Good New York… Bad New York

The yin and the yang of a day in New York City…

I was taking my morning constitutional recently (that’s a fast walk, dear reader, not a cocktail!) when I came upon a disturbing yet heartwarming sight. It happened on the corner of York and 87th when a young woman pushing a stroller…  a stroller containing an adorable little girl… suddenly stopped in her tracks and burst into tears. What the hell? But before her tears even hit the ground or your friendly bartender could react, as if on cue, three different women from three different directions immediately stopped what they were doing and ran to the rescue. “What’s is it, miss?” said the first. “Is anything wrong with your child?” asked the second. “Is there someone we can call?” added woman number three. It was like a rescue team responding to a red alert. But instead of it being the EMS it was three women bearing the gift of TLC. 

Geez… how beautiful! I thought, as I stood there watching this amazing scene unfold. This is a side of New York that people don’t see. Now I’m not a native of this wonderful city so I’m not trying to serve home cooking, nor am I trying be the adopted Mr. Manhattan, but I’ve been here long enough to know what’s up and this is really what’s up when it comes to New Yorkers. Believe me! It’s people who are tough, maybe rough around the edges, often construed as rude because they’re in a hurry, but when it comes to the handling of any kind of crisis… a small one like this or the one I don’t even have to mention… just watch them swing into action and respond to the moment. Their arms are locked and it’s them against the world.

I never found out what the problem was that brought that woman to tears (nor was it any of my business), but I sure ascertained in a flash what the temporary solution was. Because when I continued my walk heading east toward the river and looked back over my shoulder at the scene on the corner, the tears on that young woman’s face were dampening a smile. Good New York!

That very same night I had a couple at the bar, first timers in from Vancouver, who’d been steered to our fine establishment by their hotel concierge. The woman was celebrating her fortieth birthday (looked nowhere near that number) and a trip to New York was the gift her husband had given her. So after taking a seat and taking in the room, soaking in all its history, birthday girl ordered a “Cosmo” while her husband decided on a Balvenie chilled with one ice cube. Then a few minutes later, as we started to talk about this and that…  Chamber of Commerce 101 about their town and mine… I noticed the ears on the guy sitting next to them perk up. Like satellite dishes! This nosy Nellie couldn’t wait to haul himself in.

“So,” he finally said, seeing an opening, “first time here in New York, huh, you guys?” He knew the answer to the question but that was his launch pad.

“For me, yeah,” said the woman. Her husband had been here a couple of times before.

“And where have you been so far?” pressed the guy… this guy in his mid to late forties who, even though I’d never seen him before, was now an expert on our bar and most of Manhattan. But, hey, since a group of four suddenly walked in the room demanding my immediate attention, I was grateful this guy could continue this verbal tour.

Well, this clown gave a verbal tour all right, a tour through a whole bunch of words that started with “F”.

Now as most of you know I’m not a prude when it comes to using the “F” word, and I’ll use it whenever it fits what the fuck I’m writing about.  But what your friendly bartender will never do when it comes to the use of that word, is assume he can say, “You’ll fuckin’ love it!” or, “Wait til you fucking hear this!” to a man and his wife whom he’s known all of ten fucking seconds. You can bank on it. But that was sure not the case with this guy sitting next to them.

Looking back, I think he suddenly saw himself as some kind of real New York item, or at least a version of a New York item last seen in every movie Scorsese ever made, and he wanted to impress these people as one of those types. (This is how we talk here, whaddaya’ think, kids?) For this to him was the “cool New York”, swearing every six words, and this would provide this couple a slice of  The Apple. But the funny part was (at least to me), before Vancouver had come in, his conversation with me was anything but… he was a regular suit and tie who talked liked one. Talk about method acting.

Anyway, the moment he let his first “fuck” fly (let his freak flag fly?), I immediately turned to see the couple’s reaction. It’s instinctive when you’re a bartender, you hear the word, your head wheels around and you make sure those within earshot think it’s okay. And since guys use the word in front of women these days and women use it right back, especially in a bar, as long as it’s not too loud you let it slide. Which was the case here. This couple was nodding to the point he was making, smiles were still on their faces, and it wasn’t blistering through the room so I let him continue.

Well, after a good half hour of this guide through the city and at least thirty “F’s” or ts derivative, Mr. New York left a lousy tip and then split. Which was doubly ridiculous when you think about it. For if you’re going to act like Mr. New York… to talk like the subway actually runs through your veins… leaving a two dollar tip is the wrong way to go. It doesn’t fit the character. You’re not in a Martin Scorsese film you’re Clifton Webb inCheaper by the Dozen”. And to round out the yang to the yin of this day, your whole performance was nothing but Bad New York!!

Ah, but now that this guy was gone my curiosity got the best of me. I just had to know. So I leaned in and said to the couple from Vancouver, “Do you mind if I ask you guys a serious question?”

“Not at all,” said the forty year-old birthday girl, now on her third Cosmopolitan and handling it perfectly.

“Okay, here’s the deal. Is it me, guys, or was that a little unusual that a perfect stranger would use the “F” word like that? You know, to a man and his wife whom he’d known all of ten seconds?”

“Yes!’, they blurted in unison, as if they’d been waiting to be asked that very question. “But we weren’t going to say anything,” said the woman. “And it’s not like we haven’t heard it before,” said her husband. “I actually found it funny,” then added his wife.

“Well, thank you,” I declared, triumphantly. “I was beginning to think I was stuck in some other century. That settles that!

Then we talked some more about cussing in public, when and where it’s appropriate, and needless to say the “F” word got used in that discussion. Like a lot. Which is why I couldn’t resist throwing out as both got up to leave, “I hope you guys have a great fucking time in New York.” “We already fucking have!” said the husband, and the the smiles on both of their faces told me he meant it. Then out the door and up the stairs went Vancouver.

And just for the record, dear reader, the tip they left was larger than the other guy’s whole bill.

Over and out from Bar-land… see ya’ next week-end.

22 Responses to “Good New York… Bad New York”


  1. 1 Jennifer June 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Lovely fucking post.

  2. 2 Jager June 26, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Scrib,

    In my experience, New Yorkers are nice, nice people. As far as the F word goes, I use it but i think its overused today. My nieghbors kid is 16 and I hear little Jakey and his pals talking on the patio and and it is EVERY OTHER fucking word!

  3. 3 scribbler50 June 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    Jennifer: Welcome back, my friend, we’ve missed you. And ya’ know something? I kinda’ figured I’d get a comment like that but to get it from someone like you I’m actually shocked. Shocked, I tells ya’, SHOCKED!!! 🙂

    Jager: Yeah, the “F” word is now as easy to say as “the” amongst our youngins’.

  4. 4 Jager June 27, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Scrib,

    When I was in the Army (5 days at that point in time) we were picked up at the Fort Leonard Wood Reception Station by our new Platoon Sgt with a movie Sgt name, SSgt Robert Manley. Sgt Manley was wearing tailored pale green class 3’s (fatigues) a shiny black helmet liner and Peter Fonda Ray Bans and his boot were shined to the 9th degree. He leaped (levitated, in my view) up on the back of a truck and let loose with one of the most creative uses of the F-word I’ve ever heard:

    “You fucking people are the sorriest looking bunch of fuckheads I’ve ever laid my fucking eyes on. Lord knows how the fuck I am ever going turn you into fucking soldiers, but that is my mission in this fucking life. The United fucking States God damn Army has placed your welfare in these fucking hands and I’ll be damned if I’ll let my fucking Uncle Sam down. So if you miserable bunch of fucks pay fucking attention to me, if you do what the fuck I tell you to do, 24 fucking hours of every day, with God’s help, I may get my fucking job done. I want you to remember one fucking thing and this is the most important fucking thing you’ll ever hear from these fucking soldier’s lips, so listen up mother fuckers. I will never step on your fucking dicks, but believe me you will step on your puny, fucking dick yourself and when you do, You can rest assured, gentlemen, Sgt Bob Manley will be the witness and my fucking vengeance willl be swift, fair and backed by the good mother fucking graces of this man’s fucking army. Understand? I can’t fucking hear you! That’s fucking better and now get your fucking duffles on this truck and let’s get to work of turning you into fucking soldiers!

    BTW, even in the humid and hot Missouri summer, Sgt Manley never seemed to sweat!

  5. 5 Anonymoustache June 27, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Great stuff, as usual, Scrib50.
    Now that you have some British vests I guess you’re gonna bust out phrases like ‘morning constitutional’ more often, eh wot wot? Haven’t heard/seen that phrase in ages, BTW, and loved it! Though I must say I was a bit disappointed that you passed up a golden opportunity by not using ‘perambulator’ or ‘pram’ soon after in place of ‘stroller’!!

    Also, you should have just told Comrade PhysioProf to tone it down just a tad fucking bit at the bar that evening.

  6. 6 M.Lane June 27, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I’m just glad the couple took it in good humor. In my travels to NYC I have seen and been the beneficiary of many acts of “random kindness”. From the lady walking down the sidewalk who warned me that my shoe was untied and I could fall, to the limo driver who picked me up for free [I did give an epic tip] after I stood in the rain trying to hail a cab for forty minutes, to the [fifteen minutes later after the free limo ride] gorgeous hostess at a [jam packed, famous] restaurant who broke character [stern, official hostess face] and sweetly grinned at me when I walked in looking like a drowned rat and found me a table an hour late for my reservation. Great post.

    ML
    mlanesepic.blogspot.com

  7. 7 scribbler50 June 27, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Jager: Great screed, Sir. But unfortunately you’ve used up my quota for the “F” word appearing on this blog for the next full year. At ease, soldier! 🙂

    Anonymoustache: Regarding “morning constitutional”, I think that came from the fact I’ve been in-“vested” all these years in the words of Wodehouse. I believe that’s one of his as is “morning restorative”. And as far as not using “pram” or “perambulator”? I just couldn’t, man. Such a drastic change in idiom might just drive the people who come here “buggy”. And finally, there’s no toning down Physioprof, you know that. For as they say in pro football… you can’t really stop him, you can only hope to contain him!

    M.Lane: Terrific! That story is the worst of times and the best of times all in one New York rain storm. Sounds like our city did pretty well by you. And, hey, speaking of “great post”, keep up the great work over at your place. Loved “Sweet Science”.

  8. 8 Comrade PhysioProf June 27, 2010 at 11:25 am

    For this to him was the “cool New York”, swearing every six words, and this would provide this couple a slice of The Apple.

    Dude, I certainly wouldn’t dare to second-guess your expert interpretation of this particular dude’s barland behavior, but it is worth pointing out that some people just fucking talk that way, and aren’t necessarily putting on a fucking act.

  9. 9 Donna B. June 27, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    I get fucking tired of fucking people who fucking overuse the only fucking cussword they know. A little fucking variety would be fucking nice ever fucking now and then.

  10. 10 scribbler50 June 27, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Comrade: Don’t I fucking know it, Herr Cuss-meister!

    Donna B: Ohh, the profanity!!! Scribbler, Scribbler, what hath thou wrought??? (Thanks, Donna, you make a good fucking point.)

  11. 11 physiobabe June 28, 2010 at 11:00 am

    You fuckin’ rock, Scrib!

  12. 12 scribbler50 June 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

    physiobabe: And so the fu-heck do you!

    I’m cutting back on the “F” word this week (I’m already over my limit) but I certainly embrace your use of it above so thank you, “babe”!

  13. 13 d-a-p June 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    great story…a first trip to n.y.c. is an amazing experience..thankfully the guy didn’t ruin theirs…
    d-a-p

  14. 14 JSaw June 28, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Pitch perfect again Scrib. Great laugh to start the week…

  15. 15 scribbler50 June 28, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    d-a-p: Nah, nobody ruined nothin’, they had a ball. A Cosmo and Balvenie scotch can work wonders!

    JSaw: Glad to have launched your week… now you’re on your own :).

  16. 16 Petro June 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    I have a very good friend who uses the “universal adjective” reflexively and often (and yes, it has rubbed off on me.) One day he drove me to the airport to pick up my mother, who was visiting, and we had a lively conversation on the way home.

    Later in the evening, my mother told me she’d never heard anyone use the word so eloquently.

    And this fellow is a Phoenix native.

  17. 17 scribbler50 June 28, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Petro: Hah! Love your mom for seeing an eloquence to it all, I thought that was going in a whole ‘nother direction.

    But, hey, forgive my naivete but what does coming from Phoenix have to do with anything? Does that mean conservative or buttoned up? Because Phoenix has its share of shit kickers and pick-up trucks, ya’ know. And they’re sure not practitioners of the Queen’s English.

  18. 18 Linda June 29, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Fabulous post! Love it! Great story and storytelling.

  19. 19 scribbler50 June 29, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you, Linda… much appreciated, believe me.

  20. 20 Petro June 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    The Phoenix reference? I was just (lamely) riffing off of your Scorsese stereotyping. Ah, well…

  21. 21 Belvoir July 3, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Loved the intro with the crying lady. New Yorkers have this bad rap for rudeness, but as you say they get together in crisis, they care. 8 million people getting along every day. Bitching, joking, comiserating, and yeah, helping when someone needs help. Beautiful thing.

    I’m old fashioned in not wanting to use the F word if ladies I don’t know are present. Just impolite it seems, to this Bronx-born boy. That could be someone’s mother, show some respect. Old New York had codes of gallantry towards women that were ethnically universal. To swear in front of a lady you don’t know, in a public place isn’t “New Yorkish”, it’s boorish. To native New Yorkers too, who were raised half-right. Your F-bomb fella sounds like he was putting on a show, pleased at the attention. Method acting as you said, so perfect.

  22. 22 scribbler50 July 4, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Belvoir: Thanks, man, I appreciate your comment. Always good to hear from a boy from the Bronx.


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