Thursday, April 19, 2007

Jumping Off Points

It seems every other person I meet in New York is "working on a novel" which I understand to be the more sophisticated and cosmopolitan version of the Los Angeles native's de facto act of "finishing up a screenplay."

Jobless intellectuals in New York like to write full paragraphs and use quotation marks. Trés chic.

What are the mainly bullshit, "look at what I'm doing" lines that people outside of intellectual hubs use? If I lived in a logging community in the Northwest, would I be sick of hearing about people working on their version of The Great American Porch or talking about the shed they've been commissioned to do, ya know not actually paid to do it, but it's one of those deals where they're pretty sure that if this shed hits big, a larger distributor (fingers crossed...Home Depot?!?) will definitely show interest...hopefully with, who knows, a four shed deal.

Also, HarperCollins is asking about any bird-feeder ideas I might have.

My main point in all of this is, of course, that I too need to be working on a novel. Lying is out of the question - some work must be done before I can say that I am indeed in the midst of a project...and therefore, I now present for the first time seen anywhere, selections from my upcoming first novel and soon to be party-conversation piece, "The Wind Became the Truth : Tokyo Drift."
Morris breathed deeply, the hanging mist of the cold Aleutian air stinging his lungs, and gathered himself, weary from the struggle and his daring escape, taking pause but still well aware that the next attack would come soon. He let out a wise chuckle; he rationalized that a younger, less world-weary Morris McKeever would not have survived the onslaught. The youthful, inquisitive Morris would have hesitated, he would have clamped up, concerned less about his own safety than with trying to figure out how the giant squid was able to scale fifteen thousand vertical feet in subzero weather with no climbing gear in sight.

The suction cups had done a number on his arms, and with each rapid heartbeat he felt the bloody red mounds on his biceps pulse in rhythm. Exhausted, he sat and leaned back against the Ice Fortress, clutching the ice harpoon to his sweater which was now caked in frozen blood and ink. His head bobbed as his eyes slowly closed...and a flash of giant eye and beak...the squid was upon him.

Pretty intense stuff. Of course, it doesn't make much sense if you don't know the squid's backstory, his relationship with his parents, his history as an outdoorsman, etc etc.

Ask me about it next time you see me at a party. Or better yet, just ask what I've been up to.

Do the words, "working on a novel" mean anything to ya?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Music of My Mind

I've been doing a lot of exploring on foot during the 3+ weeks that I've been in the city and not once have I worn my iPod. On a recent trek around the Upper West Side, I walked by a large mirror and upon seeing my non-iPod-wearing reflection, I realized that I was, give or take the normal margin of error, the third person I had seen without white wires sprouting from my head.

Walking through a neighborhood for the first time being able to both see AND hear what's going on around me has been important - I'm trying not to miss anything no matter how mundane or seemingly trivial. As the promo wizards at NBC who used to exhort people to watch reruns used to say, "If You Haven't Seen It, It's New to You!" about a great, witty campaign.

I love my iPod and all the illegally downloaded music it's filled with, but at the moment I'd rather hear the non-stop honking above ground, metal on metal screeches underground, and the inane conversations of trustafarians mixed with the ramblings of the crazies occurring on all levels of the city. These sounds are "New to Me!" and I've listened to the newest Shins album enough already.

But without a defacto soundtrack being fed into my ears, my subconscious has taken over; certain sights or thoughts trigger my brain-jukebox to push play on songs that have been stored in the mind-basement for years, and while the results have been undeniably enjoyable, I've discovered that my resting mind has embarrassing and terrible taste in music.

I've walked on, have crossed, or have seen a sign for 6th Ave. multiple times a day since I've been here, and every time, without fail, I immediately start humming to myself, "And the same black line that was drawn on you / Was drawn on me / And now it's drawn me in!!!!"

Thanks for that brain. Nothing like a little Wallflowers stuck in my head for the better part of a week. Is it odd that I'm noticing more cars with only "One Headlight?" Is it just coincidence that I recently went to a bar called the "My Father Will Always be a More Revered Musician Than I Could Ever Dream of Being Tavern?"

I'm thinking of heading over to Dylan's Candy Bar followed by the Hustler Store just to get some Marcy Playground on the brain.

Luckily, I've decided on one song that will be in my head from here on out - something that in my opinion plays well regardless of the situation and spans any and all emotional ranges. It's a song that defies specific circumstances, whether watching your child's first steps or getting a root canal, either making a macaroni necklace for your best friend or listening to your grandfather say, "I love ya, champ" from his death bed.

Press play below and let sonic soundscapes wash over you.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Butterfly in the Sky

New York is far more bookish than Los Angeles - not a very controversial or original thought - but the sheer amount of people reading here compared to LA is overwhelming even to someone who understood this would be the case. Knowing something to be true and then actually experiencing that truth for yourself are two highly different planes of experience; I knew blowjobs were awesome before I ever had one and I have since heard from some of my friends that indeed they are quite enjoyable...the point I'm getting at, obviously, is that seeing lots of books is a lot like getting your penis sucked.

Books are everywhere in New York. Be it a Borders or Mom and Pop's Good-Time Readie Room, there is a purveyor of the things on every corner. Most people read on the subway which makes it that much harder to have a good staring contest. There's Braille on every blade of grass in Central Park that says "This is a blade of grass."

If I had never been here before, or if I wasn't witty (I'm not), I'd probably say something like, "Everywhere, eh? In New York, eh? What...are homeless guys selling em on the streets?" Then I'd fall over laughing at my own joke and break the porcelain Lladro figurine on the side table of the living room, while everyone else slowly backed up and tried to think of eventual excuses for not inviting me to the party next time.

Oddly enough though, my awesome joke - while indeed awesome - would not have been a joke at all. There are dozens and dozens of sidewalk book-sellers, the black (economic system, not race) market nomads of the industry, and while I'm not going to make sweeping assumptions and say that many of these folks are sans-home, I wouldn't be surprised if any of the multiple offerings from Random House sometimes served as an actual random house.

The most delicious aspect of this though, the part that is coated in foie gras-infused bacon-butter, is the disconnect between the titles being offered and the person who is doing said offering. Today, a very clear and cold day, I walked by an extremely tattered man in a t-shirt, jeans and an invisible smell-coat that must have been keeping him warm. His teeth were lacking in teeth.

On his table, among many others, were titles such as "Economics," "How to Start a Successful Home Business," "America Online for Dummies," and "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

I'm surprised there wasn't a copy of "Foolproof Ways to Not Be Homeless - Or If You Already Are, 3 Easy Steps to Not Be Anymore, 2nd edition."

I thought about buying all these books, walking 40 feet away, and then turning right around, walking right back to the man and giving him those books as a present. But I didn't. I had a hunch they might have gone to waste.

Oh...there was also a copy of "Nutrition, Exercise and Body Composition" by Ernst Jokl, M.D. The man at the table probably weighed 350 pounds.

I'm not sure if he had or had not fashioned himself a book-throne made out of second-hand copies of "How to be Ironic."

Monday, April 2, 2007

S'il vous plaît, un Quesadilla Burger

I've been alive for a little over 1400 weeks. Greater New York City has somewhere in the neighborhood of 6000 restaurants.

Those overwhelming statistics are affecting me in various ways; I feel lazy for having gone to the same place for brunch TWICE since I've been here - there's no time to play favorites fool! - yet at the same time I have a sense of purpose and a lofty culinary goal to strive towards.

I'll obviously be eating at 12 new places every week from here on out.

Or will I? Probably, yes...yes I will. Or will I? Should quantity hold sway over quality when it comes to food, just because it does in nearly every other aspect of life?

No, I say. While in New York I will let the high quality of the few select eateries that have proven themselves to be among the finest in the world empty my wallet and fill my stomach.

Or will I?

I am in the city with the most audaciously stupid and expensive food in America...I'd be an idiot to pass up the $50 burger from DB Bistro Moderne, made with sirloin steak, a filling of boned short ribs braised in red wine, foie gras, and preserved black truffles. Who in his right mind wouldn't get the $50 martini from The World Bar, a mix of Remy XO and Pineau des Charentes, freshly pressed grape juice, topped with Veuve Clicquot champagne and a touch of 23-karat edible liquid gold? I wanna go jogging with a Nalgene full of that stuff.

New York food is going to be about new things and first times. First things.

So where did I end up this weekend for the first time? What culinary cherry did I have popped?

A little place called Applebee's...a place I had sworn I would never enter before Ragnarok.

I had the Quesadilla Burger and a Diet Coke. I entertained ordering a Black Cherry Razzle-Rita to wash it all down. The legends of NASCAR wall to the right of the 5 plasma screens and fake trophy case was well designed...a nice touch.

New things indeed.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Stop Staring At Me (I Think).

I find the human face fascinating, and it's very hard for me to not give people a good, quick, direct-in-the-face stare when I see them whether or not I've ever met them before. Strangers are better than people I know, and weird looking strangers with ugly facial hair or interesting scars are the cream of the crop.

Sure it's rude, but so is picking your nose and flicking at someone, and all of my friends and family have been doing that for YEARS.

New York so far has been the weird-faces-to-look-at depository that I hoped it would be; countless waves of ugly, gnarled trolls mixed in with symmetrically perfect and exfoliated magazine faces...I'm like a kid in a candy store only instead of candy, the store carries various severed heads. I think there's a place like that in Midtown.

In a span of less than 20 minutes today, I saw 3 people who were intensely cross-eyed. It was as if their noses were refrigerator doors and their eyeballs magnets. It was as if there was a sink-hole between their eyes. All had either the best or the worst peripheral vision possible...I'm not really sure how it works.

"Have any of you ever had a problem seeing the hidden image in those 3-D Magic Eye Posters?"

"Yeah, I figured not."

A Walking City

After years of being car-dependent, to the point where anything over a 10 minute walk would be an excuse to burn some fossil fuels or stab a dolphin, it's been amazing to live somewhere that forces me to use my skills of bipedalism.

I've walked more in the last couple weeks than those folks who went for a stroll from Bataan and while there are differences between the Upper West Side of Manhattan and a dirt road in the Philippines strewn with hundreds of rotting corpses, my thighs are still really tired.

My main problem so far though has less to do with the amount of walking and more to do with the complete lack of walking prowess that I've encountered from the New York natives so far. These are people who have lived here for years and are used to using their feet to get everywhere - one would assume they would understand basic locomotive skills and the processes by which groups travel through transportation systems. It would be like someone who grew up in Hawaii not knowing how to surf, or someone raised in Omaha not knowing how to make meth.

New Yorkers must know how to walk. Yeah, not so much.

Everyone here likes to take a break at the top of the busiest stairwell or suddenly discover a buffalo nickel at the cut-through of the narrowest alley. Sure, let's play jacks...right here! I remember at some point in my life, an old, wise man put his hand on my shoulder and taught me the ancient art of passing people on your right. Everyone stays on their respective right side of the walkway, everyone walks unhindered, grasshopper.

I've done the "This way, no, okay this way, wait, uh..but, eh, I, okay I'll go on this side" dance 6000 times since I've been here. It seems at times that people are trying to run headfirst into me, as if there's some great game going on where everyone is included and racking up points for crashing into the clueless dopes unaware of what's going on.

Well from now on I'm gonna start playing. Now if you excuse me, I have to go tie my shoes in a crosswalk.