April 09, 2016
New York—Even after all these years, I’m still at times floored by the scale of the place. And it’s always the old reliables that stand out: the silvery arcs of the Chrysler Building; the wide avenues; the filigree of Central Park; the limestone monument to power, Rockefeller Center. The recent trend for tall, slender, and glassy housing for money-laundering Russians and Chinese curiously does not mix with the city’s motto of ever bigger and grander. It’s as if the transparency of the glass structure is teasing the authorities about the origins of the owners’ wealth. Come in and take a look, we have nothing to hide.
Last week I sat in Central Park reading the papers at a comfortable 70 degrees. The cherry blossoms were out, the sun was shining, and I was enjoying a moment of quiet lyricism when I heard a voice that crackled like a BBC program being jammed by the Nazis circa 1944. The voice belonged to one half of a Napoleonic-stature couple, two tiny people dressed in 1950s style, a fedora for him, a veil for her, and so on. The effect was more shabby than elegant, but it was their voices that singled them out. They were pure Brooklynese circa when Brooklyn still had the Dodgers and youngsters played stickball on every corner. This was Hebraic working class in retirement, he probably a tailor or owner of a small jewelry shop, she definitely a ballbuster.
I am not an eavesdropper by nature, but this was the best ever. It seems the gentleman in question had three apartments to his name, but had installed her—obviously his mistress—at a fourth one, whose owner could evict her at a moment’s notice. He was either a widower or with a wife who didn’t want to know, she up in arms because his treachery was obviously a recent discovery. Perhaps Damon Runyon or E.B. White could do them justice, but I won’t try. Mind you, it was all one-way. All the poor man said while on the receiving end was “This is not necessarily so.” On and on she went in her shrill, ornery, but old-fashioned Brooklynese, and my only thought was what I’d give to have a tape of her abuse and his solitary response. It also brought back memories of when half my father’s office employees spoke in that manner.
Yes, folks, the battle of the sexes lives on, especially in Noo Yawk and Toirty-Toird Street. In a way I’m glad the fedora stuck it to the veil, but I also feel sorry for her. She probably buried a couple of husbands, hooked up with the fedora well into his retirement, and was lied to at first about his marital status, only to discover that where he installed her would not be coming to her in case of his demise—as he had hinted. Oy vey! It was priceless and I could have listened to them forever, but soon they stalked away, she giving him an earful while he looked out for oncoming traffic. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Old Joe was what America was like back in the good old days, the strong silent type who rarely talked to women. That was for sissies. Now sissies are at the head of the class. And they’re even changing the English to suit the genders. “They” is now the correct way of addressing someone whose sexuality is not stamped on their forehead, the way mine is, and “they” is the pronoun to use when meeting a person who has rejected the traditional gender binary of he or she.
Yep, gender-neutral constructions are what it’s all about nowadays, at least among the very few readers of the N.Y. Times, which is trying to remain relevant by embracing transgenders and pronouncing them mainstream. Otherwise, everything is hunky-dory. American women have discovered that men want casual sex more than women. Gee, now they tell us. But in committed relationships, women report wanting sex as often as men do. Gott in Himmel! There are also reports that for some women sex remains much less enjoyable than it is for men. Hold the fucking presses!