Thursday, September 30, 2004

I Could Never Reundo You 

There are some songs it's probably okay to discover you are singing to yourself while waiting for the elevator in your office building. "Dismantle Me" by the Distillers is not one of them. How do I get this song out of my head? And is there something about drinking Jamesons all night that grafts last night's jukebox selection in the front of one's brain?

I fancy you
But I've been destitute
And all I know dissolved
I could never reundo you
I will always say it's so
I will always speak the truth

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Killing Bill 

This is a very old story, about some adventures from last year. I wrote it last fall but don't think I ever posted it.

Ruining the Kill Bill Party, the Prologue: Lately I'm always waking up at the wrong times. Sometimes, when I am supposed to be at a meeting with clients, I find myself lying in my bed never having heard the alarm clock. My clock is very old, very reliable and very loud. It has two hammers that hit little bells above its dial. Sleeping through its bell ringing is unlikely but somehow has become increasingly common. I say "somehow" but I know exactly how: my impenetrable slumber is built on a foundation of whiskey and bars that stay open into the early hours of the morning. When I discover I'm awake, I'm usually not particularly disturbed that I've missed the meeting. I can still manage to spend a quarter of an hour lying in bed, staring out my windows at the Empire State Building. Maybe I'm losing faith in working, employment and diligence.

Sometimes I find myself waking up in other places. A stoop near the East River where I had paused to watch the sun come up. A booth at the Bulgarian bar. The roof of a building on Orchard street. Exactly when I fell asleep, or what I was doing immediately before falling asleep, is usually unclear. My eyes closed so quickly that I never formed the thought "I am falling asleep." Sometime later the thought that I was asleep awakens me. The walls of the room snap back together shutting out whatever dream I've been having. Voices grow closer.

This time the floor I had been sleeping on was white marble. Beside my head was a wicker bin of some sort. I stretched out across the floor of the small room. Nothing seemed out of place. My shoes shined in the bright light, laces tied. There was still a sharp crease running parallel to the tight pin stripes of my pants. My belt clasp reflected ceiling lamp. My tie was slightly loosened, and the top button on my shirt was undone. By the way my jaw scraped against my collar I knew I had shaved yesterday but not today. Nothing hurt except my head. According to my watch it was a quarter past one. I decided it must be afternoon because I couldn't imagine myself passing out in a bathroom as early as one in the morning.

I sat up, and pulled myself off the floor by holding the sink. I splashed some water on my face. My eyes were very bad. They were narrowed to small tiny, dark canyons. A place the hero would start to suspect an ambush. The blue of my tie pulled out their color a bit, but it was like catching sight of the bright underbelly of a fish in polluted water.

Beyond the door of the bathroom was a narrow hallway, leading to a lobby of some sort. Straight ahead I saw Central Park. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn afternoon. To my left was a concierge desk. To my right Jean Georges. I needed the solitude and the space promised by the park but I was probably here with someone who was expecting me to return. How long had I been asleep?

I stepped through the glass door. I didn't recognize anyone at the table immediately in front of me. No one I knew was at the bar. I wondered if the people I was with would call out to me or wave me over. I decided they wouldn't know that I had forgot who I was with, that I'd been asleep, that I was absolutely out of my head. No one would call me.

My cell phone started playing the theme from Cops. The caller id said "Don."

"Mickster! Where are you? You said you went to make a phone call and disappeared. Stuck me with the check you bastard. We're over at Whiskeyland [bar name changed at Don's request]. Meet us here. I've already ordered you a digestif." Don's Australian, and sounds ridiculous when he uses foreign words like digestif.

On the walk to Whiskeyland I recollected bits and ruins of the day. Don is journalist for a foreign-owned and yet xenophobic tabloid newspaper in New York. It's the sort of place where the editors sit around before going to press trying to best each other with punned headlines. Don is the reigning champion on the strength of the phrase he coined to describe European dissenters from the recent war in Iraq. I know Don because he used to drink with my father. My father gave up that kind of thing, or rather passed it on to me. Don is part of my patrimony.

We had been at lunch with two younger guys who are also journos, and three young women. I didn't think I'd ever met the women before. We were celebrating something. Someone had written a book, or given up writing a book, or taken a new job or lost an old job. The women were probably purely decorative.

They were all in Whiskeyland. I'd forgotten the girls were gorgeous. They were sitting around the bar, Don on one side and one of the younger guys on the other. The other guy was standing in front of them, telling a story about having sex with someone's girlfriend in a bathtub. These two younger guys write for gossip pages, and tend to pull girls way above their paygrade based on their presumed associations with the wealthy and celebrated, and the prospect of transforming a young actress or model into a celebrity by mentioning that she was spotted having lunch at Jean Georges.

I sat next to Don. He pushed a snifter of Congac toward me. I couldn't imagine drinking it.

"Drink before you start talking crazy again, okay?"

The bar was closed but Don had arrangement with the bartenders who allowed him to drink there during the lunch hour. New York has become the sort of place where you need to have your lunch hour drinks in closed bars where no one from your office will report you to your boss.

I dipped my upper lip into the Cognac. My sense of smell was entirely gone, and I could barely taste anything when I licked my lips. Don was giving a lecture on how to win fights. I'd heard this one before. You poke the guy in the eye with your forefinger, and you bite his nose. It's not bad advice.

The young journos were getting somewhere with the girls. They were laughing at the stories, and stretching their legs to touch the ground from their barstool. The one sitting next to them had slipped his arm around one of the girls, resting it on the bar behind him. When he wasn't talking, and attention was shifted toward someone else, I noticed she leaned in toward him.

My glass was empty and Don was ordering a second. I couldn't take another drop of Cognac. "Scotch, " I told the bartender. I looked up at the bottles behind the bar. They hadn't turned on the bright panels behind, so it was hard too see what they stocked. "Oban. Rocks. No, not rocks. Rock. Oban, one rock."

"That's a lad," one of the young journos said. He wore expensive looking blue jeans, had a beard and sounded like he may or may not have been British. He was drinking vodka and cranberry. The other guy was mostly bald. He was drinking gin and tonic. I raised my glass to them, and then to the girls, and then knocked it against Don's straight vodka. The alcohol sliced right through my mouth, so that the whiskey was completely tasteless. In a moment the ice would begin to melt, and would lower the alcohol ratio in the glass, and this would be a real drink.

There was no going back. I could remember what we had planned. Last night I had been drinking with Don at Irish dive near Times Square. He mentioned he was going to Kill Bill the following evening. I told him about seeing Pulp Fiction in Oxford under the influence of half a bottle of rum and still-unidentified pills. The film was spectacular. It is a very good film viewed straight but amazing seen with half your brain tied to Captain Morgan's ship. Only under the influence does it reveal its classical structure, built around the motives of honor, fear and interest, with only honor holding out the hope of redemption. Don announced that he was going to get me into the premier, and that we were going to get drunk beforehand. And then I suggested we stay out until the opening. Which is what happened.

How Long Has This Been Going On? 

When the fuck did I stop blogging?

Oh, that's right. My job got really busy. Not busy like working so much I have no time. Busy like working intensely on projects that have crushed my soul and devoured my will to live, eat, drink and make love to slender girls with sparkling eyes and poor judgment.

Besides, now that TMFTML is out of the game, somebody has got to start not blogging when he should be.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Lunch Today: By the Numbers 

Six Blue Point Oysters.

Three Diamonds of Seared Tuna over mixed greens.

Seven garlic soaked black olives.

Three glasses of sancerre.

Two cigarettes.

One beautiful New York afternoon.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

This Scummy Little Book 

Like F. Scott Fitzgerald's Amory Blaine, I've always had a bit of a fanatic heart that attached itself to lost causes. The history of the last couple centuries, it seemed to me, had mostly been one of the little peoples of the world trying and failing to stand up to the formidable host arrayed against them. So I get a bit of a thrill at the criticial beating of Phillip Roth's latest novel, which I understand has as its basic theme the celebration of the crushing of some of those those defiant little peoples (such as, Catholics, Middle Americans, rural people) in the 1940s.

As usual, the sage of Batavia, Bill Kauffman, gets all the best lines in his review: "Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America is the novel that a neoconservative would write, if a neoconservative could write a novel...The Plot Against America is the sort of novel a bootlicking author might write to curry favor with a totalitarian government...All that is left, I suppose, is for the author to collect his Presidential Medal of Freedom."

For the record, I thought that the Human Stain was a fantastic book. But I'll take Gore Vidal's The Golden Age and Kentucky's Wendell Berry over The Plot Against America and Newark's Phillip Roth any day. Sadly, based on the fate of most objects of my affection, this probably means Roth is the wave of the future.

Update: The New York Observer's Adam Begley reviews Roth's newest, heaping on the praise: "Two years of the nation's history are boldy reimagined...What's the point of this counterfactual fantasy? A daring imaginative exercise..."

What else is there to say? Begley's courageously inspired review lauding a book that unironically praises the American regime by smearing its defeated and long-deceased enemies, is nothing less than audaciously creative!

Isn't it cute when the Establishment puts on the mask of opposition and starts calling itself daring and bold?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

My Broken Blog 

You know when you've just gotten into the office and you're taking the first sip of your coffee while directing your browser at Manhattan Transfer? You know how it doesn't work quite right (and never really has) because it cuts off exactly at the end of the right-hand column, and the only way to get that to stop is to resize your browswer window? You know when that happens?

Well, it sucks and I want it to stop but after fucking around with html for exactly as long as I can do that sort of thing, I haven't been able to fix it. If you can tell me what the hell is wrong I'll buy you a strong drink in a good bar. Or a bad bar, if you prefer that sort of thing.

A Guide for Children 

Blogging around here might be slightly slower than usual as I've started on my new book project. It's a step-by-step guide for children to teach them how to deal with certain situations that arise in modern life. It's called "Dick has Two Girlfriends." Like that book to teach kids about lesbians--"Heather has Two Mommies"--except it teaches kids about slutty people.

Some excerpts:

Dick lives in a little apartment on the lower east side. His door is made of steel, and it has two locks.

Dick's favorite number is two. He has two arms, two legs, two cell phones, two eyes and two impacted wisdom teeth. Dick has two favorite drinks and their names are Wild Turkey neat and Wild Turkey Double. Double is another word for two.

Dick also has two girlfriends and their names are Sally and Jane. But to Dick they're both just called Baby.

Hanging out with Dick is fun. When we're with Sally we play a game called, "Don't talk about Jane." I'm really good at it. When we're with Jane the game we play is"Don't talk about Sally." I'm good at that one too.

Dick says Jane is a little bit wild. Sometimes after he plays with her he has funny scratches on his back. When Sally asks about it, he tells her it is psoriasis .

Sally was playing at Dick's apartment the other day when she found something strange. "Oh, no, Sally. Those are your underwear. You probably just forgot about them. Black is a very forgettable color," Dick says.

Sometimes the phone rings at Dick's place and nobody is on the other end when Sally answers. "Yeah, I get a lot of prank calls," Dick says.

One night Dick went to a bar with Sally. Jane was already there. Dick played hide-n-seek, and neither of the girls could find him. Dick is good at games.

Monday, September 20, 2004

We Figure the Trick is to Use the Inhaler Between Liquid Shots 

The machine is apparently calibrated with this danger in mind—using AWOL, it takes 20 minutes to inhale the equivalent of one shot—and the company's promotional materials recommend no more than two sessions, or two shots, in a 24-hour period.
Back in college we poured a bottle of rotgut potato vodka into a humidifier. Results were mostly clothes that smelled of burnt spuds and freshman girls who randomly knocked on our door looking for "the party."

[Amanda Schaffer in Slate--Is Inhalable Alcohol a Good Idea?]

Shops in NYC 

Perhaps the most common shop in New York City is the "bodega," or maybe I should say the "deli." In Brooklyn, I often find a store that Manhattan residents would call a bodega referred to as a deli. I have no clue what they call such stores on Staten Island – nor does anyone else from any of the other four boroughs, since none of us have ever been to Staten Island...

Also common in New York City is the "grocery." To the untrained eye, it may be nearly indistinguishable from a deli/bodega. But after many months of study, I have found the key to quickly establishing which of the two you are faced with: a grocery, unlike a deli or bodega, is required to have three or four large bins of rotting produce for sale.

That’s not an easy hurdle to leap. In fact, it's almost impossible for the owner to ensure that all of his produce is always rotting. Eventually, the condition of some of his fruits or vegetables will become so foul that even a New-York-City-grocery-store owner can no longer bear to offer them for sale. He will be forced to dump them and re-order, which means that, for a few days, his bin will be filled with decent-looking samples of the produce in question. Nevertheless, at any given time, he can rest easy in the knowledge that the vast majority of his produce is in an advanced state of decay, because no one ever buys any of it. Therefore, the same, say, tomatoes that were, regrettably, fresh for a couple of days, will still pass the bulk of their time in the store as wrinkled orbs dripping a pus-like ooze from their multitude of cracks and bruises.
Also, does anyone know what to call those claw-tipped pole thingys that you use to grab the paper towels from their shelf fourteen feet from the ground?

[Gene Callahan--Your Guide to NYC Shops]

Friday, September 17, 2004

Warm Ups 

Last night was just practice.

A few drinks here and there to warm up for the main event tonight--the semi-anniversary of Saint Patrick's Day.

Began the night at Rue 57, where I met with the Very Small Manhattan Right-Wing Conspiracy cabal. I've sworn off seducing the women of the VSMRWC, even the lovely A-M and her shirt-button challenging bosom. Even The Woman Formerly Known As Swamp City, also. But not, I realized as I sat on the very low chair near the bar, the black-clad blonde waitress with the Hungarian accent who was pretending she was French.

"Can I get you something to drink?" she said, bending deeply at the hips so that her eyes leveled with mine.

"Of course. Thank you. Pete what are you having?"

"A Belgian beer of some sort."

"Great. I'll have one of those and a Jameson's on the rocks."

"In the same glass?"

Hmmm. Well she was gorgeous and I probably should have been ordering wine anyway.

The Believer Channels My Blogroll 

The latest issue of the Believer is more or less built around the blogs listed over on the right side of your screen. The evidence:

1. It contains a zine called "Army Man: America's Only Magazine" which looks pretty much exactly like The Other Page print edition.

2. The cover has a picture of Klaus Kinski.

And a bunch of other stuff that you'll just have to trust me on because I don't have time for the details.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

It's the end, the end of the 70's 

Johnny Ramone is dead.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

You Don't Belong Here 

What are you doing reading blogs when you should be over bidding at the Johnny Cash auction?

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I'm not even going to explain what made me post that image.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Summer's End 

Pop quiz. I'm not going to get around to doing a seasonal wrap-up until sometime next week because: A) I still owe more stories about GOP debauchery, B) for three full weeks I've been consistently too hungover to blog and have just been faking it, C) I cannot figure out how to write about the insanity of this summer without making everyone hate me even more than they already do, and D) all of the above.

Fortunately, others are putting together enumerated summaries of their summer. Like nurse Jill. And Choire.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Overserved Is Back 

Blogging from deepest Washington, DC:
The story begins, as it should, in the middle.

There was little to be done to change the situation so I just went with it. There I was in a Chinese karaoke bar in Portland Oregon receiving an award for "Most Gay Stache". Or is it "stash"? I am of course talking about my mustache. I don't have one now and really had never had one before. I had grown it for the occasion, and was now receiving the dubious honor of "Most Gay."

I'm not gay and I think that giving a "most gay" award just defeats the whole purpose of the night, which was to grow mustaches and celebrate our manhoods. Well, maybe that is a little gay sounding.

Psychic Bursts 

Just back from The Week lunch featuring a panel that included Dick Morris, Mario Cuomo, Frank Newport (who it turns out is not actually a cigarette baron but Editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll), Joe Trippi and moderator by Harold Evans. There were also call-ins by Russell Simmons and Mike Dukakis.

Dukakis is still upset about his failure to deal with the 1988 GOP accusations that his record in Massachusetts consisted of flag burning, felon freeing and mental illness. (For the record, only the part about freeing felons was true.) Surprising he blamed Cuomo for telling him to ignore these accusations during the campaign.

All the hot action was between Cuomo and Morris. Cuomo holds to the belief that democracy is a deliberative form of government, in which candidates attempt to persuade the populace of the wisdom of their policies. This, of course, is exactly what many ancient Athenians considered the worst part of democracy because it easily leads to rule by verbally adept but thoroughly corrupt tyrants. Morris holds the Aristotelian point of view, according to which people believe what they believe, and the art of rhetoric is to appeal to their beliefs. This position was frightful to an entirely different set of Athenians for the simple reason that it meant leaders would always pander to vulgar masses.

After one particularly high-volume exchange, during which Morris claimed the Brooklyn Bridge would no longer be standing if not for George W. Bush and the Patriot Act, Cuomo gave what must be the most effective tearing down of a debating opponent I've ever heard. "If I took your passion as serious evidence of your sincerity I would be concerned for your sanity," Cuomo said. "But instead I'll take that as just some sort of temporary psychic burst."

Cut to moderator Harold Evans, trying to move the discussion along, "Governor Dukakis, you know something about psychic bursts."

Dukakis: "Arrrgghhh! I do not know anything about psychic fucking bursts you Britnitwit sonofabitch!"

Okay. He didn't really say "fucking" or "you Britnitwit sonofabitch" but you could totally tell he meant it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

As it turns out, people like to look at people who are nice to look at. 

Newborns were shown two images side by side, one showing an attractive face and the other a less attractive one.

The researchers say the infants spent more time looking at the attractive face than the less attractive one.

"You can show them pair after pair of faces that are matched for everything other than attractiveness. This leads to the conclusion that babies are born with a very detailed representation of the human face," said Dr Alan Slater, a psychologist at Exeter.
[Newborns prefer beautiful faces--BBC]

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Getting Drunk with the GOP 

You party with the Republicans so I won’t have to.

Tuesday, 6:00PM. Gotham Hall. There’s almost as much security outside Gotham Hall as Madison Square Garden. To get in you need to be on the list, present a photo i.d. and an invitation, which is then exchanged for a faux-convention credential thingy on a lanyard--those ugly things that all the journalists have dangling in front of their bellies. Then you get the radioactive wand treatment. All this security takes time, and the delay creates a huge line that snakes down thirty-fifth street from Broadway to Sixth Avenue. The whole project seems pretty ridiculous, especially when you catch sight of eighty year old right wing betty, Phillis Schlafly getting searched for dangerous weapons.

The kid in front of you in line looks like he landed in New York City straight from the cast of Bob Roberts. He’s worried that the protestors across the street might attack at any moment. But the kids across the street don’t seem the type. They’re skinny and probably just having fun before classes start at NYU. One of them unfurls a bed sheet with the words “Free John Hinckley” scrawled in spray-paint. Now you’re worried that the guests might attack the protestors. After all, this party is honoring Michael Reagan, who one Republican will later tell you is “the good son.”

The rule for these things is you go straight to bar. No talking to anyone without a drink in your hand. And if it’s a cash bar, you walk right out. Fortuntely, it’s free. There’s no Jameson’s, so you drink scotch and take in the room. A very skinny Ann Coulter dressed in what appears to be a tiny, black band-aid is chatting with G. Gordon Liddy. The editor of the New Republic is ambling about nervously, and the editor of National Review seems suspiciously sober. Grover Norquist is parading around with a dusky beauty you later learn is his wife. Karl Rove appears and announces there are only 63-days to the election, and says something else which you don’t listen to because you’ve been distracted by a red-head (un)dressed in some sort of bodice that laces up the back and squeezes things together nicely in the front. Unfortunatley, it is not Wonkette, which means that playboy posing Bonkette is probably not hear either.

[More of the same from the boys at Page Six]