New York State of Mind

This month Natural Selections interviews Alpha Greengard, from the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience. Country of origin: Switzerland.

1. How long have you been living in the New York area?

Arf arf arf arf arf arf.

(In English please.)

Oh. I said I have been living in the area for twelve years, and no, this cannot be translated into “dog years.” It is nothing but a popular myth that “one human year equals seven dog years.” This is inaccurate for two reasons: first of all, the first year or two represents roughly eighteen to twenty-five years, and secondly, the ratio varies with size and breed.

2. Where do you live?

On the Upper East Side. But I am a member of a distinct ethnicity—the Bernese Mountain Dog—which originated in Switzerland. So, my heritage is technically Swiss. I live with my assistant, Dr. Paul Greengard. He’s a great guy, but he’s always taking all the credit!

3. Which is your favorite neighborhood?

All the credit. I said, “Paul, if you insist on accepting the Nobel even though you know signal transduction was my idea, well, fine. But to think you could bribe me with Chic’n Stix and ‘people’ food?” The fact is, he knows my weak spots and he goes for ‘em.

4. What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated?

Overrated: Contrary to popular belief, it’s difficult to be brainy and single here. I’ve passed the same dogs again and again on my walks for years. Woof! But sometimes I’ll see this one gal, Taco, and I can just tell she’s different. She’s got a scientist’s mind when it comes to picking the cleanest places to squat. And when she sniffs you, she’s almost clinical, but also very polite and respectful.

Underrated: All-night bodegas. You can get Chic’n Stix in the middle of the night! Also, people complain about the shortage of restrooms in this city, but look around and you see trees, shrubs, planters—two hydrants on every block! I don’t see what the problem is.

5. What do you miss most when you are out of town?

Midnight Chic’n Stix.

6. If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

It is very difficult to get into Ph.D. programs if you are a dog here. I feel that the system is very biased towards filling slots with people. Also, I would make it acceptable to eat off the floor and still be taken seriously.

7. Describe a perfect weekend in NYC.

What’s a weekend?

8. What is the most memorable experience you have had in NYC?

The day I was adopted by Dr. Greengard. I remember thinking how lucky I was that I would live with an intellectual equal.

9. If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?

Someplace where everybody eats off the floor.

10. Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

To the extent that I can discern this without developing a true method of classification: yes.

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