Tag Archives: youth

Fame as Fast as Your Frame Rate

3 Mar

When I was in high school, there existed a series of independently-produced video cassettes called Video Graf. They chronicled various graffiti scenes of the time, including footage of people bombing and interviews with writers. Attempts were made to disguise the identities of these writers, but I suspect the New York Police Department’s Vandal Squad scrutinized each frame of these VHS tapes, and much of the footage could have been used to prosecute, if not be admissible in a court trial.

Even in the earliest days of graffiti, writers’ need to capture and catalog their work was part of the experience. I always say that there are two basic components to writing: getting up, and then seeing yourself up later on. A photograph or film will help extend these transient experiences, it helps to make them more durable–and portable, for what that’s worth. I wonder how many graffiti scenes began when a writer took his piece book with him on summer vacation and showed hand styles to the locals.


I first became aware of graffiti on YouTube when a clip by Above1 was recommended by the site’s recommendation bots. Most clips of graffiti I had seen on YouTube to that point were either very old (and often footage from VideoGraf itself) or of unknown writers from other continents. Above1 was the first guy who was filming himself making clean bombs, hitting freights and walls with tags and various competent throw-ups. His style is both well-developed and well-executed, and though the clips don’t depict him risking life and limb for incredible spots, it’s still nice to watch someone who is good at his craft go to work. Plus, I like a lot of the music he uses in his videos.


After watching Above1’s whole queue, I was determined to find similar footage on YouTube. Most of it was absolutely ridiculous, a lot of badly-filmed video of ten year-olds slathering spray paint from a model car kit onto their parents’ garages and driveways. It’s amazing how many people love to show others footage of themselves doing things poorly. I am of the mind that one should practice on their own time before going public, so to speak, but here you’ve got pre-teen doofuses, all giddy with excitement that they’ve stolen their neighbor’s half-full can of Rustoleum, filming their first tag, which invariably looks like shit. The number of missteps inherent in that solitary act are so many that it would require a separate volume to define them all. Suffice to say, there are a lot.


Then I landed on some videos for oinkartltd.com. I was already aware that there existed brands of spray paint which catered to graffiti writers. What I didn’t know was that an entire, and seemingly robust industry exists to mass produce graffiti supplies for modern writers. It’s really mind-blowing to think about, that this once secret world of apprenticeships has been completely wiped away, everything laid bare. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, really, if wikileaks can erode U.S. diplomacy then showing people how to mix indelible ink isn’t that big of a deal. It’s just that there was once a real proprietary sense about graffiti, you took your lumps until you got up enough to start doling them out. Now it seems like graffiti is encouraged for everyone, as James of oinkartltd.com says, “go out and write on shit.”


And I’m not against commercial graffiti supplies, mind you. Really, I could care less. The mark made by an eraser mop is not inherently better than the mark made by a wide design marker. Whether you poked an aerosol cap with a hot pin for an hour or went out and bought a fat cap, the result is the same–probably better, when buying your supplies. It’s just the availability of it all, it kind of negates the outlaw aspect of graffiti. It’s more like weed in much of this country, where it’s technically illegal, but tolerated in the backs of counterculture magazines and through the creepy winks of head shop hippies. oinkartltd.com and other sites like it imply that “cool” parents everywhere are getting their sons and daughters their first cans of spray paint, and allowing them to tag the work shed only after their homework is done. You need to be a murderous junkie just to get some decent rebellion in these days.

I watched a lot of product review on YouTube, both by oinkartltd and by customers who have taken it upon themselves to display the qualities of their purchases. This is nothing new on YouTube, it’s full of people doing product reviews for practically everything. But again, it was strange for me to watch these young kids show me how various paint pens work on different surfaces. Just go fucking write already! I don’t really give a shit about how you hold your PenTel, I want to see your tag. If you’re not ready to show that, then don’t act like a knowledgeable graffiti artist!


The final straw was when I found a set of videos by WickiyWickiy. This guy is so thorough, that when you search for “oink art” on YouTube, his videos are the first to show up. His videos consist mainly of him opening boxes of graffiti supplies and testing them for the camera. At no point have I seen him write a word, much less a tag, though he claims to write. I don’t buy it, though. Graffiti supplies are disposable and usually last for a very limited time. One should be ready to ditch their markers and caps should the authorities show up. But these videos by WickiyWickiy, they exhibit a total fetishization of these supplies, so that the receiving and opening of a package trumps actually getting up on a wall. The guy might as well be showing off his Pokemon for all I care. On top of that, he shows an inability to grasp the mechanics of many commercial graffiti supplies. Perhaps he should learn to make flow pens.


So what does this all mean? Is getting graffiti fame through YouTube some toy shit? It certainly could be argued that it is, but at the same time you can broadcast your simple tags worldwide and become more well-known than anyone. It’s safe to say that more kids around the world know about Above1 than Los Angeles-based Above, who has been doing his thing for about ten years now. Writers uploading video of themselves tagging are taking a bigger risk than writers who hit it and quit it, essentially amassing evidence which could eventually be used against them in a court of law. I’ve got no problem with commercial graffiti supplies, but if you buy them, you should use them. If you don’t want to show yourself tagging for obvious legal reasons, then don’t post videos of yourself fondling Magnum markers! It’s like taking all of the risk in posting personal YouTube videos without netting any of the fame. And if I ever see you testing supplies in my area, I’m taking your shit.

Act Like You Know

2 Mar

Americans’ right to convene and protest is one of the more interesting clauses guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The idea seems counter intuitive to running a successful enterprise. Imagine you worked for a company which allowed insubordination and encouraged disagreements, that company would probably cease to exist in short order. And yet the United States of America is founded on the principle that protesting and free speech insures an active and cognizant populace, and for some weird reason our forefathers deemed an informed citizenry to be a dutiful one, despite all historical evidence to the contrary.


Today, we have people who consider themselves “professional activists.” I have met some of these people. It’s impossible for me to stifle a chuckle at the idea of a “professional” activist, considering they don’t earn any money protesting, but I suppose it’s their ability to think outside the box of normal, accepted definition that makes them revolutionaries and me a brainwashed plebe. In any case, a professional activist is someone who makes it their business to attend and foment protests. The protests could be about anything, really, but they will usually conform to an activist's general political bent. Meaning you'll probably see the same professional activists at an anti-war rally as you would at a gun control rally.


It makes me think of the lines from Rebel Without a Cause: “‘What are you rebelling against?’ ‘What do you got?'” The point of a protest, I believe, is that it should shake things up a little, put average people on alert and the oppressors on notice with swollen ranks of concerned citizens. A protest should not, I think, include some shirtless dude impressing teenage chicks with Devil Sticks and some girl in multicolored dreadlocks screaming inaudibly into a megaphone. The statement being made here is, “what we think doesn’t matter because we’re completely unemployable.” Professional activism has turned protesting into a commonplace thing, a meet-and-greet where people can clap each other on their tattooed backs and assert how much they’re changing the status quo, while mainstream society stays totally unaware of their existence.


There’s a game we play every four years here in America, it’s called the National Conventions. It all begins when either of our two relevant political parties announces which city they intend to hold their bacchanalian bash, where they’ll determine who will represent their platform in the campaign for President. Immediately, both the police of that city and professional activists nationwide begin to mobilize: the former to allocate more funds in order to hire more cops and buy more riot gear, and the latter plan to show up and cheese off the pigs with slogans and armpit funk. Once the event arrives, the cops allow the protesters some time to rant and rave, but when the Port-O-Potties start overflowing, police line up with their see-through shields and batons and push the crowd away. The protesters act indignant at their treatment (though many will be glad to have been arrested, making their professional status official), the police have justified their budgetary needs, everything goes on as normal. We get to do it all again at the other party’s national convention, then everyone has to wait for four years for the fun to start all over again.


And that’s the state of a lot of protesting, in my mind. A lot of self-serving, unwashed weirdos who want the whole world to know how angry they are. More of a tantrum, really. I don’t think this is what the framers of the Constitution had in mind, that people would protest anything and everything just because they could. These endless mini-protests, retarded mid-day marches by bored theater troupes and vitriol because the progressive bill passed by Congress just wasn’t progressive enough, they undermine the entire process. If you catch yourself attending more than two protest rallies per year that are about wildly different subjects, then you should probably evaluate your effectiveness. Some of that time protesting life’s unfairness could be spent, you know, working at a fucking job. I suspect that the definitions of both “fairness” and “professional” will change after such an experience.

Mothers, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Assholes

28 Feb

I am of an age that many of my friends and peers have children. I am high-minded, I don’t hold it against them or judge them for their handicap. Likely they were motivated by fear or guilt to have kids, so really they’re the victim in all of this. And yet no court in the land would sentence a baby to prison for holding adults hostage with their incessant needs. That’s the modern justice system for you.


When I think back to my childhood, which essentially happened during the Reagan administration, I remember feeling like I was the Most Important Person in the Universe. I think that my generation was the first one to be wantonly targeted by marketing departments of various corporations. Not that children weren’t catered to before, but in my time Sesame Street relented after a decade of not licensing their puppets to toy manufacturers. No cartoon or kids’ show existed that did not have a full line of products supporting it. Ewoks were inserted into Return of the Jedi at the last minute simply for franchise opportunities. It seems like my generation was the first to be seen as having a nearly limitless purchasing power.


Still, my childhood did not center around childish things. I liked Transformers a lot, I certainly played with plenty of Fisher Price toys. However, my mother also felt it was important that I see the original King Kong when I was six. She rented Fritz the Cat for me when I was thirteen, a character I was familiar with having seen Robert Crumb comics of my father’s when I was eight years old. I watched Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff and Friends as a kid, but I was also very into The Young Ones and Soap. I feel that as important as it was to my parents that I feel safe and educationally stimulated, they were also concerned that I didn’t grow up to be lame.


When I visit my Friends Who Have Children’s houses, I wonder if I should call a psychiatrist who specializes in hoarding disorders to save these people from the mountains of bulky, plastic crap that threaten to engulf their entire homes. And these are the parents of children who can barely walk, mind you. The DVD collections, alone, wielded by some of these kids would send the most obsessive compulsive completest movie collector into a depression spiral. You’ve got six year-olds with MP3 players, ten year-olds with cellular phones. Most of this shit didn’t exist when I was a kid. I remember it was a big deal when my family got a VCR in 1982, which meant we could accrue a library of movies. The first movie I recall watching on video tape was David Lynch’s Eraserhead.


Maybe my folks were bad parents. I think that by today’s standard, they’d probably be considered negligent or whatever. They encouraged me to do the things I wanted to do, but didn’t feel the need to occupy my every second with targeted entertainment and bullshit. It’s no wonder that each generation increasingly seems to expect the world to be handed to them, because it’s being foisted on them every second of their lives up until they stop developing secondary sex characteristics. I can remember when I felt the steadying hand of focused marketing slip away, I was about twenty-five and suddenly I realized I was older than most of the actors I saw on television and artists whose music I enjoyed. It’s a bittersweet thing when you grow out of your demographic, but I suppose it’s a rite of passage, like falling off your bicycle or acquiring your two-hundredth Pokemon.

Why Do I Find Racism So Goddamned Funny?

23 Feb

The first time I can remember finding racism funny, I was about eight or nine years old, reading a classic Captain Marvel comic book (almost certainly a reprint) and there was a scene where Billy Batson had to stow away on a steamship for some reason. He disguises his face with burnt cork and adopts this ludicrous “sho’ nuff!” type of dialect in order to appear Black. I recall laughing to myself about it and surreptitiously stealing glances at these comic panels for weeks afterward, silently chortling and understanding that I was getting away with something wrong.


Why did I find that funny? My parents certainly never explained the irony of American racism, in fact my parents were vocally opposed to racism. To be sure, I don’t find hate crimes or bigoted violence funny, but I do think that most stereotypes and people’s attempts to imitate other ethnic groups are hilarious. I know why racism is funny, actually, though it’s difficult to explain. It has something to do with naive ignorance being issued as broad fact. I laugh at old medical texts on Phrenology and Christian sexual education films for much the same reason. No, it’s not really why racism is funny but why I find it so funny.


One obvious reason I can even laugh at racism to begin with is because I’m white. To chuckle at racism and minimize its effects is my privilege. A lot of people hear the term “white privilege” and they think it means “white guilt.” That’s not the case at all. White privilege is a phrase which simply acknowledges the lens through which white people view racism. Even being able to look at racism somewhat objectively is another white privilege. To step back and look at it as a weird cultural anomaly is something that someone negatively affected by racism might not be able to do.


I’m not immune to white stereotypes, either. I usually laugh right along with the crowd when a Black comedian adopts the curt, nasal whine of a tight-assed white person. In my gut, it feels the same as when I chuckle at Charlie Chan or snicker at Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. It’s similar to how I enjoy incredibly shitty, low-budget movies or insipid poetry. When people invoke stereotypes, they are trying to make sense of something foreign using the best tools available. While there may be a tinge of truth, overall the result is a complete failure because you can’t assign universal personality traits or actions to any large group of people. And that failure is what I find so funny.


This essay isn’t meant to advocate for racist stereotypes or to explain their cultural importance (though they are culturally important), but just to delve into why I find them so fucking funny, and always have. I think it says a lot more about my sense of humor than anything else. But what do I know? I’m just some white dude. I don’t laugh as freely or walk with rhythm like I understand Black folks do.

You Done Fucked Up if You Haven’t Read Watchmen

22 Feb

One doesn’t need to search for very long in the world of comic bookery to find an Alan Moore fan. The reason for this is quite simple: Alan Moore rocks. While plenty of people can argue about aspects of his personal politics or other proclivities, there are few who can successfully argue that he isn’t a great writer. Moore’s portfolio is tremendous and impressive, and it’s likely I’ll write about more of his work down the line. Today I’d like to write about his most popular work, Watchmen, about which much has been written and even more has yet to be written.


My father bought issues of this comic book miniseries as they came out in 1985 and 1986, but I was too young to understand them at the time. I can recall thumbing through them and feeling creeped out by the artwork, which struck me as far too realistic for a superhero comic book. I wanted to be able to discern one character from another, but not necessarily to know what they’re feeling or how old they are. Dave Gibbons has the capacity to instill all of that and more with his well-placed, coarse lines. Gibbons’ art doesn’t convey a lot of movement, but it does take on a kind of realistic quality, yet at the same time the action in each panel is conveyed very clearly. This is a fine line that few comic book artists can walk successfully (a good example of someone unsuccessful at it in my mind is Tony Harris, who represents such faithfully realistic versions of his comic book characters, often you can barely tell what’s happening in a given panel.)


I picked it up again as a trade edition around 1989 or 1990, and was duly blown away. By that time, I understood a lot of the intricacies that were woven into the storyline. Attempting to delve into the plot in a short essay would do both the story and my legion of faithful readers a serious injustice. Maybe I will dissect it at a later date. The important thing to note now is that Watchmen is a rare work of art in that it exists all ready in its perfect medium. Watchmen is a kind of anthropological and historical study of comic books, contains a comic book within the comic book which is part of the total narrative, and also has a strong political stance, to boot. That stance was a lot more poignant during the final gasps of the Cold War, but it is still relevant today.


Watchmen was the first attempt (not counting Marvelman, for which Alan Moore did much the same thing but was widely read only after he became famous) for a superhero story to be framed in reality, sort of an American Splendor meets The Avengers. It’s old hat now, when superheroes have crises of conscience as part of their due diligence before becoming a corporate icon. However, until Alan Moore tackled Watchmen, superheroes didn’t deal with impotence or post-traumatic stress disorder, they didn’t retire and write tell-all books–which is precisely what they would do if they existed in the third dimension (and we didn’t lock them away from polite society for being insane, but that’s another discussion entirely). There’s a famous scene in Watchmen where a mentally disturbed superhero breaks into a fellow superhero’s home and eats beans right out of the can without heating them up. The entire scene is kind of unsettling and it stays with many who have read it, but what always struck me is that we’re in the well-appointed brownstone of a wealthy, retired superhero in that scene, and what he has on hand to eat is pork and beans. Not nutrition capsules, not some lettuce-and-mush looking squiggle on a plate which has come to represent food in many pen and ink drawings, not even a nondescript tin can of unknown contents, but pork and beans. It’s likely that almost everyone has a can of beans in their home, whether they are big fans of eating them or not.


As I mentioned, there’s a lot of opinion pieces on Watchmen, and this is one of them. If you like non-superhero graphic novels like Y: The Last Man and Preacher, then you should probably check this out since it’s more about the people involved than their awesome super powers (of which they have none, except for one superhero who has all of them). If you already like superhero comic books and you haven’t read this, hop to it. If reading graphic novels gives you a headache, then you are obviously suffering from some kind of ocular deficiency. The only solution is to stick forks directly into the center of your eyeballs and keep pressing inwards until you hear a “pop.”

My Advice is That You Think Twice

22 Feb

Seems like the facile platitudes once only visible on bumper stickers and office coffee mugs are everywhere: silk-screened on t-shirts, posted on social networking websites, tattooed over butt cracks. Meaningless quotes like “live, laugh, love” and “we do not remember days, we remember moments” surround us, infusing the very air we breathe with pop culture existentialism. One of my most favorite meaningless quotes is: “Never regret anything, because at one time it was exactly what you wanted.” Let’s discuss that particular wafer-thin premise.


I do understand that “Never regret anything…” is mainly a woman’s euphemism for “don’t feel bad about your youthful promiscuity.” And you know, I agree with that. If you fucked a lot in your teens and twenties, and didn’t have one or more children or acquire a debilitating venereal disease, then bully for you. Only possessive assholes give a crap about how many partners you’ve been with before them, and frankly if it’s such a big issue that you need to justify your past with a phrase you might see scrawled on a teenager’s loose leaf notebook, then said relationship is probably going to be really shitty. However, to never regret anything…I mean, that’s how sociopaths behave, right? They have a poor sense of right and wrong, and so the line between waving hello to their neighbor and choking the life out of him becomes blurred.


The fact is that we learn by regretting: by facing our mistakes and wishing we hadn’t made them. Everyone has points in their lives when they wish they could start over, change decisions of the past and perhaps enjoin missed opportunities. Unfortunately, when looking at time, only hindsight is the exact science. But it is through this hindsight that we can see pitfalls and try to avoid similar problems in the future. It’s called Normal Social Development. Willfully refusing to regret anything is a kind of an Objectivist excuse for being an asshole.


I haven’t lived so many years that I feel comfortable dispensing life advice to anyone over the age of ten. Even then, what could I tell a ten year-old? “Don’t text with your mouth full.” But if there are any thin mantras I follow, then they could be these three:

  • Never say “never.” It is a virtual certainty that you will end up doing the very things you once railed so vehemently against.
  • There are no absolutes anywhere. This not-so-ironic nerd motto is actually pretty sound. When you look for the end-all, be-all answer to everything, you’re bound to be disappointed and confused.
  • Different folks, different strokes. There’s no correct way to live, no master plan to raising a child or pursuing a career or falling in love. Don’t judge how other people get down, do your own thing.
  • And if you choose to ignore these stupid quotes, then please: regret things. Ruminate in context, but do ruminate, regret, and grow.

    I Don’t Give a Shit About Family

    20 Feb

    Like all good Americans, I was raised primarily by television. It was a component of my well-rounded education which also included Discoveries in My Brother’s Room and Outcomes of Interpersonal Manipulation. However, television was the primary caregiver, invaluably telling me what to consume and how to frame my opinions. That’s the kind of esoteric teaching you don’t get outside of a brainwashing cult. There was one point that television stressed in my youth that I’ve never been able to wholeheartedly adopt: the idea that blood is thicker than water.


    I mean, blood is thicker than water. I know this, I have handled both liquids. But the concept that the bonds of family trump all is not something intrinsic to me. Sure, I love my parents, there are members of my family that I genuinely love. But I love them for the same reasons I might love anyone, because of our shared experience and some degree of respect and admiration. Most of my family I feel somewhat indifferent about. I am interested to know things about my ancestors, but detailing my genealogy isn’t necessarily going to make me like you. The whole idea of tracing a bloodline kind of creeps me out, actually. You’re just absorbing the history of some stranger because he fucked your great-grandmother or something. Why should I revel in this person’s accomplishments and regret his crimes? Who the hell was this person to me except for the hapless donor of some biological material?


    When you really think about nepotism and what it implies, you begin to see the world in a whole new light. Exploiting family connections professionally or otherwise implies that we should value an arbitrary, random thing like shared DNA over acquired skills and technical knowledge. Nepotism happens all the time and it’s essentially the foundation upon which monarchies are built. So how often is someone who is less than fully qualified working in a position due to sharing an ancestor with the CEO? Could your friend have set you up with a better date that was not with her cousin? Being family becomes an unearned pass into whatever shit they’re all mixed up in–good or bad–and somehow there should be an automatic pride attached to it.


    Makes me think of that Bill Hicks bit: “Am I proud to be American? I dunno, I didn’t have a lot to do with it. My parents fucked there, that’s all.” Existence itself is so improbable and the pattern is so complex, I guess there’s something soothing in the created, more manageable pattern of one’s lineage. Me, I don’t feel that ancestral heartbeat pumping the blood of my fathers through my hardened arteries. An old friend of mine points out, “Friends are the best kind of family, because they’re the ones you choose.” That about sums it up.

    Christians, You Freak Me Out

    16 Feb

    I’ve been reading Rapture Ready! by Daniel Radosh. It’s a fairly good book, the writing is not amazing but it’s certainly engaging enough. So far, it’s about Radosh’s travels around America sampling bits and pieces of Christian pop culture, most of which are enough to send the average New York liberal into his reinforced 9/11 bunker. Being a lifelong New Yorker, as well as having been raised Unitarian Universalist, I haven’t had much experience with Evangelical Christians. I know a lot of Christians but few have ever tried to seriously convert me.


    Reading Rapture Ready! has caused me to reflect on my upbringing. I was raised in a predominantly Roman Catholic neighborhood where virtually all of my peers went to one of two local churches. On Wednesdays during grade school, when my friends were allowed to leave a little early to attend Confirmation Class, the only kids left in the room were myself, a Jewish girl, and a smelly kid of unknown religious affiliation. I was jealous that my schoolmates were allowed to leave early until I found out what they were being taught. I wasn’t too popular as a little kid, but I wasn’t totally friendless. I think I was ostracized in part for not being Catholic, but largely for being a weird nerd in so many other dazzling ways.


    I remember being in the first grade and blithely informing my friends that I didn’t believe in God. If I had been more articulate, I might have explained that what I was rejecting was this bizarre paternal figure who we’re told is peaceful and compassionate, yet heaps vengeance and punishment on people all the time. If I wasn’t six, I could have said that I didn’t subscribe to an anthropomorphic God, an all-knowing creator who gives a shit about our daily comings and goings. However, I had neither the vocabulary or the cognition to express myself fully, so I dropped my non-believer bombshell and my first grade classmates slowly moved away from me in terror. “You’re going to Hell!” they cautioned, or taunted, or both. “God hates you,” explained one girl, sadly, though she didn’t further clarify why I should care what a fictional character thinks of me. Possessing none of the emotional fortitude necessary for theological discussion, I burst into tears. I was still crying when I got home and told my grandma what happened. “Don’t worry,” she said in an exhale of cigarette smoke, “you’ll believe in God eventually.”


    When I was around nineteen, I worked at a liquor store during the summer with a guy who was a self-professed born-again Christian. More than his being a Christian, I remember this dude was the BIGGEST Debbie Gibson fan I’d ever met. He had all of her albums and singles in every available format, and his most prized possessions were a half dozen unopened bottles of Gibson’s perfume, “Electric Youth.” He was a little weird and most of our co-workers avoided him, but I’d chat him up from time to time. “Being a Christian is the ultimate rebellion,” he explained to me one day, “because everywhere you go, you’re persecuted for what you believe.” I was confused by this statement, I had certainly known no one to be persecuted for being Christian in my neighborhood. Seemed to me that most everyone was Christian, meanwhile I was teased and called a Jew even though I had set foot in synagogues maybe three times in my life.


    At the heart of this belief some Christians seem to share, that they are righteous and persecuted and need to keep up the good fight, is pretty much why Christians routinely freak me out. I think we should tolerate other beliefs, it’s part of harmonious society and people are so fixed in their trust in crazy shit that it’s less work to accept their craziness than it is to rectify it. However, part of my tolerance includes you not explaining any part of your belief system to me. Chances are, it’s ridiculous and going into detail about it will only make me lose respect for you. Virgin births, resurrection, wheels turning within wheels…it’s all a bit much, isn’t it? You’ll get fewer stares claiming to believe in Bigfoot than you will trying to explain the inner workings of the Mormon church. And the ridiculous part is that there’s no shortage of Mormons lining up to tell me all about it.


    I guess my point is that I don’t really care if someone is a Christian any more than I care if they are homosexual. That’s something they do on their own time and it shouldn’t affect me. Similarly, I want to hear about your personal relationship with Jesus Christ about as much as I would like to see two dudes screwing. Or anyone screwing, really. I mean when you really watch two people have sex, even if the people are attractive, it’s pretty gross. But you don’t have to take my word for it, attend the next sermon this coming Sunday at my Church of Sextology. Bring a friend!

    My Grandmother Was a Republican

    10 Feb

    Ever notice how the people who seem to have the most to lose are the same ones who champion a fiscally conservative government? It seems like the ones who would benefit most from social services are the ones who want them abolished. Has there ever been another country in the history of the world where its citizens stood in protest of their own health care? Where else can you find a single mother of eight at an anti-welfare rally? You have to say this about Americans: we may not be smart, but we are good at yelling. A lot.


    My maternal grandmother was something like this. She was born not long before the Great Depression and was fully cognizant when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered in his New Deal. I guess it rubbed her the wrong way, because she voted Republican her whole life. My grandmother worked as a bookkeeper for confectioner Fanny Farmer, her husband was an alcoholic superintendent who died long before I was born. My mom, uncle, and grandparents lived their entire lives in various basement apartments in the Bronx, and though many times they didn’t have two nickels to rub together, my grandmother never took the subway. She either took a cab or traveled within walking distance.


    My grandmother was retired by the time I knew her. She lived with my family, ostensibly to be home for my brother and I when we got home from school. And there she’d be, choking down Marlboro after Marlboro, watching some game show through a haze of cigarette smoke and dust. Her Marlboros were provided by social security, the apartment a gift from my parents. Yet she still felt that she didn’t take hand outs from anyone, she thought herself a self-sufficient red-blooded American, who didn’t want or need anyone else’s platitudes. Needless to say, she had zero friends.


    I think this is a prevailing American attitude, that we don’t want to pay high taxes but we do expect a lot of shit for free. I can’t really knock it, who doesn’t like free stuff? There just seems to be a disconnect between what we’re owed versus what we’re willing to sacrifice. My grandmother died in 1988 from complications due to smoking. She was penniless. My parents paid for the funeral.

    Why New Yorkers Hate You For Moving to New York

    9 Feb

    New Yorkers have a lot to dislike. For one thing, they have to work very long hours in order to afford substandard living conditions. For another thing, New York is crowded. And why shouldn’t it be? New York is, after all, The Greatest City in the World©. It didn’t get this jammed with pedestrians by being mundane, no New York is a pretty exciting place to live. I don’t know another city in the world where you can look at the most beautiful work of art one minute, and then literally the very next minute see a homeless guy shitting into a coffee can. Maybe San Francisco, and there the beautiful art and shit in a coffee can will actually be the same thing.


    Because New York City is so fucking special, New Yorkers are pretty defensive about it. Annoyingly offensive, in fact, as we roll our eyes at tourists and chortle at routine city spectacles like the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. The implication is that one can never really “know” New York unless they’ve lived here, and even at that it must be for an unknown and variable number of years. Until you stop jumping at the sight of a scurrying rat, when you negotiate a transfer from the C train to the R train at Times Square successfully, when your wardrobe consists of black clothing and over-sized sunglasses, then you can consider yourself a Real New Yorker. This smug tendency is therefore most pronounced in homegrown New York residents.


    I technically grew up in New York City, about as far east as you can go in Queens without actually leaving the five boroughs. To visit Manhattan was to go to “the city,” and most of my friends lived in one- or two-family houses with backyards and garages. Still, I carry with me the experience of having grown up in New York. When people move to New York as adults, even as young adults, they never see the side of New York that an eleven year-old sees. Though my neighborhood was largely suburban, I still had to keep an eye out for criminals and stick-up kids, roving gangs and toothless crackheads. Growing up in New York is a dangerous prospect, and everyone that comes out of the other side shares a camaraderie that transplants can’t appreciate.


    As a kid, New York is the kind of place that constantly tests you. You learn the rules pretty quickly through trial and error: keep your head down, don’t make eye contact, except with the guy behind you. Keep your ears open. Stay close to the corners. Act like you know where you’re going. Don’t flash your money. It was some years before I discovered that this most kids do not have the same experience. Taking the subway as a kid is a whole different visceral experience, where faint graffiti tags take on heavy layers of meaning and which car you choose could be the difference between an uneventful ride and getting vicked. This is a New York few new residents and almost no tourists ever comprehend.


    It’s really nothing special. Having the experience of growing up in New York isn’t any better or worse than the experience of having grown up in Denver, or Taos, or anywhere else, really. We’ve all got to grow up somewhere. The difference is that waves of people aren’t descending upon Denver or Taos every day to tax its already overburdened municipal systems. So if I seem a little callous about your enthusiasm for some dinky coffee shop in Park Slope, please forgive me.

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