Wednesday, June 30, 2004

We Shall Not See His Like Again. “In the beginning Rome was ruled by kings,” Tacitus wrote, echoing the opening of the book Christians call The Gospel According to John, which in turn anticipates the following sentence: “In the beginning London was ruled by my friend Simon.”

Simon was not originally from London. He was from a place in Kent called Seven Oak, a name which has become ironic ever since the seventh oak fell. Is “ironic” the right term there? No, probably not. Maybe I just mean “wrong.” In any case, I only spent one day in Seven Oak, sitting in a little grassy alley way the English mistake for a proper yard. Which they cannot even get right, and insist on calling a garden. Gardens have fruits and vegetables or flowers and are one part of a yard, not the whole thing.

We spent the day in Seven Oak drinking Stella and listening to a Elizabeth Hurley narrate a pornographic book by a vicious woman named Julie Burchill. I don’t know if Burchill is the hottest writer ever or if Elizabeth Hurley is the hottest reader ever. And I don’t care. Together they produced more hotness than any other thing that has ever produced hotness. Only more so. And for this I have to thank Toby Young, who gave away the tape of Hurley-Burchill for free with his magazine Modern Age.

This is how the story ends, however, and I wanted to write about the beginning of things, or at least how things looked at the start of my time in London. And in the very beginning they looked like cobblestones.

I had been drinking too much at a party in London. Everyone at the party was American, and we were dressed like cowboys in an effort to outrage the natives. I was having one of those nights where you feel like you cannot get drunk no matter how much you drink, at least until you have drank enough that you no longer felt that way and feel drunk instead. After that you sometimes end up being the drunkest person in the room. Or, in my case, the drunkest person face down on a cobblestone street in a part of London I didn’t recognize.

The safest thing to do, I decided, was to remain prone. I’m sorry. “Decided” is the wrong word. There was no way I could stand, so I was pretty sure I was just going to lie down instead.

“Oi! Is that Manhattan Transfer?” I heard a voice cry out. There were three sets of Carhart boots marching up the alleyway. They gathered around me. “We wondered where you had got to.”

It was Simon and two others. I didn’t remember meeting Simon, and I told him this. He laughed, and when he picked me up and brought me around the corner to a nightclub near the Thames, there were a lot of other people who I didn’t remember meeting. As it turns out, they were very good friends of mine. I had accomplished some great feat of heroism earlier that night involving a young woman, fish and a winch outside the window of a pub, and this woman turned out to be the sister of the biggest drug dealer in South London and now everyone of my unknown friends had free access to nightclubs and drugs.

Simon was a cricketer and lager enthusiast. He rode a motorbike and introduced me to a Russian assassin who I believe had something to do with the death of Robert Maxwell. I once saved the life of the assassin, but that story doesn’t take place during this story, so perhaps I shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. Also, let’s pretend I didn’t write anything about Maxwell. The point is that Simon knew everything there was that was worth knowing about in London and everyone who wasn’t worth knowing but those are the sort of people who you really want to know anyway.

Simon’s girlfriend was named Clare and she was the most beautiful living creature I ever attempted to grope. She was slight and pale and not really English at all but Dutch, and if she had been a windmill I would have titled at her despite the mixed cultural metaphor. One summer night we were in a pub near Victoria Park waiting for Simon. Clare was wearing a pleated white tennis skirt and had her legs propped up on the bench where I was sitting. We were talking about music or books or the rise of the cult of the Enlightenment but all I could think about was the faint mist of sweat that hovered over the tiny blonde hairs on her thighs. Simon didn’t mind that I flung myself at Clare because Simon didn’t mind anything. That’s what blokes did to birds, and especially if the bird was Clare and the bloke was me.

Simon made everyone around him feel like they were an Abstract Expressionist or a post-modern novelist, which is a very nice thing to feel if you cannot paint or write. The best thing about being an Abstract Expressionist is that women are mad for Abstract Expressionists, even ones who don’t really paint. When I mentioned this to Simon he told me that I shouldn’t be surprised—people everywhere and always were falling in love with people for things that were almost but not quite true about them.

There are lots of people who try to live and love according to rules but my friend knew that the science of human life, and therefore the art of seduction and the talent for decadent but decent drunkenness, was not precise like mathematics but a series of approximations and probabilities. This wisdom made him the ruler of London in those early days.

Later, things would change and we would leave London for eastern Europe and we would return to London and live lives that were improbably rich with riches improbable. But that is the middle and the end of the story, and this is about the beginning.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Summer Girls: "You are too well-dressed to be here."

It was a small, drunk girl with a short haircut and a very short denim skirt who thought I was out of place; she had been drinking champagne from a plastic cup until she saw me walk in to the Magnum Photo party. Now she was pouring champagne on my lapels.

"Wearing a suit to an art party is punk rock," I told her.

She smiled the drunk smile of girls who are drunk and smiling. "Where did you go to business school? I went to art school. Where did you say you went?"

"I didn't say I went, and that's because I didn't. If I was an investment banker I wouldn't be wearing this suit. I would be in chinos and have a blue shirt with an open collar."

"Oh. You're one of those," she said. I was pretty sure she didn't have any idea what she meant either. "So you have to wear a suit everyday?"

"Right. Actually, I don't have to wear a suit to work at all. I wear
suits because I want to wear suits. And I hate business casual. It makes all men look like they have supporting roles on the Cosby show."

"You don't think you lose your identity to the suit? Become just A Suit." Her eyes were rolling around now. She hooked her arms around my neck, and threw a leg around my hips. I was pretty sure that if I found a way to untangle myself she would fall over.

"Look around. I am the only person here in suit. It is individuating. Liberating. Rebellious. Punk rock."

"But aren't suits coming back? Won't that ruin your ability to rebel with businesswear?"

"Yes. They are back. Now I am an old school punk."

She moved her lips toward mine. I tilted my head upwards and she kissed my chin. I frowned. She took this as a sign of encouragement.

"I haven't had anything to drink yet. And I need to go look for my friends, will you excuse me?"

She kissed my jawline again. "Oh, you want to get away from me? Don't think it will be that easy. I'm going to lick your neck."

And so she did. I stepped out of her grip and tried not to notice the other people at the party noticing the guy who walked into the art party in a suit and found himself carrying a girl who was licking his neck.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

This is why we get so fucking pissed off when you feed us tofu:
"In fact, a diet rich in soy isoflavones, especially through the use of soy supplements, can have marked influences on patterns of aggression and social behavior in men, reports HealthDayNews."
[This Food Can Make Men Aggressive]

Monday, June 21, 2004

TO DO: Watch the Nasties Kick Each Other: The much awaited Vogue vs. Teen Vogue soccer match kicks off at 7 P.M. tonight in Riverside park. Go ahead, you know you want to.

It Is Safe To Date Bridget Harrison Again:

New York Post: Farewell to Kiss and Tell

Thursday, June 17, 2004

When Social Justice Meets Social Degeneracy: Overserved is back with a letter to the poor young thing who responded to his advertisement for a roommate by noting, "I'd prefer to live with someone with similar political views, as activism and social justice are an important part of who I am."

Somehow I don't think it's going to work out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Hot Times: The carping about summer in New York City has already begun so it's about time to begin the contrarian’s response—I love summer in the city.

Opera in the park, with bits of cheese and chilled Sancerre in plastic cups. Lingering lunches in shaded sidewalk bistros. Rooftop parties overserving beer out of garbage cans filled with ice and sand. Sunrise whiskeys with bartenders in the Rockaways. Girls in short skirts with beads of sweat on the small of their backs. Falling asleep on the lawn alongside the Hudson River. Aperitifs at A60. Midday movies to escape the humidity. Seared tuna salad and buffalo mozzarella and three pinot grigio lunches. The song of the summer. Pretending the subway doesn’t exist. Dancing at the Bulgarian bar until your clothes stick to your everything. Bloomsday breakfast Guinness. Poolside rooftop mojitos. Kids playing whiffle ball in the park. Rounds of lights and darks at McSorely’s. Backyard barbeques. Churchyard sangrias. Pints of lager outside the Ear. Steamy shagging. Belmont Stakes. Publishing girls drinking at noon on Fridays. Emerging from a perspiration and beer soaked dive bar into the crisp pre-dawn air. Summerstage beertent. Making out in taxis, aroused from the sudden application of air-conditioning. Shakespeare in the Park. Champagne breaknight breakfasts in Inwood Park. Salted Tecantes in a Chinatown Mexican restaurant. Smoking cigarettes in the Goodworld alley garden. Flirting with the daughters of firemen in Breezy point. Long days spent in dark bars. Chilled gazpacho. Watermelons soaked with vodka. Interns with improbably fashionable clothes and the spending habits of people who are spending other people’s money. Old flames. New infernos. Tar beach sunbathing. Avoiding parades with all day bruches that turn into all night bacchanals. Chasing the ghost of Dylan Thomas at the Whitehorse tavern. Fireworks from an Avenue B rooftop. Wilting while watching the Yankees. Midnight oysters at Milk & Honey.

Gear up, lads and lasses. We’re going in.

One Way or Another: "The Germans made it even more inconvenient to live in the countryside because they marched most of the peasants away, " Madame Karolyi said. "But at last the war ended. We were liberated by the Red army. I don't know why, but no one had any idea the Russians were goign to stay forever. By then I was fifteen, longing to live. Lori was my confidant. She advised me to find love in the world because it made sex much more enjoyable. I asked how long would that take. She said three to five years. After that I should live as if I were going to be alone because in one way or another all women ended up alone. 'Love will come, if it comes, in a form that will surprise you,' she said. 'Accept it for as long as it lasts.' My hope was that it would come several times, beginning very soon. She saw nothing wrong with that..."

--The Old Boys, Charles McCarry.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Sound Like Anyone We Know? "Do you know what I think, my dear Horace?" Hawk said. "I think you wanted me to believe you were stupid and clumsy."

"Why ever would I want that?"

"To make me think I'm smarter than you are. To manipulate the well-known psychological need of my type to have the upper hand, the need to know more than his adversary, to outwit, then crush."
--The Old Boys, Charles McCarry.

I'm just saying, that's all.

Friday, June 11, 2004

How Long Has This Been Going On? Holy crap! Earlier this week I made a horrifying discovery.

Scene: Times Square at dawn. Two old friends stumble through the traffic-free streets.

Me: "What time do the liquor stores open up?"

Her: "Are we out of Jamesons already? Fuck. I don't think they open for at least another hour."

Me: (pointing at the crowd in a Times Square park): "Holy shit. What the fuck is that?"

Her: "Probably a concert."

Me: "It's seven thirty in the morning. What kind of concerts go on at this hour?"

Her: "It's probably for one of those morning television programs."

Me: "Heh. Morning television."

Her: "Are you serious? Good Morning America? Today? Katie? Matt? Goodday New York?"

Me: "No, nay, nada. They've really got television on in the morning?"

Her: "This is unbelievable."

Me: "I didn't even think television worked in the morning."

This morning I figured out how to use the remote control for my television, and flipped around. Turns out there is television in the morning, but it's all funerals. Who the fuck wants to watch that? You people begin your day with funerals? Not for me. Too depressing.

Would You Want Your Daughter Raised by Kathy Hilton? "Kathy Hilton, mother of Paris and Nicky and matriarch of one of the most celebrated and successful families in America, is conducting a search for candidates to be taken under her wing and given access to high society for a new unscripted NBC drama. "

As it turns out, raising your daughters to be drug-addled airhead pornstars does not disqualify you from being considered "matriarch one of the most celebrated and successful families in America." Good to know.

Just a reminder, tomorrow is the casting call for the Hilton Project. It's at Tackyland, fka Tavern on the Green.
[Casting Call: "The Hilton Project" via Gawker.]

Cocaine is Just a Gateway Drug for Bourbon: It's nice that someone's gone and invented powdered alcohol. Now we can do key hits of Jamesons in the office.

Oooh, Look. Lit Blogging: "Charles McCarry's latest novel, 'Old Boys,' starts with the revelation that Jesus Christ may have been an unwitting agent in a Roman covert-action operation gone wrong. If this seems far-fetched, please pause to consider Mr. McCarry's record."

[Brian Carney in the Wall Street Journal]

Thursday, June 10, 2004

If it Quacks Like a Geordie: "It may sound like a load of quackers but according to new research ducks have regional accents. "

When is it best to smoke crack?
"There is perhaps a single predictable time of life when taking crack-cocaine is sensible, harmless and both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. Indeed, for such an occasion it may be commended. "
[In Search of the Big Bang: Crack Cocaine]

Monday, June 07, 2004

How to Understand Our Era: In addition to my well-known attempt to persuade the world that human behavior can be explained largely through a close study of the human shoulder, a few years ago I also proposed the somewhat contradictory thesis that we live in the Era of the Shoe. At the time, this was largely a justification for my long history of eccentric footwear and a rationalization for buying over-priced running-shoes. Since then, I’ve come to believe that I was right all along. Ah, bless you, young Manhattan Transfer, you were so wise.

Actually, we may be in the Second Era of the Shoe. Prehistoric homo sapiens likely beat out the gentle, and extremely intelligent Neanderthals because the latter had an aversion to footwear. This made the homo sapiens better able to do things like walk in the snow and look good in skirts.

The advent of history saw the primordial glory of the shoe forgotten. For much of history, in fact (if that is the proper way to qualify something that I am basically making up), shoes were a luxury that were often foregone even by the most prominent of citizens. The famous Athenian sculptor and philosopher Socrates rarely wore anything on his feet, and referred to cobblers only to mock them in the dialogue Plato called The Gorgias. In fact, he is only known to have worn shoes once: on his way to the drinking party that is the setting for Plato’s Symposium. That, of course, is the dialogue about the meaning of the love, foreshadowing the role that shoes have taken on in modern times.

The Athenians eventually got with the footwear program, and started tying sandals onto their feet. There wasn’t much to differentiate one set of sandals from the other, so in order to create status anxiety the wise Athenians banned slaves from wearing shoes.

Time went by, as time so often does, and soon the slave, serf and peasant classes got hold of the secret of footwear so the upper-classes invented slippers to preserve their sense of superiority. Shoes kept on like this for a good deal of time, with the lower classes eventually adopting boots and such to protect themselves from the elements, until all the men of Europe decided to slaughter each other in the great war. This left women in a vicious competition for the remaining men, and the results are famous—flappers, feminism, short skirts, interesting hair and colorful shoes with spindly heels.

That was the beginning of the Second Era of the Shoe. Today we are at its apex. In the future our culture will be understood by the asexual clones that dominate the earth mostly by reference to our footwear. Thank goodness we have bold documentarians such as Maccers and Eurotrash recording the state of our culture for the future generations to study.

It's Good To See That The Nice Leftists at the Village Voice Aren't Letting Their Hatred of Bush Get the Better of Them.
"No U.S. president, I expect, will ever appoint a Secretary of the Imagination. But if such a cabinet post ever were created, and Richard Foreman weren't immediately appointed to it, you'd know that the Republicans were in power. Republicans don't believe in the imagination, partly because so few of them have one, but mostly because it gets in the way of their chosen work, which is to destroy the human race and the planet. Human beings, who have imaginations, can see a recipe for disaster in the making; Republicans, whose goal in life is to profit from disaster and who don't give a hoot about human beings, either can't or won't. Which is why I personally think they should be exterminated before they cause any more harm."
[The Village Voice: Theater: Foreman's Wake-Up Call by Michael Feingold]

What hapned when Agamemnon n Achilles had a barny? Microsoft condenses the Illiad for the instant messaging generation.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Seaweed: You know the stringy seaweed that is brown and leathery and has little air bubles that you can pop? Right. I need some of that. If you know where I can get some before tomorrow night I'll ply you with alcohol any day next week. Thanks. That is all.

From Bohemia to Beauty to Bulgaria and Back Again:

I'm at a birthday party at the Bohemian beer hall in Astoria. I'm talking about fighting with a French lawyer. I like talking about fighting because I used to get into a lot of fights, and now they make good stories. People are always skeptical about my street fighting tales because I don’t seem the type.

“You don’t seem the type,” French Lawyer says. I want to show him that he doesn’t know anything about “the type” but I like French Lawyer. I’m planning on being friends with French Lawyer. Anyway, I don’t do that sort of thing anymore. Much.

My glass goes away, and comes back full of more beer. There are a baker’s dozen of us sitting around a long wooden table in the beer hall’s garden. It’s almost raining, and for a few minutes it is raining, and then it slips away to almost again.

Someone is always getting up to get another pitcher from inside. The garden is enormous and almost empty. There's no one else here other than a family sitting at the far end of the garden, and a cook grilling kielbasa.

I don’t even notice when the Brooklyn girls arrive. I’m not supposed to like the Brooklyn girls, not after the Phone Incident. But now we’re talking and one of them is telling me her father who was shot by the Japanese in the Pacific, irradiated by the Americans in the Southwest, and shot again by the Mexicans in Texas. I’m trying to do the math, to figure out how old her father must be. I can’t manage it.

We’re starting to get somewhere with this drinking. The girls get rowdy. Two blonde sisters are now talking about fighting with French Lawyer. The girl with the father who survives everything tells a story about getting hit in the face with a tennis racket. Mugs are full, and then empty and then full. The rain is falling very slowly. I’m looking at French Lawyer thinking he doesn’t look the type.

Sully is on the phone. He thinks we need a name. When we were kids we had a couple of names. None of them really stuck. I urged everyone to adopt “Improbable Mulit-Ethnic Gang” but that didn’t sound enough like “We’re going to kick you ass.”

“We’re going to be at Beauty Bar. Right now. What the fuck are you doing in Queens? You never go to Queens.”

He’s right. I never go to Queens. We are going to be at the Beauty Bar. I call the numbers. A car arrives, and then I’m on 14th street walking through the crowd of smokers outside this place that was once a beauty salon and now is bar.

Sully is talking to a beautiful Icelandic girl who won’t say what she’s called. She keeps insisting her name is whatever she happens to be drinking, and she keeps changing what she is drinking. Now she’s Margarita. Now she’s Manhattan. Now she’s Vodkatonic.

When a girl tries to be mysterious she usually ends up dull. The Icelander looks offended so I must have said this to her.

“Have you read the Sagas?” I ask her. She pushes her white hair back from in front of her face. Whatever I’m telling her about the Icelandic Sagas—something about the settlers of Iceland being proto-anarchists--is either confusing her or enraging her.

“Jesus, Mick. How long have you been drinking?” Sully says.

“The whole time,” I say. I turn up my glass and whiskey-infused ice hits my teeth. The whiskey-free glass slides across the bar. I should tell the bartender what to do with the ice, but I want to see if he knows.

Here’s what you do with whiskey on the rocks. When you pour another glass, you keep the rocks that are there, only adding new ice. The old ice has the memory of the whiskey, it knows the glass and the drink and your mouth. It introduces the new ice. You don’t dump the old ice.

My bartender doesn’t know this. I try to teach him over the next glass of whiskey but he won't learn so I try to teach him with the next glass. And then I just let him alone on the next glass because I don't tolerate slow learners.

Out. Out. Shiny wet street. Yellow. Dark. Folding money unfolded. Upstairs. Upstairs. The crowd, dancing, music. The bar. Big green bottle of beer. Alex. Another bottle. Smoking. Bottles. Talking now, talking to the girl. Curls. Blond. Bright eyes. Chapped nostrils. Downstairs. Shiny street. Arm outstretched. Yellow. Dark.