More Thoughts on New York City (Now With More Fights!!!)

This time I wasn’t directly involved with the narrowly-avoided fight, but I and an entire subway car full of vaguely anxious twenty-something white guys probably came away from the whole thing feeling like we narrowly avoided getting our asses kicked.

I was hanging out with the indefatigable (my favorite word) Ajai Raj, after he returned stateside from the land of ear-chopping serial murderers and adorable koala bears. Anyways, we got his trundlebox and rucksacks back into his apartment and then had a few beers and burgers at a nearby tavern (coincidentally, where he nearly had his ass kicked several months prior) before I headed back home on the subway.

It was around 10:30 or 11:00, so Union Square was crowded with drunks when I transferred to the L. I shoved my way into the car, and, since I’m 6’5, 250 lbs, and a nice guy, immediately positioned myself in the furthest corner so other people could get around me. Then, since I didn’t have a book or iPod on me, I turned around to people-watch.

Two women got on behind me, and the smaller of the two grabbed the center pole. For a split fraction of a second, her hand grazed that of a gentleman already holding on to said pole. She immediately moved her hand and apologized, but it was TOO LATE.

The guy began grumbling and slurring in what I’ve come to recognize as the “Don’t-Fuck-With-Me-Crazy-Man” voice, and thus, I was immediately thrust into the eternal dilemma of the subway fight. I obviously couldn’t look away, but if I stared, the odds of Crazy Subway Man catching my eye and suddenly deciding I’d done something inexcusable would increase. The solution? Keep everything in my peripheral and look for split seconds, then away. Like the sun. Or cleavage, if you want to go theĀ Seinfeld route.

Anyways, Crazy Subway Man (CSM from here on out), was pissed, but in this lazy, rotgut-impaired way that makes everything a little blurrier and slower, yet somehow enhances the threat of imminent violence. He told the one girl that he was “not in the mood” and “not to test him” and that he “likes pussy too”. Eventually I deduced that he had identified this girl and her friend as a lesbian couple, which turned out to be accurate. Who knew heroin made you prescient in regards to sexual orientation?

The girl, who seemed more bemused than angry about the whole thing basically told him what everybody in the car who saw the whole thing already knew: it was an accident, sorry, etc. He wasn’t having it, and after a while her girlfriend (apparently), who is nearly as tall as I am, caught wind of what was going on and started asking the guy what his problem was.

It’s at this point that CSM began to threaten the two women, albeit subtly, with physical violence. Something along the lines of “I’ll show you rather than tell you”, implying that he was about to lay hands on them. At this point I was struck with a dilemma:

Should I follow my good ol’, Texan-mother-infused instincts and immediately step in on behalf of these women, or should I, being in New York, do as New Yorkers do, and mind my own business? They seemed to be handling it fine themselves, and I didn’t want to be the asshole “sexist without thinking he’s a sexist” guy who stepped in to save the supposed damsels in distress who can handle their own shit, thank you very much.

I opted to mind my own business. Looking around the car, it seemed like a lot of other young men on board were wrestling with the same thing. Luckily, nothing came of it. Following the universal law of drunken shit-talking, the more garbage this guy spewed the less likely he was to actually lift a finger. The tall half of the couple pulled her girlfriend off at the next stop, and CSM departed a few stops later.

I relayed this story to Ben Seligson, and his takeaway was “I have no idea what I would do if somebody started yelling at me on the subway”. The truth is, I don’t either. But sooner or later, it’s bound to happen, right?

New York: where the crazy people are bold because the police have better things to do than fuck with them.


The Big Apple

After a long hiatus, I am finally somewhat settled in at my Brooklyn apartment. The next step is to find a job. I’ve been applying like mad to anything having to do with writing/editing/publishing, and also for some jobs that I hope will want to hire a big guy with no real discernible skills besides writing (these consist mainly of security gigs at bars, hotels, apartment buildings, etc).

Bushwick is cool. My neighborhood is decent with some good places nearby, including one of my favorite bars/restaurants, Tandem, and a new place that is a combination cafe/hot dog restaurant/bar/yoga studio called The Cobra Club. Go figure.

As of late my life has consisted mainly of slowly getting the apartment in shape, applying for jobs, and getting my wheezy ass back into shape. However, a few nights ago, the incomparable Ben Miller was in town. We met up for drinks, and happened into something weird.

Since he was staying in Jersey and I’m in Brooklyn it was only fair for each of to meet somewhere in Manhattan. He was getting into Penn Station, so I found a decent looking pub in the area called the Rattle and Hum. It was lively for a Tuesday, and had a very good selection of uncommon beers. Lots of good belgians. Anyways we had a few rounds, trashed the new Batman movie, and then decided to venture off for something a little quieter.

The place we settled on was called The Archive. It had good yelp reviews and looked fairly classy, judging from the photos. Mind you, this was in midtown Manhattan, so we weren’t expecting a dive, and we didn’t get one. Dark wood, quiet music, sparse crowd, candles…in short, a typical small Manhattan lounge. We ordered drinks, took them to a table, and drank them while talking basketball.

After about 30 minutes we found ourselves dry, and went back up to the bar for another round. After putting in our order, we started making small talk with the bartender, who was very cute, and from California, as it turned out. We batted around some casual small talk: where we were from, how Ben and I met, how I had just moved to NYC, etc. It all seemed very inoffensive, but I guess I was wrong, because at that point, guy-in-a-ponytail decided he wanted to join the conversation.

“Hey,” I heard a voice say, not loudly or aggressively. I turned.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“You two are the dumbest people I’ve ever met.” he said, with sort of a smile on his face. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond, and at first thought maybe he was drunkenly trying to joke with us.

“Uh, OK. Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Wherefore are we stupid?” Ben said before I could stop him.

“Here, in this bar, you’re all being stupid!” ponytail said. His friend, who looked like George Costanza with hair, winced and looked like he wanted to disappear inside of his bar stool.

“Wherefore means why, but nice one,” Ben continued. “What’s up, man?”

We continued back and forth in this manner for some time, with ponytail continually saying we were the dumbest guys he’d ever met, referring to us as “dumb and dumber” at one point, and saying something about how he lived there.

“Ok…” I said, confused as to why this had anything to do with me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about defusing drunk fights, it’s to be generally conciliatory or neutral, and maintain eye contact, so that’s what I did. I never apologized or acted like he was right, I just sort of shrugged it off as if to say “If that’s what you feel, fine. What do you want me to do about it?”

“What are you going to do about it?” ponytail asked Ben. Seeing that I wasn’t in the mood for his games, he was no solely focused on Mr. Miller.

“Be nice,” the bartender said, not a little nervously.

“I’m so sorry,” Costanza muttered under his breath to me.

“Watch you walk out the door,” Ben replied, drawing my attention to the fact that the bartender was closing the two gentlemen out.

“Yeah, you are!” ponytail sort-of shouted, misstaking this for some sort of victory. “Because you’re a pussy” (This is all being paraphrased from memory)

“Yeah, OK,” Ben said, and we tried to turn back to our conversation with the bartender. My drink was done. It was good.

I heard the tell-tale sound of a bar stool scraping across wood as ponytail kicked his chair out, and I immediately stood up put myself between the asshole and Ben.

“I’ll come over there,” ponytail sort of kind of shouted again, while Costanza threw himself into his drunk-asshole buddy, kind of pushing him away from us. “You’ve got a big mouth,” he said, again directed towards Ben.

“I’VE got a big mouth?” Ben asked, amazed.

Ponytail wandered off and disappeared in the bathroom, leaving the bartender, Ben, myself, and Costanza all alone.

“OK, can somebody tell me what just happened?” I asked to anybody who might have a clue. Ben and the bartender muttered equally confused platitudes.

“Please don’t take it personally,” Costanza said, not really looking at either of us. I tried to make nice and say hey thanks for helping us deal with this guy, and shook his hand, but he didn’t seem at all interested in talking to me.

We concentrated on our drinks when ponytail came out of the bathroom and as far as I could tell, he and his friend walked out without incident.

It was, without a doubt, one of the strangest things that has ever happened to me. I still have no idea what he possibly could have gotten so pissed off about. The bartender, as modestly as she could, explained that she thought he was jealous that we were talking to her. I didn’t press the issue, but surmised that perhaps he had been trying to chat her up all night, failed, and then got angry when we rolled up and began talking with no problem. Scenario two is that he didn’t like that we weren’t form New York, which is a really weird thing to get upset over in midtown Manhattan. Scenario three is that he saw my Texas tattoo or overheard I was from Texas and just decided I was an asshole.

In any event, we spent another twenty minutes or so drinking and talking to the bartender, and at the end of it all, she (Jennifer) gave me a handwritten list of good bars in Manhattan and her phone number and email. Suck on that, ponytail!