"The army stationed me down South when I was younger, and I couldn’t even use the same bathroom as white people. But things have changed so much. The younger generation isn’t nearly as racist. I’ve been sitting here for fifty years. So much has changed. This neighborhood used to be all black. A white person couldn’t even walk down this street. All the races kept to themselves. Now you’ve got Indians talking to Pakistanis, blacks talking to whites, everybody is here and learning from each other’s cultures. I’ve been sitting here for 50 years. Things are getting better."
"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."
"I want to be a history writer. The challenge with writing about history is finding the right mix of artistry and facts. If you only write facts, it’s way too dull. History can be very poetic."
"What do you think is the most poetic thing about history?"
"One theme is the struggle of man against nature. There’s the belief that the further man gets from nature, the more civilized he becomes. Cities are the culmination of this idea, with all the art and intellectual traditions that have come out of cities."
"Do you believe that man becomes more civilized the further he gets from nature?"
"No. Because no matter what you build around you, you can’t escape your ape nature. Look at Nazi Germany. All their amazing technology and buildings were put in service of their most uncivilized instincts."