I seem to have a lot of odd/amusing interactions, perhaps because I’m often walking around the neighborhood, either to exercise my dog or my blog. I keep a sort of journal of the ones that amuse me—akin to the New York Times’s “Metropolitan Diary,” but less fit for print. While I’m away for the weekend, I thought you might enjoy a few that took place in the general vicinity. (At least one already ran on this site, but it’s the best one, so I’m running it again.) P.S. Adam is my partner; Howard is my pug. I’ve learned that it’s best not to confuse the two.
After dinner at Giorgione, Adam and I decided to walk home by the river. It was still a bit warm and humid outside, but the air was oddly clear, so the views of the piers and New Jersey were sublime. A group of Australians asked Adam to snap their photo, and then we continued south. We were passing an older man sitting on a bench, not taking much note of him, when he blew a big, fat raspberry at us.
Walking Howard along Duane Street…
Woman: How old is pug person?
Me: [Over 40, thanks for bringing it up]
Woman: How old is pug person?!
Me: Oh. He’s three.
Woman: And what is pug person’s name?
Woman: And who was pug person Howard named after?
Me: A doorman I once had. He looked like a pug.
Woman: Not Howard Hughes? [Makes a guttural, exclamatory laugh, like "heh heh heh" but much rowdier; then sticks her tongue out as if she were at the doctor] Go on, honey!
I like black pepper on my pizza, so we asked the waiter at Rubirosa for some. He came over wielding a huge peppermill. “Oh!” I said, too excited to tell Adam an amusing story to consider through the consequences of bringing it up while the waiter was still at our table. “In certain circles, those big peppermills are known as Rubirosas.”
“Really?” asked the waiter. Thinking perhaps the restaurant owners had known what they were doing, I asked why the place was named Rubirosa. “It’s the owner’s name.”
Too late to turn back now. I explained that this anecdote would be a bit off-color, but, well, there was a famous playboy in the 1950s named Porfirio Rubirosa, and he was famous for (a) his relationships with rich women, and (b) being so well-endowed. The latter is why people began referring to giant peppermills as “Rubirosas.”
Our waiter, standing there with the peppermill in his hands, said, “But just the big ones, right?” I wasn’t sure what his point was, but I took it as proof that he had understood what I was trying to impart.
After going on a diatribe about how backward Virginia is (in response to my “Virginia Is for Lovers” T-shirt), my neighbor noticed I was carrying a bunch of clothes hangers, paused, and said, “Oh, are you an abortionist?”
A woman joined me at the Kaffe 1668 milk counter. ”You have nice feet,” she said.
“What?” I was too surprised to be polite. She was in her forties or fifties, in a dark pinstriped suit, and I didn’t get the impression she was coming on to me. (I looked like I had come from the beach, in shorts, T-shirt, and flip-flops. Also, it was maybe 8 a.m.)
“You have nice feet,” she said again, chuckling. “Very little damage.”
Adam and I walked Howard up to Union Square—as exercise for him, and to buy vegetables at the Greenmarket for us. It’s a walk we do often enough, and it’s not my favorite (nice as it is to get out of Tribeca now and again), mostly because Howard and I sit in the park while Adam shops. Navigating the crowds with a dog is a pain.
It was too warm for Howard to sit on my lap; when Howard gets hot from exercise, he tends to barf. That was fine by me, because he usually gets aroused in that position (something I only found out after spending 20 minutes in Madison Square Park with my pug flying the lipstick flag at everyone who passed by). My phone was at home charging, so I was bored. Then I spotted a squirrel making its way along the top of of a temporary wooden fence. I was amazed at how it could walk on the narrow, widely spaced posts. At one point it appeared to be poised to jump on the back of a woman sitting two benches down, so I kept staring, hoping that she and her companion wouldn’t notice that I was obsessively looking in their direction.
The squirrel didn’t jump. Instead, it slowly turned around and began heading back. I was about to turn away myself when the woman barfed. It was a tremendous flow of vomit—mostly liquid, and the color of Dijonnaise. It must have caught her by surprise, because she made no effort to spew into the bushes; it all just splattered at her feet. Her companion didn’t move. I assumed they were on drugs, because anyone in his position would comfort her or get the hell away.
Then she barfed again, as much as before, as spontaneously as before, as yellow and liquidy as before. (Maybe she had a really big Jamba Juice?) Coming to my senses, I realized we didn’t really need to sit around and see if there would be a third time.
I was tuning out the three Gotham Bikes staffers’ conversation about football until it became clear that one of the guys was getting teased for knowing nothing about the sport. Someone had asked who was the most famous NFL rusher ever, and the non-football fan answered Michael Strahan (a defensive end for the Giants). Anyway, the question was raised again about who the most famous rusher, and someone said it was Sweetness (Walter Payton, I learned later), and someone else said Bo Jackson. “For sheer fame,” I said, tasting victory despite my own lack of interest in the sport, “you can’t beat O.J. Simpson.”
We were dropping off Howard at the dogsitter, standing on the sidewalk chatting with her, when I spotted a pug walk by. “Look, a pug!” I said, because I knew Adam would get excited and the dogsitter should at least be able to fake enthusiasm when she’s with people who are about to leave their pug with her. As the chunky pug waddled off, the dogsitter said, “She’s a real bulldyke.” It was still registering when she quickly corrected herself, saying, “bulldog pug.”
We live near City Hall, so it’s not a huge surprise that a judge lives in our building. Adam has a bit of a crush on her, because she’s fairly old but she still dresses stylishly, and she has a real (but not entirely unfriendly) fuck-off mien. Her hair is white and close-cropped, and she wears large round sunglasses. This morning, I was taking Howard to the doggie day care—can someone please come up with a less twee word for that type of business?—when the elevator doors opened on the third floor, revealing the Judge. We said our good mornings, and then she remarked that Howard was being very patient. I was about to contradict her and then thought better of it; instead, I said that the elevator usually brings out the worst in him—in fact, it was a safe bet that he would screech at her when the doors opened. But when the doors opened, there wasn’t a peep from Howard. “Hardly anyone screeches at me,” said the Judge, “and he knows that.” And she was gone.
In City Hall Park….
Asian woman*: I have pug too!
Me: Aren’t they wonderful dogs?
Woman: Yes! [Crouches to get a better look.] Girl?
Me: No, a boy.
Woman: Huh? [Thinks.] Ohhh!
Woman: [To Howard] I have pug look just like you. But he have two balls!
*I only mention she was Asian because English was clearly not her first language.
While in the Financial District, I stopped for a photo of a boxing gym I thought might be new—it’s how I take notes—when a guy appeared in the open window and told me not to shoot. “I’m actually allowed to,” I said. “I’m on the sidewalk.” In hindsight—no, I even realized it at the time—it was the wrong thing to say, but I get so tired of explaining that I have a blog about the neighborhood. “I know,” he replied, his voice raised. “I’m asking you not to be a dick about it.” I put down the camera—who needs this?—and as I was turning to walk away, I said, “Just so you know, I have a website about the neighborhood and I was thinking of writing—” He cut me off, flat-out yelling, “Why don’t you go log onto gofuckyourself.com!”
I went to get a haircut, something I had put off because the barbers invariably talk too much and have cigarette breath. Today’s barber was no exception, but he was friendly enough, and I forgave him everything when he told me that I had nice hair. (I’m at the age where I’m just glad my hair is showing up for work—a compliment is way beyond my expectations.) An hour later, I was walking on Broadway, and a kid hawking candy starts following me. “You’re looking good, bro,” he said, trying to get me to engage. “Looking real good. You a Hollywood star? You’re Bruce Willis, aren’t you? Bruce Willis! Bruce Willis!” I know he was being intentionally absurd, and he probably says that to every guy he sees, but Bruce Willis is bald.
The Italian woman behind the counter at Farinella took my five- and one-dollar bills, but then she stopped and inspected the single. She held it up by the corner, touching as little of it as she could, so that it was dangling there between us. She muttered something quietly, as if uncomfortable speaking publicly about whatever was bothering her. I leaned in to look at the bill: Was it torn? She stared at it, then looked at me. I raised an eyebrow at her, unclear why we were stuck like this. She asked if I had another one-dollar bill. I did, but I said no, because I honestly didn’t know what her problem was. I’ll admit that the bill was kind of dirty, but more in a faded, dusty way than in a gross, scuzzy way. We have all handled far filthier money than that single. “Is something wrong with that one?” I asked, nodding to the bill, which she was still holding like it was a diaper soiled by someone else’s child.
“It’s… dirty,” she said.
“It’ll do,” I said, as drily as I possibly could.
When Howard doesn’t feel well, he’s even less willing to walk than usual. I had just chastised him for lying down in the middle of the sidewalk and managed to get him moving again when a straight couple pulled up alongside us. “That’s a dog with energy!” said the man. That was my first clue that he was bonkers. “How old is your dog? How old?” he asked. Four, I said. “That’s right,” he said. “Still has life. There’s a woman up the block with a dog that’s 17 years old. It can barely stand up. It can’t even walk! The dog can’t walk. You know what you have to do at that point, right? You know what you have to do?” I sensed where he was going with this, but who talks to a stranger about euthanizing his pet? (I guess I know the answer to that question.) ”The dog can’t even stand. It’s not good for the dog. You know what you have to do, right? Do you know?” Lucky for me, Howard decided to drop anchor, so I just said, “I don’t want to think about it” as the couple strolled on without us.
If there’s one thing Howard hates above all else—except the pair of big, white, fluffy dogs who live on the block (and the feeling is mutual)—it’s skateboarders. He has pulled the leash right out of my hand before, chasing after them and trying to nip their legs. So you can understand how, while walking up Church Street, I was dismayed to see a pack of skateboarders up ahead, careering along the sidewalk. A line of people stood waiting for a bus, unhappy about the situation. I watched as a skateboarder placed his board on the ground, preparing to come my direction, and I thought, Screw you, this is a sidewalk. Howard and I marched forward. The guy started skating in wide curves, right up next to the bus people—clearly scaring them—and then zoomed toward Howard and me. Sure enough, Howard went ballistic, barking and screeching and straining at the leash. “This is unacceptable!” I said, all but clutching my pearls as the skateboarder buzzed by. I continued on, and another one of the troupe came out of a crouch. “That was perfect!” he said. “Thanks!” Thanks? And that’s when I saw that he had a video camera in his hand. I was the uptight comic relief.