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Trees say they’re tired, they’ve born too much fruit;
Charmed on the wayside, there’s no dispute.
Now shedding leaves, they don’t give a hoot –
La-di-dah di-dah-di-dum, ‘tis autumn!

Henry Nemo, ‘Tis Autumn


Fall is here, and I’m deep in a dream of regression. The sensation hit one recent evening as I biked along that curving stretch of Riverside Drive near Columbia University. Maybe it was the trees, their leaves on the verge of changing hues—or it might been the noticeable coolness from a breeze wafting up from the Hudson that made my mind careen out of adulthood, back into boyhood days flushed with anticipation at the new season’s promise. That was back in Ohio when a child could stroll home from school with his head buried in a book, surviving the perils of two-way streets and the neighborhood wino to arrive safely home, burdened only by his intense hunger for peanut butter and grape jelly on Wonder Bread (guilty as charged).

Such memories are unearthed by the rat-tat-tat laughter of children, suddenly ubiquitous on the subways and city streets, their wild abandon accompanied by a thump of a ball or a mother’s loud admonition to slow down. As if newly sprang from prison they come in waves, and in all sizes, sexes and ages—along Fifth Avenue some mornings, dressed in school uniforms (headed for the obligatory museum field trip), hands linked to a buddy’s; early evenings on the A train curled like Bowery derelicts against humoring adults; at the library, laden with backpacks (tethered to one of those, well, you’d be drowsy too) and precious bounty from the stacks. Sondheim captured it best in the song I Remember:

Parks and bridges, ponds and zoos

Ruddy faces, muddy shoes,

Light and noise, and bees and boys and days.

Yet darkness dots the season like a dose of sobriety, perhaps to stall all our taking for granted. Patrick Quinn, the president of Actor’s Equity, died a few weeks ago: in the early 90s he and I did a workshop of a musical that never saw the light of a Broadway opening. What a sweetheart–a talented performer but also gifted in his role as union head, the ultimate actor in service to other actors. Along with a host of long-time editors, that matchless music critic Robert Christgau has left the Village Voice, a paper instrumental in shaping my initial impressions of New York and culture back in my University of Cincinnati student days. No week was complete unless I’d read his consumer guide, a report card of new musical developments accompanied by brief, witty commentary. His departure is the Voice’s loss; shame on the new regime who told him his services would no longer be required.

Coliseum Books is closing again—as they had in 2002—and it’s a goodbye too sorrowful for words. It seems the days of the “sinister little bookstore” (rent Funny Face) are numbered; such places with their human scale are what make this town truly soar. They provide rare relief from the devolving mall that Manhattan threatens to become and at such moments, we must question progress (especially in the guise of internet convenience shopping and the ubiquitous Barnes and Noble) when it creates a landscape inhospitable to the small bookseller or any intrepid soul motivated less by money than ideals. To Coliseum Books—a literary refuge whose heart was always in the right place. Our loss.