NEW YORK 2003. Day three.

Guys: what’s with all the spitting? Did Everyone lick a rusty bar for breakfast? The bad fashion and constant F word I can take, but spitting: please. Chew some gum. Swallow. When it comes to your bodily fluids, please keep them to yourself.

I thought I was paranoid about carrying around a small bottle of hand sanitizer, but I’ve met two other people who produced the same tiny bottle when brought mine out. And I stopped at a Bath and Body Whateverthehellit’scalled store today to get some shampoo; discovered that nearly everything in there now has antibacterial properties. We are all set for SARS or worse. Bring it on! Our cuticles are already as barren of microbial life as the underside of an arctic glacier.

And why was I buying shampoo? Because my hotel is owned by a multinational chain that does not know about, or care about, the olfactory vocabulary of Americans. The soap and shampoo stink. They have a heavy Manly Smell, the sort of odor you apply content in the knowledge that you will drown it out with a cup of cologne under each armpit. It’s the smell of the international businessman who does the Pacific Rim & Europe. Essentially it’s Brut with a sneer. So I went to that aforementioned shop (“Nine Thousand Variations on Plain Old Frickin’ Jergins, Fer Chrissakes”) and got something infused with botanicals. Whatever those are. Probably muskrat testicles. Who-hee, lookee that, Cletus, I shot him raht in the botanicals! I also got Gnat some pumpkin-infused soap in a pumpkin-shaped container. It’s antibacterial, of course.

I understood even more the need for spuzz-killing unguents when I had to make a payphone call earlier today. I had misread the directions for lunch - I thought the place was between 7th and 8th. Hah! No such bistro. So I called directory assistance. This required using a payphone, which I swore just throbbed with cooties. Everyone has a cell these days - who uses payphones? Homeless tubercular schizophrenics who need to call the CIA and tell them to LAY OFF WITH THE MIND BEAMS. So I moved the mouthpiece to my adam’s apple area.

Deposited coins. James Earl Jones welcomed me to Verizon. A female voice informed me with unnatural enthusiasm that they searched by name and location, and I thought as usual that’s nice; the other directory assistance services search by smell and color. I asked for the phone number for Judson’s restaurant: 582-5252. Great; all middle-row numbers; if Carrot Top can remember those so can I -

For a fee this number can be automatically connected. To automatically connect. Press one.

I pressed one. James Earl Jones returned to thank me for using Verizon. You’re welcome, Darth.

“Please hold while we calculate the fee.”

Pause. Pause. Pause.

“The number can be automatically dialed for 80 cents”

To hell with that. I’ll do it myself, thank you. I put in the quarter, and froze: 582 or 528? I gambled, tried 582, and got a message telling me the restaurant’s location. Whew. Off I went.

When I got there I looked at the matchbooks, of course: it’s named the Judson Cafe for a reason. JUdson was the area prefix in the olden days. 5 - 8.

Lunch with Mr. Buzz Machine, Jeff Jarvis! We share a common employer - Advance - but we neglected to talk about that, and just had a great talk about, you know, stuff. I was in a capital mood, which our waitress found insufferable, and I can’t blame her. I should know better than to be Mr. Amusing Customer, but it was a bright blue day, a fine meal was imminent, and the conversation was already great; I had already realized that this was going to be the Best New York Trip Ever, and my enthusiasm was uncontainable. Had a great lunch with Jarvis - a smart, funny, savvy fellow, and a decent fellow in the bargain. But if you've read the site you know that.

Next: the annual trip to the Chelsea Garage to poke through the detritus of Western Civ to collect new stuff for the website. I was about a block from the Garage when I realized that it was, after all, a garage, and this was Friday, and hence this garage might be filled with cars. Which it was. So I went to the adjacent building, which has three floors of stuff. The main floor was closed. Eighty percent of the other places were locked up. Okay, I can take a hint. Down the street. Found another antique mall; this one had the same piles of crap as all the rest. It’s like great-grandma’s jewelry box threw up all over the place. Where’s the ephemera? Where are the hideously overpriced ancient coffee cans from a 1956 Levittown supermarket? I did find one place that had a big box of First Day covers, which I don’t collect . . .

But I do now. They were irresistible, as you’ll see in a few weeks. US Government envelopes devoted to space flight AND expired a Georgia Senator with a lurid drinker’s nose? Yes! And yes again!

Coming up 7th,
around 26th street. A car is attempting to nose through an intersection. There are no other cars in front of it, but a large crowd has decided that it will just cross the street against the light. As the car inches forward at a rate somewhat slower than continental drift, a sullen young man with his arm draped around his girlfriend walks in front of the vehicle. The car continues to move forward, moving perhaps half an inch, attempting to imply that it does sort of kinda have, you know, right of way?

The young man glowers at the car. Bitch, he mutters, I outta blow you fukatta tha car.

The woman behind the wheel was roughly the same age and size as the girlfriend. Nevermind him; dime a dozen and overpriced at that. But what of the girlfriend? What goes through her mind when her boyfriend casually remarks that he feels like shooting someone who’s attempting to go through a crosswalk on a green light? Yes, yes, figure of speech. But not one that rises to the lips of a good man. Maybe that’s the attraction; wouldn’t be the first time. But you see them two years down the road - she has the baby, he’s gone, she’s blaming everyone but herself for what happened. Girl, that was your cue, right there at 7th and 26th.

Maybe she’ll heed it.

Okay, that’s enough; I’m taking the elevator down 40 floors to Times Square to shoot pictures. If there’s no posting tomorrow that means I was assaulted and stabbed in an alleyway, but that’s not likely in the new clean super-friendly Times Square. For heaven’s sake, last night I saw a guy in a Times Square uniform take a spray bottle to a garbage can. Ten PM, and he’s shining the garbage can. At this rate in 20 years when some tourist leans over and pukes in the gutter, a hovercar will float down and spray sawdust on the mess.

My kinda town!

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