I saw Thomas Pynchon the other night.
I know I did, and there is really no sense in you trying to convince me otherwise.
Here's what went down:
My wife and I were on our way to a dinner party on the UWS, and were enjoying a romantic stroll down Riverside Drive. It was late evening, and the embankment upon which we were walking was twilit and deserted.
I had been thinking about Pynchon a ton lately, having just heard, two weeks earlier, that Penguin had received a new manuscript from him (so soon?). Then, this week, the story went public concerning the new book, and this knowledge spurred me to revisit my favorite passages of Against The Day (which I love, along with pretty much everything else the man has written), and this re-reading, in turn, prompted me to re-examine those old photos of T.P. himself; photos we fans know so well. So, admittedly, he was on my mind. But look at it this way, I REALLY have looked at those photos- and, unless the man has had extensive plastic surgery, I would (or so I tell myself) recognize him anywhere. So...
Here comes, ambling up Riverside, the only other person within sight of us; a lone rangy fella in his late sixties or thereabouts, in a dark jacket, and...that face- THAT FACE! I mean, it just had to be. There's no way it wasn't.
So I turn to my wife and whisper "That was Thomas Pynchon" and she looks at me as she is wont to, with an expression that is equal parts long-suffering and vaguely amused- and we turn around simultaneously, and...there's no one there. Well, ok, I thought, I just imagined the entire affair- time to get me one of those rooms with the rubber walls.
But on second thought, it occurs to me, he might live in the middle of the block and might have just ducked into the lobby by the time we spun around. In any case, that was that. Until...
We walk a couple blocks further down to where the party is being hosted, and our coats are taken, and a drink is put in our hands, and we're chatting, and one drink leads to another, and before you know it the night is almost over. At some point there's a lull in the conversation, and the earlier event comes back to me, and I say (somewhat self-mockingly) "I just saw Thomas Pynchon" to which two people (of impeccable reputations, credentials) respond that they know Pynchon's realtor, and lo, "Pynchon lives two blocks up:" i.e. ON THE VERY BLOCK where we had walked passed him.
Seriously- it was him.
And, what's more- he knew that I knew. I know this too.
Hand to God. And don't let the expression on my wife's face dissuade you.