New York Daily Photo Analytics

Friday, June 05, 2009

Comin Up Comin Up

Before the hegemony of the Korean green grocers, there were far fewer dealers of produce in New York City. And then, as now, many immigrants did the heavy lifting in this city. This was the case in the 1970s on Greenwich Avenue near Avenue of the Americas where there was a very prominent fruit and vegetable store run by Arabic men. As immigrants are inclined to do, these men had acquired a smattering of American colloquialisms, patched together to make what they thought was the salesman's perfect proverbial call to action. So a passerby was often subjected to their pitch: "Comin up Comin up. Strawberry. Three for a dollar. Who can believe it." Hear my impression here. Ironic, because of course nothing was being prepared and hence nothing really was really "comin up." And often, given the quality of the strawberries, three for a dollar was easy to believe.
Their intonation and sense of urgency was a great source of amusement for many of us at the time and I have recounted this story to many close friends who now find opportunity at every moment possible to inject "comin up comin up" or "who can believe it" into any situation where it can possibly be justified - there are many, many moments in daily life where either phrase can be easily worked in.
But where to use such a story for a photoblog of New York? These men and their fruit stand will not be resurrected. So this experience has been filed away in the recesses of my mind, waiting for an opportunity.
Fast forward one week ago to a street fair on Waverly Place. As I walked by a seller of watermelon in cups, the man behind the table barked "Watermelon. Two dollar. Helloooooo!" Hear my version here. The use of Hello with an elongated "o" is recent slang, similar in meaning to "wake up and smell the coffee."
So there it was - the perfect analog in our time and place to "comin up comin up." And as I pulled out my camera, the vendor happily obliged and volunteered a smile with two fingers for two dollars.
So if you think you recognize me around town and see me walking towards you, you now have the secret password. Just say "commin up commin up" and I'll be sure to respond "Who can believe it!" :)

5 comments:

Emma said...

This story makes me laugh, too.

Brian, thank you for sharing us such interesting thing!

Beth in NYC said...

Neat story and I love the recording. I'm not familiar with the "comin' up" colloquialism - I guess it pre-dated my arrival in NYC.

Did you buy a cup of watermelon from the vendor?

Carboman said...

Thanks for sharing your photos. I was in NYC for a week last November to run the marathon and your photos bring back fond memories of your great city.

Michelle Johnson said...

This vendor would be unhappy with me because I wouldn't buy any of his watermelon. I hate the stuff. I loved your recordings and post. Have a great day.

Brian Dubé said...

emma - your welcome

Beth- I did buy a cup of watermelon.

Carboman - thanks.

Michelle - perhaps you find it too sugary? most find the water content refreshing in the summer.