Part Three Best Way to Smoke a Doob …

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Part Three

Best Way to Smoke a Doob
in Public
High Crimes.
First of all, it’s important to roll it so that it looks
and burns like a cigarette. We tend to favor pin joints. At our advanced age,
we find the concept of the blunt wasteful and decadent, and the quality of today’s
hybrid strains being what it is, it doesn’t take much to get orbital. We
use two papers and add a little tobacco for an even burn. There are two approaches
to smoking in public: stationary and mobile. The stationary approach is best
performed at a public phone, where one can remain attentive to approaching traffic
without attracting attention. Faking a phone call is easy and concealing a joint
in the modest shelter afforded by today’s payphones is child’s play.
The mobile approach is probably safer. We simply stride purposefully down the
street holding the reefer as one would hold a cigarette, walking against traffic
so as to pick up on any approaching law enforcement difficulty before it arrives.
Never carry more than you can eat.

Best Argument Against Cultural
Literacy
Poetry on the Subways

Roses Are Red, Violets
Are Blue. Your Poetry Sucks, and So Do You.
Poetry we like. A well-heeled
Eliot quartet, Donne’s metaphysics. The ramblings of Whitman can juice
our bones, and we’ll take up with the modern greats, Simic or Patchen or
Strand, when the mood hits. We like Barnes & Noble for its magazines and
its noblesse oblige. But if Leonard Riggio wants to punctuate the infomercials
in our subway car with some verse, must it be with the ramblings of an Ingeborg
Bachmann or a Linda Hogan? We’ve long known that our parents grow older
and that it hurts when people die, or that hands can be very beautiful and expressive
things. Even Gertrude Stein, who did our favorite things with language, is here
preserved only in her Dr. Seuss-like “A Rose Is a Rose Is a Rose.”
If we’re going to be entertained with poetry on the 16-minute ride from
Brooklyn, we expect something to make us work a little. Make us swoon, chuckle,
something. But just as we refrain from putting posters of kitties declaring
“Hang On” on our office walls, we try to avoid peddling in the kind
of cliches that we’re systematically assaulted by in our public spaces.

Best E-mail Scam
“Urgent Transfer of Funds”

I’M RICH!! THOSE
STUPID AFRICANS!! THE INSTANT THAT MONEY CLEARS IT’S ADIOS, DUMBASSES!!
HA HA HA HA HA!!!!
An e-mail made the rounds a few weeks ago. One of the
oldest scams in the book has been transferred to the Internet:

URGENT TRANSFER OF FUNDS

DEAR SIR,

I am making this contact
with you based on trust and confidence irrespective of the fact that we have
not met before and because of the nature of the business I am about to introduce,
I want to remain positive having the faith and the will and convincing myself
that you will be capable to do business with me. I am extending this proposal
to you in my capacity as the chief Auditor of the Review/Audit committee scrutinizing
all records covering executed contracts awarded by the previous Military Government
of Nigeria. My colleagues and I have uncovered a floating amount of US$30 Million
without any beneficiary owing to a deliberate act of over-invoicing and illegal
inflation of contract value by some ex-Government officials who are now retired.

TO SUCCESSFULLY TRANSFER
THIS FUND WITHOUT ANY ENCUMBRANCE, WE NEED THE FOLLOWING FROM YOU IMMEDIATELY;

1. YOUR BANK NAME AND ADDRESS

2. YOUR BANK TELEPHONE,
FAX AND TELEX NUMBERS

3. YOUR ACCOUNT NAME/BENEFICIARY

4. YOUR PRIVATE TELEPHONE
AND FAX NUMBERS FOR CONFIDENTIAL MESSAGES

5. YOUR COMPANY ADDRESS.

This money has already been
approved for payment by Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and is
secured under contract No: FGN/NNPC/022996/CB/96. As top civil servants, our
code of conduct strictly prohibits us from operating Foreign Bank Account and
this is why we want to use your bank account to transfer this money outside
Nigeria for investment purposes. We have accepted you as our Foreign Partner
and will now regularize the approvals to reflect you as the true beneficiary
of the contract sum. We have resolved to give you 20% of the total sum for your
assistance. As I also guarantee 100% risk-free in the transaction. If you are
interested in this deal, please contact me as soon as you receive this message.
I am anxiously waiting for your urgent response by phone or mail.

BEST REGARDS

Best Defusing of an Ugly
Urban Confrontation
It Makes the World Go Round.
The subway car was packed when it pulled into
W. 4th St. It must’ve been the announcement over the p.a. that roused the
old bum from his slumber there on the bench. Once awake, he leapt to his feet
and began charging through the crowded car, swinging his arms, knocking commuters
out of his way while screaming, “Ex-cuse me! Ex-cuse me!”
He was a strong bastard for someone his age. Finally, just before he reached
the open doors, he slammed hard into a middle-aged woman with two armloads of
shopping bags.

Jesus Christ!”
she spat at him in a fury.

The old man stopped short
in the doorway, turned and glared back at her. “Hey lady, don’t go
givin’ me none o’ your shit–” then he smiled broadly
through his thick white beard–”because I love you.”

Best Subway Letch Move

Look, Don’t Touch.
If you ever want to master the art of letching,
there is no finer place to practice than the New York subway. One thing right
away: letching is not the same as hassling women on the street. It’s not
catcalls and not howling “Mami!” from your little bicycle and not
acting like a testosterone-drunk chimpanzee every time some female dares wear
something more revealing than a chador. Great letching is a pleasant–and
harmless–admiring glance from behind a pair of sunglasses. It’s a
sneaky peek down a low-cut shirt while straphanging. It’s about a stolen
glimpse of a pair of legs getting up from a seat. It’s about appreciation,
not aggression. And since we live in a city with the most beautiful women in
the world (a statement of fact, not politics) who also happen to take public
transportation, the MTA is the world’s best letchateria.

One of the most innocent
letches requires a crowded flight of subway stairs. With the crowds packed and
moving slowly, it’s the perfect opportunity to walk behind the discreet
object of your 40-second love affair. The delicate curve of an admirable rump
hiking up the stairs, if timed right, can be just millimeters away from your
admiring eyes. Leave exactly two steps between rear and eyes. Since this only
really works when you’re leaving the train, good stairway letching will
brighten your morning commute to work and perk up your return home. So what
if you didn’t get a seat on the D train? The subway has benefits that they
don’t tell you about at the token booth.

Best Option for Scrip-Deprived
New Yorkers
Visiting Tijuana

¡Tequila Sexo Marijuana!
A recent early-Sunday-morning meth hangover sees us bouncing off the walls of
our San Diego Best Western hotel room, itching to kill time before the departure
of our flight back to La Guardia. What’s that? Meds available south of
the border sans scrip? Really? For real? Nah, c’mon. Really?

Thanks Dateline NBC!

It only takes 20 minutes
to reach the border by foot (no need for a Cheech-and-Chong style car-search
on our way back), and then another five-minute taxi ride to the border of T-city,
and holy guacamole! What a scene! Precisely the circus we’d always heard
about. Out on squalid Revolution Blvd., donkeys painted with black and white
stripes are being pawned off as real, live African-imported zebras–available
for rides or a casual stroke–five pesos. We pass fire-eaters and brazen
hookers. Dusty-faced beggar children who work us with remarkable vigor while
we stride purposefully into the scrum for a little pharmacy surfing. After a
few minutes, we suss out the scene and target a suitable farmacia off
the beaten beaten path.

“Hey, hey. Que onda,
amigo?
You folks carry Vicodin?”

“Sorry, friend!”

Ouch!

Before we can grab our jaw
and scream abscess! another Mexican appears on the spot to correct his
coworker ever so politely.

“Forget that asshole,
amigo. Of course we got! Seven-fifties, a buck-fifty apiece. Includes the prescription.”

Prescription? Prescription
for what, we wonder. No time for introspection, though.

“Do you carry Valium?”

“Sí!”

“We’ll take 30.”

We’re on a roll now,
trying to recall names for pharmaceutical speed; unfortunately, our last two
brain cells aren’t working in concert.

“Ah, fuck it! Got any
speed?”

“Dollar apiece.”

“We’ll take 30.”

Two hours till departure.
On our way out our new pharmacist/doctor slips us the flier.

“We deliver to the
States.”

(Oh goodie! And how about
free transportation to Betty Ford while yer at it?)

“Whaddaya mean, Doc?
Like through the mail?”

“Sí. Just call
the number, amigo. Place your order, send cash only and we mail it to you.”

(We’ve since done business.
It’s for real and no, we’re not gonna publish the number.)

We load up our squeaky-clean-looking
wife’s pockets, buy a giant stuffed donkey-zebra for the hell of it and
beat it back to San Diego. Five hours, two vikeys, one Valium, one phentermine
and a 16-ounce Guinness later and we’re pulling in over Manhattan–our
besotted spines tingling with the hum and rattle of the twin Rolls-Royce turbines.
The low-slung rays of afternoon sun are glinting flash silvers off the skyscrapers
down on Wall Street. We peer out at the cool azure blue on the eastern horizon,
the warm wisps of streaky pink cloudlets that give way to the deep magenta of
the altitudes. One lid goes down, the other follows, wife slips her hand into
ours and it’s night-night, baby.

Best Way to Get Hit By a
Car
Biking over the Brooklyn Bridge

Vehicular Insult. In
retrospect, maybe biking wasn’t the best idea for someone like us. We catapult
around like an addled starlet, anxious, with all this energy, and we’re
constantly looking for things to take the pressure off. We’re like those
little dumplings you see with the fat arms who like themselves so much. So we’ve
got to keep moving to ensure we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Trouble
is, we forget to pay attention. Have no patience for it. But this time we really
did have the right of way.

Two days after we discovered
cycling–what fun, and what a convenient way to get around the city, we
thought–we were summarily smacked to the ground near the Brooklyn Bridge
by a car that seemed, from our privileged vantage point, as if it were directly
aiming to hit us. We were making that curve, about to press our front wheel
over the first demarcating line of concrete, and the car simply kept going.
We were hit and, not knowing what to do, we screamed and banged the roof of
the car, our fight-or-flight coming as something of a surprise to our desultory
assailant. He drove off. The traffic cop rushed over (where were you 10 minutes
ago? we wanted to know) to ask us why we didn’t take down the guy’s
number. Well, you know, we were under the car.

Best Advice to Receive
in a Men’s Room
Do Knot Fear.
We’d just finished an excellent meal and polished off
a couple bottles of wine in an enormous Midtown restaurant well-known for its,
um, clientele. After paying the check, we figured it might be wise to stop into
the bathroom before heading out. The night was young still, we were drunk and
there was no telling how long it would be until we’d have easy access to
a men’s room again.

After we finished our business,
and while we were washing our hands, we noticed that our right shoelace had
come untied. So before stepping back out into the narrow hallway to tie it,
or trying to maneuver through the crowded eatery to get outside before tying
it, we just leaned back against the wall for balance and bent over.

Just then, the door to the
men’s room opened and a heavyset, impeccably dressed man entered. He looked
like he broke legs for a living. We ignored him and kept tying. It was no big
deal.

But then he stopped directly
in front of us.

“You know,” he
said, his gravelly voice full of veiled threat, “if you double-knot those,
that’ll never happen again.”

We thanked him, and left.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t
the most profound nugget of advice, but the way we see it, it could’ve
been a hell of a lot worse.

Best Pathetically Ubiquitous
Fashion Accessory (This Year)
The Messenger Bag

When We See a Messenger
Bag, We Reach for Our Uzi.
Why is it that twentysomethings in New York are
such pitiful fashion lemmings? We see this year after year after year, one stupid,
ephemeral fad replacing another in an endless conga line of lameness. You live
in New York City, the best city in the world, a city that champions free thought
and celebrates its eccentrics. You’re positioned to conquer the universe.
You didn’t ALL have to wear backpacks last year, did you. You don’t
ALL have to wear messenger bags this year either. It’s not that it’s
such a terrible fashion statement–it certainly beats that white-guy head-rag
thing of some years back, and rollerblades. It’s less likely to have us
wanting to knock you on your ass in a crowded subway car than a stuffed backpack.
But Jesus, kids, would you have an independent thought for once in your lives?
Do you all HAVE to be such pathetic conformists?

Best Corporate Weasels
American Airlines

Something Sleazy in the
Air.
It was our first time bringing our sweet little puppy overseas, and
we went out of our way to make sure it’d go smoothly. In the weeks prior
to departure we called American Airlines four times to be certain her space
was reserved and all was copacetic.

“Everything’s
a go,” they told us each time. “We’ve got her space. Just bring
her health records and all’s good.”

So departure day comes.
We get to JFK, empty our luggage onto the sidewalk amidst the typical glaring-cop,
car-jam insanity and within seconds a dour-looking skycap approaches.

“You ain’t planning
to take your dog along?” he says.

“Uh, well as a matter
of–”

“Cuz there’s a
pet embargo!”

“A wha–?”

“A pet embargo.”

Weren’t embargoes reserved
for Cuba and terrorist nation-states in the Middle East? What did they have
against our dog? And why the hell didn’t they call us ahead of time to
inform us?

“When it gets too hot,
we don’t fly pets.”

“Why didn’t anyone
call us?”

“Dunno. Take it up
with a ticketing agent.”

So, leaving the luggage
with our wonderful Delancey Street Car Service driver (a candidate for sainthood!),
we and the dog hunt down a ticketing agent.

“Gee, I dunno about
this,” says the ticketing agent. Not reassuring. “Let me take it up
with my supervisor.” Returning 20 minutes later, she hands us a different
ticket and says we’ve been placed on an Air France flight leaving three
hours later. No explanation, no apology. Still, we’re not ones to complain.
As long as we and the dog are on a Paris-bound flight, we’re happy.

But here’s where it
gets tricky. At Air France our reservations are confirmed, all right, but then
we’re told we’ll need to pay the difference in ticket price, almost
$500.

“But American screwed
up!” we scream. “Shouldn’t they cover the cost?”

“Dunno, take it up
with American.”

Now we’re fuming. What?
Did they just happen to forget to tell us this, too? We and the dog hop in a
shuttle and haul it back over to the American terminal. There, the supervisor
who arranged our ticket attempts to skinny out of responsibility.

“Show me the ticket
for your dog,” she says, knowing full well that, unlike regular passengers,
tickets for pets can only be purchased at the airport on the day of travel.
It’s the very last thing you do after you’ve been confirmed on your
flight.

“If you don’t
have a ticket for your dog,” she snips, “then we have no way of knowing
you were bringing her in the first place.”

Given all the precautions
we’ve taken, this really smarts.

“But, but–”

Like a seasoned pro, she
works the bureaucratic conundrum on us and we turn mute with rage. And then
it hits us–phone calls, records. We pull out our cellphone and dial American’s
reservation number in Dallas. They confirm every one of our phone calls, the
date and time we made our dog’s reservation, the follow-up calls. (Thank
God for recorded lines!) They give us a record locator so that the supervisor
can pull up the info on her computer, and we watch with delight as her smug
little maw puckers with comeuppance. She changes our ticket without saying a
word.

And that’s it. We return
to the Air France terminal, exhausted, satisfied, but with a grudge as thick
as a 747. After all, an airline that isn’t competent enough to inform us
of a schedule change, that won’t apologize for its error and that has the
gall to try to make us pay for its mistake doesn’t deserve our business,
and certainly doesn’t deserve yours.

Best Explanation for
the Mess We’re In
A Boy Named Sue.
When the man hit the bottom of the steps at the 23rd St.
PATH station, his right foot landed in a shallow puddle. He yelped and dropped
to one knee. In a second, he was up again, fuming and limping.

“I twisted my ankle!
No–no, I broke my ankle! Christ, this place is dangerous. Even when
you try to be careful, this place’ll kill ya!”

This was all fine and good–we’ve
all been in the same situation. But then, in a voice that sounded like he’s
had experience in this sort of thing, he bellowed, “I broke my fuckin’
ankle! I’m going to sue PATH, I’m going to sue the M-T-A,
I’m going to sue the city, I’m going to sue the Mayor, I’m going
to sue the guy in the booth, I’m gonna sue…!” His voice trailed
down the corridor toward the train platform, the litany stretching until we
couldn’t hear him anymore.

And we wonder why the MTA
is considering another fare hike?

Best Chump
The Dot-Commer

You Can Still Apply to
B-School, Whitey.
Not like we didn’t see this one coming. The ride
was hot for all the little sharks in their earth-tones, rehearsing their phony-ass
Sierra Club values. But now many of those same smug, fast-talking IPO moguls
are scratching their bankrupt dicks eyeing that two-year management program
up at Tuck. All that stupid lingo–”stickiness,” “fat pipes,”
“digital penetration.” Who got penetrated digitally? Investors, that’s
who. Earnings? Screw ‘em.

But guess again, Whitey.
Some considerable downsizing by the likes of CMGI and Reel.com and many Chapter
11 filings later and it’s all looking very 1987 for your Dot-commer now.
Still, is he chastened? His swagger, reined in by humility? Is he aware that
anyone with three brain cells to rub together can spot him for the chump that
he is? On the coasts, yes, though evidence suggests he’s still BMOC in
the heartland–it’s probably relatively easy to still impress the secretarial
pool in some fern bar in Cleveland.

But there’s more pain
on the way. For everyone. By this time next year, scar tissue will be forming
and standards will be established. A dozen consumer e-commerce businesses with
actual, God-honest profits will squeeze out the last of the supposed e-vanguard.
Wall Street and the individual investor will be ruthless in their demand for
earnings (and rational p/e ratios). And all across the country, the dot-commer
will be about as popular as a plastic surgeon at a Christian Scientist convention.

Best Honoring of a Pedophile
Bench Unwarranted.
Manhattan media is an upside-down establishment. It’s
where The New York Times runs editorials suggesting that the government
step in to suppress the release of documents that might embarrass a politician–as
long as that politician is Hillary Clinton. It’s where the major gossip
columnists help cover up a big-time producer’s role in a young girl’s
drug overdose–since that television producer has a record for developing
columnists’ work into television series. And it’s where Vogue
magazine runs a big story about how women are no longer wearing their hair long–but
only after ordering all the models to go get their hair cut short.

You have to wonder why we
don’t just perch statues on top of our pigeons.

Instead, we settle for using
Central Park to mourn pathetic sleazebuckets. Yoko Ono isn’t open-minded
enough to help Mark David Chapman make his parole, but she hasn’t bothered
to protest the park bench dedicated to Michael McMorrow in Strawberry Fields.
She probably even thought it was kind of sweet, since a New York Post
article dwelled on how the 44-year-old real estate agent had been murdered by
two 15-year-olds during a “booze-fueled rampage.”

What the Post failed
to mention was that McMorrow had helped fuel that rampage by buying more alcohol
for young Daphne Abdela and Christopher Vasquez. Now, why would a gentleman–especially
a gentleman nicknamed “Irish”–ever do such a thing? Well, we
don’t usually buy the explanations of young murderers. But, considering
careful examination of the events, it seems that McMorrow didn’t know that
Vasquez was the kind of young idiot who would carry a knife, or that the kid
would step in when McMorrow forced himself on a drunken Daphne. And he certainly
couldn’t have known that Daphne was the kind of riot grrl who would then
help Christopher dump McMorrow’s disemboweled body into the Central Park
lake. Now two young alkies are in jail, a pedophile alkie is dead, and the air
seems fresher than ever in this stinking town. A plaque still needs to be vandalized,
but that’s only a matter of time. It’s been a busy summer.

Best Pick-Up Line By
a Homeless Man
Play Footsie For Me.
He was crooning Sinatra for all the ladies who passed
the corner of 7th Ave. and 21st St., where he was slouching against a mailbox.
We could hear the last bit of “Come Fly with Me” when he saw us approaching
and suddenly stopped his singing. “Smell my feet for 25 dollars,”
he suggested. What? We waited for an explanation. “I’m new
in town,” he says.

(A “Best of” within
a “Best of” that may be worth mentioning: We’re at a roof party,
everyone’s naked in a hot tub, and the guy across from us asks us if he
may place his foot on our “pudenda.” Why? “For the tactility.”
We consult our copy of Psychopathia Sexualis to see if we’ve seized
on “Best New Deviance”: a foot fetish where the fetish is his
foot, not ours.)

Best Subway Sign Modification
Jingo A-Go-Go.
Way at the far end of the downtown side of the 23rd St. F
stop, there’s a big ad sponsored by the PBA, encouraging kindhearted types
with a sense of community to apply to the police academy. In the picture, a
smiling female cop is warmly embracing a small, smiling Asian girl.

“She will hug the neighborhood,”
the ad reads, “the way she hugs me.”

Beneath the photo, someone
has added his own catchphrase. In much larger, more prominent neat block letters
(it actually took us a second to realize that it wasn’t part of the sign),
it reads, “Got Dumplings?”

Best Bikeway
Riverside Park, North of 96th St.

Path of Least Resistance.
First it’s some moron in an SUV the size of Parsippany muscling us off
34th St. Then it’s the taxi that clipped us on 3rd Ave., knocking us down,
bloodying our elbow and knee and raising a baseball-sized lump on our hip. Then
there’s that pissy, overprivileged Upper West Side matron with the dumpy
ass and frizzy hair dealing out some schoolmarmish lecture on how to ride legally
through intersections. As any city biker can tell you, if it’s not a car
door opening in your path or a cabbie cutting you off, it’s a suicidal
pedestrian defying you not to hit them.

The whole idea of riding
a bike is escape: escape your apartment, your work. Other people. That madding
crowd pisses us off more and more every day. When we get on the bike, our destination
is always the same: a flat, paved route free of rollerbladers, joggers and three-abreast
walkers where we can pedal our asses off. We don’t get it, but it’s
possible to come close.

Now, far be it from us to
praise anything that happened under Giuliani’s watch, but the growth of
bikeways along the waterfront is one of the bright spots to come out of Rudy’s
otherwise grim tenure. Generations of New Yorkers past let the Hudson and East
Rivers die deaths that no great city rivers should. But times are different.
The economy doesn’t need the docks anymore, and these days the Mafia dumps
bodies in New Jersey. It’s easy to piece together stretches of riverfront
bike paths that are a joy to ride on (when not clogged with slow-walkers and
tsk-tsking New York Times readers).

To get away from the world
on two wheels, find a stretch of asphalt nobody else particularly wants: the
2-foot wide path from 96th to 125th on the Hudson. Riding uptown, you’re
only one boulder away from the water, and on your right is the zooming traffic
of the West Side Hwy. The farther you get away from the sclerotic Riverside
Park and closer to Harlem, the fewer people you see. It may not be the most
picturesque stretch of bikeway, but it is flat and it’s invariably vacant.
For the avid NYC biker, this humanity-free path is Nirvana on a seat.

Best Hip Intoxicant
Absinthe

Makes the Heart Grow
Fonder.
Sure does. But man, that burns going down! “Mean, green and
back in fashion.” That’s the gospel, according to certain hipster
acquaintances out in Cobble Hill who’ve been brewing their own absinthe
for about a year now. There’s clean stuff out there, but be careful. If
someone you don’t know tries to sell you a bottle of absinthe, you’re
likely to get injured or ripped off. According to our brewer friends, taken
in high doses, thujone, the psychoactive ingredient found in wormwood, can cause
convulsions, kidney failure and rhabdomyolysis, a potentially fatal affliction
that causes destruction or degeneration of muscle fiber. Put simply, absinthe
can kill you. But then again, so can that Macy Gray album if taken in high doses.

No, the bigger risk is that
you’ll buy a bottle from one of those British importation outfits and it’ll
be brewed from diluted wormwood oil; you’ll wind up drinking a brew that’s
about 80 percent ethanol (drinking alcohol), with only trace amounts of thujone.
You’ll get nasty drunk, but your buzz’ll lack the psychedelic effect
for which this bitter libation is so well known. Then you’ll be forced
to lie to your friends about the warm, ecstatic, joyous visions you experienced.
(Hardly accurate modifiers to describe your dark night of wretch-and-heave,
wouldn’t you say?)

Still, if your grasping,
alterna-artstar tendencies require you to emulate the likes of Verlaine and
Van Gogh right down to the addiction, then be smart and order an absinthe starter
kit at www.rain.org/~philfear/absinthe.html. It comes with basic brewing instructions,
mixology tips, herbs, spices and wormwood. Bottoms up!

Best Gratuitous Nudity
P.S. 1′s “Warm Up”

Naked as Olympians.
P.S. 1′s been hosting this summer series for the past three years, but
for the first two we were wary. The thought that all those LES/L.I.C. folk moving
around to electronic music was enough to keep us away. Lured by the promise
of public nudity, though, we finally checked it out this summer. The space was
fitted with a cabana, a “beach” and a working sauna, which was free
to the public under the stipulation that one would bear one’s gonads to
those in the nearby beerstand lines. We’re game. Why not? We ran Naked
Mile in college.

We slide off our pants,
underwear and bra, are led into one of two corrugated metal rectangles and let
the steam knead pockets of tightness that have worked our backs, necks, shoulders.
The sauna proprietor knocks for us. Are we ready? We’re ready. We walk
out, stand straight, stare out at those clogged beer lines to our left and right
and let her douse us with cold water from a spigot she holds up to our heads.
Only after we’ve stood up straight does the lady give us a towel to wrap
around our bottom half or both halves (not like our actress friend at the gym,
who waves her muscular tits at us like they’re going out of style). We
wait for our friend to bring us a beer on the bench. It’s excellent…drum
‘n’ bass over the fabricated wall to our left and a fake beach contracted
out by the Columbia School of Architecture alumni facing front… Everyone’s
European anyway, and no one cares about a pair of tits… Also there’s
the exhilaration of being naked in front of people who aren’t. When we’re
relaxed we head inside, lie on a “bed of sound,” dip our feet in paint,
swing.

Best Despicable New Mode
of Transportation
Those Fold-Up Scooters

Mean, Mean Ride.
We don’t know where the hell they came from. We don’t even know what
they’re called, officially. But quite suddenly, as of a few months ago,
they were everywhere. In every neighborhood, on every sidewalk, rolling
unsteadily beneath the planted foot of every goddamn kid in New York City. They’re
like the mayflies of transportation.

We aren’t exactly sure
why these things annoy us the way they do, apart from their ubiquity, and the
fact that they keep getting in our way. The turning point may have been last
June. We were walking across 28th St., through the makeshift jungle set up by
the plant wholesalers, when suddenly, heading straight toward us, came this
40-year-old fuckstick in a suit and tie, cellphone planted to one ear, sweating,
huffing, kicking his ungainly bulk along on one of those monstrosities. It was
a horrifying vision–and worse yet, we had to dive into the plants to avoid
being struck.

We hated skateboards too,
when they were everywhere five years ago, but nowadays, seeing a kid on a skateboard
is actually a relief. At least skateboards can be customized and given a little
personality. At least there was a culture around skateboarding, with its own
music and lingo. These metal jobs are all exactly the same. There’s nothing
unique about them, nothing unique about the people who use them. They’re
the Tommy Gear of transportation. They’re the cellphones of transportation.
And what’s more, they don’t, so far as we can determine, seem to work
very well.

So much the better.

Best Proof That NYC Is Dead
Saturday Night at Sound Factory

618 W. 46th St. (betw. 11th
& 12th Aves.)

489-0001

Pretty Vacant. An
ongoing argument with our friend revolves around the statement that New York
City is dead. Dead as in irrelevant. She posits in the affirmative, noting the
changed clientele in many of her favorite haunts. The loss of Times Square.
The homogenization and sterilization. Et cetera. Predictably contrarian, we
claim that the city’s supposed demise is quite likely in the eye of the
beholder. We argue that her opinion is a reflection of her own changes. Oh sure,
like the rest of this country, New York City now has enough Starbucks to host
every family of five in from Iowa. And there are more tie-over-the-shoulder
handjob types chugging at the pub than ever before. But the dirt is still there.
Not in Times Square, granted, but just because the Greeks no longer rule half
a hemisphere doesn’t mean there’s no more assfucking in the world.

And speaking of assfucking:
that’s what we were looking for that night. Well, not assfucking specifically.
We weren’t cruising. Rather, assfucking as a metaphor, as a symbol of hedonistic
indulgence, of danger in the city. And it could be anyone’s ass
being fucked. Male or female. We just wanted to see something a little wicked.

Swinging over to Sound Factory
at 2 a.m. certainly wasn’t our idea, but that of a friend of a friend from
Queens (of course). We’d been absent from all sorts of NYC clubs
for years, so her description of Sound Factory as a decadent, sex-infused den
of sin piqued us. We like sin. We’re still a bit decadent, especially when
the pack provokes and/or inspires us. We’re game, we said. Bring it on.

Half an hour on line outside:
fine. Invasive frisk: fine. $35 cover: fine, fine, fine. A club’s a club,
and a certain amount of hassle is required to lend the appropriate air of exclusivity.
Inside, there was hope: at the end of the bar on the topmost floor was a 3/4-naked
woman, squatting atop the counter, surrounded by a gang of slackjawed, wide-eyed
yahoos standing shoulder to shoulder, packed box-of-straws tight. We expected
to see a stream of ping-pong balls come flying from an unseen pussy. (And because
this is the Age of Branding, maybe her pubic mound would be shaved into the
Sound Factory logo. Or maybe the name of her website.) This was going to fucking
rule! A barrage of glistening ping-pong balls, glowing under all the
goddamn blacklight, popping over the heads of fat-pupiled, rolling Jersey meatballs.

No such luck. Her crotch
was concealed by pleather. Her tits the same, even. She was simply posing with
boys while they waited to be served at the juice bar. But fuck it: fine,
fine, fine. We expected too much too soon. Maybe downstairs…

Where we found…nothing
interesting. More sweaty assholes. More pounding beats. The skanks leading each
other around in collars were just run-of-the-mill cokewhores. The buff, waxed
boys with studded collars and nipple rings were just Chelsea fags playing dress-up.
No golden showers on a platform. No bloody fisting on the bar. No good-natured
degradation and mild, temporary damage. No assfucking for the crowd’s pleasure.
Even the bathrooms were fairly tame: some doubling up in the stalls, but that
was strictly coke–no obnoxious, loud rutting like we’ve heard even
in places as tame as Mars Bar.

We’re sure there are
plenty of interesting and dangerous clubs out there. S&M. Degradation. Assfucking.
But those clubs aren’t just around. Clubs like Sound Factory are
around. That’s where people go. It’s their destination because
they don’t know where else to go. Let the bridge-and-tunnel pussies go
to those places because they’re easy to find. Let them think they’re
actually in New York City. That they’re crazy.

So, um, sure, New York City
is dead. Whatever it takes to make you believe it ain’t worth the trip
across the river.

Best Shameless Poseur
Accessory
Dickweed Phony World Tour 2000.
We’re on the L train at 3 a.m. when
something on the t-shirt on the guy across from us jabs at our brain. It’s
definitely the t-shirt, not the guy himself, since he’s one of those pale,
gaunt, deliberately scruffy early 20s hipsters who seem to breed like mushrooms
in the city’s dank spots, constituting a plague of sorts. The shirt is
one of those antique thrift-store jobs, and we can tell there’s some musician’s
image silkscreened on it, but we don’t recognize the picture. We keep stealing
glances at the shirt, partially hidden behind a denim jacket, until finally
we make out all the words: Bill Graham Presents Live at Zellerbach Auditorium
Graham Parker and the Rumour
. And immediately we wonder: Does this guy even
know who Graham Parker is? Does he even know who Bill Graham was? Graham Parker
just played a concert up at Woodstock–what d’you think are the odds
this diehard was there? Can someone tell us when fake became cool?

Best New Jersey Transit
Moment
The Guitarist and the Dwarf

Human Dwarf-Box.
This was great: a moment of eccentric fellowship on the Train of the Lost as
it wriggled under the Styx and into Penn Station’s toxic gut.

And actually, the guitarist
could sort of play, couldn’t he? Late 30s, early 40s, skinny mulatto
guy, resembling in his flyaway hair and wisps of facial hair a Caucasoid/Negroid
Carlos Santana, standing near the door in a sleeveless t-shirt with an acoustic
guitar slung over his chest, scratching out “Voodoo Chile”-sounding
chords all wocka wocka wocka and bouncing on his feet to his own quiet
falsetto. It was nice. On commuter trains the impulse is to keep your head down
against the possibility that the gentleman from Short Hills will brain you with
his briefcase for disturbing his inhalation of the morning’s Financial
Times
; or, worse, against every suburbanite’s fear that, when the train
doors open in Newark, some frothing soldier of the underclass will board and
riddle the carriage with bullets. But here was this aging hippie straight out
of the Berkeley 70s, without compunctions, amusing himself with his bouncing
and his falsetto and his shicka shicka shicka.

Then, as the train pulled
into Penn, the scene was augmented. A dwarf (or was he a midget?) materialized
from somewhere in the train’s depths. Perhaps, we surmised, he had an engagement
with a Manhattan carnival; or he’d been contracted by the MTA to toddle
from car to car, blacking boots. And not your run-of-the-mill dwarf, either,
but a fierce representative of his tribe, his dwarf-feet jammed into stout dwarf-booties,
his big old dwarf-head belligerent under watch cap and dwarf-piratical beard.
A dwarf’s dwarf, in other words.

And one who stopped in front
of the musician, raised his arms and, instead of shoving his instrument up his
ass–as the odds dictated he’d do–cupped his hands against his
mouth and, unsolicited, started laying down a beat-box rhythm under the guy’s
percussive strumming.

It sounded cool. It was
cool. The guitarist didn’t bat an eyelash; just threw back his head and
continued his crooning as he scratched at his strings chucka chucka chucka
and the beat-box dwarf bopped and beat-boxed about. Two strangers who, in the
context of a commuter train, could only have been considered out of place, finding
each other and–yes–making what you could call beautiful music.

The doors opened, the dwarf
and the guitarist exchanged a soul handshake–”Arright, bro,”
said the guitarist; the dwarf said nothing; maybe, we surmised, he communicates
only in beat-box Morse code–and they spilled out into the station, the
guitarist presumably to play a streetcorner, the dwarf to get himself shot out
of a circus cannon, or whatever it is dwarves do to make a living in a town
where consumers seek novel thrills.

Best Excuse for Midsummer
Depression
July’s Triple Eclipses

We’ll Take That.
A sweet friend of ours once wrote a list of characteristics he loved about us.
Besides noting our penchant for dorky hats, he observed that we were Usually
in a Good Mood. Which is true: we are, usually, in a Good Mood.

But this summer’s been
different. We’ve been melancholy. Pensive. Unsure. We couldn’t explain
it: working at a kickass job, living in a cute Brooklyn apartment with our girlfriends.
Enough money for drinks. What could be wrong? It must be something beyond our
control: fate, or God, or something.

And then, during a phone
conversation, a friend provided the answer after listening to a rant about our
underlying unhappiness: “You know,” she said, “there were three
eclipses in July. It’s messing everyone up. People are experiencing abnormal
amounts of fear and anxiety. Everyone feels this way. It’s natural.”
After testing this theory out on coworkers and friends, we realized that it
rang true: everyone–or, at least, everyone we knew–was feeling unduly
fearful and anxious. We suddenly developed a belief in astrology. That must
be it, we thought. And if it’s not, at least it’s something to blame.
We’d rather believe in that than waste money on therapy, or time on, you
know, thinking. We’re glad it’s autumn. It’ll all be better.

Best Breach of Gentrified
Quality-of-Life
Showboating Asshole Rollerbladers at Hudson River Park

At Least They Aren’t
Using Those Scooters.
Hudson River Park has always been kind of a weird
place–that creepy, surreal bronze sculpture installation with the feet
and the faces and the stylized animals, the pristine ambience surrounded by
slums. All the fat people without shirts. Still, if you make the trek all the
way over to the west side and down, it’s a nice place to spend a sunny
afternoon–the water, the lawn, the boats. It’s quite tranquil.

Except.

Yes, except for those goddamn
flamboyant rollerbladers. We thought they were an extinct species, but we were
wrong. If you get it in your head to take a quiet stroll down the brick-paved
walk along the river, you’d better be on your guard. Before you know it,
you’ll be surrounded by hairy, shirtless men in fluorescent short shorts
careening toward you, backwards, as they try to show the world how fucking graceful
they are. Pirouetting this way and that, not looking, lost in the moment, swinging
their legs around like some hormonal reject from the Bolshoi. Even more than
simply being a danger to the elderly and the infirmed out there to enjoy the
day, they’re embarrassing to the rest of us. Swishy little showoffs, apparently
anxious to churn the guts of anyone who’ll look–and there are too
many of them not to.

This is why we’ve written
to the City Parks commissioner, urging him to equip every normal person who
enters the park with a long, sharp stick.

Best Reason Not to Buy
McNeil Stock
Pull “The Daisy.”
If you watch CNN Headline News at 9 a.m. weekdays,
you’ve seen it: “The Daisy,” a commercial for Tylenol Allergy
Sinus pills. It comes on about 9:11; you know the one. An isolated couple is
sitting on a vast expanse of grass that could belong to an institution (it’s
too big and empty to be a park, private lawn or school grounds). He–let’s
call him David–is a slightly hydrocephalic-looking twentysomething, and
is pulling petals off a daisy while droning: “She loves me. She loves me
not.” He’s actually explaining the game, it appears, to his
companion–say, Lisa–who, to put it gently, has a look of simplicity
about her. Bad haircut, easily amused, twentysomething herself and doesn’t
know the daisy game. At the end of the spot, David pulls the last petal and
says–what luck!–”She loves me.” Now Lisa, unbeknownst to
either David or us viewers, is a quick study and has caught on so well that
she can make a joke: “NOT! Huh huh huh huh,” she giggles giddily,
through big teeth.

Here’s the especially
annoying part: “The Daisy” (whose voiceover tells us that you can
sit on grass and not sneeze if you use the Tylenol product) has been running
for months and months and months. We’ve seen it literally every weekday
since last spring at least.

Which inspires no consumer
confidence in the McNeil Consumer Products Co., parent company of Tylenol (Motrin,
too). This has to be a huge company, with profits no doubt in the gazillions,
and all they can afford is one measly Tylenol commercial? We e-mailed them to
ask them to put another spot into rotation. They got right back to us: “…Although
we were sorry to learn of your disappointment with our TYLENOL (TM) Allergy
Sinus commercial, we appreciate the confidence in our company that prompted
you to contact us…” To which we replied: “…we never said we were
‘disappointed’ with the commercial, we said you’ve been running
it forever, and that a big corporate giant like Tylenol should be able to afford
more than one spot.”

We never heard back. And
“The Daisy”‘s still running. If the McNeil/ Tylenol honchos can
only afford one commercial, then they’ve grossly mismanaged the company
profits; else, they have no understanding of marketing and advertising. Does
either scenario make you want to invest in the company?

Best Target for Vandalism

CowParade Cows

Beef. Graffiti is
someone else’s idea of art on public property. It’s usually some esthetically
challenged individual’s crude, self-aggrandizing mark, placed more or less
indelibly where an entire population has little choice but to notice. Aerosol
scribble on a subway train is one instance; knife etchings in a park bench are
another. Some more prominent examples are the hundreds of lifesize fiberglass
cows planted on sidewalks all over NYC this summer. Of course, if this bovine
graffiti looks good to you, Sharpie embellishments upon their molded hides are
most unwelcome.

But don’t try to tell
us this represents any more of an insult to the body politic than the stupid
cows being put there in the first place. At least you don’t have to step
around spray paint, or weave through herds of tourists photographing park-bench
carvings. Whoever decided to further crowd Manhattan’s walking spaces with
plastic cows doesn’t own the damn sidewalks any more than we do. And we
don’t like the stupid fucking cows.

Best New Plants in Town
Westway/West Side Hwy.

They Brought Us a Shrubbery.
The new roads are finally being finished along the Westway, to replace the part
of the West Side Hwy. that simply fell down. As part of the work there have
been sweet trees and shrubs planted to relieve the violent aridity of the old
road. The vegetation provides great pleasure and visual relief. And the traffic
pattern may actually work–it seems to have been thought out very carefully.

Best Con Artists
Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche

Actually, She Was Hoping
for Sinead.
The dream may be over, but there are still plenty of reasons
to hate Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche. Consider this pathetic testament from
doting mom Betty DeGeneres, the real estate broker who’s now trying to
convince us that a carpet-munching offspring makes her the Virgin Mary by association.
It seems that Betty was with Ellen and Anne in Manhattan, and they actually
found a poor young woman standing in the rain, wearing nothing but a trash bag.
Mother Betty picks up the story from there, as told in The Advocate:
“We were all horrified, but Anne and Ellen were affected more than any
of us. They both had tears in their eyes, and Anne was saying, ‘No! No!’”

Actually, Anne was probably
arguing with the radio transmissions from her mother ship. Anyway, the two gals–being
more affected than any of us–ran into a nearby Disney Store and bought
the poor lady some clothes. They also handed over $10. As Betty reminds us,
“They care so much–for all mankind.”

That’s damn inclusive
of them. The only problem is that we see this dame in the garbage bag all the
time, usually working the Broadway area. We used to call her “Tawana.”
Given her ability to impress an actress who’s actually worked with the
likes of David Schwimmer, however, we’ve now decided to call her “Miss
Tawana.”



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