Thursday, January 15, 2009

NYC (part III) 11/11-19: "You never got your generation’s memo that returning phone calls is so passe"

You rub the sleep from your weary eyes, for it is now Tuesday and you are alive. You take your first shower in several days. It feels nice. Showers are always more satisfying when you don’t have them as often. Being clean never felt so good. Still, you wouldn’t be up at this ungodly hour if Horowitz didn’t have to leave for work. You stop off for some bagels and smoothies before jumping on the 7 train to Bryant Park.
Today will be different. You decide to change things up and head for the NY Public Library with all your bags in tow – can’t trust friends anymore who never pick up their phones. Upon emerging from the subway, you unexpectedly happen upon a massive ice rink. There are some chairs set up, conveniently enough in a patch of inviting sunlight. You grab a seat and stare for a while at a pretty girl on skates, gliding along the ice.
An official looking man walks by and you ask him how much it costs to rent skates. $10, he says. Too much. It’s nice just watching the graceful girl in the rink. She surprises you with a double toe loop here, a double salchow there. Maybe she lands a triple, but if that’s true, what would she be doing skating in Bryant Park at 10 in the morning? You wonder if she notices your staring, whether she’s flattered, annoyed, or just indifferent. That’s when you catch a creepy looking middle-aged man taking an equal interest in you, conspicuously ogling you each time he rounds your side of the rink. Thankfully a group of schoolchildren arrive and provide a human shield. You wonder if you’ve hung these children out to dry? Is the middle-aged man a pedophile? Do you still count as a youth at 24? You are a very young looking 24, what with the boyish face and lack of aggressive facial hair. It’s good that the children are standing there to protect you from his scary glare. Another man, most likely nostalgically reliving old hockey days, speed skates by the school children several times with one de-gloved hand outstretched, high-fiving them with every repeated pass. The sun has shifted and you’re out of the limelight. It’s time to go.
The NY Public Library doesn’t open for another hour, so you make your way into the auxillary library across the street. At the back of the 3rd floor there are some desks which look mighty inviting to rest your head upon. Lord knows it was tough work watching that pretty girl dance all over the ice like some kind of imagined succubus. As your eyes start to close, you hear the sound of snoring coming from the other side of the desk divider. It seems you’re not the first to have this brilliant idea. After yesterday’s incident at Barnes and Noble with the security guard, you’re not willing to take any chances. Flipping through the latest US News issue of college rankings and surfing the internet in company with NYC’s smelliest kills enough time before it’s off to the main library.
Past the sleeping lions you tread, up the stairs – it feels like walking into the Pantheon. Once inside, the vastness is overwhelming. Where are all the books? There are loads of tour groups, vaulted ceilings, multiple levels, winding stone staircases, and secret map rooms. The featured exhibit is all about Yaddo – an exclusive community of rotating creative types (artists/writers/musicians) invited to work in peace on a sprawling estate in Saratoga Springs. Notable names include Capote, Copeland, and Philip Roth.
Normally you are unamused by museums, but after so many trips to Union Square, this provides a welcome respite. Who knew Yaddo could be so engrossing? Two hours later, you can’t any longer stand on your own two feet. Here’s hoping Horowitz left your name on the list as you wend your way back to Long Island City.
Day turns to night as your time in NYC whittles down. Mike has invited you to the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre for some improv comedy. You oblige. The theatre is intimate, maybe 120 or so people. The acts are very funny. Around the middle of the show, the MC’s suggestively remark than on any given night, you never know just who might drop by. Sure enough, as the next group takes to the stage and the lights go up, the audience erupts. You can’t figure out what’s going on. An attractive blonde sitting to your right seizes your shoulders and starts shaking you hysterically. Of the 6 performers on stage, one appears slightly out of place. He is older than the others. He is funny looking. His name is Robin Williams and he’s standing no more than twenty feet away from you. Not a bad way to spend your final night in the city, and for a meager five bucks to boot. What the hell were you thinking spending $13 on the new Bond film?
The performance lets out, Mike leaves with his girlfriend, it’s colder than ever and you have no idea where you’re sleeping. The clock inches closer to midnight. It’s too late to call anyone – anyone except for Lauren with whom you were supposed to go out earlier but failed to return your calls. You never got your generation’s memo that returning phone calls is so passe. You send some passive-aggressive text messages “Firing her as a friend.” The ploy works, though you’re not so sure it’s a ploy. She calls and an invitation is extended amidst profuse apologizing. There’s even some left over food, she says.
Fate has fared you well, and even though you haven’t managed so much as a kiss during your eight days in the world’s most epic metropolis, you never had to sleep in Central Park.

NYC (part II) 11/11-19: "I'm going to punch you in the fucking face!"

A new day is born and I kill most of it holed up in Horowitz’s high-rise apartment checking email, futilely job searching, and eating a deli sandwich. That’s the best thing about NYC – there’s a deli on every street corner.
When I finally make a move, it’s to my safety zone of Union Square where I loiter in the warmth of Barnes and Noble reading plays. This time I thumb through half of Kenneth Lonnergan’s “This Is Our Youth” before it’s time to head for Hell’s Kitchen where I get to watch Lauren have her hair straightened for an hour at the salon. This is something she gets done every week.
“Some people spend their money on alcohol, I spend mine on getting my hair straightened,” she says.
“But you spend money on alcohol too!” I think but don’t dare say for fear of incurring a wrath comparable to the End of Days. No need to fluster her – I leave that to the first few restaraunts we walk into for a potential meal, their imperfect temperature settings send her into a fit.
Lauren agrees to sponsor my dinner after I whine about being unemployed for 24 years, but not without giving me a hard time about what I’m allowed to order. Even after I choose something relatively inexpensive, the Fish and Chips, she guilts me into buying us both some peppermint shots that cost more than my meal itself.
After dinner, I meet up with Leah and her new boyfriend Andrew in Midtown at some work party of her’s. She’s already trashed and her boyfriend looks bored to tears. We change venues, some loud and dark place where Katy and Justin await. Our new companions also appear bored to tears and unamused, probably because (and I’m speculating here) Katy is too hip for Midtown, and Justin doesn’t drink. It’s not long before Leah has her first lovers’ quarrel with Andrew and they leave. At a nearby diner, I look on as Katy pecks at fries while Justin consumes a turkey-avocado omlette, myself too frugal to deem late night dining over $5 a non-frivolous expense (nevermind that I just dropped $25 on three beers). Justin graciously passes me some leftover hasbrowns, and within the hour he and I are back in his Brooklyn Heights apartment ready for bed.
“Jared,” he says, “I swear to God, if you ask me so much as a single question in the morning, I’m going to punch you in the fucking face!”

I awake having to pee very badly, determined to put it off until the moment just before my kidneys explode. That’s sometime around 10am, and I can hear Justin rustling around in his room. I have no choice but to face the day. Justin’s all about making the most of his weekend. What that entails, I’m not exactly sure. He fixes us both a bowl of oatmeal and a plate of eggs just for himself.
We throw on the football game at noon. Michigan ultimately loses after keeping it close for most of the game, like so many of their exhaustive outings this season, only this time it cements their losingest season ever. I’m relatively unphazed. Justin takes the outcome more personally.
We take a walk. Outside it’s overcast and drizzly. I grab some Subway and Justin shows me the famous view of Manhattan across the river. The skyline is shrouded in clouds and mist. The expanse of promenade on our side of the river looks post-apocalyptic, but big banners hanging from the sides' of buildings with “One Brooklyn” written on them promise better days ahead. I decide it’s probably best to leave Justin and Brooklyn before they both start to hate me.
Once again, I set off for the safety of Barnes and Noble in Union Square. The rain imprisons me there for longer than I’d like. I finish up reading “This Is Our Youth”. Good stuff.
It’s Saturday night and there happens to be a big UFC fight card scheduled. Much to my chagrin I can’t find anyone to watch it with me. I momentarily contemplate heading up to Hooters in Midtown to view it alone, but at the last minute decide it’s too depressing and instead opt for a night out with Katy.
It’s pizza slices for dinner, washed down with some Svedka vodka tonics. Katy and I sit on her couch sipping our drinks while watching terrible music videos on demand. Kate Perry will be on loop in my head for days. We consume a decent amount of alcohol in short time before setting sail to some club where old NYU friends of hers await. Turns out they’re a bunch of business school grads, one of which is immediately curious about my sentiments regarding the impending auto industry bailout. I’ll tell you this, I have stronger sentiments about taking down my first ever shot of Patron on someone else’s dime. It’s also nice that Katy decides to bankroll my entire drinking bill which includes three or so martinis. Post-bar, in a state of pleasant-drunkenness, I happily lay down $12 for two slices of crummy latenight pizza on the stroll home. Once back in her apartment, my sleep isn't very effective for I’m too lazy to rearrange the massive pillows at the head of my guest bed and instead settle for resting in a very unnatural incline.

Sunday morning finds me in a Soho diner opposite Katy. She orders a turkey burger with bacon ala carte, I myself go for a Greek omlette that looks like somebody zapped it with a shrinking gun. When we return to her apartment, our stomachs digesting, Katy agrees to read my screenplay. She breezes through it in a record-setting 30 minutes, the time it takes me to read four pages in Richard Ford’s “Independence Day”. She reacts favorable to the manuscript. It’s time to get out of there before she starts hating me, and so it’s back to Union Square for the day.
At 8 o’clock, I meet up with Mike to attend the Fall Conservatory Scene Night of Mike’s girlfriend and her fellow graduating thespains. They’re a mixed bag of talent, but I quite enjoy the performances. It’s a nice change of scenery from Barnes and Noble and feels like a particularly New York thing to do: going to the theatre.
Afterwards we pick up some of those delectable NYC deli sandwiches, this time from a place run by a grumpy Korean man who gets angry with me for not wanting a bag. Back to Brooklyn we go to watch some Colbert Report and the major fights from last night’s UFC that I’ve made a point of all day to keep from being spoiled. Watching them there in poor resolution on Mike’s computer proves anti-climactic. The streaming video fails to capture the fight-ending punch Brock Lesnar lands on Couture. Instead it looks as if Couture falls down from his own volition. In life, I guess the anticipation is always better.
My sleeping arrangements are made in the basement of Mike’s spacious 5-bedroom Bushwick establishment. The conditions are artic, forcing me to sleep in my hat, shoes, and jacket. I doze off tonguing an icicle formed in the region where most other men can grow a moustache.

In the morning, I am spared another trip to Barnes and Noble when the opportunity arises for a solid meal in Chinatown. We eat family style. The dumplings are supposedly to die for. I like them well enough. Lo mein, general tsao’s chicken, and all that other good stuff cozy up in my stomach.
By the time we finish it’s mid-afternoon and the sun has progressed through a sizeable chunk of its Western arc. A few of us lumber over to Battery Park for a screening of the latest James Bond film, Quantum of Solace. $13 it costs me, and when the smoke clears, I don’t feel any more enlightened. This city will be the end of me.
A few hours pass and I’m back in Barnes and Noble following a brisk walk uptown. The stint is an abbreviated one as I can’t keep my eyes open in the reading chair. It’s not long before a security guard is kicking me out into the impersonal New York night. At a loss, I peruse the collections at DSW and Phylem’s basement, and as I’m riding the escalator down on my way out to nowhere in particular, I spot ole Maxim ascending the other side. I have not called Max this trip because of harbored resentment over his questionable character as a friend, but it's nothing a little chitchat at McDonalds can’t solve over a big mac and ice cream cone. Max recounts for me his move to NYC to join his fiancee and their subsequent implosion. They lived together at her family’s house in Queens for four days before she threw him out along with his ring. His next host seemed gracious enough until after two weeks went sniffing through Max’s computer, found some bookmarked apartment listings in Chelsea and inevitably jumped to the logical conclusion that Max must be a “cocksucker”. That was that. Three places later, Max has seemingly found a stable living situation in Astoria, to which he kidnaps me for ping pong at some local bar. Meanwhile, my bag of clothes is still at Horowitz’s whom I fear might never pick up his phone again. He comes through right as I’m approaching wit’s end. I say goodbye to Max and hop back on the subway headed for clean clothes and a shower which I’ll put off until the morning.