Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Critical Mom and The Girl from Ipanema

It was always a favorite song, and last year my husband and I were on Ipanema beach together, and I was the girl and he was watching me and we went swimming.  I am not tall, I am not tan, I am not young, and I would never in a million years consider looking straight ahead not at him, so he still thinks I'm lovely.  
     Rio, a fun house mirror version of New York, as if  built by the architect of the Bizarro Superman series, boasted extremes of wealth and poverty: the homeless man in rags selling bananas in front of the gorgeous, gated apartment buildings, and contrasts:  the contemporary art museum, itself a flying-saucerlike apparition, jutted over a gorgeous beach with its pathologically polluted bay.  The scenery out the window far surpassed the art, except that you knew the people foraging in that incredibly polluted bay were exposing themselves to toxic waste.  And the ever-present vultures overhead knew it, too.  But the girl, the lucky girl from Ipanema, is somehow untouched by all this.
     I used to hum "The Girl From Ipanema" daily with my first room-mate out of college:  every day we scooted off to our jobs in publishing that led nowhere with our pearls in place, scones and coffee in hand, and that song on our lips.  And when we went up to Columbia in the evening on weekends, to take graduate courses in order to get away from the jobs in publishing that led nowhere, we were greeted every time we stepped off the platform at Broadway and 110th by the guy who sang, 

As she waits for the One IRT
She looks straight ahead not at me . . . 

And now I find, reading my middle child the Skulduggery Pleasant books, that the hero, Skulduggery, while enduring torture from the evil wizard, Nefarian Serpine, fills the interludes between Nefarian's torments by singing "The Girl From Ipanema," which I began to sing, nostalgically, to my ten-year-old.
"All right, all right, Mommy!  So you know some songs and I know others.  Enough."

Okay.  Stephen Sondheim having provided a boy from Ipanema ("Whyyyy are his trousers vermilion?  Whyyyyy does he claim he's Castilian?") and somebody, Frank Sinatra, it seems,  even a girl with emphysema, we've ended up with Loose Bruce Kerr's "The Guy from Al Queda":

Short and fat and bearded and flapping
The guy from al Queda in Iraq goes Jihadding. . . 

 I wonder what the homeless guy at the 110th street subway station is singing now . . . on my last two trips to New York, he wasn't there and nobody was singing a New York version of the girl "who waits for the One IRT."

Oh well.  My husband and I will always have Ipanama.


  1. I think you need to make a cover of your own version, a German one: The Heifer from Leipzig or some such. Make up some good words: "She waits for the big bale of hay; chewing cud, not looking away."

  2. Hee hee hee

    As she waits for the big Strassenbahn
    She's got a big beer in each Hannnnn(d). . .