Don Fitzpatrick

Seventh Ave South between Clarkson and Leroy Sts.

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What do you do? I work for the federal government.

There's a phrase that strikes fear into people's hearts. [Laughs] Oh, yeah, I guess so. I issue passports.

Are they just going to be scanning our retinas pretty soon? It hasn't reached that level of sophistication yet. The microchip [in passports] is just for access to records.

They should really make room for our iTunes on those chips. Yeah? [Laughs]. We're not allowed to use that stuff on government time.

How long have you lived here? I'm a native New Yorker—I grew up on Dykeman Street. But I'm a retired foreign-service officer, so I've served in several countries around the world: Norway, Africa, Japan....

Which was the best post? Japan. They have a different approach there. You go to a party here and people say, "What do you do?" It's like establishing a little Skinner box for you so they can figure out where to fit you, and either they fit you or they discard you. In Japan, they don't get down to very personal things until they get to know you.

Speaking of which, how old are you? Oh, you don't have to put that in. It's the Skinner box thing again: People try to fit you into a particular category; if you don't fit the standards, they drop you.

Does your return to New York after all that time abroad attest to how you feel about the city? Yeah. There are so many things you can do here. Wherever you want to be you can be. You know?

More from Don

"One big love of mine is the jazz scene in New York. Recently I saw a concert uptown at Smoke. It was old-time jazz artists like Harold Mayburn and George Coleman playing with new, up-and-coming artists. I thought the mix of the two represented something special."

"I collect antique inkwells. I had a boss once who told me, 'There's no imperative like that of the written word.'"

"Everyone in New York has a double: someone who looks just like them and has similar interests. People say I look like James Earl Jones and I hate it because he's old, gray and fat. [Laughs] I'll tell you something, though. He has a serious speech impediment called a mumble, so he has to practice everything till it sounds effortless."