Rent Spikes / Stoke Dread / By the Sea

That’s the head:

Rent Spikes
Stoke Dread
By the Sea

The subhead:

Coney Island Businesses
Fear Being Priced Out

The story is that increases in rents have promoted anxiety on the part of seaside business owners on Coney Island.

This from the national print edition of the NYT on the 15th (p. A19), story by Aaron Randle.

A story I have then playfully travestied:

By the sea, by the sea,
By the freakish, raffish sea

At Stoke-on-Rent,
On the playground of dread

(tossing in the song “By the Beautiful Sea”, plus a garbled allusion to Stoke-on-Trent, which has a picturesque river but is, in British terms, far from the sea).

The original headline. From the print edition, where you need to compress stuff into a small space — just a few, short words, as vivid as possible — so you get, beyond rent, which is pretty much inevitable, given the content of the story:

spikes, rather than the longer, less specific increases

stoke, rather the longer, less vivid promote; feed or fuel would have been other reasonable vivid choices

and dread, rather than the longer anxiety or alarm or the less vivid fear

And then, beyond these considerations of length and imagery, the four words make a striking little poem, phonologically very satisfying: the near-identical pair:

rent … dread : / r ɛ nt – dr ɛ d /

wrapped around the near-identical pair:

spikes stoke : / sp aj ks – st o k /

(with phonemic transcriptions of the syllables divided into onset nucleus coda, so that you can appreciate the close phonological relationships of these parts — in particular, /r/ with /dr/, /nt/ with /d/, /sp/ with /st/, /ks/ with /k/).

This remarkably distilled little poem was almost surely created without reflection; the headline writer just chose monosyllables that sounded good together. And so they do.

(This is then the Coney Island found poetry that I promised in my 1/17 posting “Amado Spears and his husband, fulfilled by Peter”.)

Meanwhile, in the on-line edition, where the constraints on space are  relaxed, the headline was the much less dense and much more informative:

Is a 4000% Rent Increase
the Future of Coney Island?

with the sprawling subhead:

Gentrification looms over the “freakishness and fun-loving
spirit” of the boardwalk

The story. A tale of eccentric, playful places — freakish and raffish in my parody — always under threat of being straightened up, dressed in better clothes, and ground into commercial gentility (try to imagine the Grateful Dead in Palo Alto — but see my 10/23/15 posting “Depilation Row” — or, indeed, anything louche, rakish, folksy, or cheaply fun-loving here these days). Nice coverage by Randle, which I’ll quote here at some length:


(#1) Dianna Carlin of Lola Star on the boardwalk at Coney Island

Dianna Carlin should be finishing the book she is writing about the joys of owning the Lola Star boutique, a “really tiny, magical little shop” on the Coney Island boardwalk, for the past 19 years.

Instead, Ms. Carlin has been anxious and fearful since her landlord weeks ago offered her a new lease — with a 400 percent rent increase. “I’m wondering if I should start ordering ‘going out of business’ signs,” she said.

In the summer, Brooklyn’s Coney Island swells with sunbathers and amusement seekers, but it tends to be much quieter in the winter.

Over a decade ago, New York City promised a year-round destination with a water park, an arena, an ice-skating rink, and millions of dollars in residential and commercial investment.

At the same time, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, the cheap eats and mom-and-pop shops would be protected. The then-Brooklyn borough president, Marty Markowitz, said in 2005 that the plan would preserve “Coney’s famed freakishness and fun-loving spirit.”

But like many grand plans for New York, the full vision has not materialized. Coney Island stood ceremoniously desolate on a recent January afternoon, a far cry from the year-round bustling attraction it was promised to be. Roaring winds gusted by famed roller coasters like the Cyclone and Luna Park’s Steeplechase, but not by an ice-skating rink or a water park. Those wonders were never built.

And now, facing the steamroller of gentrification, even Coney Island’s quirky circus sideshow could be forced to confront an uncertain future.

“They’re trying to turn the People’s Playground into the playground for the wealthy,” Ms. Carlin said.

Ms. Carlin and the owners of five other small businesses in Coney Island — Nathan’s Famous, Ruby’s Bar & Grill, Paul’s Daughter, Tom’s Restaurant and the Coney Island Beach Shop — have been negotiating new 10-year lease agreements with Zamperla, the Italian amusement park manufacturer that was contracted by the city a decade ago to build and manage Coney Island’s Luna Park amusement zone, of which the businesses are a part.

Zamperla’s new terms: a 50 to 400 percent increase in rent for each of the businesses.

The parody: “By the Beautiful Sea”. From Wikipedia:


(#2) Sheet music cover

“By the Beautiful Sea” is a popular song published in 1914, with music written by Harry Carroll and lyrics written by Harold R. Atteridge. The sheet music was published by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co.

The song was originally recorded by the Heidelberg Quintet, topping the early American music charts for six weeks in the summer of 1914, during the outbreak of World War I. Other popular recordings in 1914 were by Ada Jones & Billy Watkins, and by Prince’s Orchestra.

The full song:

[Verse 1]
Joe and Jane were always together.
Said Joe to Jane “I love Summer weather.
So let’s go to that beautiful sea,
Follow along,
Just say you’re with me!”
Any thing that Joe would suggest to her,
Jane would always think it was best for her.
So he’d get his Ford.
Holler “All aboard–
Gee I want to be.”

[Chorus]
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea,
You and I, you and I, oh! how happy we’ll be,
When each wave comes a-rolling in.
We will duck or swim,
And we’ll float and fool around the water.

Over and under, and then up for air.
Pa is rich, Ma is rich, so now what do we care?
I love to be beside your side,
Beside the sea, beside the seaside,
By the beautiful sea.

[Verse 2]
Joe was quite a sport on a Sunday.
Then he would eat gray lox on a Monday.
And Jane would lose her millionaire air.
And go to work,
Marcelling hair,
Ev’ry Sunday he’d leave his wife at home,
And say “It’s bus’ness, honey, I’ve got to roam,”
Then he’d miss his train,
Get his Ford and Jane,
And say “Come with me.”

[Chorus]
By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea,
You and I, you and I, oh! how happy we’ll be,
When each wave comes a-rolling in.
We will duck or swim,
And we’ll float and fool around the water.

Over and under, and then up for air.
Pa is rich, Ma is rich, so now what do we care?
I love to be beside your side,
Beside the sea, beside the seaside,
By the beautiful sea.

You can listen here (#3) to the full song in the 1914 recording by Billy Murray and the Heidelberg Quintet. On Murray, from Wikipedia:

William Thomas “Billy” Murray (May 25, 1877 – August 17, 1954) was one of the most popular singers in the United States in the early 20th century. While he received star billing in vaudeville, he was best known for his prolific work in the recording studio, making records for almost every record label of the era.

… Nicknamed “The Denver Nightingale” [he grew up in Denver], Murray had a strong tenor voice with excellent enunciation and a conversational delivery compared with bel canto singers of the era.

Then there’s a Mitch Miller & The Gang’s “old-timey” arrangement (from the 2005 album 50 All-American Favorites, a compilation from earlier recordings), which sets my teeth on edge (and omits the racy verses), but comes with a wonderful set of Coney Island photos from the period. You can listen to it here (#4).

The parody: Stoke-on-Trent. From Wikipedia:


(#5) Inner courtyard of the Gladstone Pottery Museum, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire (from the Britannica site) – with bottle kilns (used to fire pottery)

Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke) is a city and unitary authority area in Staffordshire, England … In 2016, the city had a population of 261,302.

Stoke is polycentric, having been formed by the federation of six towns in 1910. It took its name from Stoke-upon-Trent where the main centre of government and the principal railway station in the district were located.

… Stoke-on-Trent is the home of the pottery industry in England and is commonly known as the Potteries, with the local residents known as Potters. Formerly a primarily industrial conurbation, it is now a centre for service industries and distribution centres.

In my parody, the place has become Stoke-on-Rent, a playground of dread. I know, a terrible thing to do to a perfectly nice Midlands town.

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