Monday, June 12, 2017

Tripping in New York.

One of the many magical things about living in New York is that amid the rumble and crumble, the helter and the skelter, the decay and the oy vey, is that you can walk into a small shop on a side street and go back to 1950, or 1940, or even further back, to a time before digital transformation and polyester-haired potentates.

I often dream of walking home on the nearly empty streets one night and seeing an old Checker cab—the kind with the fold-up jump seats in the back so you can fit five in near-assured death-trapness—and having that old Checker take me back to the black-and-white city I loved.

First, maybe to the music of Duke Ellington, or Quincy Jones, or Babs Gonzales, we’d find a neon restaurant the size of a ball field, with cafeteria style service and corned beef on soft steamy rye bread teeming with caraway seeds. I order one up—and one for the driver, too, and two Dr. Brown creams. The corned beef so full of fat that you’d chew for 10 minutes before you could glottal it down.

The Yankees would be playing on the radio, and they’d be wearing old flannel uniforms and Mel Allen would be announcing, with Mickey coming to bat, or Yogi, or even in a pinch a Moose Skowron, who could hit a ball all the way to Poughkeepsie and would be sitting in the dugout with a homer before the ball ever landed.

From the corned-beef jernt, we’d head to one of the old bookstores that used to line 4th Avenue and beckon you in like Paul Simon’s ‘whores on 7th Avenue.’ From there, having picked up my Clifford Odets, or Edith Wharton, we’d head up to the giant Howard Johnson’s across Lex from Bloomingdale’s, and I’d get myself a black-and-white concrete—a drink you eat with a spoon.

All this went through my black-and-white brain as I went to a small wood-paneled tailor shop on E 84th Street before eight this morning, to let some suits out because I got fat.

Adamis, the stooped tailor was working on a 90 year old Singer, with a telescoping incandescent light over the hardware and 200-spools of thread in neat dowels along the wall.

With a small pocket-knife, he cut the lining of my suits.

“We let out,” he said “two hinches. In the shoulders too.” He fingered the material.
“Beautiful,” he said. “Beautiful.”

He had me write my name on an old oaktag receipt and scribbled some numbers like Archimedes calculating his death ray.

“You come back Tersday. Your wife come, you have her bring receipt.”

I shook his hand, gave him a deposit, and said goodbye.

It was time to catch a cab back to the 21st Century.

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