Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Don't ever tell anybody anything

First of all, I hope the irony of the famous last lines of Catcher in the Rye is not lost on the Internet generation. I really do. Since J.D. Salinger went toes up the other day, I've seen those lines Twittered, blogged, Facebooked, etc., and all I kept thinking was, "Never telling anybody anything is an idea foreign to those of us in the 21st Century. We tell simply anyone everything."

Really. We're a society of blabbermouths, and I don't say that as a criticism, because I do it too. We miss everyone when we don't tell them everything.

It's been ages since I last read Catcher in the Rye, though I have made a few valiant efforts over the years. The book is great, but it no longer connects with me because, frankly, I'm no longer an alienated teenager. Sometimes I skim through the book, with no intention of reading it, and thinking my adult thoughts about the use of language and the development of character, then I feel guilty because I know Holden would be annoyed--pissed--at my deconstruction of his narrative, and then I feel as if I'm intruding, and put the book away, giving it some privacy on a bookshelf somewhere.

In one of the Glass family stories--I forget which--Salinger (or Buddy!) writes about how he wishes to meet someone who has the courage to be a complete nobody. I suppose this is how Salinger tried to spend most of his life, but he failed miserably at it, since while he was a recluse, he was a terrible recluse. The man never met a man he didn't want to sue, for one thing. For another, he was obsessed with actresses, and often wrote them fan letters, and even practically stalked Catherine Oxenberg, paying her a visit on the set of "Dynasty" (he was escorted off the set, which to me seems absurd because any producer worth his or her salt would've offered Salinger 5 minutes alone with Ms. Oxenberg in exchange for a short cameo on an episode of the show--think of the ratings that would've gotten! Almost as big as a Krystal/Alexis cat-fight, surely). But, he tried to be a nobody, after already being a somebody, so it must've been difficult to maintain the desired level of anonymity. One can't start off as visible as Mark Twain, then expect to go all Emily Dickinson half-way through one's career.

Which is apparently what Salinger thought he was doing: he wrote the modern-day Huck Finn, then retired to his private home in New Hampshire, expecting us to let him go, and he continued writing, but not publishing.

Perhaps he felt the same way about his characters that I now feel about them: best leave them to their privacy. Why intrude?

Anyway, my favorite book by Salinger is Franny and Zooey, so it's kind of telling that it's the one Salinger book I left back home, in Florence, AL, when I moved here to NYC. I have my first edition copy of Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters.... and my imposter reprints (900th edition or something) of Nine Stories and Catcher. But Franny and Zooey has been in a box in my dad's office for 6-plus years now as if I'm leaving Franny to her constant prayer for as long as I can, hoping she finally gets the hang of it. And I can't bring myself to buy a new copy because the new copy will not be the same book--I bonded with the one I initially bought; all other copies are clones.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mundane tales of the city


So I recently heard a mildly interesting story from a friend. He told me this because the current Late Night Wars reminded him of it. Most names are changed (or omitted) to protect me from lawsuits, angry recriminations, or unvitations to future parties.

The friend, B., was into coke some years back. 5 years? 6? I forget how many--I just remember receiving a lot of strange texts from him at 4 AM, usually on Wednesday mornings, for some reason.

B. had been urged not to go so hard on the coke, mostly by friends who were annoyed at having their cell phones going off at all hours. B.'s friends, like all true friends, had only their best interests at heart, and those interests were to keep B. away from his cell phone at 4 AM on a Wednesday, or at least away from the coke inspiring him to text.

This, by the way, is a true story.

B. couldn't afford his own coke so he'd do what most moderately hot gay guys in NYC were doing 5-6 years ago: He'd advertise on Craigslist. Using the subject line, "Hot 28 y/o bttm boi 4 party," B. somehow managed to develop a coke addiction without ever spending a dime on actual coke. I suppose technically that made him a whore, in that he'd meet other cokeheads, exchange sexual favors for a few bumps of their coke, and... yeah, right, that definitely made him a whore. Weird.

Anyway.

One night, B. put up his usual craigslist ad, and got a response, and made a connection, and hopped into a cab to meet the connection. Midtown.

The apartment was nice--tasteful couch, framed memorabilia, bookshelves, a balcony, plush rugs, coordinated shower curtain/toilet cover. "Big bed," B. told me. "I hate thin mattresses. This was a dense, sink-into mattress. And on the tv in the bedroom was the connection's paused head--he'd actually been watching himself do some segment on O'Reilly when I came in, and had paused it." We'll call the connection [C.], because I love using brackets, and because c is an apropos letter.

The coke was on a small mirror on the nightstand next to the dense bed. B. didn't care about the coke, tho--he was much more interested in the frozen face on the television at the foot of the dense mattress. He was much more interested in why [C.]'s head was on the television screen.

"Why are you...?" B. began.

"I'm trying to convert my clips to DVD, but I've no idea how to do it." There were several vhs tapes scattered at the foot of the television stand, and a vcr/dvd combo. B. told me he didn't know how many times [C.] had been on O'Reilly but "they'd probably seen each other's falafels."

"I ended up naked on his balcony," B. told me. "And while he sucked me off, he still couldn't stop talking about Bill O'Reilly. Very awkward."

So. Yeah. Here's the fun part: [C.] was an entertainment lawyer. He represented Jimmy Fallon. And [C.] owned a bar. Because why be a lawyer in NYC, and a Fox contributor, if you don't also own a bar?

Here's B.'s summation: Dude owned a bar. No shit. I was sucking him off, right, and he can't get hard because that's what coke does, it makes you... it distracts your penis, so I'm spending the entire time going 'Fox News?' and thinking what an asshole, and I'm also like "Mmmm, blow," because I like cocaine, right, and here's some free blow. But I'm blowing him and we're snorting the shit, and then he tells me he owns this bar on 9th Ave just a few blocks down. Wanna go, he asks, and I'm like no I don't wanna go because we're doing this. But whatever--he clearly wants to go, and I don't want to seem like a pussy, so I go with him. The bar's one of those, you know, low ceiling, some dingy-ass lights, and he introduces me to the bartender, and the bartender says, 'Yo, cool, you know he's Jimmy Fallon's lawyer. Entertainment Lawyer.' And I suddenly realize why he's always on Fox. Dude is an entertainment lawyer.

Hm. B.: not very bright. It took three people (including himself) telling him that [C.] was an entertainment lawyer before he got the point.

B. continued--and keep in mind B. has been off coke for a long time, and is telling me a story that happened 5-6 years ago: The bartender gives me a drink. I didn't want the drink, but what happened was, me and [C.] walk into this bar, and [C.] yells out my name, and he tells the bartender that I'm to get whatever I want. Some people move up to [C.], and they protest, saying "Dude, what the fuck," but I'm really fucked up so I don't process. Right. And [C.] didn't just go up to the bartender--he climbed on the fucking bar and decreed that I shall henceforth receive as much alcohol as I want, like he was Moses Barfly or something. So when [C.] tells the bartender I get a free drink, I feel kinda special, and take the drink, and then I don't remember much else.

And then this:

Jimmy Fallon. No shit. I'm drinking this drink, and I realize Jimmy Fallon is talking to [C.], with a concerned tone, and Jimmy is looking at me as if I'm the whore invited to the wedding. Some of [C.]'s friends come up to me and all like So what do you think of the bar, and I'm pretty much gone from whatever's in the drink so I just say Nice lights, because they were nice lights--multicolor Christmas lights hanging from the ceiling, and those lights are about the only thing I can see. So. "Nice lights" I tell [C.]'s friends. Also, I'm looking at Jimmy Fallon and thinking, "I know that guy--who the hell is that?" And he's looking at me, the whore at the wedding, and talking to [C.] and gesturing around. He looks concerned, you know. He looks like he's concerned for [C.], and I recognize that he's concerned, but I'm also losing bits of my short-term memory at the same time so I can't keep anything in my mind. "Nice lights." That's about it.

"Jimmy Fallon is treating you like a whore?" I ask.

"Yes," B. tells me. "I'm at this bar, and drinking this drink, and fucked up, and I've got Jimmy Fallon staring at me as if he's my mother's best friend, who hates me because she's a Jesus nut."

Jimmy Fallon. Kinda impressive. I mean, B. hooks up with some guy via craigslist.com, looking for coke, and ends up at a bar on 9th Av, being disapprovingly stared at by Jimmy Fallon.

The thing is, Jimmy Fallon's disapproval worked--B. gave up coke right there. As he tells it: Jimmy Fallon convinced [C.] to leave the bar. Just left me there, stranded, ridiculous, coked up and woozy. Jimmy put his arm around [C.] and lead him out of his bar. I hung around for a bit but they didn't come back. I'd never felt so, what, so absurd. I stared at the nice lights and thought, oh man you've really taken a wrong turn somewhere in life when even Jimmy Fallon is advising people to stay away from you.

[C.] is still doing Fox--bad slots, but still on the network--and Jimmy now has his own show. But B. posted his final "Hot 28 y/o bttm boi 4 party" that night. He hasn't done coke in a while, or wanted to, really, because after you've done coke with a Fox entertainment lawyer, you can never go back. You've hit rock bottom, and either have to grab a shovel and keep digging down, or claw your way back up.

B. left the bar, confused, high, and with a weird Jimmy Fallon appreciation. He even bought 'Taxi' on Blu-Ray.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Lost Gloves


This is a city of the left behind as much as it is a city of the moving ahead. Walking along the streets, one might see piles of clothes--coats, pants, a shoe, mated or alone--and think, "My god, another homeless person exploded."

Yo-yo Ma famously left his prized 266-year old cello in the trunk of a taxi some years back.

Whole people are left behind as well. They wander through the city, sleeping where they can, begging for change, occasionally seeking help, occasionally blowing their own minds with drugs or a bullet or a header from on high into the gum-clotted sidewalk. Most just maintain, though--they're left behind and resigned to their fate. Josie comes to mind. She was left behind. Her children have long since moved back to Ireland; they seldom try to contact her. Maybe she deserved to be discarded or maybe it was her own decision, I don't know.

The first time I came to New York, in March of '92, I remember walking with my group to the St. James Theatre, to see 'The Secret Garden,' on a bitterly cold evening. As we turned off Broadway onto 44th St., a young woman no more than 20, wrapped in an army jacket and with her long dark hair whipping densely across her contorted face, met us from the opposite direction, screaming about... something. I don't remember what she was screaming. She was clearly disturbed, either at that moment or for the rest of her life, and she was screaming into the night while pulling her jacket closed then pushing it open. We passed her without incident. And just past her, on the sidewalk, was a lone black glove. I always wondered if it might have been her's, and wondered if perhaps that was the reason for her vocal misery--the loss of a glove.

This is the reason I'm always sad to see the random mateless glove when I move about the city. These left-behind hints of human remains, with fingers and palms but no body, and no longer part of a pair. It's stupid, I know, but I can't help it. There is nothing more depressing to me than a glove left behind. I see a lost glove, and I immediately have a vision of that young woman, her coat opening and closing, the dull Broadway light smashing into her frantic hair, and her screams, her mouth opening and filling with hair even as she pushed all of her breath out into the cold wind, and behind her the dark glove, fingers splayed out as if reaching for something.

And you see these gloves everywhere. The saddest of all are the gloves a well-meaning pedestrian has set aside as if hoping the glove will be rediscovered by the person who dropped it, or put to good use by a new, ungloved person. Outside of a deli where I get coffee on most mornings, there's a small pile of unmated gloves, all sizes, all colors, none matching, and they sit on a small wall, and the pile grows larger every day. Not even the homeless seem to want them, which to me seems kind of impractical of them--so what if none of the gloves match? The purpose of a glove is to warm, not to be fashionable.

Because of that chance encounter with the screaming girl in the Army jacket, and then the glove on the sidewalk behind her, I don't wear gloves. I'm afraid of losing them. It doesn't bother me when I leave behind an umbrella, or a hat, or a scarf (though I am I think overly conscious of not losing these things to the point that I'm almost certifiable about it), but the thought of leaving behind a glove makes me too uneasy to take the risk. Seriously. Perhaps it's a Freudian thing: gloves, more than any other article of clothing, look like a human body part, so to lose one is like an amputation, and we all know what Freud says about a man's fear of amputation (hint: sometimes it isn't just a cigar). But I don't think that's the reason.

Incidentally, I'm not the only person fascinated by lost gloves, if fascinated is the correct word. There are websites devoted to them, and even an art project.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Quick conversation with four people

"I think the '90s was the best decade."

"They were better than this one, yeah. But the best? The absolute best?"

"He means lately."

"How can 20 years ago be considered 'lately'?"

"'Lately' as in since, like, the past 50 years."

"I think the point is, the '90s weren't so bad, considering."

"Yeah, I just mean you know, things were better. Not just politically, but economically, artistically, better movies, better tele..."

"No, not better television."

"No, not better television."

"People were certainly happier in the '90s than they are now."

"I blame the Internet."

"..."

"..."

"..."

"Seriously. The reason we're so miserable now is because the Internet has made us more self-aware and more conscious of what's going on around us."

"True."

"Well, I guess. You mean we are able to really see who we are, reflected back to us in real time, and we don't like what we see?"

"No. I mean, we're able to see who you are in real time, and judge instantly, and know how much better we are than you."

"Duh."

"And it's depressing that you're allowed on the Internet just as much as we are."

"Not you you, of course. The general you."

"I blame Bush."

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