Monday, January 3, 2011

Elixr of Ponyo (excerpt 4) New Pleasures, New Excitement

New Pleasures, New Excitement
New York City has always been a playground for the biggest egos. Mine could climb the Empire State and eat airplanes with a fine Harlem debutante in my arms.
Mister Lushus first exposed me to the wonders of the city as a youngster. In those delectable summers, Michael Thomas and I would take the train into Grand Central Station. The whole world would seemingly be there; buzzing, busy little bees.
At LaGuardia Airport we’d watch the planes take off, imagining ourselves landing in some exotic locale wet for adventure. I’d even accompany MT to the symphony where he’d play air conductor to Beethoven’s bravery or Mozart’s magnificence and wake me when it was over. Not to mention Coney Island where we’d gorge on the world’s best Rueben sandwiches and Nathan’s Hot-dogs.
Like a bashful baby-sitter, New York turned into a scandalous temptress in our teenage years, ready to give us new pleasures, new excitement.
I worked at the summer boardwalk at day then rose with the moon at night. My cousins and friends were all players in Harlem’s early sixties renaissance, i.e., club owners, drug runners and pimps.
Jazz was recreating, rebirthing itself; exploding across New York’s skyline in extraordinary sonic fireworks, thunder announcing lightning.
America’s Mozarts’, Beethovens’, and Bachs’ all held court in Harlem. (Einsteins’, Shakespeares’ and Platos’ too.) Not only did the best artists, musicians, and writers matriculate here but the most brilliant thinkers thought and the fiercest revolutionaries fought through megaphones there in Harlem.
You could catch James Brown and the Famous Flames tear down the Apollo Theatre twice a day then walk outside where Malcolm X was mercilessly slaying devils on 125th Street.
Have you ever heard My Favorite Things? Not until you heard Coltrane rip out its guts, then perform delicate plastic surgery on the wounds for 45 minutes straight. That man could turn “Mary had a Little Lamb” into an epiphany, and probably did.
The Village Vanguard, Birdland, The Baby Grand, Small’s Paradise: that’s where it all went down.
Castro held court at the Teresa Hotel, calling the comrades to Cuba to fight “la revolucion”.
In Greenwich Village you could philosophize with the Beats joyfully molesting the English language.
In the Bronx Tito Puentes, Mongo Santa Maria, and Celia Cruz brought all the African out of Afro-Cuban salsa. Every night I’d clear the dance floor, my body visualizing each tap of the congas and timbales, each stab of the horns. Oh!
And the women! Concrete curdled when these glorious babes strolled by. Refinement was the norm, so these ladies were adorned in fabulous dresses with sparkling accessories, pearls, and luxurious chiffons. These were the pampered and privileged women of the city.
And the men would not be outdone. We’d arrive in three-piece gabardine worsted-wool suits, Stacy Adams shoes, and a brim to match. Go watch Eddie Murphy in “Harlem Nights” to get a feel for what I’m talking ‘bout.
At a Times Square hotel, I’d hail a cab with a chocolate beauty on my arms; we’d attempt experience all the above said before dawn.
That was a time that never will be again. Harlem, U.S.A..

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