Monday, July 23, 2012

Street Chanties

When my Dad was a boy, he said, people used to push carts through the streets, calling out their wares like a scene out of "Oliver." "Fresh watermelon!" "Rag man, Rag man." "Get yer tomatoes."

Something similar happens nowadays in downtown Chicago. First there is the rhythm of the coins shaking in a paper cup: shoop-ashoop-ashoop-shoop. On the next corner, a man is selling the local "help the homeless" newspaper: "Streeeeeeeeet-wise!"  Every half-hour, the "Kings of Michigan Avenue" begin their acrobatic and wise-cracking routine, which includes synchronized shouting. (Every half hour.) And over by St. Peter's there's a lady who sells candy, inviting sales with a remarkable alto melody: "World's Finest Choc'la-aate, how're you doin' today?" This is the musical line she chants it in.

With the weather as hot as it has been, there's a new chant in the neighborhood: "Ice cold water, one dollar, ice cold." Sadly, though, the World's Finest Chocolate lady had to change her lyrics (and her melody). "Somebody he'p me, how're you doin' today?" (shoop-ashoop-ashoop-shoop).

I suppose it's just too hot for the chocolate.

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