October 9, 2013

Today, I met a friend for lunch (a wonderfully generous, entirely successful friend). He invited me to the 21 Club, one of the city’s true hoity-toity watering holes and prominently featured in the 1957 classic “Sweet Smell of Success,” with Burt Lancaster as Broadway gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, and Tony Curtis as press agent Sidney Falco, and a script by Clifford Odets. (If you haven’t seen it go to Netflix immediately.) Anyway, I’m very familiar with the area, having worked for 20 odd years (some years odder than others) at the Time & Life Building on 6th and 51st and the Time Warner Building at 75 Rock. At least I thought I was familiar until I reached 52nd and 6th and looked up at the street sign. Holy heart failure, Batman, this is what it says (and I’m not making this up): “Avenue of the Americas (a bullshit name if there ever was one!), 6th Av., WC Handy Place, WCBS Way/Proud Sponsor Of Bike New York, and Cousin Bruce Way.” On the east side of the street, there’s an additional name: “Swing Way.” My first thought was where the hell am I? My second: In a name-off gang bang like this, how did Donald Trump miss out on pasting up his name? The “Avenue of the Americas” moniker, of course, is one of the oldest tricks in the con game that defines Manhattan real estate: Tear down the El, drive out the working poor, and call 6th “Avenue of the Americas,” and 9th “Columbus,” and 4th “Park,” yada yada. But, really, come on, folks, even in New York there have to be limits, no? I mean six street signs on one lamppost? One cross section with six names: “Avenue of the Americas , 6th Av., WC Handy Place, WCBS Way/Proud Sponsor Of Bike New York, Cousin Bruce Way, and Swing Way”? (And, if you didn’t grow up in the city in the 60s, who the hell knows who Cousin Bruce is/was?) I mean, put yourself in the shoes of a tourist from Tasmania or Topeka who’s just arrived in New York and is standing on 6th Avenue (or, more accurately, The Boulevard of U.S. Intervention in Latin and Central America in the Interests of Supporting Dictatorships Friendly to American Corporations)  trying to figure out where the hell he/she is? Note to the next mayor: Let’s cut the bullshit and get back to basics. Jeez Louise, enough already, this town is confused enough as it is without sticking six names on one place.

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