Miss(ed) Manners

April 29, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Sister Act

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 4:01 pm

I’ve got a little sister, she’s seventeen.

Those two carriage returns were me silently voicing my promise to violently maim and kill any male reader of this column who asks the ever so popular and oh-so-deep question, “Is she hot?”

The answer is, of course she is, she’s my sister after all. She’s like a miniature version of me, wan winter complexion and all. Somehow she pulls it off, which speaks to either her great personality or my possible future as a drag queen, we’re not sure yet.

All familial bragging aside, I only bring Kate (that’s her name) up because I got the chance to hang with her a couple weeks back. She and two other little girls were staying with me for the weekend, one of them was going to the airport or something, she might have been German, I wasn’t really paying attention.

What do you do with three seventeen year old girls who’ve never really seen New York? You do Touristy Shit®, that’s what.

Touristy Shit® is the worst, man. It’s waiting on line to go up the Empire State building, it’s walking around just to “enjoy the city,” it’s getting on one of those double decker buses because you’ve never had the amazing experience of seeing traffic from ten feet up, I don’t know. I hate Touristy Shit®.

It was a Saturday, it was gorgeous out, 70 in the sun and breezy in the shade. It was the kind of day that makes you want to find a field just break out running, or wrestle a giant dog and fight bare knuckled with a gypsy, you know, Country Shit®.

What did we do? Where did we go? Chinatown. Because as we all know, there is nothing more fun to do on a beautiful Saturday than trudging through mile after mile of fourteen inch wide sidewalks with a billion other tourists. It’s a manure-truckload of fun.

Nothing makes me hate this city more than doing Touristy Shit®, and Chinatown on a Saturday is the worst offender of all. For me, it just brings out the worst in this city. Mind you, not the actual location, or its inhabitants, but just the whole mob of tourists wandering around looking to buy some trinket to bring home to their family in some Red State and say, “Look Ma, lookit what I done gotten from the Orientaltown!”

The crap you can buy in Chinatown is about as Chinese as a Yankee Doodle Hot Dog covered in Grits, soaked in moonshine and sprinkled with bits of crushed AOL 9.0 CD’s. Oooooh look, a JADE BUDDHA, holy shit, people back home are going to FLIP the fuck out man. C’mon, they sell the SAME thing in each store, only in different colors, I felt like such an ass, parading my baby sister through this consumer blood lust, basically saying, “Look, this is where I live, this is the best I’ve got to offer.”

Two other awesome things happened in Chinatown that really made me love how the day was going even more:

1) I drank two pots of green tea and had to urinate so bad that I almost imploded in on my bladder eventually forming into one tensed up sphincter muscle. I had to bribe a SECURITY GUARD at McDonald’s to let me skip the line to the bathroom. C.R.E.A.M. Dollar dollar bills, y’all.

That was really fun.

2) As we were walking down Mott street, trying desperately, earnestly, painfully to find a pair of those little cutsey slipper sandals, WHERE LORD, OH WHERE can you find a pair of those little slipper sandals?!? (Psst, small Chinese women grow them hydroponically in the substrata below Chinatown), we got a real treat.

As I looked to my right, I saw, standing in the afternoon sun, looking amazingly happy, an Asian lady of about 40 or 50 years. She was staring off into the distance, toothy grin on her face. I smiled as well, thinking, hey, maybe everything ain’t so bad, she’s happy, I should be happy too.

As my cheeks rose and as my eyes begin to sink, I saw why she was happy. Her forearm was moving rapidly, like she was playing Yahtzee and shaking the dice cup. Only there were no dice, and her cup was her crotch. She was working herself like a third job at the Food Court taken to help with Junior’s college tuition.

What was the worst of all was how easily my little sister took this all in stride. Crowded city streets and tacky “cultural” merchandise? Hey, that’s New York, right? Crazed street masturbators? Heh, only in New York right?

I spent the rest of the day in a complete funk, and not the good diaper wearing parliament kind of funk. Is this how the rest of the world sees our city? As a morally depraved collective of junk peddlers? Probably.

While my saint of a girlfriend took the girls off my hands for an hour to go shopping in midtown, I took the chance to wander the streets and get my head wrapped around the day as a whole. Is New York just a giant market place for tacky merchandise? Is what we’ve come to? Have we gone from the greatest city in the world to just being the greatest gift shop? Should I shave my chest? Is my nipple hair too long?

These questions burning a hole in my head I almost walked right by it, a public atrium. I have a few rules that I live by:

1) I don’t eat fruit.
2) I only see movies that think will make me laugh.
3) I will always, no matter the occasion, enter a public atrium, just because it is public, and that means I can.

Consider it the most lame case of sticking it to the man you’ve ever heard of, but it’s my little bit of social entitlement and I’m sticking with it.

You know what I found in there? The Aristotle Onassis Cultural Center. It was underground, it was unadvertised, it had a HUGE collection of Greek artifacts from the time of Alexander the Great. While the rest of the city was out buying crap that they didn’t need, seeing stuff that everyone’s already seen, there I was, twenty feet under the sidewalk looking at a two thousand year old sword, funerary ornaments and orginal marble busts of one of the most famous people to have ever walked the earth (no, not George Clooney).

I came out of there knowing for a fact that everyone else in the world’s got us pegged wrong. New York is the city that we brag about, it is the cultural center we all want it to be. Just sometimes you have to go out looking for it, and if that means climbing a few stairs, then just trust me, it’s worth it.

April 1, 2005

Miss(ed) Manners: Watch This

Filed under: Column — missedmanners @ 4:00 pm

I’ve got no fucking idea what time it is.

Seriously. Judging by the homemade paper pulp colored light coming through the window it could be anywhere between 9am and 6pm, I’m not even sure if we’ve hit Daylight Savings Day (or as I call it, Fuck You, World Day) yet.

Why? Because I don’t have a watch on anymore.

Here’s a picture of my gross, hairy wrist with no watch:

Pleasant, right?

I always wear a watch, I’ve worn one since I was five years old and Swatches had just come out. My grandparents bought matching Art Deco, “Saved By the Bell” style 80’s pastel masterpieces for my older brother and I. If I had known what sex was at the time I would have been getting tail up and down my Elementary School wing.

“What time is it Dave?”

“It’s five minutes past the erroneously placed checker board and like three hours to the neon green speckled asphalt.”

So hot.

Anyway, about two weeks ago my watch began to die a slow and painful death. All feeding tube jokes aside, it just started hemorrhaging time. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, until the day I woke up at 11pm to my 8am alarm clock. I took it off and laid it to rest in front of my computer, vowing to raise it from the dead by way of a new battery.

That never really happened, obviously, because I got it in my head that it would be a great idea to try and live life for a week or two without a watch. For the first few days all these awesome hippie ideas flowed through my head. I’d no longer be a slave to society’s demand on my time. I’d make my schedule how I wanted, I’d be more relaxed, I’d transcend the petty structure of urban life.

This didn’t happen. Instead, I:

* Would continually shake my now-naked wrist and hold it up to my face, trying to figure out the time. You’d think I’d have had a Pavlovian response to the dozens of gapers who assumed I had Parkinson’s, but no, I still do this.

* Showed up late to work, all the time. I turn off my alarm when it rings in the morning and instead rely on frequent half asleep glances at my watch to let me know that it’s time to get moving. Instead, I was staring at my sasquatch-wrist and getting sucked back into a dream about being a fur-mite and being marooned on my friend Mike’s back.

After about a week of this, nothing had really changed. I didn’t stop looking for the time, in fact, I began actively seeking it out in all places I could imagine. Following my retarded wrist flourish I’d dive back into my pocket and pull out my cell phone. At work I’d constantly be checking the time in the corner of my screen, and then rechecking it against some atomic clock website. I was a man obsessed.

I had one last chance at redemption this past weekend. I was visiting my folks in upstate New York for Easter. I was hoping that the relaxed country atmosphere would put my New York minute mindeset at ease. It was entirely possible.

Upstate New York during the beginning days of Spring is like a week old wound that you just tore the scab off of. The ground is moist and fragrant, bits of tattered grass are strewn about. It’s beautiful in a very wet sort of way.

Well, apparently not beautiful enough to make me want to stop and smell the roses, or my family for that matter, though they shower regularly. We were having an Easter party and people were running around like ants on crack trying to get things set up. I had decorations to make, my siblings had rooms to clean, my mother had an entire lamb to cut, gut and roast and time was running out.

The entire weekend was on a schedule and even when it came time for me to return to the city, I had a train to make. Rush rush rush rush.

Time’s an impossible thing to step around. Even when I’m cut off from it at the wrist, I can’t seem to get out of the way of an entire culture that’s got a schedule. When that schedule is moving too slow, I’m looking at the clock to mark my progress until I can move onto the next event. When it’s moving too fast, I’m checking the clock to see how much more fun I can have until I have to sleep.

There really isn’t a moral to this week’s column, I wish there was. I’m actually ambivalent about the whole experience. I miss my watch, I wish I didn’t but I do. This whole experiment was an absolute miserable failure.

I’m getting a new battery this weekend, just in time to offer up the sacrificial hour to the Daylight Savings God. I’m sure there’s a way to opt out of this schedule and be enlightened. Lord knows I’ve tried, but you know what? I really don’t have time for that silly kind of shit. I’ve got stuff to do.

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