Boulevardiering — the verb

by Sally Steele

 

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The Boulevardiers are proud of and bemused by the mileage and velocity we are encouraging via our use of the term Boulevardiering (our Twitter name). We are Boulevardiers, indeed Chesterfieldian, flâneurs, fops, walking-stick nuts, so are most of our friends, and garnering that curiosity and energy is the reason we started this publication over 2 years ago. We are in world-class company here: Irving Mansfield, John Garfield, Leo Lindy, Walter Winchell, even Ethel Merman. As our readership grows, and our reach extends internationally, we are humbled and empowered by the statement we make.  We encourage all to Promenade through life, from the Great Promenade in Central Park to the various promenades along the water fronts world-wide, Cannes come to mind.  A tradition hundreds of years old in Europe, and we have experienced it.  Sit and watch the strollers go by in the hour before dinner, then join them while others watch.  This occurs even in the small towns, like Lucca, Italy.

 

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Some recent Boulevardiering references we have seen, human, animal, and worldwide…for your reading pleasure.

 

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T. G. Lewis, Book of Extremes: Why the 21st Century Isn’t Like the 20th Century, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 2014: “Boulevardiering is one of the most endearing customs of urban Italians–parading up and down major thoroughfares of Rome and other Italian cities in one’s finest clothing. It is largely and extrovert’s sport played by social animals with an abundance of self-confidence. Boulevardiering regularly breaks out among the Neapolitan natives near the Castel Nuovo off Via Nuovo Marina Boulevard or most anywhere the stylishly dressed Italians happen to go in the cool evening after siesta and before dinner at 9pm. Italians love to be spontaneous, but with style. The fondly call these spontaneous exhibitionists, “Boulevard Animali”–parading animals.”  The term has been elevated to an adjective in a New York Times article describing a new bistro in Manhattan, Buvette, as a “flaneur-magnet.”

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Boulevardiering has spread to other, more uptight countries like the USA. Southern Methodist University students in Dallas Texas have been doing it for years. Typically the SMU Mustangs parade around campus prior to a big game against the rebel Black Bears of the University of Mississippi. It started in 2000 as a kind of extemporaneous celebration in honor to the new Gerald J. Ford Stadium. SMU needed something bigger and better than the Black Bear tailgating parties in Mississippi. So they turned “boulevard” into a verb–an act of one-upmanship over the University of Mississippi. It must have worked, because SMU students have been boulevardiering ever since.

Boulevardiering holds wonderful nuances . As the day wind dies down, and the Italian sky turns august, people turn out gradually at first, and then in droves – linked arm in arm, all ages and sexes. When dinnertime arrives the crowd fades just as orderly and smoothly as it gathered. Whether parading around in one’s fashionable attire in Italy or baseball cap and war paint in Texas, the ritual is a predictable one–smooth and rhythmic as one would expect from a civilized and sophisticated people.

 

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Forest and Stream, Volume 83, By Charles Hallock, William A. Bruette: “Nor were these the only feathered people that come to our cabin. One spectacular being clothed like a boulevardiering cavalier and having the mein if a finished chesterfieldian gentleman was noted seated in an oak near the cabin one day. It did not take more than one sweep of the eye to place him. I smiled grimly and called Fred’s attention to him.”

 

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A Review of, A Flâneur for All Seasons, by James Guida: “Of all the instances in literature of direct advice, there can be few to rival Peter Altenberg’s: “Get thee to the coffeehouse!” This is the fin-de-siècle Austrian writer’s prescription for a host of life’s ills. You’re broke, there’s a rip in your boots, you have a fickle lover or no lover at all, you want to do yourself in, or you just “loathe and revile people and yet can’t live without them”? Altenberg is unswerving: to the coffeehouse. Rilke might impress on us the urgency of changing one’s whole life for the better—some excellent self-help, provided it can be glimpsed how. While waiting for enlightenment to take hold, Altenberg is your man.”

“Peter Altenberg, or “P.A.” for short, was the pen name of Richard Engländer, born in Vienna in 1859 to a well-to-do merchant family, and a Jewish convert to Christianity, Engländer walked out of courses in law, botany, and medicine before, in his thirties, giving himself over to a life of thorough and eccentric bohemianism. He is reputed to have spent most of his adult waking hours in coffeehouses, and the sleeping ones in a hotel that was little more than a brothel. As for writing, his chosen medium was a feuilleton-style prose poem of anywhere from a sentence to a few pages in length, and he did wonders with it. Though far from the only painter of modern life, Altenberg seems singular even when compared to his nearest literary kin: less austere and allegorical than Baudelaire, and more involved with society than Robert Walser, his short prose approaches form in ways that are uncannily relevant now.”

“Altenberg was central in his time: a friend of Berg, Klimt, and Loos, he had a large audience of female readers and a roll call of admirers that included Kafka, Kraus, Mann, Musil, and, yes, Rilke. Even the writers who quarrelled with him were ready to contribute funds when he was in trouble. Perhaps alone among authors who answer to the description of “walking-stick nut” and who sell their own handmade jewelry in cafés, he was nominated for a Nobel Prize.”

 

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Dancing at Ciro’s: A Family’s Love, Loss, and Scandal on the Sunset Strip, by Sheila Weller “Helen’s antic childhood friend Irvie Mandelbaum was now Broadway’s “boy genius” publicist. Borrowing a page from John Garfield (nee Garfinckle) and Ethel Merman (nee Zimmerman), Irvie had renamed himself Irving Mansfield, and he was living, like Herman, in a Broadway hotel, boulevardiering with all-the-rage bandleader Richard Himber and stopping in at Leo Lindy’s with Walter Winchell and Dave’s Blue Room to jostle the showgirls, many of whom Herman directed.”

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Time Out, 1000 Great Holiday Ideas, edited by Chris Moss: “It’s almost unbelievable anyone still flies or ferries to France, when you can go by Eurostar for less that 60 quid. For that quick romantic getaway, a weekend in the city of love, especially in spring or autumn, still delivers in terms of candlelit bistros, afternoon in cafes, and boulevardiering in the Marais. Get yourself in the mood by having some bubbly on board the train.”

 

A review of The Flaneur: A Stroll Through the Paradoxes of Paris, by Edmund White: “White’s Paris is seen on foot, as a flâneur, a stroller who aimlessly loses himself in a crowd, going wherever curiosity leads him and collecting impressions along the way. Paris is the perfect city for the flâneur, as every quartier is beautiful and full of rich and surprising delights. But this is no typical tour of monuments and museums; it is much more intimate and surprising. As a flâneur of Paris for 16 years, White knows where to find the very best of everything–silver, sheets, plum slivovitz. He can tell you where to get Tex-Mex surrounded by a dance rehearsal hall, where to rent an entire castle for a party, or even where to get Skippy peanut butter. He eschews the pearl-gray city built by Napoleon and roams the places where the real vitality lives, the teaming quartiers inhabited by Arabs and Asians and Africans, the strange corners, the markets where you can find absolutely anything in this city that accommodates all tastes. White’s Paris is a place rich in history with a passion for novelty and distractions.”

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In Praise of the Flâneur, Paris Review, by Bijan Stephen: “The figure of the flâneur—the stroller, the passionate wanderer emblematic of nineteenth-century French literary culture—has always been essentially timeless; he removes himself from the world while he stands astride its heart. When Walter Benjamin brought Baudelaire’s conception of the flâneur into the academy, he marked the idea as an essential part of our ideas of modernism and urbanism. For Benjamin, in his critical examinations of Baudelaire’s work, the flâneur heralded an incisive analysis of modernity, perhaps because of his connotations: “[the flâneur] was a figure of the modern artist-poet, a figure keenly aware of the bustle of modern life, an amateur detective and investigator of the city, but also a sign of the alienation of the city and of capitalism,” as a 2004 article in the American Historical Review put it. Since Benjamin, the academic establishment has used the flâneur as a vehicle for the examination of the conditions of modernity—urban life, alienation, class tensions, and the like.”

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