Roasted

VIP for the night…sort of.

Before he became president, the only thing I thought of when I heard the name Donald Trump was how convenient the toilets were at Trump Tower. It isn’t always easy to find public toilets when you’re wandering around Manhattan, taking in the tourist attractions with visitors. I’d cheerfully announce, after taking a photo in front of the Charles Atlas statue, “You wanna take a dump at the Trump?” I did not say this out of maliciousness. It was just a way to check off another landmark, make fun of the mondo-80’s marble and brass interior, and take care of business. You see Trump, at this point, was just another idiotic celebrity. He was no threat to me. I truly didn’t give him much thought besides the clean, easily accessible toilets his tacky Tower offered. 

So back in 2011, when my friend Greg asked if I wanted to attend the Comedy Central Trump Roast and sit at Larry King’s table, it was not fraught with political overtones. I jumped at the chance to see my pal and enjoy free booze. The comedy was not the draw. (Which is a good thing, because Jersey Shore’s The Situation was one of the Roasters, and comedy seemed to be a foreign concept to him.)

I walked over to Manhattan Center that chilly March night. I wore my winter boots and coat, feeling pretty fortunate I lived close enough that I could actually walk there. Look at me! Girl from tiny Pacific Northwest island now lives within walking distance of Manhattan Center! Wow! But as I stood in the parking lot, waiting for Greg to arrive with Larry King, the limos and other luxury cars all started pulling in. Seth MacFarlane showed up and a gaggle of unbelievably gorgeous, tall, thin, shiny women spilled out; no coats, no boots, just slinky dresses, long, bare legs in high heels, and big smiles. They did not need to worry about hailing a cab, taking the subway, or walking in the cold night. Chauffeured nights out are free from bulky clothes, or the threat of getting your tights stuck in a boot zipper.

As more and more celebrities strolled in confidently, my geographic accomplishment seemed rather unimpressive. I was grateful when my friend showed up. I was starting to feel like the unpopular kid in the school cafeteria. But at least I wasn’t alone at the table…until I was. Greg escorted me through the empty hall to a table right in front of the stage. He then had to go backstage to help Larry get ready, which included adjusting his famed suspenders. 

Now, I’m usually okay sitting alone. I’ve gone to lunch and dinner by myself many times. I enjoy my own company and I’m not shy. But this felt different. I didn’t feel I belonged at this table. I felt like an intruder, an interloper. This suspicion was confirmed when a tall blonde woman pointed at my face and asked, “Who are you? Why are you at this table?” I stuttered, “I’m…I’m…I’m with Larry King’s people,” because I was pretty sure my own name wasn’t good enough. I was not terribly convincing, as there were no other Larry King people to back up my claim. So she sniffed, stared at me and said, “Well I’m Vanessa Trump.” 

This flustered me, as I had no other table and it seemed as though she was booting me out of this one. By the grace of whichever gods look after chubby thighed non-celebrities at a coveted table, Larry King’s in-laws came to join me. His father-in-law casually greeted Vanessa and said, “This is Saara. She’s with us. Would you like me to get you a chair?” She said nothing and walked away. A few minutes later Don Jr. joined the table, along with some other guests. There was clearly no room allotted for Vanessa, so in fact she was the intruder, the interloper. She sat on Don Jr.’s lap until Larry’s father-in-law (a man in his mid-80s) found a stray chair, hoisted it over his head, and put it next to the table. She thanked him as you would a waiter clearing a plate; an expected gesture. It soon became clear why this table was so important: Ivanka and Melania were at the next table over. This was as close as you could get to their orbit. 

The show began with Donald Trump riding in on a golden golf cart, flanked by glamorous women in sequined dresses, pageant sashes across their ample breasts, flinging fake money into the air. We all rose and cheered. Trump took his place on the stage and Roast master Seth MacFarlane turned to him and quipped, “It’s pronounced, ‘I’m fucking delusional’ not ‘I’m running for President.’” We all laughed. What a hilarious idea! This buffoon becoming president! Hee Hee! Ha ha! What a rascal, what a scamp! Oh, that Donald Trump—such a character! Only in New York, fellas, only in New York!

As for the show itself—it was hit or miss. You can watch it for yourself. That’s for you to decide. 

When it ended, we had VIP passes to the afterparty at Gotham Hall, which was my first experience in this world. I’d always read that in the heady days of Studio 54, the club itself was dazzling, glittering, glamorous. But the allure of 54 was that anybody could get past the velvet rope; you didn’t have to be famous or infamous, provided you impressed Steve Rubell at the front door. So they needed to figure out a way to make the VIPs feel like VIPs. Their solution? A tiny basement area where an heiress was supposedly chained up to the radiator for hours once because someone forgot about her. But it was ONLY for VIPs!

This afterparty sort of felt like that (minus the chained up heiress.) It was just a little balcony overlooking the splendor of Gotham Hall. Down below, people had more space to roam around. Upstairs, we were all crammed together—but we were VIPs! There was Seth MacFarlane and his father, the gorgeous leggy women he arrived with, John Hamm and John Slattery, (looking decidedly scruffy, far removed from Mad Men costumers) comics from the roast, and best of all…Ice T and Coco. What I loved the most about them was that of course there were tons of appetizers offered on trays by good looking waiters. The models declined them. I got a little too excited to try all of them and dropped one on the floor. Out of instinct (or actually, my mother’s voice in my head) I bent down to pick it up. The waiter rolled his eyes and said, “Girl, why would you pick that up? I’m not about to take it. Leave it on the floor.”

Point is, there were appetizers, plates of mini-bites as far as the eye could see…except for Ice T and Coco’s corner. They were sitting on a sofa, and Coco had a huge, delicious looking bowl of pasta in front of her. She was enjoying the hell out of it. I do not know where she got this pasta but this was the best thing I saw all night: Coco savoring her food, and Ice T smiling, happy to see her enjoy it. 

I spent the remainder of the evening talking primarily to one person. No, I did not prod John Hamm into revealing upcoming Mad Men plot twists. I did not network with Seth MacFarlane, in an attempt to get voiceover work or write for a show. That would be useful. No, I mostly spoke to comedian Lisa Lampanelli’s husband, who took my heart with how incredibly proud he was of his wife. He also talked about home repair projects. I guess this is why I am not famous. I never listen to the valuable confessions.

The night ended and I went home. I watched the roast when it aired on Comedy Central a few weeks later. Didn’t think about it again until Trump was elected, and people started taking celebrities to task for being hypocrites. “Oh, you all loved him before, smiled in photos with him, and now you’ve turned your back on him! Typical Hollywood liberal bullshit.”

But that’s just not true. It isn’t hypocritical to be angry when someone is not who you thought they were. A lot of people just thought he was a stupid, comically arrogant famewhore. That’s okay. That’s entertainment! But when that stupid, comically arrogant famewhore wants to make decisions about health care, a pandemic, foreign policy, and tax cuts, well, you’ve crossed multiple lines. 

I watched the roast again before I wrote this essay. Because of my prime seat, I am in multiple shots, blurred in the background, often when the camera is on Ivanka. It’s fitting image; being at a table where I didn’t feel I belonged, out of focus. That is how I’ve felt the entire time Trump has devoured the national conversation. 

Enough essays have been written, by better writers than I am, about how Trump has been systematically destroying the foundations and institutions of our country. I totally agree. But I think we’ve underestimated one of Trump’s worst crimes: he stole people from us. People we love and care about. Over the past four years, I’ve lost family members, friends, and friends who felt like family. He stole them from me because I never knew they held his vicious beliefs. It’s like some bizarre invasion of the body snatchers, finding out they not only voted for this fucker (because they’re life-long Republicans, or they hated Hillary Clinton) but that they fully support him too. Sometimes I wonder if I should be grateful that their true nature has been revealed. Isn’t it better to know that they’ve harbored these feelings all along, and I was too naïve or blind to see it?

But I’m not grateful. I am incredibly sad. It’s so hard to believe that certain people who helped raise me–bought me clothes when mom and I didn’t have much money, put my hideous school photos on their fridge, took me to church, baked me birthday cakes, sat in the audience of my plays–are spouting Trump’s hateful rhetoric, and posting insane conspiracy theories on social media. They’re not just Trump voters. They’re Trump supporters, forgiving him of all his sins though he never asked them to. It absolutely breaks my heart that I cannot look at them the same way again. Especially those who are going to vote for him again. 

I’m also confused. Some of these people took Vietnamese refugees into their homes in the late ‘70s. Made sandwiches for homeless people who knocked on the front door. Quietly pulled me aside when the big kids made fun of me, hugged me and told me it was gonna be okay.  None of them shrieked, “Fuck your feelings!” (Or wore the t-shirt.) No one delighted in anyone’s tears, liberal or otherwise. What happened? How did these people become the bullies? Much like with Trump, I had no idea they would show another side. I never knew this side existed. I just can’t understand it and I cannot forgive them. Because they haven’t asked for forgiveness. And they never will. 

With the Trump Comedy Central Roast, it was clear that funny is subjective. Some jokes work, some jokes don’t. You’ve gotta know your audience. But with the Trump White House, there is no such nuance. There is right and there is wrong. That joke isn’t funny anymore. It never was. Get the hook. Lower the curtain. It’s time for this show to close. 

Hello To All This

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It happened again yesterday. This time it was a guy in my lobby with three dogs, talking to a woman with one:  “Oh, tell me about it. New York is never gonna be the way it was. Everyone I know is getting the hell out. There’s just no reason to stay anymore.”

Funny thing is, I know what this guy’s outdoor space looks like. A weird jungle of potted plants, mismatched chairs, Buddha  statues, unfinished art projects and odds and ends picked up off the streets. That space is one reason I am NOT leaving. I just like knowing it exists in my city, and I haven’t even gotten an invite to his place. Probably never will. The only reason I know what it looks like is because the doorman let me go into the empty apartment next to his and I peeked over the fence. This is as good a metaphor as any for my life in New York. A secret knock but no actual entry. 

But you heard me: I’m not going anywhere. 

People tend to make a big production out of leaving New York, as though dramatically exiting stage left. They write self-righteous essays about this momentous decision. I blame Joan Didion, who kicked off the tradition way back in 1967 with her famous piece, “Goodbye To All That”. She explained she left New York because it was “distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.” 

Huh. 

Well, pretty soon it might just be me and the creepy carnies, overflowing trash cans, cheap abandoned prizes and rickety rides here at the Fair. But fuck it, I say “Hello To all This”.  New York is my home, in good times and…well, right now. Maybe that’s because New York isn’t just a Fair to me. It never has been. I worked too hard to get here, and dreamt about it for years. By the age of four I defiantly announced to my mom I was leaving our apartment in Honolulu to go live with Ernie and Bert on Sesame Street. Soon after, I was enchanted by The Wiz and was ready to Ease On Down The Road. By my teen years, I was pouring over issues of Spy magazine, wanting to be with people who were as funny and smart as those writers, even if I didn’t know half of the New York denizens they wrote about, and most of the references went over my head. New York has always been my destination, the city where I knew I belonged. And if New York didn’t know it, well, it was about to find out, damn it. 

I moved into my first apartment in Manhattan on October 11th, 2001. There was still yellow caution tape everywhere, and sad, faded flyers asking, “Have You Seen My Daddy?” “Have You Seen My Wife?” posted on phone booths. Department stores had blank windows draped in black curtains. But there was hope too. On a spontaneous 9/11 memorial, people left messages of love and camaraderie to the city. One of my favorite additions was just a pink sheet of paper with a little handprint on it that said, “Angela, Age 5.” It amazes me that Angela is a young woman in her mid-20’s now.  

I’m not gonna lie. New York is tough to love at the moment. The yellow caution tape is ubiquitous again, but this time it’s around makeshift outdoor dining, to comply with Covid 19 rules. The flyers posted are advertising freelance services, from desperate out of work creatives. Department store windows are empty not out of respect for the dead, but because they’ve gone bankrupt. But much like after 9/11, that only makes me want to wrap my arms around it even more, even if New York doesn’t really go for that mushy shit. 

But there is no other city that can fill me with such overwhelming joy and belief in the extraordinary. Those nights when you ride home, a bit tipsy in the back of a cab, and the opening notes of Madonna’s “Borderline” come on the radio, (don’t ask me why, but it’s always this song) and you look out the window at the buildings piercing the night sky and think, “Holy shit. It’s all so beautiful.” 

Joan Didion “stopped believing in new faces” at the parties. I think she wasn’t receiving the right invitations. I have met a man who invited squirrels into his apartment window to feed them. (He also happened to be Bernie Getz, the Subway Vigilante of the 1980s.) I have met a woman who claimed she had been sent here from the future, and told me I needed to stock up on Crisco, because it would be useful. (She didn’t elaborate.) It should come as no surprise that I met both of these people at a barbeque in December, as we all huddled, shivering in a tent on a terrace near the U.N. I have met gurus and shamans, conmen and self-described troubadours who turned out to be realtors. I have boarded a parked bus on the Lower East Side for a party in which I left with a hunk of durian in my hand. (For those of you who have experienced durian, I think you can understand that durian and a parked bus simply do not mix.) Point is, I refuse to believe all NYC parties have the same cast of characters. The stage is far too big for that.

And finally, there is my church of NYC, Grand Central Station, the only church I visit more than twice a year. It’s such a gorgeous, bustling intersection of humanity. Whenever I walk through at night, I pick out my astrological sign on the ceiling and pray. I pray that one day I’ll be a best-selling author. I pray that I’ll live George Plimpton’s life, and throw parties like he did where people would get in cabs, give his address and the cabbie would say, “Oh yeah. George Plimpton’s place.” (And on the way home, Madonna’s “Borderline” would play.) But mostly I pray that I’ll never have to leave New York. 

So, hello to the derelict building next door, which once had a massage parlor on the top floor, a steady stream of European “students” flowing in and out and an old man who sat on the stoop, drinking beer, who would tip his hat whenever I walked by. It was supposed to become a boutique hotel but sits empty now, covered in trash that is never removed, no matter how many calls are made to 311, because 311 is a joke and everyone knows it. Hello to the grey cat who sits in the doorway of the health food store, which always smells of patchouli. Hello to my crazy neighbor who communicates with me by leaving notes and small gifts with the doorman. Hello to the pretty young woman in the apartment across the street, who walks around in her underwear and I can’t be sure if she wants to be looked at or just doesn’t realize she is center stage. Hello to the 2nd Avenue Masturbator, who I know for sure wants to be looked at while he indulges in his favorite hobby in front of the window. Hello to the turtles in Central Park. Hello to the three senior citizens I saw sitting on plastic chairs around the midtown fire hydrant they’d opened up, bare feet under the cooling spray. Yes. Hello To All This. Because I’m not going anywhere. 

 
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Donna and Herb’s 2019 Newsletter

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Make a joyful noise, friends and family! It’s the holidays! Hope you’re roasting your nuts on an open fire and ringing those Christmas bells!

What a circus this year has been! So much excitement. Herb and I kicked it all off by turning our rumpus room a tropical paradise! We put in a bamboo tiki bar and stocked it with rum, paper umbrellas and pineapple swizzle sticks from Target. 

NOTE: Is it just me or has the quality of their staff gone down recently? The last THREE times I’ve gone there I’ve had to talk to the manager. 

Anyway, one night after I went upstairs to bed, Herb decided to have a lone luau. Consequently, at 3am I was awakened by Herb belting out Jimmy Buffet songs. So I ventured downstairs and discovered him doing something unspeakable into a plastic palm tree. I got him to bed and assumed the worst was over.

Well. Two weeks later, a monkey in a tuxedo showed up on our doorstep! He smiled and presented us with a card that read: 

MY NAME IS Yevheniy Hryhoriy Fadeyushka. I AM SO HAPPY WE ARE FRIENDS.

Turns out during Herb’s drunken luau night, he’d ordered this tuxedoed monkey from Ukraine on the internet! (He said he didn’t remember doing it. But that’s the same excuse he gave when we wound up with that inflatable Loni Anderson doll.)

We took this Ukrainian monkey into our home. But it was too hard to pronounce Yevheniy Hryhoriy Fadeyushka. So we changed his name to Garth. At first it was delightful to have Garth around the house, especially since our son Bruce’s parole was denied (again!!!) and our daughter Trish has moved to Arizona and joined a cult. We played pinochle, made banana bread and Herb attempted to teach Garth a “pull my finger” trick (which mercifully, Garth refused to perform.) We also bought him more costumes: cowboy, astronaut, accountant. It was all going so well until Wade Pillchuck’s nasty little brother Brodie knocked on our door, claiming to be selling reusable straws for his school fundraiser. But let me tell you: it was all a ruse to get at our Ukrainian monkey Garth! No need to get into the dirty details, but that particular Wednesday ended with Garth chasing Brodie up and down Walnut street, flinging feces at him, and his brother in the hospital with a reusable straw rammed down his throat. (We later found out that the feces did not actually belong to Garth. Its origin remains a mystery.)

NOTE: Does anyone else think this neighborhood is going downhill?

Sadly, after this unfortunate fecal debacle, Garth had to return to Ukraine. But our memories of him remain. As does his costume collection. (So email me if you’re looking for any gently used monkey clothes at low, low discount prices!)

Holiday wishes and banana-scented kisses,

Donna and Herb

Muppet Astrological Signs

I just stumbled across this graphic that lists your personal Sesame Street Muppet, based upon which month you were born. Well. I could not disagree more! Just look at this nonsense:

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I mean, they’ve given Snuffleupagus August…which would make him a LEO! Now, I don’t know about the Leos in your life, but I don’t know a single one who would be okay with people thinking they didn’t exist. Every Leo I know likes to ROAR and show the world what they’ve got. So…I decided to make a new list. But unlike this one, I combined both Sesame Street and Muppet Show Muppets. I leave no Muppet behind! Lemme know what you think…

ARIES (March 21-April 19) Fozzie Bear. Fozzie is a very confident and ambitious bear. No matter how much Statler and Waldorf heckle him, he’s unstoppable in his pursuit of stage stardom. Sounds like a driven Aries to me!

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TAURUS (April 20-May 20) Oscar the Grouch.  Oscar is very much a homebody, which is a trait of Taurus. He never leaves his garbage can, and while he gets grouchy if you disturb his home life, he is at heart a good friend and neighbor.

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GEMINI ( May 21-June 20) Ernie.  Embodying the Gemini spirit, Ernie is social butterfly, with a ready smile and a taste for fun and adventure. Sure, he may play his trumpet late at night when Bert is trying to sleep, but you can’t help but love his joyful outlook on life.

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CANCER (June 21-July 22) Grover. Giving and big-hearted, Grover personifies the sensitive Cancerian soul. He loves to help his friends, even if his best intentions sometimes go awry.

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LEO (July 23-August 22) Miss Piggy. She’s bold, self-assured and in charge! When this glamour gal enters a room, people take note. What else could she be but a Leo?

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VIRGO (August 23-September 22) Bert. C’mon. You had to see this one coming. He’s neat and tidy, fastidious and loyal. Pretty sure when Jim Henson created the character he just wrote: “Bert: Stereotypical Virgo.”

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LIBRA (September 23-October 22) Scooter. Libras are known for keeping a sense of harmony and balance in the world, no matter how messy it gets. Who better to represent this sign than stage manager Scooter, who always kept his cool no matter how zany The Muppet Show got. 

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SCORPIO (October 23-November 21) The Count. Scorpios are known for their intense sexual magnetism. And frankly, you just know The Count is a freak in the sheets. At the very least, with his love of counting, he’d probably have a great sense of rhythm.

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SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21) Rowlf the Dog. Curious, funny and born with a yearning to explore new places and opportunities, Rowlf showed his Sag card in The Muppet Movie when he quit his steady gig at the piano bar and joined Kermit and company as they hit the road, seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood.

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CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19) Big Bird. Maybe it’s just me, but I find Capricorns to be the most secretive and complex sign of the zodiac. They have hidden depths, protecting certain elements of themselves from the outside world. So which other sign would have a friend who no one else saw for years and years, like Big Bird and Snuffleupagus? 

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AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18) Gonzo. To my Aquarius friends…I love you because yours is the most mysterious, eccentric and confusing astrological sign. You never know what to expect. The minute you think you’ve got an Aquarius figured out, they laugh and say, “Ha! Not even close!” Which is why your Muppet is Gonzo. I mean, we know that Kermit is a frog, Rowlf is a dog and Miss Piggy is a pig. But what the hell IS Gonzo anyway? He literally self-identifies as a “whatever”. It doesn’t get more Aquarius than that. Gonzo_the_Great

PISCES (February 19-March 20) Kermit. Creative and thoughtful Pisces are prone to daydreaming to escape the harsh realities of the world.  So of course Piscean amphibian Kermit sang the ultimate Pisces theme song, “The Rainbow Connection”. 

 

Donna & Herb’s Christmas Letter 2018

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Guess what friends and family? It’s time to trim your tree because the jolly fat man with the big, bulging sack is coming to town!

Joyeux Noel everyone! What’s with the French greeting? Well. This year Herb and I took a wonderful trip to the French Quarter in beautiful New Orleans!

Oh, what a charming city! Even though it smelled like pee sometimes. Which reminds me–Herb actually won this trip by coming up with the winning slogan for Bob Biggums’ Brand Catheters! They’re even using it in the jingle: “For a Smooth Remove, Urine Luck! Try Bob Biggums’ Brand Lubed Tubes”. Herb offered to sing the jingle too. After all, he came in 3rd place in a yodeling contest a few years ago. He’s obviously qualified. But sadly, they’d already booked the Wumpleton Sisters.

NOTE: I wasn’t particularly impressed by the lackluster ABBA medley those Wumpleton Sisters performed at St. Anthony’s carwash fundraiser. And by the way, I know it was for charity, but Todd Thompson did a lousy job on my Buick.

Our first day in The Big Easy was just lovely. A riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, dinner at Antoine’s, and a Hurricane drink at Pat O’Brien’s. Actually, it was more than one. Which may not have been the best idea. So strong! But they go down so smooth. (Just like Bob Biggums’ Brand Catheters.) We were in high spirits when Herb tripped and fell right into a sidewalk cafe, where a couple named Saara and Mike were dining. Thankfully, they were very nice about it, even though Herb landed face first into Saara’s jambalaya. Turns out the reason they were in such a good mood was because they’d just gotten married…after 20 YEARS of living in sin!

Can you believe that? 20 YEARS! I was flabbergasted. We sat with them for hours, telling them all about our years of marriage: our beautiful kids Trish and Bruce, Herb’s stint as a clown, our ferret breeding operation, our karate school, the time Herb was abducted and probed by aliens, the time we wound up at a nudist colony, our Presidential putt-putt course and our German exchange student Reinhard.

The next morning over beignets and coffee I said to Herb, “My mother always told me, ‘why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?’ That woman Saara is very lucky Mike was willing to buy her dried up old dairy farm.” So Herb says to me, “Maybe he’s lactose intolerant.”

NOTE: Sometimes I think Herb just doesn’t get it.

That afternoon,  we ran into Saara and Mike again. At least, I’m pretty sure it was them. We called out their names, and they turned around. But then they took off in the opposite direction! I never saw two people run so fast. So odd! Well, I guess that’s New Orleans for you. Like the t-shirt says, “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity.”

Laissez les bon temps rouler,

Donna and Herb

Let’s Hear It For Trashy Blondes!

 

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The other night I was at the bar in Keens Steakhouse. It’s kept the same Manhattan location since 1885, so it’s the very definition of old school. Hell, JP Morgan, Teddy Roosevelt and Babe Ruth used to eat here. The crowd these days is mostly businessmen having a whisky after work with their colleagues, nicely dressed couples waiting for their anniversary dinner reservation, and a few tourists with backpacks who have stumbled in after shopping at Macy’s Herald Square.  Truth is, I don’t come here for the crowd. But there’s something reassuring about this place, knowing it’s been the same for all these years, and they’ll never pull the rug out from under you with some new fusion menu or start calling their bartenders mixologists. It’s one of the classic places in New York, along with KGB Bar, 21 and The Rose Room of the New York Public Library, that you could blindfold me and I’d know it by scent. Point is, here at Keens bar, it’s pretty staid under the portrait of Miss Keens and her hairless pudenda on the wall. 

It was a regular night, with people trying to guess the trivia questions on the chalkboard, watching the game while keeping an eye out for empty barstools to snag. All was calm. Maybe a bit dull. 

Then it happened. 

It was like the door opening on a hot summer day, letting in warm air into an overly-airconditioned shop. It was a presence. Eyes looked up from tumblers, jaws dropped, audible snickering was heard and if you listened really closely, you may have even heard elbows nudging sport coat clad arms. 

I turned around to see a woman with platinum blonde hair cascading all the way down to her voluptuous ass. She was about 5’4, dressed in a skin tight pink polka dot dress that stopped at mid-thigh, the thin fabric straining to contain her massive tits. The polka dot pattern had a dizzying effect, as she teteered in six-inch heels and threw her head back to laugh loudly with the men who surrounded her, tossing her hair. I was certain that if not for the din of the bar, I’d hear the tell-tale sound of exposed metal on cheap heels that are never repaired; ground down from dancing, standing around at the bar, running for the bus because it’s the last one home. It’s a tinny clack that my mother taught me to associate with “loose women” and sends me running to the shoe repair shop.

Even from a distance, I could see her nails were painted with blue sparkle polish, her lips were shiny bubblegum pink, her skin was a tanning bed induced citrus shade that I used to associate with college girls prepping for Spring Break, but now seems oddly Presidential. 

She was in the place for a grand total of two minutes before I heard the woman next to me lean in and say to her husband, “Look at that trash. So disgusting.” He nodded and looked away, as though she were an actual pile of trash and he had just seen a roach scuttling out. He rested his eyes on the hairless pudenda of Miss Keens portrait. Much safer that way. Maybe he was afraid of being found out. Because maybe, just maybe, his feelings were more aligned with mine. 

Me? I wanted to hug her. 

The way I saw it, this wonderfully trashy blonde shook up the whole vibe of this place. Into our dreary world filled with muted shades of grey, dark brown and black, came a bolt of bombshell. This polka dotted vixen was our savior, damn it, rescuing us from the boredom of a random Tuesday! She deserved our thanks and praise, not our scorn.  Hallelujah! But looking around the room, it seemed that I was alone. No one else felt moved to evangelism at the sight of this bleached and bodacious vision. 

But then, I have always loved trashy blondes. I’m the only person who agrees with Truman Capote’s opinion that Audrey Hepburn was all wrong as Holly Golightly in Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Of course she was! Audrey Hepburn was too elegant, too slender, too pulled together. Did you even read the book? Capote wanted Marilyn Monroe. Vulnerable, childlike, messy and yes…a trashy blonde with a murky past and an uncertain future. 

The myth of the trashy blonde is as much about a doomed ending as it is about “having more fun”. Penance, you see, for unabashedly commanding so much attention.  So why do we begrudge them whatever happiness they seize? Trashy blondes are the flip side of country club blonde wives, DC Beltway blondes, ice princess WASPs. They derive no true power from it. Quite the opposite. People are often disturbed by them, deeming anyone who chooses to present themselves like that as “untrustworthy”. I once had a friend tell me over dinner she refused to hire some woman because she came to the interview with “big blonde hair” and “big red lips”. When I asked if her resume was good she said, “Well, yeah. But…” She had no excuse. I was just supposed to understand, as though it were a pact decent women make, that there is no place in civilized society for trashy blondes. 

As for men? I’ve noticed something strange. They may find them attractive, but they’re secretly embarrassed by trashy blondes. Sometimes they try to change them into more acceptable women. Force them into respectability. I’ve seen these “redeemed” trashy blondes. Married, in the suburbs, their hair dyed a more palatable color, no longer wearing the heels and tight clothes. They have been subdued. Is the trade off worth it? Or are they itching for that bombshell energy again, the fuck you spirit that comes along with knowing that people think you’re trash and you don’t care?

I honestly don’t know. 

Make no mistake. I’ve been a trashy blonde many times in my life. I know how it feels to have people look at you with a mixture of disgust and desire, hatred and scolding. Sometimes I chose to be a trashy blonde: strutting around in a red vinyl jacket or metallic gold boots, throwing back gin, wantonly slapping other people’s boyfriends on the back and cracking dirty jokes. And sometimes it happened by accident. I’d find myself in an environment and realize I was NOKD, “Not Our Kind, Dear”. Either way, the sheer spite directed towards me was fuel.  There’s something so delicious about being despised by just the right kinds of people. 

And that’s why I wanted to hug this particular trashy blonde, on this particular night. I wanted her to know I was on her side. I wanted to pull her close, smell her drugstore perfume and whisper in her ear, “Keep pissin’ them all off.” 

So imagine my surprise when I heard one of the guys she was with yell out, “Hey Jennifer, our table’s ready.” 

Jennifer! Could it be? I turned as she walked right past me. I got a close up look at her. It was true! Even under the very forgiving low light, I could see what her name suggested. She was not particularly young. Everyone knows that Jennifer is the most classic Gen X name out there: Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston. Sure, you have a few outliers like Jennifer Lawrence, but as a rule, the Jennifers belong to my slacker era tribe. Here was one trashy blonde who had been at the game for a while, and it didn’t seem like she’d be “redeemed” any time soon. 

Well. That was it. I couldn’t help it. I smiled at her and said, “You look beautiful!” She smiled back, big and gorgeous and kind and said, “ You too!”

And as she was enveloped by the men who escorted her to their table, I just thought, “Go on, Jennifer, go on…”

Dag’s: A Taste of Community Spirit

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Enough already.

I still keep seeing tedious articles about why people are leaving NYC. Like the rest of us give a shit. Move it along, toots. Someone else will rent your cramped, overpriced, roach-infested apartment. Or not. Maybe all those crumbling apartments will be replaced by gleaming glass and steel; sterile real estate that sits empty for much of the year. And who knows, maybe I’ll be forced to move too. But you can be damn sure I’ll never write a dull “Why I Left NYC” piece.  (Although I did write an essay shitting on the people who do. So I guess I do give a shit, just to throw it back at people.)

Anyway, so much is written about what’s missing from NYC; that places are shutting down, that NYC has lost all of its charm. It’s nuthin’ but chain drugstores, banks, empty storefronts (kept empty by owners hoping to fill them with more chain drugstores and banks.) A city populated by trust fund twats eating fashionable produce, wearing someone else’s ideas, binging some Netflix series and then annoying passersby with their stupid conversations about it.

But hold up!

Here’s a little something that is thriving in NYC. It may not be much, but it’s a place that I love. A place that embodies the best that this city offers: community, serendipity, connection between different kinds of people, and you can enjoy it for the price of a cup of coffee or a hot dog. Actually, you can enjoy it for free. Plenty do. Just hang around on an adjacent  bench and take in the scene.

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The place is called Dag’s.

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Dag’s is an outdoor cafe named after Dag Hammarskjold, the Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary General of the United Nations. Frankly, I enjoy the fact that someone who was 2nd at something is so revered around here. It gives me hope.

Point is, this cafe is named after a secondary person, nestled under a dingy orange awning in midtown Manhattan, next to the United Nations building. This is an unwritten about,  unthought about, untalked about neighborhood. Sandwiched between Sutton Place (full of Old Money hold outs) and Murray Hill (where Old Money used to stash their mistresses) no one has ever thought this neighborhood was cool. It’s called Turtle Bay because at one point there were actual turtles around here. They’ve long since gone but nobody cared enough to give it another identity. Maybe that’s the point. On the taxi map of the city, this area is just a grey mass, as if depicting the grey faces of career diplomats.

But I say this neighborhood is so uncool that it circles back around and becomes cool. It’s such a peculiar mix of people; different nationalities, different professions, different age groups. And it seems like everyone comes to Dag’s. If you joined me there (and I hope you do) you might see little kids drawing with pastel sidewalk chalk, older people playing cards, my crazy neighbor (stoned off her gourd) rich women with Gucci bags, a homeless woman who wears an “I LOVE NY” shirt, Chinese tourists, a sign saying “Happy Birthday Avi!”, strollers, dogs, roller skaters, my good friend Pete and his two cute kids, Nigerian women dressed in colorful dresses, UN workers with their badges flying in the breeze, and sunbathers…all under the shadow of the Trump World Tower.

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One afternoon I saw director Wes Anderson gracefully glide his Citibike into a docking station in front of Dag’s, while wearing a cream colored  linen suit. He dismounted, and strode past the Church of the Holy Family as the wind tousled his hair and the church bells chimed. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume he’d directed the scene.

In the evenings there is live music sometimes, where couples dance and laugh and friends catch up on neighborhood gossip over a beer.

Dag Hammarskjold once said,  “Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us.”

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Pretty sure he’d approve of the peaceful scene at the place named after him…

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It’s Never Too Late!

Hello…anyone out there? I’ve been a stranger around here lately, but I have news…I got hitched in New Orleans! It was just as weird and wonderful as I’d hoped, and my pal Kristyn captured it all for you to enjoy. Happy summer, everyone! Give your loved ones a kiss…