Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why New Yorkers Have Sex

Two researchers at the University of Texas recently published a paper announced "Why Humans Have Sex." Cindy Meston and David Buss found over two hundred reasons, and here are their top ten.

Top 10 Reasons Men Have Sex

1. I was attracted to the person

2. It feels good

3. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure

4. It’s fun

5. I wanted to show my affection to the person

6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release

7. I was "horny"

8. I wanted to express my love for the person

9. I wanted to achieve an orgasm

10. I wanted to please my partner

Top 10 Reasons Women Have Sex

1. I was attracted to the person

2. I wanted to experience the physical pleasure

3. It feels good

4. I wanted to show my affection to the person

5. I wanted to express my love for the person

6. I was sexually aroused and wanted the release

7. I was "horny"

8. It’s fun

9. I realized I was in love

10. I was "in the heat of the moment"

Not to be outdone, Dr. Waylon Dowd, a fellow at Manhattan's prestigious Walthrop Academy, released the results of his research, giving the top ten reasons why New Yorkers have sex.

Top 10 Reasons New York Men Have Sex

1. There was nothing on TV.

2. The movie I wanted to see was sold out.

3. You don't get interns that hot every day.

4. She was tied down anyway, so I thought, what the hell!

5. Because who knew when I'd find another girl who'd fall for that "movie producer" line?

6. My wife was giving birth so I figured I had some free time.

7. He was an angelic little cherub, and I'm always on a high after I finish saying mass.

8. She was asleep and the train was deserted so I figured no harm, no foul.

9. Melania gets bored when Mr. Frederic works on my hair.

10. I can do anything I want because goddammit I'm the MAYOR.

Top 10 Reasons New York Women Have Sex

1. It was our third date and it's kind of like the law.

2. How else was I supposed to get tickets to Arcade Fire?

3. The cop was sort of cute, and my folks would have killed me if I'd gotten another speeding ticket.

4. The kids were asleep, and I've always had a weakness for guys selling stuff door-to-door.

5. The choice was between that and getting fired, and I've got bills you wouldn't believe.

6. I could have been, like, the eighth girl on my block to have Derek Jeter's child.

7. He turned in all his homework on time, and it was sooo sweet the way he always called me "Mrs. Teacher."

8. Honestly, I didn't want to, but when I woke up Clarence Thomas was on top of me.

9. She said there was nothing hotter than make-up sex, and we'd been arguing so much on "The View."

10. How else was I going to get my crack pipe past the guards at Promises?

The Whys of Mating: 237 Reasons and Counting

Once in a Cordon-Bleu Moon

Eating dinner in New York makes “Fear Factor” look like a church picnic. Some years ago, the residents got bored with real food and demanded the restauranteurs offer ultra-rare flora and fauna that no one had ever considered eating. Now they smugly declare themselves a culinary capital, standing in sharp contrast to the rest of the world.

Mid-America’s favorite foods come from:

(a) the freezer
(b) a bucket with the Colonel’s picture on it
(c) Olive Garden
(c) the Little Debbie display near the supermarket checkout

But a New Yorker’s favorite food is

(a) deadly unless cleaned by a licensed chef
(b) aged, uncooked meat, smuggled in through Customs
(c) found inside a sick goose
(d) dug up by a pig.

Now, we’ve got all the obligatory fast-food restaurants here, so this weirdness doesn’t affect those of us with normal appetites. But the Chelsea McDonalds isn’t a place to take a date, even if it does have a piano bar. I was seeing a guy named Anthony, though we had yet to do anything physical, and I figured I’d need to really impress him to leap over that hurdle. The city’s most expensive Mexican restaurant should do it, I convinced myself.

And today, the waiter confirmed, was our lucky day.

“We have something very special to offer you. Our chef recently returned from an excursion to Oaxaca with several ounces of huitlacoche. It is a rare, elusive fungus that grows solely in August on the south sides of mature corn stalks. As the kernels are infected, they grow large and puffy, turning gray to black as they fill with spores. It’s a rare treat, and was considered a delicacy by the Maya. The chef adds it to fire-roasted tomatoes and a fine julienne of papaya, enrobes it in a dried corn husk, then steams it especially for you.”

At this point I start thinking, buddy, you’ve got the wrong guy. You’ve got me confused with Mario Batali, or maybe Truman Capote. In fact, I’ve been scanning the menu looking for one of those frozen burritos you find at the grocery store priced at seven for a dollar. Yup, I know it works out to twelve cents a pound, and I know full well that neither meat nor potatoes nor corn costs twelve cents a pound, so obviously a brick-shaped amalgam of them shouldn’t cost less. But do I care? Nah. It’s just food. I’ll like it even if it wasn’t dug up by a pig.

Anthony, on the other hand, lights up like a chandelier. He acts like Alec Baldwin just jumped in his lap and started rotating slowly. “That sounds incredible,” he says. “I have got to have that.”

What? I thought, shaking my head like a soggy dog. Which part of “infected,” “spores” or “fungus” sounds best? I mean, if my date is going to eat diseased corn, why did I just spent the last three hours disguising a cold sore on my lip?

Unfortunately, dinner was the highlight of the evening. Saying good night at his door, Anthony looked considerably less happy than when he was eating. He shook my hand, said he’d had a nice time, and that was that. I told my friend Steve about it later, and he knew exactly what was going on. “See, average isn’t good enough for New Yorkers. If it was, we’d still be living in Boise and wearing Keds. This guy doesn’t like average, and Roman, you’re about as average as they get.”

Some people might take this as an insult, but some people don’t think Kenny Rogers makes the world’s best rotisserie chicken. “So how do I make myself look special?”

“Marketing,” Steve says. “Take Gucci, for instance. If you could just walk into any store and buy one of their handbags, nobody would pay that kind of cash. So they make a few a day, hand them out to celebrities, and tell the press they’re sold out. Everybody knows it’s just marketing hype, but it works anyway. People get into fistfights over the stuff.”

Hmm. That was mighty tempting. I mean, I couldn’t get people to fight over me if I had Al Sharpton perched atop my head. “So I should make myself scarce,” I say, to an enthusiastic nod. “Maybe stop answering the phone, make up nonexistent previous engagements, send myself flowers?”

Steve nods, and I shake my head sadly. “You know,” I say, “that advice was stupid when I read it ten years ago, in Cosmopolitan.

Naturally Steve got angry, though only a real friend will tell you when your advice is crap. Still, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. New Yorkers have to make a big deal out of everything. It’s not enough just to eat something: you want to eat something that’s nearly extinct, that’s prepared by an eccentric band of monks, that’s scraped at 4:24 in the morning from the teeth of sleeping hyenas. I mean, how else do you explain truffles? If they grew on trees they wouldn’t be on the menu of every restaurant here, from Le Bernadin to Taco Shack. But pigs find them underground in a small part of the south of France, only a couple months out of the year. Needless to say, most New Yorkers want them in everything, from their toothpaste to their zit creams.

It was like pulling teeth getting Anthony to go out with me again. First he said he was busy, then he wasn’t feeling well, then he had friends coming in from out of town. After a month of bargaining with his answering machine, I finally wore him down. I promised him tickets to a sold-out Broadway show, and dinner at a restaurant that had an unlisted phone number.

The night went by quickly, though the conversation didn’t exactly flow. When we got back to his place he looked at me like I was cauliflower in a world of chocolate cake. Yup, I thought -- it’s coming. The “we’re not right for each other” speech.

“Can I come inside?” I asked. What can I tell you? I’m an optimist.

He shook his head. “I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.” He unlocked his door, stepped in, and turned. “Roman,” he announced, “this isn’t working for me. I think we should call it quits.”

I gave him the big-eyed, pleading stare of a Keane waif painting, but he was resolute, and started to close the door in my face. Wait, I thought -- I can still save it. Think rare. Think elusive. Something I’ve got that’s one in a million.

“You don’t know what you’re missing, bud,” I called seconds before the door shut completely. “This is the first hard-on I’ve had since Christmas!”

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why I Love Subway, Part One

The Cold Cut Combo is a Subway tradition. Experience sliced turkey** bologna, turkey** ham and turkey** salami with your choice of fresh vegetables and condiments served on freshly baked bread.

**Pork based in Canada

So turkey is pork based in Canada.

Is Spam roast beef that buys a trailer down by the fairgrounds?

Subway's Cold Cut Combo.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Straight-bashing in Palm Springs

A Palm Springs man is recovering from an alleged "straight-bashing" after being knocked unconscious Tuesday night.

Police say the unidentified 68-year-old was walking through a known gay neighborhood when he was approached by two younger men. They asked if he was gay, and if he'd like to go home with them. He replied no to both.

"He then felt something hit him, and he then lost consciousness," said Sgt. Mitch Spike of the Palm Springs Police.

Several officers are describing this incident as a reverse hate crime, since the man was beaten up for not being gay.

First Bill O'Reilly warns us about lesbian gangs, and now the Palm Springs Police report gays are attacking straights.

Here's a more likely scenario: two heterosexuals wanted to rob an old man, then got mad when he didn't fall for their scheme.

In fact, even this is more likely: the old guy was walking really fast, and his balls swung up and hit him in the head.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Big Feet: Big Stuff or Big Bluff?

In the history of the universe, ever since Nothing turned into Something, since planets formed from cosmic dust and salamanders evolved into Homo Erectus, there have been exactly four studies to determine whether Big Feet mean Big Meat.

Scientists have examined virtually everything: why the sky is blue, why birds sing, why toast always lands butter side down (Svenska Joornal der Breakfaast, 1997, pp. 162-217). Why the penis ennui? When I'm hanging around some bar, trying to choose between the reasonably-attractive tall guy and the drop-dead gorgeous short guy, the last thing on my mind is dirty bread.

Gay people blame homophobia for all kinds of stuff, but I'm thinking it's involved here as well. This is the most frequently asked question of all time, surpassing even "Who killed JFK?" and "Why have I heard of Charlie Sheen?" A million times a day somebody asks if there's a connection, and that's just the folks who catch me in clothes.

Scientists, I'm guessing, don't want to be tarred by that "gay" feather. It's okay to grow a spare ear on the back of a mouse, or genetically merge chickens with Miracle Whip so they'll start laying egg salad. But get another man excited? That's just plain weird. What are the other scientists going to think? "That Guenther, he likes the penis a little too much," they'd tell their assistants. "Now go sew these lips on that dog." And how's his wife going to feel when he comes home and recounts his day? "Honey!" he calls, setting his briefcase on the hall table, "I saw a real whopper this morning!" She might feign enthusiasm to his face, but you know she's going to tell her family he's unemployed.

Even these four studies seem a little skittish, since they all have serious flaws. The first declares there's no significant correlation between penis length and shoe size, though somehow they've avoided handling erect penises. They "gently stretch" them, like they're tight socks, and measure them that way. Because, you know, who's got the energy to get a guy hard?

I want to tell these researchers that nobody cares how stretchy penises are. I have friends who have sex with rubber plants, and friends who have sex with balloons, but I don't know anybody who wants to get screwed by taffy. Then I notice their disclaimer: they don't need to measure erections, because an earlier study showed a strong correlation between stretched length and erect length.

This sounds a little farfetched to me, so I check it out. I'll just say two things about that study: one, math is boring even with big dicks involved; and two, while the correlation between stretched and hard length was 0.793, the correlation between soft and hard length was 0.678.

Translated into English, it means guessing how much bigger a stretched penis will get is just slightly more reliable than guessing how much bigger a soft, dangly penis will get. And if that were even remotely possible, I wouldn't have cried myself to sleep three times last week.

A few months later a second group of scientists comes along, and they decide they can do better. "To hell with stretching dicks!" they proclaim. "We'll have guys measure their own!"

I'll pause here so we can all laugh at these people. Mature men with advanced degrees, wearing white coats and stethoscopes, based a study on the assumption that men wouldn't lie about their endowments. Maybe they phoned the guys and asked how long their dicks were, or maybe they shoved them into little cubicles while they waited squeamishly outside. Either way seems pretty silly to me, and I buy my cologne from Rite Aid. Doctors can remove your spleen or transplant your gallbladder or even smear a woman's pap, but getting a guy visibly excited, well . . . that's not somewhere anyone wants to go.

Anybody who's ever answered a personal ad knows how that study turned out. They didn't find any correlation between shoe size and penis length -- maybe because regardless of shoe size, everybody reported nineteen inches. Guys lie about everything, even when they know they'll get caught. "That's in dog years," they admit when you question their age. "That's on the moon," they say when you doubt their weight. As for endowment, cold weather is a popular excuse. Except I lived with one of these guys for nearly a year, and two weeks in Death Valley wouldn't have nudged him toward tiny.

Eventually a third research group steps into the breach. "That second study was nonsense," they decree, "so we're going to reenact the first." They stretch, they measure, and there's no correlation.

The veil is lifted slightly by our fourth and final group, though they're stretchers as well. "We think we found something in index fingers," they announce, "but we just didn't see enough penises." You can criticize these guys if you want -- they should get better funding, or try to sign up volunteers -- but I just want to buy them a beer and say, buddy, you and me both.

And so here I sit, a ridiculously tall man who gets asked three hundred times a day if big feet mean big meat. I don't like sharing my own personal data, at least until guys have bought me appetizers, so I've always said nobody knows. Now I can add a well-informed postscript: that nobody's done a study comparing erect penis length to shoe size, or finger length, or height. That the geniuses in our prestigious research institutes have more pressing things to do, like calculating the force required to shoot a sheep to the moon (Applied Ovine Ergonomics, Nov. 2002, pp. 523-81). That maybe it's time gay scientists stepped up to the plate.

Heck, I'll volunteer, if that'll help. Because when my time comes, I'd be pretty damned proud to have this on my tombstone:

Here lies RomanHans.

He wasn't a doctor, or a scientist, or even particularly smart.

But he sure wasn't afraid to get a guy hard.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Stripping Grammer Naked

Once in a while, somebody will ask me where I learned to write. Sometimes I tell them about the year I spent under John Rechy at Princeton. Sometimes I tell them about the short-story classes I took with Edmund White, or the sabbatical at that writer's colony off the woodsy coast of Nantucket.

And sometimes I tell them the truth. That I learned everything I know from sitting naked in front of my computer and reading lots and lots of godawful porn.

Experts know the best way to learn what's good is to study what's bad. For instance, I learned how not to cook Mexican food from Taco Bell, what not to wear from Wal-Mart, and how not to have sex with ex-husbands 1, 2 and 4. Desperate to find the very worst in writing, I cruised the sleaziest internet porn sites, searched Google for every four-letter word, and scrutinized every fan-fiction site where Spock and Sulu ever touched.

To save you time, though, and from discovering your belongings heaped on the doorstep by an intolerant boyfriend who knows about Internet Explorer's "History" file, I've compiled the most miserable writing I've found in many hard years of study. If we take a moment to examine these examples and see what mistakes were made, we can use that knowledge to write up some rules that we can use to improve our own work.

(1) "He had nice thick chest hair that covered his entire body."

The first thing we learn is, never eat breakfast while surfing porn sites. Because while chest hair can be reasonably fetching on, say, a chest, when it creeps over to the forehead or the elbows it can make Jim Belushi spew up his Sugar Pops. It doesn't take an expert to realize chest hair is best confined to the upper torso, in much the same manner that toenails should remain in the vicinity of the feet.

(2) "Jim grabbed his ass through his tight shorts and said, ‘I want you bad.'"

From this awkward construction we learn that if there are two or more males in your story, avoid using the word "his." Your dramatic scene will turn farcical if the reader thinks your hero is grabbing his own body parts and expressing his feelings of desire. Similar examples include the following:

-- The stranger wrapped his hungry mouth around his mushroom head.
-- Standing at the side of the bed, Gustavo grabbed his ankles and lifted them high into the air.
-- Slowly Maury worked his lips down to his stomach.

(3) All night long Carl slept, sprawled naked across the bed, and Max approached with anticipation.

What we learn here is, modifiers in the first half of your sentence also apply to the second. We’ve got a scene that’s probably eight hours long, which means Max moves about as slowly as gay rights.

(4) "Brad's endowment was throbbing so hard Joshua thought it'd explode."

The problem here is painfully obvious: Don't frighten your reader with images from Japanese horror movies. You've spent hours conjuring up the perfect picture, then you go and spoil the mood:

-- Chuck's erection grew so hard it could have knocked over Hitler.
-- I'd never seen an ass pounded so relentlessly, and I watch Bill O'Reilly.
-- His equipment, trapped in those thin white shorts, looked like my grandma in her bra.

(5) Max took out Walter's penis and played with it.

Watch out for the words “took out.” While you may assume it’s equivalent to “bared" or "uncovered,” the reader may opt for another meaning, like “to remove from a box.”

(6) I really wanted to have sex with him. After I finished my coffee, I slid over next to him and brought it up.

Here we've got a confusing pronoun -- in this case, the word "it." The writer is hoping he can refer all the way back to his previous sentence, but instead the reader stops at the closest noun, which just happens to be "coffee."

Other regrettable examples are:

-- My wife and I made love on the deck of our pristine white yacht, then I tied her to the pier and went home.
-- Cooper and I took the dog for a walk. I couldn't resist the way his ass swayed back and forth, so I dragged him behind a bush and took him from behind.

(7) "He grabbed hold of his meat and pulled out a condom."

This sentence shows that sometimes there's a weird synergy between different parts of your sentence. Either half of this line is fine by itself, but put the two together and it sounds like a magic trick.

Similar missteps include:

-- I squeezed the bartender's nipple and he refilled my empty glass.
-- Wayne rubbed Raoul's butt until Barbara Eden appeared.

(8) "On my knees, Stephen grabbed my head and guided it toward his groin."

This is what's called a "dangling modifier," because the writer has misplaced a clause. Rather than being turned on, the reader pictures a Cirque du Soleil-style attraction. Re-read your articles searching for sentences like:

-- Covered with mayonnaise, Roger took a bite of his sandwich.
-- Engrossed in the newspaper, his penis lay there quietly.
-- Nearly at orgasm, Puddles the dog trotted in.

Well, we've just barely scratched the surface, but today's lesson has to come to an end. Remember, there are serious side effects to reading too much porn. You start to feel inadequate by constantly comparing yourself to these perfect, unreal images, and your self esteem can suffer as a result.

Honestly, though, I swear to you: usually I can go on for hours.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Make Dinner In Ten Minutes Or Less

Wednesday’s New York Times has an article by Chef Mark Bittman entitled “Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.” Since anybody who doesn’t have time to cook a proper dinner doesn’t have time to read the five-page thing, I’ve picked out my favorite tips and summed up exactly what Mr. Bittman is trying to say.

1. Cook some eggs. Hey, so I start off slow.

2. Toss herbs with olive oil and serve over pasta. Pretend you’re deaf when everybody asks what happened to the sauce.

3. Go to the local fishmonger and buy some sea scallops. Cut them into -- What? You don’t have a local fishmonger, and the seafood at Piggly-Wiggly smells like Pine-Sol? Well, okay. You’ll have to skip this one.

7. Pull the leaves off a couple bunches of basil. Wash them carefully and start to pat them dry with paper towels, but after about an hour just fling them in the garbage and realize now you don't have time to eat.

8. Put a few dozen littleneck clams into --

Oops. Sorry, I forgot. Yup, you gotta skip this one too.

9. Fry a steak. Well, some folks might not have thought of it.

12. Take one large, fresh lobster, and --

Okay, look. I’m trying to be patient. You’re really trying to tell me you don’t have a local fishmonger? Where the hell do you live, Iowa? Ain’t there even a freakin’ Chinatown where you are? Maybe you should forget about cooking and think about moving somewhere real.

13. Blend together tomatoes, cucumber, and old bread. Tell the family it’s a foreign treat called “Gazpacho.” Don’t be surprised when Hubby brings a surprise guest home and tells you he’s “a Doctor.”

15. Make a ham and cheese sandwich. Use expensive ham and at least the pretentious folks won’t complain.

16. If you chop up salami and fry it, nobody’ll realize you’re serving salami sandwiches for dinner.

19. Throw some soy sauce into scrambled eggs and tell the family that people in China think it’s food.

26. Make #16 with Italian sausage. Ha! I’ll bet I can get to a thousand this way.

27. Crack an egg into a hole cut in a piece of bread. Fry. Everybody under eight will go “WOW!” and the rest can go to hell.

35. Serve cold noodles with soy sauce. Rest assured you’ve more than satisfied your family’s daily nutritional requirement for flour.

37. Cook bacon and eggs, and toss onto fancy lettuce. Tell everybody it’s FrisĂ©e aux lardons and maybe they won’t say it’s gross.

51. Top pasta with butter and pine nuts. See #35.

53. Bake eggs. Top with cheese.

56. Poach eggs. Top with cheese.

If this list had to go up to #102, “Hard-boil eggs. Top with cheese.” would have been in here too.

61. Make shrimp cocktails. Pretend to get a headache before folks start asking about the main course.

69. Buy prepackaged blintzes and cook them. Imagine how much time you’ll save when your family starts begging you to serve canned food.

72. Make #15 but hold the cheese.

76. Make #37 with balsamic vinegar instead of sherry vinegar. Christ, and I’ve still got 25 to go.

79. Give me a freakin’ break and think of your own freakin’ sandwiches for a change.

81. Combine crab meat with --

Jesus CHRIST. What the hell is wrong with you? I didn’t realize there were some special-needs readers who couldn’t catch a freakin’ cab to Balducci’s. Dude, this is the NEW YORK TIMES. If I wanted poor people to read it, I’d have submitted it to the Post.

83. Chop olives and serve over pasta. See #35.

85. Add artichoke hearts to #72.

87. Remember those eggs from #1? Grate some carrots on top of them.

93. Saute Italian sausage with fresh seedless grapes and fresh rosemary. While everybody searches your handbag for drugs, call out for pizza.

94. Fry tofu with garlic, then drown it in 1 1/2 cups ketchup. Show it to those assholes who thought your ketchup spaghetti was sad.

97. Toss some pasta with butter, cream and Parmesan. Pick up Cosmopolitan to find out how a fat girl gets a date.

99. Take a couple pounds of shrimp, and --

Oh. I. Am. So. Fucking. DONE. With. You.

101. Look me up again next week for my article, “101 Ways to Convince Child Protective Services That You Can Raise a Kid on Nothing But Eggs and Toast.”


Don’t believe me? Here’s the real thing:

Make Dinner In Ten Minutes Or Less.

From Cute to Brute

Friday night at the Lure there was a Coke machine of a man leaning against the bar, and I knew I had to have him. Though it was snowing outside he was shirtless, and while with some guys this can look narcissistic it gave him a sexy "I don't care how goddamned cold it is" kind of vibe. I guess when you spend a thousand bucks getting a lifesize eagle tattooed on your back you grab any opportunity to show it off.

I "accidentally" bumped into him and pretended to spot him for the first time. "Great tattoo," I said. It's my standard opening line, since it works with everybody from frat boys to Cher.

"Thanks," he growled. He looked me up and down, though mostly down. "You're a cute little thing, aren't you?" I blushed and thanked him. He dislodged his cigar from the corner of his mouth and tapped the ashes on my Nikes. "I don't do cute."

As he galumphed off I realized a couple things: first, guys get even sexier when they're walking away from me; and second, nobody here does cute. Since after "responsible" and "clean" that's the first adjective people use to describe me, I knew I'd have to select another breed of brainless companion or die alone. I decided to get a dog.

I got lucky the next day, outside the grocery store. A Girl Scout had a boxful of puppies and one in particular, a bouncy ball of fur that looked like a pompom with big brown eyes, stole my heart. I couldn't resist, even when she demanded $100.

"Hey, when's cookie season?" I asked, handing over a stack of twenties.

"I'm not really a Girl Scout," she said, scratching a tattoo on her wrist of a cigarette-smoking weasel. "I just wear the outfit because otherwise nobody's gonna pay me for stray dogs."

I grabbed little Snowflake and started for home but before we got ten feet we were mobbed by little kids. I wasn't surprised -- in fact, I'd planned on playing dress up with him the second we got home.

"That dog is too friggin' cute," a girl said in Barry White's voice, cracking her knuckles against her thigh.

A boy with more chest hair than my dad nodded. "It sure is," he agreed. "Let's set it on fire."

Snowflake may be tiny, but when lit matches are flying he can move. We ran all the way to my apartment where it finally hit me: I'd seen hundreds of dogs here -- frisky and mellow, young and old, big and small -- but Snowflake was the only cute dog I'd seen.

What the hell was going on? I wondered. Did somebody drown all the cute dogs?

By the time I worked up the nerve to take Snowflake outside again it was dark. Still people stared at me like I was wearing pink pedal-pushers. Three separate guys volunteered to tell me what my problem was, and since they looked tough I took notes. Snowflake made the wrong statement, they said, using slightly rougher words. These are the statements New Yorkers want to make:

1. "I could chew you up and spit you out."
2. "I eat chumps like you for breakfast."
3. "I could bite you up and swallow you whole."

Now, after talking to these folks I realized something: I was going to die in somebody's mouth. No, something else: New Yorkers want to look scary. That explains the black, the boots, the tattoos and dirty hair. If we wanted to be cute we'd glue Japanese tourists to our heads.

Where dogs are concerned, then, the uglier the better. Somebody in Kansas City might cringe upon spotting a mangy monstrosity with bugeyes, wrinkles, snaggleteeth, and a nose bent like a pretzel, but New Yorkers would just start to get interested. "Is there some way to get him to drool?" they'd ask.

The guy at the kennel confirmed my theory as he led me down an aisle of perky furballs. "Look at these things," he said, shaking his head like Joe Friday at the Hellfire Club. "Every one of ‘em, cute as a button." He pointed out a pink toy poodle just begging for a big satin bow. "That's Princess Peaches. If nobody takes her by tomorrow she's history. Along with Mr. Whiskas, Shuggsy Marie, and Fluffy Fluff Fluff. Adorable little bastards. Sometimes when I gas ‘em it looks like a Puppy Chow commercial."

We both looked down at Snowflake, who cocked his head like a Keane painting. I pictured him toppling over dead. It was sad but still really, really cute. Kennel Guy wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and pulled a black eye patch out of his pocket. "Do me a favor," he said, his voice cracking. "Keep the dog. But put this on him before you go outside. He'll look weird enough that maybe those bastards will leave him alone."

Snowflake fixed his big brown eyes on me and I figured I'd give it a try. I slid it on him and like they say on Ricki Lake, he went from cute to brute.

On the way home I walked Snowflake through the park and now everybody was giving him respect. He got jealous looks from the men, startled glances from the women, and everything with four legs went berserk. It was like walking Russell Crowe. If one little alteration could save Snowflake's life, I decided, maybe it could improve mine.

That night when Snowflake fell asleep snuggled in his favorite teacup I put on his patch and headed to the Lure. An Ernest Borgnine lookalike, shirtless and sweaty beneath a Members' Only jacket, latched onto me the second I walked through the door. I tried to duck him but since I could only see a tiny wedge of the bar it was futile. "You really turn me on," he said, trapping me beside the pinball machine. "I don't know what it is."

I tried to remember the scary statement I wanted to make. "I could fit your entire body in my mouth," I said, and I haven't been able to shake him since.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do You, Slut Hound, Take Thee, Liar, to Be Thy Lawfully Wedded Wife?

If there's one thing I hate it's a liar, and that's exactly what this Vitter person is. I don't mean the senator who lectured us on the sanctity of marriage while visiting prostitutes in his spare time: I mean his wife Wendy.

Wendy Vitter told the Times-Picayune: "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary [Clinton]. If he [cheats on me], I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me."

So, uh, girlfriend, enquiring minds need to know: what's the holdup? From what I hear, Mr. Vitter is still penised. Are you a coward? A hypocrite? Or are you really just like Hillary, the alleged embodiment of all evil, but also a liar to boot?

Maybe you just need a nudge in the right direction:


Whatever you do, girlfriend, don't fall for that apology crap. The man's just sorry he got caught. He'll really be sorry when he's walking around Washington with his hands between his legs screaming "OW OW OW!" with every step.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Enough About You

Anybody who's been to New York recently knows our reputation is suffering. Saddled down by work and play and family and friends, we've been too busy to be rude.

We wander the streets so stressed and overwhelmed that we completely miss opportunities to abuse strangers. A tourist gets in our way, we walk around him. A bum asks us for money, we toss him change instead of lit cigarettes. Somebody wants directions, and we honestly tell them where to go.

I haven't just been sitting idly by, though, while our hard-earned notoriety goes straight to hell. I've been collecting tips to help us all save time. A few seconds here, a few seconds there, and all of a sudden we've got that extra minute to kick a pigeon or two.

Some of the best tips I found were, surprisingly, in "Organic Style" magazine. Rather than commissioning Frank Gehry to design an upscale compost heap or fashioning faux Louis Vuitton totes out of old Folger's cans, they recently turned their attention to relationships in an article called "Friendship on a Tight Schedule." It offered a plethora of ways to stay in contact with friends without acting remotely friendly.

1. Don't tell friends you'll call them back.

Now, this is so easy and so foolproof I'm surprised God didn't include it in the Ten Commandments. When somebody ends a conversation with a remark like, "I guess I'll talk to you later," just sit there quietly. Steadfastly refuse to commit. If they press you on it, say something like, "You think?" or "Really?" or even growl like Lurch. Not having to speak to your friends again adds precious minutes to your day.

2. Whenever somebody asks you a personal question, answer "You don't want to know!"

I've been using this for years, though predominantly with my mom. Sometimes she'll protest and say "Yes, yes, I do!" but I just yell "No, you don't!" and eventually she shuts up. Doctors and policemen, on the other hand, require a bit more persistence.

3. Instead of real email, send friends a funny line or two with "XO" tacked on the bottom.

This is a great tip that I use a lot. Just yesterday I sent the following message to everybody in my address book: "Hi! I'm very inventive in bed. In fact, this morning I made a cotton gin. Catch you on the flip side! MWAH!"

You might want to think of a different message to send to a spouse who's out of town.

4. When someone goes into a long monologue about their troubles, cut them off at the pass. Jump right in with, "How come you look so good when you're mad?"

Now, this tip is my favorite, because of its passive-aggressive edge. "Why, that bastard cut me off!" your friend will fume. "He wants me to shut up so he can talk about himself!"

But then the compliment kicks in and her anger disappears. "You really think I look good?" she'll say, beaming from ear to ear. Mutter "Oh, yes!" and the conversation is all yours.

"Organic Style" misses a couple hot new tricks that all of New York is using. If you want to nip that long-winded monologue in the bud, you've got to lay down the law before a windbag gets a chance to speak. Steer clear of lines like "What's new with you?" that could lead to a ten-minute whine, and feign interest with a question like this:

"So how are you -- okay?"

I'll pause for a second so you can examine the brilliance of this construction.

This is the perfect line for folks who want to appear concerned but aren't. We're not willing to stand blithely by while you spew useless details like "I'm okay," or "I'm so-so," or "Specialists at the Mayo Clinic have decided they need to remove a kidney." We need to strictly limit your answer to either true or false: yes, you're okay, or no, you're not. Choose the former and the topic's covered; choose the latter and, well, we're done there too. "Gosh," you reply. "That's too bad. You look good!"

And I don't see how the modern-day egotist can live without the word "anyway." It's a handy word to segue into another topic, and convenient for when you have absolutely nothing to say and need to pad an annoying silence. Most New Yorkers use it, though, to wrestle a wayward conversation right back to our own personal topic list. It's like saying "Enough about you!" without that egotistical vibe.

"We spent three weeks in Bali," I bragged to an acquaintance I hadn't seen in ages, "where we had the most delicious shrimp I'd ever tasted."

"Really?" she replied. "I loved Bali. We rented a cottage on this great private beach where we sunbathed naked until we were golden brown."

Now, rather than just scream inside your head that your Bali story has been brutally decapitated, use "anyway" like a magic eraser, to wipe away all traces of their diversion. "Anyway, this shrimp was big enough to frighten cats. . . ."

I'm confident that by using these tips we can restore New York to its former glory. Luckily, they seem to be contagious. I've used them for barely a week and already my friends and family have joined in. I've gotten just one email in the past three days: a note from my sister saying that the groundhog is neither ground nor a hog. And I called four people this morning and not one said they'd call me back.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Man Accused Of Stealing $400,000 For Hustler Boyfriend

An Oregon investment counselor allegedly stole $400,000 from client accounts and spent it on a gay hustler he met in an Internet chat room.

Over four months, 64-year-old Gary Sparks gave the unnamed 23-year-old hustler a Mercedes convertible, a West Hollywood apartment, a Rolex watch and a Louis Vuitton gym bag.

"In Gary's mind, it was much more than sex," Portland police Detective Andy Madden told the Oregonian. "What Gary wanted was love."

Detective Madden then wiped his eyes with the back of a hand before cursing the cruel caprices of fate.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Off My Chest

After too many afternoons spent with my friends, I decided I could use some masculinity in my life. Not that there's anything wrong with Lacoste shirts or hair gel or guys who cross their legs at the knees. It's just like watching too many Mike Myers movies: eventually you start to wonder what Chuck Norris is doing.

I put on black 501s and black motorcycle boots, then dove into my t-shirt drawer in search of butch. I had exactly one black t-shirt mixed in with the colorful souvenirs from various vacations, and it had "Nobody Knows I'm Gay" stenciled across the chest. I flashed back to my birthday: one of those aforementioned friends gave it to me thinking advertising might help me find a man. Not if I refused to wear it, I thought, but I pulled it out of the drawer tonight. Even dated and tacky paled in horror next to loose and pastel.

I headed to the Pit, one of New York City's few leather bars. It's in the worst part of town, it's dirty, it serves one kind of beer straight out of the bottle. Cyclone fencing divides it into rooms, sinister music plays at earsplitting volume, it's so dark you can't see your hand in front of you. Throw in the adjoining shop selling paddles, whips and gags and you've got everything a butch dude could want.

My pulse quickened as I scanned the manly types, but when my eyes adjusted to the darkness I realized they were all seriously flawed. Too much exposed flesh. Pinprick pupils. Too much leather. A little is hot, but head-to-toe is crazy. It's like wearing too much pink.

I wandered around for maybe fifteen minutes, and found exactly one hot guy. He was leaning against the wall by the pool table, watching a couple guys play, and I knew he liked me because he pretended not to notice me as I walked by. I sidled up next to him, feigning interest in the game. We watched intently as they knocked the balls around, and when it was over we pretended to see each other for the first time. He raised his beer a couple inches in the world's most restrained toast. With his eyes on my t-shirt he growled, "Hey, ‘Gay.'"

That's another thing that sets butch men apart: they have their own way of talking. Whereas regular people introduce themselves, butch men don't need no fancy names. They're all "Scout" and "Ace" and "Champ." When they want to get really familiar, they name you after your clothes. Heck, I still get Christmas cards from my second husband addressed to "Polo Shirt."

I scoured his apparel for a nickname. His jeans were tight, his boots were scuffed, he had a leather cuff around his right wrist. His low-cut tank had a Balkan cross and the word "DEUTSCHLAND" on it, so I went with that. "Hey, German," I replied, in a low but still possibly believable voice.

He moved in close, and the hair on my arms stood on end. He rubbed his face against mine, presumably so I could hear him over the music, and the stubble on his chin could have scraped a lasagna pan clean. "So, what do you like to do?" he asked me.

No names and no small talk, evidently. Well, that was just fine with me. I figured this could be the start of a new relationship, so I decided to be honest from square one. "As little as possible," I declared, flirtatiously flipping my hair. "In every room of the house."

When his glance slid away I knew I was history. I had seriously messed up. An unshaven number with a black rooster on his tanktop pushed past us and their eyes locked. When German winked, I knew I'd lost him forever. "Hey, Rooster," he said to the newcomer.

"Hey, German," Rooster replied.

"So, what do you like to do?" German asked.

"Everything that's legal," he said, plunging his hands deep into his pockets, "plus a few things that aren't." When most folks move in for a handshake these guys went for a hug, and within minutes they were twisted together like a pretzel. My skin exfoliated just watching them make out.

I skulked off silently, refusing to concede defeat. Maybe I wasn't exactly the butchest guy around, but this old dog could still learn new tricks. Over the next few hours I wandered into every corner of the joint, watching the interactions and noting the details like there might be a quiz later. I eavesdropped on conversations. I heard the woofs and the growls, saw the glowers and the winks, watched the chin grabs and the back slaps that meant "You're swell." I watched and listened and memorized it all. Finally I was ready for another try.

Unfortunately, by that time it was three A. M., and even most of the ugly folks had gone home. There were eight guys with swollen pink stomachs sticking out of their leather vests, three wearing harnesses that trailed into leather hotpants, and one wearing a studded mask, a cockring and a smile.

I'd put my new skills to use another time.

I stumbled outside into the early-morning air, but even the dewy chill couldn't dull the heat inside me. A drunken straight couple staggering the other way looked at my t-shirt and laughed. That's enough abuse for one night, I thought, and I pulled it off over my head and flung it over a fence. The cold air felt good against my sweaty chest.

I wandered through the darkened streets, heading for the subway, when headlights appeared further up the road. As they approached, I noticed two things: first, that it was a classic old Ford pickup, battered and painted primer gray, and second, that my man German was at the wheel.

The Ford slowed as it neared, and our eyes locked together. That initial attraction still burned. He came to a halt in the middle of the road, and I casually sauntered over, thrusting my hands into my pockets.

My eyes lingered on the muscles beneath the tank top, the well-packed jeans, the chin cleft that could hide Jimmy Hoffa. I was ready. I was willing. I knew the manly response to any question he could pose.

He stretched a thick, tattooed arm across the passenger seat, eyeing me like a buzzard eyes a budgie. "Hey, Levi's," he rumbled like Barry White. "You look really familiar."

I tried to smirk, but I'm no Bruce Willis. "I was ‘Gay' until a couple hours ago."

"Oh," he said resignedly, and he shifted the truck into gear. "Too bad you gave it up."

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hey, Hey, You, You, Avril Lavigne is Very Confused.

Faded rock band the Rubinoos is suing Avril Lavigne for plagiarism, saying her hit "Girlfriend" sounds like their
"I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." The choruses are particularly similar, the Rubinoos claim, with their "Hey, hey, you, you, I wanna be your boyfriend" virtually identical to her "Hey, hey, you, you, I want to be your girlfriend."

Naturally Avril claims innocence. "All songs share similar lyrics and emotions," she says on her website. "As humans we speak one language."

Her representatives wouldn't clarify whether she meant the language of love or Spanish.

What a Dump

I don't understand my dog Snowflake. Three times a day I take him out for a walk, and he always scurries over to the same old tree. To the naked eye it looks like all the other trees, but from the way Snowflake acts you'd think it was Bob Fosse. He sniffs at the bark, paws the fallen leaves, circles endlessly. It makes me wonder if he's stupid. This thing's the botanical equivalent of "The View," except even Barbara Walters rarely reeks of piss.

I yank on his leash and drag him farther down the block, past a new apartment house they're building. I've got a love/hate relationship with it. It's an oversized concrete box surrounded by classic old brownstones, but since it brings ten hunky Polish construction workers to the neighborhood it could be the Gates of Hell for all I care. Whenever I pass one of these guys on the street I'm tempted to strike up a conversation. I usually go for flattery as a pick-up line, but I'm not sure "You can sure stack concrete blocks!" will prompt eyelashes to bat.

Snowflake and I are almost to the corner when we find an enormous brown pile in the middle of the sidewalk. It's about enough to make me lose my lunch, but to Snowflake it's like finding vintage Gucci. He tiptoes up to it, circles a few times, sniffs. He can't take his eyes off it. If he had opposable thumbs he'd be snapping pictures.

I'm tugging on his leash when a construction worker appears. He's picked up a Snapple at the deli, I guess, and now he's headed back to work. He's one of my favorites, reminding me of a guy I used to date. We went all hot and heavy until his birthday came up. I still get defensive about it: I mean, if mango shower gel is a crime, color me guilty.

"Hey," he says, in a thick Polish accent, "you gotta clean up after your dog."

I show him my hand, stuck inside a plastic bag, and think about making it talk. I decide not too: I mean, if there's a profession that less sexy than accountants, it's puppeteers. "I do," I say. "He hasn't gone yet."

"Then what's that?" he asks, pointing to the sidewalk. Like an idiot I look. It hasn't changed. "Your dog took a dump."

"It's not his," I say. "It was here when we got here."

"Of course it's his. He's standing right next to it."

"You're standing right next to it and nobody's claiming it's yours."

He starts his next sentence with "Listen, wise guy," which doesn't bode well for our future together. I don't date anybody who reminds me of Dad. "I just went to the store, and it wasn't here when I left. Look around -- you see any other dogs? Who else could have done it?"

I don't see any other dogs, but this doesn't prove anything. "My dog's poo is nothing like this," I maintain. "For one thing, this is bigger than his head. Snowflake ate a whole pizza once and barely crapped a cannoli."

"I'm not even listening," he says. "I'm not buying your excuses, and you're not leaving until you clean that up." He's just dripping with macho swagger. It's only hot when you're sure the guy's not going to kill you.

I come to the conclusion that I can't win this argument by myself. I need backup; I need a character witness. Surely some of the neighborhood folks have seen Snowflake poo before, and can testify that this monstrosity isn't his.

Like the answer to a prayer, the guy who lives upstairs from me is fast approaching on the other side of the street. I've kind of got a crush on him too: he reminds me of a guy I used to date in college, who dropped me when I gave him a ring. It wasn't commitment he was afraid of -- some folks just don't get Cat's Eye. "Hey!" I yell. "Excuse me! Have you ever seen my dog take a crap?"

"No!" he hollers, and he darts across the road like the Clash are playing on our side. He takes one look at the sidewalk and scowls. "Damn," he snaps. "Did I miss it?"

This is such an allegory for my life, I think. Two men I'm interested in, and the topic of discussion is whether or not my dog took a dump. Under other circumstances I'd probably have caved, but the dog that left this muffin was clearly not in good health. Let's just say it'd be easier to pick up apple sauce.

From four different directions bystanders approach. In a quiet Italian neighborhood like this, a giant crap is like Cirque du Soleil. I get the newcomers up to speed, hoping somebody'll back me up, but everybody takes Construction Worker's side. "If I wasn't going to clean up after my dog," I ask, "why did I bring the bag?"

"You were gonna pretend to clean it up," a chubby kid replies. Right, I thought -- now I'm the Sociopathic Urban Mime. He's just mad because I gave out Swiffer refills last Halloween.

"You know," somebody says, "I'll bet he's the one who's been carving graffiti into the trees."

"And setting off the car alarms at four in the morning."

The crowd murmurs like a posse on "Bonanza," accusing me of everything from destroying the ozone layer to reusing postage stamps, and the circle around me starts to close in. By now I'm thinking, hey, maybe Frankenstein didn't have it so bad. Sure, he was chased around by villagers with torches, but it wasn't in a hip neighborhood, and he didn't have to worry about ruining flattering clothes.

Just as I'm deciding on the best direction to run, an old lady in a faded housedress breaks through the circle, wielding a cane like a tire iron. Somebody explains the situation to her in Italian, and I'm guessing they offer her first whack. Instead she takes a look at the dog, the poo, the plastic bag over my hand, and puts it all together like a Sicilian Miss Marple. "So your dog hasn't gone yet?" she asks. I nod. "Then make him go."

A gasp of surprise erupts from the crowd. It's like we're all gathered in the library and she's just picked out the killer. Even I'm impressed -- I mean, I wouldn't have expected anything more than interesting than curse words and tasty gnocchi from her. "Easier said than done," I complain. "I have to massage his lips to get him to eat."

"Convince him."

All eyes turn to the dog, who's shivering like a chilly chicken. "Poor little puppy," somebody says. "He's too nervous to go."

Now this was just flat-out wrong. Snowflake's never cared who was around when he went. In fact, he seemed to be spurred on by attention from attractive guys. It was the bane of my existence: I'd meet somebody, we'd flirt, he'd try to make friends with the dog, and before we could swap numbers we'd be scurrying for gas masks.

A lightbulb goes on over my head. "Hey," I say to Construction Worker, "pet the dog. Pretend you like him."

He stares at me like I'm crazy but follows my instructions. Not two seconds later Snowflake is proudly standing over his own, markedly-smaller creation.

The crowd grumbles and I beam like a new dad. "See?" I say, gesturing like it's a game show prize. "There's a huge difference."

They nod reluctantly. It's a rollerskate next to a Humvee. "Sorry," Construction Worker says. "I guess I jumped to the wrong conclusion."

"No prob," I reply, and then comes our first awkward silence. Pause. "You can sure stack concrete blocks."

He smiles and his brown eyes twinkle. "Thanks. Well, I gotta get back to work. Maybe I'll see you later."

"Yeah, that'd be nice." We all watch as he walks away.

Snowflake and I head back towards home, and he runs to the safety of his tree again, circling like a Spirograph. I still can't claim to understand the little pooch, but he's a chip off the old block in a couple ways:

Great taste in men. Really not so great with gifts.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Sugar-Frosted Flake

I met Trevor bar-hopping one night. He was a few years older than me -- heck, a few hundred years older -- so I tried to lose him, but he was incredibly persistent.

"Come home with me," he said.

"I couldn't," I replied.

"It's just a small penthouse. Ten thousand square feet in Chelsea, overlooking the Hudson."

"I'll get my coat."

Almost instantly we became an item. My usual boring life vanished as I got swept up in a whirlwind of fast cars, expensive restaurants, and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. My mom always said it was just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, but I thought it was easier to fall for a wealthy guy. He was cultured. He was refined. He didn't wear underwear twice. How could anybody resist?

A determined, confident lawyer, Trevor leapt into commitment headfirst. Waking up the morning after our first date I found myself alone in a bedroom the size of a football field, walls of glass on three sides. "Had to go to work," a note on the Noguchi table read. "Make yourself at home. See you tonight. P. S. The alarm is on so you can't leave."

Naturally, I was horribly annoyed. I felt like a goldfish in a bowl, a bird in a cage, a Fabergé egg, though I'd only pleased a couple members of the Russian royal family. But as I wandered the endless hallways dotted with tasteful Italian statues, passing room after room stuffed with armoires, wet bars, and Renoirs, I felt my anger fade. By the time I counted bathroom number eight I never wanted to see real life again.

The kitchen was vast and industrial, with more chrome than a Cadillac dealership, and the fridge was stocked like Balducci's. I smeared some brie with caviar and headed to the rec room, where a flat-screen TV covered the one non-glass wall. I'd never let myself be "kept," I decided as I watched a King Kong-sized Julia Child chop garlic larger than my head. But I could be cute and appreciative until chickens colonized Mars.

That first date lasted eight days, with just a quick pause for breath before the second: Trevor whisked me away to his home in the Hamptons. When he hosted a pool party, though, so I could meet his friends, it spiraled straight down the toilet. There were 50 of us: Trevor, me, and 48 other folks who, one by one, either congratulated me on my "catch" or suggested innovative ways to suck the poor sap dry.

"You know what you should do," one attractive man suggested, "is have an early birthday. That way you'll get a present whether or not he lasts until the real thing."

"Make up a sick aunt in Brooklyn," a thin young guy in Speedos advised, "so you can get out occasionally and sleep with someone attractive."

"Two words," a Leona Helmsley-type whispered. "Hot chocolate. It masks the taste of everything from Rohypnol to Beano."

I figured another intergenerational couple would understand, but once December wandered out of earshot May cut to the chase: "Getting him into bed was the easy part," he disclosed. "Now you've got to get into the will."

Eventually Trevor's sister sidled over and took my arm. "I can't believe the hateful things people are saying," she said. I felt like kissing her, but then she glanced over at Trevor, who was flipping burgers in his tiny swim trunks, and guffawed. "I mean, look at that eyesore. You'll earn every penny you get!"

I broke free of her grip and stormed into the house, Trevor toddling close behind. "I'm sick of these people," I said, tears welling in my eyes. "Every one of them thinks I'm after your money. It's like I have to be a gold digger just because I wear ugly clothes, cut my own hair, and buy my cologne from Rite Aid."

That last one froze Trevor in his tracks, so I continued to the bedroom alone. I changed into street clothes, threw my stuff in my suitcase, then cleared my toiletries out of the bathroom. I stumbled outside and got in the limo, but before I could tell the driver where to go Trevor had jumped in beside me, fully clothed.

"I hoped we could ignore the differences between us," I said, "but your friends don't seem willing to try. Why are they so suspicious? Why can't they see us as a couple, as two men in love, instead of old and rich paired with young and for sale?"

"Roman," he said, taking my hand in his, "it's nothing personal. Everybody makes assumptions, rich and poor alike. It's just the way people are."

"That's where you're wrong," I said. "It's the greedy who think we're all after money. It's the conniving who suspect us of plots. It's the backstabbers who think everyone's after them. I'll go hang out with poor, stupid, lazy people if that'll stop me from being insulted."

I don't know why this made me think of McDonald's, but it did. My stomach started growling, so I told the driver to head there, and we rode in silence until the golden arches appeared. "If you set one foot in there," Trevor warned, "it's over between us."

"I know," I said, nodding gravely, "but that's how it's got to be. This is my world. Here, I know I won't be judged."

Trevor followed me inside, resigned to my decision. "At least let me pay for you," he said, "as my farewell gift." I gave him a hug, for the last time inhaling the woodsy cologne that cost more than my education. When I let go, he stepped up to a register and bravely faced the geeky clerk. "I don't want anything, but I'd like to pay for him." The clerk looked to me for my order, punched it in, and read the total aloud, his pubescent voice cracking.

Trevor and I exchanged one final glance. I'd miss him, as strong feelings intermingled with my love of his wealth. But I knew what I was doing was right. Maybe these people weren't rich or fun or creative or smart, and maybe they had to move their fingers in the air to read the menu, but they wouldn't damn someone based on appearance. We were below pride, with our farts and flab and turquoise fannypacks. This Dorothy was back in his Kansas.

As Trevor fished the bills from his wallet the clerk looked at the two of us -- him in his tailored finery, me in my humble attire. His mouth twisted into a scabby pink smile and he scratched the top off a zit. "I love it when folks buy food for the homeless!" he said.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Blind Ambition

When I lived in L. A. I used to drive out to Las Vegas a couple times a year to gamble and screw around and raise all kinds of hell. On one trip there I met a spunky little bear, dragged him back to my hotel, and making polite conversation afterwards I told him I wanted to move to New York. He just happened to know the CEO of a software development company there, and he gave me the guy’s name and number. Two weeks later “Jeff” flew me out for an interview and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Sex had paid off for me in the past, but never with a retirement plan.

Jeff didn’t introduce me to my future boss, which should have raised a red flag. Eric was “on vacation,” he said, and when I finally met him I knew this was true: he was on vacation from cleanliness, from etiquette, and from the normal Earthling ways. To make matters worse I was stuffed into a corner of his office, which pissed off both of us. Jeff shoved me in like I was a wayward kitten and slammed the door shut behind me.

Without even looking up from his monitor Eric immediately laid down the law: no music, no phone calls, no cologne, no noisy jewelry. “So I guess my dangly earrings are out?” I asked, and he nodded gravely. Apparently there was no fooling around, either. Just to prove the point Eric leapt up and raced over to my desk every few minutes to check out exactly what was on my computer screen. The first time he did it I got my mouse clicking like a geiger counter at Chernobyl. By the twelfth time my finger was shaking like a sick cricket and I’d started asking myself:

Are New Yorkers born crazy, or is it something they develop over time?

For putting up with this insanity I got a ratty old chair, a desk full of discarded fast-food bags, and a computer with less memory than Ronald Reagan. It soon hit me that this was hell, despite the air conditioning, and the first thing I needed to do was bond with Satan. I’d just launched into a wacky little rant about bagel slicers and how dumb you’d have to be to need one when Eric slid his pale pink hands from his ergonomic keyboard and looked at me for the first time ever.

“My wife nearly chopped off her thumb slicing a bagel,” he said.

It was all downhill from there.

The next day I could barely bring myself to enter the building. I stared at my reflection in the dark glass door, trying to summon up the courage to either go inside or scamper screaming for greener pastures. When I finally yanked it open there was somebody pushing on it from the other side.

“MOTHERFUCKER!” she hollered, throwing up her hands like Jesus had returned. “Don’t grab the fuckin’ door out of my hand!”

“Sorry,” I said, twitching like Don Knotts. I held the door open but ducked behind it in case she decided to hit. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Yeah? Well, ain’t that a fuckin’ coincidence. There’s two blind people trying to use the same fuckin’ door.”

I froze for a second to consider how completely screwed I was. I hadn’t done anything wrong: the door was so heavily tinted I hadn’t seen her, and I hadn’t opened it all that quick. But she sure was blind, with the black sunglasses and the white cane and the dog, and you don’t argue with a blind woman, even if she is a bitch on wheels. I was torn: I wanted to tell her to fuck off, but I also wanted to help her across the street. “No, see, I’m not blind, but -- “

“CONGRATULATIONS! Write down your address and I’ll drop off your trophy.”

Part of me wanted to leave, but another part wanted to assuage her feelings. As usual the stupid part won. “Look, I said I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there, and I didn’t mean to -- “

She tapped the door with her cane and it rang like a bell. “You can’t see through glass? Wait, refresh my memory. Isn’t glass, like, clear?”

“Some glass is clear, but this isn’t. It’s smoky.”

“Smoky. And you can’t see through smoke either, I guess. Even air is giving you problems now.”

“I’m sorry for the third time. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Now I’ve got to get to work.”

She smiled and crossed her arms, her shoulders spanning the doorway, and as I tried to squeeze by she locked her fingers on my arm. “Tell you what,” she said, flattening me against the doorjamb. “I’ll lead the way. You might run into another bad patch of air.”

We startled to wrestle and her dog began to snarl, and if this had been a cartoon my head would have transformed into an overheated teapot. “Let me go!” I begged, trying to beat her back without actually hitting her.

“Not a chance!” she growled through gritted teeth, her hot pink face pressed up against mine. “You knew I was there, asshole. But you fucked with the wrong gal. Now just shut up and smile, because I’m going to lead you to your fucking office.”

At this point I didn’t care if she was blind or deaf or harboring disabled baby seals in her armpits. I was done putting up with her crap. With the burst of energy God gives the crazy I wrenched myself free and grabbed her wrists like maracas. “Look, bitch,” I barked, oblivious to the crowd gathering behind me. “I don’t know what your fuckin’ problem is, but you need to get the fuck away from me. Get your dog to memorize this face, and write this down in fuckin’ Braille: don’t . . . fuckin’ . . . fuck with me. Now get the fuck out of my face and go tap your little white cane back to hell.”

She literally jumped backwards and clanged against the door as I pushed past. A guy in a knit golf shirt and khaki pants tailed me into the lobby and grabbed my shoulder. It was Jeff. “My office, Hans. Right away.”

Oops. All the way up the elevator I shook like a soggy Siamese, silently saying goodbye to health insurance, Free Pizza Fridays, the cute guy from the mailroom I used to “accidentally” bump into in the bathroom. Sure, I hated the job, but I didn’t want to lose it even before my first paycheck. I trailed him to his office, sat down and said goodbye to his spectacular view of the seaport. “I saw the way you treated that blind woman, Hans, and I have to say, I never thought I’d see that kind of attitude coming from you. Clean out your desk and report to HR. We’re kicking you upstairs.”

I squirmed in my chair and the vinyl farted. “I know there’s absolutely no excuse, but like I said to her, I didn’t -- upstairs?”

He stuck out his hand and I shook it. “Congratulations,” he said. “You’re the new head of Customer Relations.”

Sitting at my new desk that afternoon I tried to figure out what was happening. I'd assumed that over time the New York attitude would rub off on me, and that eventually I’d be as rude as they were. I just didn’t expect it to happen so fast. Was this how it worked? Did all these assholes start off as regular Joes, but every little psychotic outburst got rewarded until eventually they were sociopathic freaks?

I made myself a promise: I’d stay nice and thoughtful. I’d always be respectful and polite. And somehow I’d work my way up the corporate ladder like no other New Yorker before me: through hard work and dedication and sheer friendliness.

Failing that, I’d need to find a paraplegic.