Sunday, August 10, 2008

Numbered Days

The t-shirt I saw at Coney Island on Saturday summed it all up pretty succinctly: “The days of this society is numbered.”

Yes, they certainly is. And summer is disappearing pretty quickly, too.

Apparently this t-shirt is a hot item with…somebody, and the grammatical error is intentional, or at least I hope it are.

I headed out to Coney Island to enjoy the sun catch a band called, yes, really, “Witches in Bikinis,” which--witch?--was playing two sets on the boardwalk. (No "sets" jokes, please.)

I had met one of the members on the subway back in March. We had a nice chat, exchanged a few emails, and I promised to come see the group perform. With a name like that I could hardly resist. So Saturday was the day. (Whoa--I almost wrote "Satyrday." Oh, Sigmund, where are you?)

I hadn’t been to Coney Island since last August when I did a video for my old company, which I shall not mention by name because I don’t want to.

We did the video shoot just a few weeks after the tornado tore through Bay Ridge and did all kinds of hideous damage.

Should I say it? Okay, I’ll say it: I can’t believe it’s been a year already since the tornado.

There, I said it, and I’m ashamed.

The tornado was awful, obviously, but it helped me reconnect with my cousin in New Mexico after she heard the news and did a net search to see if we had been blown away, so I guess disaster does have its dividends. Uh...forget I said that.

I haven’t gone anywhere this summer and it felt good to break up my Saturday routine of food-shopping, dry cleaning pick-up and pondering on what the hell I’m going to do on Saturday night.

I rode the N train out to Stillwell Avenue, passing the time by playing peek-a-boo with an adorable 11-month-old girl named Sophie.

"You're playing one of her favorite games," her father told me.

Mine, too. Once I hit the boardwalk, I picked a bench and waited for the witches to show up.

Unfortunately there was this young thug sitting on a nearby bench who was trying to impress two young girl friends by harassing anyone walking by—as long as they were smaller than he was, of course.

So when he saw two men, who may or may not have been gay, this genius had to yell “faggot, faggot for life,” which I guess means something. An Asian person was greeted with the stunningly brilliant line, “are you looking for the Great Wall of China?”

And finally this gangsta wannabe vaulted over the fence and half-chased one pasty looking fellow, challenging him to a fight and calling him “white boy” and other such cheerful names.

So, I’m sharing this sunny day at the beach with a hulking racist homophobe. I hope his days is numbered, but I don’t think we could be so fortunate.

It must be something about the benches that brings out the worst in some people. I walked by a bench on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge the other day and this drunken lout refused to move his bag for a young Muslim woman.

“Go sit on the other one,” he snarled, and the woman walked away.

This kind of thing pisses me off, just like the butthole at Coney Island. On both occasions I had my usual bad-ass lord of justice fantasy where I see myself body slamming the offending idiot and give him a lesson he’ll never forget.

I wonder when I’ll stop doing this…the old age home, perhaps? When I’m on a walker and leering at the nurses?

Brace yourself for a shock, but the reality was much different: I got up and went to another bench at the tail end of the boardwalk.

But this business bothered me so much—too much, really—that I almost let this jerk spoil my day. I guess that’s what makes Coney Island what it is, good times, bad times, the garish and the serene all mixing together.

The moron and his crew were gone by the time I walked down to Deno’s where the Witches were going to do their thing in front of the Wonder Wheel.

I still had some time to kill, so I semi-stalked a rather tall woman in bikini who wouldn’t make eye contact with me, which is good because, while I don’t think she was a witch, she probably wasn’t the girl of my dreams either.

As she walked away, I saw a blind man, whom I believe was Arabic, tapping his cane around a trash can. He was completely disoriented and no one was helping him out.

“Do you need a hand, brother?” I said, sticking out my arm.

“Aren’t the stairs here?”

“Not quite.” He took my arm and I guided him to the stairs. “Here you go.”

“Thank you, my friend,” he said in some kind of accent and went his way.

I find there’s nothing like doing a good deed to wipe away the memory of some idiot’s behavior.

Everybody Out

The Witches in Bikinis actually is (are?) a good band, in addition to being kind of hot. They put on a good show and not just for the obvious reasons. They sing funny horror-tinged rock and roll numbers, dance around, and…they wear bikinis.

Did I mention the bikinis?

My subway acquaintance wasn’t there on Saturday; there were only three witches as opposed to the usual contingent of six to eight. But I wasn’t complaining.

And I’ll have you know that I was able to tear my eyes off the group for a few minutes and spot that t-shirt I told you about.

The days is no longer numbered at my company’s old office on Hudson Street—they’re gone. Friday was our last day there and on Monday we report to the new place on Broadway near City Hall.

I’m torn on this one because I love the Hudson Street area and after something like six years downtown I’m fed up with Wall Street. (I was going to use the Al Pacino Godfather III line about “they keep pulling me back,” but I’m pretty sick of it, so I won’t.)

But it will be a much easier commute as I will be spared the nightmare of shoe-horning my way on to the D train every morning. I’ll be closer to my gym and Trinity Church, which I have missed over these last several months.

I took a last walk around the Hudson Street area on Friday and went by the remains of Chumley’s on Bedford Street.

This was a former speakeasy that became a favorite hangout of William Faulkner, Eugene O’Neil, Willa Cather, and others. My cousin—the one now in New Mexico—first told me about this place, which retained its speakeasy atmosphere long after Prohibition was repealed.

I went back a few times and always said I’d go more often, but I just found out that last April—a few months before the Bay Ridge tornado—the place got hit by its own private tornado in the form of a major structural collapse.

There was a work crew there when I walked around the place, but I don’t know what’s coming next. It seems highly unlikely that Chumley’s, or at least the Chumley’s of old, will ever return.

I also ran out the clock on something I had been meaning to do at my Hudson Street office since I started working there since April. The head of security at the building is a former New York City police officer and a Bay Ridge native, though he lives upstate now.

We had a nice chat as he took my ID photo, discussing the changes in Bay Ridge and Brooklyn over the years.

I thought about asking this man to help me with a novel I’ve been “working” on—and off—for several presidential administrations now. The book lacks that kind of detail that can make a crime novel stand out.

I’ve tried approaching the NPYD directly and, oh, Christ, what’s the point? I got the kind of runaround that makes Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” routine look like basic English.

Every day I’d go into work with the idea of approaching this man. And every day I didn’t.

I kept losing my nerve, even though this really didn’t require nerve. It was a simple request: can you help me, yes or no? But I felt foolish, I felt like I didn’t have the right to bother this man with my stupid writer fantasies.

I was intimidated. This man had actually seen and done the kind of things I want to write about. Am I gangsta wannabe, fantasizing about the cops and robbers, but never getting close to the action?

I hate to say this, but I was behaving the way I do sometimes when I want to ask a woman for a date.

I have feeling of unworthiness and this terror of “looking stupid” when I ask for something--whatever the hell that means in this twisted society where people insult each other from park benches.

Now, he might have not have able to help me. I’m looking for an expert in organized crime and if he didn’t have that expertise, well, there you are.

But I’ll never know if he could have helped me, or perhaps recommended someone else who could me. I’ll never know because I didn’t ask.

So now I've got to find another expert and see if I can finish this goddamn book.

The days of this novel isn’t number, they go on and on, unlike life which has annoying way of coming to an end.

It just seems like I make progress in overcoming my shyness and inhibitions, where I actually ask for something I want, only for something like this to happen.

Kind of like Al Pacino in Godfather III, when he said—“just when I think—”

--oh, never mind…


Anonymous said...

you're funny. i like your blog. where did you get the clock widget. cheers!

Rob K said...

Hi, and thanks. I downloaded the clock a while from a site called

Take care...

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