About City of Smoke

Welcome to City of Smoke, where fans of William Bryk’s newspaper columns about New York’s forgotten history, arcana, and marginal oddball eccentrics can revisit and enjoy them. From 1997 to 2006, Bill wrote two newspaper columns about local history and politics—“Old Smoke” for New York Press, and “Past and Present” for The New York Sun. His wife, Mimi Kramer-Bryk, thought of making them available again.

Bill had long ago thought of the title “City of Smoke” (intended, naturally, for “Old Smoke: The Collection.”) It seemed a shame to let it just evaporate, so we decided to use it. Then “Smoke-Filled Rooms” presented itself as an amicable rubric for pieces on city politics and the phrase “Smoke & Mirrors” as an irresistible one for a companion site featuring Mimi’s writings from The New Yorker and New York Press on theater and the arts.

One of the idiosyncrasies of “Old Smoke” was that every article, whatever its subject, had to have some connection with the City–a gimmick that its fans and its author both had fun with. In some cases, the New York hook was very tenuous indeed, and readers seemed to enjoy waiting for it almost as much as Bill had enjoyed finding one.

Because we both have a liking for titles whose meaning only becomes clear as you read the essay, it isn’t always possible to tell from the outside what a given article is about. We’ve been advised that this is not friendly to search engines.

We thought about various ways of rectifying the situation: adding taglines to all the articles, making the titles less opaque, becoming different people. We decided the best thing would probably be to create a sitemap or an index of some sort. So we’ll get right on that.

In the meantime, we reckon that anyone who managed to find their way here probably knew pretty much what they were looking for. If so, we hope you found what you wanted, and if you enjoyed what you found, we hope you’ll come back.