Sharing a bike path with Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou

László Jakab Orsós lives in Brooklyn Heights, where busy men on bicycles deliver just about everything: Thai food, craft cocktails, firewood, cocaine, deli sandwiches. Orsós, cultural curator at the Brooklyn Public Library, recently took on a part-time job as a delivery boy, sending poetry and political speeches all over Brooklyn. “We’re sneaking up on people’s minds! He said the other day, as a poem by Emily Dickinson sounded from a bluetooth speaker mounted on his bike. “My heart sings!

Fifty-seven-year-old Orsós grew up in Gellénháza, a model village in western Hungary developed by an oil company. He first visited New York in his twenties, to learn English while painting apartments in the East Village: underlining all the words, so I had my vocabulary. After six months he moved to Budapest, where he spent two decades as a screenwriter, university professor and restaurant critic. “At forty, you start to reassess your life,” he said. “Why did I leave Hungary? Boredom. I just wanted to see how I would perform in a larger setting.

He did well. First as a diplomat, then as head of the Salman Rushdie International Literary Festival, while riding an orange, steel-frame single-speed bicycle, with cantilever brakes, straight handlebars and a plush saddle, which he bought the week he moved to New York. “I don’t wear a helmet,” he said. “I tried so many helmets and I promised so much of my friends and lovers, ‘I will wear a helmet, yes!’ But I can not. I just feel totally constrained. As if my head was wrapped. Orsós burst out laughing. “I don’t have a tie either. And this is not a revolutionary statement. I can’t, I feel like I’m going to die in a minute! It suffocates me.

Recently, Orsós surpassed the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library with suede desert chukkas, a patterned V-neck, and a chunky pink overshirt; no tie, no helmet. “Last year I had this idea, late at night, to cycle home,” he said. “What if the library building could start whispering?” How amazing would it be if the building could just start talking? This spring it was successful: ten library branches across Brooklyn began playing recordings of their collections (poems by American poet Laureate Joy Harjo; speech by Malcolm X; excerpts from Defoe’s “A Journal of the Plague Year” ) outdoor speakers, for passers-by to appreciate and ignore and remember and forget.

“Libraries in Europe are totally different concepts – they are closed to life,” Orsós said. “In America, libraries are cultural platforms. We don’t have chandeliers, we don’t have marble desks. We’ve got crappy tables, rickety chairs, fluorescent lights, people whispering gibberish and walking around with thousands of handwritten pages – the manuscript they’ve jotted down in their lifetimes. But that’s what does it! A library is more than a building, he explained. It’s a state of mind, it’s an exchange of ideas: “The library accompanies us wherever we go!”

“It’s Monday without meat. You don’t have to hunt, but I must gather.
Caricature by Victoria Roberts

In Boerum Hill, Elizabeth Bishop and Brenda Shaughnessy echoed through the brownstone-lined streets, Orsós’ bicycle speaker. Maya Angelou’s voice bellowed, “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” A woman with a red tote bag, straw hat, and two iced coffees paused under a magnolia tree, listening. “Be a blessing to someone!” Angelou read. The woman’s lab was watching a squirrel. Nearby, a man in a raincoat barked into his cell phone.

“Normally it’s loud, buzzing, honking – a totally different syncope,” the woman said. “It was a whole different mood all of a sudden.”

Orsós continued. At a red light, another cyclist, with a loudspeaker detonating the dubstep, stopped. The riders exchanged knowing glances; Frank O’Hara and Skrillex roared together in the hot air. A few minutes later Orsós passed a sidewalk cafe, EE Cummings ” I carry your heart with me ‘trailing behind him:’ (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud / and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows / higher than the soul can hope for or the spirit cannot hide) / and it is the wonder that separates the stars. “

A blonde woman wearing a black turtleneck looked up from her iPad; an older couple sharing a club sandwich did not. A baby in a stroller almost cried.

Nearby, at a crosswalk in Cobble Hill, listeners strained to hear a poem by Sonia Sanchez about the sound of an idling bus. “It’s not an avenue project, it’s a side street project,” said Orsós. “I really believe in the metaphysical component – that even when people don’t know what’s going on, it is happening, it finds a way into their body.” A man wearing Bose wireless headphones walked past Orsós, indifferent to the streaming worm. “Robots are not our audience! Said Orsos. “I call them robots,” he explained. “People with headphones. And I am really Afraid of them. They are not human. It’s strange.” ??

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