Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Overheard in New York: dialogue

I have a certain fascination with the perfectly ridiculous, xx-rated, and wonderfully horrible site, Overheard in New York. This is what American dialogue outside the box/book is really like.

One can find absurdities that relate to one's own concerns, such as (in my case) book sales or the lack thereof. This exchange puts mid-list marketing into perspective:

Russian woman: She's doing very well. Her book is doing well. She's already sold a lot of books.
American woman: That's great! That must be so exciting! Russian woman: Yes, she has already sold ten or twenty, I think.
--Union Square
Overheard by: Diana


Now why can't I adopt that attitude?

And you know, my publisher is at Union Square. Could be relevant.

Or you can find stimulating anecdotes about totemic animals like (in my case) chickens:

Man: That guy's got a chicken! Hey man, don't hurt the animals! He's gonna burn the chicken!
--Tompkins Square Park
Overheard by Alex Romanovich

This site reminds me of living next to the park in Albany, hard by the psychiatric center. Often I had to contend with mentally ill Yanks who wanted to admire, touch, or hold my precious children.

One day I realized that a man sprawled in the gutter was ogling my belly. You gonna have a boy, he pronounced in sonorous, positively oracular tones, waving his bottle in judgment. I'm always right.

He was right, as it happened.

Or this, at my local Price Chopper, semi-affectionately known in the neighborhood as the Ghetto Chopper:

Elderly man, peering over my shoulder: Some big f-ing breasts on these chickens.
Me, tickled: Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?
E. b. m.: I get your drift, sister, I get your drift . . .

I liked the Ghetto Chopper because sometimes they had fresh okra. Small pods, too. Expensive, but who cared? You take what you can get when you're a foreigner.

Another time I was pushing a double baby carriage in the park when a bloodshot man, about 6'4", raced up to me: Do you know the way to route 9? he blurted out, maximum urgency lacing his voice. I checked to make sure the babies were battened down, moved to shield the carriage with my 5'3" body, and told him that no, I didn't. I did, of course, but I didn't want to get into it. Leaning down, the mad witless spit flying from his mouth, he began, I'll tell you how to get there . . .

There were plenty more, making confessions, weird or funny or plain old sad: Marly among the mad, mad Yanks.

What we need is a Southern site, with some overheard local color with possums and yard dogs and porch chickens and bottle trees and some everyday, down home testifying. Maybe a few crazies of our own, like Cooney, who afflicted my childhood. Get some dadgum balance into this thing.

1 comment:

  1. What is it with the chickens? What's wrong with blue persians?

    --Lady Azure's Pedicurist

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.