Friday, September 03, 2010

Still lost?

In the Times, J. David Goodman says I quote E.P. Butler's rhyming verse affectionately.

I mention this only in order to quote an article in the Times that quotes me quoting an article in the Times. Meta reference in the house! Now if they reference this, I promise to reference that, and which point The Rapture could be upon us. It is written.

But I digress.

Do I feel affection toward E.P. Butler? Sort of. I really do want his verse in needlepoint on my wall.

But this does not negate the fact that I consider Monsieur Butler an absolute idiot.

His verse? Great... until you think about it. The words that rhyme -- best/west, plain/lane, meet/street -- don't actually help you remember anything! No wonder it never caught on.

The key to understanding the streets of Queens is to know that avenues, roads, and drives are grouped together and run east and west. Streets, places, and lanes are similarly grouped and run north and south. It helps to remember that that avenues and streets run in the opposite direction as in Manhattan. And also opposite Manhattan, our numbers get bigger going south.

I mean, really now. Somebody picked this system? This is absurd. And when you read about it, it's called the "Philadelphia System." Except I've been to Philadelphia. And I can't help but notice that our system is nothing like theirs.

It's as if our leading citizens put on the top hats and went on junkets to examine all the great cities of America. They came back, met at a beefsteak, and debated the pros and cons of each city's system. But instead of choosing something that makes sense (Baltimore, Chicago, even Philadelphia!) they got drunk and slapped together the world's worst system.

But none of this is Butler's fault. He was trying to help. And perhaps he had a similar fondness for the bottle.

For all of my affection toward Butler, his verse could just as well be this:
Verse Affords Means to Get Totally Lost
Astoria Bike's Rhyming System Helps Nobody.

In Queens, to find locations best
Streets and place and drives run west;
But ways to north or east 'tis plain
Are avenues, roads or lanes.
While dashes in numbers you will meet
Upon each and every goddamn street!
And then you'll really need a drink.

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