Three Days in the Hood

This kind of thing probably happens to you all the time: you're sitting around in your underwear when suddenly your roommate's little sister comes into your apartment with an ex-cast member from the Real World. You sit up as straight as possible and try and suck in your gut, as your generation's closest thing to a celebrity scopes you out with a look of partial curiosity and partial disgust. The two leave soon after, thankfully, and you are left alone, wondering if any of this really happened or you merely passed out in front of the T. V. again, daydreaming about copulating with strange girls with exotic names who have willingly become objects for a nation of peeing tom's .


Thursday

Picture any cheesy high school movie. One of the characters, the stereotypical nerd/dork/loser (take your pick), has an all-encompassing goal: to become popular. He makes a number of strides in this direction, all of which are based on falsehoods (pays hot girls to date him; invents a cool, dangerous history; becomes the pet-project of a popular person because of some form of bet, etc.). Everything comes to a head in a pivotal, climactic scene towards the film's finish, when he finally realizes who he is, that being popular is not the be-all-end-all, and that people are just going to have to get used to it.

(Visualize him in front of a classroom of students, or before a mob of keg party attendees):

NERD

You know what? I'm tired of being someone I'm not! I may not be the strongest, or the fastest, or the most popular….heck, I'm probably the least popular…but I am who I am damnit, and I'm proud of that!

There is an awkward silence. Suddenly, from the back of the crowd, a jock-type, ever so slowly and quietly, puts his hands together. Once. Twice. Three times. Soon, everyone else, lulled into submission by the slow, subtle beat, joins in, and the geek/nerd/spaz is basking in all the applause.

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to the SLOW CLAP.

Cuge's cousin, who had come down from Vermont for the weekend, introduced us to this phenomenon. To amuse us further, he was also equipped with a ton of incredible herb, thus ensuring that anything that was said, no matter how stupid, would have us wetting our pants. Pretty soon, nearly everything warranted the same reaction:

"Do you know where the bottle opener is?"

"It's on top of the fridge, dude."

Clap…Clap…Clap.

Laughter.

Repeat ad nauseum.

After hours of this, some local girls came over, and, try as they might, they simply could not get us out of the house. The thought of the outside world and all of those things to slow clap to - attractive women, good shots at pool, cars that stopped for red lights - was too much for us, for any of us. Instead, we rolled another joint, and the girls left, somewhat annoyed.


Friday

The next morning it is nearly impossible to get out of bed. Rushing to the subway, carting my tremendous thermos of industrial-strength coffee, the thing slowly starts leaking, leaving a long, thin, black-brown trail behind me, in case I forgot my way home.

Even in my barely-conscious state, however, I can tell that something is amiss. The bus line, which is normally comprised of a few people at most, is stretching for blocks, and there is a certain uneasiness in the eyes of those who wait there, a sadness almost, which surpasses the normal "I'm pissed off because I had to get out of bed and go to work" look that blankets the faces of most morning commuters.

I descend the steps to the L train, where a row of police officers is standing alongside the turnstiles. Perhaps a crime occurred down here, a robbery or murder or something, and the massive exodus to the bus represents a fear-stricken community? But a number of people are going down onto the platform - the cops doing nothing more than standing around, looking bored - so I follow suit.

As soon as I pass through the turnstiles, however, I hear it - the announcement from the woman in the booth, as if she had only been waiting for me to deposit my token before speaking. In her abrasive, nails-on-blackboard voice, she gets on the mike and says that, due to a water-main break at Union Square, the L train is not running into Manhattan, but simply ferreting passengers back and forth between Bedford and wherever-the-hell-else it goes, into the bowels of Brooklyn.

"What am I supposed to do?" I yell at her, one of the cops shooting me a dirty look. "Why couldn't you have told me this two seconds ago?"

"Take the L to Lorimer, then take the G to the city," she says, robotically, probably having repeated the instructions countless times already that morning.

"The G?" I say, uneasily. Now I understand why the bus line is so long.

Like the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, The G has no connection with Manhattan whatsoever, never touching the promised land, the rich, upscale borough which, if it had its way, would be the only one getting all the attention (which it usually does). The G has a reputation for being severely unkempt, dirty and dangerous.

So, nervously, I walk down to the platform, joining a handful of other brave souls to await my fate. All of us huddle together, anxiously tapping our feet and whistling. Someone hums "Livin' La Vida Loca" and we all growl at him.

The group is a typical cross-section of Williamsburg residents. There is the disheveled, over-tired hipster, with face concealed behind thick sunglasses and massive sideburns; a pair of preppy girls who look like they're too far east for their own good, more accustomed to the clean, comfortable streets of the West Village or, more probably, their alma mater, Columbia or Barnard; a slick-haired artist type in paint-smeared overalls and big black boots, drum sticks poking out of his back pocket; an immaculately dressed, perpetually smirking femme-boy with short, close-cropped hair, thin leather jacket and tight designer pants; a girl in Woody Allen glasses, grandma dress and clunky shoes, who looks like she's logged way too many hours behind a computer or before a kiln; and myself.

I'm tempted to introduce myself to everyone and then ask each person in turn to do the same, like we're in a retarded self-help group or something - - people who are afraid of the G train - but then the L arrives.

As the doors open, I hear a voice from the stairs: "Wait! Hold the doors!" Turning, the first thing I notice about her are her legs - long, lean, powerful. They are the legs of Famke Jansen from GoldenEye, or Lena Olin from Romeo is Bleeding (minus the wooden one). Legs that, given the opportunity, could wrap around you and squeeze the life out of you.

The second thing I notice, once she emerges on the platform, is the sheer length of her - not just her legs, but her entire body. She is enormous. A giant. She's got to be at least six two, if not taller. However, she is not model-thin, nor tree trunk-huge. She is lean yet shapely, solid yet feminine. She is someone out of a movie, or a video game. I am floored.

After making her way onto the subway car, our entire group stares at her in awe. She appears almost like an alien, us the haphazard welcoming committee assembled at the last minute. And the thing is, the way she looks, she could be from another planet, from some bad sci-fi realm where the women are huge and fierce and will kick your ass for the smallest of infractions - forgetting their birthday, say. Premature ejaculation is punishable by death.

I designate myself as the leader of our group and make my approach. Just as I'm about to speak to her, already mouthing the 'h' from 'hello,' an announcement comes over the subway speaker:

"Brrracka trainzzzz lorimozz"

We all look at each other in disbelief.

"Juuppzzlgeeeraahhh mannnhatttzz efffftrayennnuhh!!"

"What the hell was that?" I ask. No one knows, of course. I gear up for another approach, but then we've already arrived at our stop, where we merge with the wave of other commuters arriving here, becoming one giant organism, and push on to the platform. Our group vainly attempts to stay together, but the swarm of people is simply too much and we are forced to separate.

For a while I manage to keep track of the Amazon - her head towering over everyone else in the station - but eventually the distance between us becomes so great that we are at opposite sides of the platform. I watch as she boards the G train, racing away and out of my life.


Saturday

I am very drunk. So drunk, in fact, that I am getting lost on the same streets I patrol each and every day and night like an ancient cop, walking my beat. It was just supposed to take five minutes, five short little minutes to find a cash machine, buy some smokes and then return to the bar, where I am to enter slowly and wait by the door - perhaps chatting up the bouncer - while P. L. comes to collect me. Properly positioned, we can then easily turn and speak to the sensational-looking girls directly next to us, who, previously, were out of range, as where we sat (in the back of the bar) and where they sat (in the front) was too great a chasm to cross, too far a divide to bridge without appearing foolish, or desperate, or both.

So we had the perfect plan. I needed money anyway, so the idea grew naturally, organically, as if it was simply meant to me. P.L. loved it, and so off I went. But, upon my return, which was supposed to take five minutes (and instead, due to my intoxication/no sense of direction/general retardedness took about twenty), they are gone. Our chickies have flown the coop, and so now what are we supposed to do?

Cuge arrives then, his cousin in tow. They sit down next to us at the bar and immediately order a round of Pabsts.

It's then that I see her, in the corner, talking to a girl almost half her size: The Amazon. I brush past P. L., rush up to her and, before I realize that I've got nothing to say, am face to face with the sentient being.

"Uh…hi," I say to her, slightly stammering.

"Hello," she says, calmly. Her eyes and mine are exactly level.

"I saw you on the train…yesterday morning. That leak at Union Square. It was-"

"Fucking annoying," she says, laughing.

"Yes, yes it was."

There is a brief, awkward silence. I turn around and notice PL staring, his mouth agape. Cuge and his cousin have similar looks on their faces.

"So listen," I say, trying to stand up as straight as possible, to give myself some kind of advantage. "Would you like to get together sometime? Maybe get a drink or something?"

"We're kind of doing that now, aren't we?"

"Well yeah, I guess so," I say, annoyed. "I just thought that-"

"I'm kidding," she says, grabbing my arm. "I'd love to. I'm on my way out, actually…why don't I give you my number."

I bum a pen from the bartender and she writes it down on my hand. Inspired, I reach in for a close-mouthed, good-bye kiss, and to my surprise she pops open my lips with her tongue. In seconds I've got her against the bar and we're tonguing the shit out of each other. Suddenly, she pushes me away.

"I've really got to go," she says, and walks towards the door.

Her exit is all arms and legs, and in her wake she leaves a jet stream of air, people's hair getting blown about and cigarettes getting extinguished.

After I've recovered I notice that nearly the entire bar is staring at me. Cuge, suddenly, with a tremendous grin on his face, stands up and puts his hands together. Once. Twice. Three times. His cousin and PL join in, and soon the rest of the bar follows suit. I am given a whistling, stomping ovation.

Basking in my newfound glory, I take a slight bow, and then take a seat at the bar. Nerd or not, I have arrived.


    

Free Williamsburg | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2000
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