Saturday, July 06, 2013

`Where We Live in Corona is So Lively'

Louis Armstrong in “Our Neighborhood,” a remembrance he wrote in 1970 (Louis Armstrong in His Own Words: Selected Writings, 2001): 

“There’s a Chinese restaurant in Corona where Lucille + I have our Chinese Food when we’re in the mood. While sitting there in the restaurant waiting for our food to be served. And by the time our food is being served—the kids of the neighborhood might pass by and look through the window and see Satchmo and round up all the kids in the neighborhood, and tell them that Satchmo and Lucille is sitting in the Restaurant, and the whole neighborhood of kids come and as soon as the waiter—bring our food, all of these kids make a bee line in the Restaurant to my table for Autographs. Soo—I still haven’t eaten my food for the Autographing for the kids. The funny thing about it all—they all must have their names, on their autographs. So by the time I finished’ hmm my food were very cold.” 

Armstrong goes on to identify the restaurant as the Dragon Seed, which I like to imagine is the take-out joint I’ve been patronizing on Northern Boulevard, around the corner from the house he bought in 1943 and lived in till his death on this date, July 6, in 1971. On Friday, my oldest son and I visited the Louis Armstrong HouseMuseum on 107th Street here in Queens, about a mile from my hotel. Our guide was Harvey Fisher, a retired guy about my age who spoke of Armstrong as he might of a fondly remembered uncle. 

“So I ate my Fortune Cookies. One read--`Social pleasure and a most fortunate future.’ The other Fortune Cookie said--`Your romance will be a long and lasting one.’ So we left the Dragon Seed and when we went home Lucille fixed me a beeg Dagwood Sandwich. At home where we live in Corona is so lively. We have two dogs. They are Schnauzers, Male + Female. And they are two very fine watch dogs. They not only Bark when the doorbell rings, but anybody who Comes’ up our steps’ they Bark their (A)spirin off.” 

From the gift shop I picked out five postcards: Armstrong holding General, the Boston terrier given him by Joe Glaser; listening to music on headphones; on the telephone in his second-floor office, wearing a Mets caps; a card he made advertising his favorite laxative; and a 1932 studio portrait taken during his first tour of England (not available online). We spent a long time talking with Fisher, who shared his enthusiasm for Philip Larkin and for Larkin’s enthusiasm for Armstrong. As Josh and I walked back to his car, three or four doors from Armstrong’s house, a shirtless little boy blithely urinated on a fire hydrant.

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