“Also excellent (for the most part), was Reed Birney as Vanya....Mr. Birney captures beautifully Vanya’s sarcasm, cynicism, desperation, and self-loathing. He seemed less believable as someone who’s worked with his hands on a country estate all his life. And his feelings of love and resentment towards Yelena (Maria Dizzia), the professor’s young wife, seem a bit unconvincing (though this last issue could well have been due, at least in part, to Ms. Dizzia’s uninspired performance).”
I remember one problem I had with Mr. Birney was his hands, his fingers specifically. They seemed thin and always pointing outward like delicate fins. They looked brittle, weak, sharp and awkward, the kind of fingers that have never done manual labor and would only be good for handling paper, fine fabrics, or poking you in the eye accidentally. The way he moved his hands and his arms – his gestures abrupt and clumsy – how he moved his neck and his head, all looked like the movements of a frustrated, middle-aged boy (which was appropriate for his character). But they also made him look somewhat effeminate. Not exactly in the way certain gay men look effeminate, he looked more like one of those guys who are "sexually ambiguous," the ones you can’t imagine having sex with anybody, who look like they'd be frightened of any exposed sex organ, male or female. For a while, as I watched the play, I thought that he might indeed be trying to play Vanya as gay. But that didn't quite fit his performance or the other actors' reactions to his character, or frankly how I remember his character as written. Perhaps in part my consternation was due to an uncontious prejudice I had, having grown up not thinking there were gays in Russia, certainly not in the 19th century. Still, if one were to play Vanya as a homosexual it seems to me Uncle Vanya would require some serious reinterpretation, of which I saw no evidence in the production in question. So why was he playing this older Russian man who lives in the country in this unusual way? I asked myself. There seemed to be no rationale behind it. The brilliant conclusion I came up with was that Mr. Birney was in fact one of those men - asexual, maybe leaning towards gay, but trying to play Vanya straight. And I felt that his performance was unduly affected by this, by how he was in real life.
When I saw him in Picnic (http://www.stageandcinema.com/2013/01/19/picnic/) last week I realized I'd been an idiot. There he plays a small-town Kansas heterosexual, a drinker and store owner whose strong hands carry suitcases and probably crates of inventory, and who lusts after young and old females alike. And when I saw him I realized that all that stuff he was doing in Uncle Vanya with his fingers, his elbows, his head, how he spoke, that wasn’t really him, he was acting. And I realized that I'd failed to appreciate just how full of nuance and insight his performance had really been. Mr. Birney was playing exactly what I saw but refused to see - a sexless, effeminate man-boy. His subtle infusion of Vanya with an undertone of ambiguous sexuality beautifully complemented that character’s confusion about who he is, his place in the world and his feelings for Yelena. Mr. Birney’s choices and their execution were in fact sublime. So I apologize for misinterpreting them and take back any reservations I had about his performance.
for one blatant mistake and maybe one moment of silliness, Django Unchained is a very entertaining film. Christoph Waltz is sublime,
every word he says sounds like it just came to him. And Sam Jackson is mesmerizing.
The two of them make the movie. Jamie Foxx is very good. And DiCaprio is good
too; at moments one almost forgets he’s DiCaprio. The film is a wish-fulfillment
fantasy, an American hero movie, a western modeled on westerns that were
modeled on westerns; there is no attempt at “realism.” And it works very well.
Same is true for the characters, they are archetypes reinvented but they are
delightful. On the one hand that’s pretty much all that needs to be said. Tarantino
wasn’t trying to create a truthful work of art, he was trying to make
entertainment, and he succeeded; Django
Unchained is a fun, clever ride.
On the other hand I do have a few questions:
Why can’t Django be a real former field slave, with the bad habits, the
nastiness, the brutality? We get symbolic, Hollywood versions of these
qualities, but why can’t we see them for real? And I don’t mean make it
completely realistic, that would disgust and offend a modern audience beyond
dramatic necessity. But isn't there a middle ground, where there is a sense of
human reality but where it’s not so real that modern sensibilities would make his character unrelatable? Couldn't he be in love with his wife and fuck a whore, for
example? Or be gentle at times and at times a brute without reservations?
Couldn't he be human in other words, or is it necessary to make him out of
titanium? The studios believe that the general viewing public is too stupid to
accept a hero with real flaws and the real characteristics of a former field
nigger. And for the most part they're right. But couldn’t someone like
Tarantino, who has both the popular and the artsy crowd following him, do
something like that? I was hoping he would. He does not.
Also, typical of Tarantino, the movie is sexless. With his
previous films this wasn’t an issue (I'm referring to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction
and Jackie Brown, the other ones I
don’t care about; their problems are much bigger than a lack of sexuality). But
with a movie about slavery and cowboys it seems sex would be an essential
element. And if you’re really making a blacksploitation film you should probably
throw at least one scene of rape or lust in there, as an homage if nothing
But the biggest question seems to me this: Is American slavery
morally appropriate fodder for light entertainment? The tempting answer is: “Stop
nitpicking and don’t be so goddamn uptight!” We know going in more or less what
this movie will be like. By agreeing to watch it we enter into an unspoken
contract of sorts, which states that we will suspend not only our temporal but
also our moral and spiritual disbelief and accept the world on the screen and
its laws in order that we may be entertained. Still, I wonder if I would have
liked this movie as much if, say, Django was a Jew who escaped a Nazi
concentration camp and was now, with his superhuman gunplay, singlehandedly
defeating if not the Reich then, let’s say, all the German soldiers stationed
at Auschwitz? I’m not sure I would have been able to go along with a premise
like that. Having this Jew-Django destroy the Nazis all by himself would rob of
their dignity not only the victims of concentration camps, many of whom were
strong and capable individuals, but all the people who fought, sacrificed,
suffered and died fighting the Germans in WWII. Tarantino made a movie that was
something like this, Inglourious Bastards,
which, dramatic flaws aside, I found morally reprehensible. In that movie, if I
remember correctly, a few American Special Forces troops, with the help of a
beautiful blond Jewess theater owner (spoiler!), blow up Hitler and his minions.
I suspect Tarantino thought a Jew watching such a thing would enjoy it, this
fantasy of Hitler being blown up, as well as of Germans being scalped and beaten
to death with baseball bats. But I’m not certain he was correct. For instance,
I’m not certain that the girl in the concentration camp (a real person) – who had
to keep shitting out and swallowing the diamond earrings her mother gave her, before
her mother was stripped and gassed along with millions of others – I’m not certain
this girl would find much satisfaction in Tarantino’s ridiculous fantasy. Nor am I certain that American soldiers who fought in WWII, or British or Russian
soldiers or the French resistance, or anyone who participated on the side of
the Allies, would find very amusing the idea that all that was needed to kill
Hitler was a handful of well-trained soldiers and a good plan. I doubt I'd be amused in their place.
And so it is with Django. By making him a successful superhero
it trivializes the realities of slavery. It trivializes the suffering of
enslaved human beings, the tragedy of the strong and proud who were broken, the
helplessness of blacks in the south and the hopelessness of their situation, the
insurmountable obstacles between them and anything resembling freedom. It also
trivializes whatever sacrifices or acts of bravery individual slaves might have
committed. Watching this film I couldn’t help but try and imagine the reality
of a black man, strong of body and spirit, intelligent, brave, who is a slave on
a Mississippi plantation. What is he supposed to do? If he runs he’ll get
caught. If he fights, he’ll get tortured or killed. What can he do against two overseers?
Or three? Or one with a gun or a dog? What can he do when all the public and
private forces of that state and of all the states surrounding it are against
him? Just the question of “Why doesn’t he do something?” presupposes that slavery
is some sort of choice. That being born a slave and raised like a slave
surrounded by slaves one can somehow, with a little guidance, transcend that
mentality and emerge unscathed. This is similar to saying that one can come
through torture undamaged, which this movie does say by the way, and which is
equally flippant. True, Tarantino goes out of his way to put in verbal explanations
for why we should believe what we are seeing, trying to convince us through
bits of dialogue here and there why certain incredible things about Django and
the world of the film are in fact dramatically sound. But the spectacle we are
watching is undeniable and all the little speeches feel like expedient excuses made
so that we don’t lose our suspension of disbelief and continue enjoying the
So where do we draw the line as to what is or is not
appropriate to fictionalize? Is it a question of how much time has passed since
the events at issue? Will there ever be a time when it is no longer
laughably stupid and disgusting to portray Lincoln as a vampire hunter? Kathryn
Bigelow evidently thinks there’s nothing wrong with telling us that torture was
instrumental in extracting information that led to Bin Laden, even though it’s
pretty much an established fact that it was not. Spielberg makes a movie prostituting the Holocaust, in which the
tragedy of the event is obscured by style, sentimentality, and clever but
superficial direction. To me it seems the question is for the filmmaker’s
conscience to answer. I see nothing wrong with reinventing history – nobody
knows what really happened anyway – as long as your creation is truthful (or at
least if your intention is to create something truthful). And I’m not talking
about getting some facts right or having accurate costumes or being faithful to
the book you’re adapting. I’m talking about artistic truth. Are you creating
something more profound than the historical facts around which you are weaving
your creation? (This is why it’s almost impossible to make a good fictional movie
about the Holocaust – there’s very little one can say artistically that will
carry more weight than the subject matter.) The question is this: Is the raw
material, whether it be historical or another piece of fiction, essential for
you to express some vital and deeply personal truth?
With Django the
answer is no. However, whereas Zero Dark
Thirty and Schindler’s List are entertainments
disguised as serious films, Django
does not pretend. It comes out and says: This is blacksploitation reinvented,
enjoy! But then what is a socially and artistically responsible individual
supposed to do? My personal attitude about this sort of thing is similar to the
attitude I have about giving money to bums. If I feel like giving money to a
bum, I do, and if I don’t, I don’t. And if I don’t give and happen to feel
guilty about it a few steps down the street, maybe I’ll walk back and pay him.
Or maybe not. It seems disingenuous to deny yourself a good rape scene or a revenge-murder-torture
scene if that’s what you feel like watching; it is just a movie after all, isn’t
it? With Django, while its artistic
and moral shortcomings do bother me on an intellectual level, I was not turned
off by the film as I watched it. And when it comes out on Netflix I will
probably watch it again. Still, it would be nice if not so many filmmakers were
so completely proud of making such frivolous films.
Four months before Hurricane Sandy laid waste to much
of the Mid-Atlantic coastline I deactivated my internet dating profile. I’d
been wasting enough time on line with the porn and the Facebook, I didn’t need
another site to obsess over. And I was tired of spending money on dates,
especially when they didn’t lead to sex, and even when they did, I was tired of
talking, of meeting new people, I was tired of sex. I found I had a much better
time getting drunk by myself, at home, watching movies, and jacking off. As for
that hope of finding someone special for a “long-term” relationship, I figured
drinking at home alone only improved my chances. I had very little to offer a
New York City bachelorette; at 41 I had no career, no marketable skills, no
money, and very few prospects.
I deactivated my account. Then about three weeks ago I reactivated it, for
reasons unrelated to dating, and I got a reply from this girl I messaged about five
months earlier. “Sorry about the tardy reply,” she wrote.
She was in her early
thirties, pretty, trim, blond, educated, lived in the West Village and liked “cheesy”
movies. “You should contact me,” she wrote in her profile, “if you are awesome
and have your shit together.” Why such a
woman would respond to me I had no idea.
We messaged each other a
few times, she seemed to want to get together, but then hurricane Sandy hit, streets
around her flooded, her neighborhood lost power, and our plans were postponed. This
was just as well. Judging by her profile, photos and messages, I was pretty sure
when she met me she would see I was not what she wanted. And except for being young,
pretty, trim, blond, and living in the West Village, she was not really what I wanted
either. But, after her water and power situation normalized, we made a date to
meet at some trendy bar she suggested. Thankfully, at the last minute she offered
instead to go to an exhibit opening at the MoMA, Tokyo, New Avant-garde I believe it was called. She had tickets to
this invitation-only affair, and she promised free booze.
I imagined people gussied
up to attend such affairs so my idea was to dress like an irreverent
proletariat. But then I discovered that the hole in the crotch of my only pair
of jeans had gotten a bit too irreverent, so instead I put on the nice pair of slacks
and striped button-down I bought when I’d started this whole internet dating
business. In the mirror I looked quite nice, almost like a normal person, a
hip, educated Manhattanite with a job, or something like that. There were some nuances
that gave me away: My Banana Republic sweater wasn’t expensive enough to neutralize
my second-trimester gut, my hair was too long and inappropriately neglected, and
my pea coat had a button missing, was peppered with lint and had dried dog-drool
We met in the MoMA lobby.
She was dressed in black, office-stylish, fresh and dry-cleaned, legs in dark
stockings, big gold thing on her blouse.
“Wow, you’re tall!” I exclaimed.
“Is that a problem?”
I had pictured her
smaller, more supple, a filly, but here was a full-grown mare. Not that her
height was a problem, but looking the way she did, like those hip, carefree
yuppies you see in commercials, the fact that she was also taller made me feel
like I lacked the physical presence for her to take me seriously. But then maybe
I could break some hotshot’s arm before the night was over and even things out.
“No, it’s fine,” I said, “it’s good. I just
didn’t expect it,” and I took off my coat and held it folded in front of my
Her defensiveness was
cute and a better strategist might have been able to use it to his advantage. Not
I of course. My only strategy for attracting a women was to get her drunk.
“Shall we check in our
coats?” I suggested.
“Do they have a coat
check here? Ok, sure, why not.”
We got on line at the
coat check. I regrouped, made her smile with some humorous tales, we were
having a fine conversation, until I steered it into the rocks and asked what
she did for a living. She was a lawyer, the worst possible thing.
“And what do you do?” she
If I drove a cab I would
tell her, if I tended bar or dug ditches. But my job was servicing lawyers,
they were my clients and I was their boy. I scrambled for something to say, a
witty reply, a manicured truth, anything, but my mind seized up and went blank.
She was too tall and she made too much money. My face heated up, turning red. “I’m
not going to tell you,” I said.
“Nope!” I insisted, like
a coy little girl, “You’re a lawyer, I’m not going to tell you what I do.”
“Why, are you a criminal?”
Answer yes goddamn it! Show
her some damn joie de vivre! “No,” I said, “nothing like that. What I do is
“Can’t be more boring
than being a lawyer.”
Then I remembered! “Wait
a minute,” I said, “here’s something I do: I’m a theater critic.”
“Yes, I know, I looked
you up on the internet.”
“Did you read any of my
“I browsed through them,
not really. What kinds of shows do you review?”
“I go to plays. The last
one I saw was....I don’t remember. What’s a show you’ve reviewed?”
“Well, let’s see, I
reviewed Annie Baker’s version of Uncle Vanya at the Soho Rep. That was a very talked-about
“That’s on Broadway?”
“No, that was in Soho.”
“And what was it called,
“By Annie....what was her
“Annie Baker. No, the
play is by Chekhov. Anton Chekhov?”
“I think I’ve heard of
“Really? Well, yes, he’s this
kind-of obscure Russian writer.”
“What else? Anything I
might have seen?”
“Lots of off-Broadway
stuff. Do you see off-Broadway plays?”
“I don’t think so.”
“We do Broadway as well...”
I said. And continued, “But usually it’s the publicists who invite us and they
need us more for the smaller stuff, for the Broadway shows they don’t need us. We’re
not like the VillageVoice or the Times. Our website hardly makes any money. I don’t get paid or
anything, I just get tickets to shows.” I felt like a frightened teenager in a
police interrogation room confessing to everything, I couldn’t help it. I was
the type of criminal who was more frightened of getting caught than of going to
“Oh,” she said, evidently
unimpressed by my candor.
“But, I mean, we’re just
getting started. And my editor insists that we’re the most read review-only site
in the country.”
“That sounds like
bullshit,” she said with a friendly chuckle.
“Maybe. But ‘review-only,’
that’s, you know, how many of those are there?”
We came up to the coat
check window and I handed in my pea coat, careful not to let my date see the white
stuffing coming out from the tears in the lining. I should have just worn my
sweatpants, the ones stained with dog slobber, candle wax and come – I no
longer could tell which was which. At least the ensemble would match, and I
wouldn’t feel like I’d just shit myself in a rented tuxedo.
“Fuck!” I remembered, “I
forgot to bring cash.”
“For what, it’s all
“Yeah, for the coat
check, the bartenders.”
“I don’t think they care.”
“Sure they do.”
“Well, I have a couple of
“No, I couldn’t do that.
I’ll be back in a minute,” I said, and went out into the night to search of an
ATM. What an unnecessary gesture, I thought as I got outside. But having
brought up the subject I had to follow through. I didn’t want her to think of
me as one of those guys who comes to a birthday party empty-handed and then
tells the host, “I was going to buy you a gift but I did not have time, so I
didn’t.” How would she perceive my deed, I wondered. Would she say to herself, Wow,
what a generous, noble man Dmitry is, he can’t afford a haircut or a new coat yet
he still goes out of his way to tip the poor service staff. Or would she figure
me out? Would she see my motivations for what they were – guilt, shame and
vanity – which grow not from nobility but are the ignoble fruits of my peasant
mentality. The mentality that says, You do not deserve to be waited upon, they
are doing you a favor, because you are lower than them; you are lower than all.
The mentality that turns every little insignificant interaction into a battle
to justify one’s right to exist.
When I returned she was
finishing her first drink and I tried to discern which of the two
interpretations she had of my action. She had none. She didn’t care. She hadn’t
noticed. We got on line at the bar and when our turn came and we got our drinks
I proudly handed the barman a twenty. He did not have any change. Brilliant! I
almost let him keep the twenty but even my vanity had its limits. My date gave him
a dollar. Evidently she did not suffer from a peasant mentality and did not
feel guilty tipping a barman a buck for two ten-dollar drinks she was getting
We maneuvered through the
crowd to a corner. There was a sculpture there and I recalled something I’d
heard about it twenty or so years ago.
“Do you know that
sculpture?” I asked her.
“I mean, sure, I’ve seen
“When it was first
displayed it caused a big scandal.”
“Really? Why’s that?”
“Come,” I said, and took
her around to the back of the statue. “You see the shape, how he’s standing? Critics
said Rodin made Balzac look like an erect penis. It was a huge scandal. You
see, there’s the head, that’s the foreskin pulled back.”
“Yeah, ok, I guess,” she
said, canting her head, “I don’t know, I don’t see it. Is that true? How do you
know? Are you into art history? Where did you hear that?”
“It’s part of my general
erudition,” I told her.
“Yeah, I don’t know. Are
you sure? I mean, when I look at that, ‘Penis!’ isn’t the first thought that
comes to my mind, you know?”
“It’s not supposed to be
literal, it’s just supposed to suggest a penis.”
“Ok, but still, who
cares? I mean I don’t see why this would cause a scandal.”
“It was a different time.
Rodin couldn’t just come out and say ‘Balzac is a dick!’ for example (which I
don’t think he’s saying by the way). Everything was communicated with
subtleties. And the people back then, or anyway, the critics, they knew what he
meant. Balzac was like a national treasure in France, so this was very
“Hum, that’s interesting.”
“Is it? Is it really?”
“Sure. I mean, I don’t
know,” she giggled.
“You know, it’s funny,” I
said, “I’m telling you this story with authority, like I know what I’m talking
about. But when I first heard it I didn’t see what the big deal was either.”
“What’s his name, Ball-zack?
He was a sculptor?”
“No, he was a writer.
Rodin was the sculptor.”
“What did he write?”
“Novels. A lot of novels.
He was very prolific.”
“Like which ones?”
“Oh, you know, about
France and shit. I don’t know, I’ve never read him.”
That got a chuckle.
Paula, that was her name,
was from Toronto. She worked for a big, high-end law firm that got tickets to
these types of events for making charitable contributions, then distributed these
tickets to employees who were interested. Paula took tickets to everything, though
she didn’t always use them. Still, she went to a lot of these shindigs,
openings, dinners, premieres. She did a lot of cultural things in New York, as
a result of working for her firm and on her own, but I got the sense that to
her these meant little more than entertainment. When she’d said in her message,
as an incentive, that the exhibit opening would have free booze, I assumed she
was being ironically irreverent, that it was her way of inviting a date to a
museum without seeming too sentimental or arty. But now I realized she was
being straightforward. Paula wasn’t interested in art as an aesthetic or
spiritual experience, she didn’t care about artistic nuance. I don’t think it
would have made a difference to her if the opening was of a da Vinci exhibit or
a new nightclub, as long as the place looked nice, attracted a nice-looking crowd
and offered alcohol. She bought $150 tickets to Broadway plays not because she
cared about the plays but because it was something appropriate to do for
someone in her demographic. And I’m sure she enjoyed these experiences but
thoughtlessly, to her they were interchangeable. Not that she was an airhead,
just certain details weren’t important to her.
“You know, it pisses me
off that these museums, like this one and the Guggenheim, charge like $25 admission,”
“Is that....You think
that’s a lot?”
It was an off-handed
comment on my part, designed to exhibit my rebellious and humanistic side. Anyway,
I’d expected a different response, “Yes, me too,” or “I know.” But she was not
of that breed. I tried to wiggle out of it, to disguise my pauper’s attitude – Twenty-five
isn’t too much for me, no, no, no, but for some, those poor, destitute New York aesthetes, blah blah blah. “Accessibility to art should be determined by
the need to experience it, not by the ability to pay!” Paula was not impressed.
More pathetic was that my
words were just words. I hadn’t been to the MoMA in at least fifteen years. I
thought of myself as someone who went to museums, read great books, watched
great films. In fact I’d mostly stopped doing that a long time ago. I still did
it on occasion but the instances had become far between and the experience now was
very seldom religious. Maybe I stopped getting the satisfaction from great art
that I used to. Maybe somewhere along the line I just became too lazy to bother
trying to access that higher state. Whatever happened all my talk of needing great
art was just remnants of how I’d imagined myself long ago. Over the last few years
I found myself shying away from greatness, choosing instead to waste my time on
the mediocre, until it became a routine: get drunk, get high, watch a stupid
new movie or a good one I’d seen twenty times, some TV, the same episodes over
and over, rub a few out in between, then pass out. Maybe if I had other things
to be passionate about, career, family, a child, but art was all that I had and
I hardly had that anymore. “Kill the day!” That should have been my mantra. I was stuck in a quicksand of my own making. Something
needed to change. That was why I started internet dating, to meet people, to get
out of the house. But I also thought, maybe, if I got a girl, not one of these
half-artsy introverted basket cases I tended to attract, but a real girl with
some get-up-and-go, who didn’t spend her days wallowing in misery and picking
spiders out of her attic, but who lived life in sunlight, who travelled, who
did things, real, human social things, like they do in commercials, and who believed
in me just enough, just to give me some time, just a push, something to work
for, something to look forward to, that my life might just change. No woman can
save a man, I know that, and if one tries it will usually lead to destruction.
I didn’t want to be saved. I just wanted some help, just to get on my feet,
just a breath, some fresh air, just a little bit of faith and affection from a
beautiful girl, with beautiful being the operative word. That was the problem –
she had to be beautiful. Not necessarily Charlize Theron but beautiful enough
to where I knew she was with me because she wanted to be – because she saw my
beauty, my potential, my wonderful qualities – and not because I was the best
she could do.
“You know what you can do,”
suggested Paula, “is become a member here, at the MoMA. I think it’s something
like $85 a year and then you can come here whenever you want for free.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea.
I’ll look into it,” I said thoughtfully.
“Do you want to go up to
the galleries?” she asked.
“I don’t think we can
take drinks up there though.”
“Then I must get
We went down to the bar
and I asked for a double vodka. The bartender gave it to me on the rocks. “Can
I get it neat.” He looked annoyed, took an oversized bucket glass, and tipped a
bottle of Ketel One into it. He filled that thing with a vengeance, emptied
nearly a third of a bottle in there.
Paula suggested I didn’t
have to drink all of it.
“Yeah, I don’t think I
can do that. The idea of wasting something like this....It’s not that I’m
greedy, I just hate to waste things, I think waste is wrong, like spiritually
wrong. Also, I got that thing: I was raised to always finish my plate because
children in China or wherever the fuck were starving. So, you know.”
“I understand. But you realize
that’s not how it works, right?”
“Yes, I realize that’s
not how it works.”
“And that’s not even
“Yes. It’s vodka! Do you
know how many people in the world are sitting around sober and miserable because
they don’t have vodka?!”
Paula chuckled. I made my
first pass at the vodka. It was room-temperature, too much to shoot, so I drank
it like water. Gulped down half of what was in the glass, smelled a lemon rind
– like in the old country – then chewed it up. We chatted a bit, then I did it
again. It took six or seven big swallows to empty the glass, fourteen total. For
a moment I thought I might throw up. I imagined a geyser of vomit shooting out
from my mouth, spraying her and the rest of these attractive, well-dressed
Manhattanites with bits of lemon rind and the buckwheat kasha I’d had for
breakfast. That would have been funny. But the sensation subsided and we made
our way towards the escalators.
As we rode, up, up, up
from the crowd, from the noise, from the earth, towards the art, the drunk hit
me. It came on so fast it felt more like a high than a drunk, like I’d just
smoked a big ball of hash. It was an odd sensation, my mind hadn’t realized yet
I was inebriated, and I felt like a sober rider atop a very drunk horse.
We got off at the top
“Oh my god, this is awesome!” I exclaimed when
I saw Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World.
“This is fucking genius!” I was very excited; I hadn’t felt a connection this
powerful to a painting in a long time, not since seeing Bruegel’s The Harvest a day after dropping acid. I
took a picture of the label so as not to forget the artist’s name.
“Drunk is the best way to
look at art, don’t you think?” I said as we proceeded towards the Tokyo exhibit. “You can see so much
more, everything’s so much more interesting, so much more full.”
“It’s just like with
people, the more you drink the more interesting people get.”
“Yes. That’s right. Up to
a point. People don’t get more interesting, I get more interested in them.”
“That’s the same thing
isn’t it? I mean we’re talking about the same thing.”
“Well....No. With people
it’s an illusion. But great art is great whether you’re drunk or not, it’s just
when you’re drunk the connection is stronger, you can really feel it when
you’re drunk. Or anyway it’s easier to feel it. That’s what these puritanical
fuckers don’t understand about alcohol and drugs and all that. They’re so
concerned with being productive, they wind up missing everything.”
“Maybe it’s the same with
people though, it takes a few drinks to appreciate their good qualities.”
“No, it’s not. Oh, this
is excellent!” I exclaimed as we entered the galleries and I stopped to look
intently at some photographs, captivated by their power and beauty. My reaction
was sincere but as I studied the photos I can’t say I wasn’t conscious of hoping
to garner some respect from her for my eccentric and passionate reaction, as
well as perhaps some confidence points for ignoring her.
When I disengaged from
the pictures she was no longer next to me. I looked around, she was not in the
room. I hurried to the next gallery and was relieved when I found her there slowly
walking past the exhibits. I came up to her. If she was in any way affected by
my lack of attention she did not show it.
“Wow, I forgot how tall
you are,” I said.
“That’s the second time
you mentioned my height. Is this something that bothers you?”
“No, not at all.”
“Then why do you keep bringing
By this point my body was
swaying involuntarily just a little bit here and there, like a high rise in the
wind, and my limbs felt like they were being operated by a maladroit puppeteer.
I felt my mind on the brink of sliding into saccharine sentimentality. I was on
the precipice of becoming romantic – heavy eyelids, adoring smile. And the
energy I was putting out was defeatist. Get a grip fucker! And exude some
confidence, I thought to myself, and focused on her flaws: She had a mole on
her jaw, and her hips were a bit on the broad side. And she didn’t know Chekhov!
What the hell was I nervous about? Really, I wasn’t even nervous. It was some
sort of affect, as if this was the way I imagined it should be. She wasn’t my match,
spiritually speaking. I told myself I wasn’t interested in her. To fuck, yes,
sure, why not? To flatter myself by getting her into bed with just my bare
hands so to speak, even more so (bedding an attractive, successful, New York
attorney would have been almost as flattering as getting a stripper to fuck me
for free). And she was attractive. Pretty face, fit, nice legs, flat belly,
golden hair, glowing skin, an apartment in the West Village. And she liked to
drink, that was good. And she did things, she lived in the sunlight.
“I don’t know why I
brought up your height,” I said, “it just came out,” which was true. I had no
idea why I’d said it again, I knew she didn’t like it the first time. “But it’s
complimentary,” I continued, “really. I like your height, it’s nice. I mean,
like, if you were fat I wouldn’t say to you, Wow, you’re so fat! But being tall
We strolled casually by
the exhibits, making comments. She was a sweet girl this Paula, had nice arms
and strong hands, which I liked. And she laughed at my jokes, at least smiled. When
I’d say “cock” or “cunt” it did not put her off. And I don’t think she’d
slumped when she saw me. Our back and forth now was easy and light. She wasn’t
trying to be too smart or clever, didn’t try to make a spectacle of herself. I
found her lack of pretense relaxing. She didn’t labor to understand what the
artists were trying to say, didn’t try and analyze how the works made her feel,
and the more abstract pieces to her were mere curiosities, often silly or
comical. Walking with her past exhibits was like walking by displays in
department store windows. It wasn’t a struggle or contest but a light, pleasant
outing. And it was charming in its way how she didn’t pay attention to things,
how she didn’t know the museum had a coat check, for instance, despite having
been here a number of times, how she didn’t know the names of the movies she
liked, how she didn’t know Rodin or Balzac, how she did not know Chekhov. Who
the hell needs a girl who knows Chekhov? I was sick of the girls who knew
Chekhov, who knew Maya Deren, John Cage. Fuck all that. Fuck the dive bars, the
no-cover jazz clubs. I was sick of picking through the leftovers in the
discounted bin, trying to find a shirt I could live with. I wanted a tailored
As we strolled sometimes,
usually when we were making fun of a piece, we talked quietly, our faces close
together, and I started sensing a vibe as we spoke, as she spoke. I listened and
my facial muscles softened, my gaze intensified, looking into her eyes, a discernible smile lit up my eyes and traced
itself on my face. I wanted to kiss her, to get in between those long legs in
black stockings. At one point she was whispering to me and I started leaning in,
but then stopped and leaned back, pretending I’d just been lost in my thoughts.
It was too soon, I would wait until we got to a bar.
It was nearing 8:00pm.,
Paula asked, “Should we
“Vamonos!” I exclaimed.
We got on the escalator,
she was standing behind me.
“Ok, well, this was fun, but
I have to meet some friends at 8:30, so...”
I turned my head to look
at her, “You have to meet some friends at 8:30?”
“Yeah, I made plans with
them earlier, I can’t break them.”
“Alright, sounds good,” I
said and turned my head back, looking down at the mass of people rising towards
us. A sheet of heat washed over my face and down my back, the heat of rejection
and embarrassment, as we descended into the stifling din of the crowd. I wanted
to turn around and punch her. Not her, a guy, and not for rejecting me but for
talking shit about my mother or about how the Jews had it coming. Instead I
gathered what mental powers I had left and focused them on appearing sober and
We got to the coat check,
got back our coats. The girl at the window had change for a twenty and I tipped
her two dollars. When I turned to go I found Paula talking to a group of five
girls. I drew a mental straight line from myself to the group and tried to steer
my drunk horse along that line as best as I could. The group had two black
girls, two white girls, and another girl I don’t remember what she was. One of
the black girls caught my attention especially. She was a little shorter than
me, had very short hair, nearly shaved, and a sporty figure. She was more
striking than beautiful and there was power behind her eyes, humanistic intelligence,
sophistication, the aura of a confident artist. And she was wearing this interesting
pea coat patterned in black and white leopard-type spots.
“That’s a fabulous coat!”
I said to her.
“Thank you. It’s from
My horse was about to
make some black and white joke about South Africa but I managed to restrain it.
Then Paula introduced me and I shook all their hands. When I shook the hand of
the girl in the black and white coat – she had a firm, tomboy’s grip – we looked
into each other’s eyes and I felt another powerful wave of heat wash over me. Only
this one was pleasant. My heart fluttered and I felt something transpire
between us, like a big glob of soft, glowing energy, I could almost see it, it
looked like a blue manatee, translucent and shimmering. I was taken aback. I
wished I’d remembered her name.
We all chatted a bit,
then I led everyone outside for a smoke. There was more conversation. I mostly busied
myself with trying to keep my drunken horse steady and making sure it didn’t blurt
out something racist or sexist. I did make a few funny comments, made the
little girls laugh; they were young, it was easy. But the whole time my insides
were churning and all I could think of was her. We exchanged a few glances but mostly
I avoided her gaze, so as not to appear like a sleaze. What could I do? Paula’s
introduction of me was ambiguous but the girls assumed I was her date, or her
boyfriend; I could tell by the way they were smiling at me. What a stupid
situation, made all the more vexing by the fact that in a few minutes Paula and
I would part and never ever see each other again. Ever. And here was this black
girl and it was love at first sight, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it! And
maybe it wasn’t love but it was something, something big and important, and
something I desperately needed. It was right there and yet I couldn’t touch it.
How pathetic was this? There was not one good reason for me not to approach
her, certainly not a reason that outweighed what happened between us back there
by the coat check. But even if I did break this awful taboo and make a move (an
act tantamount to me getting naked, which actually would probably have garnered
more understanding), I was too drunk and nervous to do it right. And was there
a right way to do it? Was there some magical combination of words and gestures
and facial expressions to make her receptive to me? “Listen, listen, just
listen to me for a minute, don’t go, wait, just listen. Back there, when I
shook your hand, I felt like a glowing porpoise of energy was flowing between
us. I think you felt it too. Did you feel it? The blue porpoise or walrus or
whatever it was? It doesn’t matter. The point is, something vital happened
between us. I see you. You know what I’m saying? I-see-you. There’s something
about you. You’re like this noble black leopard. There’s vastness behind your
eyes, as vast as the African plain. How many times in life does something like
that happen, when you feel that connection to someone? Never! Twice maybe. You
can’t pass this by. We have to see where it goes. Get a drink with me. Let’s
get drunk. Let’s get fucked up. Forget that it’s Tuesday. You don’t have to go
home. You do have to go? Ok, fine, then take me home with you. Fold me up and
put me in your purse. Bring me into your apartment, wash my hair and tuck me in
a blanket, in your bed in the corner. Light your incense and put on your music
whose beat echoes in the dark distant night like a candle. Take your clothes
off and press your body against me. Let me smell your moisturizer and feel your
nipples poke at my ribs, feel you pubic hair scratching my cock. Put your arms
around me and be quietly joyful to tears from how much you adore me. Let me
hear your breath in my year and feel your legs, smooth and muscular, wrapped
around mine. And I won’t move, I promise. Not even when it gets way too hot.
I’ll lie in your arms like a puppy and listen to you as you sleep.”
It was time to depart.
I’d said nothing to the black girl of course. Then an idea occurred to me, like
a revelation – I’ll just wait a couple of days then ask Paula to put me in
touch with the black girl! That’s perfect! It’s brilliant! Why wouldn’t she?
She doesn’t want me, and if we part on good terms – she seems like a decent
person – there’d be no reason for her to say no. Why hadn’t I thought of this
sooner? It was such a relief. I felt great. I felt free!
Paula and I said our
goodbyes to the group and like a gentleman I walked her west, towards her train
or her cab or whatever it was she was taking. We crossed 6th Avenue.
“Do you mind waiting for
a minute,” I asked her outside the Hilton, “I need to go in there and take a
“I kind of have to go
anyway, so, I mean...”
“Ok! No problem. I had a
great time. Thank you. It was a pleasure. Have a good night,” I said and went
It was such a nice toilet
I regretted not having to shit. But the piss hit the spot, what a lovely
relief. It even sobered me up a little. Now it was 8pm on a brisk autumn night
in midtown Manhattan, I was drunk and had not spent a dime. Ten years ago I’d
have stayed out all night in search of adventures, which usually meant getting
drunk in bars, talking to people and trying to get laid. But these adventures
required a lot of commitment and the payoff was usually pitiful. By 41 I’d come
to the conclusion that there were no diamonds in the rough (at least I couldn’t
find them) and that bars were stupid, bar conversations were stupid, bar people
were stupid, bartenders were assholes and stupid, and the chances of me picking
up a girl in a bar in midtown Manhattan or anywhere in the city were negligible.
So I walked west down 53rd,
towards my side of town. I made it a block and a half, crossed the street and
went into a bar. It was some Irish bar that was now a douchebag bar, the way so
many of them had become in Manhattan, with $7 pints of Guinness that were 12
ounces, 30 TVs, and monogrammed t-shirts for sale. I ordered a Guinness. I
seldom drank Guinness anymore. After I found out it only had 4% alcohol I felt
betrayed – all that hoopla, the two-step pour, the heaviness, the bitterness,
the higher price – for a lousy four per cent? It was like buying a Porsche with
a top speed of 90.
The bar had the
after-work midtown stragglers, nobody I wanted to talk to, more importantly
nobody who looked like they wanted to talk to me. There was a guy sitting next
to me who looked out of place: missing teeth, dirty work clothes, a little guy,
not too bright, maybe Irish. I imagined he drank here way back, when this was a
real bar serving real drinkers, and was now returning to it like a homing
pigeon to a coop that has long since burned down. Turned out he worked cleaning
something around here and stopped in for a beer before going to his little
basement room in the South Bronx, where he said it was still plenty dangerous.
I finished my beer and
left. Walked a block and a half, turned into another Irish bar. Same damn
nonsense, no one to talk to, $7 for 12 ounces of Guinness. I got a Guinness,
paid, left the barman a dollar.
“I understand charging $7
a beer, but why such a small glass?” I said to him, “it’s the rent that’s
expensive, not the beer.”
He pretended he didn’t
understand what I was talking about. Another asshole. I went out for a
“Excuse me, chief, could
you spare a few dollars,” said a young man as he came up to me, “I’m a victim
of hurricane Sandy?”
He was tall, wiry,
early-thirties, eyes of a predator. He did not look to me like a victim of
hurricane Sandy. He looked more like a looter supplementing his income.
“No,” I told him.
He noticed something
across the street and yelled to some guy there, pointing to a group of tourists
who were walking in that guy’s direction, “Yo! Yo! Axe them! Them, those
people, axe them!” Then he turned back to me, “Come on, you can help me out, just
a dollar or two.”
“No man,” I said, “I’ll
give you a cigarette if you want but that’s it.”
For a moment he seemed to
be gauging if I was drunk enough to where he could punch me, snatch my money
and run away. I got ready to grab him. I was half-hoping he’d do it. At least
that would be something. Like with Hurricane Sandy. When it hit I was half-hoping
it would drown all of Manhattan, bury it under four feet of sewage, to where Upper
West Siders would float to their Starbucks in dinghies, vexed over having
picked up all that dog poop for nothing. Sandy caused devastation of course,
but just not where I lived; my existence went uninterrupted. A sapling fell
down on my street, that was it.
The looter relaxed. Or
maybe his intention had been all in my mind.
“Alright, give me a cigarette,”
“You want one for your
“Yeah, give me two.”
I gave him two cigarettes.
He made to go join his friend across the street, but then I guess maybe he was
overcome with indignation because he threw the cigarettes down on the sidewalk
before strutting across. I picked up the cigarettes and went back inside.
I had a few sips of my
Guinness, then I went to the men’s room, just to get my eight dollars’ worth
from this bar. They too had a nice men’s room, though not as nice as the one at
the Hilton. I peed in the stall, why not? Came out of the men’s room, took a
seat at an empty table, looked through my phone, found Paula, and wrote her a
Hi! This might sound weird but it’s not. Could
you put me in touch with that black girl in the black and white coat? I felt we
had a powerful connection and I want to see if it’s true.
Within seconds I got a reply:
Are you serious?
Yes. I was going to wait till tomorrow to ask
you but since you are uninterested in me I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.
That’s kind of inappropriate, no?
It might look that way but it’s not. If what
I felt was real I have a spiritual obligation to follow it up, and I think you
should help me. :)
That is crazy.
It’s not crazy. These connections don’t
happen often, when they do we have an obligation to explore them. It’s the
Universe speaking to us. Appropriate means nothing in that context.
I don’t have her number and even if I did I
couldn’t give it out.
Give her mine.
I returned to the bar. My
Guinness was gone.
“I had half a beer here,”
I said to the bartender.
He was a tall, young, athletic,
good-looking guy with an Irish accent, who had the expression on his face of an
immigrant knucklehead dissatisfied with America and his place in it.
“People saw you walking
all over, staggering...” he said, shaking his head.
“You know, that’s
just....You know, you see me, you
know, that’s not right.” I was going to say more but I knew he’d be sure not to
see it my way. “It’s on you, on your conscience,” I told him and left.
I caught a cab. It
whisked me across town, right on 8th, up, up, up. What a pleasure it
was to ride drunk in a cab through Manhattan. Whooshing by people and places,
bars, restaurants, theaters, the whole city lit up, festive and bustling, made
it seem like a cauldron of life, a Byzantine fantasy. At that speed I could
forget that this place had nothing for me. That it was all hungry sports fans and
twelve-dollar cucumber cocktails. All the back doors were padlocked, the alleys
fenced in and the tunnels bricked up. Everything was accounted for and nothing
was just left to be. There were no bargains left in New York, no surprises,
unless you were prepared to go deep down, and I was too soft to do that. Even
the periphery dwellers were just wearing costumes. It was all a big game of
dress-up, except I was the one in the pharmacy cape, my mother’s mascara, fifty-cent
plastic teeth. The eternal immigrant who never got it. Prince of Darkness.
My heart jumped as I felt
my phone wiggle and purr with a text in my pocket.
Hi there! I’m
working tomorrow night at the bar, wanted to see if you’d like to come by.
Wait, what? Working? What
bar? Oh... It was not the black girl, not the one with the black-and-white coat.
It was another black girl, the black-Jewish girl, Ebony.
I met Ebony about two
years earlier on the same dating site where I met Paula. Ebony was only about
one quarter black, very light-skinned, and she grew up Jewish, which was how
she thought of herself. She had an adorable face, giant breasts, and a lovely
smooth little pussy. She was a bit heavy but that was alright, she carried it
well. We started having sex on occasion, which I enjoyed, but it quickly became
apparent that she wanted more from me. For some reason she really liked me. Unfortunately
our energies did not match up at all, on any level. I explained this to her but
by then she was deep under the Dmitry spell and could not resign herself to occasional
casual sex. She demanded attention, took some liberties, insisted I’d punched
her after I gave her a light smack in the face during sex. Some mild insanity
followed. But our lives weren’t enmeshed, we had nothing to divide, and my
building had a doorman, so it soon petered out. But a year later she texted me
again (that was how she communicated, text, text, text). We got together. She’d
lost some weight and looked great. We went to a play, didn’t have sex, which
was fine. But a week later we did. That was four months ago. We’d gotten
together two or three times after that. And now there she was, on my phone.
I called her. She picked
“Tonight,” I said, “meet
me tonight at the Hi-Life.”
It was a Tuesday and the
bar was nearly empty. They had music playing from the ‘80’s and 90’s, not too
loud, silly songs from my youth but I liked them. The bartender was a little
Indian fellow, not at all confrontational. I ordered a Stella – big glass, 16
ounces, 5.2% alcohol, 6 bucks. Then I ordered a basket of fried calamari, dumped
too much Tabasco in the dipping sauce. Fuck it, it still tasted good. I chatted
with the guy next to me, interesting-looking guy, looked like someone, an
actor? (When I was drunk and alone a lot of people looked interesting to me,
like they were actors or writers.) He told me his wife had left him, or he had
left her, I don’t remember. Who cares!? We toasted to that. Now this was a
party! I was back in New York. Still couldn’t smoke but I didn’t even want to,
I was too drunk to smoke.
Then the door opened and Ebony
entered. What a beautiful, beautiful face, lovely smile, sparkling eyes. She
always looked so immaculate, not a hair or a stitch out of place. She was glowing.
Yeah, that’s right, I said
in my mind to the guys, she’s for me, she’s for me motherfuckers! A beautiful black
girl. How many white guys you know can get that with no job, no money, no
nothing? A beautiful black girl from the Upper West Side, ten years younger
than I, whom I called at Midnight on a Tuesday, has come in here for me, sees
me here falling-down drunk and she’s happy to see me. Do you see the delight in
her eyes? Do you see how I put my hand on her cheek, cold from the wind, and she
squints her eyes with joy like a baby? Do you see me kissing her soft lips. Do
you see how she sits next to me and orders a drink? You probably thought I’m some
poor, lonely drunk. Ha-ha-ha!
“I want you to come
over,” I said to Ebony.
See that fuckers?! “Ok!”
In my bedroom she took
off her clothes, pulled off mine. We did not bother with condoms. I licked her until
she came. “I want you to fuck me,” she said, and I fucked her. I was hard but
too drunk and exhausted to come. After thirty minutes I gave up and we fell
My erection awoke me at daybreak
and I slipped it inside, from behind. I held her waist firmly watching my cock
work away like a piston, watching my belly smack against her luxurious ass as
it wiggled and jiggled, my gaze sliding up her back to her shoulders, where she
had a tattoo of a hammer and sickle. It was that early-morning hangover-drunk
fuck when the world feels all warm, wet and cozy. And I felt vulnerable and
willing, like the succulent overripe bulb of a poppy a hair’s breadth from
bursting, spilling milky seeds of orgasmic euphoria, seeds of love. I felt like
a bulb ripe with love, just a touch, just a graze and I’d pop. And I thought,
so what if she does get pregnant, would that be so bad? So she has a tattoo of a
hammer and sickle on her back, big deal? I’m 41 and I have done nothing with my
life, what the hell am I waiting for? A child would be nice. Maybe something
would change, it would have to. I would have a purpose, a passion, an excuse to
take myself seriously, to take my life seriously. I could leave something here
on this earth for Christ’s sake. I know she’d like a child. And we wouldn’t necessarily
have to be together, she could be like my baby’s mama. It wouldn’t be perfect
but nothing is perfect. There’d be problems but I’d have a child. And I
thought, this is why alcohol is important, half the babies out there probably
wouldn’t have been born if it wasn’t for hungover sex.
“Can I come inside you?”
I came inside her.
Then I ran to the
bathroom and threw up yesterday’s vodka.
Jesus Christ what the
fuck did I do?! I thought to myself as I did this. I’m dead. She’s going to
kill me. That whole entitlement “Pay attention to me!” bullshit she gave me a
year ago when we had nothing between us would be like a light summer breeze compared
to the hurricane she would unleash if she ever gave birth to my baby; Sandy’s
devastation would be nothing compared to the destruction Ebony would visit upon
me. She would suck out my guts with a straw and turn my balls into sundried
tomatoes. There would be no escape; I couldn’t run out on my baby, I’d be
sucked in with love. And my whole family would be sucked in there too. And what
if the baby has that kinky black hair? How am I going to relate to it? It’s going
to look black, be raised Jewish – that’s Upper-West-Side no-pork-products
Jewish – and resemble me. What the hell am I going to do with that thing?
By the time I got back to
my bedroom she was dressed. I walked her out of the apartment and went back to bed.
And I dreamed I had murdered a half-dozen innocent people, hidden them badly,
and now it was only a matter of time before the police and my family found out.
I was awakened by an
Soooo... I’m feeling
a little bit nervous about this AM so I think I’m going to take the morning after
pill... FYI in case you were concerned.
I was afraid she might
lie to me about taking it, but then she sent this:
it. That’s the last time. If we do this again I’m not taking it.
I got on my computer, did
my business, then wrote Paula a message:
I’m sorry about
asking you for that girl’s info when I did, I was wrong to do that. In my own
defense I can only say that it was like the perfect storm: As soon as you told
me you were meeting friends at 8:30 I knew you wanted nothing to do with me,
the bucket of vodka I drank put me in a certain state, and I did get very
excited about that girl, something about her moved me.
That aside, I had a
very good time. Thank you for taking me.
Thanks for the
apology, and I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I did have a nice time, you’re
very entertaining; I just don’t think we have potential as a couple.
right. I was actually very surprised you agreed to go out with me in the first
Two days later, as the
victims of Sandy sifted through the wreckage of their lives, I asked Paula again
to put me in touch with the black girl. By then most of my excitement had
dissipated but I wanted to follow through just in case. Also, I didn’t want Paula
to think I had been disingenuous, or serve to affirm the notion that miracles,
such as love at first sight, did not happen. “I did ask her,” Paula replied, “she’s
not into giving you her number.”
A week later Ebony texted
me an ultimatum – either be her boyfriend or no more sex. We haven’t spoken
since. I did go to the MoMA website and purchase a membership.
Woke up this morning and realized I've been in New York six years. Six years! I could have finished medical school in that time, or law school, or business school, or any school, to where now I would have had some marketable skills and a real fucking job. I could have started as an intern somewhere, a publishing house, a production house, anywhere, and now been making money in a field I was interested in. I could have written 3 novels in six years, or 6 screenplays, or 24 short stories, or I could have read 30 books. I could have had a steady job, saved money, and done something with it, gone somewhere, bought something, a camera, some lights, and made films. I could have learned photography or editing. I could have had a child. I could have gotten a black belt in jiu jitsu, or at least a brown, and been teaching now. I could have ridden a hundred miles into the Catskill mountains on my bicycle. I could have learned French or Italian or Spanish, or fucking Japanese! I could have been studying acting all this time; I loved the acting classes I took in LA and have always wanted to take some more. Who knows, I might have even been good, maybe acting on stage. I could have learned to play the guitar. I could have been drawing, maybe even painting; I have a talent for drawing I just never developed it, but that's what I could have been doing. I could have done many things. Instead I drank, jerked off, watched movies and too much TV, ate too much, shat too often, slept too late, got fatter, more frightened, more lazy, more desperate and bitter and passive. I might as well have been in prison, probably would have gotten more done. Before, it was funny and charming, a ne'er-do-well drunk who didn't care, smart, funny, even talented, wasting his life - what a laugh! It ain't funny no more. Or let's say it's not funny as often or in the same way. But all of this, everything, could have been forgiven if only I had truly lived those six years. If I had given myself up to experiences and really felt and interacted with the world. If I'd been present, as they say, and appreciated the things I had, the people I knew, appreciated myself, my life, my abilities. In other words, if I'd lived a spiritual life this whole time, none of that other stuff would matter. But I didn't. I was seldom present and I appreciated very little, felt very little. I was mostly obsessed with myself, how I felt, what I wanted, what I did not have, all that bullshit; for all my talk about depth and spirituality at bottom I really am a very superficial person. I do want to create something beautiful but mostly to satisfy my own vanity; I am not a man obsessed. Six years and all I did was fantasize about the future, how in the future everything would be different, how in it I would be different, creative, productive, alive, and also rich and in love with a beautiful fancy young girl who was in love with me. That was how I spent the last six years and there is nothing to indicate that the future will be any different. I was given so much early on that it seemed vulgar to run the race at full speed when my opponents were midgets. And the fear, oh the fear, worse than death - What if I run in earnest and lose!?! But now I am way far behind. Is it too late? Is it too late? In Vegas the odds wouldn't be good. Win? He won't even finish the race! But there's hope, always hope, like a clown, makeup running from tears, missing teeth, rotting gums, making faces. His hands smell like shit. Making faces: There's always hope. Things will change. You will change. The angels will come and remake you into a full, healthy man. Heh-heh-heh. Fuck you clown! I say but I don't really mean it. I believe him, his foul-smelling breath, his sour pores and gray stubble, black fingernails peeking from holes in his gloves, what a musty cliche. Have a drink, you'll feel better, tomorrow's another day, says the clown. It's raining today anyway, good reason to drink. You're alone, have the day to yourself. Look how much you have written! That's some meaningful shit. Now reward yourself with a drink. It's 4 o'clock, the day's almost over, have a drink. You're hungover and you know what that means - you won't get nothing done, dick around, time will pass, you'll start drinking at 9 and regret that you started so late. Remember how you like to drink in the daytime? In two hours it will get dark. Have a... Alright, shut up clown! I say, you fucking miserable pathetic sad clown. I will go get some beer, start my new life on Sunday.
I'm a whaler. I
whale. I love whaling. A day without whaling is like a day without sunshine. I notice on this site everyone writes about how much they LOVE New York:
"I've lived here all my life and I love it," "I moved here 5
years ago and I love it," blah blah blah. Personally, I'm kind of sick of
this place. First off, there are almost no whales here. Second, the place has
turned from a living breathing city into a mall for geriatric millionaires. I
don't mean to sound negative but screw this place, I'm leaving... in like a
year or so. So if you want to meet me don't dally.
What I’m doing with my life
I’m really good at
Whaling god damn
The first things people usually notice about me
My "kill the
whales" tattoo, it's on my face! (profile photos taken prior to tattooing)
Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food
whaling, killing whales, beached whales, dead whales. Anything that portrays
dolphins in a negative light. Also, Dostoyevsky, Lolita and other Nabokov,
Bukowski, Borges, Naked Lunch, Fitzgerald, Celine, Hemingway, Kafka, the New
Yorker, Rome, Breaking Bad, Louie, Robot Chicken, Tarkovsky, Filini, Pasolini,
Bergman, Bunuel, Greenaway, Kusturica, Jodorovski, Woody Allen, Coen brothers,
Wes Anderson, Solondz, old Scorsese, though T really enjoy The Departed,
Almadovar, Casavetes, Verhoven, Lynch, (too many to list), Gogol Bordello, Tom
Waits, Nyman, Glass, Nina Simone, Vysotsky, Bach, Miles Davis
I have never read Moby Dick and I never will, so don't ask.
The six things I could never do without
What do you
think...? Besides that: alcohol, movies, family and friends, talking, jiu
jitsu, a creative outlet (writing, ok! it's writing. I write god damn it!
Mostly about... well, you know).
I spend a lot of time thinking about
On a typical Friday night I am
and whaling. Reminiscing about whaling with a friend while drinking. Watching a
movie about whaling and drinking. Drinking and playing poker with whalers. Or
drinking and... ok, so I like to drink, almost as much as I like whaling.
The most private thing I’m willing to admit
During sex I'm
thinking about whaling.
(also, I'm really 41)
I’m looking for
Girls who like guys
For new friends,
long-term dating, short-term dating, casual sex
You should message me if
You love whaling;
you hate whales and despise Michael Moore (not because you're a Christian
Conservative nut job but because he's a lying, selfish, manipulative turd without
a shred of integrity). You are a broad individual who knows what breadth means,
and you drink, and don't mind me smoking, and know how to laugh, and when. You
appreciate my filtration process. You were amused.
One expects talking and howling and other inappropriate
outbursts during certain movies, which are mostly attended by a particular
contingent – young stupid punk kids who got no respect for nothin’. Fortunately
these delinquents seldom attend plays or art films, lacking as they do
the constitution and refinement to appreciate the higher arts. No, the audience
for plays and art films is made up of mostly hipsters and intellectuals. They
read the NY Times and the New Yorker, go to museums and art
galleries, the ballet, vote Democrat, are often vegetarians, own bicycles...
anyway, you know the ones. One would imagine that having been brought up in a
genteel environment, having had the benefits of higher education and having an interest
in the humanities, that these people would know how to behave as audience
members, especially the older ones, having grown more wise and restrained over
the years, etc. Unfortunately, they don’t.
I was watching a play. It was a matinee so the
audience was mostly older. The house was tiny, the size of a living room, and
there was no barrier between us and the action; we were right there. The play
was excellent. Yet at least three people left in the middle of the performance.
One was seated next to the door so her departure, though noticeable mostly
because of the noise, was not outrageously disruptive. Then there was more
noise at the door. This was either another cunt leaving or the first cunt
coming back in. Irritating but not unbearable. But then this couple sitting
basically on what was the stage, to where if they stood up they would actually
be in the performance space, got up and left. These were people in their 60’s, obviously
educated, middle class or better, attending plays in the City. Plus, the man
had a press kit with him. He was a critic! Yet they felt it was ok to get up in
the middle of a 90 minute show, walk through nearly the entire performance
space while the actors were working, and exit. And it wasn’t like the actors
were defecating on stage or raping children, they were in fact acting quite
beautifully in a beautiful show. I would be mortified to do this, to walk out
as these people had done. Nothing short of extreme diarrhea or some other life-threatening
emergency could get me to do something like that. But these people seem to
think that if they feel like doing it, it’s ok to do it. Well fuckers it’s not!
It’s not ok, you bald fucking liver-spotted assholes! It’s not. Your fucking
job as an audience member is to sit there and shut the fuck up. Period. So sit
there and be quiet for 90 minutes. Don’t open your candies, don’t eat your
crackers, don’t play with your fucking cell phone, don’t whisper to your
goddamned date! Do you think you can do that?! (And now I’m speaking to you
and your wife in particular you old shitbag critic who walks out in the middle of a
performance, just in case by some miracle you happen to stumble across this article!) Because if you can’t do that, don’t come to the show! Nobody wants you there. Nobody
cares if you show up. If you get squished by a bus on the way over nobody is
going to miss you! Just don’t disrupt the fucking play you useless dipshits!
(The play, by the way, was Tender Napalm.
My review is right here: http://www.stageandcinema.com/2012/08/29/tender-napalm/)
In my 20’s I used to go to a lot of art films but
finally I couldn’t take the audience anymore and stopped. At every single one
of these things there was some cunt who felt he or she (mostly he) absolutely
needed everyone else in the audience to know that he got the joke, that he got
the irony of whatever happened. “Haha-hehe,” would be the noise he would
make to let all of us know just how fucking clever he is. What a clever asshole
you are, laughing in the middle of a serious, emotional scene, because you
caught the director’s ironic nuance! Bully for you motherfucker! You fucking
worthless idiot! Did that scene MAKE you laugh? Or did you laugh because you
thought it was intended to be funny, you fucking turd!?! And one would think
someone watching Bergman or Tarkovsky would know better, would, if not be too
busy communing with the film to comment on it, at least have the good manners
to show respect. After all, it takes a fine sensibility to appreciate Tarkovsky
and Bergman. But no! These fuckers just need to be heard, “HAHAHA!” Shut your face you used-up douche, nobody cares - we all got the
joke! We all know the fucking references the director is making! We’ve all read
Dostoyevsky and Camus. Hey, professor, we don’t need to hear your explanation
to your stupid-hat-wearing nineteen-year-old nitwit vegan basket case girlfriend
of what the director was trying to say in that scene. You have nothing to teach
us. Nothing! Except that you’re a jerkoff and a buffoon. And the thing is,
half the time these people don’t actually understand what the fuck they’re
laughing at. I remember watching Rocco
and His Brothers, arguably Visconti’s best film. There was a shot of the mother
screaming after learning of the death of one of her sons. It’s such a helpless
old-woman scream, so pathetic, so raw and undignified that in a way I guess you
could say it was funny to see someone so pathetic screaming so helplessly –
that is if that someone wasn’t a mother who’d just lost her son. The scene was
very uncomfortable and intentionally so. But these pinheads in the audience
laughed. Maybe some laughed because the emotion of the moment was too much for
them – hipsters and intellectuals are notorious for being terrified of emotion
– and rather than invest themselves in it they chose to chuckle it away. But I know that a good deal of the laughers
were thinking that this shot was supposed to be funny in some bizarre ironic
way, that Visconti was being melodramatic. Because these clowns not only don’t
know how to comport themselves in a movie theater but also have no souls and can’t
see anything beyond “irony” and melodrama. Ironically, they don’t in fact notice
real irony; to them irony is synonymous with kitsch, nothing more. These are
the same people who value cleverness over thoughtfulness.
These people need to be stopped. I’ve been trying
to do my part: During a screening of a documentary about Paradjanov, I frightened
a bespectacled intellectual in his fifties picking chips from a crackling
plastic bag by quietly suggesting that he “...go and crunch-a-munch those fucking things
somewhere else.” He didn’t look at me but stuffed the bag into the pocket of
his tweed jacket, then left. I told a girl giggling and yakking it up with her
boyfriend during Funny Games to shut
her mouth (I hated that movie so much I was hoping her boyfriend would do
something so I could give them both a beating and then have an excuse to leave the
theater). During Moonrise Kingdom
there were some kids giggling behind me, a few seats to my left. They mostly
did it during legitimately funny moments, which I would never begrudge them (I
am not a Nazi!). But then they would laugh at more and more things which were
not funny and this was becoming irritating. But every time, just as it would
get bad enough for me to say something, their giggling would subside. The other thing
was, my admonishing them would cause a rise of adrenaline within me, creating
feelings and thoughts which would hinder my enjoyment of the film. So my dilemma was, is their giggling bad enough to warrant me igniting those
feelings? And would the aftermath of a confrontation be more detrimental to my
enjoyment than their giggling? (You see what bullshit your giggling put me
through you little idiots!) Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned
around and tried to get their attention without disturbing other audience
members. But the three of them were too busy having fun, they didn’t notice;
they were teenagers, two guys and a girl or two girls and a guy, I couldn’t
tell. So I crumpled up a napkin and threw it at them. It bounced off a girl’s
forehead (this hadn’t been my intention but I’m not an accurate thrower). The
girl looked over at me, startled and perhaps a little frightened. I put my
index finger to my lips and went “Shshsh.” They never laughed inappropriately again
These are not heroic deeds and there were
opportunities I missed to correct people which I regret. My point is, if you
hear one of these assholes, put them in their place. And if you see someone
else admonishing them, support that person. These fuckers are not in their goddamned
living rooms watching Netflix. They are members of an audience. And as audience
members they have a responsibility to....well, I think I’ve made my point.