Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Extra Butter

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I missed the food the most. Nothing beats a slice of New York City pizza. I was bummed out when I arrived home from the airport very late and missed a chance at eating a slice at the local pizza joint by my brother's apartment. They closed early on the weekdays -- at 11pm -- but I was pissed because it was not even Midnight and it was supposed to be New York City, you know, the city that never sleeps. Shit, I expected that weak-sauce crap to happen in L.A., when parts of the city shut down at 10pm.

Los Angeles is a weird place like that, shutting down early, considering it's such a big city. Good luck getting grub that late if you're hungry. 24-hour options in my neck of the woods are limited to Jack in the Box, or dealing with drunk hipsters at Canter's Deli, oh and if you're feeling really saucy you do L.A.'s version of running of the bulls, by surviving a meal surrounded by tweaking trannies at the infamous "Trannie IHOP" in WeHo. Nicky and Showcase dubbed it so a few years ago. They were brave enough to check it out a few times, late night, when the freaks roam the streets of West Hollywood, like some dystopian underworld that is right out of Larry Wachowski's dampest wet dream.

For the record, I've never been that adventurous or jonesin' for pancakes at 2am that I'd want to head to trannie IHOP. Now, if I knew there would be a better than 27.5% chance (better than 1 in 4) that I would see a potential riot among pissed off, drunken, pancake flinging trannies -- then I'd be there every fucking night hoping to score some high quality videos to post on YouTube. If any of those went viral, I could expand my Tao brand into a new field -- Tao of Trannie IHOP.

During my brief week in NYC, I spent a lot of time at the Greek diner in the old neighborhood grabbing breakfast sandwiches or a flame-broiled burger to go. The old Jewish guys sat in the back booth. They all bitched and moaned about a variety of sports-related subjects, mainly March Madness, the impact of the Melo trade to the Knicks, and the upcoming baseball season. Yeah, at the time it was hard to believe that Opening Day was a week away, yet it felt good to be in the Bronx and hearing life-long baseball fans kvetch about their teams chances this year.

I popped into the bagel store a couple of times. My local hood has two different bagel shops and this doesn't include the bakeries (three) and Starbucks, where you can also order a bagel. One of the bagel stores is located right across the street from my old Catholic grammar school.One morning after shrugging off the effects of a long day/night partying with my brother and watching/gambling/sweating March Madness games, I woke up foggy and groggy, waked-n-baked, then sauntered three blocks to the bagel store. About two-thirds of the way there, I realized I was retracing the same steps I took everyday for nine years (kindergarten thru 8th grade). It was sort of spooky and the flashback made me dizzy for a few steps. I realized that the majority of the stores on the block had changed, save for the Korean deli and the shoemaker, and the parking meters were no longer accepting coins and replaced by the "box" on the corner where you had to pre-pay for parking and place the slip on your dashboard to avoid tickets from the ticket Nazis that vigilantly patrolled that neck of Riverdale.

I dunno why the other bagel store in the hood (the one away from the school and next to the Greek diner) skimps on butter because it cost less than cream cheese. If you ask for cream cheese, they slop down a thick glob, but they barely butter half of a bagel. It's frustrating and even to this day, I have to boldly request extra butter to get any semblance of butter on a bagel. And every time, I'm met with the most disdain I have ever experienced from any service worker. It's as if I asked them to splice open their palm and drizzle an ounce of their own blood onto my Everything bagel.

For fuck's sake, stop being such a fucking pussy and load me up with some butter.

It's like the store owner whipped them in the back alley if they went over the butter rations for the day or something. Is my request too burdensome? All I want is butter, lots of it, so what's the problem with giving the customer what they wants?

Yeah, even though I haven't been home in a few months, something never change -- I'm also tilted by the bagel people.

The only other time I was tilted (not including my mother, which is implied tilt 24/7/365) during my trip to New York City happened when I attempted to cross Broadway at 86th street. I was headed to the bank to deposit a couple of paychecks. I had a a green light and attempted to cross the first half of Broadway, for non-New Yorkers, Broadway is six lanes wide (not including a lane of parked cars on either side) and divided by a small island in the middle of the historic avenue, with three lanes of traffic flanking each side. I walked East on 86th Street and passed through two of the three lanes when a white BMW with Florida plates drove West and attempted to make a left hand turn south on Broadway, and in doing so, she was on a trajectory to strike me. I was a few seconds ahead of a potential collision and had to think quick. In Los Angeles, cars actually stop cold for pedestrians because you can get a ticket for not allowing a pedestrian to cross the street. Even though that law doesn't exist in New York City, everyone is civil enough to let the pedestrian complete the route and reach the pedestrian island safely beofre they make the turn. Alas, I'm glad I noticed the distinct Florida license plate because the female driving was going a little too fast and I anticipated that the out-of-towner wouldn't slow down, so I sprinted through the final lane onto the pedestrian island, like a baseball player trying to leg out an infield hit. The Florida twat had the audacity to honk at me when I had the right of way and she reckless turned into the flow of pedestrian traffic.

I flipped her off and let the words, "Fuck you twat!" roll off my tongue like they were heat-seeking surface-to-air missiles.

BMW lady could have killed someone. What if an old lady was walking? She would have been toast. Leave it to an out-o- town driver to cause havoc on the Upper West Side.

I rode the subways and forgot how much easier it is to get around a vast metropolis, and it made me curse the sprawl of Los Angeles and reminded me that I'm less mobile in LA because it's a pain in the ass to fight traffic and deal with parking. But in NYC, I'm cover more ground and much more active because of the all mighty subway system. Plus it encourages inebriation because I don't have to be sober to operate a motor vehicle, so I can rip bingers before I hop on the train or nibble on a sliver of oxy before I head out to a museum.

I also experienced the benefits of the Kindle app on my CrackBerry. I read a collection of short stories (blah) and started an anthology of contemporary music writing (hit or miss, but when it hit, I was floored). I wondered if I would ever sink as low to buy a Kindle and be one of those people on the subway. At the moment, the CrackBerry app was appropriate. I dunno if I could endure an entire book or novel on the small CrackNerry screen, which is why short stories were perfect because I'd read a story or two per trip.

On my way back to LA, I took two subways to get to the AirTrain which eventually led me to JFK. I was delayed 20 minutes because I had gotten on the wrong train, actually it was the correct line, but it was heading to a different destination, so I had to get out and wait for the right one. Security line was light for JFK airport, which made up for my lost time on the subway. But that didn't matter, because our plane arrived a few minutes late and the "security check" of the plane was taking longer than usual. As a result, we were delayed almost thirty minutes. That's when I dug into a book by Warren Ellis that I started to read a few years ago, but never finished reading because I lost interest after the first 20 pages. At the time, the book received a lot of hype from friends so I really wanted to love it, but it turns out that the more people rave about something, the less I enjoy it because I allow those expectations to taint my experience. I can cite a dozen or so films and books in the last decade that fell into that category, which is why I try my hardest not to hype up something that I recommend to a friend.

Anyway, I allowed a few years to pass and I totally forgot about the Warren Ellis book until I saw it in a box in my old bedroom in the Bronx. I picked it up and decided to give it a second shot, mainly because of it's compact size -- much smaller in height and width than the average paperback. Since I was traveling light, it was the perfect size and page length. I began re-reading the first 20 pages at the gate while I waited for the delayed flight to finally board. I forgot all of my previous disdain for the book. I guess that I was in a better head space, or just in a better mood to read Ellis' prose.

My flight boarded later than everyone wanted and I lost airplane bingo and got stuck two rows in front of a wailing demon baby and right behind five rows filled with spoiled teenagers from Santa Barbara who were on some sort of class trip to NYC. A few of the girls were jailbait potential, but they were too annoying for me to drool over them. They were so fucking slow to get settled into their seats and wanting to switch back and forth playing musical chairs that the (very flaming) flight attendant got snippy and surly and called out the highschoolers over the PA. They eventually settled down, the plane doors were closed, and the plane finally pulled away from the gate. The baby screeched at the top of its lungs, sort of like a war cry before trying to bayonet your enemy on the pocked battlefields of WWI. I ate some Xanax and dove into Ellis' book while the plane sat on the tarmac for thirty minutes caught in the height of JFK rush hour of 7pm.

I finished the book somewhere over Colorado, and yes, I'm bragging that I killed two books on cross-country Jetlue flights... The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion by Matt Tabbai and Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis. Highly recommend both as airplane books.

I spent the last couple of hours of my flight in a faded glaze, watching a reality show about haunted animals on Animal Planet before my plane finally landed in California. I never wanted to get off the plane faster, but the high school kids were lagging, once again and I was ready to hipcheck a few out of the way and make my way off the plane.

I rushed outside and waited for Nicky to circle around the LAX complex and pick me up at the curb. The warmth of the SoCal evening was much more welcomed than the wintry mix that greeted me when I stepped outside JFK airport a week earlier.

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