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City Desk

Night Time Is the Right Time

by Richard Brookhiser

Eating late was a sign of sophistication. To eat in darkness, even in midsummer, when sun and birds have gone to bed and parents, back in their suburban habitats, are tiring; to eat in a blaze of artificial light, the auxiliary of restlessness and stimulation; to finish with coffee, last slap to the circadian rhythms, and tell any midwesterner who might be gaping, “Oh it never interferes with my sleep” (that’s because we don’t sleep, you rube); to pluck, from the rush of oncoming headlights, bouncing over the not-so-paved streets, the cab that will take you home (there will be no shortage of cabs, because cabbies know when city dwellers require their after-dinner rides): What could be better? I mean ordinary lateness, mind you: not the lateness of students pulling all-nighters, clubgoers, trannies, Balzac, garbage men, or fishmongers. Just the regular lateness of regular sophisticates. The one time I was in Madrid I learned that the locals are called gatos, cats, because of the hours they keep. That’s the idea.

For a while one of the local TV stations had the perfect tuck-you-in-afterwards ritual — Honeymooners reruns at 11:30, Star Trek reruns at midnight. You only had to watch a few minutes of the Star Trek rerun because you had long ago learned all the episodes: This is the one where the Americans have become tribesmen and Kirk gives a dramatic reading of the Preamble of the Constitution. Click.

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