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."