Voice calling out above the crowds at corner of West 46th and Broadway, at the top of Times Square, just above where Broadways is closed off to traffic.
“Get your Obama Condoms! Your Obama Condoms here!”
Voice is a mellifluous baritone, a trained voice.
“Obama Condoms, the ultimate stimulus package!”
An actor’s voice, showing itself off, changing where it places emphasis as it goes through the spiel over and over, shortening and drawing out syllables, vowels.
“GET your Ohhhhhbama Condoms! OhhhhBAMaaa CONdoms! The ULLLL-timate STIM-U-lusssss Package! Cheeeeper than PREG-nan-CEEEE!”
The voice comes close to singing the O in Obama, as if it is the Ohhhh at the beginning of Ohhhhhhhh-K! lahoma! and it’s as if besides keeping himself amused and making the passing citizens look his way for the second it takes him to step into the way and offer samples from his tray of wares, he is auditioning. Letting any passing producers or directors know that he is ready to launch into Oh What a Beautiful Morning or The Impossible Dream at a moment’s notice.
“HOPE is NOT a form of protection!”
But the owner of the voice does not look like an actor.
He is a tall, large-headed man in his thirties with a big brown beard and he is wearing a blue blazer over a white turtleneck and pressed jeans. Even with his sample tray hanging from a lanyard round his neck and the wooden stake of his sign shoved down the back of his jacket, he looks more intellectual, more professorial than theatrical.
Actually, what he looks like is a whole bunch of journalists I have known. And in a story he would be a reporter, possibly from the Wall Street Journal, which has its new offices located not very far from this spot where he is now standing singing out his sales pitch with perfect pitch and he has come down here maybe on his way home or to buy a cup of coffee or grab a quick bite to eat and he runs into an actor friend of his who is making his rent money this week handing out these Obama Condoms.
The actor friend is glad to see his old friend for the same reason he is always glad to see him. He has a favor to ask and the reporter is a push over when it comes to being asked favors and agreeing to do them, even though he knows he will come to regret it in a very short while.
The actor friend has to rush off to take care of a problem. Let us say it is a problem involving a girlfriend---or a boyfriend---a not unusual problem for this actor. He has to solve this problem but he cannot afford to abandon this particular job in outdoor sales. He is to be paid in actual cash at the end of the night and the jobber who hires him will be less than forthcoming with the cucumbers if he comes along and finds the actor not at his post. Would the reporter mind filling in for the very short time in which the actor is off solving his problem?
The reporter does mind but as usual when he is asked to do someone a favor he cannot make the person asking him this favor understand that he does not wish to oblige at this time.
This is how this reporter, who has better things to do at this moment and should be off doing them, is standing on a street corner singing the praises of a brand of prophylactic that I am guessing is changing its name every four years. And it is very much surprising to himself that he is enjoying the work. He is a secret actor in his own head and a singer in his shower at home and he is making this a little performance and drawing a small but appreciative audience.
I am thinking he would make a good story by a writer by the name of Damon Runyon who you might know from a few of his short stories being turned into a famous musical play called Guys and Dolls. This Damon Runyon writes many stories about gamblers and small time hoodlums with names like Dave the Dude and Harry the Horse and Nicely-Nicely Johnson and the dolls that cause trouble in their lives or whose lives fill up with trouble on account of they are connected with these guys who are less than careful about the feelings of other people, particular those of the dolls with whom they have these connections. These stories are set around Broadway in the less than fashionable neighborhoods and clubs and joints and speakeasies, because he is mostly writing at time when the country is experimenting with enforced tea-totalling which most of the citizens choose not take part in this experiment, and they make him very famous to the point that the city has named a one block section of a street around here Damon Runyon Way.
Now this Damon Runyon also writes about other Broadway characters in lines of work that are considered more legit than the occupations of the horse-players and crap shooters and hoodlums but do not pay nearly as much. He writes several stories about a drama critic for one of the many newspapers that are sold about New York City in those days which are now seventy years ago in the past. This critic has a habit of bringing down troubles around his own ears by his habit of taking his eye off the ball and running around after this and that when he is supposed to be doing his job of seeing a play and writing up what he sees for the public who need his opinion of what he sees in order to decide if they will fork over the price of a ticket, not to forget Damon Runyon is a newspaper man himself and writes up these characters and their doings as news before he turns them into what is called fiction as if there is a difference between what appears in a made up story in a book and what you read in most of your newspapers, and this is maybe why I get this idea that this guy with his tray and his sign is somebody other than the type of character you might expect out there with a tray and a sign which are mostly of the not otherwise employable or they are actors or even worse.
So let us leave him at this point, before trouble comes along and finds him as trouble makes a habit of doing when he is doing a favor he knows better that he should not be doing.
I expect that trouble will be tagging along with some doll as this is not a line of work a guy like this wants a doll to see him out having fun doing.
Things could be worse for him though. The friend who asks him this favor could be the street performer one block up who calls himself the Naked Cowboy.