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12:45 pm
Mon June 17, 2013

Looking Ahead With NPR's Margot Adler

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 3:06 pm

Transcript

NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. For the past several weeks, we've taken the opportunity to reconnect with some of our favorite guests and colleagues in a series of conversations looking ahead. Today, longtime NPR New York correspondent Margot Adler, who's filed stories on hundreds of New Yorkers over the years: AIDS activists, street musicians, cops, environmental visionaries, and a guy who will move your car at exactly the right moment to take full advantage of opposite-side-of-the-street parking laws.

As we move ahead to post-Sandy, post-Occupy and soon post-Bloomberg New York, we want to hear about the New Yorker you can never forget. Call, tell us your story, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, an argument that cows can save the planet. We'll explain. But first, Margot Adler joins us from our bureau in New York. She's also a writer. A memoir called "A Heretic's Heart" is now available as an ebook, and she has a new project on vampires. Margot, welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION.

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: I'm really happy to be with you.

CONAN: And you go back in terms of mayors at least as far as Abraham Beame. The numbers of mayors that have - ruled is probably not the right word, but run New York City since then include characters like David Dinkins and Ed Kotch and Rudy Giuliani and now Michael Bloomberg, who just I think in the last couple of weeks came out with an extremely ambitious plan to harden New York City against the next Sandy, a plan that would really change the city as we know it.

As you look back on all those characters, which mayor do you think has changed the city the most?

ADLER: Oh, I actually - oddly enough I'm going to say Bloomberg.

I think because he came out after a period where we were very affected by Giuliani and other things, and even though there are many policies of his which I find complex and not necessarily very good toward the poor and the homeless, he had - the fact that he could just speak his mind in any way, probably because of his money, the fact that he had a certain attitude toward tolerance, such as his attitudes toward the mosque at Ground Zero, certain attitudes toward the environment, his complete promotion of the notion of global warming.

I'm still struck by this incredible headline on Bloomberg News that basically said, you know, essentially said it's, you know, it's global warming, stupid. That was like the headline. I think he's actually had a really interesting impact in, oddly enough, civilizing the city in certain ways, except for stop and frisk and except for what he did at the RNC. We could go on for many issues that I really had some issues with and problems with.

But I think on a certain level he - the discourse of the city has been a little different because of him.

CONAN: He's not an unambitious man.

ADLER: Absolutely not. But you know, as you were listing all those mayors, one of the thoughts I had as I was listening to them, I said, yes, but the thing that I've done in all my reporting is I haven't really dealt with any of these officials. I've been much more interested in people in New York.

I have found that the issues of who's in the government not very interesting compared to, you know, real characters, people who live their lives here, lessons that are learned. I think we've learned more from characters and people and stories than we have from officials.

CONAN: Give me an example.

ADLER: Well, for example, I did this story on homelessness in the subway. And I want to just backtrack for a second and say you played that very funny cut about the Naked Cowboy. And I walked into that story, I have to say, thinking, oh, come on, I've seen this guy on the street, he must be kind of a bleep-hole, you know. I mean, I really had a completely negative view.

And the thing that's wonderful is you kind of get sucked into a world, when you cover a story, and I came out of that story with a completely different point of view. Well, a long time ago I did a story about cops dealing with the homeless in the subway.

CONAN: Well, we have a clip from that piece.

ADLER: Oh, you do?

CONAN: Let's just play a - let's just play this cut.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ADLER: We're at a popular station for the homeless, Second Avenue and Houston Street. It's near a large men's shelter. Everyone on the team puts on a reflector vest and a dust mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The smell can get revolting at times. When we go down, there's a door that we have to go through. Just stay in the background until we get in. We have to - it's very dark in here, all right. You can follow behind us. You aren't afraid of rats, are you?

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: Well, you know, I started out this story as, OK, I'm going to follow these cops, it's like 2:00 in the morning, they're going to show me these little tunnels where the homeless sleep. You know, it was kind of matter-of-fact. And the more I spent with these two guys, I think at one point we were like sitting in a McDonald's, and they were like just talking to me. They were having a break.

And one of them said, you know, I used to think these guys were bums, but then one day I saw this guy come out of a cardboard box in his building guard uniform. You know, and I realized they weren't bums. And I realized that in fact part of the story was not about - only about the homeless but about what had happened to these two guys and how they had actually - you know, they'd had - there's a word in anthropology, what is it, (unintelligible) genesis, where you kind of have this kind of - it's like the hero's journey, you kind of change your view, and you kind of become a larger person. And I saw that these two cops had become larger people. And in some sense my story became about that. And I try to do that a lot. I don't always succeed, but that's one of my goals, is kind of to be a kind of anthropological journalist.

CONAN: We want to hear about the New Yorker you can never forget, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And let's start with Marybeth, and Marybeth on the line with us from Jackson, Ohio.

MARYBETH: Hello.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

MARYBETH: I'm at the dog pound, so it's a little loud, but my whole extended family, eight siblings, or seven siblings, went to New York City with all of our kids. And we went to Central Park and we saw a dancer called Thoth, T-H-O-T-H. He was wearing an ankh. He had beautiful dreadlocks. He was a very small and muscular man, did a fantastic dance, and he - anytime - and he did a whirling dervish spin.

And when he spun, I think he was going commando, and all the kids went ahhh!. We just had a great time watching Thoth. That was the highlight. We were sad because our mom was no longer alive, and she missed the show.

ADLER: I'm really intrigued that there is this dancer, which I've never seen in Central Park, who has named himself for a very, very powerful Egyptian god.

MARYBETH: Absolutely, and he was wearing a headdress and a lot of gold that, you know, was reminiscent of Thoth. Those of us who knew about Thoth knew that he was - he had the ankh, he had a lot of different things on. It was totally fascinating. I mean he was amazing.

CONAN: Dinner and a show on every corner, somebody once described New York City.

MARYBETH: Absolutely, absolutely.

CONAN: Marybeth, thanks very much for the call.

MARYBETH: All righty, bye-bye.

CONAN: And in a lot of your stories, Margot, that life on the street, not just the Naked Cowboy, of course, those are people kind of bringing attention upon themselves for a little commercial exploitation, but people just doing crazy stuff.

ADLER: Or maybe not crazy, maybe not crazy, but like the one, you actually mentioned a very old story of mine where there was this guy who was completely illiterate. He came down from the South, African-American, and he was this urban cowboy parking people's cars. And he had these keys that, I still remember this, that he - because he couldn't read or write. He had different colored nail polishes on each of the keys of these like maybe 30 people who he moved the cars twice a day. That was his job.

CONAN: And I always wondered, thinking back to that story, how did all of those people connect with this guy and know that this was the guy you could trust to give your key to and would move your car to the opposite side of the street so they could clean the street?

ADLER: I think a lot of this happens by word of mouth. Like you have a building, and in the building someone somehow finds him, and then he talks to a neighbor, and then he talks to another neighbor, and that's probably how it happened.

CONAN: Let's get Dina(ph) on the line, Dina's on the line with us from Cape Cod.

DINA: Hi, good afternoon. I'm calling with a quick story about the New York City cabdriver whose name I will never know. I was visiting New York and was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, hailed a cab to get back to my hotel. And when I hopped in the cab, being kind of rather a chatty person, I started to chat to the cabdriver, who was clearly, I'm going to say, an old New Yorker himself.

And he was a bit on the grouchy side, if I may, and so...

CONAN: So unusual in New York.

(LAUGHTER)

DINA: And so when I said to him and how are you today, he said, well, I'm here. And I said, well, gee, I work with a lot of seniors, and I have a lot of people say to me every day on the green side of the grass is a good day. And so then he started to warm up a little. He said, well, it makes me think of the song "Green, Green Grass of Home." And he said, well, you'd think that song was about coming home, but it's really not.

It's really about someone coming home to be buried, at which point he broke into the song and sang through the song "Green, Green Grass of Home." And when I complimented him on his voice and indicated, gee, even with my Irish heritage I didn't realize and didn't know the words to the song, he went through two more Irish ballads and then said to me, well, is there anything you know? And he brought up "Sweet Molly Malone."

And I said, well, my mother used to sing "Sweet Molly Malone." So he said, well, sing with me.

(LAUGHTER)

DINA: And so he - and I said, well, I can't really sing. No, no, no, he said sing with me. So I joined in, and we got through the first two verses of "Sweet Molly Malone," which was all that I knew. And at that point we had pulled up in front of my hotel. He parked the cab and he shut the meter off and sang the third verse of "Sweet Molly Malone" and then made me sit there and learn the third verse of "Sweet Molly Malone" with him until I could then sing the entire song through from beginning to end.

It's a cab drive I will - a cab ride I will never forget, and that man just - I mean I just - he's a character that I'll never know his name, and but yet I'll absolutely never forget him, best thing I ever did in New York. So...

ADLER: That's a totally wonderful story. Neal, can I tell a quick secret about us?

CONAN: Go ahead.

ADLER: OK, I don't know if this is still true of you, but we were such inveterate New Yorkers that we never had cars or driver's licenses.

CONAN: That is correct.

ADLER: It's still true for me.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: So we took a lot of cabs, but we never met that particular guy because I don't think I would have gotten past cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O.

ADLER: Aha, exactly. (Singing) Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O.

CONAN: All right, Margot went to music and art.

DINA: I guess better you than me.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: Dina, thanks very much for the call.

DINA: You're very welcome. OK, bye-bye.

CONAN: We're talking with NPR's Margot Adler about some of the New Yorkers she'd filed stories on over the years. One time in the New York City subway, writes Patricia from Long Island, I apparently lost the belt off my coat almost a block away. There was a man calling Miss, Miss, out of the subway entrance. He picked up the belt to my coat on the train and was now returning it. I'll never forget that kind, unnamed New Yorker.

Who's the New Yorker you'll never forget? 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. For the past several weeks, we've had a series of conversations about looking ahead. Today, longtime NPR New York correspondent Margot Adler, who's filed stories on hundreds of New Yorkers over the years. And we want to know who's the New Yorker you will never forget, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

We have this email from Peter Sigenthaler(ph): A New Yorker who will never be forgotten is Louis Hardin, who, blinded at a young age, became Moondog as an adult, a brilliant composer who elected lived homeless in Manhattan. He dressed like a Viking in clothing he fashioned himself and built at least two instruments of his own design, the oo and the ooo-ya-tsu. A master of syncopation and peculiar time signatures and found audio, he died in Switzerland in the 1980s.

And Margot, I think we both spent time with Moondog.

ADLER: We both spent time with Moondog and saw him on the street day in and day out with his little - it was a - what a fascinating guy.

CONAN: Every year the radio station where we met, WBAI, broadcast the Wagner "Ring Cycle" on Washington's birthday, for some reason I've forgotten. But one year they had expert commentary from Moondog, who joined us in the studio all day long. I was a board operator in those days. So I spent basically all day long listening to Moondog commentate on the "Ring of the Nibelung."

ADLER: And we should say that you and I go back to '68, which is pretty shocking.

CONAN: It is.

ADLER: It's pretty shocking.

CONAN: We think of radio as an old medium. I was going, doing some addition, Margot - you know I'm not great at it - but if you accept just for the sake of argument that radio started in 1923, so it's a 90-year-old medium, you and I have been in it for half the life of the medium.

ADLER: That is amazing, and actually I should say right out there to the world that if it wasn't for a particular weird moment with you, I would never have been at NPR.

CONAN: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: So here's what happened. I was - there was a lot of weird stuff. I had left Pacifica. I was writing a book, and one day they called me up and said would you like to fundraise and come down. And I said, oh, I'm so mad at you guys. But oh, you're the only game in town. Yeah, I'll do it. And you were sitting next to me.

And we did our typical call and give money and do all that stuff, and at the end you said let's go for a beer. And we went for a beer, and you said - we went for maybe more than one beer.

CONAN: Possibly.

ADLER: And you said, you said - I said what do you do? And you said I produce this show, it's called ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. And in 1978, when this took place, I had never heard it. I didn't know who Susan Stamberg was, and I kind of had a very weird attitude about NPR. And you said would you like to freelance? And the rest is history.

And the other story is that when I got my first job, you told me to go in there and negotiate and ask for $25,000 and that they'd offer me $20,000 and that we would settle at $23,000. And I walked in there because I was a woman, and I was kind of in public stuff, and I kind of didn't believe in myself. And the head of news at that point, Barbara Cohen(ph), basically said how about $20,000? And I said sure.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: Even though you had told me what to do and had advised me. And I completely - you know, that was an amazing story. And then there was a second version, but we won't go into that.

CONAN: All right, let's get some more callers in on this conversation. Let's go to Gail(ph), and Gail's on the line with us from Denver.

GAIL: Yes, good afternoon.

CONAN: Good afternoon, go ahead please.

GAIL: The New Yorker I'll never forget is the ladies' room attendant at the Port Authority Bus Station who on busy times, when there was a line, would go stall to stall. She'd put her little brown eye in the crack between the frame and the door, and she would say pee fast, ladies, pee fast.

(LAUGHTER)

GAIL: And it is still something we use in my family to this day.

CONAN: And I suspect, well, from time to time, given the design of houses, it's needed.

(LAUGHTER)

GAIL: In Denver we don't have restroom attendants. So, you know, I just - it was wonderful.

CONAN: Thank you very much for the story, Gail.

GAIL: You're welcome.

CONAN: Here's an email from Jeffrey(ph): Perhaps my most memorable New Yorker was a homeless man I met while I was playing my trumpet in Washington Square Park on New Year's morning, 1980. He sat down next to me, complimented me on my playing and pulled out a new unopened bottle of gin from his pocket. He cracked the seal and, smiling, offered me the swig, which I graciously accepted.

This disheveled man who had not a dime to his name shared the only thing he had of value with me on that sunny New Year's day and changed my opinion on the hospitality of New Yorkers forever.

ADLER: How beautiful.

CONAN: That is beautiful. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Michael and Michael on the line with us from Columbus.

MICHAEL: Hi, Neal. Margot, it's Michael Lloyd.

ADLER: Oh, my heavens.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: The author of "Bull of Heaven," a very interesting book.

MICHAEL: Yeah, my most memorable New Yorker would have to be Margot herself. She took me in as an unknown stranger and helped me with my biography project and wrote the forward of the book many years later. It came out last year. And gosh, that book just has all kinds of characters from New York City in it, Herman Slater, for example who ran the Magical Child; and Leo Martello.

And geeze, you know, Margot's just a gem. You know, New York, you really, really need to appreciate this woman. She is something else.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: Oh, Michael.

MICHAEL: And you'll, you know, you'll owe me that dinner for that plug there, Margot.

CONAN: Wait, she wrote the forward to your book, and you're collecting dinner for this?

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL: No, she is...

CONAN: That is what we say in New York is chutzpah.

MICHAEL: Chutzpah.

ADLER: That's right.

(LAUGHTER)

MICHAEL: No, she's - she's just - this is a phenomenal woman. I mean, like I said, she didn't know me from Adam, and she was so gracious and so kind.

CONAN: Well, we're going to have to put stop to this. This is...

ADLER: We're going to have to - this is too much, too much hagiography here.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: So thanks very much for the call. Good luck with the book. And you owe her dinner. But Margot, as long as we're talking about books, you have a new project about vampires. Tell us about that.

ADLER: That's right. Well, so I have - I have actually what's known, this new phenomenon known as Amazon Singles, where a smaller than book project, like a 50-page essay, which is what this is, that it's called "Out For Blood."

But the way this came about was that I had never been particularly interested in vampires. I had read a few books, you know, I'd gone to a few movies. I'd - and then one day on a plane, I was like I needed a trashy novel. I, you know, read the "Twilight" one and two, you know, whatever, on two plane trips to Florida and back.

And it would have stopped there, I wouldn't have even thought about it, and then seven days later my husband of - like my partner for like 33 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He was the healthiest man on the planet, I mean literally. You know, he was a runner. Unlike me, he'd never done any drugs in the '60s. He'd never smoked. He ate perfectly, you know, one of these people. And he only lived nine months.

And during the time I was taking care of him, for some reason I started obsessively reading vampire novels, to the extent that I've now read 260. And it started...

CONAN: And counted them, even worse.

ADLER: Oh worse, worse. And it - basically I started out, it was a meditation on mortality and death, and I started realizing that some of the different attitudes that he and I had about death, he was definitely kind of the high-tech guy, rage, rage, rage, you know, take every supplemental, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And I was kind of more like we're all part of the life process, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: And, you know, I suddenly realized that every vampire novel had this tension in it, you know, even the bad ones. You know, even "Twilight," for example, has, you know, Rosalee wanting to have a baby and be part of the life cycle and not wanting immortality, and it's very much like the same questions that are asked in, like, "Tuck Everlasting" or "Last and First Men" by Olaf Stapledon. And so that's where it started.

But where it went was a completely different place because at some point I started saying all right, OK, I'm meditating on mortality, that's very interesting, but that doesn't explain why Hollywood is spending $7 billion in two years on vampire films and television shows. So something else is happening.

Everybody said oh, it's sex, it's sex, and I said it doesn't feel like it's sex because I actually read this fascinating book called "The Liquid Dreams of Vampires" that analyzed, like, fantasies of people about vampires, and most people didn't want to have sex with vampires, they wanted to be them. And I realized that was sort of true of me, too, that way down deep.

And so then I started looking at issues of power and identity, and at a certain point, I came across - I could go on for hours - but Nina Auerbach has a book called "Our Vampires Ourselves." And she has a line in it that says every vampire - every society creates the vampire it needs.

And that idea resonated really deeply with me. Well, the most obvious, OK, take, you know, Dracula, 1897, England has the largest ports in the world, fear of immigration, fear of disease. You create this Eastern European monster bringing dirt from a foreign land, blah, blah, blah. And we can do that with many periods.

But then the question was: Well, what are our vampires about? What do we need in this society that we are creating a particular kind of vampire? And so one day, I'm just, like, putting all the most popular vampires on a sheet of paper. So I'm going oh, the Collins and Spike and Angel and Buffy and Mick St. John, and you know, in "Moonlight," and, you know, "The Vampire Diaries," Stefan. I make this huge list. And I say, OK, these are all the vampires that have been popular over the last 15 years. And a light bulb went off because I realized they were all, unlike the vampires before, were all conflicted.

They were all desperately struggling to be moral despite being predators, even though they were often failing. And that's exactly who we were, except maybe - this is a weird thing to say - maybe oil is our blood. Maybe, you know, we're sucking the lifeblood out of the planet, and we can't stop. And I suddenly had this notion, and then I went, well, OK, if these - as a matter of fact, I talked to Whitley Strieber, the author of "The Hunger," and he said, yes, that's exactly right. Our prey is the planet.

And so then I went, well, when did this start? And I went back, and I said, well, it goes way back. It's not 15 years. Let's look back as far as Barnabas. And that was one of the...

CONAN: "Dark Shadows," yeah.

ADLER: Yeah, "Dark Shadows," one of the first really conflicted vampires, and way before Anne Rice and so forth. '67, you know, is when he really comes into "Dark Shadows," and '68 is, I think, the first time when they called him a vampire. And I realized that was the moment. This is going to sound really crazy, but this was the moment that we first saw the Earth from space in Apollo 8.

And I suddenly had this notion that - and it was very similar to - basically to Stewart Brand, who basically was going around two years before, after an acid trip, trying to get buttons printed saying, why haven't we seen a picture of the full Earth? But I suddenly had this notion...

CONAN: The Whole Earth, yeah. Yeah.

ADLER: The Whole Earth. I suddenly had this notion that somehow, as we looked at that picture of the Earth, it wasn't as beautific(ph) and positive an image as we all thought. Oh, we're all brothers. There are no boundaries. We looked at the Earth, and suddenly we saw how vulnerable we were. The astronauts could blot out that picture with their thumb.

It was suddenly a much darker vision. We suddenly realized our vulnerability and our culpability that we were, in a sense, responsible for this planet. That's why you got the first Earth Day right afterwards and so forth. And I suddenly thought, well, that's when our vampires changed.

CONAN: Hmm. Margot Adler covers the bit of the big, blue marble called New York City for NPR News, and...

(LAUGHTER)

ADLER: Right.

CONAN: ...you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let's get another caller in. Let's go to McQueen, McQueen with us from Nashville.

MCQUEEN: Wow. I want that book. Yes. My name's McQueen, and I live in Nashville, but I'm born and raised Brooklyn, New York. And the New Yorker that I remember was the owner of the House of Nubian. That was on West 8th, off of 6th, up the street from Gray's Papayas. All New Yorkers knew Gray's Papayas in the village.

ADLER: Still there. Still is.

MCQUEEN: And that - the House of Nubian had all these fliers and had, like, all this fashion and T-shirt. I bought my first head wrap at the House of Nubian. I grew my dreads. And - but it was all these fliers he had towards the back of the store of all these different parties where you had DJs playing house music and reggae and hip-hop all over the tri-state area and beyond.

And I was able to go back to high school, me and my friends, and then from there to college and just understand that music was just more than, like, the great thing that was happening in Brooklyn back in the day. I know Brooklyn is popular now, but it was always popular. But the House of Nubian. And the House of Nubian doesn't even exist anymore.

ADLER: Wow.

MCQUEEN: But even the fact that it opened me up to even the Village itself, the fact that it was like the first gay pride parade I went to was there, and the first Mayday Parade was there and Washington Square Park and the basketball court. And I got my first piercing there. It's so crazy.

And me and my DJ friends - who to this day we still DJ because I'm a DJ in Nashville - from there, from House of Nubian, we met each other, and it was a little community where we were able to, in a way, talk to different people within the city in the tri-state area to know what was going on in the scene.

CONAN: That's an amazing story, McQueen.

MCQUEEN: Yes. Yes, yes.

ADLER: Lovely.

MCQUEEN: And by the way, Margot, Brooklyn. Brooklyn forever, New York City. Margot, keep doing your thing. And I got to meet another great New Yorker - and this is the chutzpah right here - Ralph McDaniels of "Video Music Box," because before "Yo! MTV Raps," it was Ralph McDaniels of channel 31, UHF, WNYC. Everybody, peace out.

CONAN: Peace out. Thank...

MCQUEEN: New York City forever right here in Nashville, Streetlight Allstars.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Here's an email from Michael in Berkeley: I lived in New York for 11 years, and in that time I was often the surprisingly helpful New Yorker, often - offering help and directions to tourists. I believe New Yorkers do this not out of benign goodwill, but to show off how much we know about New York, which, of course, makes us better than you.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: And this from Greg(ph): I was in Times Square for New Year's Eve in 1978. A girl approached me and explained her boyfriend had broken up with her, and she wanted to kiss someone at midnight. She then asked if I could help her out. I was shy and nervous but forgot it all as the kiss lasted over a minute as the ball descended.

ADLER: Wow.

CONAN: Meeting cute, I think that is. That's the start of a movie, perhaps. We're calling the series Looking Ahead, Margot. How do you think New York City is moving ahead? Is it going to - well, it always adapts.

ADLER: It always adapts, but I think, you know, as I said - I said in the beginning that I didn't really care about politicians, but I - it's going to be very interesting watching this mayoral race and to see who ends up leading the helm, essentially, you know? It's - you know, it's just - it's politics, but who knows? I think the city will survive no matter what.

CONAN: And as it goes ahead, is - are the rest of the politicians going to take up that Bloomberg mantle and take environmental challenges seriously after that terrible, terrible storm?

ADLER: You know, I don't know. As a matter of fact, in our news conference call this morning, we were actually talking a little bit about how despite all the environmental stuff that is being done, that actually New York City has a pretty horrible, horrible recycling. It's not very good at it, and hasn't done well and, you know, and so there are - there's a lot of talk, and the question is how much will really be action.

CONAN: And there is just dawning the new era of the bike-share program, for example.

ADLER: Right. And you know, I have to tell you, I have thought I want to do it. I want to try it. I'm not a big bike person. I'm a walker. I walk like five, six, seven miles a day. But I want to try it, but I could not find online a map that was good of the bike paths. So I went, I mean, you know, you'd think - you would think that they - or they'd be handing them out right at those little kiosks, you know? I have yet to find a good map.

CONAN: Well, Margot walks the city in which it is a treat to walk because there is something to discover new on every block, no matter how often you walk it. Margot, thank you so much for being with us today.

ADLER: It's been - it's always a pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: Coming up, an argument that some of the best solutions to climate change are right under our noses or, more precisely, right under our feet. Cows save the planet. We'll explain. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.