Archive: October 2003

(23 entries)

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Stupid things that women have done that made me like them even more

Not to suggest only women do stupid things. But they are the only ones who do stupid things that make me like them even more.

Kerry You’ll perhaps recall that every couple of years Kerry and I have dinner. On one of these occasions, we arrive at the restaurant to find it is full and we have no reservation. The maitre d’ helpfully suggests that if we’d like to give him a name, we can retire to the bar and he will let us know when a table is ready. Sounds good.

“The name is Task,” I tell him, because that is my name.

Kerry says, “I usually just say Smith.”

I’m somewhat surprised. She says, “It’s easier for them to remember.”

“But it’s harder for me to remember,” I tell her, “because it isn’t my name.”

So we go to sit at the bar. I try not to think about why she is used to telling men behind desks that her name is Smith.

Eventually the maitre d’ appears behind us. “Party of Task and Smith,” he says.

Maybe in this story it’s really the maitre d’ I ended up liking. Moving right along.

Shelly When I was a young man with little idea what to do with myself, I naturally ended up in advertising. My first gig was as an intern with the creatives, which was a pretty good place to be. Adding to the agony and ecstasy of this was my fellow intern, a gorgeous young woman my age who somehow, no matter how I tried to pretend, wasn’t all that bright. Sometimes she was charming to have around, but sometimes I wished she would go away. And die.

So we’re working on a television ad for a bank. Some idiot has come up with the idea of cartoon dollar bills running around. So that’s what we’re working on. Shelly and I are in charge of the treatment for the script. I take a look at her draft, and she’s got them working together to build a big wall, which then has the corporate logo on it.

“You see,” Shelly says, “the dollars work together to build a new future for the bank’s clients.” Or something like that.

“I don’t like the wall,” I say. “It’s a negative image: building a wall. Why can’t they do something else?”

“Like what?”

“Well, what if, I dunno, we want the logo in there. What if they hauled up a flag that had the logo on it?”

Shelly looked aghast. “A flag! But Jack, how can they do that? They’re only little dollar bills!”

This story has a happy ending, because she is today CEO of Ogilvy.

by Jack, 11:39 AM | Link | Comments (0) | More from Kerry | More from Women

Friday, October 3, 2003


“Whiskey and pain Both taste the same During the time they go down” — John Prine

“Whiskey straight can chase those blues away” — any number of blues men

Late last night I was telling someone about the Richard Brautigan story “Pacific Radio Fire,” about a man whose best friend’s wife leaves him. The two of them go down to the beach with a bottle, and the friend cries. The narrator says, “We were both depressed. I didn’t know what he was going to do with the rest of his life, either.” Empathy is a beautiful thing. I’m glad we have alcohol so that those of us who are romantic about the world have some way to suffer more, and so those of us who are not romantic about the world have some way to, however briefly, understand what the rest of the people are feeling.

I think that there should be a continuity in the packaging of one’s evening, and monochromism is a facet of this. The Royalton hotel is all black and sleek, and everyone there is beautiful, sleek, and maybe once dated a black person. The perfect thing to wear there is black, and the perfect hair color to have is blonde, but just as no one is born wearing a black suit, it’s better for it to be a dye job.

When the Royalton opened, the lobby bar served only vodka and champagne, which I thought was brilliant, because it showed an understanding of the situation. The bar menu was another facet of the design of the space. However, while the bar understood, the bar patrons did not; now you can get eight dollar Heinekens and be satisfied. And the last time I was there I saw a man in a plaid shirt and corduroy jacket. Things change.

There was a time when, like the Royalton of old, I felt that one could live on vodka alone, with occasional doses of champagne. Then I had my lengthy Jameson phase, during which I innovated the “Lost Empire,” a double Jameson with a Red Stripe on the side. Of course, now Jameson is very hip and popular (which means that their production has ramped up, and honestly, no two bottles are of the same quality), and I don’t drink beer much, with the exception of here in Japan, where it’s been all beer and plenty of it. But back in New York, I recently found myself drinking Old Grand-Dad with abandon, or Wild Turkey. Maybe Scotch is next. I am obviously working through something: brown.

by Jack, 2:18 PM | Link | Comments (3) | More from Drinking

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Diary of a train pervert

I realize that even though I am traveling, I am not reporting on my traveling. I am, however, reporting on the things that I am thinking about while traveling. Is that okay?

In that way, this is not precisely about the trip I’m on, but it is about a trip. Right now I’m in Japan, which out of its rich culture lends us the lovely title of this entry. However, the actual trip in question took place in France some time ago.

Lately I’ve been grappling with a certain philosophical question which is also about fucking. I think it can be summarized this way: there are women you find attractive, there are women everybody finds attractive, and then there are women whose formulation so perfectly matches every sexual fantasy yet discovered that you really, really stare at them like an idiot.

What are those people for?

So on a train in France, heading to Germany, I sit down. A young girl gets on, she sits down across from me. She is the best-looking woman on the Earth or its satellites. This stuns me. She looks into my face and I think it stuns her too. I can’t even be a person. I’m staring. I look away, and I sneak a look back. She’s just acting like a girl on a train, juggling magazines and her sweater. I am destroyed.

She says something to me pleasantly, but with a kind of scared look on her face. I think she senses my fear, and it confuses her and thus scares her. I reply without warmth, because like all Americans I learned in high school to dismiss those people you need desperately. Also, how would that work?

Worse, she decides to take a nap. Now I am really in trouble, because I can almost get away with staring at her. So I stare. But I look away a lot, and count, to make sure I’m not staring more than some percentage that is still not acceptable. I can’t explain why, but this girl has ruined my life by sitting across from me on the train.

So what did I do? I did what any lover of beauty and hater of inner peace would do, which is not only did I stare at her, I surreptitiously took her photo. Which I still have, and I can tell you exactly where it is, because I look at it from time to time as a kind of talisman. There is nothing raunchy about the photo. It’s just a girl on a train, sleeping. There is no skin or provocation. But to look at it is not an erotic experience, it is an erotic experience followed by death and the death of the world. Even years later, with plenty of women walking by all the time, this anonymous girl is still the best-looking woman known to unimaginative perverts with small, quiet cameras.


by Jack, 11:00 AM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Women

Friday, October 10, 2003

The drunk arts

Some artforms lend themselves nicely to drunkenness, and some make it difficult. Painting, writing, and playing music are good drunk arts. Dancing, filmmaking, and photography are not. As a filmmaker, you’re gonna fuck up the film loading, you’re gonna set the lens wrong, you’re gonna drop stuff, and then when you’re editing you’re likely to get your tongue caught in the splicer. This is the real advantage to digital video: not so many moving parts.

However, in my experience, photography can be a good hungover art. Assuming you can see, can stand, and aren’t going to vomit, you may have more attention to detail when hungover. Although you are less likely to do well with portraits or fashion, because you don’t want to talk to these people, product shots can go fine. Especially when the assistant, seeing that you are a big wreck, just goes ahead and does everything.

I think the general rule of thumb is, if there are a lot of small steps, it isn’t a good drunk art. If it’s something you can get flowing and merely adjust, you can do it drunk. And I invite you to.

by Jack, 9:30 PM | Link | Comments (5) | More from Drinking

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Wonderful town

I have arrived once again in New York town. No matter where you may travel, where you may roam, when it’s time to return, you end up in Queens. Or Newark. Well, as committed readers already know, for me this time it was good old Queens swampland. I bent down to kiss it, like the Pope, but unlike the Pope, I was able to get up again. However, much like the Pope, there was no chance of my getting the Nobel Prize this month. However, unlike the Pope, I wasn’t whining about it.

I could go on and on with a comparison of myself and the Pope, as many have. But there are even more important things to discuss. Mostly, I’m back in town. I need a drink. Check with me later.

by Jack, 9:53 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Damned Human Race

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Other people

But there’s another whole parallel universe out there. If you need some proof, let me tell you about the waiting room of the PR firm I was in today. On their coffee table, to the exclusion of any other magazines, were copies of WALKING, SWIMMING, RUNNING, SKIING, and WEDDING. Yes, all the major Gerund Monthlies; it was a very “can do” kind of office.

It reminded me of the first time it was suggested to me to get coffee from Starbucks. There I saw that the menu didn’t consist of, you know, “COFFEE” and “TEA,” it consisted of “Rich Traditions,” “Bold Foundations,” “Lively Impressions” — all of these sybillant endings that sounded like blowing on your too-fucking-hot coffee. I know this may not be news to in-the-know people like yourself, but it was to me. I mean, who are they fooling with this?

Okay, back to work.

by Jack, 3:05 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Damned Human Race


So I have to admit, now that the Laphroaig is mostly gone, I like the stuff. I think I had to get over my natural disinclination toward Scotch, which reasserts itself every time I stop drinking Scotch for a while. And the most recent bottle of Scotch I bought was Teacher’s, which is my usual cheap Scotch, and I don’t really like it very much. I like the non-round bottle, however.

After the initial, “Why does this whiskey taste funny?” problem with Scotches, I can settle in, and I must say to you, I am liking this Islay malt. More peat, please!

The thing is, when can I be rich enough to enjoy good liquor all the time? The thing is, I already buy expensive liquor all the time. I just shouldn’t. So far I’ve been holding the line at moderately expensive: Stoli, not Chopin; Turkey, not Booker’s; etc. And I make sure to buy only Mr. Boston’s Chartreuse.

Maybe this is all bullshit. The thing is, nobody loves me like books, CDs, and booze love me. So I think I’m reformed; no more cheating myself when it comes to top-class reclusion.

by Jack, 7:46 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from Drinking

Monday, October 13, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Introduction

(Part 1 of 10.)

This is an idea that has been brewing in our culture for some time, and now the job has fallen to me to cast a bright, harsh light on it for the first time. Many in America are chroniclers of beauty. At any moment, in any place, you have, at the merest hint of curiosity, troves of information about beauty, none of which is relevant to your life. I will be the chronicler of ugly, the noble trait which all know.

Now is the time for the great ugly consciousness. I submit to you that the United States of America, known for its obsession with beauty, is actually obsessed with ugly. In typical American confusion of purpose, this has been twisted around to fear. I submit that Americans do not want to be beautiful, they want to avoid being ugly. However, this is a bad idea.

I can no longer stand by and watch America go down the beautiful toilet. This is my document to history on the importance of ugly. You may laugh now, but ugly always wins in the end.

“The Ugly Reader” is not the name of this article. It is the name of you, its reader.

by Jack, 8:04 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Ugly Makes the Grade

(Part 2 of 10.)

As I stand around New York City, watching passersby, I am struck by an absolute truth: in this, the city of the beautiful, the city of the thin and black-clothed, the city that manufactures image and image-correcting products for the world, people are very, very ugly. Some of the ugliest people I’ve known are the people who work in what is euphemistically called “the beauty industry.”

These are the people who tirelessly work for the suppression of ugly in our daily lives. They are ugly people, and they treat people in an ugly way. If you watch healthy thirty-year-old women going to fifty-thousand-dollar jobs in the beauty industry, you will notice that, whether or not they have beautiful faces and bodies, they are all wearing the same traditionally ugly clothes. Further, in the case of those who do not have beautiful faces, they are wearing makeup that attempts to simulate this.

In New York, makeup is de rigeur, and the darker and more severe, the better. This may work well on pretty girls, but ugly girls playing at pretty are committing a grave error. Thus, our first exercise:

by Jack, 12:09 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The Ugly Reader: The Ugly Continuum

(Part 3 of 10.)

If you have something that is on balance ugly but has some aspect which is non-ugly, what is the result? Conventional wisdom says that the non-ugly aspect acts as a mitigating factor against the ugliness of the whole. Thus, ugly girls have “pretty eyes” and “pretty hair.” If they are rich and ugly, they have pretty plastic surgery.

An entire subculture of non-ugly obsessiveness comes about in shocking statements such as that of the pimp who believes, “There is no such thing as an ugly white woman.” Her definite whiteness trumps her possible ugliness. Or, there are those men who, lacking the ability to attract what they deem to be wholly desirable women, cut their losses by pursuing what I term “ugly girls with big tits.” In this scenario, the focus on the specific fetish acts as proof of the woman’s worth as a non-ugly person.

In fact, it is the opinion of this chronicler that there can be no mitigating factors when it comes to ugliness, the most human of attributes. Any attempt to subtract from ugly can only result in a cruel joke at the expense of the ugly party. In this way, the hugely obese are advised not to wear garish colors. The frighteningly stupid are advised not to talk to anyone. So why put red paint on those sickly thin lips of yours? Ugly is not something you can run from. However, if you embrace it, it will work for you. Furthermore, it is an affront to decency that ugly people who masquerade as beautiful are afforded privileges not available to those who are not any uglier, but simply admit it.

by Jack, 3:41 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Ugly Identity

(Part 4 of 10.)

Ugly is not something to be ashamed of: ugly is a common ground. There are many so-called positive thinkers who would tell you that all people, without exception, are beautiful in their own way. Nothing could be further from the truth. All human beings are ugly, and their ugliness is legion.

Once upon a time, we amusingly referred to men who found themselves in exclusively male environs, such as prison, as “situationally” homosexual, as opposed to “actually” homosexual. In this way, I believe that humans are “situationally” kind and loving, but not “actually.” If you are kind to someone, it is because they have cancer, or because they are your parents, or because you think they’re really terrific, or some other specific and all-too-rational reason. You are not kind to all comers, due to any innate kindness in your personality. Most people you treat like dirt. This is because you are an ugly person.

If you look around, you will see that beauty has not served us well so far. Beauty puts up monuments, but ugly wears away, if not their presence, then their significance. Beauty establishes charitable funds, and ugly spends all the donations on administrative costs. We focus on beauty, and ugly pulls the rug out from under us.

Ugly is not heartless, however; it merely will not tolerate our hubris. Ugly has often saved us when it counts; for beauty, whether it be in the form of Helen of Troy or a hope for a different future, starts wars, but only the ugliness that subsequently is revealed can scare us into stopping them. Ugly does this for us, despite our copious lack of patience or compassion for it. Imagine what ugly could do if it was ugly we doted on! What if ugly was the favored child? We would have far more favored children.

by Jack, 11:26 AM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

A hero's homecoming

Although returned to New York, I was not yet fully returned until I showed up at my local. (Note to non-alcoholics: I am referring to a bar, not a union hall or fire department.) In fact, difficulty getting back on the sleep schedule I was never very much on to begin with prevented me from non-essential activity for a few days. This prompted an actual latenight phone call from the bartender, saying that I was to have been away two weeks, and the two weeks were up, so where was I? This is service. It’s also sort of depressing. So I went down to the bar.

It wasn’t very crowded, but, except for the people on dates, I knew everybody. I was embraced with open arms by my friend the bartender. People got up to shake my hand and hug me. Those who arrived after me gave large smiles and approached to do the same. Of course, that’s the secret of camaraderie: go away for a while. I believe that’s also a paraphrasing of a rule of vaudeville.

In fact, in the course of events no fewer than three people offered me “a bump,” which despite my hedonistic bent is not something I generally involve myself in, at least not in what is generally known as a beer-and-booze joint. Maybe we are getting culture. By the time the pretty girl telling me her life story came along (I am categorizing this as a Drinking entry rather than Drinking & Women because it was not a very romantic relationship) and asked me if I had “a bump” for her, I realized I should have been collecting them all night and hiding them in the secret compartment inside my nasal cavity. We could have Eskimo-kissed and tripped the light fatalistic.

Anyway, whatever happened to the word “cocaine”?

So we drank a lot, me and my pals. I spoke to a girl who lives in a room with exclusively red décor and had recently bought some yellow sheets. She hates them. Also, a man is trying to get involved in local politics by sleeping with interns at various campaigns, which I thought was an interesting inversion. Also, some time was spent clarifying the distinction between “fat asses” and “big butts” (it turns out that there is a negative connotation to the former, but that the latter is highly prized indeed). Also, I was questioned as to the nature and extent of my sexual conquests in Japan. It only recently occurred to me that the reason most people travel is to have sex with strangers, but in New York you can do that on your own block. In other words, a gentleman never tells, not even his blog. (I didn’t get laid, in other words.)

In other words, everything turned out to be vaguely related to sex, if you include the fact that yellow sheets go onto a bed, and you know what those are for. The fact that everything is vaguely related to sex is beginning to disturb me. Why can’t it be overtly related to sex? Americans are truly doomed, the horniest Puritans ever.

It was recently suggested to me that in most places, people hit on you because they want to sleep with you, but in New York they hit on you if they think you might advance their career. This is a great insight by a very smart young woman. She left town.

Anyway, they were glad to have me back at the bar. Supposedly.

by Jack, 7:19 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Drinking

Friday, October 17, 2003

Chicken rolls: a love story

Let me give you some advice. If, at some time, you are given the task of painting a sign which is designed to make me a happier man, let me tell you what to write on the sign. The sign should read as follows: CHICKEN ROLL BULK DISCOUNT.

I actually giggled with giddy glee when the man said, “What do you want, mac?” and I said, hardly believing the truth of it, “Ch-chicken roll, p-please.” To think that it is that easy! It only costs four dollars, well within reach of the working man’s salary. I bought one, and I held it with both hands as I walked back to the studio, where I and my chicken roll united.

A short, informative digression: when you go to any store in the world and buy something which they put in a paper sack, you are handed the paper sack upright, which is to say with the opening at the top. This is true if you are at a hardware store, a deli, or anywhere — anywhere, of course, but a pizza place. If you buy something at a pizza place — anything, a pizza, some baked ziti, even the already-mentioned c.r. — and it is put in a paper sack, the sack will enter your hands horizontally, which is to say with the opening parallel to the ground. You must carry it this way as well, because if you turn it upright, all the cheese will stick to the bag.

So when you walk down the street with your bag from the hardware store, or the deli, no one knows what is inside it, or what kind of store you have visited. But when you walk down the street with your bag from the pizza place, you are marked as a patron of pizza. Further, one can suspect that, if the bag is horizontal, regardless of the specific product contained, somehow it involves a form of dough, cheese, and tomatoes. There is no secrecy possible. Everyone knows you like chicken rolls. And I, for one, am proud that they do.

So I get on the elevator with a woman who works in the office downstairs. This is what happens.

She: “How are you doing?” Me: “I’m good. I’m going to be a whole lot better in a few minutes.” (I point to my bag.) “There’s a chicken roll in here.” She: (Holds up her own bag.) “Tuna.” Me: “No, no, no. You’ve got to go all the way. Life is too short. Chic-ken rolllll.”

It’s still true.

by Jack, 12:50 AM | Link | Comments (4) | More from The Damned Human Race

The Ugly Reader: The Ugly Muse

(Part 5 of 10.)

I am not alone in appreciating ugly. The art world, always at the vanguard, has paid this subject more and more attention over the last decades. Art gets uglier and uglier all the time. For many people today, art may be the only way to experience ugliness in a pure form.

Popular culture achieves only “insincere” ugliness by creating, for example, singers who cannot express human emotion with their voices, comedies that fail to provide a semblance of funny commentary, and leading men and women who are repulsive and insufferable.

The failing of popular culture is that it does all these things, which are noble in my descriptions, sheerly by accident. It creates all this ugliness in the pursuit of beauty, and bills all this ugliness as beauty. You can see, then, why we are, as a culture, confused about the nature and role of the ugly.

That’s why recent art, with its pure and loving pursuit of the ugly, has been so important. Artists, sensitive to the increasing prevalence of ugly in our society, have captured it as many ways as there are media. A famous play, insightfully titled “Art” for easy identification, is about several ugly men treating each other in the most ugly manner possible. Recently, in the City of New York, a museum full of fabulously ugly artworks was chastised by the mayor, an ugly little man, for being too ugly. He hurled many ugly words at this museum for being a patron of the ugly, and many ugly words were then used in the press to take this ugly man to task for his ugly attitude. Politics and art, of course, are merely the pawns. The winner, regardless? Ugly. When there is a conflict, ugly is always the winner.

Why, then, do we shy from ugly? Ugly is, in all its brazen flamboyance, still rather shy itself. While being unequivocally itself, ugly does not always tip its hand. Perhaps ugly “doesn’t want to get ugly.” To which I say, ugly can only get uglier, so it is best to start now.

by Jack, 7:08 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

Saturday, October 18, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Is Ugly Something I Can Do?

(Part 6 of 10.)

Ugly is always within your grasp. Such is not necessarily the case with non-ugly. While I know some beautiful people and some ugly people, the ugly people are not beautiful; however, the beautiful people are also very ugly.

To return for a moment to another side of the “beauty industry,” there are many people whose occupation is to use photography to make ugly people seem beautiful. This may happen on an international scope, such as on the covers of magazines, or in a more democratic manner, as in wedding photos. What is the attraction of the ubiquitous celebrity tabloids? The dirty pleasure of observing the work of people with cameras who do not know, or care, how to make ugly people seem beautiful; of the resulting ugly photos of people well known for their beauty and little else.

Why are models paid so much? For their silence. They are not to admit that they were born ugly and remain so. Swarms of professionals must arm them daily against ugliness, for they would be powerless if left to their own resources. Ugly is a fact of life. Beauty is suddenly being riveted by the menu when your prospective employer asks if there is anything to know about your police record.

I have had a rare opportunity to pursue a more subversive career in photography: making beautiful women look ugly. Perhaps the best part is how much easier this is than the normal way. Since no model is truly beautiful, but all people are truly ugly, then not only is any model right for my work, but any person can be that model. However, I do not want to shoot ugly in a barrel. I do not take just any ugly person and reveal them to be ugly. Striving for greater challenges, I seek out those who are universally acknowledged as beautiful, and slowly and deliberately make them ugly. I cannot take the credit, however. I only show what is already there.

(When ugly finally takes its place at the apex of achievement, I will be a famous fashion photographer, and all the other fashion photographers will be out of work forever. In the name of full disclosure, then, I admit I have some interest in the acceptance and exaltation of ugly.)

So you see that ugly is very easy to achieve. It has been conveniently designed so that only very specific things are not ugly. If you are fat, you’re ugly — but also if you’re too skinny. Thus, there is a wide swath of ugly which most people can, with little effort, fit into comfortably. Here in America, where most people are fat — and the only people who are not fat are those who are always saying that they are, which makes them ugly to be with — ugly is almost a birthright. In fact, fat is the trump card of ugly, because you can be ugly in many ways, but if none of them are working out, you can always just get really fat, and ugly will be yours despite it all.

by Jack, 11:33 AM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Ugly Reader

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Ugly Reader: An Ugly Movement?

(Part 7 of 10.)

You may wonder what you can do to start an ugly revolutionary cell. The fact is, you probably already have.

Your friends, coworkers, and relations are all ugly, as indeed are you yourself. It is only a question of being in touch with this ugliness. But even if overt consciousness has not yet occurred, every time that you meet a friend, confer with a colleague, or go home for the holidays, the undercurrent of your interaction is: “We are alike. We are ugly. Let us stick together despite our worthlessness. Who else will have us?”

This sense of self-worthlessness, which results in a desperate clinging to the companionship of even the most vile and debased people, is what keeps us together. If we thought we could do better, relationships would crumble. Liz Taylor; case closed.

by Jack, 4:05 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Ugly Reader

Monday, October 20, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Is Ugly Culturally-Specific?

(Part 8 of 10.)

I don’t know, probably. In some Asian countries, where politeness and decorum come naturally to members of society, belching and slurping soup, which also come naturally, are considered part of politeness and decorum.

In some Western countries, where neither politeness nor decorum is a natural part of society, belching and slurping soup, which are natural, are considered the opposite of polite behavior. This is clearly a choice. In the East, this facet of ugly has been embraced and is now an expected tool in a civilized person’s repertoire.

The ancient Romans, whose civilization lasted a long time, held contests in which the gladiator who treated the other gladiators in the most ugly way, usually involving murder, would win general acclaim. The man in the realm with the most ugly convictions would become Caesar, a position from which his every ugly desire could be made real. They were also constantly throwing up on things and tossing bones over their shoulders.

We would today consider these acts unseemly, even though all the beautiful people are sticking their fingers down their throats in the bathroom at Spago. However, ugly is always a secret in America, be it well-concealed or well-known.

by Jack, 1:13 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Ugly Reader

My generation

Or, maybe, just my weekend. We were on a rigorous schedule. If the hours had been flip-flopped, and “drinking, crying, and vomiting,” had been replaced with “riding, swimming, and singing campfire songs,” it would have been just like the girl scouts.

(However, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the fucking nineteenth century, when the difference between demigods and cokeheads was that cokeheads were real.)

But that does’t mean that your old pal Jack didn’t have some fun this weekend as well. Once we got through a very dangerous Friday, during which I prayed to a God I had not previously believed in, I was able to confront what turned out to be a lovely Saturday night and Sunday morning. But you aren’t having fun if you aren’t pushing your Earthly vessel to the limit of almost death. Every. Single. Moment. Live fast, die hard, and —

Well, to put it more simply, I went to the bar. I met my friend Oliver, who is the only good-looking guy I’m currently aware of who knows a lot of women, many of whom are beautiful, and still prefers whichever ones are nice and interesting. Also, his fucking name is Oliver. He is Mister Sensitive.

As soon as I show up, Oliver is in a tizzy (he is my only straight friend who can pull this off) because recently a guy he knows did some apparently bad thing to some girl in the bar. I was never clear on what it was, although apparently it transcended propriety in a way even less refreshing than the way I talk to women in bars. The girl in question is sitting down the bar from us. Oliver, who was not personally involved in whatever this thing was, nor present when it occurred, feels he should go apologize to this girl. We are talking extreme sensitivity here, though not actual sense.

So he runs off to do this. After a while I get curious, and I follow him. However, the wronged party is very animatedly talking to Oliver, who is doing his “active listening.” So I focus on the girl’s friend. Yes, it’s that kind of movie!

Hello, girl’s friend. I have never seen a stranger so happy to see me. She’s a cute blonde with a giant shit-eating grin. At first this makes me nervous — girls with PermaGrin can’t be understood by those of us who are not doing the same drugs. But then I realize it’s only one of her many facial expressions, as she runs her face through a few more. I love facial expressions. They are enough to make you think you’re talking to a real person. And that’s what was happening. So we chat for a while, and she asks me my name, and I ask her name, and I ask what she’s drinking, and she tells me what she’s drinking, and I ask her about her prop: a big ol’ Pentax 35mm sitting on the bar. Since I’m a photographer, this is a good prop for you to be wooing me with. So we talk about photography, and she suddenly says to me:

“What’s my name?”

“Excuse me?”

“Tell me my name.”

And I don’t remember her name. Her big grin turns to a giant pout. “You don’t really like me.”

“No, no, I do really like you. Of course I know your name, it’s, uh —”

“My name is Nicky, you asshole.”

“Of course it is, Nicky. I knew that, you didn’t let me —”


“Okay.” Jeez Louise. “I’m sorry, I —”

“Forget it.” Her giant pout has turned into a giant scowl. She has a pretty big head. I’m thinking about her facial expressions.


“Yeah, what.” She hates me.

“Can you smile for me again?”

She looks at me with the scowl. Then she giggles. Then she scowls. Then she smiles by accident. And I kiss her just quickly.

Then she’s all smiles! Look at this! Nicky thinks I’m great! Why the fuck does Nicky think that? We don’t know.

“Nicky, I’m glad I met you,” I say with all sincerity (this makes her so happy!). “Give me your phone number and I will call you soon, and we will do exciting things.” I reach for a pen.

But Nicky is not smiling! Nicky’s puppy-dog eyes are all droopy! Never has a face been so easy to read. I love it! Maybe I can finally understand somebody. Nicky, what’s wrong?

But then it hits me. “Nicky,” I say, “Do you want to come home with me?”

She’s 500 watts again. “Yeah!”

“Okay. Say goodnight to your friends. Get your jacket.”

So she says goodnight to her friends, and gets her jacket. So we’re walking down the avenue, happily making out. It’s about twenty minutes since I met her, which is enough to make even me dizzy. What a wonderful lady!

Under a streetlamp I notice her sweater is pulled off her shoulder a little. “Say, you’ve got a tattoo.”

She shrugs. “Yeah, I’ve got a few.”

(Once again, I was a little slow. I know you, gentle reader, are way ahead of me on this one.)

So we get to my apartment and she sits primly on a chair, taking it in. I offer her anything from the bar. “I’ll have chartreuse on the rocks.” Interesting choice! I make it for her. Please select a record album. She chooses Blind Willie McTell. “I’ve got the same record,” she says. Wow, how different from, you know, regular girls! Is she being as weird as she can be, just because she figured out I like weird? But no, she is the real item. I have hit the jackpot.

Let’s hope we’ll be hearing more from Nicky in the weeks to come. Full disclosure: she had a lot of tattoos.

by Jack, 3:14 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Nicky

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Those Who Ugly Can Take the Train

(Part 9 of 10.)

I’ve been using New York, perhaps the most deeply conflicted city in the country and perhaps the world, as a microcosm for ugly. The so-called beautiful people are a very real force here. You will see them going to the same places you’re innocently going to. It is fascinating to see the beautiful people bumping into things in shops and cafés, because, as in the rest of the world, you also see them, or their equivalents, all over the news.

Thus, the normal reverence for these people which is made possible by a proper distance and mystery does not really set in. It is one thing to admire a celebrity when she uses sense to stay clear of trouble, another when she ties up traffic on your way home and takes your favorite table at Elaine’s. You will then hate her. Hate is an ugly feeling. You and the object of your hatred both become uglier because of it. It is powerful, and instant. Yet, the beautiful people remain, taunting halfheartedly from all sides, on television, in print, and on the sidewalk.

And every evening, in every bar, there is an ugly contest, and the goal for many millions is to lose it. Who will be the last one picked for the ugly team? “I hope it is me!”

by Jack, 8:45 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Ugly Reader

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Ugly Reader: Ugly Takes a Stand

(Part 10 of 10. Thank you for your attention.)

So, while everyone checks out their date to make sure he or she is not the ugliest such possible date in the room, I am occupied in my role as the quiet champion of the ugly. I admire the girl with stocky, bruised legs who purposefully wore that short a skirt and now keeps tugging down on it every few syllables.

I admire the fellow who asked for whiskey and soda and then immediately clarified that he wanted soda water, not like a Coca-Cola soda. Those people sitting at the bar who are “explaining” something to strangers are automatic shoo-ins. We are a sad, sick, doomed group, and there is no one not like us. But that is enough to uplift us.

The songstress in the corner, probably near death, has the voice of a dirty angel. She has shown the way. My people, take up your ugly. It is your only chance.


de blogosphére

by Jack, 4:48 PM | Link | Comments (107) | More from The Ugly Reader

Thursday, October 23, 2003


I have this rare talent for discovering what the deal breaker is and mentioning it within the first thirty seconds. I find people’s insecurities and stamp on them.

I should do opposition research. On chicks in bars.

So while I may have my moments of friendliness, and even extended moments, much more common is basic hostility behind a thin veneer of wit. My hosility is based on a universal love of humanity, which is in turn based on hostility. I feel I can be mean to people because they know I love them. However, I actually don’t.

I need to upgrade my jive. I keep trying to sleep with women by telling them how ugly, stupid, and annoying they are. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like them! I love that kind! Don’t they appreciate my refreshing candor? Fuck them!

However, here’s a good come-on: “I’m an event coordinator, and, baby, you’re the event of the year.” That’s the kind of thing I would say if I was trying to trick people. Instead, I just tell them how ridiculous they are. They will come around eventually.

Sample conversation:

She: “Why should I talk to you? You keep making fun of me!” He: “What do you mean? That’s why you should talk to me! It’s exciting! It’s a challenge!” She: “I don’t want a challenge! I want someone to be nice to me!” He: “You just say that because you’re a —” etc.

In addition, I think I already fucked it up with Nicky. I am a champion.

by Jack, 3:44 PM | Link | Comments (5) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Nicky

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Failure to thrive

Anyone who’s seen the Charlie Chaplin vehicle in which he is much beloved by a portly, wealthy gentleman, but only when that gentleman is drunk, understands much more about my sex life than they’d probably admit.

No one would accuse Nicky of being a portly, wealthy gentleman, but I will. When we woke up after the night we met, though, everything seemed good. She was smiling the best anyone can when hungover, groggy, and exhausted from athletic bad sex. She wanted to eat. We set out into the street, arm-in-arm, and reasonably pleased. We found food at a diner. The waitress seemed to know we were people who were having post-first-date-sex breakfast. That pissed me off. For example:

N: “I’ll have an orange juice.” W: “Large or small?” N: “I dunno, uh —” J: “Go on, get the large.” W: “That’s right. Impress the lady.”

Nicky’s beautiful giant head, made that much bigger by her hangover, bobbled more and more precariously as she attempted to nourish it. Finally she announced it wasn’t working. She wanted a bloody Mary.

I happen to know the best place for bloody Marys, and I don’t even like them. That is what a great guy I am. So off we went. I figured, buy her a drink, put her in a cab, and get on with the day. Reasonable. Friendly, but resolute.

About four Marys (for her), three vodka-and-sodas (for me), and a couple hours later, it became clear she was staying on that stool as long as possible. Not that I had any reason to get rid of her. I liked her, of course. I liked her a lot. I just didn’t want to overstay my welcome.

We talked for hours in the bar. Also, as the bar filled up, people wanted to talk to us. Some guy found her fascinating, and the fact that she was with with me he found doubly fascinating. I wasn’t sure who he was hitting on. Also, Nicky began to give me some kind of heartfelt speech which had “You’re a great guy, I mean a really great guy” in it, so I was waiting for the “But” clause. She never got around to the “But,” though I think it was because she lost her train of thought rather than because there wasn’t any.

Finally, by the time night fell, she was drunk again, and in a different way than the night before. She was limp and lolling. No smiles. “I’ll take you home,” I said.

She leaned on me as we walked to the curb. I tried to hail a cab by raising my arm; she tried by wandering in front of them. Finally we stopped one by my method and got in it. “I’ll just drop you off and go home,” I reassured her.

With her head snuggled against my shoulder, she murmured, “You’re such an asshole.”

Now, I had no idea what that meant. Was she mad I was accompanying her home, because I had — shudder — overstayed my welcome? Or was she mad that I said I was going to leave right after because I had not overstayed my welcome? Do you understand the issue of the overstaying of the welcome? It is a critical issue.

I decided that “asshole” was a word more applicable to those whose self-interest leads them to abandon — but maybe only because there was no obvious term for guys who didn’t know when to go home, other than perhaps “greedy.” I took her across bridges and highways and she said, “Stay.” So I stayed. And the next morning, the second morning, she certainly looked surprised to see me. She shuffled around in her kimono while I washed my face. It’s good in these situations if people smoke, because that’s always an indicator of how stressed out they are. Nicky doesn’t smoke. But she’s got that big signpost of a head. Do I need to say it? I had overstayed my welcome.

She treated me to an awkward, yet oddly clingy hug, and I was off again to the borough of my preference.

by Jack, 12:09 PM | Link | Comments (3) | More from Nicky | More from Women

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Settling into a routine

I decided to make one last stand. I decided to call Nicky and invite her out. But before I did, the phone rang. “You wanna go to a show tonight?” she wanted to know. Yeah. Okay.

Some friends of hers were performing their alt-country drag act, or whatever it was. We decided to meet beforehand for a drink, because that’s the way we begin an activity. I arrive at the bar in question — not My Bar, where we met, but reasonably close, since I have a very limited world — and she’s finishing up her first vodka-and-something.

I kiss her cheek and call for a drink. We face each other, turned on our barstools like true romantics. I’m watching her head. Something is wrong.

“Look,” she says. “We need to talk.” Ohhhh boy. I drink my drink and she probably said something like this:

“Glad…great…fun…ex-boyfriend…trouble…confused…love with somebody…travel…city…glad…but sex…happy…trouble…friend…mistake…not saying…you know…okay?”

I was busy reminding myself that I needed to pick up my leather jacket from the dry cleaner’s, and that I was out of lightbulbs. “Look,” I venture, when it seems she’s done, “I understand what you’re saying. What do you want to do?”

“I want to go to see the show with you,” she replies. So we go. Watch and learn, friends.

The show, how lovely. We sit there in the club and enjoy it. I make a lot of great faces at her, she makes them at me. I meet her friends and charm them. The usual bullshit. We retire to yet another bar. Even more usual.

“Look,” I say, “I know what you’re saying about being confused about me. I know you’ve just got out of a long relationship and are seeing this other guy. I’m not saying there has to be anything between us. I just don’t think you should rule it out.”

She gulps and nods.

“I’m just saying it should be investigated,” I tell her.

She frowns. “Yeah. I know.”

“All right,” I say. “What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.” Frowny frowny.

I get up, take her hand. “Let’s go.”

Yes, friends, she gave me the Let’s Cool It talk, and then we went back to my apartment. What world are we living in?

Still, it was our best time together. Her eyelids fluttering, her mouth gaping. I was doing that. In the morning she looked more confused than ever, but I just let ‘em wonder.

by Jack, 5:20 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Nicky

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