by Harry Rolnick
A Montreal ami asked me to find him a hotel for his forthcoming trip to New York, with the provision that the hotel be in a “safe neighborhood.”
A worldly gentleman who has lived everywhere and done everything, his fears astonished me. On second thought, though, I decided to give him a list of five (from many thousand) possible dangers for visitors in New York. Keep this list among your most treasured possessions; it may save your life the next time you come to my area.
Especially dangerous to Quebec visitors are these ruffians, still feverishly loyal to Colonel George Washington, resentful that he was defeated by General Wolfe in 1759. The spectral gang, comprising anywhere from five to 20 members, march around Lower Manhattan with muskets, blunderbusses and matchlock rifles, accosting passersby who they believe resemble Canadians, asking them, “Aye, then, art thee still proud that ye did battle against our Georgie Boy at the Battle of Quebec?” Should they answer in the affirmative, they are smacked with a branding iron.
I suggest you put away your fierce Montreal pride and plead shame that Colonel Washington was treated in such a manner. You may get off with a mere horsewhipping.
Tenth Avenue Denizens
My Montreal friend was particularly afraid of “Tenth Avenue,” near the Hudson River, having heard Richard Rodgers’s score for the ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
This danger is a historical aberration. Tenth Avenue was originally an oasis for happy families, so Mr. Rodgers celebrated the area with a work called “Laughter on Tenth Avenue.”
Alas, the music was printed by drunks who unwittingly dropped a capital “S” before “laughter.”
Irate Chinese Restaurateurs
Having dined at a Montreal Chinese restaurant, New York’s Sino-delicacies were more welcome than ever. However, sometimes Canadian visitors, accustomed to their native chop suey and quick-fried slop, loudly complain that the food is too “authentic,” insisting on Canadian-style Chinese food, such as “Sweet-and-Sour Insipidity” and “Quick-fried Niceness.” Even worse, when the bill comes, they loudly complain about the price, begging (Macbeth style) “To borrow and to borrow and to borrow.”
Irate Chinese chefs do not take either the complaints or the gloating Shakespeare quote lightly. Thus, they may suddenly appear out of the kitchen, threatening unwary diners (Hamlet style) to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune cookies.”
The Dogs of War
Whenever I see tourists staring mindlessly at Lonely Planet Guides or reading upside-down maps of New York, I make a point of asking if I can help. The result of this charitable query is:
a) They turn around with abject fright and say, “N-no, we’re fine.” Then they run. Obviously they are afraid of being preyed on by the White Slave Traffickers.
b) If I happen to be with my lovely spaniel, Coco, they will initially show fear, but then, seeing the dog, they will trust me, and allow me to help them. Somehow, the presence of a dumb animal gives assurance to visitors.
Now the White Slave Traffic in New York (not to be confused with Rush Hour Traffic) has not died out completely. Thus, White Slave Traffickers will rent out a dog before attempting their fiendish adventures. When Canadians (nobody could be “whiter” for White Slave Traffickers) show trust, they are immediately abducted and sent to Morocco or Somalia harems for the rest of their lives.
Whatever you do, keep a sharp distance from helpful people with dogs.
Sax and Violins
The most dangerous of all are the so-called “classical musicians” around Lincoln Center. These feverish brutes, their emotions repressed from playing the same old antiquated stuff from (yawn) 1780 and (snooze) 1850, leave their concert halls raring to attack listeners who applaud such rubbish. Most dastardly are flutists who shriek their imprecations, trombone players who lure visitors to their death through their magical “slide-of-hand” and winds players and fiddlers who spread their never-ending sax and violins.
The worst of all are those musicians who hack into the sedate pages of The Senior Times to announce things like the White Light Festival. Pay no attention. Rip these pages out immediately, burn them, put on your suits of armor, carry your cutlasses and, as we say in New York, “Have a nice day.”