“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
– Inscription on the main New York City post office, adapted from Herodotus, Greek historian & traveler (484 – 430 BC)
My friend John Backe sends this welcome news from New York:
“Being the grandfather of a 4.5 year old girl creates unique opportunities. The new Disney film, The Princess & The Frog, opens nationwide next week. (Tiana, the first African-American Princess, joins the other eight.) But for these few weeks, the movie is available at one theater in N.Y.C. and one in L.A., and includes a unique ‘Disney experience.’ Leah and I went yesterday.
“Arriving at the theater, you first go in one line to have your tickets checked and get a wristband. (We also got purple Mardi Gras beads.) Ten yards later, at the door, you are checked for a wristband. Ten yards into the theater, a bag check; any cameras or recoding devices must be checked to be returned after the film. Ten yards farther, each adult is wanded with a metal detector. That couple who got into the White House would not have made it into the movie.
“First learning: An inordinate number of little girls have elaborate princess gowns that they wear to events like this, and, I suppose, elsewhere. Good preparation for Rocky Horror fandom later in life.
“The movie was described by another parent as ‘the same crap’ but that may have been the point. The children were delighted.
“Then the experience, at a theater two blocks away. There were games, Disney memorabilia, crafts and educational exhibits about animation. But that wasn’t why we were there. Right there, in the Roseland Ballroom, were all nine princesses, live. In the flesh. Lovely flesh. More on that later.
“Some of you may be of an age or cultural background that you are unaware that there are nine princesses. It isn’t vital information if you are not four, or don’t hang around with four-year-olds. But if you are in that circumstance, do not confuse who is who. Don’t call Belle ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Trust me.
“Each princess had her own stage and children (and a few dads) could approach each one, talk to them and have pictures taken, or in Leah’s case, hug each one. We were there on a weekday with a small crowd; some shows could be psychotic. Most of the kids were dumbstruck; their little heads were almost exploding trying to comprehend that these women were there and all in one place!
“I think it is an interesting (?) gig for the actresses, probably better than being Santa Claus, but weird. There are other weird acting jobs in N.Y. (e.g. toilet ambassador) but I think this is in a class by itself.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, it was easy to get to see Mulan and Pochahontas. Having seen the movies, I hadn’t expected the real women to be quite so voluptuous. Glamorous, perhaps, but it felt a little like an upscale ‘gentlemen’s fantasy club.’ That’s what I’ve been told.
“I found Snow White a little creepy. The others are drawn as pretty women and that’s what they look like (except Ariel, who is in mermaid mode). Snow White has a unique facial structure and look, and they found someone who looks just like her. And has her gestures down.
“New York City, where fantasy and reality are frequently not distinguishable.”
“In a few of the larger cities where traffic congestion is often impenetrable, pneumatic tubes have been installed for the local conveyance of the mail. The largest and most comprehensive system is used in New York City.
“The tubes are placed four to six feet below the surface of the streets. They are of stainless steel and are polished to the smoothness of glass on the inside. Steel cylinders, seven inches in diameter and twenty-one inches long, are shot through them by blasts of compressed air at a speed of thirty miles an hour. Each container accommodates from four hundred to seven hundred letters.
“At the sending end of one of these machines, the scene is not unlike artillery in action. The gun crew, working like beavers, place the cylinder projectiles in the breech of these great pneumatic guns with barrels several miles in length. A turn of a wheel, the pull of a lever, a hissing clatter of the working parts and a seven inch shell loaded with mail is shot to the mark at a distant sub-station.
“As one of these projectiles may be dispatched every ten seconds, hundreds of them are continually in flight beneath the streets of the great city. Ten million letters were dispatched recently through the tubes in nearly twenty-eight thousand projectiles in one day.
“During bad weather, when ice, sleet and snow make the streets almost impassable, or when great congestions of traffic result from unforeseen events, the advantage of this tubular system is dramatically apparent. Another advantage of the tube system is that robbery of the mails while in transit is impossible.”
– From Make Way for the Mail by John J. Floherty; Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott, 1939, p. 158