Stories from the old paper issues of (Parenthetically Speaking)
Walking to Work
(replacing the “On the Subway” column)
From January 2004: These days I rarely take the subway, so my opportunities to observe New York behavior underground have diminished. When I do experience a good “On the Subway” item, I promise to include it here.
All this walking (which is how I mostly get around nowadays) does not mean that I don’t experience some pretty interesting stuff on foot. In fact, about a year ago, when the weather was on the cool side, I saw a truly beautiful New York City scenario unfold in front of me on my way to work. It was so perfect that I actually looked around for the telltale cameras, lights, and catering trucks of a film company. Nothing of the sort. This was for real.
At about 8:40 a.m. I had just turned north off of 23rd Street and on to Lexington Avenue by the old Washington Hotel (now a mixed-use building with condos). About a block away, a young, handsome guy with this-must-be-a-movie perfect, deliberate-looking messy hair, was walking toward me. He was obviously naked under the maroon blanket he was covered with. Barefoot. Perfect for the just-jilted by Goldie Hawn’s daughter scene. The blanket was like the ones we used at the Stone – itchy stuff in the middle, with a 3-inch polyester edge at the top. They make perfect getaway garments.
The possible scenarios for the boy’s predicament swirled around in my head as he approached. I had to look. No one seemed to be noticing him. (that’s the “New York” part of this – no one reacts to stuff like this). I, of course, still not jaded and loving every second of it, am gawking (as casually as I can without out bursting) at him. He looks straight ahead, avoiding all eye contact. (Wouldn’t you?)
Obviously, he’s done something stupid.
Was he dumped by his girlfriend (the Goldie Hawn daughter role) who threw his clothes and shoes down the garbage chute and into the incinerator in the sub-basement below? Did he pick up a trick last night in nearby Madison Square Park or one of the bars in Chelsea a few blocks away – went to one of the sleazy hotels near Lexington, where they engaged in all kinds of kinky stuff, and when he awoke, found the trick had vanished with all his stuff ? Is he a method actor doing research for a role in a movie vehicle for Goldie Hawn’s daughter?
As he passed me I smiled, LOVING New York City ever more. I don’t really want to know the answer to why he was in this situation – it made my day. In fact, it made my week.
The Little Pink Man
From August 2004 – That’s the popular mnemonic device recommended to anyone trying to remember where they are in Manhattan, going East to West from Third Avenue. The = Third; Little = Lexington. Pink = Park Avenue. Man = Madison. Then the avenues are numerically in order again (after Broadway, it’s Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, etc., to Twelfth at the edge of the island). I, however, also require a mnemonic device for the opposite direction, so I use, “My Pussy Loves Tuna” when I’m walking from West to East on the same streets. Just in case you were wondering.
Sweet and Sour
From Summer 2005 – My New York is different from your New York, is different from his New York is different from her New York. The sweet memories I have from my 13 years here far outnumber any sour memories.
Even after 13 years, my New York is still dazzling, still breathtaking, still surprising. Every day every day every day. I haven’t gotten tired of the constant electricity. In fact any other pace actually does more to exhaust me than the frenzy we have here. Sitting in front of a tv on a bloated brocade couch from Brown’s Furniture in Ville Platte or wherever, being numbed by the dizzying array of crap that people actually pay each month to have injected into their homes via cable – that really tires me far more than rushing here and there; darting in front of mean yellow taxis; ignoring the Walk Don’t Walk signs – threatening certain death at every corner.
The Sparkle Factor – I thought the sparkle would dim one day. Hasn’t yet.
Fashion – It’s all here. When you wear something outrageous, it’s not, really, because nothing surprises, while most weirdness is actually greeted with delight. (Although I got away with some really colorful stuff in Eunice.)
Nightclubbing – especially back in the early ’90s when Fabian (of Rego Park, Queens, N.Y.) and I would dance so much on weekends we had no need to diet or exercise.
Smooching in a Nook, Cranny or Alley – like a schmarmy NYC-set film, there’s lots of excellent smooching places that remind even the most jaded that it’s one of the most romantic cities on Earth. On one of my first dates, I was taken to a favorite smooch-spot, in an alley off of 6th Ave., right near Sammy’s, the excellent Chinese restaurant where we’d just had piles of food.
My First Apartment Purchase (Union Square) – I loved that place. Selling it will be at the top or near the top of my life’s regrets.
Mingling Brains – you really don’t have to work too hard to find a good collection of people here who are well-read, interested in world affairs, and have more going on than the mortgage, kids, SUV and keeping up appearances.
Looking at Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade – I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth a mention. It is one of my favorite things to do in the world, especially at dusk. (I should try dawn one day).
Trips to Montauk – Margaret Barry, aka Activity Bitch (of Chicago), started dragging Fabian and me to Montauk on weekends in the summers back in about 1994. Montauk is the least pretentious of the glamorous Hamptons. The people are real, the cases are real. This is Margaret’s domain. Many many excellent stories to tell about Montauk. Someday. (Ask about our fruit salad and Fabian’s special flying cake.)
Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge Easter Sundays – I try to keep this tradition every year. JPD of BR joined us one year, and his rotting footwear left a lasting impression on quite a few (now-defunct) nostrils. This year, Fabian took some video footage and made a sweet little film from it all.
My First Apartment in the East Village – I believe that everyone alive should try to put that statement somewhere in their life experiences. My first place was perfect in so many ways (even with the tub in the kitchen and the toilet down the hall – remember the first issue of PS?) I loved it at the time, but even more now in hindsight, of course.
Excellent Friendships – the diversity and caliber of people who come here from all over is the reason the city is so terrific. In every job I’ve had, I’ve made some genuine lifelong pals.
Leaving Stern School of Business – after only two years, when I was just getting started, I had to quit a job I had wanted for years, to move to Europe.
Bittersweet: redoing the new apartment on 7th Avenue. I busted open a wall in the bathroom to make this shelving system (built-in hamper below). This was a crowd-pleaser in the sale.
Sweet: My new dining pavilion. Junk-shop Empire table; and my homemade art on the wall. Lamp on sale at Restoration Hard-on (even though I loathe the inherent “Garanamals for Adults” approach to this store and others of its ilk, I can’t always resist a bargain. The lamp was 66 percent off. Blinds and decorative bowl by Neal Blanchard (of Alexandria, La.). Cheap Indonesian chairs (long disintegrated) from ABC’s DUMBO Sale. Major waste of money. The junk shop chairs that replaced them are much better.
Semi-sweet: I don’t know why there was such a controversy about these orange gates all over Central Park. I liked it. My ensemble was deliberately planned (pants are actually bright blue and the jacket is bright green) to complete the tableau.
Bigotry at St. Lukes Roosevelt – At my first job in New York City, I ran into some serious homophobia from two women who ran the department that hired me. I left after a few weeks to go to Maimonides, but I was amazed then that it was happening in New York City, when nothing of the sort had ever happened to me in New Orleans. I know now that bigotry lives everywhere (sadly).