Friday, July 29, 2005

Orange Alert Coming Down 

Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.”

Practically ever other entry in your journal contains a description of a hangover. The nouns and verbs clash in a cacophony of tenses, points of view and degrees of realism. Adjectives pour down the page and invented adverbs rise up and capture entire passages. The pages are stained with the residue of attempted remedies.

This morning you cannot even manage a description of the hangover. The light smashes through the window, sending tiny sharp shards through your retina. Your fingers stumble over the keyboard producing false-start sentences that crawl from left to right and refuse to follow one another in any intelligent pattern. So you reach into the side-pocket of your laptop case and pull out a worn copy of the penguin edition of Lucky Jim. Kinsley Amis wrote the best description of the hangover ever and that will suit you just fine today. You only wish it didn’t hurt so much when you laugh at the line about the secret police.

As the train pulls out of Penn Station your new Cingular Audiovox phone chimes the arrival of a text message. You thumb through the phone’s menu to open the messaging inbox. It’s a text from Dodgeball, a service that allows subscribers to send friends texts messages revealing which bar they are drinking in.

“Ok! We just sent a message to 25 of your friends in NYC letting them know you are at the Cellar,” the message reads.

It’s nine in the morning. Despite your enthusiasm for early drinking, you have never been in the Cellar that early. You’ve never been in any bar that early, not counting Saint Patrick’s Day, the day of the New York Marathon and a couple of very, very late nights. Why is Dodgeball lying to people?

The phone rings. The ring tone pokes long, dull needles through your skull. Why won’t the phone stop making such a damn racket? You answer it more to silence it than to hear whoever is on the other end. It’s AMK. She sounds concerned. She got your Dodgeball message. You mumble something about a Dodgeball glitch but then the train goes through a tunnel and the line goes dead. You don’t bother to call her back.

The phone rings again. Another concerned friend. This time you just hit the “reject” button and send the caller into voicemail. You’re going to have to explain this or you’ll never hear the end of it.

“That was last night. No idea why Dodgeball thinks I’m in the Cellar now,” you write. You address the text message to “nyc@dodgeball.com” and attach an exclamation point at the front to activate the feature that lets you broadcast a message rather than a location to your dodgeball clique. That should keep them quiet.

The phone chimes again. Andrew Krucoff is at the Magician. Is he mocking you? Or has Dodgeball decided to start placing him in bars on its own as well? Another text. David L. doesn’t believe you aren’t in a bar. He likes the idea so much he’s on his way to meet you. What has Dodgeball started.

Another text. It’s Janelle. “Dens broke Dodgeball last night.” So that’s it. The inventor of dodgeball checked into Dodgeball from the Magician one too many times and his invention rebelled. Later you will read his blog and discover that this was also the night he got his very first buy-back at the notoriously stingy watering-hole. You’ll become convinced that these two events are connected.

With Dodgeball gone haywire and each chime announcing a text message spiking your brain, you decide to shut the phone off altogether. You unfold the newspapers you bought. The type of the Wall Street Journal is a bit too dense for someone in your state, so you read the Times instead.

Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution has a piece on the Op-Ed page decrying the decision not to single out young Muslim men for the searches of bags the police are carrying out in the New York City subway stations. The mayor has vowed their will be no profiling. The targets of the searches will be chosen at random. Anyone carrying a large bag or package into the subway might be subject to search.

You wonder for a moment how police can search people randomly. Humans don’t take actions at random very easily. We tend to act in accordance with our perceptions of our surroundings. To really make a search random the police would need some sort of randomizing algorithm that would trigger a search. Who wrote that software?

It’s hard to deny Sperry’s point: we should search young Muslim men because they are the ones carrying bombs. Not all of them, to be sure. But right now it seems that nobody else is carrying bombs into the mass transit systems of European systems. Searching old ladies and Irishmen is simply a distraction.

“Once an Islamist suicide bomber is sitting next to you on the train, your chances of escape are slim,” Sperry writes.

This doesn’t sound right to you. What you can do is move to another part of the train, a very far away part. This means you have to know how to recognize a suicide bomber. Sperry’s article does a good job of providing the relevant details. The bomber will be a young man. He’ll likely be freshly shaven and have a short haircut. He may be praying, which will look like he is whispering to himself. He may smell like rosewater.

Rosewater? You make a note to yourself to find out what rosewater is and then find out what it smells like.

It occurs to you that there are plenty of people on the train with large bags and there were no police and no searches as the passengers boarded. This is second largest train station in New York but you noticed no visible security. This is not reassuring.

You get up and begin to walk up the aisle of your car. No one fits Sperry’s description. You wonder whether you should check the car ahead of you and behind. How many cars do you need between you and a suicide bomber? You decide to walk back two cars to the cafe car. Some coffee would be helpful. All this vigilance is not agreeing with the hangover.

Monday, July 25, 2005

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.

[For a friend who needed another reminder about how great our city is in the summer.]

Summer Girls 

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.

Scenes from Summers Past 

Six of us enter the small saloon on the harbor. It's a small, dark place that smells like burnt nicotine, hops and the sea. The girls push dollars into the jukebox, and before long the sounds of last summer's songs fill the bar. (This summer's songs are too new to have found their way into the jukeboxes of this kind of dive.)

I'm at the bar, ordering drinks. Jameson's Irish Whisky for lads, with beer chasers. Mandarin and soda with limes for the girls. There are a half-dozen or so salty drinkers bellied up the bar. I hear the two next to me grumbling about "summer people." They aren't happy that we've invaded their bar and filled it with bass, beats and non-melodious vocals. I ask the barmaid to open a couple of bottles of beer for them. They nod their heads at my peace offering but hardly look any happier about our presence.

It only takes three more rounds of whisky and vodka and seven or eight songs to change this. Now the girls are on the tables, kicking their legs out from under their pleated skirts, singing along to the songs. The old fishermen are smiling from the bar. They've figured out that we're not so bad afterall.

We've all got our sunglasses on because the blindness makes us feel somehow less visible, more anonymous, less vulnerable. Booze, shades and music: these are our ring of Ganges, allowing us to ignore the requirements of civilization. One of the fisherman reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out his own sunglasses. A moment later he's wearing his sunglasses in the dark, dancing alongside us, a part of our fraternity of immortal, beyond good and evil, rockstar decadants.

I guess I shoulda known
By the way u parked your car sideways
That it wouldn't last

See you're the kinda person
That believes in makin' out once
Love 'em and leave 'em fast

Little Red Corvette is our last song. We climb down from the tables, take down our last swallows, and stumble out into the night. The sky is full of stars and tonight, right now, the stars are telling us that we are young, we are beautiful and we've been right all along.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Obscure but Also Obvious Joke 

Hey look, Lindsay Robertson is in the New York Times.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It's Breakfast Somewhere 

This reminded me that it's been way too long since I indulged in booze for breakfast.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Don't Hurt Me 

I was drunk the day MT got me to do this.
We were hiding in a bar from the rain.
But before I could tell him to shove it and leave Red Rock West,
He gave me more shots than I could contain.

-Miss Anna

American Splendor 

The little girl in the pink dress and her golden dog stood in the breeze on the grassy median of the Woodrow Wilson rest stop. Their presence gave the grass they stood on, the bench behind them, and the patch of sky above, a majestic sheen. Her hair matched his shining mane as their parallel gazes looked over the horizon, through the exhaust filled haze, past the turnpike toward a better place, a hopeful future. Defying the atrophy of the shuttered Nathan's and the graying White Castle, they were the picture of the American dream. She held his slack leash in her hand, confident that her trusty retriever would be her companion forever.

As if on cue, her loyal companion stepped toward her and looked at her knowingly while lifting his right leg. A steady yellow stream headed toward her pink bobby sock. As we pulled away from the curb, her gaze shifted downward as she struggled to extract her soggy foot from its pink Reebok casing without the use of her hands.

-Miss Anna

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Pacific Northwest Bound 

There's good news and there's bad news. Or, uhm, there's news. You choose which is which.

The [good/bad] news is that this will be my last post until the Monday after next. I'm boarding a plane bound for Seattle, and may drive down to Portland. I have no real itinerary or agenda, except to test how the Pacific air affects a whiskey hangover. If you have any suggestions for things/people to see/do/avoid while I'm out there, please email me at manhattantransfer(at)gmail(dot)com or leave a comment.

The [good/bad] news is that I'm handing the keys to the MT estate back over to Miss Anna. You remember her? The dangerous little girl who ran this place while I was down in Costa Rica. Well, she'll be back next week. You are warned.

The Observer Goes IJC 

I cannot believe anyone could write this article without mentioning the foremost chronicler of Murray Hill. The whole article reads like it was written from his archives, and then cleaned up to take out the ethnic references.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I think it's safe to say that Lizzy gots the mad hots for our man IJ.

But don't let that stop you from reading the story. It's good. I love these kind of reports on New York City subculture. The girl demanding she be described as thin is fantastic.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Very Good, Wonderful, Super July 4th Weekend on Lake Awesome 


On Thursday I got an instant message from Krucoff. It started innocently enough but I should have sensed a trap.

Krucoff: What are you doing tonight?
MT: No big plans. What's up?
Krucoff: Okay. You're going to help move Jessica and Jen to an apartment one floor below their current floor.
MT: You realize it's ninety-five million degrees out right?
Krucoff: I'll give you a call when I'm heading over there.

After work I stopped by my place to change out of my suit. It was a Ted Baker Endurance suit, which is supposed to be able to take a lot of punishment but I didn't think it would stand up to moving furniture through the staircase of a lower east side apartment in thermometer topping temperatures and 90% humidity. While I was changing I got two text messages from Krucoff asking why I hadn't shown up at Coen's yet.

When I got there, I knew I was in for trouble. Krucoff looked like he had just stepped out of the shower. The man sweats. The apartment was in even worse shape. It looked like Natasha Lyonne had moved in and started a crystal meth lab. Nothing was packed. We ended up moving everything as it was. Magazine racks with magazines, desks with drawers full of desk drawer stuff, cabinets full of cds. By the end I was as soaked in sweat as Krucoff. Jen and Jess supplied beer and pizza, though, so that made up for everything.

After a couple of drinks with Krucoff, Lockhart (who managed to be otherwise engaged during the heavy lifting) and Blottterina at the Magician, I headed out to Trash in Williamsburg. It was Aireoke night--an air-guitar version of karaoke.


I was skeptical through my first three glasses of whiskey. Eventually I was persuaded to perform "Dueling Banjos" with my friend (and frequent commenter around here) Hud. We rocked. I still have bruises on my knee from falling too hard after a particularly rocker-style leap from toes to knees. (Sorry for the blurry picture. All the pictures came out like that. I think I need a better camera.)

Friendly Folks at the Cellar

One of the great things about the Cellar is that it is one block off the L Train. If you're in Williamsburg, you're never more than a couple of train stops away from the friendly boys and girls who work and drink there (often at the same time, but don't tell the owners). The guy in the white shirt kept trying to make his top and bottom lips flap in opposite directions by moving his head very quickly. I tried to get some pictures of this effect but couldn't catch it. I think I need a better camera.


This guy's green shirt read: "This is my lucky shirt." It was actually a very lucky night for him. He had just had his third heart bypass surgery, and was getting drunk for the first time in his life. My blond friend Alexis decided to help him celebrate his first night out with a healthy ticker.

Friday night was more of the same. Drinks with Jill and Chris all around the lower east side. Chris's cousin met us in Max Fish. She was gorgeous and completely engaging, so I tried not to hold against her the fact that she doesn't drink at all. She has also had heart surgery, and had one of her legs amputated. She moves so gracefully on her prosthetic leg that I didn't even notice until Chris told me. Maybe I should introduce her to the "This Is My Lucky Shirt" guy.

After a few days on the sauce it was pretty hard getting up at the crack of dawn for the trip up to Lake Awesome, New York. Lake Awesome is called Elk Lake by the folks who run the lodge up there and the folks who make the maps. It used to be called "Mud Pond" but that didn't attract many tourists.

The drive was long and I felt like I'd been marinated in Jameson's Irish Whiskey until we reached the base of the Adirondack Mountains. We skipped past all the holiday traffic because my friend Stephen knew a secret back road that snuck up the east side of the Hudson and then darted across the river somewhere north of Albany.

Elk Lake

The view from our cabin on Lake Awesome wiped away the last of my hangover. The mountain on the far side is called Nipple Top for obvious reasons. Here's another picture of the mountain.

Nipple Top

We didn't waste any time before getting out on the mountain trails. Lake Awesome is plagued by black flies in june that are so nasty they shutter the camp until July. This meant the trails were pretty much untouched when we got there. Lots of fallen trees blocked our path, and we managed to loose the trails a couple of times, but the flora was much more vibrant than any I've ever seen along a marked-off trail.

Big Rock


wood steps

After our hike, some members of the team settled down with books to read. I had brought along three books and bought two more when we stopped in Saratoga along the way but I wasn't in the mood for reading.

Wine Time

Nikki had the right idea, going straight for one of the bottles of wine we had brought along.

The rest of the weekend followed the same pattern of alternating between awesome and The Best Ever. Hiking, eating, drinking, dancing and playing ridiculous games. Each night ended with a hyper-competitive drunken game of Cranium. None of us could ever guess the clue where you had to hum a song without gesturing. The closest we came was when Stephen did "Billy Jean" and I guessed it because he did a tiny moonwalk move that no-one else caught.

Happy Couple

Although there were a lot of other people staying around Lake Awesome we only made two friends. I think we liked them because their small size didn't intimidate us.

Our Little Friend

Our Other Little Friend

Friday, July 01, 2005

Independence Day 

Two quick points.

1. I'm off to mountains and lakes of upstate New York for Independence Day weekend. I plan to take lots of pictures to post here, and to do a lot of hiking, writing and drinking.

2. The fellas over at Confirm Them are posting lots on the O'Connor resignation and possible nominees.