New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Little Stuff

Do not think that all of New York City is paved with gold. There are plenty of ordinary people whose income is modest and many minimum wage earners. Seeing this shelf of Spam in Manhattan reminds me of a private joke between a friend and I whose punchline we never tired of using whenever we could.
When I was much younger, another friend and I were fascinated with fireworks, particularly bottle rockets. Although we did occasionally buy firecrackers, we never were interested in the heavy noise found with M-80s or Cherry Bombs. As foolish as we were, we had a sense of their much more dangerous nature. Also, we did not enjoy extraordinary explosive noise. We were interested in rocketry.
At the time, at New Year's Eve or Chinese New Year, fireworks were easily purchased in the city. Vendors were all over the streets in neighborhoods like the East Village and Chinatown, selling their wares out of garbage cans, auto trunks, bags etc. The city was much less aggressive about enforcement.
One night searching for some rockets, all three of us came across a street vendor barking a list of his wares, of course featuring his big stuff. When I asked if he had bottle rockets, he seemed rather taken aback and with enormous pride and smug confidence, responded "hey, we got the little stuff too." Apparently we were to know he was a full service retailer. So, that's the punchline. It loses much in translation because one of the keys here is the delivery - a combination of the very smug, macho posturing with a Brooklyn/Queens accent.
Thereafter, anytime a conversation provided opportunity to reaffirm the merits of the diminutive and share some insider humor, we added "we got the little stuff too" along with our best interpretation of that fireworks vendor.
This shelf of Spam at a local supermarket tells us that people buy and use the product - this is not an Andy Warhol art piece. We still have large numbers of homeless. Fast food restaurants and deep discount retailers dot the city. These are not just the haunts of price conscious millionaires, flaunting frugality and good shopping skills, but the places where many of lessor means shop. New York City requires the same services as anywhere else and someone has to work those jobs - clerks, gas station attendants, waiters etc. These positions do not pay the wages of investment bankers or attorneys. Twenty three percent of New Yorkers live below the poverty line.
So to those that think the city is only comprised of exclusive high-end retailers, fashion boutiques, costly apartments, expensive restaurants and gourmet foods, I would like to remind you - we got the little stuff too :)

Note: One night we witnessed a woman whose hand covered a bleeding eye from being hit by a stray bottle rocket in Chinatown. This convinced us that even bottle rockets had inherent dangers and fireworks are best kept out of the hands of recreational users. 

10 comments:

dodo16 said...

Let's hear it for the little stuff - we used to have Spam all the time when we were growing up (in Scotland) and it was ok.
Great blog by the way.

Brian Dubé said...

dodo16 - I agree. Although invention, innovation and imagination drive progress, someone must drive the bus too.

Anonymous said...

$4.29 for Spam?! Sorry, but that's NOT a bargain food item at that price.

Gail's Man said...

Have you heard the Monty Python sketch & song about Spam? Very funny!

Daily Chicago Photo said...

One of the Chicago newspapers just did a feature on Spam in the Food section. One of the things they mentioned was that Spam is quite popular in Hawaii. As soon as I saw the picture in the portal - the Monty Python song got into my head. Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam ... ... ...

I like the story, too ... I love those obscure phrases that become in jokes among old friends.

Brian Dubé said...

Anon - u r right. At $4.29 this is not really "little stuff" is it?

Gail's Man - perhaps you are speaking of their comedy Spamalot?

Daily Chicago - glad u appreciated the inside joke.

paperclips said...

love this blog! *sigh* wish i were in NY

Terry B said...

YEs, Spam is quite popular in Hawaii. It shows up in a number of Asian cuisines, most notably Korean.

Brooks said...

Believe it or not, we "of lesser means" exist in vast numbers in New York City (in verminous profusion, some might say). For some of us, Spam is a luxury purchase. Imagine that! In golden, glittering Gotham, of all places!

Ines said...

Really great capture ... well done :)