Sunday, May 25, 2008


I generally suffer from an extremely severe case of a fictitious disease which my friend Catherine and I have dubbed "New-York-itis." I also occasionally call it "The Diner-Menu Effect," and it refers to the paralysis that occurs when one is faced with way too many options.

You know... you sit down in a booth at your favorite neighborhood diner, and even though you're really hungry, you have trouble deciding what to eat because the menu is 14 pages long and has 50,000 items on it which, since you are so hungry, all sound good to you. But you don't want to get just anything, you want to get the BEST thing, that one particular food-item which will most perfectly please and nourish you. So you comb through every nook and cranny of the menu, struggling to choose The One Best Answer.

The hungrier you are, the more severe the effect. Of course, the more you peruse the menu, the hungrier you become, not just due to the passage of time, but also due to your very contemplation of the tantalizing offerings, as the last bits of blood-sugar in your system get burned up by the menu-analysis portion of your brain, leaving you in a near-catatonic stupor, unable to choose at all. The waiter comes over to take your order, so in desperation you settle for a cheeseburger deluxe, which you always get, even though you know there was something better suited to your exact desires at that exact moment, if only you could've figured out what it was. The cheeseburger is, of course, perfectly fine, as it always is, and even though eating it does restore brain function and you're able to get on with your life, you still sort of regret having ordered it, especially when you could've gotten the tuna-melt. Or the Mousaka. Or, I hear this place has great soups. Or what about French Toast? Oh god, I forgot to even consider the all-day breakfast options! Oh no. Flatline.

This was always much worse when I was stoned.

Even though everybody has some additional difficulty choosing when there are many more attractive options to choose from, I feel like I have greater difficulty than most. Now, it's not like I'm completely wishy-washy. I can be decisive. But I'm also a perfectionist and an idiot. Okay, let me back up for second... it goes back to when I was born (seriously).

I was born toward the end of the day on May 20, right on the Taurus/Gemini cusp. Astrological folk-wisdom says that if you're born on the cusp between two signs, you will likely manifest traits of both. According to my friend Christina (born May 19), having traits of those two signs, makes us both stubborn and indecisive. So, like... we don't know what we want, but we're unwilling to settle for anything else. Hah. It's pathetic, but that jokey oversimplification describes me to a shocking degree.

As I've gotten older, I've learned to work around (or grown willing/able to simply ignore) those tendencies when it comes many of the routine choices we all face each day, but when I was a little kid, I would agonize over things...

MOM: What's the matter honey?
ME: Nothing.
MOM: Why aren't you eating breakfast?
ME: I can't decide which cereal to have.
MOM: Why not? They're all fine. Just pick one.
ME: But I want the one I WANT!
MOM: Which one is that?
MOM: Here, have Rice Chex.
ME: But--
MOM: You love Rice Chex!
ME: But--
MOM: Count Dookula?
ME: Bu--
MOM: Oat knobs? Special Krap? Bits O' Stuff? Shits 'n' Giggles? Fruit Loogies? Choco-might!? Power Balls? Corn Poneys? Knobby Fruity Corny Corns? Spackle-O's? Rice-boogers? Alpha-dogs? Hitler-brains--
ME: Ma! I know what the cereals are! You aren't helping!

Eventually, I just decided to combine the cereals into SUPERcereals, and thereby not really have to choose between them. Today, I'm having bits-o-special-loogie-cornball-booger-brains!

Of course, the Diner-Menu Effect is by no means limited to food choices. Which is why we also call it "New-York-itis." Present-day New York City offers us vastly more ways to meet every conceivable human need and desire than probably any other place at any other time in human history. A blessing and a curse. We all focus on what a blessing it is. Even I do, most of the time. But when you've got a little cash in your pocket, and you feel like doing something fun with your evening, you have to choose one of the 100,000 interesting things there are to do, any given night of the week. Making matters worse, a full 10,000 of those are things you're personally interested in, and at least 1000 of those are unique events which will never happen again. Agony. Paralysis. When faced with a fresh issue of Time Out, I often circle a ton of stuff and then get woozy and have to go to sleep.

Maybe that's why so many people congeal into subcultures. If you're a Goth deciding what to do on a night out, you don't have to bother even looking at 90% of what's out there. If you only listen to twangy guitar indie-rock sung by reedy-voiced lanky white dudes, you don't have to consider anything going on above 14th street. If you're a vegan orthodox-jewish minimal-glitch-IDM lesbian bird-watcher, you don't have to do anything but blog!

Unfortunately for me, I have eclectic tastes. I've never been able to only like one kind of something the most. With only a few minor exceptions, I enjoy pretty much all kinds of everything. It's exhausting.

Due to recent discoveries about my physical health, my diet has become severely restricted. At first, this was a horrible annoyance. But now that I'm getting used to it, it has totally streamlined my day! The Diner-Menu Effect is no longer a problem in an actual Diner, because right off the bat, I have to cross off the overwhelming majority of what's there. Of course, if you're left with too few options, that's no good either. But so far I've been pretty happy with the food situation.

The part of my existence which is far and away the hardest hit by New-York-itis, is my sex life.

More on that, next time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Personal Milestones (okay... and a bike rant)

I'm about to turn 40. Meh.

But you're only as old as you feel! So by that measure, I'm about 8.

Another milestone: for the first time ever, I saw a fellow bike-rider I recognized, while I was riding up the west side bike bath and he was going the opposite way. I only know him from the world of bikes. He works right near my apartment, so we often lock our bikes to the same "no parking" sign, but I'm only there at night, and he's only there during the day. Works out really well. On mornings when he's early to work, or when I'm running a bit behind, we might bump into each other and exchange friendly greetings. But the other day was the first time we'd ever seen each other actually riding the objects that caused us to even meet in the first place. We recognized each other and waved. It was rather nice, I must say. Bicycle fellowship. A fine thing indeed.

If you ride a bike in NYC, you are automatically my brother. If you drive a car, you are my brother, but you are also an asshole. Sorry. That's just the way it is.

Of course, riding a bike occasionally turns me into a bit of an asshole. Why, just the other day, I gave a guy the finger. I can't remember the last time I gave someone the finger. Maybe as far back as high school.

I was riding home from work, up 10th Avenue. It's a particularly nasty stretch, from 33rd street up to 42nd street. Full of potholes and uneven pavement. And super congested because it leads to an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and it's near Port Authority Bus Terminal. So during the evening rush, there are about 4000 buses clogging 1oth ave, all trying to get either into the tunnel or into the bus station. It is... unpleasant (mostly from having to inhale their collective exhaust, though also from a traffic-flow/not-getting-squished standpoint) but I've gotten used to it and I just go bombing straight up the middle of the road, buses be damned.

Now, on the evening in question, I was feeling a bit tired after a long work day, so I was riding at a fairly leisurely pace. At one point, the buses had thinned out a bit, and there was an actual passenger car behind me, in the lane to my right (I was riding between lanes, as usual).

I occasionally swerved a bit, to avoid especially large potholes, sand-traps, canyons, open manhole covers and, of course, the land-mines left over from the last chimp-war. I never swerved all that much, being careful to leave room for vehicles in either of the lanes flanking me to pass if the way was clear for them to do so (it almost never was). The driver of the car behind and to my right must've thought that I was going to swerve all the way in front of him, so he honked at me. Twice.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, that's not such a horrible thing for a person to do. So the fact that it filled me with so much rage might not make sense to you. But under those exact circumstances, it was incredibly annoying. I mean, even if I hadn't been there at all, the guy could only have gained a single car-length, max. He still would've been hemmed in by the rest of the traffic and wouldn't have gotten to his destination any sooner. But he felt the need to honk at me, to blame me, as if I was somehow slowing him down.

Had I been able to communicate with him verbally, I might've said something like...
"How DARE you honk at me? You bring your car into MY town, into MY neighborhood, adding to the congestion, the noise, the air pollution, the GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS, burning your gasoline -- the purchase of which supports terrorists, both foreign and domestic -- and you have the GALL, the AUDACITY, to honk your horn at ME, a guy commuting home from work on a bicycle!?! Are you insane, or just a goddammed mutherfuckin idiot pig? From now on, you will take the train into town, and thereby not commit any of the infractions I just mentioned, you will save money on parking, you will walk and take mass transit from place to place and gain heightened appreciation for the life of the city which you will no longer be defiling, you will be able to hold your head up high, a true member of the human race, and then I will embrace you as a friend. Until then, get the fuck off my streets you useless, craven piece of shit."
But since I was riding ahead of him on my bike, focusing mostly on not getting crushed by a bus or two, and since he was behind me with his windows rolled up, spoken language was not an option. Instead, while coasting briefly, I turned my head back and made withering eye-contact with him through his windshield. Seeing that he had my attention, he honked again and made a shrugging gesture. At that point, I basically had no choice but to give him aforementioned "finger." I did so while thinking all the things ranted above (not quite as satisfying, but better than nothing).

But I needed a little more. So to really rub his face in it, I decided to swerve in front of him, slow down (only for a moment, just long enough to register) and then leave him completely in the dust. I poured it on, cut back and forth across a few lanes, found an opening and sped off up between the lumbering vehicles, through a red light or two and was gone. "So long suckas!"

And yes, that definitely makes me a bit of an asshole. But man did it feel good.