HOME TOWN FEELING

Decided to spend this beautiful spring day lunching alone at Five Guys Burgers and Fries’ West Village location. (Repping Barrow Street, y’all.) I even made the bold move of eating at one of those loner stools facing the sidewalk, where patrons are welcome to slowly chew their cud while gazing longingly out the window, like some kind of sad sack from an Edward Hopper painting. (Chubby Nighthawks at the Diner) From this vantage point, I was able to spend my lunch observing a very large group of high school kids (about 30-35 by my count) and a handful of adult chaperones herded together on the corner, and the crazy homeless man who was terrorizing all of them.

The crazy homeless man was creating quite a spectacle, kind of a specialty among crazy people. He was directing traffic (thanks, citizen!) and panhandling with the help of a cardboard sign engineered with multiple flaps that can be lifted and lowered in order to create a kind of shifting, extended narrative with multiple punchlines. For example, the message might read: “Spare some change for peace…of PIZZA!…GOD BLESS (SMILEY FACE)…i’ll bite your face!” It’s like some kind of project from Real Simple Magazine, if Real Simple Magazine specialized in D.I.Y. projects to help improve your chances of raising scratch for heroin and Hostess Fruit Pies.

In between his two primary responsibilities, the crazy homeless man found time to yell at the pack of adolescent tourists. The tourists held their position, most likely because that corner was some kind of unfortunate rendez-vous point on their way to see “Gutenberg: The Musical.” So, instead, they responded to the crazy homeless man’s aggressive taunts and entreaties by tightening their herd and finding all sorts of ways to avoid eye contact. Have you ever seen 35 people in a pack, each looking in a completely different direction? I have, and it’s a pretty neat trick. In fact, I was probably enjoying it too much because I feel kind of pleased when New York demonstrates its capacity for lunacy. I don’t mean the TV-ready, self-promoting lunacy of the Naked Cowboy but, rather, the vaguely menacing lunacy of the Naked Guy Applying Spray Deodorant on the Uptown 6 Train. I didn’t want these people to be harmed in any way–I had one eye looking out for the police, and was surprised it took them as long as it did to show up–but I was sort of hoping the experience would at least cause a few of the high schoolers to return to their church youth group and share their harrowing experience. Maybe that way, in the future, the sidewalk around the East Village Cold Stone Creamery will be a little less crowded with tourists and I will be able to pass through on my way to the movies. That is my small, selfish wish.

IT WAS ALL A GENTRIFIER’S DREAM

It’s started. Today, Fulton Avenue and a stretch of my street just beyond Fulton were clogged with mid-nineties model cars and jeeps, production trucks, film equipment, crafts services tables, and P.A.’s with hooded sweatshirts and bored expressions, hopping from one foot to another to stay warm.

They’re filming “Notorious,” the Biggie Smalls biopic, in my neighborhood, a fact that is sure to be announced, flickr’ed, and repeatedly blogged by every 20 and 30-something white person living within 10 blocks of the production. (Myself included, obviously.)

As a self-acknowledged contributor to gentrification, I possess all the dominant traits–first and foremost a deep scorn toward caucasians who have been living in the neighborhood even one hour less than me. Nonetheless, whenever possible I try to remain aloof, or at least somewhat resigned out of concern for appearing “uppity.” For instance, I will publicly defend our Met supermarket to more outspoken (spoiled) gentrifiers who decry its lack of organic produce or safe-for-consumption meats, but I still have private tantrums whenever a common grocery item suddenly disappears from the store for weeks at a time, which happens with mind-boggling frequency. (The most recent offenders: brownie mix, cat litter, Diet Coke)

But even the best-behaved gentrifiers have a hard time keeping quiet about certain things, usually ones that fall into either the category of “Caucasian-Minded Services” (juice bars, thai restaurants, yoga studios, community gardens) or “Street Cred By Proxy.” (murders, drug spots, friendly homeless people, a block party where some women are selling jerk chicken and rice or homemade sangria from a 2-liter bottle of Tropical Paradise soda) And a Biggie Smalls movie being filmed on my block straddles both of these categories nicely for reasons which are probably pretty obvious. It’s kind of like earning a supporting argument in a classic “my surrounding poverty is greater/cooler than yours” debate.

Mostly, I’m just happy a Biggie Smalls movie is being filmed anywhere, although I am a little concerned about the track record of the creative team behind it. Its director is George Tillman, Jr.–responsible for directing “Soul Food” –and its writer is Reggie Rock Bythewood, who is responsible for writing several episodes of “A Different World” and “Biker Boyz,” the first movie to pull of the impossible trick of making both Lawrence Fishburne and Djimon Hounsou appear as gay, if not more gay, than Tyson Beckford. I wonder if the production will have to sweep all the real-life drug dealers off Fulton Street for a couple of days so they can replace them with make-believe movie drug dealers. More importantly, I wonder if they’ll clean up some of the city’s unfinished-construction debris when they leave, or if they’ll keep it around for the production because it makes Fulton Avenue look more “urban.”

NEVER AGAIN

It seems my local post office has decided to add its own methadone clinic, in a small area right near where people are supposed to fill out forms for postal insurance and international shipping. I don’t know whether this was done for reasons of necessity (a waning interest in commemorative stamps?) or convenience, but it really does brighten up the place!

Why just today, while waiting (for seventeen hours) to purchase stamps, the normally boring drone of postal service transactions was enhanced by the expletive-sprinkled screams of a very insane and emaciated black man. (wearing, among other things, a powder pink wool scarf with matching gloves) When he wasn’t amusing all of us with tales of “bitches” who “better not step to me,” he was rooting through a trash can and stuffing whatever he found into a small, plastic shopping bag from the Virgin Megastore. His Virgin bag was practically bursting at the seams with all the trashy delights contained within. Everyone was entertained, but none more than the woman standing at the nearby “postal forms” counter, where she was filling out forms and, from what I could hear, crying hysterically.

Special thanks to the post office for giving these two dangerous addicts warm shelter, and allowing them to pretty much block the exit. After all that Christmas ham, I think I needed the extra exercise as I went out of my way to leave the post office through a different door for fear of being cried on or bitten in the face.

THE ‘MR. CONFIDENCE’ AWARD GOES TO..

…the chatty old man at Starbucks. When he steps up to order his coffee and butter croissant, you can be sure you’ll get an earful. He flirts, he inquires, he quips. It doesn’t matter how long the queue is, or how much of the busy employees’ attention he’s dominating. Sometimes I’ll watch him in line, as he searches out things in the store he can use to start conversation. Today he examined some of the inoffensive CDs on the counter and, when a barista approached, he removed a British Invasion CD and chatted about it for a few minutes, then put it back on the rack, and ordered his usual. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. It seems like chatty old man always has something to talk about!

And sure, that might qualify him for the “Mr. Friendly” award, but Mr. Confidence? Well, what if I told you he did all of this unsolicited chatting THROUGH AN ELECTRONIC VOICEBOX STUFFED INSIDE A HOLE IN HIS THROAT??? That is confidence.

I am not much for small talk to begin with, but if I had to speak with a digital robo-voice through a special electronic device, I think I would choose my words very carefully. I wouldn’t go out of my to approach a Starbucks barista and say, “Hel. Lo. Will. I. En. Joy. This. Com. Pact. Disc. Sound. Track. For. In. The. Wild. Be. Cause. I. Am. Pret. Tee. Wild. Young. Lay. Dee. Ha. Ha. Bloop. Bleep. Bzz.”

If I were in the chatty old man’s shoes and voice modulator, here are the only things I would ever bother pressing my hand to my throat-hole to say:

“Ex. Cuse. Me. Can. You. Kind. Lee. Die. Rect. Me. To. The. Near. Est. Gun. Shop?”

and

“Par. Don. Me. But. Can. You. Please. Tell. Me. How. To. Dis. En. Gage. The. Safe. Tee. Switch?”

THIS IS HOW WE INCREASE THE PEACE AT THE USPS

The latest reason I’ve warmed to my not-so-new-anymore neighborhood is that it’s the first place I’ve ever lived where a line-jumping incident at the post office has the potential to turn into a Denzel Washington Oscar clip.

Outside of universities, the post office is the only remaining place where Americans can truly experience Communism. Even the Department of Motor Vehicles has whizzed past the post office in terms of expedience, technological innovation and customer service–a fact that must be very sad news to the many horrible stand-up comics and advertising copywriters who still make the DMV their go-to place of comedic drudgery.

I’ve been to some awful post offices (brag) but the Adelphi outpost on Fulton Street is the ultimate farthammer on your would-be good day. It reminds me of the hayseed bank Nicholas Cage, John Goodman and William Forsythe rob in Raising Arizona. The Adelphi USPS, like my neighborhood, is full of old-timers in linen shirts trying to cash government checks, and illegals with neck tattoos sending money orders to their kin. (I’ve noticed that money orders are really very popular in my neighborhood, and I’m still not totally certain why. I’m sure there is some profound middle-class ignorance on my part, lurking behind my naiveté. Do old and lower income people simply not have checking accounts? Do certain kinds of people really not trust banks, and store their savings in Mason jars?) The female employee–they are all female–commandeering 1/5th of the available windows on any given day roll their eyes and complain openly about their lives to customers who have been waiting in a 15-person deep line for 30 minutes just to buy some commemorative stamps. Once, I heard this exchange:

CUSTOMER TRYING TO SHIP FOUR HEAVY BOXES OF EQUAL WEIGHT, EACH LABELED ‘WOMEN OF BRAZIL 2008 CALENDAR’: “Careful. These boxes are heavy.”

FEMALE POSTAL WORKER: “I don’t do nothing but lift heavy boxes. That’s the story of my life. The story of my life.”

CUSTOMER: “I hear you.”

POSTAL WORKER: “It’s the story of my life.”

Earlier this week, I was standing in a very long line of people waiting for an older gentleman to complete his social security check cashing/money order sending transaction combo, when the old man was approached by a young, robust black gentleman in a straw hat (not kidding) who I understood to be his son. It was very obvious the son was happy to see his dad and even happier to use his dad as an excuse to cut to the front of the line, in front of many ornery customers. Once the senior finished his business, the junior began his own, filling yet another money order. This injustice created a chorus of disgruntled murmurings from the line. A woman directly behind me clucked her tongue loudly, while a man who looked to be in his late sixties repeated over and over again, with steadily increasing volume, “don’t give a DAMN about nobody.” His pitch changed like a Pixies song, soft on either end, with a booming crescendo every time he hit the word “damn.” Although I felt a kind of solidarity with his angrer, I decided not to echo his loud complaints because I am terribly allergic to being face-punched.

After a minute or so of boos and hisses directed at Straw Hat’s wide and muscular back, he finally turned around slowly to face his detractors. He looked up and down the line and announced, “You gonna keep speaking out the side of your neck or you gonna face me like a man?” The old man in line immediately manned-up and took credit, and an argument followed, as Straw Hat stated his case and explained that he was joining his father in line and explained there was no difference between him asking his father to place a money order for him, and him placing one on his own. That would have been enough for me, but the old man held his ground and said, “but there is a difference.”

Straw hat got his back up a bit: “Tell me what the difference is, then, if you a man.”

“What you did is wrong. It’s damn wrong,” shot back the old man.

At that, Straw Hat turned his back on him, and went back to business for a moment, before interrupting his money order one more time. This time he turned not to the old man, but to all of us and said, his voice all bass and boom:

“There’s too much out there in the world trying to bring us down right now, for us to be fighting over nothing. We should be down in the trenches together, like brothers, fighting for what’s right.

“It was never my intention to offend you. It was never my intention to offend any of you and if I did, I apologize.”

I don’t know if he made all of that up on the spot or if he was quoting a speech from the film Glory, but it was a sincerely awesome moment and we were all hushed. Then Straw Hat extended his hand, and the old man met it, and they squashed their post office beef right then and there.

As Straw Hat finished his own business and left, I heard the old man mutter to the tongue-clucking woman in front of him, “He did the right thing.” He nodded, with great respect. “He did the right thing.” I nodded my head, too, thinking, “You are so wrong. That asshole jumped in line.” Thinking, but not saying.

BLOCK-ROCKIN’ BLOCK PARTY ROCKS THE BLOCK

That would be the headline I’d use if writing about my street’s block party for The New York Post. If I were writing about the block party for Teen People Magazine, I’d probably go with something like BLOCK PARTIES ROCK! or BLOCK PARTY HEARTS ADAM BRODY. I don’t know, really. Teen People Magazine doesn’t cover the block party beat very thoroughly. In any case, last weekend was my street’s annual block party, and it did not disappoint in either the block or party departments. There were balloons.

There was also barbecued chicken and people eating weed brownies and a Brazilian man trying vainly to teach kids how about rhythmic percussion. My building was the main attraction for most of the afternoon, for reasons very closely associated with the aforementioned Brazilian and his large collection of drums and cymbals, which he seemed willing to share with any able-bodied child on the block. It was fun watching the musician teach his makeshift percussion orchestra. He would patiently tap out a beat on his large drum, then get small sections of kids to respond in kind. Once a beat was perfected by that group, he’d bang another beat, and a new section of kids would mimic it. He did this again and again, making sure each small part sounded great, as he slowly built his four-part rhythm. Then he would shout a four-count and all four parts to join in at once, creating possibly the most horrible, rhythmless car crash you could ever hope to hear. For hours. Right beneath my window. A window that separated the drum terrorism from me and my laptop, which I was using to meet a very urgent writing deadline.

Eventually, I allowed myself a break to join the party I’d been anticipating all summer. I was greeted by my upstairs neighbor, Dave—a very nice guy who shakes my hand a lot. That probably seems like a strange thing to call attention to. I could have said, “my upstairs neighbor, “Dave—he’s very tall, and I sometimes regard him as my physical protector,” or “Dave—he looks like Heavy D a year or two before the news of his heaviness became officially announced.” But Dave really does shake my hand a lot. Sometimes he’ll shake my hand hello and goodbye in the same 30-second exchange, then he’ll remember something else and, after he’s told me, he’ll shake my hand a third time. He also mixes up his handshake styles enough to keep me guessing, and to keep me feeling very awkward. Hard, lingering soulful grip? Fist bump? Quick slap? I usually just extend my fist and allow it to hang in the air while Dave has his way with it.

Dave worked the grill, which had been dragged from our building’s yard out to the fenced-in area where we leave our trash. For the day, our trash cage was our party cage, and our party cage was block party central. Everyone showed up to bang drums and scoop pasta salad like a motherfucker. In addition to the grill, Dave and his wife set up a table covered with food and plates and cups and such. (literally covered—moving one thing required moving several others and you had to approach the table like a game of Jenga, with perishables.) Hot dogs and hamburgers were grilled, as was something else because the barbecue tongs were caked with some kind of unidentified, chipped and barbecued meat that made for a very awkward experience when trying to move Lisa’s veggie dogs around the grill. But we didn’t complain, since we both felt like complaining was for self-entitled gentrifiers; real neighbors shut up because they know a little bit of animal flesh hitching a ride on a soy dog isn’t enough to rattle one’s party cage.

Our block association got the usual permission to pop open a fire hydrant, and children frolicked in the cool water as a sidewalk DJ blasted “Slap Some D’s On That Bitch” loud enough for Jesus to have second thoughts. But other than a DJ set, some Brazilian instruments, and those pot brownies everyone was whispering about, the block party was relaxed and slow, and friendly. It didn’t compare to the party a block over, which Lisa and I visited the previous weekend. They had a full day scheduled, including a talent show, chalk drawings, and a double-dutch contest. Lisa and I caught the last half of an exciting musical chairs competition, set up in the middle of the street. Instead of a wobbly record player borrowed from the school’s AV department, they had a stereo system with massive cabinet speakers, an XLR mic input, and a live MC officiating the event while performing musical cues on a thunderous hyphy hip-hop soundtrack. (At one point, the MC announced that he “had to” play the same song for a second round of musical chairs because “that song was just too damn hype.”) When a young teenaged girl won the competition, everyone went bananas, jumping up and down and screaming and hugging. And the MC declared, as loud as history, “We have a new champion in the Leffert’s Avenue Block Association 2007 Musical Chairs Competition!!!!”

People often measure how long you need to live in NYC to be a “real” New Yorker. It’s a dumb game, because the answer is invariably “exactly as long as I’ve been here, and much longer than you’ve been here.” I find it’s very trivial stuff, not unlike the way toddlers proudly add fractions to their age to magnify their life experience—and as with those toddlers, the exercise is unintentionally funny. The whole discussion of experience as measured by time is moot to me anyway, because if you’re in the right place at the right time, you only have to live in New York for five excellent minutes—just long enough to catch the thrilling end of the 2007 musical chairs competition—to feel like you’ve been here all your life.

THE SHOCK OF THE NEW

Well, well, well…I’m gone only three weeks and already another Dunkin’ Donuts has elbowed its way into another downtown location, right next to a Subway Sandwich franchise. Congratulations, jerks!

The new DD looks like it just pushed the surrounding buildings aside to secure its position, like one of those old Chinatown ladies determined to squeeze themselves and their seventeen pink shopping bags filled with dried shark fin into the impossible sliver of middle seat left on the subway during rush hour. It’s so narrow that its (many) employees have no choice but to sidestep their way along the space behind the counter. I’m not sure why they even bothered.

People often lament Starbucks as the death knell of any neighborhood in the city, but Starbucks is a quaint old-world bohemia compared to Dunkin’ Donuts. (Or “Fuckin’ GoNuts” as I prefer to call it, to the delight of all!) At least Starbucks (Or “Fourbucks” as I prefer to call it!!) has the decency to attempt to blend in with its surroundings. The understated greens and browns are almost a polite apology, their restraint desperately but quietly compensating for their ubiquity.

Then there’s the miserable chocolate frosted big top circus that is Dunkin’ Donuts. The interiors are more brightly and starkly lit than most operating rooms, in order to provide their security cameras maximum clarity, even as it induces migraine headaches for customers and employees. And DD’s brand colors—tangerine and pink, both filtered through a fecal-tinted gel—coordinate with absolutely nothing, which is obviously the point. They’re designed to confront, to draw attention to themselves. Those colors are the nouveau-riche creeps who rent a neon-yellow stretch Humvee to parade their PlayStation-fattened teenager and his friends around on prom night. If Dunkin’ Donuts were a person, he would name his yacht “The MILF Hunter” and cruise the harbor while blasting Snow’s “Informer” from his boat’s $50,000 stereo system.

I realize Dunkin’ Donuts is a juggernaut and it’s probably silly to protest it this way. It’s like trying to cure AIDS—most people have just gotten used to it, right? But the thing that bothers me about the newly minted one in the area near my office is that it’s directly across the sidewalk from one of those mobile doughnut carts. This cart, in particular, has been doing a really brisk business for as long as I’ve seen it, and part of that is a credit to the owner/prisoner trapped within it. He seems genuinely happy to be some kind of half man/half vending machine, and it kills me that now there’s a nationally franchised doughnut shop staring him in the face each morning. I wonder if he drags his store home at night and laments to his wife and seventeen children about how “All day it is a party in there, with sprinkles and coollatta!” “These millionaires with climate controlled air and straws that are also spoons!” “What am I to do?”

And sure, he could change locations, by pushing himself a block south, but that’s not the point. The point is, it’s utterly depressing to watch a tacky chain like Dunkin’ Donuts pop up with no other apparent reason to exist than crowding out a one-man operation. And it’s even more depressing when that one-man operation is out of blueberry muffins and Dunkin’ Donuts has delicious and fresh-seeming ones in stock, so now I have to remember to hide a DD muffin bag in my backpack as I walk past the doughnut cart each morning. No one wins here, except my belly. And Dunkin’ Donuts. Well, I guess technically everyone wins except the man who lives inside a metal box built for doughnuts and pastry.

HOW TO ‘PLEASE MOON-EXCUSE OUR SPACE-APPEARANCE’

Mars 2112 is, by any standard, a tragic enterprise in theme restauranting. Guess who wants to eat in the dark, in a banquette made of moon rocks? No one. And no one wants to insert an additional layer of self-consciousness into their already compromised dignity each time they crave an onion blossom, by being required to order it by its proper menu name: “Galactic Martian Blooms From the Onion-12 Star System.” And absolutely no one wants a fake rocket ship ride standing between them and their overpriced domestic beer and fried appetizers. And that was Mars 2112 in its heyday.

There is a song by Crooked Fingers called “A Little Bleeding” which contains the following excellent lyric: “Last night I drove to go nowhere at all / And came upon the saddest thing I ever saw / A pretty girl all strapped up in an ugly car.” I find that contrast very effective, and feel similarly sad about seeing a theme restaurant in decline. Theme restaurants, like amusement parks, arrive with a perfect un-self-conscious jubilance and they remain perfect only prior to being touched, lived-in, and enjoyed. That is the great tragedy of theme restaurants. They are at their peak before they can even be appreciated. From there, based upon the commitment of investors – which is directly proportional to the number of chicken fingers making their way from the kitchen to your tabletop (which is, of course, shaped like a tall ship or a cow or a turntable or helen reddy) – the pacing and attention to the restaurant’s upkeep will be determined.

Some restaurants keep it together for years without showing any sign of wear. Others give up relatively quickly, but eventually all theme restaurants lose their good times patina and start to naturally develop a “whore’s face.” An “excuse our appearance” sign at an ordinary restaurant hardly registers any emotion, but if you go to Chuck E. Cheese and see an “out of order” sign on the whack-a-mole, with a mole half-emerged from its mole-hole, your heart can’t help but sink a few inches. It’s like a scab on a baby’s head. (Has anyone been inside a Chuck E. Cheese lately? Adult film veteran Nina Hartley’s rectum has more lived-in charm. [please repeat that joke in dennis miller's voice, and then kill me.] The animatronic puppets are either gone, or have cloth sacks covering their dead eyes. The video games are still from the “Mr. Do” and “Pengo” era. And the plastic ball cages have gone so long without being cleaned out that when you dive into them you’re bound to come up with a piece of discarded pepperoni or someone else’s band-aid stuck to your eyelids. Chuck E. Cheese has become a lousy place to hold a birthday party, and a decent place to get raped.*)

Mars 2112 might be suffering more than any of its peers right now. The sidewalk in front of the restaurant is undergoing long-term construction, and very uninviting black fencing stretches all around the above-ground entrance, with just a small, understated white sign bearing the logo of Mars 2112 with a message begging people to ignore the catastrophe barricading the restaurant away from public viewing. The overall effect – dark, ominous fencing; broken asphalt; the stench of the earth’s core – brings to mind an establishing shot on Hogan’s Heroes.

And right out in front of it all is a lone out-of-work actor dressed as a space alien. Somehow, Mars 2112 thought the appearance of a member of their cast of kooky alien characters – I think it was Glorianna – would help to distract tourists from the network of plasticized razor wire long enough to slip inside a hole in the fencing for some Phobos Phries with Moon Gravy. And Glorianna felt just as embarrassed as the passers-by. She stood near the entrance, a faint beacon of fun juxtaposed with a dark industrial apocalypse, and didn’t do much of anything but offer a weak smile from beneath her alien prosthetic face. She had nothing to hand out, no story to tell. She was just a women in glittery robes, wearing cheap Halloween makeup in broad daylight.

When a mother and child approached, curious, Glorianna spent several moments not noticing them, perhaps hoping they would leave and help make this day lurch forward without incident. Finally, she swiveled her head toward them, accidentally setting her rubber head extension off to a jaunty angle. “Hi,” said Glorianna, grease paint running down her chin. The mother covered her child’s face and quickly ushered him into Cosi.

*Please excuse me as I sit here and quietly await my lawsuit.

HOW TO SEE YOUR PLACE ON THE EVOLUTIONARY CHART

Lately, my social plans have been thankfully restricted to the kinds of establishments patronized predominately by other people just like me. Divey bars with salted snacks and homey restaurants with mix-and-match cutlery, 3/4 filled with other 20 and 30-somethings who share my lack of muscle tone and taste in eyewear, are of average height and natural beauty, possess mid-priced haircuts, limited edition sneakers, and a belief that jukebox music should also have lyrics. Throw in a few oddballs here and there for texture, and it makes for a nice place to spend your time. I like my kind, and I don’t feel as though my lack of desire to drink and dine and view and hear outside of my immediate demographic speaks to a lacking sense of adventure; it’s just that I value my time on this planet.

So, when I’m thrust into an alien environment I sometimes regress. To be more specific, when I am thrust into an environment that, to me, seems above my station on the social evolutionary chart, I become awkward and helpless. (I needed to be clear about this because a dinner club in Harlem is definitely an alien environment, but I would consider that a lateral social move.) The meat-packing district has become that alien landscape, for me. I always thought this area was kind of happening, but it was never happening like this. I could relax at Florent, and even Pastis. The Hog Pit – no problem, as long as it wasn’t too crowded in the back. All those crack whores along 11th Avenue? My people.

But Vento? My God. And what about Pop Burger? The only White Castle-type fast food burger place with a private VIP room in the back. How many more ways are people required to remain painfully aware of their social status?

At night, the meat-packing district has become lousy with products of a superior (or cosmetically-abetted superior) gene pool. Women with buffed skin with golden highlights along their calf muscles. Expensive hand bags. Microscopically small cell phones. Men who, on average, tower over me by three to four inches minimum. Thick wrists with coarse hair and precious metal timepieces, compared to my balsa-wood wrist-twigs encircled by a Keith Haring Swatch and gummy bracelets.

Do these people go to the movies, I wonder. I never see them there, eating from buckets of cumin-foam-drizzled popcorn and drinking 64 ounce cups of electrolyte water. Do they laugh at things other than their own friends’ personal humiliations? My initial response to the lovely and wealthy is derision, but I must confess that what I really feel, more than anything, is a deep fascination. I get the same way when I’m at my gym, surrounded by heavily muscled men. I never see them anywhere else, even though it’s a neighborhood gym and as such I should be seeing these guys all over the neighborhood. And, in their company, and likewise in the company of the exotic birds of the meat-packing district, I can’t help but think: “How can we be the same species?” It sounds silly, I know, but it really is puzzling to me. Here I am, small-boned, stoop-shouldered, kinky-haired, sallow-complexioned, still prone to acne breakouts. How can I even be the same kind of animal as these well-toned, well-poised people with strong hairlines, who are never self-conscious about the location and/or activity of their hands? I don’t understand it. As I munched greedily at my Pop Burgers while sitting on the curb in front of Vento, and feeling very much like a Jewish Gollum, I decided, “Maybe God just isn’t finished making me yet.”

HOW TO SELL YOUR WARES

I’ve lived in Park Slope for almost 9 years now, and I’ve seen more than my share of Stoop Sales, and their supporting advertisements. It’s time for a moratorium. The following words and phrases can no longer be used to advertise your stoop sale:

  • STOOPENDOUS
  • STOOPTACULAR
  • STOOP RIGHT UP
  • STOOP IN THE NAME OF LOVE
  • STOOP…THERE IT IS! (Or its occasional, sell-heavy variant, STOOP…HERE IT IS!)
  • STOOP TO CONQUER (Frankly, I’m not even sure what this means, and neither are you. So please stop it.)
  • STOOPID SALE (You want to make them like you, Roger.)
  • CD Tower (Too bourgeois)
  • IKEA [ANYTHING] (As a general rule, you should never sell anything by IKEA second-hand. The only advantage to owning second-hand IKEA furniture is saving the hours of frustration and pain in which you, armed only with an Allen wrench and a dilettante’s understanding of home improvement, try to assemble a six-foot cubbyhole unit in a three foot by four foot clearing of unevenly laid apartment flooring. This single advantage, however, is greatly outweighed by the many disadvantages of owning used IKEA furniture, chiefly – the furniture is practically garbage right out of the box. So imagine its value after five years of casual use. Throw your VLÖÖRT out, and let the hobos at it.)
  • knick-knacks (This might as well say, “fish around in a cardboard box filled with unmatched single baby shoes & Christmas ornaments from Pizza Hut.)

Additionally, you should be legally forced to specify the titles of the books available at your stoop sale if your collection contains any of the following items:

  • outdated computer training manuals that are more than five years old
  • outdated “do it yourself” books on filing your taxes, if the book is more than ten years old
  • Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – and only because everyone in Brooklyn already owns a used paperback copy of this. In fact, I don’t think any new copies of The Bell Jar even exist any longer. The book is now distributed exclusively through stoop sales, used book stores, and police evidence files from recent teenage girl suicides.)
  • ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy
  • anything by R.L. Stine, Louis L’Amour, Donald Trump, or William Shatner

Finally, lest you think these instructions are all prohibitive, I would like to add that any of the following words and phrases can officially be introduced into stoop sale advertising, effective immediately:

  • WHO MADE A STOOPIE?
  • YOU GOT STOOPED, BITCH
  • STOOP THERAPY
  • IN A GADDA DA STOOPA
  • AIN’T NO HALF-STOOPIN’
  • SPERM BATH – 2 DAYS ONLY!
  • “MY BABY BROKE” CRIB & CLOTHING SALE
  • USED BIBLE FOR SALE (DOESN’T WORK)
  • I FUCKED ETHAN HAWKE
  • BITTER CHILD CUSTODY BATTLE SALE
  • FREE SIPS

And a hundred thousand way funnier things!!!!

Homepage photo: Lindsey Byrnes
Site design & code: Erik Frick