“The Shrine of Mother New York”

If you were walking quickly enough past the northwest corner of Havermeyer and Grand in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, you could pass right through a museum without even realizing that you’d visited. This is a big city whose citizens move fast, and like a lot of small and quiet things, the museum is easy to miss, even though the museum itself is, in fact, that street corner. It’s called the City Reliquary, and it’s an ongoing project run by an artist named Dave Herman.

If you were walking slowly enough to pay more attention to the details of the city around you, the first thing you might spot on this particular tree-shaded corner–the first thing that might strike you as out of the ordinary–is an old, claw-footed bathtub, right by the curb, that’s been bolted into the sidewalk along Grand Street. The tub is filled with soil, and orange and yellow marigolds still bloom in it in late October. On the side of the bathtub reads the following, in a hand-painted, cursive script: “Fiorello ‘the little flower’ LaGuardia Memorial Garden.” It’s beautiful, but still, you wonder: what’s going on here?

Turning around to look at the three-story brick apartment building on the corner where the bathtub stands, you’ll see a display window, at eye level, protected with vertical, wrought-iron bars. The display is maybe a few feet high, and three traditionally sized windows, or about six feet, across. It’s the kind of window that looks like it was once used for a corner shop of some kind, but it’s clearly been reclaimed for some other purpose. Above the window, in the same careful, painstaking script as on the bathtub, reads the following: “DHLABS presents: The City Reliquary: ‘FOR THE PEOPLE.'” The words are painted in black and white, on a plain and clean brick-colored background. But what is the City Reliquary?

Walking a little closer, you see that behind the windows is a carefully arranged hodgepodge of small objects, all lovingly labeled. Every detail, including the labels themselves, looks ancient, perhaps fifty years old. You see a small doorbell in the bottom left corner of the display, attached to the outside of the iron bars, asking to be pressed. If you do so, a recorded announcement begins: “Hello, and welcome to the DH Labs City Reliquary. Free and open to the public, 24 hours a day.” But is this display case just a teaser for this so-called City Reliquary? An invitation to walk into an even larger museum? The announcement continues: “At the top left corner of the display, you will see a foundation rock from the Prison Ship Martyr’s Monument in Fort Greene park.” A postcard nearby, it says, “shows a picture of this Revolutionary War memorial. The reverse side of the postcard reads: ‘This monument was unveiled in the park down at our corner last Saturday afternoon. Can you boast of anything so fine?'” The announcement goes on to describe objects from the dumping grounds at Brooklyn’s Dead Horse Bay, such as a set of false teeth; a sand bucket from a defunct neighborhood ballroom; a fire hydrant wrench; and various New York City transportation artifacts, such as a souvenir coin from the Brooklyn Bridge’s opening day, and a hanging strap from a Redbird subway car. It starts to become clear to you that no, there is no larger museum. This–where you’re standing, what you’re looking at, what you’re listening to–this is the City Reliquary itself.

* * *

28-year-old Dave Herman, the DH in DH Labs, moved into the ground-floor apartment on Havermeyer and Grand with friends about four years ago. They were the first residents in what was formerly a commercial storefront space. Depending on who in the neighborhood you talk to, Herman says, the corner was either a doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or perhaps both. He and his roommates knew they had to do something creative with their windows, eventually, but they just weren’t sure exactly what.

It took three years to figure out exactly what that potential would be. Herman says that the building used to be totally covered with graffiti, and so he finally asked his superintendent in the summer of 2003 if he could have some brick-colored paint to cover it up; his super agreed. Herman painted over all the graffiti, and then that same day, started painting directions, in his trademark script, to various locations around the neighborhood, such as the local subway stops. (There are a number of popular bars nearby, and the corner is frequented fairly often, in the evenings, by lost revelers.) That same summer, the corner room of the apartment inside, which had formerly been the bedroom of one of Herman’s roommates, became a common area for the first time since they’d all moved in. Which meant that Herman was free to finally make creative use of the display cases in the windows that had been part of the appeal of the apartment in the first place. He began moving his extensive collection of New York City memorabilia out of his own room, and into the display cases–and the City Reliquary was born.

* * *

Dave Herman is, by training, a visual artist. He studied sculpture back in his home state as an undergraduate, at the University of Florida. After college, he moved north to go to graduate school at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. His major in grad school was Fine Arts–which, at SVA, is a kind of catch-all, within which students are free to do whatever they want. Faced with more freedom as an artist than he’d ever had before, he decided not just to make art, but to make the making of art into an art project itself–to transform his own studio into a work-in-progress, his working space into an ongoing installation. Taking his inspiration in part from the carefully curated and preserved Thomas Edison laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey, now a museum run by the National Park Service–“it’s such a beautiful place,” he says–he christened his studio at school Dave Herman Laboratories, or DH Labs.

Herman is also, by inclination, a collector. As a child growing up in Orlando, Florida, he says, he collected comic books and baseball cards like everyone else, but he also took an unusual interest for a boy in preserving the artifacts he collected. Where other kids might just throw their things under a bed, Herman was building presentation boxes for them. And his family–both sides of which are from New York–took notice. “They saw that I showed an interest in preserving things,” he says. “I was always very careful in presentation.” And knowing he was going to take care of things, his grandparents would entrust him with New York mementos, such as souvenirs from the World’s Fair. His New York City collection had begun years before he ever moved there.

And it was at SVA, he says, that these two ways of looking at the world–as an artist and as a collector–finally clicked together. “The things that I was doing in grad school almost felt like a complete return to my childhood. And this was a great thing for me to realize,” he says. “It totally changed my philosophy on being an artist. So at this point right now, I don’t even think of myself as an artist–I just think of myself as someone who’s doing what he wants to be doing.” Herman has all the traditional training as a sculptor, but the practice of installation, which puts “the artist in this role of being the curator,” allowed him to combine these twin passions for both art and artifacts. And by working in an installation vein, he says, he “ended up being this curator of objects.”

* * *

But what is the City Reliquary? Is it just a cornucopia of curiosa, the sum of its odd contents–strange preserved aquatic flora from the Hudson River, stones from beneath the Waldorf-Astoria, an assemblage of defunct subway tokens? Is it a modern update of the old European idea of the cabinet of curiosities, a private collection of the small wonders of the world–except in this case, turned democratically outward? And if so, is it therefore also a kind of service to the neighborhood? What Herman loves about the project, he says, is having a chance “to interact with the people of the community, and have more of a connection with them.” It’s a way of bridging the new and the old. “The best thing about Brooklyn is its diversity,” he says, and the newcomers to Williamsburg “are just another part of that diverse group–so as long as we’re respectful of all the other people that have just as much right to be in that neighborhood as we do.” Those neighbors also contribute to the project now. Herman finds small offerings by his door, or people simply approach him on the street, he says, “and say, ‘Hey, you’re the Reliquary guy, I’ve got this weird thing, maybe you’d like it.’ I try to be as democratic as possible.”

The democratic impulse is partly satisfied right around the corner, on the side of the building facing Havermeyer Street. There, Herman has a nearly identical window to play with; it houses a sister display, called Community Collections, which features a constantly changing lineup of similar small assemblages put together by Mr. Herman’s friends and neighbors. A couple months ago there was a “Tribute to Our City” display in remembrance of September 11, 2001; as of this writing, Community Collections features ephemera related to Mr. T.

The Reliquary has many sources of inspiration, Herman says, such as the Titanic House in Long Island City, Queens, one man’s personal shrine to the RMS Titanic, which is also set up as a window display from the inside of the curator’s apartment. Another inspirational memorial is the Shrine of Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigration, in upper Manhattan. (Mother Cabrini is often associated with the Statue of Liberty, Herman says.) In her shrine, you can see her exhumed body, with a wax face and wax hands, on display in a glass coffin. Thinking of the City Reliquary in relation to these memorials to the dead, it feels like something that, in a way, could only come into being after September 11, a day in the history of New York when many commentators said the city first faced its own mortality. A reliquary is a shrine of relics, and so Herman’s window display feels both like a tribute to the religion of a living city, and a memorial to one that is already gone.

Someday Herman hopes the Reliquary could be a place where you could walk inside, an actual storefront museum. (He also hopes someday to be a firefighter, and to divide his time between his museum and firefighting.) All he needs, he says, is “time and space. Which is what every New Yorker needs. And money. Time, space, and money. Just those simple things.” In his storefront museum, he says, he’d “have maybe a little museum gift shop, where I could sell my collection of New York objects that I think make good souvenirs. Like definitely Hagstrom maps of all five boroughs. Important things. And Statue of Liberty figurines.” There is nowhere in the borough of Brooklyn, he says, where you can get a decent one. “And so, I’m gonna have this little outpost with every kind of Statue of Liberty figurine in our gift shop,” he says. “And stuff like that. We’ll see.”

“Faster, Ginger Snap! Roll! Roll!”

At the end of the first lap of the third heat of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby roller rumble, an afternoon of punked-out and padded-up young women racing on roller skates on a long, nasty stretch of parking lot under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Williamsburg, things start to go a little haywire, as Rippin Kittin, one of the fastest girls in the league, #8 in the aqua, starts to pull way ahead of the pack, and Lil’ Red Terror, #19 in the yellow, makes a snap decision that Kittin’s going down. As the pack loops around the first of the three pylons holding up the highway that designate the track, Lil’ Red veers off course, skates under the chest-high plastic tape loosely strung between the pylons, and heads straight for her rival, helmet-clad head down and elbow pads at the ready for a solid clotheslining. Other girls, including Ginger Snap, #80 in the tan, follow suit, and by the third lap, although it’s clear that Kittin is the winner, it’s not clear at all if anyone else has even bothered crossing the finish line. The ref, a young man in the traditional black-and-white striped shirt of his role, grabs ahold of Ginger, and they grapple, he spanking her repeatedly, her arms wailing the air, until they tumble to the ground at the finish line, smiling and red-faced and swinging. In the meantime, on the other side of the pylon at the start line, the rest of the girls–not just from this heat, but from the first and second as well–all dive-bomb into a pigpile on the pavement, skirts and water bottles flying in the air, in a flurry of ripped fishnet stockings, sleeve tattoos, bleached and blue-tipped hair, kneepads, roller skates, sequins, safety pins, plaid minis, acid-washed minis, wife-beater T-shirts, under-eye black paint, and belts made of bullet shells. The crowd goes bonkers.

* * *

At the end of the day, as the crowd is breaking up and heading over to the afterparty at the nearby Union Pool bar, Lefty Leibowitz is describing how this league began. Lefty is not just the Gotham Girls Roller Derby’s announcer, he’s also, with Chassis Crass, #11 in the white, the co-organizer of this league. He explains that they came up with the idea separately a little over a year ago–both of them having heard about the other revival leagues springing up all over the country–and connected with each other over Craig’s List, the popular networking Web site. Lefty sports a brown suit, gray spats, dark cop shades, and buzz-cut short hair. He calls each race for the crowd–and rallies them to “sponsor” the girls at the betting table–over a bullhorn like an auctioneer on speed. “Our very own Vince McMahon,” one racer affectionately calls him, making comparison to the legendary impresario of the World Wrestling Federation. What did Lefty think was happening in that third heat?

“They’re just bad girls, you know?” he says. “They just like to raise hell.” When you’re in a race, and you start to fall behind, “you start to maybe get a little bit angry, especially if your arch-rival’s out there with you, sometimes maybe you’re looking to cut the corners a little bit, and these girls are no strangers to cutting the corners and breaking the rules. I mean, that’s what they’re all about, they’re out here to raise hell, and cause all kinds of trouble. The result that we see is total, utter chaos and brutality. There are definitely some feuds.”

Kind of like in the WWF? “Well, I wouldn’t say that,” he demurs. “Obviously, there’s an element of entertainment to this. That’s part of it.” The state that roller derby in the United States had devolved to by the seventies was–not unlike the professional wrestling of organizations like the WWF–staged, fake, and “not entirely legitimate.” But the young women who originally started the first revival league, in Austin, Texas, he says, who were “kind of punk rock girls,” didn’t know that. “They thought it was all totally straight-up,” he says. “So they did it for real. It was like a real competition. and that’s been the benchmark of all the new leagues that are popping up.” And although today is just a race, when the Gotham Girls have their first real roller derby game–as opposed to just a rumble–in November, it will be completely by the rules: no scripts, no storylines, “just hard-fought action.” Sure, there’ll be fights, he says. But it’s all real. It’s crazy–but it’s not fake.

And the individual rivalries will be “boiling over” in the team play, he says. “I’m a little bit scared to be there, because I know all these girls, I’m friends with these girls, I don’t want to see them get hurt.” There will be medics on hand, Lefty says, just in case. “I hope that no one’s seriously hurt,” he says, although he’s heard rumors of planned takedowns. “I hope that no one is gonna be taken out of the sport of roller derby. But this is always a risk when you get out there, on the floor, and you’re playing to win.”

* * *

Earlier in the afternoon, Ginger Snap is in the middle of describing the breakdown of who, exactly, is here to see the rumble–from the older folks who remember the original roller derby, to the college-age kids in love with the kitsch of it–when a tall young man with stringy hair and a scraggly goatee wheels up on inline skates. “Great idea!” he says. “What’s your agenda?”

“Our agenda?” says Ginger, skeptically, but with a smile. “Is to play roller derby.”

The young man, who introduces himself as Zen, doesn’t know what that is, so Ginger explains how the game works. Zen asks if it’s a new sport; Ginger explains that it’s been around since the thirties, “but the all-girl version started in Texas about three, four years ago, and now there are teams everywhere from Seattle to the Cayman Islands to North Carolina. Chicago just got one; Arizona has Phoenix and Tucson, and they play each other; LA has a huge group…”

“And you push each other?” asks Zen. “Kick each other, knock each other down?”

“Yep,” says Ginger.

“Right on,” says Zen. “Cool. Because I want to develop a new sport. With rollerblades. Maybe it’s not for girls, maybe it’s a guy’s version of roller derby–with paintball guns.” The participants would skate around a track, he says, and “maybe, like, shoot people, and maybe there’s ramps and stuff.” But he figures the guys in his brand-new sport could use some experienced derby girls as instructors.

“So why do you think this is only a guy thing?” asks Ginger.

Zen says, well, sure, he’d love to have female players in his paintball game.

“I’m sure that there would definitely be girls interested,” she says. Ginger excuses herself; she has to go warm up for the heat she’s racing in, the third and penultimate one of the day before the final championship. “This is my husband,” she says, introducing the man in the black-and-white striped shirt. “He’s the referee. Don’t tell anyone.” And she rolls off to get ready for her race.

“Is the Bus the New Black?”

“I’m not sure I’ll be of any help,” said Jane, a sculptor who lives in Williamsburg. “I’ve only taken the bus once, and it wasn’t even an arty ride. I ride my bike most places.”

It was a simple enough proposition. The B61 bus line connects all the major art enclaves of Brooklyn. It starts at the farthest reach of Red Hook, a neighborhood in the early- to mid-stages of gentrification; runs up through Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, near Gowanus, all of which have a healthy share of artists and galleries; dips through DUMBO, which, like SoHo before it, is already in the late-gentrification transition from galleries to boutiques; shoots straight down Bedford, the main drag of Williamsburg, a stone’s throw from literally dozens of art galleries; and ends at Long Island City, where a number of museums, from P.S. 1 to, until recently, MoMA QNS, make their home. So was the B61 therefore the unofficial bus of the Brooklyn art world?

I thought it could be, but I was striking out left and right. Every Williamsburg artist I talked to, it seemed, if they didn’t own a car, expressly preferred riding a bicycle to get around the borough. “I just don’t think there’s any reason why anyone would need to go to all those neighborhoods,” said Molly, another sculptor whose studio happens to be right next to Jane’s. “The only person I could think of who’d need to do that would be an intrepid art collector. But then,” she said, “they’d probably have a car.” Molly commuted for years from Carroll Gardens to her Williamsburg studio–but she, like her hypothetical collector, preferred to drive.

“What, they don’t ever go to see shows at P.S. 1?” said Matvei, a small art book publisher who lives out in Red Hook. “Sure, you could take the G,” he said, “but the bus is faster.” He, like everyone who lives in that neighborhood, is entirely reliant on the B61, and was skeptical of the Williamsburg cycling aficionados I’d been telling him about. “It’s much more of a hipster bus than even eight months ago,” said Anna, Matvei’s partner at the press. She said that as Red Hook is changing, the ridership on their end of the B61 is changing drastically as well. “It lasted a long time as a place for eccentrics. But now it’s Smith Street, all over again,” she said, referring to the recent changes on the main commercial strip in Cobble Hill. “There’s a lot more babies and dogs. It’s the same white couples in their thirties, having the same conversations in the same backyards.” Is the B61 the art bus, though? I asked Matvei. The hipster bus? “I don’t think there’s any other buses that connect all these neighborhoods,” he said. “So I guess it is–by default.”

If they’re riding their bicycles everywhere, when do the artists get on the bus, if they ever do? I was curious to hear Jane’s one-time bus riding story. “It’s all quite dull, really,” she said. “I was off to visit a friend in the back of beyond, beyond Clinton Hill somewhere, and wanted to waste as much time as possible. So the bus was the answer. For hours I stared with half-focus out the window. And that was my Sunday, gone.” She added that she had also once dated a man who lived on the route of the B61. “So perhaps it’s that kind of bus,” she said. “The hook-up bus of distraction.”

A few years ago, a friend of mine, a writer who lives in Carroll Gardens, told me that he’d heard the G train was the new F. So was it possible that the B61 could ever be the new G? Not likely, said a photographer I know who lives in the East Village. “The bus isn’t cool,” she said. “It can’t ever be cool.” I came to the realization, then, that in any neighborhood in this city, and among all the different kinds of people who lives here, there exists an unbending hierarchy of transportation options, which might roughly play out like this: limo, car, car service, taxi, subway, bicycle, walking, and finally–at the bitter end of necessity–the bus.

So who does ride the B61? I asked that question of Andre, a dreadlocked and goateed bus driver who favors racing gloves and dark glasses when he’s working. “Yuppies on one end, Polish on the other, African-American in the middle,” he said. Yuppies meaning down in Red Hook? Where the neighborhood is gentrifying? “Well, not exactly yuppies,” he qualified. “They’re not that conservative–but these young types, you know, buying lofts, that sort of thing.” And where are they all going? “The yuppies all get off at downtown, the African-Americans are all off the bus by Classon Avenue, you get the Hasidim for a little bit, and then all down Bedford Avenue you get these SoHo types from there until–well, I guess, until here.” We were at the northern terminus of the line, at Long Island City, where Andre finally had a chance to chat, although he was distracted by an older Polish woman who was yelling at him about her confusion as to where the line stopped, and where it started. I asked him if I could quote him on that. “I didn’t say anything bad, did I?” he said. I assured him he hadn’t. I thanked Andre, shook his racing-gloved hand, got off the bus, and took the G train home.

“One Writer’s Beginnings”

My friend Amanda Stern, the writer, would like to step outside to smoke a cigarette before this all gets going. She feels fairly confident, on the verge of getting up in front of a room full of strangers—but then, she tells me, she’s coming down with a cold, so you never know, something dramatic might happen.

It’s a recent Monday evening. I’m attending Amanda’s reading in the back room of The Half King, a restaurant and bar on 23rd Street west of 10th Avenue. Sebastian Junger, author of The Perfect Storm, is a part owner of the place. Mr. Junger looks impossibly large in author photographs, Schwarzeneggerish, but in person he is (I’ve heard) more Bloombergian in scale. Amanda Stern, on the other hand, not only appears small in photographs, but is in fact very, very little. She steps up to the podium. “This is all very tenuous,” she says, as the lights dim to a seedy darkness that makes me nostalgic for smoking in restaurants. She lowers the microphone, down from the height it had been at for the introduction given by the normal-sized reading series curator. “Do I look like a midget?” she asks the crowd. “Do I need an apple box?”

She begins with a bit she says she’s done before. She calls it “raffling off the contents of the care package my stalker sent me while I was on my book tour.” She says she plans to continue opening her readings with this segment until the care package is exhausted. Her cross-country book tour was this past November—it kicked off just a few weeks after her book, The Long Haul, was published by Soft Skull Press, where I used to be Associate Publisher. Just a few days before leaving town, Amanda, at the age of 33 and a lifelong New Yorker, managed to finally get her very first driver’s license. (A few days into the trip, her brother’s borrowed car got totaled by a nasty combination of patch ice and guardrails, while her tour companion was at the wheel—but other than that, she says, the trip went pretty smoothly.)

The raffle is made up of trivia questions about certain difficulties Amanda had getting through school. Unlike all the smart people she knows in New York City, she says, she did not go to one college, but many. Exactly how many colleges did she attend, she asks? Likewise, unlike these same smart people, she did not ever skip a grade, but in fact was held back for one; which grade was it? Amanda’s older sister, who’s in the audience, looks ready to burst with the answers, but she keeps quiet. (The first answer is “three,” and the correct guesser wins a small collection of “creepy stalker poems;” the second answer is “the sixth,” which is rewarded with a “creepy stalker Jack Kerouac tribute tape.”)

As she’s the only reader for the evening, Amanda has the odd luxury of time, and is able to read five sections from her novel. “Although it’s not really a novel,” she says parenthetically. “It’s more like interlinked short stories.” She pauses, considering this, then corrects herself. “But call it a novel. It makes me sound more professional.” She reads from the beginning, when the unnamed narrator and her somewhat older boyfriend, who is only ever known as The Alcoholic, leave their college town upstate and head for the narrator’s hometown, New York City; through various troubles with acid and pot and alcohol and addiction and codependency; to the book’s conclusion, with her sending him to AA, and him promptly dumping her. She sketches out the trajectory of the whole book.

After the reading, there is time for a brief question-and-answer session. “You can ask me anything,” she tells her audience. “I don’t care.” At first, there are no takers. “You know, when I’m getting my period—whatever!”

Someone asks a question about what it’s been like, having her first book published. “My entrance into this world has been really pleasant,” she says. “Although I didn’t get a ‘line edit.’ I’d heard about ‘line edits,’ from other writers.” The smile on her face makes it sound like she’s describing something dirty and therapeutic at the same time. “And I really wanted one.”

Someone asks about writing from personal experience—about the differences between memoir, autobiographical fiction, and straight-up fiction—or in other words, which parts of the novel are true?

“You know, people always ask me that, to point out all the things that actually happened,” she says. “And really, it’s very little.”

What is true, she says, are the themes—codependency, drug addiction. “The trajectory is autobiographical,” she says. “Two people meet, they fall in love, he goes to AA, they break up. But she, the narrator, she isn’t me. That didn’t happen to me. The stuff that I invented to happen to her, the narrator,” she says, “is much more interesting than anything that happened to me.

“You get to this point in your own life,” she says, “where it’s like, wow, what a horrible thing I’ve just been through. And then you create this distance, this displacement, and it’s like you have this epiphany: what if this had happened? What about this? And so on. I think that’s what writers do. I think writers take those moments, where they see things that they think are really poignant in their own lives,” she says, “and then they explode them.”

But, someone asks, are certain characters in the book based on real people the author knows?

“Well, sure,” she says. “But they’ve been stripped and remodeled. That’s the only way I know how to work. I mean, memoir is fine, but I’m just not a memoirist,” she says. “That’s not my bag.”

But even if this first book is not technically autobiographical, would the author ever be interested in writing memoir?

“Well, maybe if something interesting ever happened to me,” she replies. “Yeah, sure. I’m in awe of people who can write non-fiction,” she says, “but I don’t think I could ever have that kind of clarity.”

Someone asks about the timeline, in relation to the sections Amanda read. Her sister jumps in to help clarify exactly what the question is, and what events happened when, and in what order—when she herself is jumped on.

“You!” interrupts an aggressive audience member, like she’s caught out a liar. “You were talking to Amanda about the character of the narrator,” she says, “and you said ‘you’!”

“I did?” Amanda’s sister replies—but the crowd murmurs agreement, and she relents. “It’s funny, though,” she says, furrowing her brow. “I don’t normally collapse Amanda and the narrator. But,” she says to her younger sister, “my ‘you’ would have been the author ‘you.'”

“Okay, whatever you say,” the aggressive woman replies, skeptically.

“You know, believe whatever you want,” says Amanda.

“I’m just kidding!” says the skeptic.

“Really, no seriously, it can be a straight-up roman à clef to you for all I care,” she says, shrugging her shoulders and smiling. “Just so long as you buy it!”

There are no more questions. “Thank you all for coming,” Amanda says, still smiling, undaunted. “I hope this wasn’t too long, and boring, and annoying, and painful, and that you’re not, like, ‘let’s go get a cab right now,’ and that you’ll stick around, and have a drink, and smoke cigarettes,” she tells the audience. She lets her anti-Bloombergian challenge hang in the air. “C’mon,” she says. “Let’s smoke cigarettes in here, and see what happens.” Still no takers. “C’mon!” she tries again. “It’ll be fun.”