The City Of Canes

Over the last three days I’ve been working on the Old Bronx Opera House. Investors are transforming the old theatre on 149th Street into a hotel, hoping to draw travelers to the Hub, which was once the symbol of urban decay for America. City authorities hoped to revitalize the South Bronx shopping area, but nothing I saw over the past few days showed any sign of salvation.

“What you think?” Oskar came from Mexico.

“This is a fucked up street.” I pointed to four men limping on the sidewalks. Each was aided by a cane. Two more were across the busy street.

“Why they have canes?” Oskar was a hard worker. He regarded the denizens of the South Bronx with disdain.

“I don’t know.”

“Maybe they get hit by cars.”

“Maybe.” Bronxites were notorious jaywalkers.

“Yo, man, what this going to be?” shouted an old junkie from the street. His cane was bent from overuse.

“A hotel.”

“A hotel here.” His methadone eyes widened in disbelief. “Only hotels around here were whorehouses.”

“Times change.”

“Times never change in the South Bronx.”

Oskar and I said nothing. We thought the same thing. 149th Street was pure Bronx.

Planet B to the end of the world.

ps Will Rogers, the Marx Brothers, George Burns, Gracie Allen, George M. Cohan, Eddie Cantor, John Bunny, and Harry Houdini appeared at the Bronx Opera House. It sat 1400.

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