May 3, 2012
O. Henry’s Sparrows in the NoMad District and Madison Square
The NoMad District is featured in New York literature like O. Henry’s “The Sparrows in Madison Square”…
The young man in straitened circumstances who comes to New York City to enter literature has but one thing to do, provided he has studied carefully his field in advance. He must go straight to Madison Square, write an article about the sparrows there, and sell it to the Sun for $15.
When I arrived in New York, and the car took me straight from the ferry up Twenty-third Street to Madison Square, I could hear that $15 check rustling in my inside pocket.
I obtained lodging at an unhyphenated hostelry, and the next morning I was on a bench in Madison Square almost by the time the sparrows were awake. Their melodious chirping, the benignant spring foliage of the noble trees and the clean, fragrant grass reminded me so potently of the old farm I had left that tears almost came into my eyes.
From O. Henry’s “A Madison Square Arabian Night”…
“Wait,” he said to the disappearing genie. “As I came home across the end of the square, I saw many men standing there in rows. There was one mounted upon something, talking. Why do those men stand in rows, and why are they there?”
“They are homeless men, sir,” said Phillips. “The man standing on the box tries to get lodging for them for the night. People come around to listen and give him money. Then he sends as many as the money will pay for to some lodging-house. That is why they stand in rows; they get sent to bed in order as they come.”
“By the time dinner is served,” said Chalmers, “have one of those men here. He will dine with me.”
“W-w-which–,” began Phillips, stammering for the first time during his service.
“Choose one at random,” said Chalmers. “You might see that he is reasonably sober–and a certain amount of cleanliness will not be held against him. That is all.”