The Street

Originally Published 10/24/2011

Photo Source: William Gottlieb

It was eight blocks and a gorgeous night, so what the hell? Tommy and Frankie left the car at their apartment on 44th and started walking north up to 52nd. They were looking sharp and looking to have some kicks on The Street. It was summer in the city, and anything could happen.

What a great day. They had already seen Don Newcomb toss a four-hit shutout for Brooklyn at Ebbets Field, and now they were off to The Street. 52nd between 5th and 6th: jazz alley. There was The Onyx and The Famous Door and The 3 Deuces and Leon & Eddie’s and Club Samoa and The Yacht Club and The Downbeat and Jimmy Ryan’s. There was Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday and Count Basie and Errol Garner and Billy Eckstein and Oscar Pettiford and Max Roach and Kenny Clark Mary Lou Williams and Coleman Hawkins. There was hot jazz and hot girls and small rickety tables full of drinks and cigarettes and matchbooks and cocktail napkins with telephone numbers and the basement clubs were hot and the air full of smoke and nobody could move and nobody wanted to go home. And it was all there on one block, there for the taking.

“Man, I can’t WAIT to see Bird & Diz!” Tommy yelped, lighting a Camel and taking a pull from his flask as they crossed over 47th. “They’re playin’ at the Deuce. An’ Hawk is at the Onyx. I say we catch some of his set after seein’ Parker.”

“That’s a plan, Stan!” Frankie replied. “I heard that Prez might be sitting in with Hawk. Imagine that jam session?!?”

They stopped in a drug store on 49th for more cigarettes. Three blocks away! It was going to be one boss night on The Street. Frankie continued, momentarily distracted from thoughts of seeing Lester Young jamming with Coleman Hawkins. “I have further heard, according to good authority, that the apple of your eye Wanda may be among those hopping from club to club tonight. Not that you have a chance, or anything…”

Tommy gave Frankie a sock on the arm. “Ya fuckin’ ball buster! What you talkin’ about? You couldn’t get laid in a morgue!”

Frankie grinned over at his pal and said, “anyone who doesn’t get laid tonight is a feeb!”

Tommy and Frankie howled their approval, tousled each other’s perfectly combed pompadours and picked up their pace north. The night was just beginning. No time to waste…


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