This evening I was walking along the street in Greenwich Village, minding my own business, when suddenly my eyes were pleasantly assaulted by an exhibit in a nearby window — a retrospective of drawings by Al Hirschfeld.
Now, this next part will either make perfect sense to you, or it will seem completely nuts. For the next half hour, like a kid in a candy store, I stood on that sidewalk drifting happily from drawing to drawing, in a state of utter bliss, counting Ninas.
I remember exactly the day, when I was twelve years old, that I was first initiated into the mystery of Nina. On that fateful Sunday morning, somebody pointed out to me that in every brilliant Hirschfeld caricature on the cover of the New York Times Arts and Leisure section, there was a little number to the right of his signature. And they explained just what that number meant.
From that day forward my teenage soul was hooked. Each week I would wait faithfully for that weekend’s paper. When it arrived, the very first thing I did, before doing the crossword, before checking out movie reviews, even before reading letters to the editor in the NY Times Magazine section, was worship at the church of Nina.
I could explain more about this, but that’s what Google is for, right?