22 November 2009


Two months ago I offered an alternative to the latest travel industry bandwagon product that featured a walking tour of Obama's Honolulu.

Now, another "Obama Walking Tour" has reared it's head in another one of my old stomping grounds, New York City.
For $25.00 ($15.00 for children 12 and under) a tourist is offered "A two-hour walking tour including stops at Columbia University, a Harlem subway station, and the street where the man who now sleeps in the White House once slept in an alley for a night". And I got a real kick out of this... "...Miller ends the tour by hopping on the No. 1 train"...

That's it? This is where "Barry the boy, became Barack the man?"


A 12 hour tour (or longer), where "516 the boy, became 212... an older boy".
$15.00...no children under the age of reason allowed.

This extensive tour of the Bronx and Manhattan features a panorama of what life was like in NYC between 1973 through 1977 when a young 505 matriculated at Manhattan College (and worked his way through school thanks to some "non-government sponsored bullshit jobs").

The tour begins once a week at 242nd St and Broadway (the terminus of the #1 Subway Train) on the campus of Manhattan College. We'll initially follow the route that 505 and his future roommate/lifelong buddy took on their first day of college. A short stroll from the main campus to nearby Van Cortlandt Park. While the rest of the freshman class was attending welcome seminars and speeches, 505 and his friend spent the day golfing in the Park. (paid for 9 holes, played 18). "So this is college".

Following a bucket of balls at the range, we'll head back to 242nd Street and Broadway for a kickoff cocktail at each of the bars that sat underneath the elevated subway platform. Special "beer and schnappes" prices have been negotiated with The Green Leaf, The Pinewood and The Terminal Bar (or whatever their names are now). As my new roommate had declared so often, "My final selection of a college to attend was based upon how many bars were within walking distance."

505 didn't realize it then, but that statement was all I needed to know about both Sociology and Logic 101.

Climb the stairs and board a specially restored "70's #1 Train", completely graffitied both inside and out, littered with Daily News front pages showcasing headlines from the era such as "FORD TO CITY-DROP DEAD!!" and "SON OF SAM STRIKES AGAIN!!", as well as strategically located pools of human urine on the floor of the subway cars. In train entertainment will be provided by 4 foot long Ghetto Blasters featuring the tuneage of Eddie Kendricks and ABBA.

Sit back and enjoy the hour long ride, as we are headed all the way downtown. Gaze out the spray can tinted windows of the subway car as we cross high above the Harlem River (I KNOW Barack could've walked on that water in the 70's) and view the broken glass infields where Manny Ramirez played during his youth. Enjoy the people watching deep underground at the 168th St. station, where we could now change and catch an express downtown. But in the 70's no white kid would leave the comfort of this local train and run a gauntlet through what was then a multilayered platform of economic and racially charged hatred in order to save a few minutes.

Laugh out loud at the 42nd St station as your host recounts a Mad March evening in 1977 when a full #1 Train (8 cars--about 500-700 mostly males) of Manhattan College students jumped off one stop early and streaked the last 9 blocks down 7th Avenue to 33rd street and Madison Square Garden. Where the Jaspers and archrival Fordham Rams (rams eat shit) were renewing their basketball rivalry. (505 stole the Ram mascot's head that night, but was captured with it by Garden security before reaching the safety of the student body, at least they let me stay and watch the game!! cuz 505 learned early in life that it's "who" you know...one of the security guards recognized me as a vendor who worked there).

Disembarking at the Chambers Street Station, we'll tour the City Hall area-- taking note of the towering dormitory of Pace College...it casts a long shadow over City Hall. 505 spent many a night shadow dancing in that dorm with an old girlfriend after spending too many dollars in a nearby Blarney Stone Pub. We'll have lunch in Chinatown at Wo Hop, while carefully stepping over indigents sleeping in the stairwell area (Barry? is that you? you're in the wrong part of town!). Be careful not to slip down the stairs as we enter this basement hovel. Dining in Chinatown in the 70's was a true life lesson...It demonstrated that washing one's hands before a meal is greatly overrated.

Following lunch we'll reboard our #1 Train and head back up to 34th Street. We'll hang out for awhile by the employee entrance at Madison Sq. Garden, where 505 spent many an evening hoping to be selected to sell beer or soda or ice cream for an event at the Garden. Keep an eye out for modern day Walt Fraziers and Dave Debusscheres (who often sat and chatted with us vendors in the stands pre-game while enjoying his ritual 2 cups of coffee) and Circus Clowns (not to be confused with the hockey team that put on their act there as well).

A short walk up to 42nd St and 5th Avenue ensues. Now thirty years later, you can still score a Rolex for $10.00 on the way, proving ONCE AGAIN that small business is the pulse and the timing belt for the economic engine of America.

We'll tour Bryant Park behind the NYC Public Library, current home to Project Runway's Fashion Week. In the 70's it was always fashionable to score a "loose joint" in what was then a Midtown Turkish Bizarre World. Scratch around in the dirt, like the pigeons do, and perhaps you will find some of the residue of the 70's that helps NYC pigeons soar higher than their counterparts in other locales. And perhaps why Michael Kors always wears sunglasses while watching the models during the final show.

Window shopping along 5th Avenue is in order, as 505 recalls his summer of '73 as a 16 year old messenger for Kentnor Corporation, an umbrella corporation for trendy 5th Avenue shops, and all of the beautiful women he encountered while delivering the mail and 40K trinkets for stores like Cartier, Valentino's and Georj Jensen. YOWSER. Quite an experience for a hormonal young boy who had just spent 4 years as a student in an all male High School. Unfortunately, cougars were on the endangered list in the nouveau chic, environment conscious period of the 70's....sigh.

After dinner and rousing Irish Music in Connolly's in Midtown (it wasn't around in the 70's, but hey..ya' know?), we'll reboard our specially outfitted #1 train at 42nd St and do what any subway derelict does on a ride to the end of the line... pass out snoring.

Back at 242nd St and the end of the tour. Special rates will be available for those needing a bed for the night in Manhattan College's Overlook Dormitory. (A supplemental showcase tour in itself). Complimentary bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches (on poppy seed rolls...like you have to worry about a pee test at this point?) included the following morning from a local deli.

Now. I ask everyone....what's up with these BORING Obama City Tours?

Too bad Barack never ran his game in Alaska...

Perhaps Sarah and I can put together a Spenard Edition.


  1. fun tour 505 but why you have to tie it to obama bashing is beyond me

  2. Cuz I have a lot of friends who tie everything to "W" bashing.

    Just a little equal time, sir.

    Must be a tad painful to see your man falling on his face in his 1st year in office.

  3. This white boy changed trains at 168th Street, and I've got the scar on my skull after getting in a fight with 35 high school kids over a seat to prove it!