Friday, October 31, 2003

Spook Night: Sully reports that some of our old friends from school are having a party tonight.

"Aren't those people deadly boring these days?"

"Yes. They are."

"So why go there and not the party with the hired midgets?"

"Because that party is uptown, and I don't go uptown."

"Even to dodge a boring party?"

"Well, I figured we just get really drunk beforehand. Then we can roll up on the the thing, hit on people's girlfriends, and stir up some action."

"Oh. Right. Why didn't you say so in the first place?"

Monday, October 27, 2003

Manhattan Transfer Feature: Missed Connections

"I hate it when they say they're artists. What the fuck does that mean? Do you paint, or make things? Turns out she was a photographer."

It's late Sunday night at CBGB's. I'm standing at the bar next to Sully, an old friend of mine who is best known for never having set foot off the island of Manhattan. Since he graduated from NYU, he's barely been further out of the East Village than the Lower East Side. Sully's wearing camo pants, retro-sneakers and a black t-shirt. His thick black glasses are exactly like the ones that both of the grey-haired Swiss "bachelors" next to us are wearing.

I'm a bit worried that my writing in my memo pad is going to undermine our art credibility. We're at a memorial show for Colin Deland, the East Village/Soho/Chelsea gallery owner who passed away last November. Everyone we talk to asks how we knew Colin. We lie by omission, saying we had met him briefly in the late 80s. The truth is we both met him during our misspent youth, when we walked into his gallery after having shared three bottles of Crazy Horse and played the Interrogation Game.

(A digression: The Interrogation Game was something we liked to play when we had too much to drink and too much time on our hands. We were somewhat menancing at the time (this was New York in the 1980s--all kids were menancing), and we would march into all sorts of establishments and demand that they justify themselves. Churches, mosques, the Anarchist Kitchen, and Colin's place. Our victims usually nervously answered our questions, unsure of whether we seriously wanted to know about their faith/art/politics/hobbies or were planning on attacking them and wrecking the place. They were always glad when we left peacefully.)

Sully had been talking to a very pretty woman with tight black curls of hair. After about fifteen minutes she mentioned that she should probably get back to her friends. Sully smiled, touched her hand, and said goodbye. She stepped away, clearly disappointed.

"Why didn't you ask for her phone number?" I ask. Was just the fact the she used the word "artist" without a hint of irony enough to vitiate her other qualities?

"I don't do that anymore. I'm trying to create a Missed Connection," Sully says.

Missed Connections are the category of Craig's List where people who have lost touch with one another, or simply never really made contact with someone to whom they were attracted, advertise in hopes of re-connecting.

A typical recent entry ran: "Monday, lunchtime. You: Blue shirt and yellow tie over your shoulder, eating lunch with colleagues. Me: Brown sweater and skirt, eating lunch with colleagues. We played the eye game for the whole meal and I didn't say anything when I left. Damn, I wish I had... you're a good looking man. You'll probably never see this; a fine businessman like you doesn't read Craigslist MC.... does he?"

Well, yes. He probably does. From my completely unscientific survey, everyone reads Missed Connections. Most deny they are looking for themselves in these ads. They claim to read them for entertainment purposes only. But its hard not to hope that you might have caught someone's eye somehow. And who wouldn't be flattered by someone going through the trouble of posting an ad seeking them out?

But I had never heard of someone intentionally missing connections in hopes of giving rise to a Craig's List posting.

"Dating in New York is so crazy. Or rather, dating women in New York is crazy. There's so much pretense, so many rules, people pretending they're not that interested in each other because it's not cool to be too interested in someone else. The brilliance of Missed Connections is the honesty. People getting out there and admitting their attraction. It gets them beyond the pose of self-centeredness," Sully explains.

I point to a blond girl sitting at a table with friends a few feet away. Sully had briefly talked to her earlier. She's wearing a white dress that was nearly a bridal gown, and a black jacket. Was she a potential Missed Connection?

"Nah,"Sully says. "You have to know your targets. She'll never get beyond the pose of self-centeredness. Or rather, for her self-centricty is not a pose. It's a lifestyle. Also, she's Chloe Sevigny."

I take a closer look and it is Chloe Sevigny. For the record: She's pretty but not stunning. Also, she's bigger than she looks in her films.

I wonder if I could initiate a Missed Connection here. I am not quite dressed for it. My shoes are all wrong from this crowd, and my shirt is the wrong color (meaning: not black or grey). The closest I come to an MC was when I struck up a brief conversation with the bartender. But this didn't seem to go beyond the "flirt with the customer" level. I'll look at Craig's List today, but I don't expect to find her searching for me.

The bands aren't bad, even A.R.E. Weapons. After the last notes of Angelblood's Crimson & Clover fade, Sully and I walk up the Bowery to Marion's. We take the barstools next to a pair of Cooper Union students who are fishing through the bartop trail mix.

"Is there something particularly good or bad in there?" I ask.

Turns out one of the girls has parasites that live on peanuts. Or, at least, she has been told by an alternative medicine type that she has parasites. The symptoms included an inability to concentrate and a lack of motivation. I tell her I suffer from these as well but I attribute it to another condition: having a job.

The girls laugh. They are "artists." One is a painter, the other a sculptor. We talk until the barman announces last call. Sully and I get up abruptly, say goodnight and step out onto the rain soaked Bowery.

"I can't believe they said they were artists," Sully says.

I smile and nod.

"You should check Craig's tomorrow. Looked like you made a connection there," he says. "Or rather, missed a connection."

In Defense of Britney: It's increasingly clear that Britney has transformed herself from a pop star into a celebrity--that is from someone famous for singing songs and dancing in videos to someone famous for being famous. So what? People who resent this move are either envious (I have to work for a living, why shouldn't she? Hint: she's prettier than you) or infected by some sort obsession with the allegedly redemptive value of work. You know, that protestant work-ethic thing. But why should Britney have to be famous for doing something when there are so many who are rich and famous without doing anything at all?

Friday, October 24, 2003

Choose Your Own Adventure: New York: This is good stuff.

Super Powers: Last night I went in search of my super-powers at the Russian Vodka room.

Court documents submitted by Liza Minnelli's estranged husband David Gest reveal that Liza is able to augment her strength by drinking vodka. As mentioned in this space yesterday, New York Times reporter Michael Brick investigated this claim by talking to bartenders and state health officials. But clearly this called for a first-hand account, a personal investigation.

In comic books, the “origins” issues are the ones that explain how a superhero got his powers. For some reason this often involved radiation—gamma rays transform Bruce Banner into the Hulk, cosmic rays turn a team of astronauts into the Fantastic Four. Maybe it was because we lived under the threat of radioactive death during the Cold War, and needed to develop a fantasy that somehow radioactivity wouldn’t kill us, it would make us stronger.

Lately super-powers have been arising from more mundane catalysts. In Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, the motherless Brooklyn youngsters find a magic ring and take turns as Aeroman. Vendela Vida’s And Now You Can Go features a graduate student who wields poetry to fend off a suicidal killer.

But Liza's super-strength was a super-power origins story at an even more accessible level. And she wasn't the only one who had found power from the bottle. In Ian Spiegelman's Everyone’s Burning, the narrator announces “I knew I was getting somewhere with the drinking when the superpowers started kicking in.”

This is the kind of origins story I can relate to.

My friend Sully meets me at the Russian Vodka room around quarter past nine. Sully is there to make sure I don't decide that my super-power involve swimming in the East River at 2 a.m.

"Are you sure this is a good idea? Don't you have work tomorrow?" he asks as we settle in a pair of stools in the front room. I wave off his question. This is not the time for entertaining dissent. We order a flight of vodka infused with various flavors—melon, apple, garlic.

At the tables behind us cluster groups of young people, possibly Russians. The young men wear leather jackets, and the young women are bottle blonds. The bar itself is populated by a slightly older, paunchier crowd. It's not yet nine-thirty, and there is already someone with his head-down, passed out on the bar. I wonder what his super-power is.

Sully thinks its insane that we are here drinking vodka rather than watching the Yankees.

"How can you think about sports when we're trying to acquire super-powers?" I ask him. He rolls his eyes. We order another flight of infused vodka. I cannot detect any super-powers yet, unless it is an increased awareness of the uneasiness of my stomach in the presence of six shots of vodka. I order a plate of cheeses, meets and pickles to take the edge off the vodka.

As we take in our third flight of vodka I find myself bobbing my head to the music. I hope my super powers don't involve dancing.

A girl appears next to me. She got a red visor on her head, eye-shadow so dark she looks like she's been in a fight and she's wearing black jeans meticulously torn, and then fastened together with paper-clips and aluminum can pop-tops. Even though she looks barely old enough to drink legally, she's got patches on her clothing announcing her allegiance to bands like Youth of Today and Minor Threat. These were bands that were old when I was a little thug on the New York hardcore scene. She's a nostalgia punk.

We're deep into the vodka now. I can feel some super-powers coming on, only I'm not sure what they are. I feel taller, better looking and wittier. I fall into conversation with nostalgia punk. Flights of infused vodka appear and disappear. We have an argument with a couple of the Russian guys seated behind us. For some reason they are Marlin's fans, and are cheering the news that the Russians are winning. I wonder if I'm going to have to use super powers on them but then we're all sitting around their table, toasting each other.

The nostalgia punk is gone. I grab Sully. "I've got to get out of here," I tell him. Sully suggestes seeking out a CMJ after-party. Maybe Pianos? No chance. We're going to crash the birthday party being giving for the New York Review of Books. "Maybe I can fight Noam Chomsky," I say.

We get to the Historical Society but it's gone dark. The party is over. I briefly wonder where they throw an after-party for the New York Review of Books but I don't care. I'm off that idea now and worried that if I don't get more vodka soon this will go from an origins issue to a sad tale of two guys wandering around Manhattan drunk.

It's Thursday, or rather early Friday morning, which means Hutz is at the Bulgarian bar. It was dead last Thursday because of baseball but maybe the complete route of the Yankees tonight will have driven people into the smoky den of disaster.

We take a seat at the bar. It's not as bad as last week but still not good. The owner starts to open a pair of Zagorkas (Bulgarian beer) for us but Sully explains what we're doing. We drink shots of vodka. I'm still worried my super-power might turn out to be dancing. I'm bouncing a bit in my stool as I explain my plan to get super-powers to a design school girl who appears beside me.

I buy the design school girl a shot, which we chase with a wedge of lemon. That's when it happens. My super-powers take over. The room goes dark for a moment, and next I am on a Chinatown street with Sully. He's swearing about something. It is past four in the morning. I have traveled through time. One moment I was sitting at the bar, and the next moment—more than three hours later—I am out on the street.

I've discovered that my super-power is traveling into the very near future.

More on Super Powers and Drinking:
I drink because I can't fly.
Not quite super-powers but close enough.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Vodka Strength Training: The only slightly interesting thing about the divorce of these two hideous people, is his claim that she got stronger when she drank vodka. Now a New York Times reporter has gone around interviewing government health nannies and bartenders and the like about whether this is possible.

I agree with Gothamist. This is my favorite kind of journalism. But I don't think reporter Michael Brick went far enough.

So, in order to satisfy the booming curiosity about whether vodka can give you super-powers, I'm going on a vodka bender tonight, starting at the Russian Vodka room.

Look back to this space tomorrow for a full report on just how strong I am under the influence.

Update: It occurs to me that exposure to vodka might not make everyone stronger. It might be like what happened to the fantastic four--we'd all get individualized super-powers. Liza gets stronger but I'd like the power to make other people invisible, so I wouldn't have to see them ever again. I'll start with Gest.

Update, Update: It's more likely that my power will be to erase memories. Like the magic wand in Men In Black. Only I'll erase my own memories. And, come to think of it, I've already got that power from Jameson's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

That did not just happen.

"You are a man after my own heart, Vincent. Once you get a haircut we can talk."
--Laura Ingraham, MSNBC's Buchanan & Press, Tuesday, October 21.

My TiVo thinks I'm a reactionary, so it records Buchanan & Press each day. But now it's recording shows from an alternate reality. Midway through a typically boring debate between the loathsome Sid Blumenthal and Laura Ingraham, Pat Buchanan starts reading from creepy actor-writer-sorcerer Vincent Gallo's recent Page Six love letter to the blonde, right-wing populist. Ingraham reacts by wrapping her claws around Buchanan's neck and threatening to choke him.

Then Gallo starts talking. They've got him on the line, from LA. Things start off badly. Laura's never seen any of Gallo's films. He says that she's out of touch but pretty. Then he launches into a rant against Hollywood's "agressive and one-sided" liberalism. Laura starts fist pounding. "Yes! Yes!" She's enthralled. She's blushing. She tells Vincent to have his people call her people.

I've got to get the TiVo fixed. This is not really happening, is it?

Update:Apparently it is. Here's the transcript to last night's Buchanan & Press.

Monday, October 20, 2003

So Have You Ever Modeled? I can't believe this line works.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Mugger Suicide Watch: Has anybody checked in on Mugger? We're worried about him after the Yankees crushed the Sox last night.

A Bar with Wood: Like everyone else in the world, I watched the Yankees game last night. A few thoughts. Firstly, where did all these people come from? I think I finally understand why real estate is priced the way it is in this city: there are millions of little hobbits who almost never go out adventuring, and so are willing to spend insane sums fixing up their little holes. Secondly, did they all just go home afterwards? All the usual places for late night drinking were more or less empty. The hobbits had had their adventure watching television outdoors and scurried back to their holes. How sad? Thirdly, the most valuable thing in a bar is still wood: a place to lean, set your glass, a stretch of wood to call your own. Fourthly, no, thats it. Just three.

A Magnet for Swiss Miss: Some people find themselves encircled by midgets at the bulgarian bar. I always end up admist the Swiss.

Manhattan Transfer (taking cigarette): Thanks.
Swiss Miss: Gobbly-gobbly-gook.
MT: Pardon me?
SM: Hokey-dokey, gobbly-gook.
MT: Uhm. Okay. Where are you from?
SM: Switzerland.
MT: How did you find out about this place?
SM: Very much.
MT: Huh? I mean how did you find it at all? It's not exactly on the beaten track. But there are always Swiss girls here. Is it famous in Switzerland?
SM: Riddle, riddle, boil, gobble hoke. (Nods toward dj.)
MT: Uhm. Okay. How long are you here for?
SM: Four days.
MT: Is this the start or the end of your four days?
SM: Yes.

I should add that SM was wearing pink leg-warmers and pink-arm warmers.

Indirect Signalling: Meghan Stier takes up the assignment issued below. It only takes her about 175 words to explain how fashion works to signal reproductive fitness. Extra points for being concise. Back to you, Blowhards.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Assignment Desk: What Is Fashion For? Friedrich Von Blowhard, the west-coast half of 2 Blowhards, has posted this fascinating sociobiological account (aka, a "just-so story") of fashion. It would be nice to know what someone who knows something about fashion thinks of the theory.

Over to you, Mehgan Stier!

Who's Not Buying New York Magazine? Someone should start making a list, and then they can cross off ex-AOL, ex-Cablevision, ex-New York Timesian Paul Corvino, who has hired the investment bankers at Trautman Wasserman & Co. to "explore the purchase of New York Magazine." [Love that "explore"! Like the purchase was taking place in the arctic, or the amazon, or Red Hook.]

P.S.: Manhattan Transfer is still exploring potential partners to finance our purchase of New York Magazine. Remember--you get half the equity, a new laptop and we'll pay* for your soho house membership!

*Applies only to first year's membership, non-transferable, and may be recinded if you ask us to pay for our own meals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Snark at ScienceWars: Ahem. This is wrong. You guys are reporters. Leave the snark and snobbery to us. Next thing you'll be writing about celebrity drinking binges rather than warning us about alligators, spiders, and scorpions. (Oh My!)

Also, where the hell were you guys on the Harlem tiger story? Shouldn't you be finding out if the tiger was on board the Columbia or programmed by Bin Ladin?

[Science Wars: Sometimes a tiger is just a tiger.]

Gawker Patriot Act: While I appreciate the link from Gawker, I'm a bit concerned about the number of hits we're getting from usdoj.gov.

Uhm, attention all homeland security personel, everything on this website is for entertainment purposes only. God Bless America. Support the troops. Just say no.

"...never, ever, under any circumstances, trust a guy named 'Mickey.'" Great. Just when we had finally got past that whole Mouse business.

Our Bid for New York Magazine: We are pleased to confirm our offer to purchase New York Magazine. The wildly variable profits and the already underway fierce bidding war notwithstanding, we think Manhattan Transfer needs a print appendage and have decided to purchase this venerable old media institution. (Also, we want to be Elizabeth Spiers' boss. By the way, anyone checked in on her lately? No blogging since Friday!)

Of course, we have no interest in actually running a magazine (idiot editors, money hungry freelancers, interns, $500k columnists no-one reads--blech!), and our current investment plan does not anticipate equity investments in mass market periodicals, so we're seeking partners in our venture. We expect our partners will provide the financing, and in exchange we offer to: buy you a new laptop, pay for your SoHo house membership and split the equity 50-50 with you.

This is not a joke. If you're interested, please email us.

Update: Spiers is back. Call off the search.

Update, Update: Posting snarky things about Graydon again. Horray! One caveat: that contemporary casual look really is what Graydon wears to the office. But a realistic photo wouldn't have him in a zen pose in his office. He'd be dashing across the span of sidewalk outside 4 Times Square toward his big, black SUV before any Conde Nast employees do something crazy, like look him in the eye.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Ruining the Kill Bill Party: Crashed the opening for the new Tarantino movie last night. As is traditional, got stewed beforehand. Made a scene in the bathroom. Had a riotous time during the movie. Made a much worse, far more damaging scene at the party afterwards at Noche. Referred to all people in the movie business as "Herr" this and "Fraulien" that in honor of Arnold. I'll never eat lunch in Hollywood again.

Update:: As requested, gruesome details to follow...

Monday, October 06, 2003

Don't Forget Your Toothbrush: Was there ever an American version of this show? If there was, I completely missed it. The one I remember was on in London when I was living there in the nineties. [Ed.: Why not just be honest and admit you were hiding from the Croatians? Didn't I tell you to shut up? Why are you stalking me? You should get comments instead of bantering with your editorial alter-ego.]

It was brilliant. The winners got sent on a fabulous vacation, leaving directly from the studio (hence the need to remember to bring your toothbrush to the show). This was a bit dull, at least compared to what happened to the losers. No home version of the game for them. The losers got sent for a weekend away in some crap English town, typically a place unheard of since the miners' strike.

I hadn't thought of the program for years. But last Saturday I ended up in a brief chat about Toothbrush with some mud islanders outside of Hi-Fi (f/k/a Brownies). It brought back all the memories of sitting around Simon's Cadogan Terrace flat, drinking endless bottles of Stella and having our hearts broken by the cockney waifs we'd lured out of the pubs.

The Governor's On Steroids: I don't do politics here. Or much of it anyway. Unless it involves Vincent Gallo's lust for right-wing blondes. But this message from one of Steve Sailer's readers was irresistible:

"I suspect Mickey Kaus is looking at the possibility of continuing effects of steroid use on Ah-nold too narrowly. I have no idea whether personality-altering physiological effects of using steroids continue long after one stops using, but it seems reasonable to me to think that having one's personality altered with artificial testosterone throughout one's early adulthood would have long-lasting effects. If Arnold came into manhood with his personality hormonally enhanced, and continued to live with extra hormones through his twenties and thirties, isn't it a pretty safe bet that this experience shapes the way he sees and interacts with the world?

"I mean, if he had been a drunk during the years that he accumulated the habits and patterns of behavior of being an adult it would certainly be fair game to question how this experience might still be influencing him. And certainly Republicans, who like to talk about the importance of "character" and the like, would be hesitant to make someone whose character developed "under the influence" their standard bearer.

"Oh, wait. Never mind."

One of Chris Rock's best routines was his "The Mayor's on Crack" response to the re-election of Marion Barry. Now it seems it's time to update it to reflect a governor built by steroids.

Late Saturday Night: You're outside one of those dive bars that you hardly ever go to anymore. (No really. You've sworn off them. Really.) Two pretty young things enter and exit one second later.

"Do you know where we can go? We don't have ids."

You wonder: how old are these girls?

"How old are you?"


Here are the thoughts that go through your head. First: is this some sort of set up? A sophisticated sting operation? Is it illegal to point a minor in the direction of a bar that is lax about the age of its drinkers? Second: you could always pour them a glass of whiskey over at your place. Third: you are going to Hell, aren't you?

"Uhm, maybe you shouldn't be drinking?"

Do you really think God's going to forgive the second thought just because you said the right thing? You don't even mean it.

"Or, well, maybe you should go drink in the dorms with your friends." That's better? Getting fed mad-dog and groped by some sophomore in a stairwell. Is that sulphur you're smelling?

"Well, we don't want to drink so much. We really want to dance."

That's easy: bulgarian bar. Maybe you aren't such a bad guy after all. Just hope they aren't still there later...

Early Sunday Morning: Somehow I missed stumbling into Eurotrash and her mates at the bulgarian bar. Maybe I'm just not short enough to get her attention. [Ed.: Are you sure you're not short enough? Let's face it, you're not about to make any NBA tryouts. Shut the fuck up. We don't do that Ed -thing around here.]