Friday, August 24, 2012

1947 Bowery Meet-Up

Last night I dreamed I was walking on the Bowery with my mother, only it was also kind of Greenwich Avenue. We came to Partners and Crime bookshop, which had recently shuttered. I was anxious to see what had replaced it. A green flag on the shop read, "Pim Cup Books." (Spelled Pim, not Pimm's).

"Another bookstore?" I said, "That's amazing! That never happens."

We went inside. There were no books. It was a big cafe theater, with tables and chairs, a bar, and a stage. And it was filled with people--all of them in flawless 1940s period costume. A sea of gray fedoras. Sailors, Bowery bums and prostitutes. Children dressed as street urchins hustling shoeshines. Onstage, a vaudeville show. Everything was perfect, like I'd stepped back in time. I felt a bit like I was intruding, dressed in my modern clothes.

"Are they hipsters?" I asked, but they couldn't be hipsters because there was too much age diversity, too many older people. "It must be a movie. But where are the cameras?" I looked for the cameras. No cameras.

While my mother went off to find cigarettes and an ashtray, I walked around and around, looking at everyone and their amazing costumes. Finally, I asked a man dressed in a sailor suit what it was all about. He told me, "We're a meet-up group. We're the 1947 Rodgers and Hart on the Bowery Meet-Up Group." Then he told me all about his uniform, how he found each piece, which had come from 1947. The only imperfection, he said, were the tap shoes (tap shoes! he was an MGM musical sailor!), which were brand-new and had cost him a million dollars. "But," he said, "I figured, once I wore 'em a few times they'd get scuffed up and no one would know the difference."

My mother came by and I told her what the sailor had said. "Oh, I love Rodgers and Hart," she said, smoking her cigarette, even though I'd told her it was illegal to smoke in New York now. She didn't care. She smoked anyway. She said to the sailor, "1947, that was my era." And I envied her for having lived during a better, more interesting time.

--JM

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