Whew. That bigass staircase at the 42nd Street station leaves me winded every time. I'm a Texas weenie boy.
Been a tough week here at the big gummint operation. These hours are wrong like a chin dong. 7AM-6PM. However, it's kinda cool to be in the news. Saw a big CNN article about how the Washington brass don't think we'll get done hiring baggage screeners in time for the national deadline. And I feel rather giggly to be in on the secret reason why: the Internet. We have five computers in here that everyone lines up to use. But one of them's my data entry workstation, so I got dibs until lunchtime. Everyone else skulks around the computer room waiting for a terminal to free up, so they can check their email and shop for handbags instead of working. I'm probably violating National Security protocols by revealing this to you, but I'm a dangerous guy. Look out.
I revealed something else this week: my copier-daemon. This happens at every job, but it never ceases to amaze me. See, usually I go through the whole day without saying anything to my co-workers, other than necessary job-stuff. This is a habit I picked up a few years ago, when I realized that most workplace conversations are boring enough to actually cause brain death. I've had to run out of a room to save myself. The rare exceptions to this rule do arise, but I generally don't risk it.
So I think it comes to people as a bit of a shock when my copier-daemon is released. It starts when someone needs something really big copied really quick. The mistake my supervisors make is to mention the project's urgency within the copier's earshot, which is about a 50-foot radius. You really need to go outside to a secure area before you mention something like that.
Yesterday's project was a 10-page document that needed to be copied and stapled 250 times. On a Xerox Document Centre, an old nemesis of mine. It only took 10 minutes for the machine's evil plans to reach fruition. I knew something was up when it beeped innocently and asked me to remove all documents from the Finisher. As I slowly began to pull the stack of completed documents free, the Finisher platform lurched upwards, pinning the papers into the stapler attachment and making a strained clicking racket to wake the dead.
The next thing I know, 10 wide-eyed co-workers are peering around the corner in wonderment. My foot is up against the Finisher as I beat it with a stapler, and a veritable hobo stew of profanities issues unbidden from my lips, which are frozen in a rictus of pure hatred. The copier-daemon has arisen, beware ye who approacheth. "My goodness!" says little Angela Lansbury (her actual name sounds like Ann Uhhhhmelmahay from The Man With Two Brains). "Fucking copier shit ass motherfucking damn crap," I reply. And the workday continues in relative silence.
Actually, the lady whose name sounds like Ann Uhhhhmelmahay is pretty nice. She was sitting next to me at lunch and asked what I was eating. "McDonald's," I said, "I had a Quarter Pounder jones."
"A Quarter Pounder jones," she mused, in delicate English consonants, "How very American." I felt so very entertaining, like I should whip out more continental colloquialims for her, but that's one of those things like The Crying Game. It only works once, and then you have to be the creepy alien in Stargate. What?
This is totally unrelated, but later, I overhear the mafioso security guys in the hall:
"So, you gettin' a bonus this week?"
"So give me your wife's phone number."
"The fuck you want that for?"
"Just gimme the number."
He gives him the number.
"Hi, Mrs. Capelli? Yeah, dis is Franco, I work with your husband. I'm just calling to let you know that he's gettin' a big check this week, so don't let him go tellin' you he can't take you out to dinner or buy you somethin' nice. You're welcome."
"You're fuckin' crazy."
"Just lettin' you take care of your lady."
Crazy mafia guys. Elvin, this guy I work with, says the one who looks like Tony Soprano propositioned him last night on the street. Like "propositioned" him. He politely declined, then locked himself in his room for the rest of the evening. That's gotta make the workday awkward. Thankfully no one wants my good stuff. Gotta keep that Poindexter thang up.
I keep being amazed by these applications, though. This one guy lived with his parents from 1955 to 1975. Then he moved next door. He's still there. I love my parents, but Jeeeezus. And his job history is all over the place. He probably can't concentrate because he's got his frikkin' parents next door, yelling out the window. "What, you lost another job? You disgrace the family!" It'll be Springer time soon.
Then another guy listed his 2-year prison term under Employment. I mean, I guess he probably worked in prison. Or maybe got worked. And his supervisor? Mr. Officer. No phone number. No shit.
And last week's perfect pothead memory guy was apparently in the right. Got a guy this week who listed the number of times he'd smoked pot as "Unknown". Quite honestly, I suspect. But the gummint ain't having none of that. We have to contact him and get an estimate. At least they didn't find his FBI file & fill it in for him. Stupid omniscient agencies.
In non-work news, we went to a show in Williamsburg on Friday night. First up was a selection of old short films. A quick sampling of the program descriptions (in quotes), then my own comments:
TIME OF THE LOCUST (Peter Gessner, 1966) - "The sky is black with bombers, the grass is crying for man." Pretty shocking documentary footage from the Vietnam War. Can't really say much else.
APARATUS SUM (Hollis Frampton, 1972) - "Hollis Frampton meditates on what remains." What remains are bits of autopsy footage floating about the screen like they're supposed to tell you something useful. What, "don't die, you may become corned beef"?
BE-IN 1967 (Jerry Abrams, 1967, Music by Blue Cheer) - "A psychedocument, starring acid heads, radicals, flower children, Leary, Ginsberg, Garcia, and Manny Otherz." There was a time that I thought I was born in the wrong time period, and that I was really supposed to be a hippie. Things like this remind me that people didn't suck any less 35 years ago. Way too cool for me. If it ain't parachute pants or cargo pants or bell-bottom pants or what the fuck ever...ah, screw 'em.
STRAIGHT AND NARROW (Beverly and Tony Conrad, 1970, music by Terry Riley and John Cale) - "A flickeringly refreshing eyeopener. Pow!" Aggh!!! My eyes!!! Agggh!! The seizures!!! Aggggggh!!! Leftover Velvet Underground shit!!! Yeah, 1970 indeed. 10 minutes of flickering lines and drunken piano playing do not a visionary opus make. There are many things Andy Warhol must ultimately answer for, and I fear this may be one.
ARABESQUE FOR KENNETH ANGER (Marie Menken, 196?, music by Teiji) - "Marie Menken's delicate hand leads one to one's own beauty. Behold." Umm, yeah. Behold. If I were interested in old Arabic buildings, which I occasionally am, I would start to question that interest after watching this. I think this started out as a documentary, and when its crappy cinematography became too much to bear, someone said, "Why don't you put some Eastern music on it and call it an art film?"
WINDOWMOBILE (James Broughton with Joel Singer, 1977) - "Poet James Broughton is always true to his wise, his innocent soul." If Mister Rogers decided to make an art film, this would be the unfortunate mutant brainchild. Narration in the classic 1st-grade-teacher style is accompanied by window-reflected images of a man repeatedly taking off his shirt to expose a rather impressive beer gut. My innocent soul requests a gun to shoot itself.
MATRIX (James Whitney, 1968) - "Visionary filmmaker plumbs the depths of percepconscienceness. All circuits are GO!" I was in the can while this one was on, but judging from the program blurb, I probably would've hated it. 'Percepconscienceness'? Get the fuck out.
THANATOPSIS (Ed Emshwiller, 1962) - "The moment one's mortality is revealed to be a brilliant gem, fearsome and enchanting." At last, something that actually resembles its blurb. Pretty cool fluttery camerawork, & a creepy old man face. Rrrar!!
SERPENT (Scott Bartlett, 1971) - "This film, 31 years old, is as now as CNN 31 years from tomorrow. Bartlett = genius." Whatever, but it does have some cool shots. The camera goes winding up a tree branch a few times, & gives you a bit of vertigo. And there's a tit shot. Whoo-hoo!!
Next up after the Retrospectacle was an interesting concept that maybe needs some better execution. This woman dances around the stage slowly, while a guy with a digital camera films her and manipulates the playback on an overhead screen with a computer program of some sort. It's cool for a few minutes, but it starts becoming masturbatory pretty quickly. That impression isn't helped by this other guy who accompanies the show with computer noises and blips that sound like a more annoying version of that dial-up modem racket. There is a tit shot, though.
But then, the images and the dancer finish, leaving the fucking noise guy to whack off by himself for a while. This is our cue to leave.
Some folks around here may be too hip for their own good.
I just looked out the window here at work & now I'm afraid to go to lunch. Buncha Bjork-looking women in red body-tights are parading down Broadway with Virgin Wireless signs and making the mime faces at passersby. It ain't right. They'll get the mime-ick on me for sure. That's like a limp-handshake ick or a small-head ick, the kind that sticks with you for hours. (shudder)
You'll note that I haven't mentioned Oliver The Upstairs German in a few weeks. That's because he's been in der Vaterland visiting his girlfriend who it is not possible to live with. But I'm spicing my pork chops on Saturday, and a voice creeps over my shoulder.
Aggh!! Das ist Oliver!
"Oh, hi. I thought you were gone."
"I vas on vacation."
"So," he begins, missing only his interrogation lamp, "How is your job going?"
"Umm, not bad. I'm working for the government now."
A frown. "As a guitar player?"
"What? Oh. No, this is my day job."
"I thought you vere a musician."
"I am. I want to be. I am. But it's not paying enough yet, so I have to work somewhere else for a while."
A look of suspicion.
"You know. To pay the bills. A day job?"
A cocked eyebrow. "I see."
Now I have guilt. And I don't even know why. Oliver is disappointed in me. God preserve my fragile ego. I want to say, "Look man, maybe I'm not a medical doctor who's in a foreign country to study photography for some reason, but I know what I'm doing, and I know you have to have a day job if you're a fucking poor musician living in New York City, trying to release a CD!" But why would I need to justify my existence to some guy who's living in the cramped apartment above me? Because he's Oliver, and you do not disappoint Oliver. Well, bollocks to that.
"So what are you doing?"
"Vat?" he says, taken aback.
"What are you doing this week?"
"Oh. I am...studying."
I can cock my brow as well as the next German. "Ah."
He re-cocks his in retaliation. "Yes. Studying."
We lock brow-heights for a moment.
"Vell. I must go and visit Eddie."
I think that surely he doesn't know our landlord, Edwino, well enough to call him "Eddie". But later that evening, I see Oliver & "Eddie" hanging out around the back gate. And I may be wrong, but I think they both had pot-smile happening. I've seen a lot of pot-smile, & it's pretty distinctive. So, Oliver's hashing the super, is he? I hesitate to guess what perks he gets as a result of that. What, a new mattress? A new television? Pot's cheaper than that. But maybe "Eddie" and his friend the cucaracha don't know that.
We have another German living upstairs who I haven't had any trouble with, mostly because I never see him. But I walk into the shared kitchen one day, and there's this tiny little 19-year-old girl reading at the table. In a mild accent, she introduces herself as a friend of the Other German, and I make with the pleasantries. Seems decent enough.
But a few minutes later, I come sauntering in with the 2 pounds of hamburger meat I'm about to cook up good & proper with some Worcestershire sauce and Lawrey's Seasoned Salt like a mofo aww yeah, nodding to her as I pass. She spies the meat, pops her eyes out of their petite little sockets, and RUNS out of the room, slamming the kitchen door behind her with the indignance only a true vegetarian can muster.
Involuntarily, a malevolent chuckle escapes my lips. I've always dreamed of stinking out a tight-arsed vegetarian neighbor, but the odds of running into one in Texas was pretty slim. But my moment of glory is upon me. I WAS going to eat in the kitchen and clean up immediately thereafter. I WAS going to turn on the venting fan as a courtesy to my neighbors. I WAS only going to cook a pound of this stuff, then save the rest for later. But no. Oh, no, no. Not now, my friends. Now all 2 pounds of that bad boy are gonna get fried up niiice & slow. And then I'm gonna walk around the house eating it. And then I'm gonna leave the dirty dishes out for the rest of the day. Yesss, my preciousss...
I crack the door a bit to let the heavenly stink of burning cow flesh waft into the hall. What's missing? Bacon! I rush downstairs,--leaving the kitchen door wide open, mind you--grab a big hunk of sliced pig innards, and throw it in the skillet. The air is thick with particles of meat grease, and I swoosh my arms frantically in the direction of the cracked door, hoping to flood the house top to bottom with the glorious stench of bovine death.
I stand by the door, listening for German curses from the floor above. Yes! The day is mine! Flee before Matthew, Master of Beef, Conqueror of the Kitchen, Mutilatrix of...wait. There's a sound. Feet on stairs. Forms moving past the door. Outer door opening.
I rush out into the hallway and see my victim and the Other German walking unhurriedly out into the street. Damn! Did they smell it? I sniff the air in the hallway, but I can't tell whether I'm smelling my meaty clothes or the results of my fumigation. Damn! Now I'll never know. Somehow I expected a climactic showdown of some sort. Maybe a witty parting quip to finish her off. But it occurs to me that I hadn't thought of one beforehand, so it probably wouldn't have been that brain-shattering. "Oh, yeah? Well...uh...put THAT in your...something, because I'm...and you've got, and...well, eat my turdy-hole!" Quite.
Now, like an alcoholic waking up from a bender, I survey my damage path. The meat package hangs bloodily off the edge of the sink, the counter surrounding the skillet is slick with greasy funk, and there are two-plus pounds of steaming meat sitting there, defying me. And I can only barely see them defy me, because my glasses are covered in a film of beefy/bacony nastiness. It is kinda gross. Now I feel like joining a support group or something. Hi, my name's Matthew, and I eat meat. Oh yeah, and I make a big fucking mess.
Just heard that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rob Reiner may be squaring off for the 2006 California governor's race. Another good reason to stay on this coast. Although being able to call your governor "Meathead" would be pretty cool. You watch, we'll get De Niro and Pacino running for the post over here. "You wanna be the fuckin' governor?" "Yeah. You wanna be the fuckin' governor?" "Yeah. You wanna be the fuckin' governor?"
Another reason to stay here: I think Central Park is quickly becoming my favorite place in the world. You see everything. Example...
Wifely and I like relaxing on a park bench in the Mall, a promenade in the middle of the park covered by tall, arching trees. All you have to do is sit there, and you'll get all the entertainment you could ask for.
First you have the Parade of Dogs. Why people have dogs in this city is beyond me, but you'll never see a wider variety. There goes a Great Dane that's bigger than its owner. There's an excessively hairy dachshund. There's a couple of mastiffs with mohawks. It never ends.
Then the Parade of Strollers. Ugly kids, cute kids, drooling kids, crying kids, kids with chocolate face, kids beating the crap out of their action figures, on and on for hours. The great thing is that you look at 'em as they pass, and then they're gone.
And of course the freakshow. Punks, queens, tech-boys, ho's, even the occasional fat tourist. I can spot 'em now, so I guess I'm a real New Yorker. Fuckin' tourists.
But Saturday, this couple careens by on their rollerblades. Asian twentysomethings, just smiling away like anything. The guy makes a circle back near our bench, then goes down on one kneepad. The girl comes back around, and he proposes to her. I admit it. I welled up. So did Wifely. But what a great place for such things. That guy rocks. Didn't hear whether she accepted, though, because we walked off to give them their privacy. And if she turned him down, I would've felt bad, so I'm keeping the storybook ending.
So now I gotta figure out how to get past the mime-people in the street so I can get lunch. And it seems to have gotten worse, because now there's a guy competing with them for attention. He's lining people up, bending them over, and...no, no, he doesn't do THAT, he makes a running jump over them.
Maybe I've been myopic about ways to make money around here. I can make a lot of hand-farting noises. That's worth a buck, at least.