Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Search of Pig Snout's Hook

Most postcards portray their setting in its sunniest aspect. This one, of the ferry slip in Perth Amboy, presents its in darker tones.

Miss Goering, a character in Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies, upon getting off the ferry from the island, finds herself in even more desolate territory:
     Miss Goering struggled up the hill entirely alone. She kept her eye on the wall of the last store on the main street. An advertising artist had painted in vivid pinks a baby's face of giant dimensions on half the surface of the wall, and in the remaining space a tremendous rubber nipple. Miss Goering wondered what Pig Snout's Hook was.

Eventually she encounters an old man bending over some crates.... He was terribly busy trying to pry a nail from the crate with only a thin stick as a tool.
     "I beg your pardon," said Miss Goering to him finally, "but I would like to know where Pig Snout's Hook is and also why anyone would want to go there, if you know."
     The man continued to bother with the nail, but Miss Goering could tell he was really interested in her question.
     "Pig Snout's Hook?" said the man. "That's easy. It's a new place, a cabaret."
     "Does everybody go there?" Miss Goering asked him.
     "If they are the kind who are fools, they go."

The man goes on to explain that, "they've got a nigger there that jumps up and down in front of a mirror in his room all day long until he sweats and then he does the same thing in front of these lads and lassies and they think he's playing them music...."
     "Well, said Miss Goering, "certain people do like that type of music."

Eventually she invites him for a beer. And while her aspirations to sainthood will take her into dark and unseemly corners of the city, never to Pig Snout's Hook.

The waterfront district of Perth Amboy looks quite different today. The ferry slip has been reconstructed as a museum of sorts (the boondoggle sort?). Alas, on our reconnaissance, we found no trace of Pig Snout's Hook. We did find one establishment that dates to the time of Jane Bowles' visits to Perth Amboy from Staten Island: The Barge.

Established 1925, the building itself is much more recent. A waitress informed us that the original building across the street has been demolished; in any case, in those days it would have been a candy store--hardly what Jane was looking for.

In our day, the Barge appeared mainly to serve the Early Bird Special crowd in its dining rooms and the golfing (or golf-watching) crowd in its barroom. A scene not much different than that in Eli Reed's photograph of women having lunch at a Perth Amboy waterfront restaurant in 2000. Hard to imagine Jane Bowles satisfied here.
Eli Reed (Magnum)
Like Miss Goering, we never found Pig Snout's Hook. On our drive out of town, we spotted one or two windowless bunker bars that might have appealed to Miss Goering or Jane Bowles. We didn't stop.
Carl Van Vechten (1951)

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