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February 24, 1980 - Image 14

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-24
Note:
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9

Page 4-Sunday, February 24;1980-The Michigan Daily

-f

79

1

S

79

The Michigan Daily-Sunday, Fe

NEW YORK, New York. Gawd,
what a city. Right?
You can have it. Let's pass
over all the death-in-Venice ways the
Big Apple is decaying to its urban core
these days - all the raps on the crime,
the filthy streets, the cabbies on the
West Side and the bedbugs uptown. Not
that those things aren't real, mind you,
or that they are minor. Rather, they are
wholly common knowledge these days,
and the average journeyer has doped
out all this run-of-the-mill scuzz long
before she or he encounters that first
lude freak on the subway - it happens
long before she or he even enters that
metropolis.
To most, the city of New York is a
place too tough, too kinetic to be lived
in; one must take it in short doses or
else the endless urban orgasm becomes
the infinite concrete freak-out. It's one
hell of a carnival ride, though. There is
more entertainment, more good food,
more loud noises and flashing lights in
Manhattan than absolutely anywhere
else on earth. Manhattan's got the most

tall buildings, it's got the most artists,
it's the publishing center of the univer-
se. But we could tell you nothing other
than this - it ain't all it's cracked up to
be.
You can't surf in New York. They
don't have an Orient Express. Mail gets
to Angola quicker than it does across
town there. So why the heck do so many
students (not to mention everyone else
not chained to the rock of Manhattan)
yearn in long sighs and with teary eyes
to visit that citadel of despair?
Applying the easiest flick of Occam's
razor, the answer is obvious - they
don't know what they're not missing.
And New Yorkers aren't telling, either,
the lot of them being upon the swiftest
of examinations generally more
animated than Yogi Bear, with none of
the accompanying wisdom. The deal is
that the whole place is a horrifyingly
big sham. In Venice many die each
year by drowning in the waterways; in
New York, everyone is bathed in the
loneliness that comes, daily with the
knowledge that almost everything that

is supposed to be golden, unique,
remarkable, is just another fake, just
another chunk of coal on the pile (and
gawd, what a pile!).
Only occasionally does the true story
get ferreted out. And then, it is only af-
ter the ciphered ramblings of those who
have escaped that doomy metropolis
have been snipped and pasted togetherf
into some lucid report. From the
opaque dispatches of Elisa Isaacson,
Owen Gleiberman, Joshua Peck, and
RJ Smith, a foursome of Daily staffers
who have withstood the cruel, sweaty
saturnalia that is. Manhattan, we have
transcribed the following descriptions
of a handful of various "jewels" of New
York, an assortment of famed points of
interest and notoriety that for one
reason fail miserably in being anything
more than deathly disappointing. For
everyone "going East.. . you know, to
the city" the spring break, or for any-
one who ever plans on making the trip,
we offer a listing of just a few of the
most inflated myths of New York, and
and explanation of what they're really
all about.

Island of the dead:

is these things are spherical bearings
once enlodged in the wheel casings of
18-wheelers that have made many suc-
cessful missions over the Chilean An-
des. Heaven to smell; bituminous to
eat.
You got your egg creams in Brooklyn,
and they say there's the best vindaloo in
Jersey. God help those neighbors if
their regional street corner cuisine is as
unsalvageable as are Manhattan's
countless pretzel and chestnut stands.
The Algonquin
If The New Yorker magazine, with its
pompous profiles and self-pitying short
stories, isn't the literary citadel it once
was, the same goes double for, the
Algonquin, the bar across the street
where New Yorker staff members like
Harold Ross and Alexander Woolcott
would gather to exchange their
eloquent bullshit after hours..
We entered the cavernous,
mausoleum-like lobby with our, ears
cocked for echoes of the witticisms of
Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchly, or
Herbert Bayard Swope. We even sear-
ched the place for the world-renowned
Roung Table. But we found nothing, ex-
cept for a waiter who looked dod-
deringly senile enough to have been
around when the Thanatopsis Pleasure
and Inside Straight Club reigned, and
who managed to spill a Bloody Mary in
our laps.
Desperate for some literary banter,
we sipped our drinks and waited for
some sophistos to grace the premises.
Norman Mailer stopped in for a minute,
but sat in the corner and slumped over
his scotch and soda like he'd had too
many laps around the track on a muggy
day.
"Hey Norm," we shouted with
pugnacious glee. "Had any best-sellers
lately?" The old grey boozer just bur-
ped explosively and rolled on the floor.
On our way out, we suddenly realized
we'd neglected to leave a tip. Stepping
back inside, we poured the remains of
our Bloody Mary onto the waiter's
shirt. "Thank you," he said.
Woody Allen
Okay, okay, so not everybody was
born in a house beneath the roller
coaster at Coney Island, and not
everybody got kicked out of NYU for
cheating on a philosophy final by
"looking at the soul of the person" next

to him, and
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Big Apple

The velvety orange interior of The
Russian Tea Room resembles nothing
as much as a restaurant-sized version
of I Dream of Jeannie's magic bottle,
replete with cushiony walls and a
vomitous yellow haze intended to
simulate the exotic, incense-choked
kokoshniks in which Russian czars once
trimmed their beards and oppressed
the masses.
Cost can be no object for a meal at the
RTR, whose prices are so outrageous
that they demand a double-take: Seven-
teen dollars buys one a specialite de la
maison known as blintes with caviar,
which consists of a small dish of red
caviar, another of perfectly ordinary
sour cream,and a stack of buckwheat
pancakes that tastes straight out of
Aunt Jemima-land. The lazy louts who

run the place let you make each blintz
yourself, amounting to a savings in
labor costs for the owners and a
psychological boost to the customer,
whose disappointment at not having
enough money left for cab fare is par-
tially compensated for by his great
satisfaction at being allowed to assem-
ble the little pancake-caviar san-
dwiches all by his or her lonesome.
The caviar is tasty enough, but the
check invariably induces all right-
thinking patrons to reiterate the
question posed by Woody Allen's son as
he stood on line with his father at the
Tea Room in Manhattan: "Dad, why
can't we have frankfurters?"
Broadway
In Arizona and parts of the South-
west, small circles of Native
Americans gather animal dung and

clay, moisten it with cactus juice andf
create works of no great value which
they sell to tourists so that they may
continue to live at poverty level.
Since they are short on clay and cac:
tus juice in the big apple, industrious
Manhattanites gather their resources
and display their work on that most
renowned and least-gracious of
boulevards, Broadway.
The bottom line on this byway is that
if you like what you see on Broadway,
you'll go nuts over television. Never
mind the infinite lines that one stands in
for obstructed views; it's how you take
the queuing that separates the New
Yawkers from the plebians. And hang it
up if you show outrage at having to shell
out upwards of $30 for good seats;
whaddya think this is, Shea Stadium?
No, what makes this theatrical paper
tiger so ridiculous is the sheer quality of
what treads the boards 95 per cent of
the time. It's not horrible (generally),
but it's not horrible in the same way
The MacNeil-Lehrer Report or Dallas
is not horrible.
The fact is that centuries from now,
when archaeologists scrape away the
layers of scum that will one day ooze
completely over the island, the biggest
show in town will not be at the heart of
the theatre district on Broadway, but
will be discovered several blocks over
on 42nd Street. There, where the porn
kings reign and minor supermarkets of
sex like the Velvet Touch seem as
nothing, a true off-Broadway produc-
tion rules that will be remembered as
having the longest run of them all.
Elaine's
Everybody's watched Saturday Night
Live (which isn't being debunked in this,
article only because it already was
wasted to the ground by a New York
disillusionist in an article a few weeks

back), so everybody knows that-
Roseanne Rosennadanna told Mr.
Richard Fader that the place to go if
you're depressed at Christmastime is
Elaine's, that clubby, dahling-how-
good-to-see-you a la carte restaurant
on Manhattan's upper East Side. Ac-
tually, unless you want your sinking
holiday self-esteem lowered a few not-
ches more, Elaine's is the place not to
go. Celebrities go there, and that's why
so many tourists and vicarious mem-
bers of New York's chic haute culture
are willing to wait two hours in line.
And the proprietor, whose name really
is Elaine, seems to really get off on
feeding the mouths that were born with
silver spoons in them. And if they're
nice to her, or if they aren't so nice but
just very, very famous, she'll give them
the choicest tables and the promptest
service anywhere in the city.
While you wait in the line-that extends
from the door past the bar and a few
scattered round tables, there's plenty of
time for ogling in case anyone worth
four bucks in a movie theatre happens
to come out of the john. In fact, there's
so much time that even the most com-
monplace U-Mass college sophomore
becomes an object of interest - at least
preferable to staring at the wall. But of
course, there's plenty of time to relieve
the boredom by making good use of that
bar.
The Yankees
For a baseball fan to take a seat at
the Yankees' shiny new home in the
Bronx is akin to a sex maniac reading
Playboy magazine with the pictures
clippedout, through the wrong end of a
pair of binoculars. The place is so huge
that no one but the Mafiosi can afford to
sit close enough to the proceedings to
see what the hell is goingon. The main
attraction for the middle income people
in the bleachers is the antics of the poor

people even further away. The place is
successful only as a workshop for the
study of the class struggle, not an
athletic arena.
Oh, yes. The team itself. The damned
thing has no heroes, only bad guys and
(mostly) assholes. Reggie Jackson is
smart as a whip, which translates into
not having an ounce of team
spirit-that's for morons. The
manager, depending on what day of the
week it is, is either an obstreperous son-
of-a-bitch or a bland, boring bobo. And
(sniffle, weep) New York's "hero," the
late Thurman Munson, turns out .to
have been a reactionary porker. The
current issue of Esquire reveals that
Munson's feelings about the Kent State
students whoe 1970 anti-war protest got
four of them killed, are that more
should have died.
Yankee Stadium's single unique
feature is the fact that the concession
stands, along with the usual fare, sell
knishes. If dough-wrapped vomitus is
your idea of an ethnic treat, indulge
yourself, by all mean.
Hot Pretzels and
Roasted Chestnuts
The mystery is where the carts go
when it gets too dark for most to stand
on the street corner any more. One
mhight ask the same questions of the
pretzel and chestnut vendors them-
selves. Do they live together in some
high-rise building development the city
has provided for such street merchan-
ts? Or do they curl up inside their carts,
turn up the heat, turn on Tom Snyder
and then drift off to sleep for eight
hours or so each night?
Whatever. One need not ask,
however, what happens to the old pret-
zels when they have become drier than
a George Bush speech and as-tasteless
as Johnny Carson's bits. The merchant

*heats the wretched knot of dough until it
is vaguely pliable, and then wrestles
with it until seemingly it is as soft as
fresh ones. But beware !, for these pret-
zels are not as soft as fresh ones, and
they are able to dehydrate a mouth
quicker than any dentist's saliva pump
can. They don't taste as good as a saliva
pump, though.
As for the chestnuts, well the story is
much the same. They smell even better
than do those hot pretzels, but the truth

'New York Taxi and Girl,' 1948 by Saul Steinberg

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