Work at the Folklore Center is never accomplished like work in other places. At the Folklore Center it’s always under fire and in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Izzy will look over your shoulder while you are working until you are ready to scream, and when you do scream he will say: “I’m just trying to find out what’s going on.”
Along the right wall was the desk. The bottom drawer of the desk was exclusively reserved for letters people, mostly young girls, had written him and for his voluminous diary. The diary was written in a microscopic hand and traced his life. He filled it with entries, mostly about girls. The bottom draw was sacred: woe unto you if you misplaced something in the bottom drawer. The rest of the desk was filled with paper clips, folk music articles, pens that didn’t work and check books that didn’t have any money in them.
The walls are covered with books floor to ceiling. Rounding out the contents of the Folklore Center is the closet for Izzy’s wardrobe, an eclectic collection of Brooks Bros. meets 14th St, the first aid kit for emergencies, the rack for hanging instruments which never works quite right, the typing table with an electric typewriter (state of the art technology in 1962). There is the red chair for guests, the brown chair for throwing stuff on and the swivel chair where I work or he sits.
And then there’s Jack, Izzy’s side kick. In my day Jack was a permanent fixture at the shop. They hold the same philosophy of work. Work is bad. Work is to be avoided. About once a month Jack and Izzy decide to build something, usually a shelf.
The process of building a shelf goes something like this: You must first spend at least one full day talking about the shelf - pro and con. Where it will go; its function and whether it is really a good idea to build with the state of the economy at an all time low.
Today they decide it is a good idea. Tomorrow they buy the lumber. When the lumber arrives they spend an hour extolling the virtue of this particular lumber and then another hour looking for the saw, hammer and nails. It’s mandatory to make a lot of noise. You could build another Egyptian pyramid faster than Jack and Izzy can build a shelf. It takes another half day to stain the shelf and then another half day to admire it.