What is it with people and their exes? I am talking about girls and guys, people, who, have split up, and yet, are unable to separate themselves from each other’s lives. Esme, I’ve broken up, and well, what I really mean is, we are taking a break from each other but talk three times a day. Or better yet, Esme I am ignoring his passive aggressive emails but I will post hints about my sex life on my Myspace profile. These accounts are bullshit and I have been subjected to them long enough.
I will not lie. I have done some pretty low shit in my lifetime. When I dumped my first girlfriend via telephone. I spent the following weeks, months, on and off year, stalking her and her life online. These events were followed by a spattering of awkward phone calls in which I interrogated her about her current life. As someone who had wanted to separate my life from hers, I ultimately got myself knee high in uncomfortable details and animosity. The worst part of the situation was that I forced myself to connect with her knowing that with each event I would endure excessive jealously and anger. Talking to an ex was like drinking after going to rehab—all that work for nothing.
Seeing the relationship quandaries that my friends get themselves into, I know that this social recklessness goes beyond me. So, why do we do it? I have a few thoughts on this. One, we are all masochists in the end; and two; we have the need to persuade ourselves post break-up that we made the right decision.
When a break-up occurs, the dumped person is inclined to create a wall of self-preservation. The mortar is made from beer, your nostalgia favorites from early 90s and, most importantly, 2-3 changes to your online profile or aim icon. Something along the lines of a status change, an introspective quote or more sullen selection of music favorites. These are messages to the friends that said person is staying strong and bitter.
The breaker-upper of course is also in the know and reacts to this. Rarely do exes actually disconnect, un-friend or distance themselves from one another—that would be too logical. The breaker-upper sees these messages and is propelled to demonstrate that she/he is also better than before. The break-up has transitioned from sentimentality and remorse to a technological showdown of passive-aggressive action. The worse part of these changes is that both sides provoke one another. The exes take on facades, which they use to provoke each other. Why do they do it? I don’t know. I guess they want to hurt each other. They want to make themselves believe that they will be better off or at least unable to go back.
Months ago, I’d argue that the pair should be left in the backyard to fight it out to their emo deaths. I guess time and the emotional depravity of my life have changed me. Looking at my friends’ lives, I don’t see Ricki Lake queens but bitter people. I know who the exes were before when they were people. It is hard to juxtapose my portraits of the people with the disengaged personas they are trying to erect. I have thus decided that either the exes need to stop the emotional warfare or I need to get my own helmet.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
If you were paying attention last week, you'll recall that I got stood up by my potential Friday evening love interest and was forced to fly wingman to my buddy Buddy as he attempted to deflower one or more females from his postgraduate institution. Whether or not I joined in on that quest isn't the point; actually, there is no point, other than to segue into this scene: I'm sitting at my desk on a Friday morning, not working (but appearing to work- I click my mouse violently on occasion to signal frustration with my imaginary task), minding my own business as I scan ESPN.com, when my Friday night date cancels on me again via email. This is a different girl, and a new old story (not feeling well), but the same rotten feeling.
Typical male logic presents two options:
A) Get extraordinarily drunk, identify one or more loose women while out on the prowl, and try to schedule an appointment at the free clinic for later next week; or
B) Instead try to schedule a last minute meet with someone else of at least semi-legitimate interest, in this case the subject of my rejection the week prior.
Already quite adept at option A, I settled on sending a missive to Miss Fabulous, a fashion designer, world traveler, and absolutely smoking hottie. In fact, should she make out with me at some point, it would qualify as the hottest mouth I've ever inserted my tongue into. (I haven't mentioned this to her, of course.) She responded that she couldn't go out with me directly, as she works one or two nights a week at a club in Chelsea; however, if I were so inclined, I could stop by the club and she could take a break and hang out with me for awhile.
Of course I could do that. This smelled like major brownie points for me. But I'd need some wingpeople to help me out- that much is certain.
I met Andy at Pete's Tavern around midnight to have a beer or three; Tiger and the GF Muggsy would join soon after. I chose Pete's not because of the history (opened 1864) or the ambiance (it's just a pub) or the beer (pretty standard selection with a bent toward the Irish) or the sociability (it can sometimes get way too crowded), but because it was reasonable walking distance to the ultimate destination, which I'll save as a surprise. Nevertheless, the history is cool, the ambiance is friendly, the Guinness is a solid pour, and the place was pleasantly buzzing without being difficult to navigate as I met my three friends. Of course, they wanted the lowdown on how I stumbled into this phone number, and I was more than happy to oblige. I explained that I met Miss Fabulous at a friend's party, and (inexpicably) instead of asking for her number, I instructed her to find me via Facebook. The following Wednesday, she did, explaining that she delayed only because she "didn't want to appear too anxious." "She digs you!" shouted Andy, with a shade more incredulity than I thought was necessary. Nevertheless, I could not fault his logic; despite the prior week's no-show, it appeared that yes, she dug me.
After perhaps one too many beers we began the walk over to Duvet. Yes, that Duvet. I'd never been there but was aware of the reputation, and Miss Fabulous was sure to warn me beforehand: "...it happens to be the most popular nightclub in the city, if you are Mexican and on welfare." I thought that this was just a joke initially, but as I approached the door I stopped laughing: the line outside appeared to be low-ranking gang members and single-mother hookers. (Yikes.) We were waved right in, of course, in retrospect much too quickly; I would later remark to Miss Fabulous that normally when I approach a place with a line and am accompanied by more dude than chick, I have a little trouble. Not so here: just a pat-down for weapons by a woman with a mustache and a twenty to the door. I could tell I was gonna love this place.
The hook for Duvet would appear to be the beds; instead of tables or booths throughout the 20,000 square foot two-level space, they have custom beds with foam "mattresses" set throughout for bottle service and the like. Another cool feature is the one-way-mirrored unisex bathroom, which would be more functional and architecturally interesting if the light effects were coordinated with the mirroring; as it is, it's just creepy as you watch someone walk up to your stall and try and open the door as you hope to (the Christian) God that you locked that door well as you're taking a crap. (Not that I took a crap there. I'm just sayin'.) Back on the main floor, there's an expansive dance floor whose populace appears likely to erupt in spontaneous gunfire or orgy, or both; and oversized, rectangular bar is fashioned out of some underlit cracked-ice lucite that looks extraordinarily cheap. Of course, the drinks are overpriced and watered-down.
I could tell my crew was uncomfortable. Duvet is not our scene. The onus was on me: buy the beers and find the girl. So I bought the beers. She found us, walking as if on a cloud of air. Tiger and Andy's eyes lit up as she approached.
"Is that her?!" Again, a bit too much incredulity, there, Tiger.
Yes, guys. Down.
She escorted us back to a bed, and Andy remarked that he was amazed that a place like this would use so much blacklight given the likelihood of protein stains on the sheets. I shook my head and laughed, as Miss Fabulous laughed, and then I looked more closely at the beds to confirm or disconfirm Andy's "joke." The surreality of my situation was starting to sink in: on a pseudo-date with a girl well out of my established league accompanied by my jackass buddies with only Muggsy as a mediator to keep them in line while I caroused around a night club that has a death toll. I wasn't sure how to feel about this. Also oddly, she's not a waitress, really; she "works" bottle service, meaning she brings out bottles and mixers and is paid to hang out with crowds and look hot. She does this rather well, I'd say- Again, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I do like how it looks, though.
Since she had no real work to do, she was able to entertain me for over an hour, telling me about the times she got attacked by women in the club and how she's only doing this for a few more months; I made a few dumb remarks and made her laugh a few times. We separated from the group fairly quickly and made our way to our own bed to chat until she had to close down. Of course, little tangible headway would be made on this night, as Miss Fabulous did of course have to work a little. So a bit after 3am I said my goodbye and navigated the protoplasm to the exit, largely unscathed. As for Andy and Tiger, they were ejected for smoking cigarettes inside fifteen minutes of sitting down. Muggsy notified us of the "bad news"; Miss Fabulous tried to go off to rescue them (because she's got the juice) but Muggsy stopped her.
Yeah, they did that on purpose. It's good to have buddies you can count on.
Until next time...
New York, NY 10003-2401
Phone: (212) 473-7676
New York, NY 10010
Phone: (212) 989-2121
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Alice and I are driving through Chicopee, Massachusetts. It is 1:40am. The sky above is illuminated. All the stars are out and the many drive-throughs are lit up. There is only a small group of us who are awake. The only people on the road are truck drivers, bar fleers and ‘chimney enthusiasts.’ Besides our obvious professional differences, we are not that distant from each other. We crawl from the scattered 7-11s to the Taco Bell drive-throughs. We do not pause at the register. We have been here before. “Yes, Tino, I know what menu item I want.”
A half hour earlier, as happens on most Tuesday nights at 1am, Alice and I have come to our usual conclusion, “Shit, we are out.” Like my friend the truck driver or the local lush, changing this situation is as common as changing lanes. Alice locates her phone and dials Todd, our friendly local pizza delivery-boy and entrepreneur. Yes, that’s right, a two-for-one job role.
Flashback two months earlier. Alice, dazed as usual, decides at around 2am, that she wants pizza. The delivery guy, Todd, a pierced-up white-boy with a three-inch goatee, arrives, smells her living room and then offers to deliver her more than pepperoni next time. It is people like Todd who make western Mass, western Mass—a place of low hills, broken-down mills and…locals. The locals are my favorite part of western Mass-- in particular, my late-night entrepreneurs. It is this group that defines western Mass for me. They aren’t logistically the best representatives of the area, but they are always ones I end up writing about.
I don’t know what it is about them, but each one has an element of strange that you can create with other professions. My second case subject, Ben, arrived after Todd disappeared and was fired from his job. Ben was twenty-something who held no day-job. I think the only thing he did during the day was sleep and masturbate. He could be best compared to a D-and-D science geek spliced with an ex-Rastafarian—a lanky white boy with brown dreads and an interest in stunt shows.
The first time I met Ben, I walked into his windowless studio behind a used car lot. Ben was on his makeshift bed/couch/office desk. Seated beside him, were two over-weight teenage girls, apparently amidst a confusing Goth-phase. I’d later learn that both had dropped out of high school because of Ben’s words of wisdom. The pair had met Ben over the Internet and now one or both of them were dating him. I can imagine the ad would have read something like, “Introspective, healthy female pair seek an adventurous and independent adult male.” My favorite thing about Ben’s layer, er, apartment, were the stacks of pizza boxes lining his walls. When I say stacks, I mean, that the guy was insulating his apartment with layers of cardboard and decaying cheese grease. When I first saw the boxes, I thought of Todd. Had Todd been here? Maybe the stealthy twins scared ate him.
Anyways, I didn’t go back to Ben’s place. It wasn’t because of the pizza boxes, but the two girls. I worried that, in my mental condition, I would start asking them inappropriate questions. What website did you meet on? Can I read your ad? Eventually, Ben, like the crust remnants in his old pizza boxes, disintegrated from my life too.
The final of my Western Mass entrepreneurs was Susanne, my middle-aged boss at work. Susanne owned a small café, which never made money. I didn’t know how Susanne exactly survived besides living in squalor, I mean minimal conditions and selling other things.
Her apartment was a disaster area, reeking of aging yarn, liquor and leftover seafood salad from the café. Everytime I entered her place, a waft of bourbon and salmonella hit me immediately. Usually, Susanne had already had half a bottle of Old Portrero. She would often offer me a drink but I’d learned to say no a while back. Drinking and buying from Susanne was always a bad decision. I knew I’d leave two hours later, smelling like old carpet, with a bad deal. The funny thing about Susanne was she got really paranoid when you just wanted to buy from her. There was no such thing as completing a hop-stop at Suzanne’s. You instead had to ‘shoot the shit’ with her for ten minutes—ease her into the deal. Ironic isn’t it? We’d, or well, she’d talk about anything from her roady experiences in the 1980s to time she was a line cook at the local hotel. Whatever it was, it was the consequence for her low price tag.
You might think that Susanne, like Ben, was too weird to work with. Maybe. Then again this was western Mass, the land of the weird and the rural. What other options were there?
For Alice: One day I did write a story about you.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Last weekend a buddy (Let's call him Buddy) of mine was in from Philly due to the Easter holiday. I'm not much of an Easter guy; I like chocolate and candy as much as the next guy, but Easter seems to still carry far too much religious significance and not enough bunny. Hopefully, sometime in the future, Easter will go the way of Giftmas and become so commercialized that the religion is all but stamped out, leaving an (egg)shell of holiday without any of that pesky meaning. Unfortunately, the Easter Bunny currently doesn't carry the same mythology with it as Santa Claus. I think this is a shame. The Germans invented the character based upon the notorious fertility of rabbits symbolizing spring and rebirth; I would have expected some marketing guru to have capitalized on this by now and turned Easter into the national Viagra day. It seems totally within the realm of possibility that we can soften Christian dogma into a celebration of male potency. This is an end to be devoutly wished.
So Buddy's family lives in Connecticut but was holding the weekend festivities in New York. He had obligations starting at 11am Sunday, most of which just required his presence. Of course, achieving physical presence becomes more complicated after an evening out with yours truly. In fact, that sounds like an invitation for trouble. Did he heed sanity, responsibility, and the will of (the Christian) God that Easter Wild Oat Sowing Sunday be held sacred?
Of course not.
We began at Corner Bistro. Everybody knows this place, and hopefully you get the chance to go someday if you've not already been. The quick rundown: The interior of the place has the rustic, lived-in feel that one only finds in a place that's been open since before your parents were born. There are no real surprises here other than that a place like this can still exist in post-postmodern New York. It's got a standard setup of a bar out front with additional seating for diners in the back, and you'll note that the big crowd around the bar isn't just a crowd- it's the line to eat. Conveniently located next to the bar, you can slug 12oz glasses of the dark or the pale at $2.50 a pop while you wait to be seated. Buddy and I went through about four each while contemplating the length of the line and the lack of solid food in our stomachs. The menu itself is equally straightforward, totaling 9 items, three of which are variations of burger. One time as a group of 4, I simply motioned with my hand that yes, we'd like one of everything. Order a salad and you might get kicked out.
Buddy and I left the Bistro sated and semi-drunk already- the beer goes down like water over there. We made our way over to Art Bar, where we were to meet a couple of his friends from school and I had hoped a pretty dish might meet me out as well. Well, we arrived and... wouldn't you know it, the chicks are late. Further, my interest hadn't called me back and I was beginning to doubt my instincts about her. With nothing (and no one) to do, Buddy and I sat down at the end of the bar nearest the jukebox and went to work.
We like this place because we can hear ourselves think inside; it seems to be one of the dwindling few NYC dives that is geared towards people actually beings social instead of spending the night screaming in each others' ears and fondling strangers in crowds. The front space has an extra-long bar area with banquette booths along the wall for larger parties; the back is filled with couches that may or may not have been pulled off the curb. (I have witnessed some fondling occurring in the back space, but that's another matter.) Buddy and I spent our time cutting through beers and commanding the jukebox, which resulted in an overabundance of Pat Benatar's "We Belong." I decline to make excuses for that. I don't care who you are- that song rules. We overheard waitresses singing along whenever it came on, and as such I'd become convinced that despite my callous and detached persona, I'm deeply, secretly, instinctively sensitive to the needs of women. Yes, I was pretty drunk at this point, and my girl still hadn't called.
Finally, Buddy's girls showed up and wanted to go to an apartment party in the neighborhood. Buddy and I were cocked, bordering on redonkulous. We agreed to go. Things get fuzzy here, and I may or may not have embarrassed myself completely- it's all pretty unclear. I do recall breaking out my swing-dancing routine, which tends to only work if I'm sober. (Why a pretty girl might be turned off by a sloshed, horny guy falling over himself while trying to spin her, dip her, and manhandle her... I have no idea.) Eventually we wore out our welcome and went home to my apartment, as I'd offered my futon to Buddy since his sister left him in the cold. I left him in the common room with the understanding that he'd have to head off to his brunch at 10:30am or so. It was then 4:30am.
I opened my eyes at roughly noon and realized he was probably screwed. I walked out into the common room and, not surprisingly, Buddy was passed out hard on the futon drooling out the side of his open mouth. I checked my phone and noticed my girl had sent me a text, sent early the night before, indicating that she wouldn't be able to join me.
I managed to get Buddy on his way as his sister berated him on the phone and realized that I had plans too- I was going to a Columbia Gourmet Club event in Brooklyn at and establishment known as Beer Table. (I don't go to Columbia, of course, but it's good to have connections.) While the thought of mass quantities of beer at this juncture was not terribly appealing (my hangover was manageable but still very much lingering) I decided it would be rude to not attend, especially since my friend Ray had gone out of his way to get me in the door. So I gathered up my shattered psyche, hosed myself down in the shower, and made my way over to the crazies on the F train.
It's going to be difficult to communicate how awesome this experience was. Here's the billing: "We will sample seven classic and novel pizza styles prepared with the freshest ingredients on site and served directly from the oven while learning the secrets of preparing authentic Italian and new world pizza from scratch. Each pizza will be served with a perfectly paired international specialty beer." Sound appealing? Pizza was directed by Mark Bello of Pizza A Casa, and beer chosen by Justin and Tricia Philips of Beer Table, a regular establishment that you can actually visit. Set in a shallow storefront with a dark wood-paneled interior, Beer Table continuously changes its menu providing the finest imported and domestic beers that you just can't get anywhere else. Beers range from the reasonably priced to the exhorbitant (we sampled an $83 bottle of Drie Fonteinen Schaerbeekse Kriek, which is so expensive apparently due to some double-secret cherry ingredients.) The setup is literally three tables with eight stools each. They generally just serve cheese plates and light appetizers to go with the beers, but Justin explained that they have plans to add more items as the business matures, as it had only been open for 51 days as of this event. Whatever happens in the future, I can recommend Beer Table highly now.
You know what else I can recommend? The blonde sitting across from me during the tasting. Unfortunately for you, she's mine for the time being. I'm obliged to muzzle myself, but it certainly seems possible she might get a pseudonym in a future installment. We made eyes at each other across the table for much of the event, and she laughed at most of my jokes, which was something of a shock and an extraordinarily good sign. She then invited me to a post-party at her friend's place, another very good sign. She then asked if I'd be attending the Columbia Gourmet Club's citywide pizza tour. I looked at Ray. He nodded.
Fuck yeah! Can I have your number, baby? I've lost mine!
Later I texted Buddy, asking him how he felt and if he survived brunch. He responded that it wasn't so awful and that he actually felt pretty good. "How do you feel?" he asked me.
I feel pretty good.
Until next time...
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Not normally one for comedy, be it movies or standup, it’s just not my first choice. But with Moms in town, we set out for a night at the Comedy Cellar near my old Washington Square Park stomping ground, the heart of NYU’s cityscape campus. John Fisch was our host of the evening, attempting to fill in the gaps between guest comedians with a balance of clean jokes including personal tales of bed-wetters and laundry day.
Kicking off the evening’s lineup was Gregg Rogell, who had my preferred sense of humor: dry and demented. While others groaned at him for pushing the envelope again and again, I could have listened to him all night long. He took part in a movie called The Aristocrats if you’d like to see him for yourself, though I’ll not vouch for the quality of those jokes as I’ve not seen the film yet myself. All I can say is that this guy can make anything dirty but it's only as disturbing as it is impressive and I love it.
Todd Lynn was up next. His claim to fame is Tough Crowd and it was also the running joke of his set. Several of his jokes fell flat and he dropped the F bomb maybe five times a sentence. But I will say his bit about Obama was bold and hilarious. The idea of this prim and proper “black” (though really multiracial) man being inaugurated only to completely flip the script on the "white liberals that voted for him" and rip off his suit revealing a jersey, baggy pants and a whole lot of bling- well that’s some fun imagery. So a few rough spots were endured before we got to the worthwhile gems of his act.
Mike DeStefano from Last Comic Standing, he was one of my mom’s faves but he didn’t mix with me at all. There was one joke that hit my funny bone about finding money on the street right in front of a sleeping homeless man and the irony of that situation. Besides that it was a lot of “cunt punching” and cabby punching which I could have done without.
Lisa Landry was the only woman comic of the night, I wanted to like her just because of that. Good for her! You know? But after the extreme styles that came before her, the jokes coming out of her mouth seemed a little elementary. From muffin tops to not being maternal, nothing really struck a chord with me. But apparently she has her own show called Premium Blend if you ever want to see a blond Louisiana chick do her thing.
Kevin Brenner was second to last and he came at just the right time, livening things up with jokes covering every topic you could imagine in a respectably playful way. He’s been seen on HBO and was my second favorite and my mom’s #1. By the end of the act you felt like you knew him and maybe even had the urge to buy him a drink.
Kurt Metzger was the final performer and reminded me of that guy everyone knows. Not quite the life of the party type but definitely that funny guy in the group who isn’t afraid to say what everyone else is thinking because he’ll deliver it in a way that makes the room laugh. Quirky and awkwardly charming or maybe charmingly awkward, you can see him in White Boys in the Hood.
In the end, you gotta love New York for everything it has to offer. Every day, even the smallest moments can be inspiring if you look at them the right way and this night of comedy reminded me of that: the importance of perspective. If you’re an artist, a creative of any kind, what these people proved to me tonight is that there is no point in sitting around and waiting for whatever you believe a muse to be. Life itself is a muse; if we could only remember to look at it that way.
For info on this venue and other sources of comedic musings go to: NYC COMEDY
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
New York City bars used to be my dug out from most people I knew. I thought it was an unspoken agreement between the city and me. Then, something happened on Friday, which made me realize that either the city is shrinking or I am becoming socially predictable.
On that doomed Friday night, I was at my favorite dyke bar, Henrietta Hudson. Imagine your mom’s closet during a middle school seven minutes in heaven session. The bar is exactly like that. Two small rooms, packed with sneaker wearing, messy-haired queers groping each other, while listening to Blondie. It is that scene.
I like Henrietta’s for one main reason: I recognize no one that I know. Ordinarily, this being the largest U.S city, most people have anonymity in city bars. The queer community is however, different. Queers live in a we-know-everyone community, which transcends any and all city and geographic lines. This exists for two reasons. Firstly, we are all hoes in the end; and secondly, we date through our friends. As a result, I consistently find myself in a web of queers I know.
Fast-forward to now, I am standing in the closet, I mean, bar. It is about 11pm, with a medium density of high heels and Doc Martens. Bar access has been pretty good tonight. I have in the place about 30 minutes; and so far, I have made my way to the bar, ordered and have not been spilled on. Three factors that determine whether I will return to the place. These steps in order, I peruse the bar.
Suddenly, across the bar, I see her. I know her. It is not slurred vision; and, definitely not mistaken identity. I am looking at Baker, a person from college I know way too well. As far as I’m concerned, everyone knows a Baker.
There are two distinct Bakerisms that make her, her. Firstly, she will show up to every party and place you go; and secondly, she will always be in a shitty mood. I am not talking about cynicism or public anger. A Baker is a person for whom the sun does not shine.
In the case of this girl, every time I see her, she has just been dumped by her one-night-stand or girl of the week. I wish I could embellish her life more, but it is impossible. Baker has absolutely no luck with women. As if knowing about Baker is bad enough, listening to her rant is painful. I have had enough Baker encounters to know to avoid her and her looming self-deprecation at all costs.
When I think about it, I recall that in college, I could measure if I’d hit rock bottom low for the night based on my proximity to the girl. What!? I’ve just been dumped? Two people I’ve slept with are now making out across the room?! Oh look, Baker is next to me talking. Yes, I think its time to hear about how she has just been stood-up by her best friend who she decided to sleep with.
Anyways, I’m standing there next to the bar, under Henrietta’s searchlights, when my eyes lock onto Baker. For 11pm, Baker looks like she’s doing pretty well—definitely pre-drama. Baker stands amongst a crowd of femme-type chicks, women still in their Lillith Fair phase. On her arm however, is a surprisingly attractive lady, even by straight standards. I immediately scan the girl and think, “how the hell did Baker land this chick?” That question quickly trails into another, “do I want to know?” Unfortunately, Henrietta’s spot lighting does its job. Before I can get my accomplice and run, Baker sees me and makes a beeline.
“Hey, Ezzy,” she slithers. I hate nicknames. Baker has got an “I-look-like-I’m-the-shit” face on her. She and I go through the usual hi, what’s up stuff. I’m eager to avoid drinking with Baker and company, in fear of a return to misery-island. I leave to go to the all-forgiving bathroom asylum. Last time I tried to use a smoking break excuse, and I ended up with twenty minutes worth of lung cancer inhalation and Baker chain-smoking next to me. I figured the bathroom would be a safe haven. Luckily for me, Henrietta bathrooms don’t allow for multiple inhabitants and Baker didn’t seem to want to leave her companion.
When I believed that it was safe to roam the bar, I left my porcelain cubicle. As I have said before, Henrietta’s is a closet so I was able to make my way across the room, to find my friend and nightly social crutch. She pointed out that in my absence Baker had managed to piss off her new women; and, was now sulking by the bar. Hearing that, I was surprisingly comforted. “Yes, Candide, we do live in the best of all possible worlds.” Baker’s debacle reminded me that whether it is New York City or small-town wherever, we are still hanging out in the same room with the same people. No one really changes. We just switch clothes and faces. The best thing we can do, is learn how to cope. “Should we talk to her?” my friend asks. “No, we need to leave I say.” As bad as I felt, well, moreso guilty for Baker, experience has taught me when it is my cue to leave.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Don’t you love it when you go to a show and the opening act is actually a pleasurable experience? Tuesday night I went to a show at Highline Ballroom, a classy but cozy venue that knows how to milk you for all you’re worth, while simultaneously making you feel too at home and well serviced to care. It’s a room full of tables, each with a $10 minimum per person/per set, but on this night the music was so good and our waitress so attentive and the drinks so satisfying and the food so delectable that we couldn’t have cared less that we spent about 70 bucks each to see this woman perform, with the ticket price included of course. Fortunately, Lizz Wright and everything else that factored into the evening, was worth every penny.
She has a background in Gospel and jazz. Now, with the help of local songstress Toshi Reagon, she has created a sound all her own. It’s music that enters your soul with a soothing melodic groove and makes you feel in love with the world all over again. The minute she walked onstage I was drawn in and remained that way until the end of the night. People have told me that I have a “pull,” like a magnet almost. But if I’m a magnet, I’m about as big as a refrigerator magnet and she’s one of those cartoon ACME magnets that draws the universe in.
On this night she pulled together “her favorite people” to perform alongside her and you could truly feel how much she adored each and every one of them and vice versa. At one point she apologized for not talking very much between songs saying, “For some reason, I just want to sing to you tonight. I’m just so happy. It feels like family in here.” The audience chuckled responding, “That’s all right,” because that’s what we’d come to hear her do anyways. And after the first note out of her mouth, we really couldn’t ask for anything more.
On the other hand, we had the opening act, Brandon Young. This was his first show in NY and as my friend said, “I felt like I was on a date with him. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to put out or not!” Well, metaphorically speaking, I would have certainly put out. You can’t be mad at a guy for wearing his heart on his sleeve. Even if it reached a level of sappiness at times, the act came across genuinely. Whether it was genuine or not, we’ll never know, but I enjoyed the getting to know you banter mixed with his perfectly constructed pop songs of love, love and more love. With Jeff Buckley-inspired vocals, he’s got the formula so down pat that every song felt familiar, in a good way. I often found myself humming along halfway through as if I’d known the song all my life- and writing something catchy is half the battle.
So, best of luck to both of these new talents. It was a great night and it really did feel like family. How often does that happen in NY?
***MY ONLY NOTE: “The Broken Caesar Salad” on the menu is literally two chunks of lettuce with some toppings thrown in. Our friends at the table next to us would have appreciated the clarification. So there ya go, you've been warned. :-)
Around 7pm on Saturday, I still hadn't decided upon a course of action. I'd had a big night before, attending a St. Paddy's Day Party at a friend's wearing the most obnoxious green shirt in the visible spectrum, proceeding out to XR Bar until closing, and then reaffirming my alcoholism with another 7am return home after afterpartylife on the Bowery. I could have been excused for taking it easy on Saturday after a Friday like that.
We don't make excuses here at FFNYC, though. We make trouble.
With that indomitable spirit, I called up my editor and asked her what she was up to. (I've kinda got a thing for her; at least, I've considered the possibility of having a thing for her. Seems like the right thing to do. While we don't really have a workplace, I firmly believe that "collaboration" requires infighting, drama, and of course casual sex.) She mentioned Wicked Willy's. In the space formerly known as the Red Lion, and in a building I used to live in for more than a year, Willy's is a pirate-themed bar that features beer pong, a not-so-subtle recipe calling out every aging frat-guy wannabe in NYU territory and challenging him to a vomitorium contest based upon distance and coverage. On the other hand, I'm not normally one to turn down a girl that seems intent on getting absolutely obliterated, and not coincidentally I'm good at nearly every drinking game known to man. She casually listed a group of people possibly attending, the contents of which I ignored, and we made plans to meet up later.
Nearly simultaneously with the completion of that call, my arch-nemesis JD messaged me that he'd be going out in the East Village with my buddy Andy and that I ought to join. I normally don't like hanging out with JD; I know him to be the sum of all evil, a prime example of the guy you'd want your daughter to divorce. Alternately, Andy's a good friend of mine but altogether amoral, and as such I find him blameless when he tells me a story such as the following:
"I'm hanging out smoking outside The Hog Pit and I see this guy tooling down the street in his wheelchair. And man, he's going fast. And I'm hammered. So I yell at him as he speeds by, 'If you can move that fast, you're not really handicapped!' thinking he'll just continue on his way. But no; he rolls back up the street and I get a better look at him. He's only got one fucking leg. So I apologize, I say 'Sir, that was completely out of line, I'm sorry,' and I'm hoping and praying that he decides I'm not worth it, but seriously, if you had only one leg, would you walk- I mean roll- away? So the guy picks up a freaking traffic divider and throws it at me... and I'm standing at the entry and he starts screaming, going completely ballistic. The bouncers call the cops, the cops show up, and I don't want this guy to get into trouble, because I was wrong. But he just won't calm down. I explain the situation to some officer trying to restore order, and all he can say is 'Jesus, man. You're an asshole.' Eventually they got the guy to leave me alone. I might not be allowed back at that bar for awhile."
I met them at Lit Lounge, a quality rock'n roll bar on 2nd Ave at about 10pm. Specializing in punk, the upstairs area has a DJ and a more traditional bar setup (although you can enter the Fuse Gallery through the back of the bar during its operating hours) while the basement is where the live action happens, nearly every single day, usually at least three bands per night each doing a 30 minute set. The space is small, much longer than it is wide, with low ceilings, very limited seating, and a bar in the very back like a typical underground concert venue. There's a lot of entertainment to be had here for $6, though, even if the bands suck.
Happily, I was 1 for 2 on this night. I missed the opening band, but caught The Haint, a pleasantly energetic blend of big reverbed drone-country guitar with a nice distorted punk glaze, a dirty slide that produced a memorable sound if not an individual memorable song. Also, the lead yeller/guitarist seemed to be coked out of his mind, which made for good between-song diversion. I went up and briefly chatted up the drummer after their set and was pleased to walk away with a complimentary copy of their 4-track EP. The Hunt, on the other hand, was a less interesting experience, and reminded me of a world in which the Cure and The Killers decided to take everything that's lousy about their bands and mash together. Not that The Hunt was awful- I'd just never buy their album. I'm also not a huge fan of their look, a post-punk mishmash of electrogoth trolls that should take a cue from Paul Stanley and get old already.
After hijacking an Italian bird off the street carrying a bag of Coronas and being asked to put out our cigarettes no fewer than four times while inside, we headed off toward the West Village and Wicked Willy's, as my editor and her (ex?) boyfriend were waiting for us.
Yeah, she brought a dude. And only a dude. Shit.
I convinced JD and Andy to join and play wingmen in case other girls were in the group; unfortunately, they couldn't help much in this case, and the nebulous nature of the relationship between my editor and this guy (let's call him Jimbo, rhymes with limbo)is something that I'm still having difficulty interpreting. I pressed on, though, and on the way down Thompson Street we told the cabbie to stop outside of Sam's Falafel, where my editor, her associate male entity, and a lovely friend of JD's would all meet us. (JD informed me that she likes her coitus violent. I hate him.) Sam's is a small storefront on Thompson with a really big sign and some very Arab (but very friendly) staff. There's usually just one guy working at a time, but the quality of the food has remained consistent over the years. They make a hell of a gyro here, but it's not as cheap as some other local mediterra mystery-meat joints and so some might argue that it can't possibly be the "best." (I would disagree.). Saturday, though, JD's buying (his most redeeming quality- he's not cheap at all!) so Sam's suddenly leapt to the greatest falafel house in the universe. I miss living in this neighborhood.
Willy's had a $5 cover, and you know how I feel about cover charges sans live entertainment. So we decided to hit XR Bar again for a redux of Friday. XR always seems to be just crowded enough. We can always get tables, the service is always really good, and the atmosphere is semi-upscale without feeling too snooty. Drinks aren't cheap, but you're likely to get a round or two free by hanging out for awhile, which was the case on this evening. Anyway, my friends managed to isolate Jimbo from my editor (they put baby in the corner), and I went to work. Of course, the isolation couldn't last, and Jimbo made his way back over to our side of the table via bathroom breaks.
This is where things get fuzzy. Somehow or other conversation shifted to Eliot Spitzer and hookers in general. As you might guess, I have opinions on the subject. Over the next sequence, which in hindsight was interminably long, I would proceed to make the salient points that Spitzer a)was involved in something much less reprehensible than an affair, because he was not engaged emotionally while "cheating" physically and b) was actually being exploited by the hooker (rather than vice versa) since he was paying 5 grand a pop for something most of us get for free (or at least dinner.) Jimbo nodded in agreement; I feel like he sensed that I was dousing myself in gasoline and was more than happy to stand in the gathering crowd and watch my self-immolation. I continued as if possessed. My editor asked me if I would ever see a hooker, to which I responded, "Probably never. But never is a long time."
This is not the way to get laid.
We eventually decided to shift venues to Vol de Nuit (aka the Belgian Beer Bar). I've been coming to this bar for years, and it's one place I like hanging out with JD because we've made sport of hitting on the usually smoking-hot euro bartenders. The BBB has an excellent beer selection (exclusively Belgian, I believe) including the Delirium Tremens 10% alcohol knockout punch; I usually opt for the Leffe Brown. It's set deep in a recessed courtyard with some outdoor seating and big heavy wood tables indoors that at least make you feel like it's a place of old-world substance. The menu consists exclusively of fries and mussels, and you should just order the mussels because they come with fries. Additionally, there's a tiny satellite bar on the opposite side of the courtyard that seems to be open randomly and for no particular reason. The menu's the same there, perhaps even more limited, and yet I find it to be the superior venue. Mini-BBB wasn't open on this evening, however, so into the primary space for one last push.
I will say this for my friends: they did some solid work running interference while I tried to charm my editor into making a huge mistake. In particular, JD's special friend (who may divorce him in 10 years or so, God willing) was a real trooper, essentially settling herself between them so I had clear sailing to work my magic. Unfortunately, the rabbit fell out of my pants, so to speak, and never made it to the hat; no supernatural recoveries would occur this night. My editor and Jimbo left together; my friends attempted to make me feel better by mocking him in his absence. Not surprisingly, that made me feel better. But unfortunately Vol de Nuit has a 2am last call and we'd have to leave before I could start chugging Delirium. I wasn't nearly drunk enough to deal with this train wreck in a mature fashion-yet.
We walked back to 3rd St. and The Fat Black Pussycat, but the gigantic black man at the door informed us that only single women and 1:1 ratio groups were getting in, leaving our 3:1 dude-to-chick rabble on the sidewalk. The Town Tavern is right next door. I don't really recommend anyone ever go to The Town Tavern, but people still do. And so we did on this evening, if only to feed my empty, empty soul with $5 Miller Lites.
Until next time... you know what to do.
93 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 777-7987
New York, NY 10012-1369
Phone: (212) 777-2240
New York, NY 10012-2502
Phone: (212) 674-4080
Vol de Nuit
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 982-3388
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
New York City is my looming ex. When I think of the city, my stomach jerks. I remember my many awful experiences being here. I think of the times that I have been stood up by the subway, the heinous buildings that I am reduced to live in; despite the fact that I lie to myself promising that the flooring and lack of ventilation won’t really be so bad.
As with many exes, after the feelings of contempt and anger fade, I remember all the wonderful things about New York. Picture Woody Allen’s cinematic black and white stills of the city-- the Lower East side in the morning, Central Park in the summer. I have of course, never experienced any of this; however, I cling to the advertisements with a fondness that I could never get from real place themselves. It is this artifical backdrop that I fucking love.
Comparing my versions of the city is like comparing my relationship with a schizophrenic. I admit that there are two different personalities, yet I cannot accept that they share the same face and name. I ask myself, why do I stay in a city that I acknowledge as vile? I do not know. I am in effect, a girlfriend in denial.
The odd part of this situation is, I am not just in denial about why I am in New York. I know that there are other people like me. There are handfuls of twenty-somethings are living around the city, complacent with the traffic, the bad apartments and their misery in this place. They are at the same time, reluctant to move away. We, the transplant generation, are in denial. We are in urban living denial. I wonder what is it about New York City that keeps us here.
Immediately, my own experience comes to mind. In truth, this is not my first time living in New York City. I first lived here, three years ago for a summer. It was the worst experience of my life. To begin with, the city resembled a Grecian bathhouse. Imagine shirtless hairy men and a stench from the sewers that would never leave. To make matters worse, I lived in yet another three floor-walk up apartment with bad central air.
The summer reached its climax when I discovered an abandoned cat left two buildings down. I didn’t know much about the owners. My only memory of them was that they had a “Buy Black” sticker on their front door. Dealing with a forlorn creature in a city where I felt alien, put me over the edge. I ended up having a weeklong break down, in which I spent most of my time crying in the corner of my apartment, rocking my girlfriend’s cat. Yeah, it was definitely a Carrie-esque finale. I ultimately had to be escorted out of the city because I could not ‘hack it’.
I eventually did return, or, well, was forced to return because of a lack of other options, and have grown to appreciate this place. I argue that, like coping with an ex, we temporary dwellers stay in the city because we need a kind of resolution. Many of us know that we don’t want to be in or with New York City forever; however, we stay, believing that it is important to remain here for the time being. Maybe we need to work at our jobs a little longer. Try something different. Be somebody else. We need a period of flux or transition; and the city, the ex, is here, while we decide what we are leaving this place for.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Where do you go when you are 22 and in a long-term relationship?
I don’t know.
In truth, I used to believe that it was impossible to be in your early twenties and in a long-term relationship. I saw dating as an organic process. You meet others. You date others. You sleep with some of these people. You have one or two relationships; and finally, presto, you move in together. This is how I thought everything worked.
I was wrong.
My past reads like a deranged version of this process. I meet people. I sleep with people. I have awkward encounters with these people; and, from the small pool that I do not alienate, I move in with immediately. I am almost twenty-four years old and I have gone “full circle” in this process. It is at this point that I wonder where do people like me go?
I see a lot of people my age, people who have been in long-term relationships, looking around, unsure, about what they are supposed to do. If you have had a two plus year relationship with someone, you are in the stale phase, the wear your old laundry phase, the limited sex phase, the domestic phase. The funny thing is, as I have said before, this phase does not coincide with being in your early twenties.
To begin with, the average twenty-something has the emotional stability of a middle schooler. We don’t know what we want let alone what we need to do to support ourselves. The early twenties character is not prepared for serious commitment choices, such as whether to move in or to change cities with someone, but to make meaningless decisions like what should I drink tonight?
The early twenty-something is not shallow but in a state of rapid transition. We are the children of America the day after Halloween, riding sugar highs and insulin lows. We don’t know whether to go back to school or to take a job with our old man—so to speak. Our minds are skewed and so is our ability to make rational choices about the future.
I don’t need advanced research to prove my point either, just look at my life. I have one friend, “Jonathon,” who broke up with his yearlong girlfriend to take a job across the country. After being away two weeks, he decides that he misses her and drives across country to get back together. One week later, he breaks up with her. Two months later, he gets fired and returns to his old city. The pair are living in the same city again but this time not together. Another friend, “Linda,” broke up with her two-year girlfriend because she wanted to be free to play the field. Linda and her girlfriend went threw a weeklong fight to get to this point. A month into the decision, the pair still talk everyday and have plans to be together this summer. These are the choices I am talking about. These are the what-the-hell-are-you-thinking decisions that come a dime-a-dozen amongst my friends.
Under other relationship circumstances these choices would be fine, weird and stupid but fine. This is not the case. These are instances of adults choosing to fuck long-term relationships not because of bad luck but because they can. It is like building a house of cards and then testing whether the house can survive an Earthquake. It does not make sense. These decisions do not make sense.
Now we are back at the beginning. Why are semi-adults, i.e. sugar-high middle schoolers, placing themselves in choices and relationships that they cannot handle? We are greedy. Our recent access to 24-hour bars and no school has fucked with our heads. We believe that because we have a little freedom that we are suddenly able to skip the baby steps of decision-making. Wrong! We are still getting sick at bars, still getting screwed by out inability to make good decisions. Just because we can keep someone for a year, does not mean that we are capable of being in a real long-term relationship. I argue that until we earn and keep health insurance, or some other symbol of dependability for a year, we should leave couple-dome to the big-kids.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Sharon Jones. If you haven’t heard of her you’ve probably heard of her backing band, the Dap-Kings. And if you don’t recognize their name, I can pretty much guarantee you’d recognize their sound because they’re now Amy Winehouse’s backing band, as well. Based out of Bushwick/Brooklyn, New York, area code 11206, where I used to live btw, they even have their very own label: Daptone Records.
I saw the lovely convergence of this band and this firecracker of a woman a few weeks ago at the Beacon Theater. I know it’s a little late to write a review but her damn songs are still stuck in my head! They’re just too good! So I’m considering it a sign from the music gods that I need to spread the word about this glorious performer.
Sharon Jones has got the bodily spirit of James Brown mixed with the vocal dynamics of Aretha Franklin. I always wished I’d seen these two live until I saw Sharon Jones. It was as if they were sharing the stage that night, in one soulful soul.
She’s 52. But you would never EVER know it. She called up men on stage. “They gotta be tall and sexy and under thirty,” she said with a naughty little laugh, never missing a beat of her constant motion around the stage. Throughout the show she danced with men and women alike and had fun doing it (almost as much fun as we had watching it!).
And to top it off, I’ve never seen a concert audience so diverse in my life and I’ve been to a lot of shows and festivals in my day. But this one took the cake when it comes to mixing it up! We had the old couple griping about the two NYU alums in front of them refusing to sit their behinds in their seats. Meanwhile, you had the underage drinkers vomiting on the stairs just 2 seats away. 3 rows down were the stoned hippie chicks moving too slowly to keep in rhythm with the upbeat songs. Then there were couples necking and groups of friends cheering in all directions. And we were only in the balcony. The real music heads were below us, from the former head of Joe’s Pub to every booking agent you can imagine. I only know this because I saw the few that I knew while in line at the downstairs bar.
So while it’s great that the Dap-Kings are helping Amy Winehouse blow up and some of her fans are clearly transferring over to the diva from another era, Sharon Jones. I am here to spread word directly: if you haven’t heard her yet, give Sharon Jones a chance- she’s been waiting long enough!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
When we last left our fearless hero, he was ostensibly on his way home after a night of bar-hopping around New York hot - and cold-spots; the time was 2:30 a.m. on the technical Sunday morning, but our hero is not a churchgoer; does he go gentle into that good night? Or does he rage, rage against the dying of the light?
Well, the sun already went down. All that's left is to rage for the morrow...
Yeah, I told the cabbie to take me to 151. I promised you a review of this place in my last safari, and so now you get a brief glimpse. 151 (aptly named due to its location at 151 Rivington) is an unmarked basement that it seems is just underground enough that no one has to wait and seedy enough to always feels hip. There's a consistently pleasant 1:1ish ratio of horny dudes and easy chicks and the drinks, albeit not dirt cheap, aren't of the $8 watered vodka soda like that you might find at other too-sweet Lower East haunts (that means you, Hotel Rivington.) Why would one go here? Well, I've already stated that the chicks are easy- lots of Euro-types, and as I've recently been told, the Euro girls don't have all the Judeo-Christian baggage that even some of the hardcore NYC hippies carry like a chastity anvil (no matter how hard you hit on it, it doesn't bang!); no, they are free, free like ripe hormoaning birds. Also, there's a pretty consistent punk-metal soundtrack, so even if the girls aren't picking up on the vibe, you can still rock out like there is no tomorrow. Which, it turned out, there wasn't, because tomorrow was very much today.
Lana is a Brazilian bird. (I don't think her name was Lana, but it's my best guess.) I met her at 151, where we had a longish conversation, roughly 50% of which I understood. She's got a killer accent. Also, 151's speakers are too tinny, or the recordings come from decomposing tape from Stiv Bators' basement, or I'm losing my hearing, who knows... Somewhere along the line, she asked me something like "Do you party?" Of course I do! Oh wait...
So I'm in Brooklyn at Lana's apartment. I guess the JMZ goes there, I dunno. I'm on the wrong side of the tracks and I know it, and Lana's typing on her Macbook in her tight, tight white pants and telling me how she's a singer and how this apartment is only temporary and so why don't I break out my shit.
So there's a CD case and a wire mesh basketlike thing that I hadn't noticed before on the table, and I know what these things are for, but I'm clearly not equipped for this ski trip... Because I'm an idiot. And I tell her as much, and she knows this already implicitly, and so she offers to call Marquis, who is apparently her friendly neighborhood coke dealer.
Which is fine. Apparently.
Marquis comes in after a few minutes of me anxiously downing my Corona 40 oz. (who knew?) He's a pretty chill dude, turns out. He asks us what we need. I have no idea, and Lana isn't helping. Finally, he suggests something that costs $40, and I immediately jump in "Sold!" except I didn't say that because it wouldn't have been cool. This is one sequence of my life that I am desperately, freakishly yearning to be cool, because Lana is uberhot and I wanna boink Lana. So, I politely identified the $40 option as the one we wanted and handed over the cash.
Well, after awhile of hanging out in the apartment waiting for my drug score (he who's never snorted anything in his life, not even vodka off an overturned shotglass) it becomes apparent that Marquis has run into a roadblock somewhere. After too long, he returns and refunds me my money, casually explaining that it just isn't going to happen tonight. Lana looks bummed; my penis shouts that that is unacceptable. So I text my buddy Ari (it's pushing 7am now, but Ari doesn't sleep, he's more likely to be awake than a gerbil on meth, right, right?) Ari doesn't respond. Marquis has a little, he's willing to share. New guy first. You're not a cop, are you? Hell no...
I'm standing on the JMZ platform. Yes folks: I think I'm going to puke!
(Ari would text me later in the day: "It's wonderful to see you getting into the drugs for sex trade..." Imagine a way to feel filthier. I can't.)
After an excruciating ride back to the real city and the DMZ that is my current neighborhood, I collapse on my bed. Seemingly instantly, my roommate opens my door. "Time to wake up! We've got a birthday party to attend!" Oh yeah. Eagen's birthday. It's noon. 1:30 at Paradou. Yeah.
Did I mention that I think I'm going to puke?
The magical thing about this brunch birthday celebration was that for $45 I could drink all the champagne cocktails I wanted. Wait, is that magical? I could have done with eleventy Bloody Marys, but ended up with more Belinis, Mimosas, and Kir Royals than I ever want to see again. Girls love it, though. Apparently, according to Citysearch, it doesn't have to cost the fearless reader as much as it cost the fearless writer. That's OK- Eagen's a fine young lady and I'm happy, freakin' thrilled to celebrate her birthday with her. No, really- I'm not even being sarcastic. Paradou seems like a good place- print out the coupon on Citysearch, order the Wake 'n Bake (which was borderline life-saving), drink your Mums & OJ, and have a good time. I did. By the time we went to The Hog Pit, I didn't even really feel hungover that badly.
As for the Pit, I was amazed to see that they have a menu. Everytime I've ever gone there, I've been accompanied by what Road House's Dalton character might describe as "Power Drinkers." Make no mistake- that is the clientele, but I'm told the food is surprisingly edible. Even better than that, actually. Not that I've had it. Nope: PBRs all round, foosball, pool, good times. And there's a history to this bar, but you can research that for yourself. I'm here to tell you that if you've got a group of mostly drunk twentysomethings and they're looking to get weird, The Hog Pit in the Meatpacking District is a fine choice.
Not that I was into any more weird. I made it home by 9 p.m. Of course, I didn't go to bed- I stayed up until 2 a.m. 28 of 30 hours awake, questionable decision-making, gallons (seriously) of beer, and the regrettable recreational drug use... Come Monday morning, I wasn't just thinking about puking. I was finally able to commit.
Until next time...
151 Rivington St.
New York, NY 10002
Phone: (212) 228-4139
8 Little West 12th St
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 463-8345
The Hog Pit
22 9th Ave
New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 604-0092
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Food for Thought: Should students who speak a non-standard dialect of English be forced to learn standard English in school?
The Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich published the expression,"A shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot"(A language is a dialect with an army and navy.)
What is the value in stigmatizing non-standard dialects? Is the intention really to promote widespread communication, or do we have ulterior motives relating to power and class?
This issue is hot in the educational community right now. Many educators draw a line between written and spoken language. They encourage students to speak in their native dialects so they can easily and fluently express ideas without worrying about correct grammar. In written language, however, students are required to use proper English.
As a teacher in the South Bronx, where many students are most comfortable using "street talk," I have adopted this stance because I want my students to be able to compete in a society that values standard English. Future employers often evaluate students' intelligence by the ease with which they can manipulate the language of academics. They need to know it. They need to be bi-dialectic.
But I am unsatisfied with this answer. Yes, I am teaching them how to play the game, how to gain membership in the club of the powerful and elite. But is this method ethical, or am I feeding into a corrupt system? At the end of the day, is it right for one dialect to be deemed supreme above all others?
This is a difficult question facing the education system right now. Denying the merits of students' native dialects could result in feelings of alienation and further proof to disadvantaged students that school is not meant for them. Accepting the value of alternative dialects, however, demands a degree of faith that we will not be creating a generation of people who speak mutually incomprehensible dialects.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The other week, my friend, Mary, told me that she wanted to date her best friend, Steve. My initial reaction wasn’t good. I was about as optimistic for her as if she had told me that she wanted to get pregnant for the hell of it. As you can guess, I don’t trust friend dating. It is an epidemic that I know all too well.
Back in college, my friends and I saw ourselves as tied to the Pioneer Valley dating tree. People were shameless. Our college was small and, worse, dating and sleeping with our friends and their ex’s was a normalized trend. We lived in our own social solar system, in which we were connected in more than one-way to everyone we knew. Much of the time, we would rationalize our predicament. Where else would we go? Dating through friends was easy. Senior year however, everything backfired. A chain reaction of break ups had begun. Soon, certain places and people were off-limits because one couple or another was no longer together. Friend break-ups brought on a maze of awkward social interactions. The year turned me off to “dating within the circle” completely.
Now a semi-adult, living in one of the largest cities in the world, I recognize that old social habits, such as dating within the “friend circle,” are now viewed as obtuse. We are in a social pool, in which most people have no connection to us, our friends, our exes or some combination of these roles. We, in theory, should be able to maneuver healthy relationships with people separate from our “friend pools.” But, let’s be honest. This doesn’t happen.
I was at Webster Hall back in December, for the Curve magazine party. It was a big event. The hall was flooded with sensitive, moppy-haired guys and hoards of lesbians. One of my close friends had managed to drag me out of my apartment to mingle. The event itself wasn’t that great. Dani from Tila Tequila, was the headline. She however, was piss drunk and struggled to say a coherent sentence on stage. I instead, focused my attention on the crowd around me.
Similar to college, everybody stayed within their clique. You could tell who knew each other because, well, each group of people looked exactly alike. I told my friend that being there was like being at another college party. Even though I didn’t know everybody in the hall, I knew everyone in the hall. What the hell? Could our age group not grow up? Were we all too comfortable with remaining within our set bubbles?
It was at this time that a lanky girl approached me. At first I was startled that my supposed protective shield of friends hadn’t blocked this strange intruder. Weirder, this person, who didn’t even know me, wanted to dance. What was I supposed to do? I hadn’t had this kind of social training. I followed the girl a few feet away. We began to awkwardly move around each other, while she tried to get to know me. It was a disaster in heels. She saw me as potential. I saw her as a predator. All I could think was, “Why does she want to talk to me? I don’t know her. Freak.” In actuality, the only freak in that situation was me. I was just as bad as Dani. Both of us were staggering in the spotlight, trying to get out a declarative sentence.
After that disastrous night, I realized something. I concluded that I was in, what I describe as, college vision that night. In college vision, you are an adult trapped with the social skills of an 18-year-old. When that girl approached me at the party, we spoke different social languages. She wanted to meet me and I wanted to know how many degrees of partners separated us. It was a mess.
The debacle made me realize that our generation needs help. We need to be able to transition from being awkward college kids into less awkward semi-adults. For example, in semi-adulthood, people keep references of friends to a minimum. In college, friends are your psychiatrists, assistants, bodyguards and small-army. It is ok to mention them because they are your entourage. In semi-adulthood, you pay professionals to do these things for you. While it might be normal and true that you see the same four faces every the twenty-four hours, the semi-adult world does not want to know this. In effect, talking about your friends in every other sentence carries the same effect as if you consistently talked about your mother. People, well, mentally stable people, want to see us as solo players not a social cripples.
The second rule of thumb is that we should want to meet new people. The concept that our support systems will not evolve is antiquated. It is not our fault. We have been brainwashed by our generation’s pop culture couples. The Kevins and Winnies, the Corys and Tapengas modeled to us that all we needed was our next-door neighborhood to be happy. As I have come to learn, that is just not true. If I thought and acted on this rationale, I’d be co-habitating with my pre-school friend, Pete, whom I used to push around during playgroup. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure my mother told me that Pete became somewhat of an effeminate homosexual. Had I “stayed in my own backyard,” my domestic gender stratosphere would be completely out of whack.
What do I suggest? My advice is to say no to dating friends. A friend is not a used pair of shorts that can have more than one purpose. Friends are intended to hear about your significant other, not to be him or her. This doesn’t mean that you need to entertain every new Tom, Dick and Mary that talks to you. Instead, the next time you are intercepted at a bar, give the person the benefit of the doubt that they are doing something socially acceptable. Once those two minutes are up, you are completely relieved to return to your fortress, your friends.
I feel terrible.
I didn't go out on Friday, but I still didn't do anything during the day Saturday either. I slept until 1pm, peeled myself out of bed, slapped together a PB & J sandwich, chugged a glass of OJ, saw my roommate depart to defile his body with his awful ex-girlfriend, and dove back into bed. I expected to be back up in an hour; I opened my eyes at 8:15pm. 4 missed messages. Where are you? Come to dinner.
Well rested, I was. Time to cause trouble.
So I met my buddy Dylan at Vertigo, he and his new wife Sarah, just married in a shotgun wedding I attended at City Hall about a month ago. No word on if she's pregnant, and I surely hope she isn't- she sure seemed to be tossing the drinks down with impunity. Frankly, I have no idea why they told me on a Saturday that they were getting married on Wednesday. I have even less idea why they went ahead and did it. All I have are the photos to prove it actually happened, which is more than many of my comrades can comprehend. I guess they're drunk on love. And tonight, drunk on booze.
Speaking of disorientation, Vertigo (dig that segue!) is a decent enough, if unspectacular, bar. The ownership might have done well to go with a Hitchcock theme of some kind, maybe with a creepy Jimmy Stewart statue that would say creepy Jimmy Stewart things like "Heeeey thar young fella!" in a creepy Jimmy Stewart voice like you might find in a crappy state fair shooting gallery. Sadly, it's just a bar. The things that make it work are the things that make just about every semi-decent bar work: good drink selection, decent food, modern-but-not-intimidating decor, flatscreen TVs on the wall behind the bar. Oh yeah, the waitresses are H-O-T. Dylan likes to go there because it's roughly 50 feet from the entrance to his apartment; I like to go because they serve Kona Lager, an excellent Hawaiian beer that never fails to make me wax nostalgic about the week I spent last year on the Big Island. Anyway, Vertigo is one of the very few watering holes in the city to find this beer on tap, and as such it's never a chore to stop in for a pint or 15. In the summertime, their front wall folds up, giving the place a nice outdoor atelier feel to it. I'd recommend grabbing a table near the sidewalk, ordering up a Kona and a Vertigo Burger with blue cheese (medium rare of course, never ever give anyone an excuse to overcook your burger), and chilling out until the trouble starts.
Of course, the trouble would start soon. Dylan and Sarah were not in this for the long haul, as they rarely are- Dylan and his hedge-fund eyebags constantly belie the fact he could collapse in a narcoleptic heap at any moment, and as such I can't even give him too much crap for going home to plug his leaking tampon-hole. Pressing on, a few text messages later and I'm off to Level V to meet my buddy Tony and his girlfriend. Alone. You know what's coming next.
So I'm waiting outside with maybe 10 other not-quite-cools, as I expected I would be, because this place is apparently fairly popular and I wasn't towing half a dozen chicks with me. Tony had told me they were downstairs enjoying bottle service, and as such I figured I'd be able to get in eventually because he was spending some coin inside. Sadly, it's underground, so he wasn't getting my text messages imploring him to come get me, and the just-past-her-prime blonde running the door was being a... well, it rhymes with punt. After 15 minutes or so of pleading my case and getting nowhere, Tony comes out with his GF to have a smoke, sees me, and begins negotiations with the blonde, which leads to this priceless exchange:
Tony: "Listen, are you going to let us go in and drink or not?"
Blonde: "Ummm..." Looks at me. "No." What the....
No seriously, what the fuck!?!?
Tony informed me the place was totally empty and the line was there to make it appear popular. My recommendation: Don't ever go to Level V. Let someone else make it appear popular. Off to Brass Monkey...
What is there to say about this place? It's in the ass-end of the Meatpacking district, that's one thing. It was cooooold on Saturday night, and walking there from Level Vagina with two Cali kids was like trying to give a cat a bath:
We made it eventually, though, and it became clear to me that Tony and the GF were hammered. In a good way, though. Good hammered prompts them to do things like invite me to Vail for future weekends, which I'm not sure they recall now, but I'll be damned if I'm not showing up. Good hammered also foretells that our visit will be short, which was fine with me because the Monkey was crowded as all hell. Generally speaking, past visits to Brass Monkey have left me with positive impressions; the massive space (ridiculously scaled by Manhattan standards) for the most part prevents the place from getting overloud or overcrowded, which I tend to like. However, this night seemed an exception, as it was packed from front to back. So, after a few drinks and some drunkspeak, the three of us stumbled outside for a cab. I dropped them off at their apartment and continued on home.
Or did I? I think this is a two parter- all these words and I don't even feel sick (yet!) Tune in tomorrow or the next day for the exciting conclusion to "I think I'm going to puke."
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