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Bad Things Come in Threes
Sex in the Sub-City


Cheap Shot of the Month

Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's the humidity. Maybe it's the fact that Michael Jackson's "Invincible" album only sold two million copies and it's all because the recording industry is a bunch of racists. Whatever the reason, little things, things that normally wouldn't affect me so much, are starting to take a toll.

First it was the cigarettes going up to seven dollars. Seven dollars! This is madness. Do you realize that each cigarette now costs thirty-five cents? The other day some guy came up to me and asked for a cigarette, and I had to tell him no, that I couldn't spare even one because they were too expensive, so he offered money. A quarter. I told him to get lost. He the upped it to thirty cents, and, not yet having figured out how much each cig was worth, I gave him one. Now I realize that I lost five cents on the deal and I'm fucking furious.

A while back I spent a summer in Alaska, and cigarettes there were seven dollars as well. I don't know why, exactly - probably because it was so remote and there was no tobacco for miles, or maybe because of the high taxes - but of course I wasn't about to pay that much for cigarettes. I was nineteen for God's sake. My last job didn't even pay that much an hour. The difference between Alaska and here though, is that everyone over there is basically a hick. They're beyond hicks even - they're Last Frontier hicks. That place is so far removed from anything cultural or relevant that if David fucking Hasselhoff showed up and started singing they'd buy up his albums like hotcakes (wait, that's Germany, never mind). At least we know who bought Michael Jackson's last album.

So the people in Alaska, though incredibly, overwhelmingly nice and polite, are not really with it. So if you want to go into a store and walk out without paying for some smokes, it's not that hard to do. In fact, these people are so out of it that they have entire cartons of cigarettes sitting there right in the aisle. I perfected the practice of taking one of these cartons and shoving it down my pants, practically with the clerk staring right at me. All you had to do was act like the cigarettes belonged to you in the first place, and that you were reclaiming what was rightfully yours. Meanwhile, my friends would be in the back of the store, shoving candy bars and bags of potato chips into every available orifice. Once we were all loaded up, someone would purchase a twenty-five cent pack of gum and we'd get the hell out there.

Every once in a while we'd get caught, and we'd hightail it out of there, jump in the car and peel away. Sometimes they ran after us, but usually they didn't. Lovely people up there.

But in no way can this activity be repeated here. Even the tiniest, shittiest bodegas have security cameras everywhere. You try that and you'll get shot or arrested or both. So what's a poor smoker to do? I have no idea, but something needs to be done about this, or else. What this "or else" is I haven't figured out yet, but trust me, it's going to be ugly.

So that's the first thing. The second thing is that - bear with me here - they've suspended all the glass and plastic recycling. Now they're only going to take paper, cardboard and metal. This is all well and good, that all those copies of the Village Voice and The New York Times and whatnot will be recycled into more crap, but what about the glass and plastic? I don't know about you, but nearly ALL of my recycling is glass and plastic, especially plastic. People nowadays are so afraid of breaking shit, so paranoid that they're going to get a cut, or so into the wonderful convenience of a fucking squeezable bottle that nearly every single product on the market is made of that famous "Graduate-era" word: plastics.

So what now? All this crap is going to sit in a landfill somewhere and take up space, and then more landfills will have to be dug up, which will subsequently be filled, until all the land will be gone. Add to this all the dead people, all the people who think for some reason that there's something special about their discarded, lifeless bodies and want to be put in cemeteries, and pretty soon all there will be is landfills, some for plastic, some for people. We'll have to cultivate Mars because the earth will be nothing but plastic and corpses.

But this last thing, this last thing is the clinker. Having to give up seven hard-earned American dollars for cigarettes is tough; having to throw my plastic in with the rest of the trash is difficult; but this last thing takes the cake. If you didn't know, the last emblem of old New York, the sole remaining visage of a time long before Giuliani and Bloomberg, a symbol if you will, of a bygone era, is gone. Yes, the Peep-O-Rama, the last "adult-themed" business in Times Square, has closed its doors for good. The building will now be turned into office space, no doubt for some Disney-ish company whose products have high family values. Times Square, long in decay, saddled with heavy midwestern tourists clutching Playbills in one fat hand and stuffed mice in the other, is now officially dead.

It's an end of an era my friends. And while this should be a lesson to us all, I doubt anyone will heed the message. Luckily we have our beloved Williamsburg, which, despite everything, has remained a bastion for individuality and freedom. Thank God the rents here haven't skyrocketed, thank heavens no one knows about this place, thank the lord the town hasn't become a playground for trustfunders and stupid hipsters and yuppies. Because if that happened, I don't know what I'd do.

Wait...you mean to tell me this already happened? Now I'm pissed.



--Russ Josephs

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | August 2002 | Issue 29
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