28 posts categorized "New Fucking York"

For spacious skies

Where is he gay today? Under the flight path at Newark Airport

A frayed Old Glory

Visiting America always makes me uncomfortable.  

Americans long for a sense of connectedness, but are horribly wary of each other.  Every interaction with a stranger seems to be an armed truce. Unless one of the strangers is trying to sell something, of course.

As the Australian writer Don Watson notes, Americans often use the words freedom and security as though they were interchangeable.  Yet all one needs to do to do is fly somewhere in the USA to know that the two often sit at odds.  For a nation which values freedom above all else, in few other countries on the planet are people so pushed around, restricted, controlled, examined, judged, and just plain stiffed.  

Maybe it's just New York.  Or its evil twin, New Jersey.  

Master Right and I flew in from opposite sides of the world--he from Kobe, me from Munich--and met at Newark Airport.   We chose to recover from jet lag at one of the many nearby Econo-Snooze Inns.  Inn and Suites, let's not forget.

Right and I scored one of the and suites, with a kitchenette. We figured the airport and its poorly-served surrounds would be a crummy place to try and find a bite.  Better to pop over to a supermarket and grab a modest snack. 

The view from the And Suite. 

Not a great strategy.  The knotted hairpiece of freeways around Newark complicates even the simplest errand.   One might see a supermarket across the road, but need to travel a mile or two just to find a place to turn around.  And you'll get lost trying to do it.  Because urban planning, like all government functions in the USA, lives not to promote public efficiency, but to dish up pork.

In the end, we had to abandon the And Suite and eat at the Inn bit.  Now, this being a family hotel, the breakfast buffet the Mario-Hilto-Sheratot or whatever reflected contemporary American family values.  The hot course was a sausage patty and ring of scrambled egg, which one could place on an English muffin, with a shred of cheese on the top.  One could even, at great risk to life and limb, operate a self-serve waffle maker.  

That is, it was a self-serve McDonalds.  These people had managed to de-skill a McJob.

No complaints from the largely family crowd who frequented the place.  There was a school group whose conversation seemed to revolve around what parlour games could be played for money.  One said that he had played dominoes for cash. 

Master Right and have a few days to kill before I need to see an accountant in NYC to sort out my American income tax.  We have rented a car--no, let me correct that.  They have upgraded us beyond a car.  We're driving a Tony and Guy hair salon.   They call it a Cadillac Escalade, which sounds rather like a cross between the words escapade and escalation.  Why not talk straight and call it a Cadillac Troop Surge

We'll keep you posted. 



Shampoo as a Sign of Derangement

Let’s be blunt. The Honourable Husband's clan lives in junkyards. None of us can throw away a damn thing.

Clinicians look for hoarding as a marker for family dysfunction or mental illness. When you grow up amid chaos, never quite certain that your home is secure, the instinct to hoard against catastrophe is palpable. Even if the gestures are largely pointless, they hold great symbolic power.
A teetering pile of wood scraps, too good to throw away, englfed half my father's workshop in the basement. He got rid of some when the oldest scraps began to rot.
My mother kept the ends of balls of yarn with the view that they should be used one day. They were, knitted into one long crazy-quilt scarf that nobody wore.
Speaking of crazy-quilts, my sister took up quilting and became quite good at it. She had ready access to scraps of material that were—you guessed it—too good to throw away.
My brother and sister-in-law once invited me to help them sort out their spare room. They disinvited me after a morning’s efforts. Silly me, I thought the idea was to throw stuff out, rather than examine it at length, discuss it, and dream up new reasons it might be useful and should be kept—which is apparently how the Honourables are supposed to clean house. Of course, it was easy for me. It wasn't my stuff.
My own stuff? The mere thought gave me the chills.
My 950 square-foot apartment in NYC (Gott in Himmel! A palace, by New York standards) was packed tight with useless garbage, cunningly concealed, some of it not even unwrapped since my move from Tokyo, now two and a half years ago. That shipment weighed eight thousand pounds. Even if my new employer is paying, there's no excuse to put that much on a boat again.
But that's not the sickest bit.

I travel a lot for business, you see. The moment you park your butt on a business class seat, they give you these quite substantial bags of toiletries and sockettes and eyemasks and earplugs and such. It seems such a shame to throw them out. I mean, what if you're trying sleep in with a hangover and it just happens to be the day when the curtains are at the cleaners? You'll thank your lucky stars that you didn't toss the eyemask. See? I told you so.

And hotels. The shampoo and hand cream and conditioner. I mean, they’re free. Why not? These ended up in the second bathroom, so my guests could enjoy the illusion of staying in exotic places (usually an exotic Hyatt) as they bunked out in a sleeping bag on the couch. And even though I am almost completely bald, I always steal the shower cap just on principle.
The cupboard under the guest bathroom sink was filled with second-hand luxury toiletries. So was the medicine cabinet. And two more cartons in the closet. This is the executive version of becoming a cat-lady.

I managed to craigslist a lot of electrical items and sporting goods, which yielded a bit of cash to salve the insecurity. I tossed out a huge pile of old magazines, which pained me; feature articles are amongst the most brilliantly polished writing on the planet today. But it's all backed up online, now, in our brave new century.

So is much of our musical heritage, but that didn't help when it came time to unload my vinyl LPs.

You know the old saying about newlyweds? If they put a penny in the jar under the bed every time they make love in their first year, then take out a penny for every time they make love thereafter, they will probably never empty the jar. Apparently, the same applies to music purchases before and after the age of 23. I certainly demonstrated it in my own case. Conveniently, I was 23 when they first started to market CDs. I'm a pretty reckless buyer of CDs, but sure enough, when counted, the LPs outnumbered the CDs by a significant margin.

In the end, I could only bear to part with about half of them. I sold them as a job lot to a young gentleman from skint-but-trendy Astoria, in Queens.

He had just bought his first turntable, and with his limited spare cash, was buying firmware. I remarked that he might like to turn around and sell some of the records individually, and perhaps even make a profit. No, he said, he simply couldn't bear to part with something so interesting and precious as music. The records will stay on his shelf forever. Ah, a man after my own heart! I nearly gave him the whole lot, but regained my sanity in the nick of time.

Naturally, the airline and hotel shit simply had to go. Not to mention books I’d read and hated, clothes that no longer fit, pictures for which I’d no wall space, cheap chipboard bookcases which cost more to send around the world than to replace, and the inevitable exercise bike that turned into a coat rack.

Now—please doctor, just one more puff—all this is too good to throw away. People could find it useful. Some might even pay good money for it. So I called the Salvation Army.

The doorman sent the truck driver up to my apartment. A splendid young man who sported muscles of the kind you can get only from moving furniture. Alas, he didn’t get much of a workout.

“Well, you see, we can’t take those little bottles of shampoo. We don’t know what’s in them and we can’t sell unknown stuff and have someone sue us over it."

“Can’t you use it in your homeless shelters? A few of those guys could use a little upward fragrance adjustment.”

“You look like a reasonable guy, but some sickos might be like, putting acid in it or somethin’.”

“Not even this fine loofah? It comes from the Ritz-Carlton.”

“Is that some kind of cracker?”

“Never mind. You can just take the other stuff."

"Hmm...I'd better just check it out, first." He sifted through my goods like a paramedic on triage duty. Too-good-to-throw-away turned into not-quite-good-enough-not-to-throw away.

"The clothes," he said, "They're worn."

Well, like duh. Of course they're worn, I countered. He explained to me that there were plenty of rich people in New York. They bought clothes and wore them once, and sometimes not at all. Salvation Army thrift shops were filled to the brim with much more saleable fashion than my humble garb.

Further, the electrical goods could prove dangeous; the chipboard bookshelves would cost more to transport and distribute than Ikea charged for them retail; and everybody in New York wants to get rid of an exercise bike they bought because it was cheaper than membership at Equinox.

Several thoughts entered my mind. Yet more insufferable New York snobbery? Yet another snub of a heathen by the church? Then the obvious struck. My worldly possions were crap.

I cannot tell you how much it upset me.

Thankfully, after a hefty tip, the building super and his crew of doormen dealt with everything. I hope they enjoy the loofah. And the shower caps. You see, all of them still have their hair.


A city on the cheap.

Reflected+buildings+web.jpg
Second and 47th, yesterday

Every morning, public radio station WNYE switches from its overnight broadcasts of the BBC at 6 am, and starts its local, New York oriented programming. The first service announcement usually runs something like this.

Hello. I'm Bill Thompson, City Comptroller. Every year, phony lawsuits cost the City of New York tens of millions of dollars a year. That's money that can be spent on schools, roads and sanitation. If you know someone who's falsely suing the City of New York, please call the NYC Fraud Hotline on (212) 669-4747...


It's generally followed by a PSA that asks New Yorkers to join the Parks Volunteer programme. Public spirited citizens can volunteer to rake leaves, pick up trash, or tend garden beds, among other things. Because it's like your own backyard, the Parks Commissioner concludes.

Does this sound like a city that has its fiscal act together? I pay New York City sales tax, and income tax. Enough to pay somone to rake up the goddamned leaves, I would have thought.

It really makes me miss Tokyo; a larger, denser, more complex city, but one that runs like clockwork. I look forward to Germany, which, I assume, manages its cities with similar efficiency. Why can't Americans?

Top of the Rock, September 2006
Blueskystudio2Top photo entered in the  Photo Friday Challenge "Geometric", 8 June 2012

I'm a cheaper drunk than I thought.

The second annual NYC Blarg Hop turned out to be a smashing success. Well, I got smashed, in any case, and did so rather early in the evening. Four beers, and I was a train wreck.


Now, there was a time when four beers were just an appetiser. My working-class bohunk liver metabolised alcohol like a blast furnace eats pig iron.


But with the big five-0 a mere five months away, my liver has stalled. Of course, one could opt for lite beer, but that means the terrorists have won.


You can cram a lot of conversation into those four beers. All of it interesting, witty and smart. Plenty of blogging tips to go around (special thanks to futurejunkie for moo). Warm, wet love to all my fellow bloggers for a great evening, and of course to Joe for being the chief catherd. That is, the guy who tried to herd the cats from one bar to another. Get it? No, I didn't think so.


One thing became abundantly clear last night. Obscure jokes just don't work. About one person in five got the High Maintenance Hags joke. And this, in a room full of gay people. (Several had remembered the cross-section of male genitalia, though. It figures.)


Circle in a square confessed that fag hags didn't play a big role in his gay life. "*They're really just wannabe gay men in women' bodies. And personally, I prefer gay men in men's bodies, don't you?" Can't argue with that.


The charming Curly McDimple played vixen's advocate on a number of subjects. Subject one: she's a lesbian who hates cats. "Dogs, I can understand. You pat them, they love you, you feed them, they love you some more. But cats...you never quite know what they're thinking, except you know it's not nice."


I warmed to the theme. "No matter how well you feed them, cats will hunt just for the sport of it. And bring home the little bird's head to gross out Mommy."


"If a cat comes in the room and starts giving me the ol' stink-eye, I'll ask the owner to remove it," Curly admitted. "And cats...it's all conditional love. Withholding affection is their emotional power trip."


"I think that's why straight women love them so much. They're like boyfriends." Curly's quizzical look led me to believe that point needed further clarification. Perhaps she's a bit hazy onthe whole boyfriend thing. "You know, on one occasion in twenty, he's affectionate. And that only makes the woman more dedicated, and she redoubles ther efforts. The psychological theory of intermittent reinforcement..."


On hearing the words psychological theory spring from my lips, I knew I was drunk. Lucky that the petite dynamo Helen Damnation appeared; splendid to meet the woman behind the flirty message posted earlier.


Curly and Helen billed themselves as co-vaginas for the evening, and both were nicely lubricated at this stage. Helen revealed that Curly's parents were Glaswegian, which unleashed a dam-bust of bastardized Scot-speak. I'll doo yeue, Jemmeh! Which, of course, we thought was funny.


Several embarassing pix were pixellated, which all will disown in years to come, should we decide to run for Congress. It wasn't just the pictures many of us would disown. There was an odd vibe in the room: so many bloggers knew the intimate details of each other's lives, yet guarded their public anonymity with care, lest they be dooced.


One of the bloggers who made the decision to publish under his real name was R.J. Keefe, a splendid, erudite man who describes himself as a purveyor of Civil Pleasures. "I made a policy decision early on. It's so easy to discover the person behind the blog, there's no real point. I'm a retired lawyer, so I know where to be careful."


R.J. and I enjoyed some truly civil chat, in the midst of all the drunken petting and beefy go-go boys. To top off an evening that challenged stereotypes, we spent some time agreeing that the French seemed much less rude lately.


George and I spoke on the phone earler that evening. I told him that I intended to go out on a pub crawl , and he warned me. "Drinking with a bunch of people you've never met? Don't get too drunk. Make a good impression. Remember your dignity."


Thanks to my crash-and-burn liver, I couldn't get too drunk. And in its own way, the 2007 Blarg Hop was a splendidly dignified affair. We were only there to blog about it, anyway. Weren't we?


*All direct quotations are from memory, and therefore, at best, approximate. Plus, I just made shit up. Photo lovingly stolen from Curly McDimple.