Songs From the Black Chair

Ten years of listening to the city's most troubled men

Studying the men's responses, he writes, "I realized that on that day only, the world's trauma matched their own. They live out the violence and despair and bloodiness and trauma of 9-11 every day, and it was an enormous relief that for one or two days the world experienced that same level of trauma. They weren't alone anymore, and they felt good and . . . normal. For once everybody else felt like them."

For two years, Barber spent 13 hours a day working in homeless shelters—nine to five at the Fort, then seven to midnight at Bellevue. Now he lives in Connecticut and is working on another book. On a recent visit to Manhattan, he stopped by the diner at East 29th Street and First Avenue, across the street from Bellevue. "It's a place of disorder and disease, but not a place of misery," he says, looking out the window. "I really liked that I never knew who was going to walk in the door. . . . It was my favorite job ever." ?

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