Before I start let me be clear that I love stories of New York. I love the city's history and the impact it has had on America (heck, the world's) collective consciousness. I love hearing about what was where and what happened and what it was like. I am (in general) against ripping down old buildings and replacing them with monstrosities of reflecting glass.
But there is a type of New Yorker that annoys the hell out of me. When I hear them talk, I grind my teeth and want to slap them silly.
New Yorkers who start every thing with "Remember when..." and end it with "...it's horrible now." They tend to be older (but not always) and are so rooted in memory and nostalgia that (1) anything after a certain point in time just isn't "New York" and (2) seem to have erased anything bad from their brain cells. They ramble nonstop on the fine details of the past, swimming (or drowning) in what they view as some sort of New York Golden Age. No detail is too small to recount as if layering on remembrance upon remembrance will some how convince the listener that, yes, everything has gone to hell now.
The stereotype of this is the New Yorker who refuses to get over the fact that the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. This is the reason I hate* Jonathan Schwartz of WNYC radio. I love the music he plays but when he starts talking, I start to throw things. Once he had a monologue that went something like this: "The trumpet player on that jazz ditty was Joseph Finkle. There was a shortstop of the Dodgers... the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the fake Dodgers, those were the good Dodgers, back when baseball was baseball and America was America... there was a shortstop for the real Dodgers of the name Joseph Finkle. That was a grand time. I remember going to Ebbets Field... that was a true baseball stadium when they knew what baseball was and how to build stadiums and popcorn used to taste like real popcorn. I remember the peanuts. They tasted better back then..." (This went on for three minutes until...) "Oh, wait. The shortstop was named Joseph Franklin. Well, here's a song from 1951, when music was actually music."
You might think I'm exaggerated but I'm not. Okay, a tiny bit.
I shouldn't let this bother me but I always have problems with people who don't realize that the world changes. Things change, people change, cities change. There is bad now, there was bad then. No "progress" is not the end all and be all, but change is a part of life. This is not a hard concept to grasp. I run into this issue about lots of things, not just New York. Books, TV, movies, improv, government, relationships, people, etc, etc.. Often it is clear their memory is just faulty. I would never want to taint that memory. What you experienced in your youth has a special place. My memory of seeing Star Wars when it first came out FAR exceeds the actual quality of that movie. My recollection my first kiss with Amy Nation must be far greater that the actual fact. But realizing that memories are their own thing is important.
What set me off on this today? I was sitting in Park Slope, drinking an ice coffee and doing the Sudoku in today's Metro, when the conversation between two well dressed men n their sixties at the table next to be drift into my ears. Here are some bits and pieces:
•"Do you remember Macy's? When it was a full block and had wooden escalators? That was a store! I once went there to buy caviar. You can't do that now, I'm sure. And the main floor used to be larger. When my mom took me there is was something special, not like it is now. They used to have restaurants." •"I don't know about these natural gas buses. Trolleys! Why did they ever get rid of trolleys? They were fast cross town than any bus is now. Some places still have trolleys. They call then 'light rail' now." •"Do you remember when the avenues were two-way? Oh, yes. They ruined the avenues when they became one-way. Especially 5th Avenue. The balance is all off. There is too much traffic now. Too many cars. Yes, they ruined it by making it one-way." •"Stores have these big gates on them. Why is that? All these gates and bars. It's like the Holocaust." •"See that car? [points to a VW passing by] They just don't make American cars like they used to. It's so ugly. The curves are all wrong." Later... •"Did you try that stuff yet? No, I've been to busy to get high. It's really good. Just take a small hit tonight. I think I will."
*I only hate two people in the world. Jonathan Schwartz and I guy I used to work with four years ago who, though his own stupidity, almost killed me on three or four occasions.
I can't quite believe it is Thursday. It is one of those weeks where I have felt trapped in a bubble. Being unable to leave the house during large chunks of time is like being on a another world.
But I am free now and the weather is fantastic.
Lately I've been making tiny connections with assorted people. Everything just feels bright and shiny this morning. I am also glad that this weekend will be a return to improv and classes and such. Holidays are dandy and all, but it cuts into some of the things that I love most. Musical improv on Saturday and a new 501 class on Sunday.
New classes are always and exciting time. New ways to look at things, new people to play with. I am especially excited about this on because it has a ton of folks in it that I've admired and what to perform with for a long time.
I've noticed an odd trend in commercials. People being followed by objects. Bicycles, slot machines, gas pumps, hospital gurneys. These are either things people want (the bicycle and slot machine) or want to stay away from (gas pump and gurney), although when I saw the slot machine one I thought it was about gambling addiction until I realized it was for a casino. Actually maybe it was about gambling addiction.
Either way, I find these ads creepy. The slot machine one has them standing, monolithic-like at every turn, their numbers rapidly growing. The gas pump stands by the side of the road (and eventually outside the house window) like De Niro in Cape Fear. The gurney and bicycle actually move, creeping up from behind. In each case I suppose they are meant to represent something. The slot machine... well, I discussed that. The gas pump, lonely that you no longer come to sup on gas as often (a bit like a spurned lover). The gurney is supposed to be the threat of a heart attack... or is it the drug, always there to help you? The bicycle is an odd on, because it is the thing that you supposedly want to buy and can with some new credit card (or some such... I honestly forget). But to me it seems like something that is demanding to be bought, the compulsion to purchase.
And I suppose that is it... objects that follow use, our hidden desires forcing themselves on us and into our minds, 24-7.
I hope more ads follow this trend. Show me the Starbucks coffee stalker, the iPhone stalker, the KFC bucket stalker, the Trojan condom stalker. Of course the objects for sale can't do the stalking... it has to be something that represents what they represent.
For a (very) short period I thought about going into advertising. I decided not to because I spend way too much thinking about this stuff. I would end up just making stuff like this:
Turned out to not be nearly as bad as thought at first. It should be all fixed now. However I still have to wait for the inspection and (if it passes) getting the gas turned back on. They did have an open appointment - Wednesday from 9am to 11pm. Yes, you read that window right. 26 hours. At least they are honest.
A) Go to Under St. Marks Theater (94 St. Marks Place) at 7pm and see my musical improv team Veal (along with the hardcore Iron Ruckus)
B) Go to the Parkside Lounge (317 E. Houston) at 8pm and see my improv team Thank You, Robot at our shared monthly show System Error (along with co-hosts Bad Data and special guests Beast). It will be a very special TYR show because it is only the ladies... which should be some amazing 2-person improv.
For special credit, see Veal and run down to the Parkside to catch the second half of System Error.
You must do at least one.
Sadly, I am missing both since I am starting a class that night.
I saw Hancock yesterday, and while it was a seriously flawed movie (which I knew going it), it did get me thinking more about the state of the superhero genre movie. The movie with all of its mistakes and failures, does try to do some things somewhat new (a least for movies) that makes it good starting point or focus point to discuss how things are changing… especially in this summer of good superhero movies (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 2 and The Dark Knight) and adolescent power fantasies (Wanted).
So I had fully planned on writing a nice long rambling essay on the topic. But my life has been preempted by a home repair crisis. I am going to try to work on it between waiting for phone calls from contractors and such… if only so my mind doesn’t fixate on the hellish week ahead. I'll also be watching the below Dancing video over and over.
This is a short little film called Where the Hell Matt?Matt is just a guy who once made some videos of his particularly charming dance/jig while he was traveling. Stride Gum contacted him and asked if they could send him around the world doing the same thing.
Lessons that can be learned: • Dancing is universal. • Commitment can sell anything. • Sometimes corporate sponsored viral stuff is not bad. • This the sort of thing that makes me laugh and cry in joy. • If you don't find this charming, you are dead to me.