Confessions a 20th century ne'er do well: Drinking, fighting, stealing and other things one generally ought not do

Sunday, April 22, 2007

To Be Is To Be Percieved

I now see how “time on your hands” blogging is indicative of. First of all, living with someone gives me immediate satisfaction when I come up with a brilliant idea. Secondly, I think when I was doing more writing for a living, I felt more of a need to express myself. But in all honesty, I think I quit updating back when I went “all bananaman, all the time” I am proud of the length of time that that theme was able to last. The well is still probably not dry, but I’ve had my fill.

I was talking to a friend from Houston recently who was complaining about how pretentious and shallow the scene was there. He felt that everyone was posing and putting on an act.

He said, “Shit like that doesn’t fly in New York.”

I just stared at him silently, blinking in incomprehension.

He continued, “In New York, someone would get his ass kicked for acting like that.”

Again, all clicks and whistles to me. I literally didn’t understand a word he was saying

I calmly told him that New York was full of people trying to fill some vacuous role in some kind of scene. I did have to calm myself, because I felt like I was explaining the obvious to a crazy person. I felt like I was trying to teach a fifth grader how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or some old guy how to go “Eh? What?” It was an incredibly absurd thought. Nobody gets their “ass kicked” in New York, and especially not for focusing on shallow or external things.

I thought of the 25 year old from work who recently at a party tried to mock me by saying ‘look how natural NJWT looks drinking a beer’. I think he was trying to make fun of me for not drinking some alcoholic version of a Starbucks specialty drink. I’d think he’d be more culpable for having a mixer in his whisky than for me drinking beer.

I thought of a recent party I went to at the Guggenheim – they have a Friday night party once a month. It was not the right combo in my opinion, although I think it might have been a good first date place, because you could either steer things towards drinking or towards art, and it was definitely a good meet market, especially because of the built in taking a walk away from the crowd to see the exhibits. It was really an easy crowd for a guy. The way I assessed it, all you’d have to do is say you work in finance, and then vaguely mention some art related thing you’re into, and then come up with an excuse to leave her place at sunrise.

I spoke to one dressed for attention girl who seemed dazzled by the event.

“I’ve never been here before,” she said.

I proceeded to tell her about an exhibit I had seen years ago, and how the space was great because it is part of the exhibit.
She looked at me funny and said “I’ve been to the museum, I’ve just never been to happy hour here.”

Again, I had to stare at her, blinking at the absurdity of the notion that drinking at the museum was somehow momentous, and counted as a new experience beyond looking at the priceless art.

There was certainly nobody getting beat up at this party for being a ridiculous, no-depth-having jackass.

And that was when I realized what most of these nincompoops have in common.

They’re all from out of town. Beer boy was from Ohio. The happy hour is more interesting than the museum girl was also from the Midwest. I realized a pattern that people who are enamored at all the wrong things are all from out of town.

They’re all foreigners.

Ohio-too-cool-for-beer-kid, and this Gay Muslim Persian (parents from Afghanistan, lived here since he was three – clearly not a multiple generation New Yorker, so case and point) were going to a movie. Both lived on the upper east side. One wanted to go to the AMC on 42. St. The other said. “Buy REAL New Yorkers avoid Times Square”. The other said, “”But the movie theater on 86 St. sucks.” As though it was beneath his blazer and t-shirt wearing self.

They both missed the point: A real New Yorker would go to the movie theater in his neighborhood! Both of these foreigners were trying to assimilate to their vision of what a “real” New Yorker does, instead of just being themselves, like a true, real New Yorker. (At least if they were going to some limited release, or indie movie or something, there is reason to leave the neighborhood, but this was to go see 300…. If I had to vote for more authentic NYer, I’d go with the Times Square choice, since 300 was a big visual movie, and thus warrents a better screen, but that guy already lost at the beer comment)

So, I thought on these points, and answered my friend who was talking about people from Houston getting their asses kicked in New York.

“You’re not thinking of New York. You’re thinking of New Jersey!” Indeed, there is a low tolerance for bullshit in my home state, and I have indeed seen people getting their asses kicked there for being full of shit.

To foreigners – most of whom come from the Midwest – New York is a scary and cosmopolitan place. A place where they could never feel comfortable being themselves. They put up their armor of bullshit to avoid being discovered. But those of us from New Jersey grew up with the skyline visible from our hometowns. We had seen the first run Broadway plays without knowing that the rest of the country was relegated to seeing a local high school production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. We don’t remember the first time we went up the Empire State Building, because we were so young, and we’ve been so often, that we just know what New York looks like from above seemingly from instinct. Our parents grew up in the city, and drove us around like a drive through the countryside. Like a second generation Italian-American. We were New Yorkers, like they were Italian. We speak both “New York” and “New Jersey” fluently. We’ve been drinking in these bars since before we had our first phony ID. We figured out that the red rope is just a piece of velvet years ago, while these cowboys come in, dress up, and pose while waiting on this line so they can get in to pay for a drink that would cost much, much less, if it were not for all the out of town suckers willing to pay for it in order to do what they think of as ‘fitting in’. Most importantly, we don’t care if people perceive us as Real New Yorkers or not.

The funny thing is, it is kind of an objective thing. Either your family is from New York or it isn’t. You didn’t magically grow up on Bleeker Street instead of outside of Milwaulkee just because you won’t go to Chevy’s. so what “real new Yorkers” do is not really classifiable. It’s what people who want to be PERCIEVED as real New Yorkers do. Which a real New Yorker would never be concerned about.

Real New Yorkers know that New York is a sucker’s game – that the purpose of earning a buck is to get a bang for it, not to burn it while you smoke an overpriced pack of cigarettes outside the bar. (For those of you about to point out NJ’s smoking ban, I have two words: Atlantic City…. And another bunch of words: Don’t smoke, you moron. Oh, I forgot, you’re from Kansas City, and don’t want people to know, so you’re smoking to make people think you’re a native New Yorker.)

Real New Yorkers don’t spend $1800 on a 250 sq ft loft on the UES. They’re either rent controlled or have some otherwise good deal because they know a guy, or they live in the suburbs. Look at all these rubes living in the city, pretending to be New Yorkers!

Only if your parents are from New York are you a real New Yorker. Maybe your parents are from New Jersey, but that’s because their parents were successful New Yorkers who made it out of that silly place.

What a relief this realization was! These “schmucks” (that’s word from the old country. It dates back to turn of the century Lower East Side, for all you out of towners) used to grate on my nerves so much until I saw that their motivation was a pure fear of people seeing through the fact that they’re not comfortable here.

But, I thank you, immigrants of the world, for spending money in the city where I make it, and bring it out to where it actually buys a life. I live in Westchester now – above Route 287, which reminds me of the NJ I grew up in.

There is a reason they call it the Empire State. We’ve moved beyond our borders and taken over.

Here is to Imperial New York. Here’s to New Jersey.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ice Cream

I don't believe that "low cal" ice cream tastes as good as regular ice cream. And I don't believe the ice cream makers do either. Why? Because if it were just as good, what would they make the higher calorie ice cream for?