Archive: November 2003

(11 entries)

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Light-up devil girl

The amazing-looking receptionist is forever upping the ante with her choice of garments, and one can only wonder why. Must the Bras be so full of Wonder? Why do I know the color, shape, model year, and serial number of her belly ring? What is the purpose of this? Who is this for? Does she really want me to commit ritual suicide at her desk? Because I can’t, I’ve got a client coming.

On Halloween she wore blinking-light devil horns with her orange sweater ensemble. She offered to let me borrow her pitchfork, which I used in some meetings. She seems interested in pleasing me, though of course only because I am her superior officer and vaguely nice to her. She told me she went to a party in the costume of a corrupted Catholic schoolgirl. I asked her how that could be considered a costume, since she dresses that way every day. What a terrible thing to say. I asked her in what way her schoolgirl was corrupted. She replied ominously that it had been in ways that I didn’t want to know about. But she was wrong, of course, she was wrong.

by Jack, 2:29 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Women

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Paul Tsongas

Let’s take a break for a moment from all the bad sex I’ve been having with people who don’t like me, and consider the 1992 presidential campaign. My support in the earliest days of that contest was for Paul Tsongas, former Democratic senator from Massachusetts. I’m bringing this up now because I witnessed things at a Tsongas rally that have never been reported, as far as I know, by anyone, and at the time I didn’t have a blog. Here is the unbelievable story.

I had only been to a few political rallies up to that point, for other candidates in other races. When I arrived at this one, Tsongas’s first appearance since Super Tuesday the day before, it seemed in the same mold. There were balloons everywhere. There were teenaged staffers everywhere, who were white males. There was a podium. There was some press. I was just a kid, but I hit on the blonde taking photographs. She was hot.

So more and more people showed up, and it was getting crowded, and I was pushed to the front. Eventually, Tsongas came out to uproarious cheering. He was a little guy, of course, and generally had the air of someone who wouldn’t be cheered under a lot of circumstances. He stepped to the podium. In his sane, soft voice, this is what he said:

“Good evening, everyone. Friends, supporters. I want to thank you all for coming tonight. And I want to congratulate you all for how far we’ve come in this campaign. I know we’ve got the momentum that can take us all the way!”

Okay, so I’m making up the details, but you get the idea. There was incredible hooray-for-us cheering at this line. Tsongas continued:

“I also want to congratulate Bill Clinton on his victories in last night’s primaries.”

At this there was sarcastic laughter and even a boo, which the young staffers were trying to promote. Tsongas looked perplexed. It wasn’t a laugh line.

“It’s the American democratic system in action, and of course I support it,” he said.

There was a noticeable pause in the room.

“Whenever someone does something well, you should congratulate them,” he reminded us.

Staffers, supporters, and press looked at each other nervously, shifting on their feet, and coughing. No cheering. No one knew what to do. This wasn’t what they expected.

But I loved it. Here was a guy so reasonable that he praised his rivals. Here was a guy who didn’t compromise his view of right and wrong just because it might benefit him!

So you may be surprised to know it, because I’m a big asshole and often quote people in my life telling me that, but I don’t support big assholes for public office. I figure the big assholes are getting enough of what they want already. I want the sincere, rational, humane people like Paul Tsongas to be in charge. God knows we could learn something from them. Anyway, Tsongas is dead, and there are a lot of assholes left.

In another shocking turn, I’m going to make a political endorsement for this Tuesday’s elections. If you live in the City of New York, please vote against Bloomberg’s proposed charter revision to eliminate partisan local elections (Question 3 on the ballot).

I know that “partisan” is always used to mean “bad,” but as usual, when they use it that way it’s just another partisan trick. The idea is, if no one has labels of Democrat or Republican, they could sneak some very conservative candidates past the very liberal electorate now and then, especially if they were from minority groups not generally associated with conservatism. As long as they have to call themselves Democrats or Republicans, we have a general idea of what they’re going to do to us.

It’s a trick, folks. Vote no.

Paul Tsongas R.I.P.

by Jack, 12:45 PM | Link | Comments (8) | More from The Damned Human Race

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Nicky by noonlight

I’m taking a second last stand. I decide to invite Nicky on our “first date,” by which I mean a planned rendezvous, not at five in the morning, where we’re both sober for most of it. Since we are interested in photography, it’s off to Chelsea to see some photo shows. Sounds reasonable, right?

Some of you may wonder what a fellow like me wants with a daytime excursion not involving drunk girls: why rock the boat? The truth is that I feel my non-relationship with Nicky is being to get thin. Just because I am a drunk who likes pretty girls doesn’t mean I’m shallow. In order for the booze-fueled, mediocre sex to continue or, god forbid, improve, I need a little conversation to give me something to think about. Laugh if you will. I prefer people to be “people,” not just, as my supposed friend Meg says, “something to whack off with.”

So we agree to meet one afternoon at a café. (She’s available afternoons because she works nights as a bartender. This shouldn’t surprise you or me because everyone I know is either a bartender, sleeping with a bartender, wants to be a bartender, or just spends all his or her free time around a bartender. Is there really any more useful friend to have? Maybe a bartender who knows CPR.)

Nicky looks pretty ragged. Of course, she’s hung over, she hasn’t been awake very long, and she seems to be very lost in the sober, waking world. I buy her a tremendous coffee. This gives her enough energy and me enough reassurance that we might make it across town. We head for the L train (why hasn’t some smartass hipster from Williamsburg updated the Billy Strayhorn number for the crosstown set?).

We arrive, hand-in-hand, in the world of the west side. We pop into a friend’s gallery but he isn’t in. We trudge around looking at photos. We make comments about them. We cross the street to another gallery. Repeat. Nicky is already looking weary. We trundle down the street, with me pointing out stuff. We’re surrounded by other couples doing about the same thing. Nicky looks increasingly uncomfortable.

She stops in the street. “Let’s get a drink,” she says.

We go to the Empire Diner for sandwiches and whiskey-and-ginger-ales. Some of the color is returning to her face. She relaxes.

“Sorry,” she says, “What’s with all those people, you know, like guys trying to be smart talking about art? It bugs me.”

“Like me, too, I guess.”

Sip of drink. “Well, maybe.” Sip of drink. Chuckle.

Thus endeth the outing, somewhat prematurely. With whiskey safely inside us, we head back for the subway, inside of which we run into the ex-boyfriend she was telling me she’s having trouble getting out of her life. No kidding. What is he doing in my subway?

“Hi,” we say to each other. They chat for a bit. She’s much more animated with him than she’s been with me. But he just sort of stares at her in reply. Poor sap.

Anyway, I give up. Things aren’t what they’re not. Next time I see Nicky, it’ll be by accident, and we’ll go home together. I will let things happen, not make things happen. It doesn’t work, does it?

by Jack, 5:02 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from Nicky | More from Women

Sunday, November 9, 2003

Serial monotony

People, people. What is with your blogs? I understand the motivations of those who are writing purely diaristic reportage on their daily trips to junior high. That’s normal low-grade egotism, and self-expression, however dull, is a vital element of a developing personality. What concerns me is the situation with those who should know better: adults with well-designed, commercially-hosted sites who have absolutely nothing at all to say.

I know that was the case before you began your blog, but blogging does not cover up this particular multitude of sins. I know we now have the technology to allow you to be boring on an international, one-to-many scale. In no way should this be construed as an obligation.

Check this. I don’t want to see a blog where a majority of the entries are links to other sites. If they are links to an interesting entry by a fellow blogger, that is already uninteresting on a constant basis, but enough — right now — with blog equivalents of email forwards. No more “check out this wild shit.” Also, if they are the same links that anyone in your “blogroll” is also featuring that day, kill yourself. Extra negative points if it’s that Baptist church thing. GOD HATES BLOGS.

You know what else I don’t want to see? I don’t want to see entries on cool shit you bought. I don’t want to see pictures of your new stereo, computer, iPod, mail-order spouse. We know what they look like, and that rich people buy them. Sure, you can gloat to your friends about consumer purchases, but we are not your friends. We are here to be educated and entertained by quirky worldviews. I don’t want to see “ironic” reviews of substandard products. In fact, I don’t want to see products at all. This is America. We know where to find products already, and it ain’t on asshat3000.blogspot.sucker.

The idea is, either you have something to say about your observations on life, or shut up. Except Neal Pollack. You’re all right.

Blogs are a rare opportunity to find out about the lives of strangers, in all their infinite mystery. Guess what I found out? You strangers are the intellectual and emotional equivalents of a strip mall, and not the conveniently-located one either. At least disguise this fact a little. I’m not going to pass judgment on whether your private thoughts, yearnings, hopes, and passions are worth sharing, although it’s my deep belief that they must be. But I am going to suggest you start talking about something like that soon, because ABC Television already has a department for promoting their programs.

Let’s see those blogs shape up, folks. I know you can do it. I’m asking nicely this time.

by Jack, 7:27 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Foundational Issues

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The bitches: are they getting it right?

Like the Warren Report before it, Trouble Sells is a carefully-considered analysis of grave events, but that doesn’t mean it makes any sense. Garbage in, garbage out, folks. My data are poorly-collected and always have been. Short of an Open Society grant to investigate why people are such idiots, I’m the only one on staff, as chief scientist, accountant, writer, and bottle-washer here at TSHQ. My idea of data-mining is going to the bar, my exclusive social laboratory. Thank god I just did that, so I have some fresh insights for you.

I’ve been considering the oft-repeated meme that “women mature sooner than men.” When I was seven years old, people used this to describe seven-year-old men and women. I didn’t have much of an insight into it. Now I am a decrepit, used-up, you-really-don’t-want-to-talk-to-me twenty-seven, and it seems that women are still more advanced, according to these women. I had originally thought “women mature sooner” meant that they were able to survive puberty with perhaps less scarring, and in less time. Apparently, though, this same truism can be reapplied at any phase of human life. Are they going to hold this over my head forever? How many times do they want to win the same contest?

But then it hit me.

Perhaps women are able to get over that hump from awkward, lost child to wise, self-confident Frau der Welt simply because their schtick is so fucking lame.

I got up some tests on the lab rats of the Lower East Side. They were running the treadmills of Thursday Night Live. The skewed sampling, with its 60/40 male/female split, worked to my advantage, as the goal was to observe how unattached females negotiated their evenings through the minefield of strange males. This is what I discovered:

They sat there and waited for guys to kiss their ass.

Now come on, ladies. If that’s your social personage, you can’t tell me it took you long to master. Meanwhile, these poor saps of another gender have to be (choose any three, or zero) charming, witty, mysterious, warm, spiritual, snarky (heaven help us), well-groomed, well-read, well-hung, well-worn, aloof, a goof, a poof, or Bette Midler on the Roof. No wonder they do it so poorly. They don’t know how! But do you? Has anyone actually matured and deepened here, or do we have two genders who don’t know what’s going on, and one pretending? In other words, are there personalities, or just fears and masks over fears?

Don’t tell me my data are spoiled by the desperate date-night-under-a-rock environment in which they were found. I know that. But at the same time, c’mon, is it any different in the cubicle farm where you spend your days? Let’s see hands. Who here is pushing themselves to the confines of their world, and who is just sitting around disparaging events in a scathingly unshocking way? Don’t be so comfortable on your low level of operation. Reach, strive, strain. My people, Trouble Sells is here to incite you to new vistas of personal accomplishment, through delicately-constructed abusive tirades at an imaginary readership.

Stop sucking so bad. It’s getting ridiculous.

by Jack, 9:01 PM | Link | Comments (8) | More from The Damned Human Race | More from Women

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I'm the prize

Let’s work under the assumption that women feel more comfortable, more right, more in control, when they are the prize for some man. They want to be individuals, as we all do, but they want to be special, as we all do.

They want some man, or all of them, to seek them out like a prize.

I decided to tell these women, “I am the prize now.”

The problem I was first confronted with was a million years of socialization. All the men in the place knew that certain women were the prize, but none of these women knew I was.

I tried to be the mysterious stranger, but they just thought I was shy or uninterested, according to the later survey.

I tried to be aloof and send mixed signals, but they just thought I was married.

Meanwhile, the women who were the prize communicated this effectively to their male correspondents with much the same body language that wasn’t getting me anywhere at all.

Finally, I went around to all the girls and said, “Look, I’m the prize. It’s me.” Nothing. “All your life you’ve tried to woo men by being the thing they wanted. Well, look, I’m that thing for you. It’s the same except I’m that thing.”


by Jack, 6:19 AM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Damned Human Race | More from Women

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Multi-level marketing of me

Life in the bar is a series of compromises and reconfigurations. One must be fleet of foot or risk being thrown off the logroll. The general tactic is, go to talk to the bartender, not girls. Then start trading up. If, at any time, the most fascinating woman in the room is carted away in an ambulance, pick a new belle of the ball and work from there. Move laterally if you have to, but don’t move backward.

It’s about momentum. Use the bonhomie generated in one conversation to fuel your entry into the next. It isn’t as systematic as I’m making it sound. It’s organic, things ebb and flow, but you do need to be on the lookout for when Someone Better comes in. It’s sort of like An American Tragedy in that respect.

So I spent a pleasant hour speaking with a very earnest young woman about any number of forced conversational topics, ranging from how old ladies in the doctor’s office often don’t remember their real age, having lied about it so much, to subcultures in regional America where alcoholism isn’t believed in. It was very pleasant and she’s very cute, but when a fire engine pulled up in the personage of my old sparring partner, Jillian, I had to get involved.

Apparently there were other fires to put out, because Jillian’s total face-time was about five minutes, two of which were spent in the bathroom refueling her nose. However, we still had time to make plans to go to the movies next week, exchange cards, and for her to perform two filmic impressions for a few of us who happened to be there: memorable moments featuring the female leads in both the 1954 A Star is Born and the original Deep Throat. Exit Jillian, the perfect woman.

By that time the earnest girl had moved, for protection, to a new scene of her own. Cue Crazy Jane, Sweet Jane, Calamity Jane, who even the very na´ve and rather drunk somehow know not to hit on. She came on in, with a smile and a wave, very happy to see me, for whatever reason. She sat next to me, in the hot seat. But Crazy Jane and I aren’t secretly in love the way Jillian and I are, or at least it’s an even better-kept secret. I keep her at arm’s length. I like crazy girls, sure, but she seems to be somewhat pompous about it. I prefer the free-spirited crazy, not the collecting-old-newspapers crazy.

So I excused myself to go to talk to my friends Moustapha and Yusef, otherwise known as The Moroccans. (Whenever I mention Moustapha to Meg, it always takes her by surprise. She thinks it’s like talking about Mister Snuffleupagus. I can’t decide if that’s racist or witty, though politics make it difficult for it to be both.) I told them that when I came into the bar, the bartender was standing in the door smoking. He told me excitedly, “We’ve got both Moroccans here tonight.” The sight of two gentlemen getting excited over this fact caused some guy smoking nearby to ask, “Are they hot?” So I warned M. and Y. that they might be mistaken for belly dancers at some point later in the evening.

Cut to Crazy Jane, alone at the bar, if a woman with several drinks in front of her can be said to be alone. Move laterally, but never backward, to the bar, to her side, stepping over the bodies of the would-be swains who got the vapors. It doesn’t take long for this:

“Jack, I know you don’t believe me, but I’m the most open and giving person there is. Whenever we talk, I always feel like you’re so, so guarded! It’s frustrating to me, because I’ve had better connections with people I’ve been stuck on the subway with.”

But do you know what? Just as October was my month to show no mercy in the Vanquishing of the Mostly Disappointing, in November I’m trying to grow as a person. Since I have mastered Creating Unhappiness Where There Had Been None, it isn’t proving the same entertainment. It’s time to undertake a new challenge: giving people what they want, instead of withholding it forever. Stay tuned.

by Jack, 2:42 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Jane

Friday, November 14, 2003


You might remember the film Dealbreakers from a few seasons back, a romantic comedy in which Jennifer Love Hewitt plays a young woman who seems to have found her true love, until her breast reduction surgery proves too much for their relationship to bear.

This is not that story, but it might as well be.

When we last saw our hero, me, he was about to make up for a lifetime of sidelining poor, crazy Jane by giving her one perfect night of directionless jawing.

One truth I’ve stumbled upon by mistake is that if you are endlessly and repeatingly a big jerk to a vulnerable woman who only wants to be liked, and then one day you are nice to her, you get even more points than if you had been nice to her in the first place. This shouldn’t work, but it seems like it does. Hey, I just work here.

Down-and-out, crazy, underloved, but undeniably well-put-together Jane waits for me at the bar. I deftly engage her in her desired unburdening of random thoughts: the remarkable makeup of her extended family, what it’s like to be smart in a world that only cares about her ass, the fact that Roy Orbison is from Lubbock, Texas (which shocked me; how could Lubbock have two rock pioneers, when it doesn’t even have two laundromats?). She’s a philosopher, but sort of in the “I’m thoughtful, and therefore unique, and therefore right” mold.

However, I was able to sound her out on some of the Trouble Sells Issues of the Day. I brought up “maturity,” and how I’m beginning to think it’s a myth. I understand that people collect “experiences,” and that this happens over time, and that these experiences help them make decisions. But that isn’t “maturity,” which suggests that people somehow get new tools with which to make these decisions, as they grow older. I’m not convinced, from observing, that they do. I don’t think someone at 45 or 85 or 805 has any more ability to understand than does someone at 15. They may have more examples on which to draw, but no “maturity.”

Jane said, “That’s beautiful,” in the dreamy way she said everything.

“Don’t be snarky,” I told her, “it’s no longer ‘in’.”

“No, it is beautiful,” she purred. “I never say anything I don’t mean.” Good grief. That is straight out of some syllogism. Socrates is a man…all men are liars…therefore, I’m out at the bar with Jane.

It was getting late. Maybe the reason I liked Jillian the best was that she also knew the most important rule I learned in Vaudeville: always leave them wanting more. Jane was a few drinks ahead of me, but fresh out.

“Have one more?” I suggested.

“I’ll have another drink with you if you give me some cocaine,” she said in the dreamy way she said everything.

“I don’t have any cocaine. That’s the situation.”

“I’ll have another drink with you if you give me some cocaine,” she said, meaning it.

“It’s five in the morning. I wouldn’t know where to get cocaine if I wanted to get it for you.”

“I had better go home,” she said, rising, “though I would be thrilled to have another drink with you if things were different.”

Now she’s wrecking it. I told her, “Your telling me that you’d like me better if I gave you cocaine is like me telling you I’d like you better if you got a boob job. It isn’t very flattering. What happened to your celebration of humanity? I mean, liking people when you’re on drugs isn’t about you, it’s about the drugs. It isn’t hard to do, that’s what they’re for.”

Smiling, waving, her face brushing by mine as she destooled herself, saying, “You’re right. Goodnight.”

I was right.

by Jack, 4:23 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from Drinking & Women | More from Jane

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

It's all one song

Keith Richards has said that, to him, music is all one song. That might be the reason for the Forty Licks packaging running all forty song titles together to look like one title. I was wondering what that song might be about.

Apparently it’s about a man, fighting in the street, who needs to find shelter. Finding none, he is unsatisfied, just like the last time. He meets a ghetto philosopher named Jack who assures him he can’t always get what he wants, which causes the latest in his string of nervous breakdowns. He finds himself under the thumb and trying not to fade away. He asks Jack if he’s seen his mother, but as Jack has not, he has sympathy for the little devil. He goes to find the mother and helps her out. He thinks of her as a rainbow off of a cloud of dust being kicked up by wild horses on Tuesday, painted black by honky tonk women. When that’s all over now, they spend the night together.

The best way to start him up is with brown sugar, though if you miss the beast of burden, don’t stop. Happy is how Angie feels when he gets her rocking, but when she’s shattered she’s a fool to cry. Love is indeed strong, but life is more often full of mixed emotions, uncovering the keys to love but not necessarily his baby, who is unseen. A stolen heart tumbles like dice in the cover of night, prompting an emotional rescue featuring only rock and roll, which is liked, but it’s agreed they are losing their touch.

by Jack, 11:19 PM | Link | Comments (1) | More from The Damned Human Race

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Celebrity umbrellas

If you see a young couple walking on a rainy afternoon, there is always the distinct possibility that they are married to other people, not present. However, there is an even greater chance that the umbrella they share belongs to another.

Umbrellas, the most promiscuous of personal effects, are the thing that no one is above stealing. Is our fear of the damp such that we consider any umbrella fair game? And can anything be done to redesign them to eliminate their inherent Britishness?

When leaving a celebrity luncheon at which I was not a featured celebrity, I pick up a stray umbrella. When walking through a hotel dining room, the girl I’m with can’t help but collect the last umbrella from the stand. We may not be rich or famous, but we have the umbrellas of those who are.

by Jack, 7:59 PM | Link | Comments (2) | More from The Damned Human Race

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Hoarding your seconds

In the past year, the Union Square area has become thick with friendly, outgoing, and entirely reasonable-seeming dressed-up hippies asking passersby, “Do you have a second for Greenpeace?”

The apparent answer is that no one wants to spend a second thinking about Greenpeace. They are going to spend the next second walking by the opportunity to think about Greenpeace.

It almost seems like a good campaign for the opposition. Show some footage of this happening hundreds of times per day, with the tagline: “EVEN ONE SECOND IS TOO MUCH FOR GREENPEACE.”

Never give your enemies this kind of opportunity.

Perhaps the true mistake is that Greenpeace is asking for even less from people on an issue of some significance, though it is an abstract one for most people, than guys in bars ask of you when baseball is on. If last night I had to listen to twenty minutes on who was traded where, of what possible interest is your issue which only takes a second to fully discuss?

Have some self-respect, reasonable-seeming Greenpeace workers.

by Jack, 2:06 PM | Link | Comments (0) | More from The Damned Human Race

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