Tuesday, January 24, 2006

There's a Pawnshop on the Corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


My father, having grown up during the depression, used to sing that song to me -- and many others.

(This pic of a stainless steel car (1936 Ford Deluxe Sedan) is so indicative of the hopefulness in the future and the wealth that floated around, even in the depths of the Depression. So different from my father's poor upbringin'. I snapped it at the Pittsburgh History Center).

I've always been drawn to the meager. I remember as a child playing by myself, which I did often, being the youngest of seven (by seven years). I'd take my little red riding hood basket into the quiet living room on quiet afternoons, and pretend that all I had in the world was in that basket -- I was an orphan, I was abandoned. Once I even wrote a runaway note as part of my fantasies, and left it on my desk in my bedroom ... my sweet mother found it, and I felt terrible because it wasn't real, just part of a game, but she thought I really wanted to run away.

And I would make up games with Barbie in the backyard where she had lost her "Grand Tour" party and was left with nothing in the Sahara -- remember the contrast between rich and poor in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo ("We'll have a grand time at the Copacabana")?

Here are some lines:

Well, ain't life swell?

Hey. Open the champagne. I feel
like getting plushed to the scuppers.

(woman) I can't wait to get out of these
clothes and hit some of the nightspots.

Children, don't waste time. The floor
show at the Copacabana starts soon.
I didn't know any of you wonderful
people, and here I am now.

I'm on the verge of
a madcap Manhattan weekend.

I hope you like your martinis very dry.


These characters are rich, of course, and come back from an Egyptian excursion just in time for cocktails at the Copacabana...I was recently in Pittsburgh for work, and felt a strange connection to decades gone, with all the turn-of-the-century architecture and inner city decay goin' on.

I visited the Pittsburgh History Center and saw a great exhibit on the history of commercial glass production, a big industry in the Steel City between 1840 and 1880 (could be a bit off on the dates) & saw a 1903 film of glassblowers making windows from LONG (8 foot long!) tubes of handblown glass, then cutting them up, laying them flat and those became the wobbly glass windows we see in old houses. They found this film in the dumpster of the PPG (Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company), just as they were creating the history museum. An excellent collection of glass history, a subject I am learning more about with my new job. AND, in Pittsburgh, I stayed at the William Penn Hotel (built 1916), and surruptitiously snuck through the staff doors up to the 17th floor to the roof to look out over the city (74 steel bridges in the city limits, they say). The top three empty floors reminded me of Barton Fink or Jacob's Ladder...scary and old and worn. But somehow fascinating. I love forgotten/imaginary places (such a sap!), almost as much as I love the Copacabana, wherever that is...

And my heart beats so
that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together
dancing cheek to cheek
Heaven, I'm in heaven
And the cares that hung
around me through the week
Seem to vanish
like a gambler's lucky streak
When we're out together
dancing cheek to cheek

Here's that song, and another pawnshoppy thing I love -- one of my favorite poets who wrote about Chicago and New York during the depression and into the 50s:

The poems of Kenneth Fearing (writer of the FIRST Film Noir, the Big Clock)


(There's a pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
And I walk up and down 'neath the clock
(By the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
But I ain't got a thing left to hock

She was peaches, she was honey, and she cost me all my money
'cause a whirl 'round the town was her dream (was her dream)
Took her dancin', took her dinin' till her blue eyes were shinin'
With the sights that they never had seen (never seen)
If you should run into a golden-haired angel
And ask her tonight for a date
She'll tell you somewhere there's a rich millionaire
Who is calling again about eight

(There's a pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
And I've just gotta get five or ten (five or ten)
(From the pawnshop on a corner in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Gotta be with my angel again

Gotta be with my angel again

5 Comments:

Blogger newbrooklyner said...

But no Barry Manilow?

I love that children fantasize about being orphans or the 1970's version of the orphan: The Child of Divorced Parents.
And runaways.

Whatever the fantasy, the parents are out of the picture.

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Blogger dr. fluffy jones said...

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Anonymous julie said...

Dr.,

Go into your Blogger account and click "change settings." Then hit "Comments," scroll down, and you'll find a function that you can click on that will put a word verification bar on your Comments page.

Don't know if I explained that very well. It's easy to enable this function, though.

6:15 PM  
Blogger The Mysterian said...

The Purple Rose of Cairo is one of my favourite Woody Allen films.

I love that stainless steel Ford! How maginificent.

I will have to investigate the poems of Kenneth Fearing, too.

I don't recall that I ever fantasized about being an orphan as a child, but I did fantasize about Egyptian archeological expeditions and such.

7:13 PM  

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