En route to the subway this morning, I passed a storefront under renovation, where a crew was installing one of those metal security grilles that scroll up like a window blind. About a dozen stuffed animal toys were attached to the radiator of their truck: a few Warner Brothers characters, but for the most part anonymous and sweet-looking. I’ve always been curious about these stuffed animals on trucks. A friend once told me that they were called “mungo,” but I’ve never spoken to anyone who could confirm that. They look playful, but what kind of play? Are they meant as mascots? Trophies? Victims? Pets?

An attractive Latina with dyed-blonde hair in a brown-and-white-print summery dress crossed the street, and one of the men wolf-whistled at her. His co-workers joined in, but she paid no attention. The man who started the whistle seemed to be at loose ends with the lack of response, and he turned to the stuffed animals and fiddled with them. They must have been attached to the radiator only loosely, because he swiveled several of them, straightening them so that they stood upright and face forward.

Photos from Iraq, taken today

Actually, only the first two of the photos below were taken today. But the immediacy is disconcerting. It’s a little unreal to think that someone I’ve known for years took these photographs in Iraq this morning, and I’m looking at them after lunch in the safe haven of Brooklyn. I know that this collapse of distance happens daily in newsrooms, but it takes some getting used to. All of these photos have been taken by T. R. Klysa, USMC, who also provided the information in the captions. (Note of caution: Some viewers may find the image at the bottom left to be difficult.)


Former Iraqi Directorate of Special Security, Baghdad, April 19, 2003. Left: “Can see pretty clearly where the cruise missile drove right through the front entrance of this building.” Right: “Literally, tons and tons of paperwork. Dossiers. Files. Binders. The paperwork here is a mix of political prisoners and Baath party leaders—all mixed up. It is very unlikely any of this will ever get sorted out. This was
taken from a pile marked ‘burn.’ “

Fragments of U.S. cruise missiles.

102-0239: Regional Baath Party Headquarters, Al Azziyah, April 6, 2003. “Emblem of the former Iraqi regime.”

From a friend in Baghdad

A friend of mine, T. R. Klysa, USMC, recently sent me a few photos that he's been taking with his digital camera.

Baghdad, traffic circle. April 9, 2003
Saddam City, Baghdad. April 9, 2003

Above left: Baghdad, traffic circle. April 9, 2003. "These people are on the way to loot the Iraqi Tobacco warehouse just around the corner, that's why they are so happy."
Above right: Saddam City, Baghdad. April 9, 2003.
Below: At the Al Quds power plant, North Baghdad, in front of an untoppled statue of Saddam Hussein. April 15, 2003.

At the Al Quds power plant, North Baghdad, in front of an untoppled statue of Saddam Hussein. April 15, 2003
At the Al Quds power plant, North Baghdad, in front of an untoppled statue of Saddam Hussein. April 15, 2003

Paperback delicacies

I just finished Greenery Street by Denis Mackail, which is a novel about a young couple who have just been happily married. And that’s it. There is a little bit of plot, but it only happens to the minor characters. The hero and heroine are unmitigatedly nice to each other. Miraculously, it is riveting. It has been reprinted by Persephone Books, and so in reading it on the subway I had the added pleasure of knowing that mine was the most delicately designed paperback on the F train. For instance, the endpapers for Greenery Street reproduce a 1925 chintz and look like this:

I also am infatuated with Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. A failed governess, on the verge of the workhouse, is hired by a flapper and discovers cocaine, promiscuity, rouge, and the pleasure of shedding one’s scruples. If you buy the books from, the shipping is cheaper, but if you buy direct from the press you get pretty bookmarks and the catalog.