Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Revealed: The Secrets of the Le Parker Meridian 

Curiosity might be pictured as a chain of shot glasses extending across a very long bar. My early curiosities were complex—why did animals have souls which were not immortal? why does my younger brother’s birthday come before mine if I was born before him?—the equivalent of kamikaze shots. As circumstances and biological predications have permitted, my curiosity has grown to encompass far simpler things—we are on whiskey and chilled vodka now. There is very little of life or New York City that doesn’t interest me these days.

So when my friend called me this afternoon and said we should have burgers at a secret midtown burger joint I eagerly agreed. Ordinarily lunch is really too early for burgers, unless you’ve already been drinking. But my friend has become a regular at a very unlikely greasy skillet in midtown and I wanted to experience it first hand.

The Burger Place is hidden in the lobby of Le Parker Meridian. To get there you enter through the modern glass façade of the hotel, walk through the shiny lobby past the check-in desk, and follow an enormous floor to ceiling curtain long a narrow passage running perpendicular to the desk. At the end of the corridor is an unmarked door on the right. Stepping through the door is like entering another world. You go from glitzy New York hotel to divey, greasy, burger haven in the distance of a threshold.

The patrons are surly, the staff is unaccommodating, and the burgers are great. They come wrapped in white paper, with fries in a brown paper bag. For appearances sake, we brought along two young women who work in the neighborhood. Burgers, fries and drinks for four cost thirty-one dollars even. After we ate, I wanted to tell my friends about my shot-theory of curiosity but we were too well-fed for theory just then. It was time for walking and cigarettes.

Everyone Goes Out On Monday Nights 

Monday is the new, uhm, what? I forget where we were with this. At some point it was Thursday is the Friday, and that got progressively pushed back. Now it is Monday.

As I noted a few weeks ago, I've been trying to play nice on Mondays. Last night I was on my way home at ten past ten when I got the following calls.
"Hey, I'm going to this club over on C and 10th. The DJ is amazing. You'll love it."

"We're in Blind Tiger. There are forty-three kinds of whiskey. Where are you?"

"On my way to the Rivington Delancy. It's amateur strip night. You should totally come along."

"Hey, MT, this is Jenn from the Idiot. A bunch of us are getting together downtown tonight for a reunion. Eveyone wants you to show up."
This Monday night thing is not going to be easy.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The Night Before Thanksgiving by the Numbers 

Wednesday, 4 P.M. The four defiant pints of Blue Point ale at the Oyster Bar as one train after another is missed on its way up to the ancestral home of Manhattan Transfer.

Wednesday 8:10 P.M. The two bold bottles of Sam Adams Winter Brew in the library.

Wednesday 8:30 P.M. The three glorious glasses of Pinot Noir in the dining room. Some food was placed on a plate but went mostly untouched.

Wednesday 10:17 P.M. The five frenetic pints of Brooklyn Lager at B&B's bar and grill.

Thursday 12:30 A.M. The six tumblers of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey over ice, the four baileys and Guinness bombs, the three shots of tequila and the two shots of Jaegermeister. All of the above ill-conceived and consumed at the dive bar across the street from B&B's bar and grill.

Thursday 5: 16 A.M. The desperate bottle of Sam Adams Winter Brew with Overserved on the front steps of the ancestral home. "Do you think we’re going to make it?" Overserved asked. "I don’t know unless we try," I told him.

I have no idea what we were talking about but that is how the holidays make me feel. It's a fugitive feeling, a celebration at having slipped through another year undetected by the laws of consequence. Watching the sun rise on another Thanksgiving morning, I drunkenly dawn-dreamed that I was a deposed lord rowing a small vessel against the tide, leaving behind an era of betrayals, broken dreams and wounded hearts, my eyes on the ruins of a land I never could set in order.

I told Overserved this, adding something about a generation of vipers being baptized by a man in a fur coat, and he said, "Right. I have no idea what you are talking about. How long have you been drinking?"

"The whole time," I told him.

UPDATE: Overserved returns to blogging to post his version.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Young New York Writers 

For a side project I'm working on, I'd like to invite everyone to submit the name or names of their favorite young New York City writers. Come on, I know at least a couple of you read.

It's not that I wasn't listening 

I always thought that this condition was just called being a man.

Monday, November 22, 2004

No, Because This Pretty Much Describes Everyone We Know 

A friend writes to ask: "Should I be worried that this line from the New York Sun review of Belle Epoque reminds me of my life?"
Two women describe their daily lives of drinking and its consequences, "day after day, feeling not quite pleasure, not quite pain, but a lingering, hazy sense of rage." Toulouse-Lautrec himself talks about wanting to cut people's faces open. He has a pent-up "unreasoning rage" that exhausts him. A lover's quarrel turns into a battle royal, with everyone onstage punching, kicking, throwing somebody around.

Friday, November 19, 2004

It Was Supposed to Be So Easy 

Last night was an easy night. Our souls and our livers needed a rest. I thought I'd meet SwampCity and some of her collegues for a drink or two at Odeon. After that, home to sleep.

So, at Stage One the Plan is:

On the way to the Odeon I stopped by the Patriot. I don't get to see my down-and-dirty barfly friends since they closed the Village Idiot. I thought I should see if they were hanging around Tommy McNeil's other joint. Of course they were. And they were drinking PBR cans and shots of Wild Turkey.

Stage Two:

Odeon was next. The Swampster was drinking at the far end of the bar with three other ink stained journalists. We chat, mostly about the opening of the MoMA and people we don't know in common at Yale. Toward the end of my first Jameson, I get text from Evil. He's in Good World Bar & Grill with his gang.

Stage Three:
Good World

After a couple of more at the Odeon, Swamp and I headed off toward Good World. Called Evil to confirm. No longer in Good World. They're on their way to Spring Lounge.

Stage Four:

Good World
Spring Lounge

Two calls came in on the cab ride from Odeon to Spring. The Bronx Defender would meet us in Spring if we promised to go by the Cellar with him later. Danny Brooklyn called and we agreed to meet him in the Village Tavern.

Stage Five:
Good World
Spring Lounge
Village Tavern

Evil buys shots of chilled vodka in Spring Lounge, which I chase with Jameson's on the rocks. The bar is overheated and everyone is sweating. SwampCity starts taking off her clothes, transforming her look from librarian to lifeguard. Bronx Defender arrives. More shots. Past, present and future begin to take on unsettled meanings (which I illustrate by shifting into the present-tense from here on). The KTB crew is off for Don Hills. We agree to meet them there.

Stage Six:
Good World
Spring Lounge
Don Hills
Village Tavern

We stumble out into the street and get a call from B. He's been bowling and wants to meet us for a drink in Hell's Kichen. Rudy's. Agreed but only after we stop by Cellar. Somehow we've forgotten all about Don Hills and the Village Tavern.

Stage Seven
Good World
Spring Lounge
Don Hills
Village Tavern

Drinks in the Cellar. Everyone is ridiculous. The world has melted away and we're flying like drunken angels through an uncreated universe that is empty of everything except divinity and us. It is wonderful.

B. shows up at Cellar with a couple of friends even though he's supposed to be at Rudy's. No matter. Whiskey, whiskey, nancy whiskey.

Stage Eight
Good World
Spring Lounge
Don Hills
Village Tavern

The bar empties. People fall into canary colored cars. The street lights have trails of drunken glory. The Washington Square Park arch looms. Behind it: still an emptiness where the twin towers once rose.

Goodnight New York.

When Ritalin Isn't Enough. 

Very Easy Job: Watch Me to Make Sure That I Study For Law School

Reply to: er506@nyu.edu
Date: 2004-11-04, 5:48PM EST

I'm a first year law student but I've been having terrible concentration problems. I need someone to sit with me while I study and make sure that I'm studying. Otherwise I'll waste hours surfing the internet or just thinking about random things. You can be reading the newspaper or doing your own work while you do this, you just need to be sitting at a starbucks table or other location with me. You DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LAW SCHOOL to do this job.I'll pay more for people that can tutor me in Civil Procedure, Contracts, or Torts.

[via Material Squirrel]

The Irony of Ad Sense 

I created the Google Adsense column on the far right in part because I missed the old blogger ads that used to run at the top of the blogspot pages. Like the new google ads, they were linked to the content of the page and sometimes produced surprising results. I considered them an entertaining feature of Manhattan Transfer, and when Google Adsense gave the the chance to bring back the adverts, I jumped at it. Also I wanted to get rich (RICH!) off the revenue.

Someone noticed that for weeks before the election my adspace was dominated by advertisements for John Kerry. Actually, if you clicked through the links, you would have discovered that they were sponsored by John Kerry for president but by people selling junk about the Kerry campaign. Pins and such. This was ironic since the closest thing to politics I've run here was a link to an article by Steve Sailer arguing that George Bush might be smarter than John Kerry.

As of this moment, the advertisements are all for alcohol recovery programs. Renaissance Alcohol Rehab (Confidential & Exclusive Treatment Center), Assisted Recovery Centers (Non-12 step, naltrexone assisted alcoholism treatment, nationwide), Quit Drinking (Steps To Recover From Alcoholism Feel Great, Be Healthy, Live Happy), Drink Less Alcohol (Simple, convenient, effective).

Do you think they are trying to tell me something?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Your No-Foam, Decaf Soy Latte Makes You A Woman 

Scientists believe chemicals in the soya bean mimic the female hormone, oestrogen.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Overserved Checks to See If I'm Okay 

Overserved: Did you really write that thing about Marco NY?

ManhattanTransfer: Of course. Why?

Overserved: It doesn't sound like you.

ManhattanTransfer: What do you mean?

Overserved: You used words like "wonderful." Was just too happy and down to earth, to really seem like you.

ManhattanTransfer: I have no idea what you are talking about.

Overserved: Okay. To be honest, I was suprised because it just read like you were sober for the entire dinner.

Easiest Party To Crash 

A few years ago I was in the Marriot Marquis for a meeting. I'd forgotten which conference room they were having meeting, and ended up crasyhing the National Book Awards. Steve Martin was hosting so I stuck around. It's supposed to be by invitation only but there is zero security so basically anyone can go. They'll serve you free wine and even free food if you wait for the invited guests to sit down and snag a seat left empty by a no-show.

This year's host is Garrison Keillor and they're giving the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Judy Blume. There's also a controversy about the nominees but I won't bore you with that business. I'm sure you can read all about it on the lit blogs.

MoMA Is The New GMail 

My shiny new membership card to the Museum of Modern Art arrived the other day. This means I never have to pay the outrageous entrance fee and apparently I am entitled to bring along five guests whenever I go.

Also, there are three different restaurants or cafes in the MoMA, so I think I'm going to start eating lunch there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Italian on Tenth 

I've already written about the amazing Piadina. It's the kind of little Italian place that you want little Italian places to be but usually aren't. No Carmine Street cheesiness. Friendly Italian waiters who aren’t too pretty. Good pasta which is not overserved or oversauced. Wine by the carafe. Dimly lit. Slightly rustic without becoming a themepark. I have no idea how long Piadina has been open but it feels like it has been tucked into its west tenth street space forever.

This Friday we went to Marco New York, just two blocks west of Piadina. It is modern and new and everything Piadina isn't. Since I love Piadina, perhaps I should dislike Marco NY. But I love it. This was my third time eating there. We arrived at eight on a Friday night, and were seated instantly despite being told they were fully booked. The waiter was helpful and recommended an amazing barbera. I was suspicious because the barbera I’ve had in Italy tended to be too light, almost fizzy. Marco’s was thick and smooth and the color of rubies (and I’m sorry I’ve forgotten the name of the winery). Everything we ordered was wonderful—the mussels, Mediterranean sea bass and especially the cubes of Wild Boar. The boar was so good that it’s going to be very hard not to order it every time I go back.

And on the way out, the owner-manager-sister-of-the-chef chatted with us and very nearly embraced me when I told her how much I loved the food. "Spread the word," she implored. "You look like you have a lot of friends."

Ah, flattery is the best dessert.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Here Comes Everybody 

Everyone knows there are at least three kinds of hangovers.

The first is the physical. Throbbing head, unruly stomache, blurred vision and unquenchable stench of the distillery wafting from the pours.

The second is the metaphysical. The worry that friends have been alienated, hearts have been broken, kindness and cruelty inflicted in inverse order of desert and looming dread.

The third is theological. You swear to God that you’ll never drink again.

When I woke up this morning (let’s just pretend it was morning rather than 12:30 in the afternoon), I discovered a fourth. The joyous hangover. I was covered in bruises, my folding money had been reduced to the jingling kind, clearly wasn’t going to work at any respectable hour, pretty sure that folks who used to think I was this charming fellow who was fun to drink with had reached the conclusion that I was just a sorry and scary drunk, forgotten all the rules to a drinking game Jill and her friends taught me last night. The city was covered with gray as if an ashtray had been overturned on it. I was prepared for a dark day of the soul.

SwampCity was on the phone. The cab driver had found her wallet and was promising to return it. She couldn’t remember anything from the night before, except that I had clearly failed in my promise to “take care of her” after I talked her into buying into the all you can drink special at the Cellar. I mumbled something about my bruises and the drinking game, and she was surprised we were even in the Royal Oak for long enough to have had drink. “I’m pretty sure everyone we were with was falling-down drunk by the time we rolled in there,” she said. I told her I was pretty sure it was just the two of us.

The night before had begun at the White Horse tavern for birthday drinks for Suburban Linda. Our ever-present, canary colored designated drivers escorted us to the Cellar, which was packed. There occurred a series of improbable meetings with folks I hadn’t seen in ages. I discussed the events of Sunday night and discovered that no-one blamed me for the troubles. There had been plans to eat dinner but we decided that ice counted as food because it is crunchy. Mr. Jameson, who had been holding back his whiskey, opened the casks and filled our young hearts with until our identities and locations became blurred. The scene shifted from northeaster fourteenth street to Williamsburg. Drinking games were played and lost. There was talk of swords. People pretended not to notice that we were foolishly intoxicated.

By rights it should have been a morning of mourning. Pain. Humiliation. But I was happy. For the first time in weeks, I woke to the day with the feeling in my heart that a strong man feels before a race. Sometime in the last month I had fallen into a dark well of noontime demonism. Now I felt myself floating buoyantly on a sea of whiskey. I suspected I was still drunk but I wasn’t. I was just happy.

As is usually the case, the explanation for this is much clearer in the original greek. I’m only kidding. You don’t need me to translate passages from the Symposium to understand happiness. You get it. That’s why you’re here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

MT Is So Boring Ever Since He Stopped Drinking, Part II 

My plan not to drink so much on Mondays was greatly assisted by my decision to drink altogether too much this past Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I managed to have a quiet evening at home Monday night, contemplating the variety of hangovers I could magage at the same time. Tuesday night was dinner with a girl at an old favorite—Piadina.

Wednesday night I decided it was safe to meet up with friends for drinks. They were meeting around nine in the Black Crow. I had an earlier engagement so it was eleven when I stepped down into the darkness of the Crow. They weren’t at the bar. They weren’t in the elevated backroom where the pool table is. They weren’t in the Crow at all.

I dialed SwampCity. "Where are you?"

"I’m in Hell’s Kitchen. On my way home. Where were you? I’ve been drinking in your neighborhood all night."

"What the fuck? Why didn’t you call me to say you were going?"

"I just thought you weren’t going to come out. You’ve been lame all week."

All week. Keep in mind that it was only Wednesday. Two days off the bottle and my reputation is ruined.

Random Party Talk 

My friend M. is a fabulous filmmaker. I'm sure her films are great also but what I mean is that she is goth-punk glamorous and spends her time shuttling between film festivals and parties full of beautiful people and movie producers.

Not so long ago she invited me to this party for the opening of a Yoga studio owned by a slender actress whose name I forget.

"Do you know what a palindrome is?" she asked.

"Of course," I said.

"You would. I had no idea. I thought it was a building in New Jersey. Near the Palisades."

No man seeing the way her eyes sparkled when she said this could ever believe that this was anything but a perfectly reasonable mistake to have made. If only I could convince her to start drinking again.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Early and Often 

It’s late at night in Cellar, and I’m trying to convince myself that another whiskey will not violate my promise that I’m not going to fly like a fallen angel this early in the week. The youngsters have emptied out of the bar. It’s just me and Tommy now sitting where the bar curves near the door, and three or four other dipsomaniacs at the far end of the bar.

The bartender is eyeing me suspiciously, wondering if I’m going to summon a dozen of my closest friends to order neat Jameson’s at four in the morning. This is what happened last Thursday and I’m sure she still resents it. She decides to make a pre-emptive strike and pours me a large glass of whiskey over two ice-cubes. “On the Cellar,” she says, settling the argument between conscience and consciousness.

Tommy works in politics--sometimes as a reporter, sometimes as a partisan operative, and sometimes as both—and I suffer from the opposite of what Charles McGrath identified as “information compulsion”—the urge to tell someone something you know about but they do not. I’m always telling people things I know nothing about when it is their business to know everything about it. I’d been telling Tommy that I thought there was little chance George W. Bush could win re-election.

"People ask themselves, 'Does the job he’s done in the last four years merit hiring him for another four years? I cannot see how that’s a winner for Bush. Deficits, wages, Iraq…"

"That’s not how people make their choices in politics, MT," Tommy says.

"Fine. But look at it this way. Everybody who voted for Gore four years ago is voting for Kerry this year. And I know for a fact that there are people who voted for Bush last go around who aren’t voting for him this time. He’s peeled off too many voters—libertarians upset with the growth of government, tightwads upset with deficits, paleoconservatives upset with empire and amnesty…"

"I see where you’re going. If you’ve got the same people voting, and a sliver cuts away from Bush, Kerry wins."

"Right. Do you want another?"

"Are you sure? I thought you were off the Monday night drinking thing."

"Be realistic."

Two more whiskeys come sliding across the bar.

"Ok, MT. Here’s where your analysis goes wrong. It only works if the same people vote this time as last time. It misses the new voters, people who stayed home last time because they weren’t excited about the election or their choices."

"Wouldn’t that cut toward Kerry, too, though?"

"Only in New York and other places where people take their political cues from Eminem, Sean Combs and that woman with the rack who is married to Tim Robbins. Elsewhere, in northern Florida and the suburbs of Ohio, for instance, you’ve got people worried about gay marriage. People who vote for Presidents during wartime because they think it’s the patriotic thing to do. People who loathe Ted Kennedy, and believe that John Kerry is just Kennedy minus the girl in the bottom of the brook."

"So you’re saying Bush is going to win again?"

"Here’s what I’m saying. It’s dead fucking even. But Bush is the incumbent and he’s got a powerful campaign in parts of America people like you don’t think much about. I think it’ll be Bush in the end, and he’ll have millions of snake-handlers who didn’t vote in 2000 to thank for his re-election."

"So its four more years of being led by people who don’t like the reality based community?"

"Probably. But not by much. If anyone offers you odds either way, take the odds. The spread on this one is going to be thin."

We finish our whiskeys and agree it's time to go home. Tommy leaves first, though, so I slip back to the bar and start dialing my friends who are down in Odessa. Maybe I can still fill this place up before closing time.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Get Hillary Out of the Senate 

I know: I have said bad things about Hillary, as for example that she looks rumpled as a teenager’s room, that she probably belongs to some hitherto undiscovered arachnid phylum, that she is a cynical, calculating cold-blooded tax-and-spend virago with the personality of a walk-in refrigerator.

These days that sounds pretty good...

At least she is not embarrassing. While she may be a walk-in refrigerator, she is an intelligent walk-in refrigerator. I say that if you are going to be ruled by an appliance, get a bright one. She speaks English, whereas the encumberment only hints around at it. (I don’t think a president should be permitted to make war on anything he can’t pronounce. But I’m a traditionalist.) There is every indication that Hillary finished high school.
[Fred Reed--Hillary for President]

Also, then Hillary would once again be a shared, national embarrassment rather than the secret shame of New Yorkers so hard up for local talent that we had to import a Senator. (Even Illinois won't stoop that low!)