I can't pass the phone booth on the sidewalk outside my apartment building without taking notice.

When I moved in, there was an actual phone, but it didn't work. In my new-to-the-city naivete, I called C&P, and a pleasant voice promised the phone would be repaired the very next day. That was more than two years ago.

I don't know whether the phone company or vandals ripped out the guts, but now there is only a gray hole -- at least, most of the time.

To date, though there has been no new phone, I've found a new phone book; empty beer cans; empty paper bags; half-eaten sandwiches; a full, uneaten Chinese takeout meal; mangled pizza slices; a worn paperback copy of Pet Semetary; a baseball cap; dirty socks; pennies; broken eyeglasses; a champagne glass; wires from some piece of technology other than a phone; and the bloody specter of a used hypodermic syringe.

Every time I peer anew into the dark cubby, I think of the knothole in To Kill a Mockingbird where Boo Radley left his honest treasures for Jem: a pen knife, a spelling bee medal, carved wooden dolls of Jem and Scout. Like Boo's tree, I guess this urban totem can offer only what its habitues have to give.