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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, August 19, 2009 • Posted August 19, 2009

Listening in the City…

New Yorkers who deal with the city on a daily basis may grow numb to the sights and sounds abounding there for us who mosey in from time to time. We are big-eyed and big-eared, marveling at the energies of millions who seem so comfortable with the duties of each day. We folks from down South see them as having “aw-shucks-ain’t-nuthin’-to-it” approaches to life in the city.

Perhaps because our visits there are infrequent, moments both rare and often minuscule pop up in this marvelous city that seems reborn every day.

Or maybe it’s a kinship thing I “inherited” from my 97-year-old Uncle Mort. He has long contorted both body and mind to come at life from a different angle…

  • * * * *

Upon deplaning in Queens, my wife and I both noted hearing more “y’alls” than usual at LaGuardia Airport. The newsstand man, one of the “youse guys” bunch, agreed.

“Since Southwest Airlines added LaGuardia to its service map, we’re putting up with more Texans,” he laughed.

He added that the shoeshine man next door now shines boots, too, for a couple of dollars more, of course. Further, he’s “practicing up” on saying “thank y’all.” The two magical words lead to bigger tips….

  • * * * *

We purposely flew into LaGuardia for several reasons, one because we take advantage of a free courtesy van that covers the two-mile distance to a Holiday Inn that my wife lauds for its world-class landscaping and interior plants.

Plus, the hotel is across the street from the New York Mets’ new Citi Field. During hotel check-in, we heard of a youngster who was befriended by Paul McCartney’s security personnel who bunked there. The entourage provided a private stadium tour for Joe, 11-year-old son of an exec at the hotel. Included was a visit to McCartney’s dressing room prior to his stadium-christening concert last month.

His response? “Hey, Mom, guess what?” he gushed following the visit to the former Beatle’s dressing room. “He has a green tin of Altoids just like yours!”…

  • * * * *

Doris Day was a heart-throb for millions during my growing up years. To this day, I catch myself whistling “Lullaby of Broadway” from her 1951 hit musical, On Moonlight Bay. The tune’s mention of subway train rumblings ignited my interest in the mass transit system I would not see until many years later. Every car seems to have a character(s) worth watching and conversations worth overhearing.

After a night’s rest, we heard the train’s rumble. We eagerly boarded the train for the 20-minute ride to Times Square and the Broadway Doris Day sang about….

  • * * * *

Brenda was eager to see Mamma Mia; I wanted to see an off-Broadway spoof called The Toxic Avenger. Both were enjoyable.

The latter featured a small cast with each player handling multiple roles. In essence, it was a comedic tale of government corruption in New Jersey. (Remember, it was a spoof.)

When we turned on TV news a few hours later, the lead story covered the arrest of dozens of well-known public figures (yes, clerics, mayors, other government officials, all from New Jersey. They were packed into buses headed for the hoosegow). We didn’t see any cast members from “The Toxic Avengers,” but pondered yet again how life imitates fiction….

  • * * * *

A taxi ride on Park Avenue provided another marvelous moment. We spotted an unlikely sidewalk sight: a spindly woman, 70-something, riding merrily along on a kid’s Razor scooter.

She was moving effortlessly, giving the scooter a fresh push every few yards. She wore tiny knee pads, had her gray hair “bunned” and sported an AARP sticker on the rear wheel fender.

Soon, while clogged in traffic, we watched the little old lady scoot out of sight, well into the next block….

  • * * * *

I wondered again about street signs that threatened $350 fines for honking.

Somehow, this seems so “un-New Yorkish.” What’s NYC without honking, one of its most famous sounds?

A new law for bus drivers in Des Moines came to mind. They face fines if they fail to honk when making turns.

NYC’ers would view a visit to the Iowa city as a busman’s holiday. They’d make slow, sweeping turns, honking all the way….

  • * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker and writer in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.com.

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