Does Anyone Here Speak English?

photo, cafe and cannolli, rocco's pastries, bleeker street Café Life in another town, at Rocco's in Bleeker Street.

M o r e G o o d B l o g W e e k

by Ric Erickson

New York:– Saturday, 25. November:– Without a doubt I survived my first Thanksgiving in America on Thursday. The weather was pretty terrible here. It was windy, gusty, and the damn water pelted out of the low scudding sky. How those pom–pom girls in Macy's parade managed to fling their legs over the rainbow without turning blue is one of mankind's greater mysteries.

At least the TV coverage showed... the rain. It was wet. Cold and wet, horrid, and the advertising balloons flew low. Millions went out to watch it. Folks came all the way from distant Arkansas and Saint–Quentin–en–Yvelines just to see the advertisements full of helium!

Later, slogging from the subway to an apartment on the Upper East Side, was zero fun. The streets were deserted except for fish. But inside, up high, protected by a doorman down below, Thanksgiving food was a treat even if the cook nixed the garlic. The Pilgrims didn't think it was American enough.

photo, other music, 4th street Other Music has our sounds.

The day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Americans were giving back. There they were, full of turkey and cranberry jelly, lugging their credit cards off to the sponsors of the parade. Here they call it Black Friday. Why should consumers care if their tormentors break even? They give thanks and then go out and bust the bank. What is that for solidarity? So there they were at midnight banging on the doors of Toys'R'Us, storming the mall at Queens Center at 06:00.

By Friday the storm was past, the skies cleared and the temperature took a bound up by 10 degrees, so of course I saddled up and moseyed along to Queens Center to see the insanity firsthand. Frankly I was not impressed – I have lived through the first day of several Soldes d'Hiver and Eté – not impressed at least until I got to Best Buys.

It was a shambles. Right inside the door, just after the guys frisking customers for terrorist bombs, there was a stack of Phillips DVD players. One dazed store guy said, "Take one, they're only $30." Man I was tempted. I checked out the TVs but they seemed to cost somewhere around $1500. Ripped paper like confetti covered the floor all over while yet more customers streamed into the place.

Outside, drivers were being impatient, nearly running over neat little families composed of mom, dad, stroller, miniature kids, bags, crates – all babbling in Spanish and eating ice cream. It caused me to become hungry so I stopped in at the place that used to be Joe's Shanghai but now seems to be an oriental cantine for Chinese navies and grandmoms, and had a couple of dumplings to calm me down.

Today, of course, not being black Saturday or anything, I took myself off to lower Manhattan, to find the best record store. This would be anything other than the top three turned up by Google. I'm looking for the best music there is, not fodder for an iPod.

photo, mondo kim's video, st marks place Kim's underground sounds emporium.

On the street at 4th and Broadway there is Tower Records on one corner. 'Going Out of Business' say the signs in its windows. Signs inside say, 'Don't ask us when we're closing.' Other signs say, 'Buy it today because it won't be here tomorrow. By the way – no refunds.' I gave it a lookover like a tourist, noted the sign saying, 'Thieves will be busted' and then tooled around the corner and across the street to the Other Music location.

They had new CDs, old CDs, lots of vinyls, but they were fresh out of sides by Slim Harpo. Slim is my test artist. If they've heard of him they get a point. If they have one by him, I'll buy it and that's worth three points. "Yeah," the record chickie said, "Slim Harpo, we might have him." But no. They will be getting some next week and I should check back. At least they think they'll be in business next week.


Then my guide – the Very Good Friend of Mine – my VGFoM – led me to St. Marks Place. I don't how I missed this ratty block on earlier visits, but it is an urban winner for gritty funk, although it may be somewhat overly styled to appeal to weekend pretender hipsters from Jersey. In the middle I found Mondo Kim's – motto – The Sight and Sound of the Underground.

photo, yonah shimmel knish bakery, houston streetGet your knish of dreams here.

You slope in and down a ramp, to endless bins of CDs with vinyls hanging on the walls – don't touch! – and in passing I noted that there was an underground, but skipped that for a cool dude type. "Slim Harpo, yeah, I think we have some of him." But nada in the bin labeled rock'n'blues for prehistorics. Assured that I should check back frequently I also got tips for other likely sources, the best being Other Music on 4th.

After being lost a bit we found another store over on the Bowery, now called Top DJ Gear. This turned out to have only modest miles of bins because it was full of DJ gear, just right for turning that old rec room in the cellar into a mindboggling disco club. More to the point, lots of new gear for spinning snazzy vinyls at 33 rpm. Off subject a bit I know, but that's what is new since it was Satellite Records.

By then it was hungry time and a general move towards food was frustrated by the distance separating the East Village from the West version. A pitstop at a famous knish joint tided us over. Eventually, there was a peep into Bleeker Street Records – with whole yards of bins of CDs, more hundreds of vinyls on the walls. But nobody seemed to care for questions about Slim Harpo.

photo, urban trash, st marks place Urban trash like you like it.

Almost next door Rocco's Pastries offers soul food for sweet teeth and we had some of that before crossing Bleeker to the pork store. Try Faicco's there, right beside Murray's cheese. Despite the woman customer who asked if anyone could speak English there, I can personally recommend the spicy Italian sausages. After the long haul back to Queens they saved my life.

This excursion began in Paris when Uncle Den–Den claimed that the world's best video shop is in San Francisco. He said it has everything that is banned in America. My guess is that New York City is second to none. The search for Slim Harpo was merely the warmup exercise before the real test begins.

BlogWeek in New York Before, After

See Three Spoons In Queens for the exciting beginning of this tale of holiday delirium in the City. Now playing in November and throughout December, almost exclusively, right here in Metropole Paris. For the latest update, here's the link.

Goodblognight from New York City
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