LEONARD QUART: An abnormal spring day

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By Friday, Feb 10 Viewpoints  3 Comments
A grand piano player in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, New York.

New York — An abnormal spring day in February, it’s in the low 60s, the sun is strong, and the light bounces off Village town houses. A good day to forget that Senator Elizabeth Warren was silenced on the Senate floor when that wily pro and man with few genuine political beliefs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, took issue with a speech where she opposed the attorney general nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions.

McConnell objected to Warren quoting a letter by Coretta Scott King from 1986 when Sessions was under consideration for a federal judgeship. It read: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.” McConnell silenced Warren (who has a gift for angering the Republican opposition) for what he said was breaking the rule of impugning another senator. The optics have looked bad for McConnell, for operating in a sexist manner, especially since male Independent and Democratic Senators like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown read the King letter in the Senate later without being stopped. Still, a Republican Senate predictably approved Sessions — one of the most powerful and onerous cabinet members, among many, we must bear for the next four years.

In addition, the uninformed, unqualified, lavish Republican donor Betsy Devos was confirmed as Education Secretary with Vice President Pence breaking the tie. Every day another egregious or horrific decision is made under Trump’s aegis, and it rests heavily on the collective psyche of people I know — painfully taking over too much of their waking hours.

Cherry Lane on Commerce Street in the Village.

Cherry Lane on Commerce Street in the Village.

But today, at least for an hour or two I felt at one with one of my favorite quotes from Albert Camus: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.”

Well, I’m probably exaggerating how buoyant I felt. But as I strolled through Washington Square Park I heard a blond bearded sax play solo, a folk singer doing a Phil Ochs imitation, and a jazz group performing near the fountain. The park was filled with people — chess players, iPhone owners obsessively texting, dog walkers, readers, and others just idly sitting sunning themselves. I felt cheered by all I saw. It was the Village in all its variety and messiness. No, not the legendary Bohemian one that the abstract painters inhabited in the ‘50s, or where in the ‘60s Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk sang in coffeehouses and cafes, and not the Village of an earlier era of Eugene O’Neill, John Sloan and Isadora Duncan. It’s now a commercialized and gentrified neighborhood, but still protests take place, some working artists remain in lofts, art film and off-Broadways theaters abound, even a few coffeehouses flourish.

As I walk down one of my favorite streets, the West Village’s Commerce Street — a striking curved thoroughfare between 7th Avenue South and Barrow Street — I feel elated. Handsome townhouses, some quite old, and the Cherry Lane Theater, located there since 1924, where in the 60s I saw plays by Pinter and Ionesco, line the street. Around the corner is 751/2 Bedford, the narrowest house in Manhattan, where Edna St. Vincent Millay (one of the theater’s founders) once lived.

I don’t bother to peek through a gate into Grove Court nearby, for I am fully satisfied by a walk on streets untouched by luxury towers, where the look of the old city has been preserved.

I return home to the political news smiling inwardly, for one can always find some pleasure in merely being alive. Putting on television I read Trump’s coarse tweet attempting to intimidate the appeals court judges ruling on the immigration (Muslim) ban:  “If the U.S. does not win this case as it so obviously should, we can never have the security and safety to which we are entitled. Politics!”

I know there is no way of hiding from Trump’s actions and utterances, but I now have a memory of a lovely walk that I can conjure up when ever things get dark and grim.


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3 Comments   Add Comment

  1. GMHeller says:

    Bitterly, Quart writes, ” Still, a Republican Senate predictably approved Sessions — one of the most powerful and onerous cabinet members, among many, we must bear for the next four years. In addition, the uninformed, unqualified, lavish Republican donor Betsy Devos was confirmed as Education Secretary with Vice President Pence breaking the tie. Every day another egregious or horrific decision is made under Trump’s aegis, and it rests heavily on the collective psyche of people I know — painfully taking over too much of their waking hours.”
    What four years? How ’bout eight?
    And what will become of poor Quart’s ‘waking hours’ should America vote for Pence in ’24?

    1. Louis Menashe says:

      Eight years? Pence in ’24? Wishful thinking….

    2. bobhar, alford says:

      you are a sad and confused man….if this “leader” is re-elected in 2020 there will be no America as we know it…it will only be America in name. we all must hope that the people of our country are smarter than this (and apparently you) and will see that the result of their misguided frustration led to this crisis and that they /we will correct ourselves beginning with the 2018 congressional vote. we can make a difference but we must act right away.

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