|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Sept. 15, 2004 - 3:18 p.m.
Over the weekend I got to play Tour Guide. Again.
Every time we have guests at Dangerhouse, I am assigned the duty of ferrying them to and around New York City. NewWifey(tm) thinks that because I worked there, and now report on the roads there, and used to hang out there back when I was DangerSingle, I am somehow more qualified than her to escort a gaggle of gawking bumpkins around the piles of trash - human and otherwise - to the usual tourist spots. While she may be right, I'm not always happy about it. Mostly because I'm usually exhausted from having worked all night, or sullen because I'm dragged out on a Sunday - my one day off. How dare they tear me away from my Maker's Mark and Cartoon Network!
For the past week and a half I'd managed to stave off the inevitable by pleading various maladies or extenuating circumstances ("Gosh, I'd love to take the guys into the City honey, but I broke a shoelace and K-Mart is all out of my favorite brand." "Owww, my pancreas is really acting up today...." "My, uh, wife died. Wait, no - my sister. My sister died yesterday. I forgot to tell you. Grief and all, y'know. But I have to go to the funeral today, so you go on without me...."
But by last Saturday I had run out of excuses. We (myself, NewWifey(tm), and the two vacationing soldiers) piled into the Ford Escape and shot down Rt.3 to the Lincoln Tunnel. NewWifey(tm) was driving.
Here's why NewWifey(tm) was driving:
I am scared shitless to drive in Manhattan.
Now you know.
If I'm in a car on the FDR Drive, the West Side Highway, or any street or avenue in between, I become SweatyJello Man. Seriously, that would be my undoing on Fear Factor:
"Now it's Dangerspouse's turn. All he has to do is steer the Dodge Omni up Riverside Drive for 15 seconds and he'll have won the enti...WAIT! HE'S BAILED OUT!! He turned the key, let the clutch out, then opened the door and jumped! My god, I don't think he lasted even...nope, there it is - not quite one second on the clock. That means our 13 year old Chrone's Disease chick with the 48DD's and overflowing bag is our winner!"
And I don't even have to be driving. I actually had a girl break up with me once because I started crying when she drove me from her 81st street apartment down to Soho for an art exhibition. I looked like the apologizing Jimmy Swaggart when I got out of the car. Needless to say, she did not drive me back. Or anywhere else ever again, for that matter.
So for the past umpteen years, whether on business or pleasure, I go no further than the North Bergen Park-n-Ride. There one can stop safely on the Jersey side of the Hudson River and be whisked into Midtown Manhattan enclosed within a 12 ton steel NJ Transit bus. They deposit you at the Port Authority building, where you then can take subway lines to anywhere else in the City or immediately pick up a cab. Or walk.
And by extension, that is how NewWifey(tm) has gone into the City for the past 5 years also.
But not this time.
This time NewWifey(tm) figured out that based of the number of sights the guys wanted to see and how far afield they were strewn from each other, we'd bankrupt ourselves paying for all the bus, taxi and subway fares getting to them. But if we drove....
"No fucking way." I said.
"'But honey' nuthin. You know what a pussy I am about driving around New York on a regular day. How much of a quivering wreck do you think I'm gonna be driving around on SEPTEMBER FREAKIN' 11TH?! And the guys want to visit Ground Zero! Do you know what kind of gridlock there is going to be Downtown with all the street closures??"
"I bet the guys would like to know where you've hidden your porn...."
It costs $6 to take the Lincoln Tunnel from New Jersey to Manhattan, but at least there wasn't a line at the tolls that morning. I think everybody was using the Holland Tunnel, as that empties out just blocks from the World Trade Center site. So by comparison, midtown was relatively empty.
So was my stomach. I emptied it on the corner of 8th Avenue and 47th street, not 5 minutes into our trip. And I wasn't even driving!
Despite fortifying myself with a breakfast of Bacardi 151 and Tylenol PM, I was shaking like Michael J. Fox on a caffeine jag and panting like Ron Jeremy after a 6 hour sauna shoot. I was not a pretty sight.
Nor was it a very dignified sight to the two guys sitting behind me who'd just spent the past 15 months cruising around Baghdad in a Humvee being shot at. I don't think they quite understood my level of stress.
Nonetheless, despite my psychotic sideshow NewWifey(tm) did an absolutely fabulous job of driving and parking. At the two uptown and four midtown destinations we actually found (legal!) slots on the streets, each of which cost an average of $1.00 at the meter.
Then it was time to go...downtown. To Ground Zero. By car.
All in all, I suppose it wasn't quite as bad as I imagined it would be. Of course, standing on the steps of Hiroshima's Town Hall on the morning of August 6, 1945 wouldn't have been as bad as what I was imagining. But still.
The only problem was, there was absofuckginlutely NO PARKING anywhere within 450 block radius of Ground Zero that day. Every vertical surface had a yellow "Absofuckinglutely No Parking" sign plastered to it, and rooftop snipers packed cheek-to-jowl making sure everyone adhered.
Unfortunately you can't get a view of Ground Zero from your car, as there is a huge blackout fence surrounding the entire site. If you want to take a gander at one of the (now) world's most famous piles of dirt, you have to ascend a gangplank to a windowed walkway that spans one entire side. There you breath in the unfiltered asbestos alongside a fat dogfood salesman from Boise there on vacation with his fat wife and fat kids. Or a teary eyed old Vietnam vet who knows instinctively what should be done to the bastards who perpetrated this horror, and shares that knowledge with everyone on line in loud, belligerent tones. If you even look at him, he takes it as a challenge.
I told NewWifey(tm) that I would circle the block in the car while she and the guys went up and gaped. She could page me when they'd had their fill, and I'd pick them back up. She hugged me and thanked me for my almost unbelievable gesture of altruistic self-denial, then she and the boys trooped up the steps and disappeared into the silver walkway.
I began to circle the block.
No big deal, right? Go up a quarter mile, get in the left lane, stop for the light. When the light turns green, you turn left. Do it again at the next corner. And the next. And the next. Keep going until you are paged and you can switch off driving duties again. Right. No big deal.
It was a white knuckle trip the whole way. In all my years of working and playing in Manhattan, this was the very first time I'd traversed any of it driving a car. I know it was only one square block I was going 'round and 'round - and a rather deserted square block at that - but years of built up imagination overrode any perception of reality that tried to creep in. I was a mess.
24 long years later NewWifey(tm) paged me to come pick them up. I pulled to the curb, opened the door and fell out onto my knees to kiss the filthy sidewalk. Alive! I climbed back into the passenger seat and NewWifey(tm) assumed command again.
"Well," she said "by not having to wait for public transportation between sights, we've actually seen everything we'd planned to see several hours more quickly than I'd thought. I'll tell you what, I'd really like to get my hair done. Why don't I drive us up to Devachan (her favorite salon) and I'll get my hair done while you guys walk around and amuse yourselves for an hour or so?"
That sounded fine with me, and there was no dissent from the soldiers, either. In fact, there was no sound at all from the soldiers. They were fast asleep, as they generally were whenever they weren't marching. I braced myself, and NewWifey(tm) pulled out into traffic.
It didn't take long to get to Devachan, and once again we were fortunate to find curbside parking at a meter within a block of our destination. I fed 12 quarters into the slot (1 hour) and we waved goodbye to NewWifey(tm).
"Ok guys, what do you want to see?" I asked.
"Hookers!" they answered in unison.
Mind you, they didn't actually want to conduct a business transaction with them (or so they told me). They had just heard about New York City hookers, and wanted to see if they were All That.
I had to explain to them that there is a hierarchy:
First come the "Tunnel Rats". These are the homeless addicts that turn tricks at the mouth of the tunnels into and out of the City. Their clientele leans heavily towards the frustrated commuter heading back to the boroughs for a meal of lukewarm meatloaf and canned peas, with a cold spouse. They charge 5 bucks for a blowjob and get all the business they can swallow. You can get AIDS just by looking at them.
Then there are the streetcorner girls. These are the ones most often depicted in movies, standing under an arc lamp in ripped hose and smeared lipstick. They charge between 20 and 50 dollars, which you will pay to her pimp. But you do get a room for that price. Be aware: if the room is clean, it's a Vice Squad trap.
After that comes the Barflies. They hit you up for drinks at any bar, and you feel flattered that a hot chick has actually initiated a conversation with you! But then, when you suggest going back to her place, she names her price and you realize she was just looking at you as an ATM with legs. And if you say "no", you're still out the price of her (many) drinks, so you got fucked anyway.
A step up from that are the gals who work in "Gentlemens' Clubs". Many of these acrobatic hardbodies supplement their income in the back room between sets, but be prepared to feel physically inadequate next to them if you partake. And if you do go, bring LOTS of cash.
Finally, there are the Call Girls. These are the ne plus ultra of the breed. They are discreet, classy, and as fast and expensive as a Ferrari. I have no knowledge of them whatsoever.
One last bit of hard learned wisdom did I impart: "Boys" I said, "just remember that the best looking ones are always guys. Trust me."
And with that, we went beaver shooting.
We had pretty good luck too. Devachan is not far from Madison Square Garden, so we hoofed it over there and planted ourselves on a convenient overlook. Sure enough, several tastefully under-clad women were slowly promenading around the large courtyard and sidewalk around that sporting venue, bending low at cars that passed by, advertising their wares. Every so often one of the cars would stop and a young lady would be whisked away. This scene played itself out several times while we sat there.
I found it damn boring myself, being a jaded almost-local and all. But my two buddies found the entire parade to be both endlessly fascinating and amusing. Especially when I would chime up with, "Ok, that one's a dude - check out the Adams Apple. Ooh, a pageboy cut - she's a cop..."
45 minutes later and we started back to the car, to either meet NewWifey(tm) or to stuff more quarters into the meter.
Turning the corner where we'd parked, we immediately spotted the bright red Ford Escape.
And two guys trying to break into her!!
One guy was working a Slim Jim into the passenger side window while the other stood with his back to him, scanning the sidewalk for gendarmes.
I turned to my buddies.
"Guys, those two scum up there are trying to steal my car. Do me a favor - run back around the corner and see if you can find a cop. I'm gonna confront them and see if I can scare them off. But hurry, these guys work notoriously fast."
They looked at each other, then one of them said to me "Wait here."
I didn't have time to reply. One immediately crossed the street at an angle, heading away from the thieves. At the same time the other guy started up the sidewalk directly towards them, but slowly and with his head down as if lost in uncaring thought. By the time he was directly opposite the lookout guy, the first one had swung over nonchalantly to a point just above the dirtbag with the Slim Jim.
I think I've mentioned before that I'm a pretty big guy, at 6 foot and 220 pounds. An ex-boxer, so not ALL of it is fat. Yet. The point is, I really didn't have any qualms about taking on those two guys by myself. Especially as I was fortified by rage.
My two soldier friends, by comparison, probably tipped the scales at 145 and 165 respectively.
These are not the big hulking meatbags you see in movies like "Predator" or "Gookfest of Gore". These are guys who have that lean, wirey toughness that come from months of living on MRE's and not enough water, sprinting everywhere under 60 pound field packs at full speed trying not to get shot.
But of course, you can't tell that just by looking at them in their skater street duds.
I decided to just wait and watch.
It was all over in a second. Say what you want about the dubious morality of our military's current mission(s) - and I do, as do my buddies - but when it comes to the actual nitty-gritty of fighting per se, no one can say that the Army slacks off in the teaching department. The two jerkoff thieves were stealthily flanked, and then pounced upon so quickly they didn't even have time to gasp in surprise. There was a blur of elbows, fists and boots, and mere seconds later two bodies were face down on the ground, a knee on each neck and both arms pinned behind them. Other than a slight whimpering from one of them, there was no sound during the "fight".
Typical of New York, probably a dozen people passed and not one of them paused in their stride, or even appeared to look.
But somebody stole the Slim Jim.
I walked up the sidewalk.
"What should we do with them?" they asked me.
I looked down at the thieves. The guys were applying just enough pressure on their necks to make their eyes bulge from lack of air, but not enough to actually render them unconscious. There was a casualness to their tone and ease to their manner which indicated this was not their first time executing these maneuvers. I made a mental note to quit arguing with them for the duration of their stay.
But right now I had to make a command decision.
"Boys, we're gonna let them go...after we rough 'em up a bit. Almost every cop is Downtown at Ground Zero right now, and the ones left up here are probably working Vice and won't want to be bothered with petty hoods. Let's just drag them into this doorway and leave them with a few 'reminders' that they should be more civic minded in the future."
My friends stood up, simultaneously lifting off the ground by their wrists the two miscreants. They pushed them roughly into the unlit doorway I'd pointed to. The one began whimpering again.
"All right you two..." I began, and pulled my fist back. The troopers held them firm.
Wait a minute....
I looked at the one who was whimpering, and now that I was just a few inches from his face I could see -
his mascara was running!
These were NOT Goth looking guys. No boots, no black, a tan.
I lifted up one's shirt.
Then the other's.
Two CHICKS were trying to steal my car!
My two soldier buddies had just beaten up two GIRLS!!
Jesus! The prettiest hookers are guys, and the toughest looking guys are chicks. What a world.
I swear to god, they looked like guys. Lumpy guys in baggy clothes with short hair and baseball caps. Grungy faced, no waist, shapeless, dirty GUYS! I swear!!
Well, we certainly weren't gonna work over a couple of girls, even if they DID try to steal my SUV. It's just, I dunno, not American, you know? Or at least not gentlemanly, which may mean more to me now under this particular administration.
I decided just to go through their pockets. One of them had a Lane Bryant gift card on her, so I tore it up. She started sobbing.
We were even.
We watch them sprint as fast as they could away from us, then just hung out until NewWifey(tm) emerged with her new coif. We gasped and fawned at her new beauty, and she beamed with conceit.
"What did you guys do?" she asked. "Anything interesting?"
My buddies were studying the sidewalk intently and stayed silent. They weren't gonna admit they - two US Army soldiers - had just pounded two teenaged girls into the pavement. Finally I piped up, "No, nothing exciting. Walked around and looked at some buildings. Saw the Garden, had a hot dog. Just killed time...."
"That's nice" she said. "I'm so tired of always coming into the City with you and having something weird happen. It's good to have at least ONE uneventful trip."
I nodded, and we all piled into the Ford. The trip back through the Lincoln Tunnel was indeed uneventful, but I still clung to the handrests the entire time until my fingernails bled. I wish I could get over this fear of driving in the City! It really is a safe place, after all.
Still, next time I think I'm gonna go by helicopter. That seems more relaxing for some reason.
And remember: Using the mass transit system benefits everyone. Please, do your part.