I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time at the candy store, the official
Brooklyn hangout. They had great egg creams. It was their specialty,
alongside two cents plain. Two cents plain was only a glass of seltzer
which in our parlance we called burp water. But an egg cream had class.
It's a soda without ice cream but had a splash of milk, which gave it
the right to be called egg cream even if it didn't have egg or cream.
Egg creams helped make Brooklyn the extraordinary famous place it is,
along with the Dodgers, the sweetest baseball team ever, including the
Yankees, which you could call great but not sweet.
Names is an important part of places when you come to think of it.
And of persons. Names is something you got to respect. It gives you
apicture which will always stick with you when you think about that
place or that person. Names like Dodgers, Brooklyn, Lindbergh, egg cream,
are an important part of life. Say egg cream to me and I get a taste
in my mouth right away. A taste of when I was a kid. I can taste my
whole childhood. I see all my friends in the words egg cream, Fatso,
Sid, Frankie, Dorothea, Les Enfants, Mickey (his old man was a detective)
all of them in one small egg cream. Once I told my teacher about this
egg cream business (that was Miss Munson who was so poor she only had
one dark green dress she wore every day) and she said some guy wrote
a story seven books long all out of his smelling a cup of tea. I thought
she was putting me on until Stretch, one of my friends who became a
comic book writer, told me it was a true fact. This guy who smelled
seven books out of a cup of tea was a Frenchie named Prowst. I looked
him up in the library when I was in there writing my theme for my english
class called I Never Knew a Girl Prettier Than My Mother. I opened up
the first book of the seven this Frenchie wrote but it took him fourteen
pages just to tell how he fell asleep.
Anyway, the whole thing about names reminded me of
the time I was hanging out at the candy store with Les Enfants, my best
friend. Naturally, we was having an egg cream. Futzy, the owner's son,
was the soda jerk. His father, a little guy with a voice like a duck
always looked at us as if we was about to steal his candy. Futzy's father's
name was Mr. Zass, and every time we said Futzy's name to each other
we could hardly keep ourselves from falling off the counter stools from
laughing. For years I always wondered why they didn't change it.
But I'll never forget that particular day me and Les Enfants were drinking
the egg creams and whispering Futzy's name into each others ears, Futzy
Zass, Futzy Zass, like that, and laughing so hard we spilled the egg
creams all over ourselves and the counter and the stools, and Futzy
was getting madder and madder because he would have to wipe it all up
and maybe mop the floor too, until he finally asked us what was so funny.
I guess I had to tell him because at that time I probably wasn't so
sensitive, like you would say, as to what another person might be feeling
about their name, which was no fault of theirs. And Futzy, all red in
the face, says, "So what's YOUR name, wiseguy?"
he howls, poking his finger into my bellybutton.
know what Minsky is? Minsky is a burlesque joint where naked ladies
dance on the stage!"