until that far-off day, however, there's far-off Brooklyn. On the train, I am cheered by more signs of cooling Flytrap temperatures: nothing about it above the fold in the morning's Times. More miraculously, nothing on the editorial page either. Funny what's happened to the Times' editorials: For a long time the influence of all unsigned editorials, in the Times and elsewhere, was waning fast. The Times' in particular were worthy and liberal and smart and eminently evenhanded--but excruciatingly predictable and therefore rarely read or discussed. Then the editorials became angry, disapproving, moralizing, hectoring, and pious toward the president. Now, suddenly, all those good liberal Times subscribers are reading them once again--but are indignant because they're not worthy, liberal, smart, or eminently evenhanded, yet are still, in their own way, excruciatingly predictable. On the bright side, the op-ed page has been terrific.
       I debark in Brooklyn. Trees. Quiet. Sky. I am getting going on a book (no, not about twinism, though I have dibs on the idea), and I'm meeting Rick Perlstein, sometime Slate contributor, who shares my fondness for political history that's academically serious yet journalistically informed (that is to say, readable). Rick is deep in the muck of a book on Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign. I suppose I shouldn't say too much about it, but I think it's safe to disclose that a) it sounds fascinating, and b) he has amassed a truly wild collection of early 1960s right-wing memorabilia, including such books as Brainwashing in the High Schools and Goldwater A to Z.
       Rick's apartment is littered with Xeroxes of National Review articles. Stacks of books about the rise of the right, toppled over, splay across the shelves. Half-filled glasses of various beverages sit on the table. Unshaven, Rick launches into an animated explication of the Byzantine Republican Party politics of the Cold War era. Now this is exactly the point I hope to be at in a year's time!
       After lunch, I head back to "the City," as we Manhattanites refer to our borough. (This makes Brooklyn the country. The Bronx is "Upstate.") On the way home I run into a large, athletic-looking guy I've never seen before in my life who gives me a big friendly smile, then a scowl because I don't respond. "I'm David, Jon's brother," I say, knowing exactly what has just happened. "Oh, wow!" he says, remembering that Jon has a twin brother. I am friendly and pleasant and patient as he sizes me up. He seems like a nice guy. Played rugby with Jon last year.