As we reported in our last edition of Disquieting Modern Trends, we took all of Disquieting Modern Trends Inc. on a Manhattan bender to end all benders—shots of Stoli on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, followed by rude comments regarding the cut of a local constable’s uniform and subsequent imperial entanglements being one example among many that we are proud to point out. Once the smoke had cleared, we quickly counted the bodies, made phone calls home and shipped our loyal employees back to the home office, unconscious on a heavily subsidized yet still unprofitable Amtrak freight car.
Alone at last!
It was time for us to take on the city alone, mano-a-mano, our bald heads against the wind as it swept down Eighth Avenue and made that horrible whistling sound from those spaghetti western soundtracks. We would have kicked the wind’s ass right then and there, but spaghetti sounded good, so we were off to some place that knew its risotto from its Derek Jeter, since we surely didn’t.
Next thing you know, of course, we were dining in a place called Sal’s and involved in the kind of poker game in which the names of small Caribbean islands are mentioned during the betting. Uh-oh. One of the guys in the game recognized us. “Hey. Are you the two sons of bitches from Yankee Pot Roast? You make one more cheap crack about Dave Eggers and, I can assure you, you’re gonna need more than a couple crutches to get around.” Apparently, the gentleman is a dedicated reader of the column, not to mention a good friend of Dave’s. Honestly, we had no idea the Eggman was so well connected among wiseguys (for whom we have mad respect, see Footnote 5, infra). We took our leave and headed straight for the airport.1
However, before we leave behind the grand metropolis, let us add the following items to list—things about New York that should be corrected at once.
“Family Values” in Times Square
Needless to say, the old Times Square was our kind of place. It wasn’t just the hookers—who we’ll admit had grown stale what with the rest of the culture getting increasingly randy while they had nowhere, randy-wise, to go—but the whole ambience. Decline and decay were so … New York! We loved to stroll from the Port Authority bus terminal, our clothes still fragrant with the smell of Hare Krishnas and trash, to the corner of 42nd and Broadway, just taking in the glory of the streets: the used condoms, the flowing sewage, the slices of pizza being worn as footwear by small children, the peek-a-boo theaters, the thin sheen of diesel oil on a crumpled copy of The Daily News sitting against a construction fence, the whole wasted elegy for a city that didn’t exist until Blade Runner showed us how cool it would be to remember it before its decay. Today, the corner of 42nd and 8th greets you with a Chevy’s Mexican Restaurant within which suburban brats are being fed cheese quesadillas while their mothers decide whether to take them to The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast.2
The Relative Paucity of Large-Scale Civic Arts Projects by People from Europe with One Name
We hope that it goes without saying that we found The Gates ridiculous—overblown, tourist-trappy, pseudo-profound and very “Oh 9/11 changed us and this will help us heal”-oriented. “Buncha orange banners in The Park—got it—so let’s go over to Riverside Park and let the dogs take a crap in peace” is pretty much our view. And therefore, we think a lot more of it should be licensed by the City Board for the Overseeing of Gratuitous Use of Public Relations Funds, or whoever signs off on this stuff. 3 That said, we can’t get enough of Christo himself, not to mention his wife Jeanne-Claude. 4 As far as we’re concerned, they are the art. Do they have children? If so, what do their parents wrap them in each morning? Plus, what do you name your kids when both you and your wife have eschewed last names entirely? New York clearly needs more of this sort of odd, European groove, and we are thinking that next year Christo—or possibly Yanni or one of those Kraftwerk guys, but surely someone European—should come over and place a whopping studded condom on the Empire State Building. Tourism will soar, and it will really piss off the red states.
Those Little Blue-on-White Greek Diner Coffee Cups
It’s the little things, don’t you think? New York is about buying a really good peach on the street. It’s about the garlicky smell of the pizza at V&T’s at 110th and Amsterdam. But these days even the little things—the subtle stuff you used to treasure because it was so small—is being commodified too. The sure sign of Beelzebub’s presence in N.Y. is the creation and sale of ceramic cups in the style of those blue-and-white Greek diner coffee cups—you know the ones that say “We are happy to serve you!” above the steaming coffee cups? When they were actual paper cups clogging up the sewers, they had a puckish charm that was both distinctly American and safely ethnic. As souvenirs available in the same place that sells I ♥ NY sweatpants, they suggest the downfall of our great nation. We understand from our slavish consumption of The New Yorker (a magazine of intermittent disquietude—see previous editions of the D.M.T.) that similar iconic status has now been assigned to the N.Y.C. taxi-driver medallion, which has been tricked out in a sort of 50s-kitsch Roger Rabbit design and emblazoned on touristic shit. We say, where is the Travis Bickle Mohawk Yarmulke? Now that would be some serious N.Y.C. memorabilia right there. We could make a million off of that thing.
The General Failure of Present-Day N.Y.C. to Be Like Taxi Driver
You saw this one coming. It is by now clear that we miss the blood and come on the floors of the theaters and the fourteen-year-old whores and the whole smack-soaked ruin of What Once Was. Marty Scorsese is clearly of our mind: He should have been the guy on the AmEx ad stomping around “my city,” not that De Niro clown. I mean, can you imagine Martin Scorsese sharing a screen—or even a restaurant—with Ben Stiller or Billy Crystal?
Wait, let us clarify: while De Niro gave us the person of Travis—and brilliantly—it was Scorsese who understood him, who created him!, and all due respect to Mr. De Niro but we want to live in Marty’s city, not his.5
The Proliferation of Au Bon Pain like the Manhattan McDonald’s It’s Become
We are seriously out of space but think that nothing served on a baguette or croissant should cost more than four dollars. Categorically. If you want to be ripped off by Americans playing at being French in N.Y.C., clearly you should just go to see Beauty and the Beast, see Footnote 2 supra. And of course there’s this: we resent market saturation by anyone but us and Girls Gone Wild.6
Next Edition: Costco. Will Americans stop at nothing to save a few bucks?