At one time or another we’ve all thought it would be nice to live on Easy Street.
If I understand correctly, Easy Street falls in the same general category as The American Dream, just without all that messy hard work. When you think of Easy Street, you imagine the little Monopoly man with the top hat and cane.
Or maybe a ringing slot machine with a row of 7s.
There’s an element of striking oil about it, a win-big, spend-big Las Vegas swagger that the roll-up-your-sleeves, hard-working American Dream would frown upon.
You’ve got the Protestant work ethic on one hand, rolling snake eyes on the other. We all want the snake eyes these days because it’s faster.
It’s Easy Street, an unexpected windfall. Beats scrimping, saving and stock-piling elbow grease any day.
So where is this Easy Street?
Sometimes, I think it must be on a coast since that’s where ships are most likely to come in. You just don’t see many ships unloading instant wealth and carefree living here in the Midwest, unless, of course, they come unassembled on river barges. And then, with my luck, the assembly instructions would be indecipherable.
So maybe you do have to go to a coast to have a better shot at Easy Street. Here in the Midwest we feel guilty even daydreaming about it.
But there is plenty of proof that people do think about Easy Street, or at least name streets after it.
In an extensive study of the area — at least extensive enough to be concluded in five minutes — I found Easy Streets in Gladstone, Liberty and Excelsior Springs in the Northland, in DeSoto, Kan. and in St. Joseph. There was also an Easy Street Inc. heating-cooling-plumbing contractor in Lenexa and Easy-Street LLC, a parts supplier for vintage Dodge trucks.
That’s an exhaustive local list, and by exhaustive I mean I was exhausted from all the Googling.
When I expanded the search, I found Easy Street Records & Café, which, I was sad to learn, wasn’t even on Easy Street but on the corner of California Avenue and Alaska Street on Seattle’s southwest side.
I’m out of books to read, so I jumped at the chance to find “Easy Street,” a novel by Elizabeth Sims in her Lillian Byrd Crime Series. The local branch library is open today, so I’m heading out soon, Sherlock Holmes magnifier and Easy Street-sniffing dog in tow.
In 1992, Brian Alexander wrote a story for the Los Angeles Times, titled “Two Streets Where the Names Don’t Quite Fit.” The author quotes lyrics from the 1941 Alan Rankin Jones song “Easy Street” (”I’d love to live on Easy Street, Nobody works on Easy Street, Just sit around all day … Life is sweet on Easy Street”), then tells his readers about the Easy Street he investigated in San Marcos, Calif.
The street was actually nothing more than a quarter-mile dirt road with a hand-painted sign and two residences with a total of three people. One, then-31-year-old Betty Rule, told the reporter that their Easy Street was chosen by the residents and aptly named.
“It’s perfect,” she said. “Look at the road. When you drive on it, if you take it easy you don’t break an axle.”
Not long after that, Rule learned from the fire department that she didn’t actually live on Easy Street but on Ascend Road. This was before GPS, but even then firefighters preferred accurate directions.
So Rule’s stay on the street was short-lived.
“I lived on Easy Street for a week,” she said.
It’s fitting that her whimsical tale would originate in California, where Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter had earlier warned us that “When life looks like easy street there is danger at your door.”
Isn’t that the truth.
But Rule’s neighbor, Charles Sherman, wasn’t the type to be disillusioned.
“No matter where you live there is a lot of work,” he told the Times.
What I found in my own tires-on-the-ground research was that the Easy Streets in Excelsior Springs and Liberty are dead ends. Indeed, the “No Outlet” signs at the entrances to each had a cautionary, “Hotel California” feel to them (“You can check out any time, but you can never leave.”)
And both were short streets, which as a Midwesterner I took as a stern moralistic warning. Even if you get to live on Easy Street, your stay might be short. Maybe not as short as Betty Rule’s was in California, but short nonetheless.
If you know the way to Easy Street (or San Jose), tell me at firstname.lastname@example.org.