"A gay," the woman chewed the word over for a minute. "A Jew. A gay Jew."
"You are Jewish, but you are also a gay," she explained to me. A lengthy pause. "Vow."
The drunken elderly lady stared deeply into the infinite and confounding space between her face and mine.
"Vas is innn your book bag?"
I resisted the urge to feel flattered. Usually, when people remark on my specialness, I blush, thank them, and try to impress them with more fun facts (most people won't press if you tell them the third nipple is on your butt). But I was a tough New Yorker now. I didn't divulge my life story to just anyone.
My childhood friend, now behind the bar, made a bug-eyed face at me. I could tell she was debating over how much she wanted to help me out and how much she wanted me to experience the crazy she deals with every day.
"Izzz zhaatt soccherr?" the woman asked, pointing at a screen depicting men kicking balls on a field. She threw her body against the back of her chair in mock shock. "Is Spain in zee orange shirts?"
I went back to reading my book and when I turned around, she was slumped in her chair, almost falling off. I shot her a concerned look and she laughed at me. I turned back around.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I'm sorry for making fun of you."
Then she fell off the chair.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god what do I do?" I called to Jane.
"She falls down all the time."
This was not the first moment I ended up relishing because it felt like Authentic New York.
Later that day, after I had transformed myself into a quintessential cliche NYC tourist - buying a soft-pretzel, humming Alicia Key's "Empire State of Mind" song and meandering around M&M World - I arrived back at my friend Julia's place in Crown Heights. It was around 1:30 AM and a gaggle of Jamaicans were still playing chess under a "No Loitering" sign. Julia was such a pro at having guests over that she didn't even look phased by the fact that I was coming home so late. She held the door open for me and a haggard looking man who said he required apartment entry so he could "go find his girl." He followed us up the first flight of stairs and then wandered into a dark corner.
When we reached her apartment, Julia pounded the floorboards with her bare feet.
"Scares away the rats," she explained, matter-of-factly.
This deeply impressed me.
Okay, so I was not on the "Sex and the City" tour of Carrie Bradshaw's favorite vabrator stores, but I'd still spent a portion of the day like a naive outsider, praying I'd see Liz Lemon's character in Rockafeller Center. These were the kinds of experiences that made one feel like a clueless Midwestern tourist. Witnessing Julia's fairly nonchalant attitude towards rodent infestation, on the other hand, gave me the realest picture of the city yet.
Excusing moments after branding them with the "authentic" label was something I had also done, exuberantly, while hanging out with my friend Stephanie. Stephanie had seemed harried and had big dark circles under her eyes when I visited her in her diminutive apartment in the East Village but I quickly convinced myself that she was having a totally enviable New York experience. The dark circles were proof of this. I had not a shred of compassion for her; she was living the dream.
I had always held fast to the idea that traveling permanently altered your internal hard-wiring, and now my wires had been re-arranged into a large F circuit, for failure. Failure to become an authentic, hard-working, stressed out New Yorker.
Just as it had taken me a long time to come to grips with the fact that simply setting foot in Chelsea does not a more fabulous gay man make, I was slowly coming to grips with the fact that simply meandering around the streets of New York was not turning me into a more interesting person. I'd have to get one of those job thingies. But what were my skills? The greatest thing about living in Seattle was that I didn't really have to prove myself. If I lost my job, I'd have to move back in with my parents. But I didn't mind watching Oprah on their couch. Unemployment in New York meant being eaten alive by pigeons in some Bushwick alley. Not applying myself was not an option.
The next morning I took the subway back into the city. As I strained to listen to an episode of "This American Life" over the screech of the train, I began to think of ways of simulating a New York life in a less expensive city. Maybe I could rent an apartment under train tracks in Philadelphia, open a bagel shop that doubled as a comedy club and pay people to be slightly rude to me.
I must admit, at this point in the story, that I hadn't expected to fall so masochistically in love with New York. My plan, essentially unalterable due to the price of plane tickets, was to leave New York for Berlin in a week.
"Why Berlin?" I can still hear my mother's voice in my head. I had traveled to Berlin a year ago and had loved it but couldn't find a way to explain my love to those in what that they call the "Post-Holocaust" generation. Like an Arab in love with Noah's lox shmear, mine was a culturally-inconvenient adoration. You should have seen the expression on my mother's face when I had handed her the Lonely Planet Berlin guide book.
"Look at all the great shopping!"
"This is a page on Hitler's bunker."
"Oh my god."
Let's get one thing straight: I do not have a Hitler fetish. Let's get another thing straight: the shopping in Berlin is incredible.
After a week in New York, I packed up my bags and headed for JFK with Julia. As she fiddled with her car's iPod, narrowly missing a crowd of Hasids, I attempted to prepare myself for this new lederehosened leg of my trip.
Traveling from Seattle to New York meant preparing myself for the smell of human feces, rotting garbage and the crippling anguish of monetary-inferiority complex. Traveling to Berlin, on the other hand, meant preparing myself for sophistication-deficit disorder.
I tried to adopt a cool but detached look in the airport security line that signaled someone who was over it. I imagined that, if any Berliners asked me what I thought of Obama, I'd reply "I like him, but let's not make a religion out of it." I'd be in the clear unless Germans watched Bill Maher.
Still, it was hard to concentrate when I was having panic attacks about being rendered mute. I still knew no German! I didn't even know what came after "drei" ("drei-et-un"?) Worse, I had adopted a patronizing attitude towards the language. German just made me giggle!
....TO BE CONTINUED!
Thursday, June 24, 2010
"A gay," the woman chewed the word over for a minute. "A Jew. A gay Jew."
Monday, June 14, 2010
Last night I read Edith Zimmerman's blog out loud to a few friends. Everyone was yelling at me to stop because the pacing was philistine - like something you'd find in a really stupid campfire story that goes on and on and isn't so much scary as it is boring and weird - but then came the shocking and outrageous and pretty creepy punchline, and that really sorted folks out. I laughed, because the story WAS dumb, but proudly and self-consciously so, and everyone stared at me silently before resuming their activities. So you're just going to have to trust me on this: her blog is stupid hilarious (the best kind). Here's one story that made me howl.
Right as I was drifting to sleep, a thumping noise in my bedroom startled me awake, and I gasped. “Who’s there?” I said, sitting up and pulling the covers tight around me. “Who’s there?!” Just then I heard another thump, but this time the thump was followed by a long, slow creak. I know that creaking noise, I thought to myself, That’s my closet door opening! So I looked over and saw that my closet door was opening! “Oh my god,” I whispered—the door seemed to be opening by itself! Finally the creaking stopped and the door was completely open. I held my breath and for a second nothing happened, but then a pale, transparent oval floated out from the darkness within, and it had two empty holes for eyes and a long empty gash for a mouth. It was a ghost!
“Oh my god,” I said. “Oh my god, oh my god, what do you want!?”
The ghost said nothing and just floated around my room, going back and forth, causing all the papers on my desk to flutter to the floor, and my drapes to flap in the wind. Then he came over to the side of my bed and just hovered there, staring down at me with his empty eyes, with that same unchanging expression. “What do you want?” I whispered. “Oh my god, what do you want?! I’ll give you anything. Money, jewelry—whatever you want. I’ll suck your dick, just please don’t kill me!”
So he pulled out his ghost dick and… well, I’m still alive, I’ll say that much!
Haaaaaa...ewwwwwwwww! (hewwwwww?) Edith (who really is so wonderfully weird) also selects and comments on the funniest and most interesting internet memes for New York Magazine's Culture Vulture. You can check out her posts here.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
It was humiliating enough sitting at a picnic table outside the media trailer, hot and alone, eating my Domino’s* personal pizza. The pizza was lukewarm and encrusted with tar and sadness. It had “ham” on it. I finished the pizza, and shifted my weight to the side to swing my leg over the bench. At this moment, I realized I should have checked my watch, for it happened to be WORST THING EVER O’CLOCK. As I leaned to the side, toward the very edge of the bench, the entire picnic table and bench apparatus TIPPED OVER SIDEWAYS AND PITCHED ME TO THE GROUND IN A TANGLE OF SHAME AND DIET COKE. Hey, everyone on earth! Check out the amazing 900-lb woman! I detected the smell of a Domino's personal pizza somewhere within a 200-mile radius, so i had the sheriff saw the wall off my double-wide and haul my brontosaural girth over here so I could stuff this tarry grease-puck in my face! Oops! Not knowing what else to do, I panicked and yelled, “I’M SUPER DRUNK RIGHT NOW SO I DIDN’T EVEN FEEL IT.” The worst part is that that wasn’t even true.
* By the way, isn't it Domino's that's doing that ad campaign about how their pizza used to be garbage but now it's really, really good? Hey, Domino's! You know what? "Good" isn't really in your wheelhouse. Maybe you should try something like, "Domino's Pizza: At Least It Was Borderline Free!" Or, "Domino's Pizza: Shut Up and Eat It, Fatty." Just a thought!
Read the rest here. I am offended that people are just now realizing that Lindy West is a hilarious genius. The woman has been funny since funny was pooping in diapers and kicking the back of your seat on long airplane flights.