The clock reads 7:27am, three mere minutes from the time when my first alarm will go off.
Of all the superhuman powers I could possibly have, I get stuck with this? This psychokinetic connection to my alarm clock?
The alarm goes off at 7:30, as expected. I immediately hit snooze and fall back on my pillow. I doze in and out of sleep but i am mostly awake. This tango will continue every five minutes for the next half hour.
The sound of a taxicab gliding over the cobblestones drifts through my open window, waking me up.
I’m up, god damnit. I’m up.
Let’s make it 8, I decide. I lay there enveloped in that hazy lazy morning comfort.
The next time I check the time, it’s 8:06. Who gets up at 8:06? What kind of sense does that make?
Okay, 8:10. It’s a nice even number. I justify the logic in my head. It’s sound. I dive back into the soft pillow.
By the time my bare feet hit the cold, hardwood floor, it’s 8:14.
8:14. Nearly half an hour past the appropriate time for me to wake up.
I’ll probably be late for work. Nonetheless, I continue down the path of poor logic and baseless optimism. Maybe the F train *won’t* pull her usual shenanigans this morning. Why couldn’t my superpower be teleportation? I could surely thwart her with the power of teleportation, never having to sink to her level, far below the murky bottom of the East River. The F Train. My nemesis.
I drowsily fetch a towel from the closet and hop in the shower to begin my day.
Every weekday morning…
And so it goes.
I sat in my apartment, eagerly awaiting a photo of my newborn nephew.
“Such a cute little peanut,” My relatives all said, using a variety of other food-related descriptors. “A darling biscuit, I just wanna eat’im up!”
I’ll believe it when I see it, I thought to myself.
Like an adult after a head injury who has to relearn human emotion by watching reruns of Touched by an Angel, I often struggle with responding appropriately after being shown pictures of newborns. They all look the same to me—shriveled, miniature goblins. Still, I was genuinely happy for my sister and didn’t want to ruin her moment with my emotional incompetence. I hoped for some of that blind, unconditional love—the kind that prompts excited new parents to solicit the names of baby modeling agencies, thinking their child is the portrait of perfection (the next Gerber Baby) rather than one of those middle-earth creatures from Lord of the Rings, which is often more realistic.
“Oh, god,” I said out loud, massaging my forehead. “I am the worst.” I started crafting a canned response that was appropriate if not authentic.
“He looks nice!” I would say.
Nice?! What the hell is that? Why am I so socially stunted? Will she just send a picture already? Let’s get this over with. And what the hell was she doing anyhow? Just laying around? I kept refreshing my facebook news feed, maniacally.
My iPhone lit up on the table next to me with a picture message. A tanned little peanut in a green and white striped onesie. And he was cute! Honestly and genuinely cute. Maybe it was the blood-relative lack of objectivity, but I didn’t care. I was drawn to this little tiny creature.
“Did you take him to the tanner?” I asked her. “Did you pop him out and immediately take him over to The Cooked Look?”
I balked after putting that out there. Maybe that wasn’t the right approach. I mean, it was better than saying ‘Oh, he looks nice, right?’ My sister tends to err on the side of emotional tempest, and she did just shit out a child. Not unlike a wounded zoo animal, she’s normally enchanting and lovely but has the potential to lash out unexpectedly under duress. This is one of her many charms.
“I think it’s because he’s next to my albino arm,” she said. “Also, he’s a little jaundiced.”
Annnnd, I just need to keep my mouth shut…
“But don’t worry,” she continued, “I scheduled a tanning appointment for him next week.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Awkward social crisis averted. All that worry and stress over nothing. Of course she was going to have a sense of humor about this—that was how we dealt with things.
At the end of the day, maybe that’s my role in all this, right? The oddball uncle on the periphery, there to crack jokes and offer quirky insight into important life lessons:
- Watch Mary Poppins often, and never ever—under any circumstance—work for a bank.
- Crystal meth? Get it together, Jethro. Go have a beer instead.
- Profanity is magical, so let there be F-bombs aplenty.
- And—perhaps most important of all—staying inside the lines is for squares and uptight douchebags, so color away, beautiful nephew, color away.
As usual, the F train set out to inflict its misery upon an otherwise fantastic evening in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
“No Manhattan-bound F trains at this location,” the sign read.
I hardly batted an eye. The F train has beaten me into compliance with its inefficiency. Slowly wearing me down after months of living in Brooklyn, it wants me to know my place. I am its bitch, and it will come when it wants to come, motherfucker.
I was toasted, and in no mood for this. I just wanted to be home.
I darted back out to the street. Under normal circumstances I would have hiked home, bitter and militant, cursing at children and muttering nonsense to myself—behaving not unlike the vast majority of homeless New Yorkers. Instead, I stuck out my arm and hailed a cab. It was 25 degrees and windy, and while I started to feel better at the prospect of swearing at children, a toasty apartment and a freshly laundered pair of track pants sounded infinitely more appealing.
Two cabs on the corner, both with their turn signals on ready to duke it out over my affection once the light turned green. Having the initial disadvantage, the cab in the middle lane floored it and managed to plop himself in front of me on the corner of 4th Avenue and 9th Street. I always root for the underdog so I was pleased by this.
This may not be so bad after all, I thought.
That was my first mistake.
“I’m headed to DUMBO,” I cheerfully announced.
He responded with an incoherent, confused mumble that is commonplace for cab drivers who want to pretend they don’t know where they are going.
“The bridges? The Brooklyn Bridge? The Manhattan Bridge?” I reply.
You would have thought I said ‘Take me to Johannesburg!’
“Just drive up toward Flatbush,” I said instead.
“Flatbush backed up,” he said in broken English.
“That’s fine,” I said, explaining to him how to take the back way to avoid traffic. “Just keep going straight.”
“No. No. I know the way,” he replied. Ignoring my directions, he suddenly knew Brooklyn like the back of his hand. Right. Left. Left. Right. A. B. B. A. A. Start. It was like the blood code for Mortal Kombat on the Super Nintendo, and it was a harbinger of things to come.
It took me a second to regain my bearings before I realized we were on Flatbush, stuck in traffic. I thought maybe he had a master plan, but a few minutes went by and we had moved a total of five feet. I watched the meter tick upward. He was clearly taking me for a ride to jack up the fare.
“Why did you turn here?” I asked him in a manner that was part drunken slur, part childish whine.
“This what’chu want.”
And that’s when it happened. I swore at a New York City cab driver.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”
“YOU SAY! Don’t speck to me like ‘et. Geddout, you bum. Geddout!”
The meter read $10.89 (for a ride that should have been, at most, $6). I flicked a ten dollar bill at him. “Keep the change, you sonofabitch.” I slammed the door behind me and started the cold trek home. Maybe this was a badge of honor? Maybe this is one of the fraternal hazing rituals involved in becoming a true New Yorker? I didn’t care about any of it. I was cold and angry and wanted to be home.
The appeal of a warm apartment and track pants had evaporated. I got home, stripped down, and spent the remainder of the evening watching internet videos of puppies and kittens, certain to regain the Midwestern nice I had so clearly lost…
I noticed the woman’s expression over the pages of my book. Different from the curmudgeonly, disinterested expressions of everyone else on the 6 Train, she looked worried.
“Dumped,” I thought. I eased back on the door and continued reading.
She inched closer, her gaze intensified.
Again, I looked up from my book. She moved right in front of me. Her delicate porcelain features morphed into an unsettling shade of green. Her cheeks puffed out before each pained exhalation. I knew this look. This look was straight out of the playbook entitled ‘Greg Chopp: A Night of Exorbitant Drinking.’
I let the reality of the moment sink in.
She was going to ralph all over me.
Rather than showing concern for her well being, I immediately looked down at my Steve Maddens. I had just bought them a month ago. And this outfit? 80% Dry Clean Only.
There was only one alternative, and as a self-centered irreligious man, I really didn’t want to go there. But in the end, frugality won out over heathenism and I prayed to the MTA gods.
“Joe Lhota? Mike Bloomberg? Ginger Lesbian? Are you there? It’s me, Greg. The Steves and I are in desperate need of your help…”
Her shoulders started to twitch, and she began to lurch forward.
“Shit— Dear whoever…” I quickly finished my prayer. “May you steer her away from visions of curdled milk, cat pee, and elderly women chomping down on slugs with their toothless gums.
The voice of an angel bellowed overhead — an immediate response! Maybe there’s something to this religious shit after all.
“This is… (followed by the brief, synthetic pause of the computerized announcement system) Bleecker Street.”
Then, another voice. That of god himself.
“Transfer is available to the B, D, and F trains.”
I thrust my husky frame through the subway doors with the same wispy prowess as Paper Mario, and ran down the stairs to the next platform. While chunky, I can make shit happen.
I glanced down at the Steves as I walked down the F Train platform, a slight smile spreading across my face.
“We made it this time, friends…”
I was calm. I was happy. I was zen. It was the first time I waited for a Brooklyn-bound F Train in a state of mind other than exasperated irritation.
Today is a good day.
It started with a cryptic status update on Facebook between two good friends.
“I attempted that ‘thing’ we discussed earlier,” said Friend One. “I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.” The update concluded with the emoticon to denote sad uncertainty.
Friend Two was unsure what he meant. “Something warm?” she asked.
The suspense was killing me. A warm activity that was so bad it needed to be followed up with the sad, uncertain emoticon?
Burning a cross on a lawn? Drug trade in the Congo? Sautéing a kitten for dinner? WHAT?! Because I haven’t yet ditched that nosy Midwestern curiosity, I had to know.
Immediately, I fired off a message to Friend One. “Explain,” I demanded. It was a one-word call to action—succinct, to create a sense of urgency. No sooner had I sent the message than the red notification lit up my screen—the beacon of truth. I eagerly opened it.
It read, rather bluntly, “We were talking about peeing in the shower. I had never done it before, but both Friend Two and Friend Three were like ‘Why not? Everyone does it.’”
I stopped Ally McBeal and took a moment. I read it again.
“WHAT?!” I shrieked out loud to my computer screen. Realizing this means of communication did not translate, I collected myself and began typing my response. “No. Everyone does not do it. I do not do it. I was under the impression that most people do not do it.”
Friend One chimed back, “I was too. They painted a pretty convincing argument though. Bandwagon theory.”
“So you tried it?” I asked with morbid curiosity.
“YOU DID!” I said. “Oh my god…”
“If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he said in an effort to defend himself. “I tried. It, just… It was a very shy pee. It didn’t want to happen.”
“Because your dick knows better than that! I can’t believe this is a thing,” I said. “I am mortified.”
“I can tell,” said Friend One. “Rest assured, I did not go through with it.”
I kept thinking of questions. Normally I embrace my curious nature. In this instance, however, it did nothing but torpedo this revelation into the depths of a pee and soap-scum lined hell.
“Do you think houseguests pee in the shower?” I asked Friend One.
“I don’t know,” he said.
The questions kept flowing, not unlike the inevitable streams of urine soon to hit my shower floor. “How would you even broach that subject?” I asked. “Casually?”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“I guess, like, ‘Well here’s your towel. Help yourself to the shampoo. Don’t pee in the shower. There’s toothpaste in the cabinet. So glad you’re here!’”
I continued on. “Or would a more direct approach be better? A serious glance over the spectacles? ‘We don’t pee in the shower here.’ And then continue poaching eggs for breakfast?”
“Had I known you’d act this way, I never would have told you,” said Friend One.
I ignored his reprimand. “Are we the minority? Us non-pee’ers?” I asked. “Is it appropriate to take this to the streets? Does facebook still have that dumbass survey thing?”
“I can’t do this anymore,” said Friend One. “I have to make dinner. If you’re really struggling with this, just write about it.”
“Do you think it’s appropriate to post on my blog?” I asked.
“Just do it,” he said. “Haven’t your last few posts been about farting and etiquette in public restrooms anyway?”
Editorial Note: Deliberate ambiguity was used to protect the
innocent ones I love.
9:45 a.m. — I struggled for fifteen minutes to schedule a meeting in Outlook. This is an activity I have done upwards of seven times before, but I withered in despair after discovering there were four entries for a, one, Juan Lopez. I just couldn’t do this…
Juan was needed in a meeting, but I didn’t need all four. I didn’t even know them!
So I wept.
This unexpected and uncommon bout of incompetence sparked the template for the rest of my day—a day filled with expired Metrocards, lost keys, and zero capacity to navigate even the most simple social interactions.
Such fuckery continued until precisely 11:58 p.m., where it ended with the strike of a match.
In an attempt to rush the nightly ritual of getting to bed, I decided to multitask—something that has never been my strong suit. I swished the Listerine back and forth and wondered how I could hurry this process along. Journal? No, too time intensive. Picking up my underwear from the floor? I was just not interested. Instead, after deliberate thought, I decided to light some candles. That usually took about three minutes, which was the perfect amount of time for a refreshing rinse.
I struck the match and started lighting the candles. There is a game I play which involves lighting all three candles on the same match before it burns out.
This was a hearty match. I was pleased.
I took my time lighting the first two—slow, graceful execution, so as not to extinguish the flame. By the time I got to the third tealight, the flame started making its way down the matchstick.
“The flicker of candlelight is so magical,” I thought to myself as I leaned forward to blow out the flame. Something stopped me.
Shit. The mouthwash.
Meanwhile the flame encroached on my fingers.
Frantic, I waved the match around and danced like a madman. When this tactic failed, I considered dribbling some of my mouthwash onto it.
“Mouthwash has alcohol in it, you stupid fuck,” my angry lesbian conscience chided. “And it’s Listerine, too. Go on, blow the whole place up why don’t you?”
The flame nipped at my fingers. I winced. I yelped. I dropped the match on the floor and leapt back with the grace of a ballerina. It was over.
Shoulders slumped in defeat, I marched to the bathroom and spat the mouthwash in the sink. I made the ‘L’ symbol for loser with my left hand, held it up to my forehead and looked in the mirror. I was going to find humor in this moment…
I gazed into the face of failure. The ‘L’ was backward. My arm went limp and fell to my side.
I went to bed.
I settled into the toilet seat and positioned myself for the long haul… It was one of those mornings.
I exhaled with eager anticipation. I was excited for this for a few different reasons—most of which would be inappropriate to discuss here— but suffice it to say that it’s my opportunity to disengage from the world for a few minutes, not to mention the fact that I do some of my best thinking on the loo.
I begin to ponder some of the great questions of life—the vastness of the universe and my small place in it… Some pretty deep shit. Eventually, I find myself heading down the path to relaxed bliss.
Rather suddenly, the meditative silence was broken with a resounding fart.
It boomed. It echoed. It reverberated off the walls like nothing I had ever heard. This was the kind of fart that causes you to think philosophically about the wonder of the human body. Its longevity was remarkable. It was Taps in the bathroom. A call to attention. A funeral commemorating the death of workplace tact. While part of me was certainly curious, the toilet seat philosopher in me (who had just sat through an hour long meeting about screen savers) wondered, “Is it so much to ask to do this in peace? Five fucking minutes of detachment is all I want.”
Another intruder in my bubble; another loud rip from the opposite corner of the room, as if to remind me that no deep thinking is going to occur today. I sit there, defeated. People come and go and fail to flush the urinal (that’s right, you bitches—noted). Awkward conversation is being had between the stalls about ‘the game.’ That one guy is brushing his teeth and gargling and still singing. It’s all very intrusive and awful.
For five minutes every day I look forward to not being an analyst, or a writer, or a friend, or a brother, or a son. It’s time that is solely reserved for me. Because one man’s Feng Shui zen rock garden is another man’s bathroom stall, right? Why, when I etch out a post-espresso reprieve, does this otherwise barren restroom turn into an uptown 6 train after stopping at Grand Central Station?
Out of politeness I flush the empty toilet and walk out of the restroom with the understanding that, in spite of already being over-caffeinated, today’s detachment will just have to come from a trip to the coffee shop on 52nd Street.
Originally published for slackerology on April 11, 2009
Today, I am a new man.
Yesterday, my titty bar virgin cherry was fully intact. As pure, untouched, and wholesome as the freshly fallen snow…
Today, however, the aforementioned cherry lies fully popped, deflated and (in keeping with the theme) looking not unlike the chest of Pamela Anderson after a breast reduction.
I have to say, though, I absolutely enjoyed myself! However I am far too logical and curious to have enjoyed it in the same fashion as your average Joe. It was the stroking of my quizzical nature rather than the stripper pole attached to my body, where I derived the most joy from the evening.
I popped an Adderall and prepared myself for what was to come. Which was, obviously, a ton of hyperfocused observations. And we’re not talking about the annoyingly condescending kind that most people have when they’re questioning the moral compass of a titty bar or gentleman’s club. For example, I never once wondered if these women were hugged by their daddies when they were children. That question is stale and I just don’t care.
Rather, my questions and observations are as follows. There is not really going to be any type of organized format. My questions are going to swoop on in, like the strippers themselves, on that sweet ass pole where they swing down from an undisclosed location. Like a stripper locker room, or something… Which is to say, I fucking love this.
1. These women move in all kinds of crazy ways to appease those with $1 bills in their hands. While I am not as agile as they are, if I tried to contort my body in a similar fashion I would undoubtedly spasm and who knows where my body parts are going after that. I wonder to myself, “Has anyone ever been kicked in the head by accident? I mean, I can find it in me to appreciate a nice pair of breasts, but this just doesn’t seem safe.” This is what I was thinking as I looked on.
2. Are these boobs even real? I have no experience upon which to base a judgment. I can, however, braggingly state that my very own boobies were a little more luscious than one of the dancers. This is an achievement of which I am exceedingly proud. Seriously, that would have been like motorboating the pectorals of a slightly muscular man, which is the antithesis of why I’m actually here.
3. Let’s transition for a moment, from surgical to economic inflation. $1 boobie dances, I’d imagine, don’t go as far as they once used to. It’s a ripoff, right? She could totally get a 4 piece Chicken McNugget meal at McDonalds for that. Or 100 rides on the mechanical Meijer pony. You’ve got to practice those moves somewhere, and unless there’s some type of stripper gym out there, you have to get creative. Between the long nights at the office and the expenditures at Meijer, is this really profitable? Are those stories of young women putting themselves through college legit? I’m no mathematician, but it just doesn’t add up.
4. What happens if, while gyrating her hips in front of a patron, nature’s own little strip tease escapes and the resulting fart or queef silences the whole room? Spell check is all over it—is that even how you spell queefs? I suspect you can’t exactly check Websters.
5. Do they sanitize those poles? This question was answered shortly after it was posed in my head. The headmistress of multitasking, Paris, danced sexily up on stage, shook her chichis, and rubbed down the pole with a white rag instead of her crotch, like everyone else. We need to talk about this. Is this like new stripper hazing? Is she totally B-team? I mean, not that I am the best judge, but she seemed attractive to me. There must be a backstory here… Some past occurrence in the locker room. I must infiltrate!
At some point after the white rag clarity rang through me, the enchanting effects of Adderall wore off and I was just another drunk, bored shmuck ready to go home and scour the internet for LOLcats like a real gentleman.
What is there to possibly say about Front Street Pizza? It has every ounce of charm you’d expect from a Brooklyn pizzeria. Behind the counter, balding Italian American men exemplify the stereotype by tossing around expletives, proclaiming their fierce loyalty to their mothers, and saying things like ‘youse guys.’ There is no line; you order when one of them deems it convenient to beckon his meaty hand at you.
The pizza? There’s nothing inherently special about it, but then again, there’s something about being in the middle of this bustling mayhem that feels very quintessentially New York. This is the scene I sought out. This is what I’ve been looking for. Even in the middle of this chaos, these swift restauranteurs manage to remember the names of regulars, and acknowledge your food with a nod and simple “thanks guy!”
This is what makes me happy.
I find myself laying in bed. The silence of DUMBO, Brooklyn caving in on me with it’s deafening embrace.
Last month at this time I found myself laying in the same bed, in a room overlooking a neglected back alley in Midtown Manhattan. A neighborhood with all the sterile charm you would expect from that perfectly gridded section of the island. My evenings were spent falling asleep to the hum of traffic on Second Avenue, regularly awakened by the divine reverberation of a semi truck’s jake brake, the blaring horn of an irate cabbie, or a tranny hooker brawl on the street below.
But, DUMBO, man; it’s so quiet here. After nine months of constant noise and chaos, I have no idea how to eek out any semblance of sanity in this disgusting tranquility.
Restless, I jaunt up to the rooftop and look out over the city. I gaze uptown, past the Williamsburg Bridge, toward the site of my former life.
Somewhere, nestled behind all those projects, there is a testosterone-driven Bro-brawl happening outside a tavern on Third Avenue. Somewhere, right there on 28th Street, well-groomed and slightly aged former sorority girls are cussing each other out like back alley hookers. Somewhere, over there, an irritable bum is screaming and throwing chicken bones at passersby who ignore his repeated demands for a ‘dolla.’
Somewhere, under the white glow of the Empire State Building, I imagine myself in a past life, falling asleep to the sound of ripped weaves and faded glory.
I miss Murray Hill.
(OK… no I don’t)
Reassured, and finally tired, I conclude my rooftop venture with a sigh of satisfaction.
“DUMBO…” I mutter to myself, “I think I’m here to stay.”
To sleep… to dream… perchance to fart.”