Monday, September 15, 2008

The Top 13 Things I See On My Way To and From the Subway to Work

I'm still pretty down about the passing of David Foster Wallace and don't think I can muster up much snark or pluck. I wish I could throw my hat onto the pile of fond remembrances, but there are too many good ones out there already. (And frankly, I spend too much of my life rehashing the good thoughts of wiser others, so... I figure I'll pass this round. It might cut it for The Top 18 Ways Can't Hardly Wait Maybe Changed My Life, but, y'know... this guy actually changed my life.) For starters, there's this post from Rob, this one from my good friend Matt, and this piece from the Times that I found particularly touching.

Anyway. These are things that I see when I leave my apartment on 47th and walk to the subway on 50th to go to work in the morning. Not good or bad things, not in any sort of order, just things that stick out particularly.

On the way to the subway:

1. The Blarney Stone in the morning

This is one of the many old school Irish pubs named "The Blarney Stone"--honestly, there are as many Blarney Stones in NYC as there are Starbuckses. (HAHA, and there's even more of that type of joke to come, ladies!) Tom, Caitlin, and I went there maybe once or twice when we first moved into the HK. It's an absurd amalgam of everything you'd expect from a stone's-throw-from-Times-Square-pub, but somehow, that does little to recommend it for regular patronage. There's darts, reheated chicken fingers, seven bucks for a shot of Wild Turkey (I mean, really?), Erotic Photo Hunt, and generally terrifying toothless regulars. I don't mean to sound elitist, but teeth are a comforting thing. Their absence is the distinct opposite. Anyway, the B-Stone basically opens at 9, and sure enough, they're there, hanging around in front, two beers in already, by the looks of it. Again, that's not a judgment--it's a weirdly wonderful slice of a Hell's Kitchen that barely exists anymore, but is most certainly clinging to this turf with every last cracked, dirty fingernail.

2. The view down 47th

If you peer down towards 7th, where the hellish mass of sweat and flesh ebbs and flows from The World's Biggest Applebee's towards The Neon-Lit NYPD Station, you'll catch a few choice sites. First, there's the Brooks Atkinson Theater, currently home to Grease, currently blaring the soundtrack of Grease, currently annoying anyone in the neighborhood with enough taste to stay the fuck away fromGrease. Then, across from that there's the Biltmore Theater... which Caitlin has dubbed the Mamet-Esparza Theater, since all of its productions since we moved in have all been either Mamet plays or shows that featured Raul Esparza. (Okay, it's not the most inventive name. Oh, also, there was like a week in between when Duran-Duran was inexplicably performing at the theater.) Finally, at the end of the block, there's usually a huge movie poster on one of the billboards overlooking 7th. During the summer, it was a Dark Knight poster with Heath Ledger's visage on it. It was an eerie, yet somehow heartening reminder, to be sure.

3. The fire station on 48th and 8th

I never notice the fire station so much, but there's a little bumper sticker on the side of it that always gets me. It's one of those ripped-off images of Calvin (of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes fame), except instead of peeing on a rival sports team's logo, he's praying at the foot of the Twin Towers, their silhouettes predictably forming the '11' in 9-11-01. The mind boggles. No, the mind more than boggles. The mind stops dead in its tracks, stares dumbfounded, feels the angry urge to spit, and finally, chalks it up to post-"post-9/11" poetry.

4. The many New York novelty shops

There are maybe four of these in between 47th and 50th and they are all hilarious. And all vehemently pro-Obama? Or perhaps they simply expect their clientele to be pro-Obama... which begs the question: since most NYC tourists seem to be red-staters, or, at least, since most of the tourists I see dropping by the I LOVE NEW YORK STORE store are presumably of such a persuasion, might these shirts be a bit of a gamble?

5. My daily flirtation with Food Emporium

Aaaah, Food Emporium, every day I pass you and think, "No, Peter! They have microwaveable Chicken Tikka Masala meals for like, $3.99! You like that food and you like saving money! If you buy lunch up at work, you'll end up spending at least twice that!" But I never do it. I can't close. It's always been a problem...

6. The CitySights tour bus, and all its silly patrons

I consider it a special badge of honor that the dudes in the blue CitySights windbreakers stopped asking if I wanted to buy a ticket about two days into my career as a real life adult person.

7. The Two Starbuckses

There's really no reason to make fun of the by-now obvious proliferation of the finest coffee Seattle has to offer. Frankly, there are days when I pass the one on 47th and by 49th, I've totally changed my mind. They are simply capitalizing on the indecisive-and-sleepy-in-the-morning market.

8. The Fantasticks playing at The Snapple Theater Center

When I'm lucky--which hasn't been most days lately, but I'm holding out hope for a 9th inning rally--when I'm lucky and I pass the Fantasticks theater, they're playing the Jerry Orbach recording of "Try to Remember", the most recognizable tune from what was once Broadway's longest running show. To say that it is comforting is both indulgent and an understatement. The combination of the voice, the melody, the words, and the context do something wild for me. Simply put, it's exactly what I need before I get on the uptown 1 train.

On the way home:

9. My nightly flirtation with Blimpie

It's like Subway, but... um... it's somehow different? There is no Jared, for instance. Also, I have a good relationship going with not one, but two of the sandwich artists at the Subway around the corner from my apartment, so... I've got that going for me. Also, there is a good chance that if this Blimpie were a Quizno's, I would have been frequenting it for half a year now. Full disclosure: I have never been to a Quizno's but on their commercial, they say that they are "toasty" and after a long day at work, I could be into toasty... I could be way into toasty.

10. The strip club doorman

There are only so many occurrences in a guy's life that make him feel like a character in a Dickens novel. This is one of them and it happens almost every night for me. I come out of the subway on 50th and I pass the Bare Elegance club and I see this guy barking, "Girls, girls, girls... come on in, we've got hot girls, hot girls, hot girls!" He looks maybe 50-55, dressed in either a suit or a gray and red doorman's outfit, sometimes with white gloves, glasses, and thinning hair. He's short. He's not great at what he does, but then again, whois good at that? But the thing is... I can just imagine someone, a guy like me, even, hearing that litany--"Girls, girls, girls"--and thinking, "Y'know... tonight, I am not going to slink off to my garret, where I will cook myself some EasyMac, and either watch I Love The New Millenium or 'work on my novel'. I'm going to go see girls, girls, girls!"

11. Brazil Grill, the putative inventor of the Churasco

Dudes. It is a piece of grilled chicken on a roll, perhaps with some lettuce and tomato. That is most definitely nothing new, and certainly nothing that I would expect an overpriced, potentially not-really-Brazilian restaurant on 8th Ave. We need higher standards, ethnic food providers of America! I've seen this before and I know where it goes from here... in Buffalo, NY, we have like, 17 different Greek places that claim to be the Home of the Souvlaki. THE souvlaki. The original souvlaki. The primogenial souvlaki. Back in the days when souvlaki was just some inchoate twinkle in the mind's eye of some budding line cook... that creation was born in Buffalo (read: not Greece). 17 times.

12. The duct tape X in front of Duane Reade

Oh, lord, this is embarrassing. Um. So, once Laksh and I were walking up 8th and these two dudes were all, "Hey, we're from MTV... we're doing a TV thing for inner-city music programs... stand on this X and say this stuff and give us twenty bucks for some CDs we probably burned! The camera is up on that balcony across the street... you can't see it." And, um, we did it. I mean, one of the dudes had a mic headset on! Plus, I have a decent amount of white guilt? Welp. Every day I see that X (because it is still there and was likely there prior to our "appearance" on "MTV") and I think, "Ah, fuck... I am an even bigger dork than I let on." And yet, somehow, I sleep well most nights.

13. The Blarney Stone at night

The folks that were there at 9:45 AM? Still there at 7:30 PM. I love New York.

1 comment:

John Capo said...

Thanks for number 8. It's nice to know people remember that Jerry had a stage career that spanned over 25 years before he even thought of putting on his Det. Lennie Briscoe badge. I'm glad The Snapple Theater Center is a welcome part of your daily commute. Please stop in one day and catch The Fantasticks. The revival is every bit as magical as the original.

John Capo
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