Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Repeat Tuesday: From Cute to Brute

Bad to worse. Actually had the power shut off this morning. The good news is, now I'm not so fixated on getting Time Warner cable connected. Meanwhile, rumor has it somebody wants to rent part of the building as a "studio," but the deal has to include most of the basement.

The basement. You know: where the FRESH DIRECT ROOM and the BUSINESS CENTER and the YOGA ROOM and the FITNESS CENTER were going to be.

It's almost time to call my lawyer. Lupe says my cellphone is still charging, though, and Cafe Con Aroma de Mujer is on.


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.

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