Greetings. My dad tells me that's the way his military draft notice from Lyndon Johnson began, so in honor of my parents' visit last weekend, I thought I'd bring it out. What a stupid intro idea. How about this one:
Here I am again at the laundromat. The little drycleaning slips say it's called "J.J. Topsy", but the sign out front says "LAUNDROMAT". Besides, the little Asian guy who runs it doesn't look much like a J.J. Topsy. But who does?
I continue to wish that I'd learned Spanish in high school, so that I would be able to understand what the hell this little kid is trying to tell me. He's pointing frantically at my writing pad and his Game Boy, smiling big & wide. Maybe he wants to trade. I don't think his mother would care for that. Particularly once she read it. "Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck! And another thing, what's up with all these frikkin' Latinos?" No, no, it's not like that. But all the same, I'd rather keep my big, dumb honky ravings to myself. Well, myself and the ENTIRE INTERNET.
This kid seems very intent. I've tried "No habla Espanol," but those seem to be the only Spanish words he DOESN'T understand. I just pointed to his sister, which seems to have reminded him that she's more fun to irritate than me. Off he goes. Poor girl, she hates me now. Oh, well. She's big enough to beat the crap out of him if she wants. Which she's just demonstrated. Heh, heh.
So, the parental visit:
My folks showed up at their hotel around 2:00 in the afternoon two Fridays ago. They would've been there a bit earlier, but for the RAINSTORM OF BIBLICAL PROPORTIONS that engulfed New York over the weekend. Actually, it was only a few inches, but the wind helped it feel a bit more Noah-like. Their hotel was in a nice area on the Upper East Side, just across from Central Park. Couldn't ask for a better location, really, in terms of picturesqueness.
You could, however, ask for a larger room. I have never, in fact, seen a smaller room than the one my parents were shown to. Were it not for the bed corner jabbing you in the shin upon entering this room, you might well assume that you'd accidentally entered the broom closet. Or Munchkin Land. Sam, the clerk/concierge/apologist (whose name was likely not Sam), is apparently accustomed to such complaints, and promptly took the opportunity to compliment my parents' luggage and my father's shoes. Sam insists you can't get shoes like Dad's hiker boots in New York. I mean, they're Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren shoes in New York? Jump back, Jackson, your pants are on fire!
Friday afternoon went well, with a whirlwind tour of Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, and the Flatiron District, followed by dinner at the Odeon in Tribeca. Damned good food and atmosphere, for those with a few extra bucks to blow. Makes you feel like a call girl on special assignment.
Then the weekend. Many of you know that I spill a lot of verbiage extolling the virtues of New York's subway system. "It's the bees' knees!" "It's the hummus on your celery stick!" "It's the tits on the frog!" "You'll orgasm just by sitting on the seat long enough, I think!" "Jesus love you long time!"
But I should've known. The minute my weekend tour-guide duties began, the subway tunnels became SATAN'S PLAYGROUND:
"THIS IS AN R TRAIN TO RIKER'S ISLAND..."
"Riker's Island? Why would it..."
"WITH STOPS IN CLEVELAND, SASKATCHEWAN, AND THE FRESH KILLS LANDFILL..."
"Wait, wait, I thought this went to Times Square..."
"AND NOW, WE PRESENT THE MTA SEAT-STEALER FUN SQUAD FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT AND EXERCISE..."
"Hey, what the...ow!! Where the fuck is the train to Times Square? Union Square? Herald Square? Any fucking square! Aaaagggghh!!!"
We eventually managed to convince my parents that we normally know where the hell we're going, but that the subways had been taken over by terrorists. Pygmy terrorists.
The rain cleared on Sunday and we went on a lovely boat tour of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Lots of Japanese tourists, lots of fat Middle American tourists, and Bob Barker's twin brother making with the snappy patter over the microphone.
Bob gave us an interesting explanation of a mystery that's been dogging my brain for a while. There's this huge hexagonal structure on the northern end of Governors' Island, which is between Manhattan and Staten Island. I never have figured out what it is. Bob says that the island used to be a military installation, and that the big structure is an air vent for some piece of machinery or another (actually, it's a vent for the subway tunnel - ed.). And now no one uses the island. This island that's right next to Manhattan and Brooklyn, and it's just deserted. That's not working for me, I'm afraid. There's some Men In Black shit going on over there, be sure of it. Nevada's too obvious. Put the aliens on Governors' Island, who'll know?
Anyhow, after the cruise we showed my folks our tiny apartment, which looked positively luxurious up against their hotel room, and went to Prospect Park. It was a lovely walk, though we had to adjust course to dodge an altercation of some sort (probably a gangsta dominoes game gone bad), and therefore walked a bit longer than I'd anticipated. We refreshed ourselves at Circles, a groovy little bar on the edge of the park, and then traipsed to Brooklyn Heights for some mighty good Chinese food at a joint I can never remember the name of. We watched the city lights on the Promenade for a bit, and wandered around some Heights neighborhoods, feeling poor and scruffy. Someday, I shall have my Brooklyn Heights brownstone house. With an electronic cat door and a Doctor Who police box out front. Or maybe that'll wait for our London summer house.
So we saw the parents off on Monday, then went home and collapsed into a heap. We were both off work for Columbus Day, which I must say is a first for either of us. Who the hell closes for Columbus Day except the regular bank-and-post-office holiday opportunists? Apparently New York does. Yay, Chris. Thanks for discovering New York before those land-grabbing Native Americans got to it. Wait...
Went back to my old friends Rich Bitch Clothiers on Tuesday. This time, they had me cataloging in the Hats department. Specifically, the Ugly Old Lady Hats department (ugly hats for old ladies, not necessarily hats for ugly old ladies). I mean, damn. Big fabric flowers and plastic berries poking out of tissuey, lacey, dangly bits, all hanging off an On Golden Pond Katherine Hepburn Wide Brim Special. And that's for starters.
There was one there that I can't even describe, because it blinded me before I could get a good look. I remember a round shape, and something obscuring the headband...no, too late, the memory is burying itself behind my junior high baseball games. That'll be one for the therapist to unearth one day. I have this picture of what therapists do, not ever having been to one. They put you to sleep, then pop the top and dig through your brain, turning over particularly nasty-looking rocks. "Eww, what's this? Aaaggghhh!!"
I'm pretty sure that Medusa hat was the one causing all the guttural reactions I kept hearing in the display area throughout the week: "Unngh." "Whuuaggh." "Nnnphf." Quite.
These hats were samples that were going to some Shit-We-Don't-Want-Anymore sale, and Valley Girl No. 823,116 (my supervisor) told me that I could bring some of these hats home to my mother if I wanted to. Yeah, if I wanted to be sent to bed without any supper. I might as well shit in a bag and set it on fire in the living room. And I'm definitely not bringing any of these monstrosities home for the Wifely. "You. Sleep. No supper."
Then I get Miss Nosy Pants, the receptionist, who for some reason wants to know all about your friendly neighborhood temp's thoroughly exciting life:
"So, like, what's your story?"
"Umm, I'm 28 and I live in Brooklyn."
"Yeah, but like, where'd you come from?"
Your nightmares. Wilford Brimley's asshole. Does it matter? "Fort Worth, Texas."
Christ. Please die soon. "Mmmph."
"So, like, who's the ring for?"
"That would be my wife."
"How long you been married?"
"Oh, my God, oh, my God! Wow, congratulations! That's really amazing!"
I wasn't aware that we'd broken any records, but okay. "Thanks."
"So, like, what do you do?"
"You're looking at it."
No, I'm going to discuss my musical aspirations with you. You seem like you'd really understand my pain. "Yep."
"Oh. So what do you like to do?"
"Go to lunch." And I did.
I'm really a nice guy. Really, I am. But Sweet Baby James, I ain't Francis of Assisi. Some hatred is simply too strong for civility to overcome. I just thank Pete that I'm not a Jedi, what with the evil blue lightning bolts & all. I'd never get insurance.
Speaking of, I keep getting these contemptuous looks on the subway because I'm reading a Star Wars novel right now. Okay, look: I CAN read, all right? I know it's not fucking Umberto Eco or some other improbably spelled literary pillar, but sometimes I just need some fucking good vs. evil, fucking asteroid-blasting, fucking Star Wars action in my life. I worked at a bookstore for four fucking years, goddammit. I just read Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer, and I assure you I understood the whole goddamn thing, even enjoyed it. I've got a damn copy of Catcher in the Rye in my bag. But you can't have a full-course meal every time you're hungry. Sometimes you need a frikkin' Whopper with cheese. Dammit, get off my back, or I'll make with the Darth Vader death grip. What is it that you've got over there, anyway? The Daily News? You need to shut the fuck up.
Besides, I have a secret. I've just discovered one of the best albums of 2002, and it seems that very few people know of its existence. The album of which I speak is Peter Gabriel's Up. I know, I know: "Peter Gabriel has a new album out?" Yeah, it's not like the record company bothered to TELL anyone about it or anything. But it's really awesome. Check out the review.
I would also recommend the new P.T. Anderson movie, Punch-Drunk Love. Seriously, I know it's got Adam Sandler in it, but the boy will blow your ass away. I didn't know he had it in him. Happy Gilmore this ain't, which will disappoint fans of Sandler's usual crapulence, but they need disappointing. Anderson's got a good track record so far, what with Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and he's definitely keeping that streak going. Damn, what am I, Roger Ebert? I need a dead partner.
Man, I wrote a song about a transsexual last night for no good reason. I think this city's getting to me. The Lou Reed Effect.
But on a completely unrelated note...
Okay, so today I'm standing in the lobby at Rich Bitch, waiting for an elevator, when this woman walks up and stands next to me. She's nearly my height in her heels, and I can't help thinking she looks familiar.
"Brrr!!" she exclaims, shivering in her thin sweater, "It's chilly!"
"Yep," I reply, "Sure is cold." I've been distracted by music thoughts all weekend, & I've got Studio Hangover, so to speak. She is rather cute, though. I feel like I should say more. It doesn't matter how long I've been married, I still feel like I should be verbally impressive around attractive women. Old opportunists' instinct. But it seems that "Yep, sure is cold," is all I've got in me as we step onto the elevator. She looks damned familiar, though. We ride up to the floor before mine in silence, where she exits and smiles over her shoulder at me as the door closes.
A woman next to me exhales loudly and says, "Oh, my God, do you know who that WAS?" And suddenly I do. That was Cindy Crawford.
Now it hits me: The moment that my horny high school friends and I had envisioned in feverish tones over countless magazine spreads had finally come to pass. I met Cindy Crawford. And what did I say? "Yep. Sure is cold." A cocksman of renown I am not.
But really, what was I gonna say? "May I warm your boobies with my eager hands?" That's a little closer to the high school fantasy, but definitely no more suave than my astute weather commentary. Of course, now I'm wondering if she was flirting with me. Not FLIRTING flirting, but maybe that sort of you-ain't-got-a-chance-in-hell-sonny-jim supermodel flirting. Or maybe she's looking for a downtown man. That's what I am.
Maybe my apparent disinterest looked like playing hard-to-get. It works that way with little kids in laundromats, why not hot chicks? And maybe I've been pulling on the ol' crack pipe a little too hard lately.
Regardless, I win. My first New York celebrity sighting, and it's Cindy Frikkin' Crawford. I met her first, nyah-nanny-boo-boo. Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it. All together now...