19 August 2006

And Tell Me What Street...

I almost forgot to note that my new internet shoes are also waterproof, which came in very handy on my walk around Lower Manhattan with Chris A and P Smith. Not for walking through puddles, as we've had very little rain lately, but for navigating the more-flooded-than-usual bathroom floor in Ray's Pizza on 3rd Avenue.

That was our next-to-last stop on a peripatetic ramble that took us from Union Square, down along the East River nearly to Wall Street, and, via a series of seemingly aimless zigzags past Chinatown, through Little Italy, Soho, the Bowery and the East Village, back to Union Square. I'm not too keen on Union Square myself, though it's popular with the Astoria crew; I finally concluded that there was no rational explanation for this devotion apart from the fact that it's the first thing they see when they get off the subway from Queens. I, on the other hand, usually get off a the corner of 1st Avenue and 14th Street, but as have yet have formed no unnatural attachment to that intersection.

I've also realized that the reason Union Square leaves me cold, or at least cool, is not just that it functions as an open-air makeout chamber for NYU students with uncooperative roommates, but that it's on the wrong side of 14th Street. It may seem like a small detail (probably because it is), but 14th Street is the line of demarcation between Downtown and Everything Else. Manhattan is a wondrous isle, all right, but the farther north one goes, the more stretched and vapid it risks becoming. Yes, it is replete with marvels, but many of these marvels are separated from one another by block after block of colorless, anonymous megaliths and their similarly colorless, anonymous occupants. Would I live there nonetheless if I could afford it? Yes, maybe if you twisted my arm, but since that's unlikely to happen, I'll go on sneering.

I'm also disappointed to learn that "peripatetic" may not, as I was informed the other day, mean "wandering at great length only to arrive back where one began," because that takes a bit of the peripatetic-ness out of our ramble's having begun and ended at Union Square. But minor cavils aside, it was a brilliant night out, the weather was perfect (as it has been almost every day lately), and it was topped off by a black-and-white (chocolate and vanilla swirled) cone from my favorite ice cream emporium in the city, the Belgian Fries (they're hideous and smelly and repulsive, don't buy them) joint on Avenue A between 7th and 8th, across from Tompkins Square.

For Chris A, however, the highlight must have come earlier when a moderately dazzling blond model crossed paths with us on a Soho sidewalk just as some beefy besuited businessman type was trying to pick her up (well, that's how I interpreted it, anyway). Once she was out of earshot, Chris could barely contain his excitement as he told us that she was someone called Alison from the TV show Project Runway, of whom and which Chris is an avid fan. And, as P Smith somewhat waspishly observed, possibly the only straight male in existence about whom that could be said.

This reference to Chris A's flagrant metrosexuality must have tipped me over the edge, because I started singing - or trying to sing, as I couldn't quite remember the words - to Rodgers and Hart's "Manhattan." You know, "We'll have Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, too..." etc., etc. The line that got me started was, "And tell me what street compares to Mott Street, in July? Sweet pushcarts gently gliding by," inspired by P Smith's more than slightly squeamish aversion to the various smells that have apparently been wafting forth from said street for a century or more.

But though my vocal efforts didn't meet with unanimous approbation - despite Chris A and P Smith being too well-bred to do more than grimace, they managed to make clear their utter lack of enthusiasm - I do suggest you click on the link to check out the full four verses of that classic tune. The couplet, "We'll go to Yonkers, where true love conquers," one of the 20th century's more strenuous lyrical stretches, is by itself worth the price of admission.


4 comments:

Pat said...

Your singing was fine, but I don't like showtunes.

I prefer Jonathan Richman's take on NY in the summer:

Springtime in New York,
in thirty days will come those sticky, summer nights /
And if you've been to New York City in July,
you know when I say 'sticky,' I'm right.

PS: The B/D go express from 34th to 4th which is great, as long as you're aware of that.

Larry Livermore said...

Yes, well, A. Cometbus and I were not aware of that. Thanks for rubbing it in.

P.S. Worse, it was my fault for jumping off the C train and onto the D on the theory it would "save us time." And even though he was the one in a hurry, Aaron didn't utter so much as a harsh word. He didn't need to; the sad look on his face said it all.

Jim Testa said...

ahem, it's "I'll take Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island too..."

- from the only other punk rocker who'd know that.

Larry Livermore said...

A common misconception, and one that I once shared, but here are the original lyrics to the intro and first verse:

Summer journeys to Niag'ra
and to other places aggra-
vate all our cares.
We'll save our fares!
I've a cozy little flat in
what is known as old Manhattan
we'll settle down
right here in town!

We'll have Manhattan
the Bronx and Staten
Island too.
It's lovely going through
the zoo!
It's very fancy
on old Delancy
street you know.
The subway charms us so
when balmy breezes blow
to and fro.
And tell me what street
compares with Mott Street
in July?
Sweet pushcarts gently gli-ding by.
The great big city's a wonderous toy
just made for a girl and boy.
We'll turn Manhattan
into an isle of joy!

It's possible that later versions were recorded with "I'll take..." but this was how the song was originally written and performed according to every source I've been able to find.