chain-smoking, peroxide blonde secularrnsaint, Mazie sold tickets from 9:30 A.M.rnuntil 11 P.M. seven days a week and spentrnthe last three hours of her day—from 11rnP.M. to 2 A.M.—touring the Bowery, handingrnout money to the down and out, gettingrndrunks to flophouses on cold nights,rnand calling ambulances for the injured.rn(Mitchell, always a meticulous researcher,rnfound that Mazie had calledrnmore ambulances than any private citizenrnin New York.) He wrote about NewrnYork saloons like MeSorley’s and Dick’srnBar and Grill—and about their owners.rnBefore locking up for the night, JohnrnMeSorley, well into his 80’s, would grillrnhimself a three-pound sirloin steak andrnconsume hollowed-out loaves of Frenchrnbread stuffed with whole onions. Hernwrote about Captain Charley’s Museumrnfor hitclligcnt People. He wroternabout a man who sold “racing cockroachesrnto society people.” He wroternabout Billv Sunday, about TammanyrnHall politicians, about lady boxers; aboutrnfishermen, tugboat captains, and butchers;rnabout urban gypsies, bearded ladies,rnfan dancers, pickpockets, Mohawk hidians,rnand child geniuses.rnBut it was not until Mitchell becamerna staff writer for the New Yorker thatrnhe was able to produce the work, thernlong “fact pieces” and portraits, thatrnestablished his reputation as reporterrnand artist par excellence—as, to quoterncritic Stanley Edgar Hyman, “thernparagon of reporters.” The New Yorkerrnfreed Mitchell from the pressures of therndaily newspaper deadline, and evenrnthough he continued to write aboutrnmany of the same people and places hernhad described as a newspaper reporter, asrna New Yorker writer he had the time andrnfreedom to develop these people andrnplaces in much greater depth and detail,rnso that what were originally sketchesrnbecame richly detailed, enduring portraits.rnLIBERAL ARTSrnPSEUDOVICTIMITIS BARBATULArnIn the development in the Domino’s Pizza “beard ban” case, a federal appealsrncourt in St. Louis ruled last October that the company must waive its interdict forrnblack employees who have a common and sometimes painful skin ailment, pseudofolliculitisbarlMe(rnPlr’B).rnAccording to the New York Times last November, the events that led to this rulingrnbegan ten years ago, when Langston J. Bradley of Omaha, Nebra.ska, who is black, gotrna part-time job as a delivery driver for the pizza-maker. Mr. Bradley had worked atrnDomino’s for a few weeks when he was told that he must .shave the beard he had justrnstarted to grow or he would lose his job; he then filed suit on the grounds that the company’srnrule discriminated against black men and thus violated federal civil rights law.rnHe was joined in the suit by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.rnWhile a federal district judge decided last year that Domino’s had legitimate businessrnreasons for banning beards (and that, in any case, Mr. Bradley’s skin condition wasrnnot so severe tliat he needed to avoid shaving), a three-judge panel of the United StatesrnCourt of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit unanimously overturned the decision, sayingrnthat the company must relax its rule for the “protected class who suffer from PFB.”rnLike “Mazie,” Mitchell’s “I’he OldrnHouse at Home”—the first of the 27rnpieces that make up his book MeSorley’srnWonderful Saloon—was originally arnnewspaper sketch, and as such it is arnhighly entertaining, vivid description ofrna venerable New York institution foundedrnin 1854 and largely unchanged in thern1940’s, when Mitchell started writingrnabout it. In the eariy 1940’s, as m 1854,rnthe floors of MeSorley’s are sawdustcovered.rnA potbellied stove providesrnwarmth. There is no cash register—rnchange is made from a wooden box.rnOnly ale is served—no whiskey, muchrnless wine or liqueurs. There is a freernlunch consisting of crackers, slicedrnonions, and hunks of cheddar cheese.rnWomen are banned (though a womanrnowned the place in the 1940’s). Four ofrnfive customers are Irish workingmenrn(brick layers, dock workers, truck drivers)rnor ancient Irish retirees drinking up theirrnpension checks. John MeSorley’s 1854rnsign—”Be Good or Be Gone”—is stillrnprominently displayed.rnMitchell’s New York, of course, is longrngone. He writes, to use John Cheever’srndescription, of a time when “the city ofrnNew York was still filled with a river ofrnlight, when you heard the Benny Goodmanrnquartets from a radio in the cornerrnstationery store, and when almost everybodyrnwore a hat.” The New York of thern30’s, 40’s, and early 50’s was a gentler,rnkinder, incomparably safer city, whereinrnat 2:00 in the morning one could walkrnunafraid in tough neighborhoods—”inrnthe slums,” as E.B. White wrote in hisrnclassic essay “Here Is New York,” amidstrn”poverty and bad housing . . . in the reassuringrnsafety of family life.” Mitchell’srnNew York is really the New York of “usual”rnpeople, of working- and middleclassrnpeople, of family people, of peoplernliving by traditional values, of decentrnpeople who, though they may be creaturesrnof immoderation, self-declaredrnatheists cynical and comically irreverentrnabout traditional values, lead essentiallyrnreligious lives in the knowledge, consciousrnor unconscious, that the sanity,rnstability, and safety of their world dependsrnon those values.rnMitchell quit writing in the eariy 60’srnbecause, he says, “the city changed onrnme.” One need not be highly imaginativernto know what he means.rn]ames P. Degnan is a professorrnof English at Santa Clara StaternUniversity.rn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn