Listening over the weekend to Queens native Q-Tip’s new album over the weekend left a lyric of his from a much older song in my head: “Back in the days on the boulevard of Linden …” I always mumble that line to myself when passing sign for the Linden Bouelvard exit on the Van Wyck Expressway.

But I digress. My point is, it got me thinking about some of the other gazillion popular songs that mention New York, and what my favorites are. Few, if any, cities have inspired as many popular songs as New York. I mean, just Billy Joel alone could fill a couple albums with his. (Actually, he did.)

But I already know what my favorites are. So I’m wondering what YOUR favorites are. So please leave comments telling me your faves–but first, a few ground rules:

Simply mentioning New York (“Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White Ts, “We’re a Happy Family” by the Ramones, “Check the Rhyme” by A Tribe Called Quest, etc.) isn’t good enough. You can only pick songs where New York (or some part of it) is really the focus.

Same goes for having New York in the title. “The 59th Street Bridge Song” by Simon and Garfunkel may be a great song but it’s not really about the 59th Street Bridge. Well, unless somebody recently repaved it with cobblestones and forgot to tell me.

Songs can be from any genre–rock, rap, showtunes, whatevs–but must have been performed by a professional recording artist or group. I.e., no songs written by you, or your friend, or your cousin, or your cousin’s friend.

To get you into a New York state of mind (sorry), here’s a too-broad-but-still-useful Wikipedia list of songs about New York, and a couple of videos of a couple of my faves, including the one that provided the name for this blog.

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The title of this post doesn’t refer to the traffic in New York, though that beast is certainly worthy of discussion. It’s about the traffic to this blog, which, I noticed, includes one particular reader today who got here by searching for the term “twin towers joke.”

I don’t know any jokes about the Twin Towers; I presume the reason my blog came up in the search results is that I used the phrase “Twin Towers” a few weeks ago when I wrote about the anniversary of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

I’m not one of those people who thinks you can’t laugh at serious events, and I do sometimes find a little morbid humor to be a helpful way of getting through tough times (and evading real emotion). Still “twin towers joke” seems an odd thing to be searching for, no?

Curious, I followed that reader’s lead and searched online for “twin towers joke.” All I can tell you is that the guy must have been sorely disappointed because, even if you think that joking about deadly terrorist attacks is funny, the few jokes I found online weren’t really funny. I did, however, notice that the Journal of Folklore Research (geez, there’s an academic journal for everything) published a study on WTC humor–specifically, WTC jokes e-mailed around among office workers in Hungary. The cruelest joke of all is that the study’s author probably got a HUGE government grant paid for, ultimately, by you and me.


I don’t step on manhole covers. Never. I’ve sidestepped them, walked around them, even leapt over them. I won’t even let part of my shoe touch the edge of a manhole cover, or any other metal access panel in the street. And I’m especially vigilant when it snows.

I didn’t used to have this hang-up. And honestly, I’m a little embarassed about it. But it’s based on a lot more than some wacky superstition.

A few years ago, a woman walking her dogs in the East Village stepped on one of those squarish access covers you see here and there and got fatally electrocuted. ConEdison said it was a freak confluence of events, because rock salt and melting snow had found their way underneath the cable cover and eaten away the insulation of wires below, which then touched the metal cover and turned it into an electrified death trap.

I believed them, partly because it seemed like a plausible explanation and partly because my brother-in-law was working for ConEd at the time and swore it was true. But then ConEd checked thousands of other manhole covers and access doors, and found that some of them had the same problem. And, budgets and bureaucracy being what they are, I remain unconvinced that ConEd has done anything to prevent the same not-so-freakish-after-all confluence of events from happening again. So if you’re walking down the street and see a guy jump over a manhole or suddenly change direction to avoid a cable cover, now you know why.

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