Every Monday, FADER editorial director Peter Macia will ease in to the work week by writing semi-extensively and somewhat incoherently about something that is making his head hurt. This week, he explains why this week’s column is going up on Wednesday.
On Saturday, I spent some time in the city with a friend instead of reading my RSS feed in Brooklyn. We walked around after brunch because it was sunny and crisp, one of those last days of a long winter that somehow manage to make you feel sad that you won’t get to wear sweaters for awhile, even though you’ve been wearing the same sweater every day for the last six months. This friend and I went to a bookstore where the Japanese woman inside spoke like Yoko Ono and randomly asked if my friend had been to the Mexican restaurant down the street right after she’d asked this other customer if he’d been to the Whitney Biennial. It felt like she was an art book prisoner and wanted to know what was happening on the outside, but I’m pretty sure she owns the place and can leave whenever. We then went to Other Music, one of the last great places to buy records downtown, and stared at the racks because I can never remember what I want when I go there. Then we went to this medicine shop in Chinatown because they had these wooden sandals in the window that had footbeds with little therapeutically-relevant nubs and stones on them so that you would never feel bad, unless wearing wooden sandals with maroon patent leather straps makes you feel bad. Then we went to a bar and sat in a huge booth facing huge windows and drank in the middle of the afternoon for a couple of hours while the sun warmed our faces.
We started talking about what kind of humor really lasts the test of one’s lifetime. I said that I had gone on a date once many years ago and had made a somewhat sophomoric joke involving some kind of bodily function—to lighten the mood—and my date responded that she didn’t find that kind of humor very funny. It was at this moment that I decided that this kind of humor was, in fact, the only kind of humor that I found very funny. I realized that no matter how many clever New Yorker essays I read or Whit Stillman movies I watched or NPRs I listened to, I will never laugh harder at them than I do at the things I have laughed at since I was two, or what my mother refers to as “potty humor.” This, of course, is not limited to bathroom-pertinent topics and also includes dogs making funny faces, wet cats, the word “boopies,” people who try to run down hills really fast, people playing sandwiches like air guitars, people tripping on nothing and then looking back it, the way my dad scratches his arms when he laughs really hard, Bill Cosby telling a story, someone putting french fries up their nose and acting like a walrus, et cetera et cetera. The good stuff. To prove this point, my friend and I downloaded a digital fart app and proceeded to almost barf with laughter while we test-drove “The Princess,” the “Juice Anyone?” and “The Classic” at top volume. We hit it when the waitress asked if we needed any food. We walked up to the bar and let her rip while ordering white wine. This went on for a solid hour. People were looking at us like we were idiots, but clearly they were just on the same side as my date from days of yore.
A couple days earlier I was over at another friend’s house around midnight when we noticed a crew working outside. They were clearly not with the city’s official ConEd utility services since their truck was of random origin and their tools were being wheeled around the work site in a shopping cart. They were smoking near an open manhole and looking at instructions on what looked like looseleaf paper. Having been a laborer for almost ten years before switching career paths, I know what a bootleg crew looks like. This was the bootlegiest crew of all time, and when crews like that are doing things underground I know it can’t end well—lost power, towers of water shooting into second floor windows, explosions. Plus, in New York, you are incessantly reminded to notify the authorities any time you see anything remotely suspicious, so combining that with my friend’s encouragement, I decided to call 311, the city’s non-emergency number. I got an operator on the phone and explained to her that there was a group of dubious repute loitering around a dirty shopping cart looking at hand-drawn sewer plans with the manhole open and tried not to laugh while I asked if there were any work permits granted by the city on this block. She said no and that she needed to transfer the call to 911 since it now sounded more like suspicious activity. The cops showed up about 10 minutes later and I could see them bullshitting with the crew, so I went down to investigate. The cops were dicks as was the crew, so I told them they should all probably try to be a lot more pro and went back upstairs. Later, when I left to go home I got into a debate with the crew’s forewoman about work-site safety, OSHA standards, shining floodlights into people’s windows and how caution tape laid across a sidewalk does not prevent people from falling down manholes in the middle of the night. She asked me if I thought they were terrorists. I said, “The city tells me that I never know what a terrorist could look like.” She got super mad. This was not my point. My point was to protect this fare city and my friend’s life! And in doing so, she and her crew had to put out their cigarettes for five minutes. We did not part amicably.
A couple nights ago, I was out in the streets once again, at a bar on Ludlow. I’ve been to this bar before. There’s a dog that sleeps in front of a piano and occasionally wanders around. The clientele is random as hell and it feels more like the outskirts of Pittsburgh than the Lower East Side circa 2010, nothing particularly “cool” even in the “uncool is cool” sense. It’s just a bar. The bartender plays pretty good music off her iPod and the people-watching is excellent. Two old Chinese dudes (Chinatown is around the corner), one in an enormous University of Wisconsin T-shirt stood at the bar getting trashed but not being loud or annoying. A girl in a sheer black ruffly shirt told a guy how funny he was even though he did not look amused. There were a couple other guys over in the corner just drinking beer. At some point, the Chinese dudes went outside and sat in a late model Acura parked directly in front of our window table. They proceeded to smoke bowls until the passenger seat guy couldn’t stop laughing. Then the driver drove the car forward seven feet and they came back inside. They drank more, the music played on and they danced like little babies, flailing their arms around and bouncing on their feet but not really moving them. We just sat there and watched them for like two hours.
You might be saying to yourself, What is this dude talking about? What does this have to do with the internet? Well, firstly, obviously… fart apps. Secondly, and more importantly… nothing. My computer was broke for almost an entire week, which was stressful during the day because I have made it my life to upload mp3s and embed rap videos as fast as Steve Jobs will allow. But at night and on the weekends, having no access to these things allowed me to enjoy real life a city that I pay a lot of money to live in, not blog in. I could blog from San Antonio, live in my mom’s condo and sit by the pool all day. Actually, I might do that after the iPad comes out—it’s going to make everything better. But there are some things that won’t be available on iPad, things in this world that will never go viral (not on the internet at least): sitting in bars, arguing with street crews, pretending (or ARE YOU?!) to break wind near strangers, and watching old stoners dance to Feist. You could watch other people do these things on YouTube but that would suck. It would not make you laugh like actually doing it. Maybe I will organize a flash mob on Facebook for this weekend and give all the participants a different address but tell them that everyone around them is in the flash mob but they can’t acknowledge each other unless it’s by fart noises or accusing each other of terrorism. Who’s in?
Next week: Health Care Reform!