It's going to be a rather skint fortnight around here, what with the hols and all. (That's what the British say! Hols. Aren't I all posh and such.) We'll be here every day with the usual - there just won't be TONS of stuff.
Except for today.
We had a bad, bad pizza situation last Friday. I placed the order on my phone, annoyed as usual that I had to enter my password if I wanted to redeem my free pizzas. I don’t always remember my pizza password. I don’t WANT a pizza password. The entirety of modern life consists of some robot saying “Your papers please” I cannot always oblige. I didn’t want to place my Easy Order, because that involves a box of chickenishh substance with melted something, and the app doesn’t let me set the number of Hot Buffalo Wing Dippin’ Sauce to zero. So I manually made the order by tapping on the glass at a red light, sighing with the difficulties of modern life.
When I got to the store the pizza was ready, according to the progress bar on the app. I went inside and announced myself as ready to receive the pizza I had requested by modern methods. Noted with approval the store renovations; was Mr. Hale Fellow Well Met.
Clerk comes up to the counter, says: “were you the two mediums, sausage pepperoni on one?”
I could tell by his expression that something had happened.
“What’s wrong,” I said.
“They made it thin.”
“Yeeaahhhh. I can remake it for you.”
“How long would that take?”
GOOD GOD. MAN. EIGHT. MINUTES. I had to get this dinner home quickly because Wife was taking Birch to Obedience School graduation. The window for mutual familial pizza consumption was closing here, and you’re telling me I have to wait EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES for another hot, fresh circle of food?
I said no, I had to go. He waved me towards the cooler of soda, and offered me the choice of whatever I wished; I declined, because the free liquid was in plastic, and I prefer it in metal or glass. GOD this is just RIDICULOUS
They handed me the pizzas and bade me to wait for a minute while they adjusted the bill. The boxes felt heavy. I opened them.
Get this. GET. THIS.
The pepperoni / sausage was thin. Oh, this I knew already, and had steeled myself accordingly. But the other one, the wife-and-daughter pizza, which was supposed to be thin, was THICK - and it had the extra sauce I had requested for my meaty special. The world was upside down; I looked around for something to grasp to steady myself.
The clerk noted the inversion and the blood drained from his face. He apologized some more and went back to the register and reversed the charges.
The pizzas were free, as if I’d used the coupon, and I hadn’t had to enter my password.
So I suppose it wasn’t a total disaster. Still, went to Yelp and gave them ONE STAR. They should go out of business. The store should be razed and the ground salted; the employees should be shaved and shackled and led down Penn Avenue wailing with the lamentations of the damned.
I kid. I kid entirely. But if they did get about 12 blocks up Penn they would have come across the empty storefront of a Bruegger’s Bagel shop, which was closed. A wave of consolidation and contraction has hit the Bagel Chains hard, perhaps because there were too many fargin’ bagel shops. There are neighborhood rumors that Caribou Coffee - which bought Bruegger’s - may put in a java shop on the spot, and that has to be a six-foot pike thrown through the air, arcing in the blue Greek sky towards the sternum of Daughter’s employer, who runs an independent coffee shop across the street.
For the last two years I’ve driven up and down the street to deliver her to work and pick her up, and then I’ve moved over to the passenger side as she drives the car home - the final iteration of the years of being Uber Dad.
Really, that’s what she called me the other day. And she was smart enough to say she meant it in all the meanings.
Anyway: we were driving home with the hot pizzas, and Daughter turned the radio to the First Wave station, which is new wave and such. The Talking Heads. “Once in a Lifetime.” She knows the song. I don’t know if it’s from a movie or a playlist or a Trump-parody video. But we are enjoying it.
“That’s Brian Eno in the background,” I said. “He produced this.”
“Brian Eno?” she said. “From ‘I Come Running’?”
Gobby smacked, I am. “You - you know Eno? How?”
“It was on a soundtrack.”
“He is my hero. He is one of the few artists from my youth I still follow and enjoy. He’s the inventor of Ambient Music.”
We’re walking up the tunnel now with FAILURE PIZZA, and she is skeptical of this. I talk into my glass computational device and ask who was the father of ambient music, and Eno pops up. I show the screen in triumph.
“I have many songs for you,” I say, and we open the box and behold the FAILURE PIZZA.
We dug in. It was delicious.
Let's Christmas shop with the Campbell Kids!
One question: what kid would ever want to play with the Campbell Kids? Who decided that a popular, well-established line of soup needed to branch out into toys?
Things like this are good for building brand awareness from an early age, though. Mirro was a popular name, and a Manitowoc mainstay for over a century.
I'm sure all these things were fun, but if you really want to get good at roller-skaing, imagine yourself being chased by one of the Campbell Kids, its lidless eyes wide and starting. And needing.
A Prentention of Contradictions:
I've done this before, but I didn't do it justice - and there's a reason I'm doing it now. As I said before, when I did the movie years ago (with smaller, and fewer screen grabs):
The director, Allen Baron, hadn’t done a movie before. He was an artist – drew comic books, among other things – and decided to write and direct a movie. Got this guy named “Peter Falk” to appear in it, but he had to back out – so the writer-director played the lead. An all-in-one number, then.
The plot’s simple – hitman comes to New York to do a job, does the job, encounters a few problems along the way. It has a look inevitably described as “gritty,” and not just because of the film stock; like a lot of cheap movies of the era, it feels spare and poor and shabby with art poking in whenever possible, whenever the light was right or the location yielded unexpected potential.
The writer/director was spare and grim as the hitman, but what made the film work were two things:
1. a narration, spoken “Whistler” style, a comment on his life and thoughts rattled off in a wiseguy voice. Not an internal monologue – it addressed the antihero as “you” throughout.
2. he had the greatest sets you'd want.
Penn Station in its final days. But he knew what to do with small spaces as well:
Here's what makes the movie special. New York.
They put the camera in the car and drove around, shooting from the street. The result is inadvertant documentary of the finest kind - 1960 New York, specifically Harlem. 125th and 7th, as they were known then.
Yeah. This moment.
I can't find this block. They move left; the street numbers go from 318 on the corner to 326, which means - I think - that they're going west on a cross street, but nothing lines up today.
Sometimes the camera must have been visible.
The old storefronts are amazing:
The old visual vernacular of New York's streets.
Here's one of the walks. The Apollo doesn't necessarily help; obviously they set up the camera for that shot. But . . .
This shot we can surely find, no? That's the distinctive facade of a a Lehrner shoe store on the left. There must be a directory of those! (No.)
You'd be surprised. It took me a while. The pattern on the side of the "Stein" store cinched it.
Some of the walking scenes were shot in midtown, and here we get a nice sampling of mid-century store fronts.
This breaks my heart:
Kress Fifth Avenue, a store of great beauty.
The NYT may have used OCR for this archived story:
Kress is illrecthi Sabis the street from a large F. W. Woolworth store, and a block north on Fifth Avenue from two major stores, Lord & Taylor and W. & J. Sloane, which occupy facing corners on 38th Street and Fifth Aven,ue. .
Reaction among some of the Kress store's 50 employees varied at the noon hour yesterday, when shopper traffic was fairly brisk. Some employees said that they already had other jabs lined up while others said that they were worried as to whether they would find new employment. One employee, who declined to give her name, observed. “They have no merchandise left — no wonder they're not doing any business.”
Geriesco spokesman ‘Rid that Kress's management had wanted to close the. 65,000‐square‐foot store on Fifth Avenue :fork least the last three years.
It closed in 1977.
You know your old New York - or drug-store chains - if you can identify the sign across the street, reflected in the diner window.
More windowshopping for the lonely hitman:
He's tracking the guy who's supposed to sell him a gun. It's night. Everything is open.
Now. Two points. One: the score - well, tell me what you hear.
Is it just me, or is the composer - Meyer Kupferman - doing a pretty damned good job of recycling West Side Story?
Finally: there's a reason I'm talking about this now. It was shot in December.
And so . . . we have this.
Merry Christmas from the beginning of the turning point.
Should we end here. with New York at its grittiest and most bereft?
No. Take a look at this dive street where he lives in a fleabag hotel:
The building that has the hotel sign "was built in 1831 and two years later was purchased by Alexander Hamilton’s son (also named Alexander Hamilton). It was also the home of author James Fenimore Coooper from 1834-1836." A sad end, you'd think.
Ladies and gentlemen . . . New York today.
As for the writer / actor / director, IMDB says:
Once hailed as the new 'Orson Welles' upon the film's release, he never achieved the fame or popularity he deserved as the film was never supported by the distributors or Hollywood studios. Baron nevertheless went on to achieve great success directing a variety of network television shows in a career that spanned four decades.
Indeed he did.
That'll do!. See you around.