Miss(ed) Manners

June 18, 2004

Miss(ed) Manners: Sorry, I’m Seeing Someone

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 8:16 pm

Careful introspection and investigation over the past week have led me to the following conclusion: If a nuclear holocaust occured and the world’s last remaining man and woman were residing in New York, the human race would be totally and utterly fucked.

Not because the guy would inherently be a giant foreheaded mongoloid travesty of a human being (he lives in New York, see last week), and not because she’d spurn the advances of her hunchbacked, knuckle scraping suitor. No, it would be because they would never ever lay eyes on each other.

At some point during the development of this city, eye contact became an offense punishable by death, castration and dirty looks. I’ve come to realize that I haven’t looked someone squarely in the eye since 1998, which happens to be the year I moved here.

Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you the eye color of most of my closest friends, I’m not even sure if they have eyes, let alone heads. I spend the majority of my day staring at either the pavement, or this, my computer screen. I would be about 300% more effective at recognizing people if I were given a line up of shoes. I know the difference between Prada shoes and Jimmy Choo’s, why on God’s green earth would I have any reason or want to know the difference between Prada shoes and Jimmy Choo’s? Because people in New York exist from the waist down only to most of us.

I remember, long ago, when my Mom would tuck me in at night, in my dorm, senior year, and she would regale me with stories of olden times. Apparently, back then, it was actually more offensive not to look someone in the eye, even when you talked to them. I had nightmares of unblinking pedestrians watching my every move and of them actually talking to me. This magical place was called, “Anywhere But New York.”

All of this rumination, self searching and pillow biting came to a head this morning, in the place where it usually does, the subway, on my morning commute. I wondered to myself, “Why are we New Yorkers deathly afraid of eye contact? What’s so bad about looking at someone and maybe smiling?”

Well apparently there is A GREAT DEAL that’s bad about looking someone in the eyes and smiling.

I decided to do a little experiment. One subway car, three subjects, one catalyst and eight eyeballs. I decided to toss all urban convention out the window and just give three random people the big old funky stink eye until I got a reaction, a smile, or we were magically transported to Pennsylvania Dutch country and we built a barn together, drank some mead and laughed at them city folks.

The first person was actually sort of a no-show. He was a mid thirties Latino guy who was sitting down right in front of me. He was staring straight ahead, with this sort of Krispy Kreme glazed look in his eyes. Like he was half asleep or concentrating on the biggest shit he’d ever taken. Fortunately for me, I was right in front of him, and his chosen zone-out field of view was either my chest or my crotch. For scientific purposes, let’s assume it was my crotch.

I stared at that motherfucker for about ten minutes straight. His eyes didn’t blink once. There’s some sort of joke to be made about genetalia and staring contests but I just can’t string it together. After I started shifting my feet a little to get him to notice me, we finally made eye contact for a brief second. Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep. Dissappointing to say the least.

The second subject was a little more lively. She was the cutest girl on the train, which, by J line standards, meant that she had almost a full 80% of her original teeth. She was standing a few feet away from me, leaning against a door. Her eyes flitted around the car like two bee’s humping on mescaline. She was going to be a winner, I could tell.

I locked in on her eyes and just waited until eventually they would come back and see me staring. They did, and she stared right back at me. I would say the moment was magic if she hadn’t instantly looked away. But I kept on staring. I wanted a smile, damnit! I’m charming, right? Why can’t I get a smile?

Well apparently what I think looks charming in the mirror looks like a pedophile to other people, because when her caffeine addled eyes made their way back to me and found me still staring, she launched into the most furious head wagging and non-verbal, “Oh NO YOU DIDN’T,” that I have ever seen. She looked me up and down, like she was choosing what part of me to take off first with her (I’m assuming, because I couldn’t see them) retracted canines.

I held her icy gaze until she spoke outloud, not giving me the “Good Morning, how are you today?” that I was hoping for, and instead got a, “What the fuck are you looking at?” I acted fast by pretending to have been half asleep and startled by her accusation. Thankfully, my stop had come and I ran out the door, saved by the bell. I can’t be sure but I think I heard, “Yeah, you had better run, bitch!”

It took me a little while to build up the nerve to continue the experiment, but by the time I did, I was speeding towards the meatpacking district. The new car, equally crowded, afforded me many chances, and I decided on a middle aged gentleman in a grey suit and dapper yellow tie. He had salt and pepper hair and seemed very clean cut. Surely, I would get the civilized niceties I was after.

For the final time I locked in on his otherwise occupied baby-blues and waited for him to notice me. I had a slight grin on my face, in hopes of urging him in the direction of a greeting. When he finally did notice me, he instantly smiled! I had found my link to polite society on the F train!

Or so I thought.

His smile turned crooked pretty quick and he went from offering me a “Hello,” to looking me up and down like a piece of meat kept-boy back-up-dancer. Once I realized what was going on I politely retracted my gaze and stared back at the amazingly interesting floor of the subway car.

Experiment Findings:

New York is full of drugged up catatonics, semi-toothed violent females and horny, gay elder statesmen, with a margin of error of 50%.

Seriously though, when’s the last time you looked a stranger in the eye and told them Good Morning? I think the only reason people were as nice as they were during the blackout last summer was because IT WAS FUCKING DARK and they didn’t have to see anyone’s face.

I’ve made my attempt, this city just isn’t ready to be heads up and nice. I mean, if someone had done to me what I did this morning, hell I’d probably be complaining about the crazy guy who was staring at me all morning on the train to you people.

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June 11, 2004

Miss(ed) Manners: Metrocentric

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 8:13 pm

The simple and obvious purpose of a vacation is to get away from where you are. I know that sounds idiotic, but hell, that’s what they’re there for. A vacation lets you get up and out of that stinky little rut of morning coffee, evening news and mind numbing binge drinking that you call your pathetic life. It lets you get a fresh perspective, lets you look at your surroundings with a more objective eye. There is, however, a fine line to vacations. Spend too much time away and you’re liable to get homesick, and yearn for that closet you call an apartment, mark up your slow death of lead poisoning from old pipes to life experience or even worse, buy a place and start cranking out babies like a mormon with iced up testicles.

As I wrote last week, I had the ever so fortunate chance to get away from New York for four days to the living embodiment of its antithesis, Los Angeles. Four days was the perfect amount of time, I’ve come back rejuvenated and able to see things that I’m sure most of you other urban dwellers have no doubt begun to overlook. Three things actually, the city is dirty and its inhabitants are exceedingly lazy and ugly.

Harsh criticism, but I’ve long been a proponent of the saying, “Don’t dish it out if you can’t serve yourself some and enjoy that shit, because humble pie is a dish best served cold.” I don’t think it’s an actual saying, but I trademarked it yesterday just to be safe.

First off, I want to be absolutely clear that when I use the word, “dirty” I don’t mean in the really cool way, like Times Square used to be. With street smart trannie hookers that could teach you to make fun of someone’s penis in over eight languages. No, I mean dirty like filth, like the floor of my apartment after a party. New York is that kind of dirty.

Seriously, take a look around when you leave your office, home or bar and just look at this place. It’s a freakin’ pig sty. You want to know why buildings are made out of black steel and stone? Not because as we all know black is the coolest color ever invented, because it can collect dirt that way. Don’t believe me? Find a white building somewhere in this city. You won’t, they’ve all been covered in this film like coating of dust, sweat and soot. I’m actually starting to believe that black was really just the recently adopted cool-ass color of New York because its residents wanted to be able to lean against the bus stop without looking like they were the toilet paper used to wipe a super dusty giant guy’s butt crease.

So New Yorkers only wear black because they don’t want to get dirty, which ties into my next point: New Yorkers are fucking lazy, man. I was riding the subway the other day, around lunch and got a great example of this.

If I can digress for a second, let me just say that riding the subway in the middle of the day is kind of like being an all-star pro-baseball player who’s been busted down to AAA league because he’s got a coke problem. You’ve been to the show a thousand times (rush hour clown car subway rides), and you know you can do this with your eyes closed, so you just wing it. I mean, you can actually sit down, fer chrissakes, when’s the last time you had a seat on the subway on a weekday during rush hour? So it’s inevitable that your subway etiquette flies out the window.

So here I was, sitting down, enjoying a liesurely subbterranean jaunt through the bowels of midtown when I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I looked around, didn’t see anything, and went back to listening to my newly acquired Shalamar song selection. A few seconds later I saw something again and realized what it was, a water bottle.

It was half filled and just rolling around the car, like a blindfolded eight year old looking for the pinata, but who’s parents had left him in the yard alone as a cruel practical joke. What’s worse is that it had begun to leak, leaving tiny rivulets of, *gasp* bottled water, throughout the car. It would bounce into the plate under my seat and then roll haphazardly over to another traveler, where it would just hit someone’s foot and go about its merry if not Helen Keller-ish way.

This went on for about eight stops.

That’s right, no one picked it up, they would just watch the bottle move about the car and some would even pick up their feet when it came rolling at them, so as not to get drenched by the eye dropper-full of water that might hit their wingtips. Even worse, when people would come into the car, they’d step around the tiny streaks of liquid because, that’s right, they just assumed it was urine. What kind of city do we live in where when you see errant fluid on the ground you just assume it’s piss?

I’m not going to lie and say that picked up the bottle, because well, honestly, at the time I just assumed that the water inside the bottle was urine.

Now, I feel like I ought to clarify my final point. Not all New Yorkers are ugly, just the guys. I came to an awesome conclusion after my trip to LA. Which is, somehow, New York got all the hot chicks and LA got all the studs. That’s right, you heard me. New York is teeming with gorgeous women and these hideous mongoloids that we try to pass off as men. Please also bear in mind that I’m talking about beauty in the entire sense of the word, not just clasical Greek sculpture tiny-dicked beauty.

A comparison:

The Guys
* New York has stock brokers, middle managers, trustafarian hipsters and that weird ass goth/punk hybrid that we all love to laugh at.

* LA has beach hunks, skater boys and more persian club kings than you can shake a stick at.

The Girls
* New York has got more models, skin baring college girls and low rider jean wearing hotties per capita than any where in the world.

* LA: Valley girls, pink outfits and snotty celebrity fuckers.

I don’t have to go into further detail do I? If there were some way to fold space and time and merge New York with Los Angeles, putting all the LA guys and NYC girls on one side and the other stuff in Brooklyn, it would simultaneously result in the biggest freaky orgy on the island and the world’s worst season of the Real World in the borough.

I’m actually a little remiss writing this, because a rapid influx of tanned and bleached surfer dudes would virtually ruin this hilariously imbalanced dating scheme we’ve got here in the city, I would fear for my male friends who continually get tail way beyond their dating station.

So there you have it. I cooked it up, dished it out and set it on the table (pending trademark). New York needs a giant bath, in ammonia. It also needs to develop a mild case of OCD. But what it doesn’t need is cool Cali dudes, the city just wouldn’t be able to handle it.

June 4, 2004

Miss(ed) Manners: La La Tee Freekin’ Da Land

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 7:44 pm

You know, for someone who claims to know as much as I do, I am an extremely under-traveled person. I’ve sort of always just figured that people are the same sort of ignorant ass morons the world over. It’s an easy assumption to make when you’ve only left the time zone you were born in only a few times.In an attempt to make me more edumacated, my exceedingly lovely and generous girlfriend recently bought the two of us tickets to Los Angeles, to spend Memorial day weekend with our friends, Brad and Eleanor. Now, when traveling such a vaunted location, especially a location you’ve never been to, it’s important to gather all the kind of rumors, heresay and slander about said location from your friends before going there.

In just about two weeks of questioning my friends I had come up with the following list of things to expect upon my arrival at LAX:

* It’s not just sunny and beautiful all day, Los Angeles has this heretofore undocumented phenomenom called “Dry Heat.” Something that apparently makes ambient temperatures of up to 375 degrees farenheit feel like a series of warm flatulence being circulated around your face.

* Sure there’s no smoking, but that doesn’t matter, because since “Dry Heat” exists, everyone parties and hangs out outside, so phrenetic chain smokers like myself can go about their saddo masochistic lifestyles unfettered.

And of course:

* Celebrities grow on trees in LA, and they will either offer you drugs or try to get you to have sex with them.

I would just like to state for the record that the preceding points were compiled from a series of drunken, shouted conversations, the E! Channel and comic books.

Armed with this cache of useful knowledge, we made our trek westward, over a bridge, to Newark Airport… and then we got on a plane and flew to Los Angeles. I won’t bore you with the details of what has been decided to be one of the most ill prepared flights of all time, but I’ll offer you the following tidbit: No In Flight movie, stranded on the runway for an hour and some bitch stole my pillow. We spent somewhere in the vicinity of six hours watching the most mind numbingly idiotic CBS sitcoms money has to offer, I may be the one person on this planet who does not love Raymond.

Fast forward four days and we’re on our way back, again, I don’t want to bore you with all the details and all the kissy faced mushiness that was involved, suffice to say I had a most excellent time. Our hosts were gracious, the food excellent and the company unbeatable.

I did, however, come away with the following observations of the Left Coast:

* Pink is the national color of the country of Los Angeles. People have pink everything there. Since I had arrived with my standard New York black and denim wardrobe I was pretty much a fashion pariah the entire duration of the trip. It made me want to contract pink-eye just to fit in.

* Palm trees are fucking awesome. Until you’ve seen four million of them and realize, “Yep, that’s a fucking palm tree, alright.” And realize that it gives less shade than the contestants at a country fair pie eating contest. They also don’t have any coconuts, or monkeys, what the shit!? I want to cut down every single palm tree for fooling me thusly.

* Los Angeles is this amazing dichotomy. On one hand it’s beautiful: hillside houses, beaches and models. On the other, it’s dangerous: Brush fires, earth quakes and Kevin Spacey. Kind of like a prom queen hopped up on tina armed with a shiv fashioned out of her shoe-heel.

* Everywhere is thirty minutes away. Somehow, when leaving your apartment, you enter a vortex made up of traffic, hills and left turns. We traveled at least eight times this past weekend and EVERY WHERE we went took 30 minutes, not more, not less, thirty minutes. I want to rent a place in LA and then drive to Hong Kong.

* Everyone wears skirts. Teeny little tennis skirts that make you feel like you’re at the prom with a bunch of girls who had ridiculous growth spurts after they bought their dresses. I am not complaining.

Finally, I’d like address my findings on the three assumptions from the beginning of the column:

1) Dry heat does exist, and apparently exists year round. It’s perpetually room temperature in LA. Homeless people must absolutely love it there, in fact, I’d like to be homeless in LA. One shirt, one pair of pants that’s all you need to live there. Maybe this is a little Queer Eye of me, but I don’t see the point of living in a place where you don’t get to go winter clothes shopping.

b) Los Angelans hate smokers. They hate, hate, hate them. But they all smoke. Try that one on for size. You can’t smoke on the beach, in a lot of outdoor dining establishments, or in fucking Disneyland, for the love of Christ, YOU CANNOT SMOKE IN DISNEYLAND! I’m going to sue Disney for using the tagline “The Happiest Place on Earth.” How am I supposed to be happy if I’m not chainsmoking the duration of “Small World?” (Which, by the way is still in my head nearly a week later)

III) There are no celebrities in Los Angeles, and Jessica Alba did not offer to have sex with me. Granted, we spent only a few days there and didn’t go to any celebrity type places, but I had been led to believe that she was going to be waiting for me when I got off the plane, and all I had to do was to pick her out of one of those giant non-fruit and monkey bearing palm trees.

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