BEST REMINDER OF THE WRETCHEDNESS OF EXISTENCE Part One Best Reminder …

Written by None - Do not Delete on . Posted in Best of Manhattan, Posts.


LIGN=”left”>Part One


Near the top, it’s
the forlorn, dead-eyed Chinese men whose Sisyphean task it is to perpetually
fill, empty, transfer and refill the tanks with doomed sea life. They use nets
and halved garbage pails and cower under the mercenary stare of the pit boss
lurking behind the huge office window. Often, a man will misjudge his toss and
slam a couple foot-long eels against the side of a tank. The eels hit the mildewed
tile, plop to the floor and in a vile, tormented squishing disappear under or
behind a tank. There’s much squawking and finger-pointing. Who’s gonna
retrieve the eels? The grunts try to look busy.


Eventually the job falls
to a shriveled old guy with one long tooth that slants out from his barren lower
gum like a withered island palm tree. Squinting, lying on his side, the homunculus
reaches under the tank and sweeps his arm forward. This produces a pile of broken
crab shells, but no eels. Some of the men laugh, others jab an accusatory finger
at him. More people gather to observe. He tries again, reaching in as far as
he can. He’s in up to his shoulder. We can only imagine what lurks in that
putrid, inky crevice. Plague-infested vermin? Some hellish, sucking vortex?


He sweeps his arms out and
the two dirt-caked eels go flying into the center of the floor. One of the eels
bleeds from its mouth. The men are cackling and the low man, seeing the creatures
slithering off toward a different hole, crawls on his hands and knees in hot
pursuit. Bounding like a toddler, splashing in the miserable, scaly scum collecting
around the floor drain, he splays himself out and catches hold of them just
before they can take cover.


The onlookers cheer his
progress. Fumbling a bit, the old man now sits up Indian-style with an eel in
each hand. He flashes a wide, gummy grin.


“I get them,”
he says, triumphantly. “I get them.”



Best Park

Inwood Hill Park



Take the A Train All
the Way.
Just above Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters, at the northwestern-most
tip of the island, is Manhattan’s last natural woodland. Inwood Hill Park
covers 196 acres of rolling hills from Dyckman St. up to 218th, the ravines
and steep cliffs carved out by glaciers 10,000-20,000 years ago. The area is
dotted with small caves and boulders, many of which are what is known as “Inwood
marble,” easily worked by hammer and chisel and known by local rockhounds
to yield beautiful tourmaline, quartz and dolomite crystals, as well as almandine
garnets.



Inwood Hill Park has the
one of the highest natural elevations on the island of Manhattan as well as
the last remaining salt marsh here. Denizens of the marsh include horseshoe
crabs, white egrets, herring gulls, mallards, turtles, shrimp, mummichogs and
at least one very elusive muskrat. In summer months, the park is home to a wide
range of butterflies, including the hackberry emperor, the eastern tiger swallowtail,
the mourning cloak and the red admiral. The local flora consists mainly of mulberry
trees, oak and willows, with a lively scattering of wild rosebushes, tulips,
mugwort and goldenrod. There are herons, hawks and the occasional owl to be
seen. It is possible to wander over a ridge and leave the city entirely behind,
lost in a true wilderness just a short walk from the northernmost stop on the
A train. It’s a great place to take visiting out-of-towners who think of
Manhattan as the very opposite of nature, and it’s a cheap and wonderful
day trip for the jaded native in need of a respite from the urban hustle.



Best Unexpected and Charming
Gesture of the Post Office

That’s Okay, Pal. We Know You’re Good for It.
If you forget to
put the extra dollar on the express delivery for an important letter, they deliver
it anyway and then ask you for a dollar on your honor, which of course you send
in to the Big House on 8th Ave.



Best Case of Cold Feet

Peter Seligman



Is There Something You’re
Not Telling Us?
Peter Seligman’s bizarre death this August left us
scratching our heads. In case you were at the beach: Seligman was a successful,
apparently very popular 30-year-old celebrity publicist whose clients included
Mike Tyson and Jay Leno. On Aug. 18 he and his fiancee, with whom he’d
been living, were taking the 5 train to City Hall to get a marriage license
when Seligman suddenly felt ill. He went out to the platform between cars to
get some air. There, he apparently fainted. The girlfriend reached for him but
he went overboard, fell onto the third rail and was electrocuted. Some 400 people
crowded his SRO funeral the following week, and the papers duly noted the glowing
testimonials to his humor and hard work.



The deadpan way in which
the dailies told this very strange story just set the imagination whirring with
all manner of Hitchcockian what-if fantasies. With all due respect to the departed
and his survivors, it’s a story with the potential to spawn a half-dozen
entirely distinct cable movies. For instance, we tend not to associate with
high-powered celebrity publicists, so we’re wondering: Are high-powered
celebrity publicists really in the habit of taking the 5 train to get around?
One would have pictured them being altogether too busy-busy for that. And good
Lord, they’d be out of cell contact! So, Sherlock, tell us: What was
he doing down in the subway, hmmmm?


Then there’s this sudden
bout of illness. In one version of our cable movie, he’s a 30-year-old
playboy and commit-o-phobe whose live-in girlfriend has finally forced him to
start the death march toward the altar. On the way, he has a massive panic attack:
the worst case of premarital cold feet on record. (If it’s on HBO, we can
suggest that there may be some sexual-preference issues adding to his sense
of urgency. He is, remember, a publicist, not the most manly-man of professions.)
He totters out to the little platform between trains. She follows. Honey, he
pleads, I just can’t go through with it. She’s irate. She hasn’t
invested all this time in him to be jilted now. They struggle. There’s
a tragic accident… Or was it something more sinister? Enter the young
but prematurely jaded because she grew up on the streets of East Harlem homicide
detective, Lt. Lucy Morales, and her wise-cracking sidekick, Brody…


Again: pure fantasy. We’re
sure nothing remotely like that occurred. Our condolences on their loss. But
we bet somebody’s writing the treatment for a TNT movie as we speak.



Best New Fashion Trend for
the Lazy

Shants



If We Can Find a Pair
That Transform into a Yarmulke and a Prayer Shawl, We’ll Run for Vice President.

What we know about fashion could fit up your nose, but there was one trend that
excited us: the appearance of shants, those super-slick pants that zip
off at the knee to transmogrify into shorts. Suddenly it was possible to spend
the day boogie-boarding at the beach (or just smoking pot and eating fried clams
on the Coney Island boardwalk–but still) and then meet friends for a nice
dinner without having to pack a change of clothes. Just zipped on those legs,
and bang–we were as presentable as we were ever going to get.



Best Bicycle Ride

Under the Verrazano Bridge



Littorally Brooklyn.
No, we’re not sending you to Staten Island; we’re hardly Manhattan
chauvinists, but we’re not getting soft between the ears, either. So you
can stay in Brooklyn for this one, because we mean the bicycle path that lines
the shores of Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge; that rolls under the stunning Verrazano
Bridge; and that looks across the Narrows not only at the beaches of Staten
Island, but across the Lower Bay and down toward the Jersey Shore and, also,
far out to sea, where fishing boats bob on the lorn horizon, rising and falling
in the fathomless brine. The Belt Pkwy.’s behind you as you pause your
bike and gaze past the guardrail; but around and in front of you is a heartbreaking
reminder that New York City is a seafaring town, that the rotting-brine scent
of the ocean is part of what you’ve got coming to you as a New Yorker.



The path starts on the seaward
side of the Narrows, then curves under the thundering bridge until, far north,
on the other side of the Upper Bay, Lower Manhattan screams up from the water
like the most redeeming miracle you can imagine. This ride’s great in the
summer, when the gulls circle and the rank sea-smell comes up, but it’s
magical in winter, when the water is hard, severe and moving.



Best Proof That A Strong
Economy Can Blow

Your Scumbag Broker Is Now Your Scumbag Landlord.
We were good sports about
the whole process. We filled out the questionnaires. Submitted ourselves to
the proctological credit and reference checks. Paid the ridiculous fee–think
of the $3000 as the trip to Europe you can never afford to take–and moved
into the unpainted space with broken fixtures, cold radiators and a leaking
ceiling. A month later, the landlord informed us that the building had been
sold.



Don’t bother painting:
just hang everything willy-nilly. Don’t sweat the leak: just don’t
put the electronics under that spot. Don’t settle in too much, because
with the explosive growth of this certain downtown neighborhood, as soon as
our one-year lease is up for renewal, we can expect a nice rent hike that’ll
drive us right back to U-Haul to reserve another van. It’s then also time
to visit our broker again. That swell guy who hooked us up with this incredible
deal in the first place. Funny thing is, this time around he’s not just
a cocksucking, leech of a broker, he’s also our new landlord.


As if this guy isn’t
already among the lowest forms of creatures in this city, in the same category
as meter maids, divorce attorneys and new media “experts.” Now he’s
a slumlord in the making. When he calls our three neighbors to inform them of
their rent increases (they’ve been lease-free for 30 years among them),
he claims to be the messenger: the “landlord” told him to make the
calls. Don’t blame him. Blame the landlord. Which we know is you, motherfucker!


This city already has enough
vicious, greedy, heartless cocksuckers. Must they begin wrapping unto themselves?
When they get to hell, may the devil greet them personally and flay their feet
with a rusty razorblade. May they stand in searing glass for all eternity. May
their hearts burn with the pain of one thousand worries. In other words, may
our prayers be answered. May we be granted the chance to buy back the building
at 20 cents on the dollar from our landlord’s widow. May the real estate
market crash the day after a pack of wild, mongrel dogs savages him in front
of his uptown office after a long day of fucking well-intentioned, honest people
looking for an affordable, civilized place to live.



Best Judge

Edwin Torres



Edwin’s Way. Judge
Edwin Torres not only wrote some great crime novels back in the 70s–his
Carlito’s Way was made into an underrated 1993 Al Pacino flick–he’s
also presided over state Supreme Court in Manhattan with a degree of style and
grace you don’t often see in officers of the law. Torres doesn’t play
to the media, and he doesn’t make too much of his literary projects. He
just does his job with quiet class.



When sentencing a murderer
to a particularly long stint, he scored with one of the greatest judge’s
lines of all time. “Young man,” Torres declared from the bench, “your
parole officer hasn’t even been born yet.”


That’s a man who knows
how to give 50-to-life.



Best Reason to Fight
for Independence Again

The British Is Coming.
We talk American in New York, and the New York accent
is beautiful: we gave the world Fuggehtaboudit!, Yo!, Bite
me!
and Whassup!. But for some reason, Britishisms are making their
way into real American talk. This annoying fruitification of our muddah tongue
is everywhere, and it sucks.



To wit: the American owner
of one of those pretentious little shoppes on Elizabeth St. hangs a sign to
announce that the joint will be closed while the owner is “on holiday”
from Aug. 20 to Labor Day. La-dee-fucking-dah. Surprised it wasn’t Labour
Day, Nigel. Another door sign comes from NYU’s Cantor Film Center on 8th
St., advising visitors, “For inquiries, ring…” We can’t–no
phone kiosk nearby.


British-blowing Talk
reads like it’s copy-edited by six pinky-out, tea-sipping poofters from
Kensington. In an August tidbit on Maury Povich and Connie Chung, Povich says
that he met his wife Chung when “she was finishing up at university.”
Elsewhere he says that “holidays are very important to us”–meaning
vacation getaways, not Christmas and Thanksgiving. (Chung, to her credit, talks
about the job she had when she was still “in college.”) Perhaps, we
thought, it’s because editor Tina Brown is British, and has imposed an
English-tinged stylebook on the thing, for extra flavour. But we couldn’t
confirm this; couldn’t find anyone we know who actually read the thing
enough to tell us whether Britishese is pervasive. But it doesn’t matter:
Talk is an American publication, and it’s friggin’ Maury Povich,
for chrissakes. Cor blimey!


Lower-brow publications
are not immune to bargain-basement Blight. Newsday reported in its sports
section on Aug. 20 that an injured athlete was taken “to hospital.”


Now, we love the BBC and
Sky Television as much as the next bloke (especially when they report on “bogus
baby-minders” who kidnap their charges), but we love it over there.
This fake English filigree is as annoying as a damp nappy. We’re telling
ya, if the phone drone at the Angelika Theater–the one with the Iowa cornpone
accent–tells us that the “movie queue” is half a block long for
a certain show, we’re going to go over there and stick our brolly so far
up his bum that he’ll spend a fortnight in hospital as a spastic watching
the telly.



Best Maligned Decade

The 1970s



Rikki, Don’t Lose
That Number.
One of the enduring myths in the Baby Boomer Big Picture is
that the 60s rocked, man, but the 70s blew, like, big-time. The reality is that
the political and cultural upheaval that was rooted in the 50s (Elvis, Mailer,
Dan Wolf’s Village Voice, the Beats, desegregation, etc.) and exploded
in the 60s (Vietnam, Watts, Port Huron, Woodstock & Altamont, Carnaby Street,
etc.) came to fruition in the 70s. That might’ve pissed off the Abbie Hoffmans
of the world, who resented that more than 10 percent of the country’s youth
was turning on, getting laid and wearing long hair, but if you still didn’t
trust anyone over 30, it was a very cool time to be alive.



Born in 1955, we straddled
the two decades: The first 45 in our record collection was the Zombies’
“She’s Not There”; the first LP was 1965’s Highway 61;
we traded Beatles cards, read Paul Williams in Crawdaddy and the first
issue of Rolling Stone; gave an antiwar speech at a ninth-grade assembly;
and lived with the fear that one of our brothers might get sent to Vietnam.
We rallied for Gene McCarthy and reviled Bobby Kennedy’s cowardice in delaying
his presidential intentions; were watching The Mod Squad when a bulletin
broke the news of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Then Nixon won
the ’68 election, the Beatles broke up, Charlie Manson spooked the country
(even hippies) and people got themselves back to the garden.


Here’s the point that
simpleton sociologists can’t understand: there’s no such thing as
a decade that’s neatly packaged in the space of 10 years. Kids today might
not believe it, but the 70s were actually a far more liberating and hedonistic
era than those celebrated 60s. The war was winding down–after students
learned from the Kent State nightmare in ’70 that bullets can kill, poof,
there went the movement!–drugs were cheap, AIDS didn’t exist, the
drinking age tumbled to 18 in many states and you could actually study film
or Rimbaud in high school or college.


True, there wasn’t
the phenomenal outburst of Top 10 hits by the likes of Motown groups, Aretha
Franklin, the Byrds, Percy Sledge, the Kinks, the Stones and one-shot wonders
like the We Five and the Bobby Fuller Four. Still, any period of time that features
David Bowie, Roxy Music, Bruce Springsteen, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, the
Clash, Blondie, Derek and the Dominoes, the Ramones and Van Morrison isn’t
too shabby.


It takes the feeble mind
of a New York Times hack to truly fuck up the real history of the 70s.
Clyde Haberman, on Feb. 1, wrote this preposterous sentence in a column headlined
“’70’s Give a Bad Name to Nostalgia.” Reader discretion
is advised as we transmit the following offensive words: “How can anyone
get misty over a decade that gave us Watergate, Kent State, gas lines, economic
recession, double-digit inflation, soaring crime rates, Pol Pot, Son of Sam
and American hostages in Iran–not to mention leisure suits, men’s
ties wider than the Lincoln Tunnel, some of the worst hairstyles since scissors
were invented and–hold your angry letters–disco?”


There we go again: Disco
was the culprit, a short-lived fad that, in the grand scheme, was a blip on
the social landscape. And when you think about it, the Studio 54 comet, with
its glitz and decadence, was pretty damn interesting. We suppose that Haberman
got the boot one night from one of Steve Rubell’s bouncers.


Every finite period of time
has its share of serial murderers, silly fashion trends, awful music, too much
government intervention and regulation, economic dipsy-doodles, natural disasters,
inexplicable racial and religious prejudice, grating celebrity worship and the
Boston Red Sox folding each September (or, at times, in October).


And finally, just to drive
the point home, read this April 14, 2000, howler from Stephanie Zacharek, courtesy
of the Internet’s worst “content” site, Salon. “The
’80s were an era of greed and corruption and unprecedented shallowness,
aided and abetted by rancid pop music like Huey Lewis’ ‘Hip to Be
Square’ and the inescapable horror of giant shoulder pads in ladies’
suits.”


We think you get the point:
Leave the 70s alone!



Best Iron Chef
Fans

Yo Yo Yo, Morimoto!
We found the Iron Chef New York special a bit
disappointing. It definitely didn’t live up to the promise of its commercial,
during which a guest judge proclaims, in the goofily dubbed manner that is the
source of much of the humor on the Food Network’s version of the program,
that, “The Iron Chef is speaking to me–through the fish!”
That commercial also had a great shot of the show’s Japanese culinary masters
standing in front of Grand Central, as if waiting for the Carey bus. But the
special, which pitted Iron Chef Morimoto (credits include Nobu) against Bolo
and Mesa Grill’s Bobby Flay, at Webster Hall of all places, wasn’t
as amusing as the hundreds of Iron Chef competitions shot in Japan and translated
for American audiences.



We weren’t thinking
about it the next day, which found us walking along E. 14th St. in a hurry to
get somewhere. In front of us were two young black men, decked out in the latest
b-boy wear, talking and gesticulating excitedly about something. We thought
nothing of it, but then, while passing this pair, we heard: “Iron Chef
kicked Bobby Flay’s aaaaaass, yo!” Then the other guy recapped,
“He’s all jumping up on his cutting board at the end. And Morimoto
just be like, ‘He not a chef.'” Both broke up in braying laughter,
mocking the humiliated Flay. Who really did, we had to admit at that point,
go out like a sucker.



Best Place to Witness the
Hiss of Female Libido

Book-signings at Astor Pl. Barnes & Noble



4 Astor Pl. (betw. B’way
& Lafayette St.)



420-1322



His Withering Gaze Met
Her Trembling Thighs with a Passion Neither Could Fathom.
We climb the stairs
to the second floor of Barnes & Noble, as we always do, to skim the magazines
and the latest hardcovers, and notice the commotion going on by the Self-Help
and Essay sections. We go to check it out and find that a pretty good young
writer we’ve seen in some magazines is reading a section from his latest
collection of short stories. So we squeeze ourselves onto the stairs with a
minimum of shuffling and adjusting, curious to hear his stuff. But we’re
finding it hard to concentrate. The overhead light has left a shadow of Young
Writer’s face on his shirt, and we watch the image of his lips move against
the waffle grain of his long underwear as if it’s been pixelated. It’s
like watching a badly dubbed movie and trying to connect the voice to the mouth.
The cadences of his speech seem to have been constructed isometrically (do we
detect a faded Midwestern accent?), the mouth moves open on both sides too equally,
and Young Writer clucks his head back like a chicken waiting to have his throat
cut. We look at his lips. They’re small, strange. We could never love a
man with lips like those.



But he’s getting into
it.


The light, the attentive
crowd, he’s doing some kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington routine–aw
shucks, all this for me?–but he’s bolstered by the reverent silences
of the women around him waiting for him to continue. All those hours spent alone
trying to write something interesting…and now all these women are here for
him. We’re surrounded by women. The agents, ugly little women with
calculated eyebrows, and the audience, showing bits of well-formed calves and
chuckling at what they presume to be the funny bits. They keep crossing and
uncrossing their legs, which sounds to us like the Tristan Tzara poem with all
the trills and buzzes.


B&N knows how to work
this crowd into a frenzy of schadenfreude. Young Writer’s better than his
audience, and they know it. They feel a level of appreciation bordering on the
obsessive for him, like feisty/shy bachlorettes at a Playgirl striptease.
They wait for him to finish, each lingering by the sale books in the hopes that
they’ll wait the crowd out and have some time to really talk, but
they eventually have to go up to him with his book in their hands or leave because
they can’t keep standing there; it’ll look strange. So the women finally
hand their books over to the seated, mildly interested Young Writer while positioning
themselves in that poised, quivering female way that involves the balls of the
feet and try to say something clever. But what’s to say? If they choke
out the marshmallow, “Your book meant so much to me,” they’ll
ruin their chances with Young Writer. So they go up, book in hand, after all
that fidgeting and smiling from the second row…and feign disinterest. Faced
with the humiliation of prostrating themselves for a fucking signature,
it’s the only pose they figure makes sense. He says something and they
say something and $24.95 later it’s over, and they’re on the phone
with their friend wondering why they can never meet men as interesting as Young
Writer. Friend lobs a platitude. “They’re all gay or taken.”
They hang up.



Best Hairstyle to Avoid


The Elian ‘Do



We Don’t Need No
Stinking Barbers.
We first noticed it about two months into the Elian Gonzalez
fiasco. It was somewhere between the time when he was known as “The Cuban
Boy,” but before he became “That Fuckin’ Elian“–when
he was known simply as “Elian,” beloved by all.



Suddenly, all over the city,
every single goddamn Cuban and Puerto Rican boy between the ages of three and
12 was sporting the Elian ‘do. Short in back, trimmed around the ears,
with the bangs swept in an arc across the forehead.


And now, long after the
trouble has been sent far away and he’s no longer the top story on the
evening news every single night, the trend is finally starting to abate. Not
completely, and not fast enough, for us, though.


Annoying and pathetic as
they were in their time, we could almost understand the thinking behind the
Diana look and the Farrah Fawcett wannabes. But what in the hell are parents
trying to say with this? That this little monster–helpless pawn of media
and family and politicians, a kid who would say whatever he was told to say
for the cameras–was something to be admired and emulated? He was on a fucking
boat that sank–does this make him a hero or some sort of quasi-religious
icon?


We guess to some people,
it does–and that’s a little sad.



Best Example of Top-Down
Class Warfare

Yankee Stadium’s Bleachers Beer Ban



Good Sir, Might I Trouble
You to Deliver the Pill with More Alacrity to Goodman Catcher?
We were some
of the longtime Yankee fans who literally could not believe that this rule,
announced after thousands of bleachers tickets for the 2000 season had already
been purchased, was actually going to be enforced. But come May, there we were
in Section 41, having been frisked for smuggled containers and told we couldn’t
even bring a sealed bottle of water inside, beerless at the ballgame. We’re
not working class. But we didn’t go to law school, either. Eight bucks
is the right ticket price for us. We’ve put up with a long and increasingly
uncalled-for series of humiliations in the bleachers these last few years. They
moved the sections away from the field. They limited mobility within them. They
manned them with so many cops and security guards that the authority-to-subject
ratio out there was, from 1998 on, lower than that of any public school in the
Bronx.



Last year they were throwing
people out of the bleachers for cursing. Now no beer, supposedly to make the
sections more “family friendly.” The notion is ludicrous. It’s
hostile to hallowed tradition, which is supposed to be the soul of baseball.
But it happened. And you know what? Working-class people should be thankful
they haven’t yet taken the goddamn park out of their neighborhood and built
a new Yankee Stadium over where rich people live. When that happens, there’ll
be as much $8-per-game fans can do about it as we can about this beer-ban bullshit.
They fuck regular people in this country.



Best Befuddling Sidewalk
Encounter

Riddle of the Sphinx.
We were walking up Broadway on a Saturday morning.
It was a nice day out, but, thankfully, Broadway wasn’t too clogged with
humanity yet. At the corner of Great Jones, an old man stopped us. He was in
his late 60s at least, maybe older. A tall, dapper fellow in a riding cap, gray
suit and tie, with that look in his eye that seemed to indicate he was about
to ask us for directions.



“Yes?” we said,
as we stopped.


“Hey, wha’cha
got growin’ in there?” he asked us. “Potatoes?”



Best Scam

The West Nile Virus Scare



Sting Operation.
When city officials and medical researchers first started talking about it this
last summer–when they first started talking about it, before they
even knew what the hell they were dealing with–it sounded like something
to worry about. A strange and deadly virus being spread by mosquitoes? One that
would kill you in a matter of days? Sure, we’ll buy an extra can of Off!
next time we’re at the Rite Aid. Oh–the city’s going to be taking
care of the problem for us by blanketing all of New York with a poisonous spray?
Well…okay. So long as they have our best interests in mind.



But by the end of the summer,
how many people had actually contracted the virus? And how many had died? Seven?
Seven people in their 70s and 80s?–that’s when we started to have
our doubts. Jesus Christ–the goddamn flu kills more people every year.


So after a winter in which
supposedly serious measures were taken to wipe out mosquito nesting grounds
in ponds, reservoirs and sewers, when the city started talking about spraying
again, we became mighty suspicious. None of the, what, 11 people who’ve
contracted the virus so far this year have died–a night in the hospital,
then home again. So why in the fuck are they dumping insecticide all over their
constituents (and, according to some research, killing off the Mid-Atlantic’s
entire lobster population in the process)? To save us from this “deadly
virus”? It seems increasingly doubtful.


Take a look at the pesticides
they’re using. Last year’s choice was malathion, which they didn’t
use this year when it was discovered, after the fact, how unbelievably dangerous
it was (medical research has shown that malathion poisoning can affect the brain,
liver, kidneys, intestines, the lungs–most every major organ system, even
destroying genetic material). What’s more–the symptoms of malathion
poisoning mimic the symptoms of the West Nile virus itself.


So this year they decided
to go with resmethrin and sumithrin–synthetic forms of the natural insecticide
pyrethrin–whose brand names are Scourge and Anvil, respectively.


Although the city and the
health department claim they’re safe as can be (and as a result, never
commissioned an environmental impact study) they’re still, by nature, nerve
gases. And they’re so new that nothing is known about their long-term effects
on humans and animals. Yet they’ve sprayed nearly 1000 gallons of it on
us over these past few months.


According to a series of
reports in the Daily News, the Health department has been informed of
more than 200 cases of apparent pesticide poisoning. Both pesticides are known
to aggravate asthma symptoms.


Apart from that, it’s
also known that Scourge and Anvil will seep into the ground water and get into
the body, where they build up in the liver. Funnier still–along with the
lobster population, they also kill off the bee population, as well as the fish
that eat mosquito eggs! All of this is very well documented.


So what in the fuck is going
on? And why did Gov. Pataki feel it necessary to ask the feds to declare a state
of emergency across all of New York?


We’re not saying that
there’s some grand government conspiracy to wipe out the entire population
of Staten Island, Queens, all of New York. We just think that somebody is being
awfully stupid.


The question is this: Who’s
profiting? Who’s raking in billions off this scheme? Is it the insecticide
company? Does someone at the Dept. of Health receive weekly kickbacks? Is it
the medical industry? Is it some assemblyman? We don’t know. Yet. But somebody’s
making a killing off this–somebody who will probably be long gone 20 years
down the line when the long-term effects of spraying this shit are discovered
to be as catastrophic as we expect them to be–and New Yorkers start giving
birth to a generation of mutants.


Who needs a bunch of towelheaded
bioterrorists with a thimble full of anthrax when we’ve got city government
and the Dept. of Health doing their job for them?



Best New Nickname for the
Ectomorphic Howdy Boys

The Sons of Melfi



He’s Read Écrits
Twice.
Not to go off again on The Sopranos, but one of the reasons
the show makes for such great reruns is the depth and detail with which the
tiny little bit characters are drawn. Characters you see once, for maybe 20
or 30 seconds, who never return again, are yet fully realized human beings.
Like the eyewitness, who might’ve seen Tony and Silvio whack the annoying
young guy, and his wife. Seen for the briefest of vignettes in their cozy suburban
living room, he sipping his wine, reading Anarchy, State and Utopia,
listening to some 20th-century 12-tone music–the very figure of smug, overeducated
liberal complacency–suddenly panicked to realize that what he saw was a
mob hit. Beautiful little scene.



Then there was the one with
Dr. Melfi and her son in the restaurant, where she embarrasses him by getting
into the fight with the woman smoker. Her son was the perfect twee, wormy, whiteboy
college kid intellectual dork–thick-black-glasses-wearing, skinny, Lacan-reading,
lanky-haired, rolling his eyes and drawling “My droll mother” when
she cracks a joke. You see this kid a million times a week in downtown New York
City and Williamsburg. He’s waiting in line by the dozens at the They Might
Be Giants concert. He’s in the seat behind you at the Fringe Festival show,
and the whole row in front of you at the Screening Room. He gets into the elevator
with you at the New School. He does assistant art-directing for Flaunt
and Paper. He’s listlessly waiting on you at every soigné
little hangout on Berry St. and every Eurotrashy faux-boite on the LES.


They’re the Sons of
Melfi, a whiteboy tribe, a fraternal organization of wormboys with bangs, limp
wrists and floppy sweaters. Several years ago a New York Press contributor
identified them as “ectomorphic howdy boys,” and that’s how we’ve
always thought of them. Until now. Sons of Melfi it is.



Best One-Day Getaway

Gunnison Beach



Sandy Hook, NJ



Barenaked Ladies. Gunnison
Beach is the largest nude beach in the Northeast, and being under the jurisdiction
of the National Park Service, it is exempt from the puritanical tyranny of New
Jersey’s feminazi Gov. Christie Todd Whitman. The crowd is interesting
and wildly diverse. On a recent weekday, we packed up a cooler full of Molson
Ice and a couple of doobs and hustled on out there to enjoy the last gasp of
summer. The ocean is nice and warm in September. We hooked up with a couple
of college girls who had a tent and some good quality blow and redefined Afternoon
Delight.



It’s easy to get to:
take the Holland out of town, get on the NJ Tpk. south to Exit 11, then take
the express lane of the Garden State Pkwy. to Exit 117. At 117, take Rte. 36
and follow the signs to Sandy Hook. The entrance to the park is at the end of
36. Follow the signs to Gunnison Beach and park in Parking Lot G. Get there
before noon if you go on a nice weekend, as the parking lot fills up early on
a warm sunny day.



Best Christmas Excursion

Bensonhurst After Dark



Santa’s a Reagan
Democrat.
We do this every year, so if you see us, say hello. It’s
a secret local Christmas pleasure, and it works like this: ride the N train
out to the 18th Ave. station, descend the stairs from the elevated into that
neighborhood’s low-slung main drag–a good urban space, with its untroubled
old women, its blazing storefronts spilling light, and everything merry under
the tinseled decorations that span the avenue–a solid cityscape the humane
working-class spirit of which hasn’t changed yet. Then veer off 18th onto
the quiet side streets, where you’ll find the bungalows and two-story houses
decorated for the season, blazing against the holiday night. Millions of lights,
explosions of color at the ends of empty streetscapes. Helium blue, radium orange,
plutonium green, fiery spectrums of deep lava reds burning like signal fires
on the darkling Brooklyn plain. (This is the sensuous Catholic decorative luxury
that drove Martin Luther to the Xanax.) You might find yourself, as we once
did, running–running through the streets–feeling your body expand
to fit this incongruous suburban geography, shooting down wide corridors of
oak-lined streets in the leaf-smelling air as light-jeweled houses explode around
you and the starry sky–for what it’s worth around here–twinkles
above. A stop at Alba’s bakery, at 18th Ave. and 70th St., where the girls
will pack you a box of the proverbial cannolis, and you’re dozing on the
train home.


Best Subway Ad

Damn Those Hallmark People!
The race for “Best Subway Ad” was
a tight one this year, with competitors ranging from the revamped Captain Morgan
campaign (featuring a clearly drunken urban threesome) to the inspirational
“Retarded MTA worker” ad. A late entry–the PBA’s terrifying
“Cops Are Stupider Than You” ad campaign (with the photo of the cop
gunned down–or merely sleeping–outside his patrol car) came in a very
close second. But when you get right down to it, the hands-down winner had to
be the now-classic “Spring Is Chain Snatching Season!”



Its design is simple and
bright and action-packed, even if the message is a little unclear. Will we get
some kind of medal or trophy if we snatch the most chains? All these years riding
the subways, and we never knew that spring was chain-snatching season! Silly,
silly us! Well, even if it’s a little late to get started right now, maybe
we can at least start practicing for next year’s competition. And hell,
if we get busted for snatching chains out of season, we can always call 1-800-INNOCENT,
and they’ll take care of everything.



Best Depressing College
Graduation Speaker

Judy Chicago, Smith College



She Ain’t No Jodie
Foster.
Ah, college graduation. Most of our last month at Smith was spent
preparing for our new job and ignoring the Class of 2000 hubbub. But come graduation
day, we were psyched and ready to share the love, drowning in Seven Sisters
tradition: the days-long celebration, with alcohol and all-white attire, ivy
and bagpipes, teas and processions. We were overtaken by the beauty of the knowledge
that we were leaving, that the epochal college experience was over, that we
would never describe ourselves as a student again; that if our father had lived
to see this, he would’ve died a happier man.



And then Judy Chicago took
the stage and fucked it all up. She was a last-minute addition to graduation:
Jodie Foster, as usual (this seems to happen every year) was slated to speak,
but canceled. We didn’t really care; Judy Chicago would be hysterical,
right? Old-school feminist artist, most famous for The Dinner Party,
her ode to the genitalia of influential women in history. Herstory, we mean.


But Judy, bless her vagina-loving
heart, just isn’t a speaker. She droned on forever, giving us the minutiae
of her life as a Female Artist. She kept reiterating that she knew what she
was saying was “dangerous” and “unpopular”–when it
wasn’t. It was boring, and depressing. We wanted to be told that we were
stars, that we were going to conquer the world. We wanted a speaker to inspire
us, to believe in us, to tell us to rock the fuck on. Instead, Judy’s main
words of wisdom were that, contrary to popular belief, we couldn’t “have
it all.” We couldn’t be successful and have a family. We couldn’t
have a career and a child both. Even the überdykes were silent: this is
what we get after four years? It’s our graduation day. Lie to us. Isn’t
that the point of college?



Best Protest that Never
Happened

Deranged Carly Simon Fans at Arista



Luna Chicks. The
e-mail had gone through at least a dozen people before it was finally sent to
our offices. “We have tentatively scheduled next Friday, June 30th as the
day we will storm the New York headquarters of Arista,” it began, “in
protest of their treatment of Carly Simon and The Bedroom Tapes… We
will burn posters of other Arista artists and CD’s. I want to stress this
is a peaceful demonstration, and not too violent. We will have bail money on
hand, should anyone be thrown in jail. We are trying to get a local radio station
to come broadcast on site and play songs from The Bedroom Tapes. We are
talking with Howard Stern currently–which would be national publicity!!
This is an excellent opportunity to promote this wonderful CD by this talented
woman!… This will not be the day that Debbie Brown chains herself in the lobby,
but we still expect this to be an event of

..