New York, this preposterously pricey and popular port, minds its Ps.
Pre-dating Pilgrims, it's a potluck of pomp and poverty, pitfalls and panaceas, punks and perverts, police and protests, peerless pizza parlors, puttering putzes pining over property porn, and, of course, puppies and panhandlers alike pondering the perennial problem: to pee or not to pee?
"The letter P is pretty part-and-parcel of my professional life, for better or — poorer," said Prem Krishnamurthy with a pause, citing his role as principal in Project Projects (a graphic design playground), designer of Paper Monument (a contemporary art periodical), and P! (Project Projects' present promotion).
Krishnamurthy, poetically from Alphabet City (previously Prospect Heights), had prepped a three-month run of a monthly program called "Perchance: A Talk Show of Ps," ending tonight (with a guest who goes by Professor Pizza). But presently he penned a year-long partnership with the Storefront for Art and Architecture, in SoHo, for his P-brained pop-up.
The star of his most-recent show, the second episode, was the popular performer Parker Posey, a pretty pixie who progressed from the parishes of the Pelican State to pupilage under professors at SUNY-Purchase.
"Why a talk show about a single letter? Who cares?" Krishnamurthy asked his audience. "We're interested in pronunciation, polemics, politics, and all types of things in that particular proclivity," he explained, adding, "The letter P has a particular power. In English, it often comes from foreign words. But somehow, it has a presence."
The city has plenty of potential points of pertinent pursuit.
There is Pleasant Plains in Staten Island and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. Not far from Pomonok, in Queens, "The Perpetual Pedro," a pro pitcher, played. In Brooklyn, province of the epic flex dancer Storyboard P and another pro, Paul Pierce, Prospect Park's painstakingly precious poseur-parents perpetually preen precocious progeny (it's practically a Portlandia parody). Even the river has a proposed Plus Pool.
But in Manhattan, that prime pinnacle, the Ps are potently palpable: downtown's penny-pinching profiteers, midtown's Pippin play and Parsons prodigies, and uptown's pampered Park Avenue polo-and-pearls patricians. Not to mention Pablo Prigioni, the professional point guard.
Plus, its primarily pleasant parades promote pride, puertoriqueños, and Paddy (the provisional patron saint of pints).
Primly primped in purple plaid, Krishnamurthy began the show, filmed in a basement but broadcast to sold-out crowds inside, above and online, by prodding his producer, Piotr, to play a "Sesame Street" clip in which King Philip the Persnickety, having been pelted by ping-pong balls and pricked by a porcupine, pens a proclamation prohibiting P-words, piteously deporting his daughter, Princess Penelope; banning his favorite food, peanut-butter-and-pickle pizza; and pulverizing his palace.
Krishnamurthy's plan was plain: all he is saying is give Ps a chance, persuading audience members with free Pogue whiskey and Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Not that Ps aren't problematic. Krishnamurthy noted a recent paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that posed the proof-positive most-pernicious tongue twister: "pad kid poured curd pulled cod."
With a pinch of prejudice, he also poo-pooed pliant Ps — as in "phony" or "psycho" — as "lesser," preferring popping Ps as proper Ps. The fuzzier phonics "don't phit my pattern," he said, prescribing the peculiar spelling.
His first guest, Alexander Provan, a founder of online magazine Triple Canopy, spoke about principles of art production allowed by 3D printers. He proposed a floating city in international waters, past the purview of police.
"We could create a kind of utopia that reimagines society," Provan said, calling it "P-steading: P for production, for power to the people, for prescience. We'd be interested in provenance." Krishnamurthy's response was at once puerile and purifying: "It sounds like a crazy, free-for-all party."
Next, Ksenya Samarskaya, a type designer who dyed her hair pitch-perfect purple for the occasion, discussed Peter the Great, his plans for St. Petersburg, and his reshaping of the Cyrillic alphabet to modernize the Russian printing press.
When Posey came out: pandemonium. A surprise chef produced falafel balls and baba ganoush (a paean to her cult classic film, Party Girl).
"I don't deserve this," said Posey, partaking in falafel and whiskey.
"Nobody deserves this," Provan replied.
Posey laughed — "so dry!" — before proposing a dance party, to which an audience member suggested polka. Instead, Krishnamurthy played the music video for "Friends of P" by The Rentals. His plan prevailed over peer pressure.
Post-performance, he was already plotting his next episode, tonight, pondering the P train, the subway system's passed-over express train plan to pair Jamaica, in Queens, with — where else? — Penn Station.
Richard Morgan is a freelance writer who has written about New York for New York magazine, the New York Daily News, the New York Observer, the New York Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He has peed in every borough.