Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Commute

I've been stricken with flu for the past three days, a flu so severe that Thursday night my temperature spiked to 103, and my face felt like it was going to melt off, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" style. Temperature's been back to normal for the last couple days, but I still feel like I've been run over by a train. Still, like the good Jewish boy that I am, I'll be making my way to Jersey tonight for the annual Sank family seder. I even made my famous Sephardic charoset (which looks like something you'd swerve to avoid stepping in on the street but is actually quite delicious).


Do I make you hungry, baby?

Also joining the seder tonight will be celebrity guest Karith Foster. This is apparently nothing new for Karith, who often finds herself supping with the Jews during this festive season. In any case, she'll be a welcome addition to the wackiness that is our annual holiday meal.
Shalom, Y'all!

Apropos of none of this, what I've really wanted to blog about for a while now is my daily commute to my temp job, from Harlem to Midtown East. 

First, a disclaimer: I know there are millions of people, a few of whom may be reading this, who live in the bowels of the outer boroughs of New York City and will no doubt react to my bitching about such a piddly commute with a snarled "Getthefuckouttaheah." And believe me, I feel your pain. Just this past Thursday I had to travel from Midtown to Flushing, Queens, to be interviewed for a cable talk show, and I was flabbergasted by just how fucking long a subway ride that is. Seriously, it took forever. If I were Fran Drescher, I would never have had the strength to get my lazy ass to Manhattan for an audition. Big ups to the Nanny!

But here's the thing: I was spoiled. I spent 10 years living in Midtown. I walked to work every day. I walked to the place where I hosted my weekly comedy show. I walked to my friends' apartments to visit them. Hell, if I met a guy who lived more than one subway stop away, I dismissed any chance of romance as an impossible long-distance relationship. (Funny, then, how I wound up giving up everything for a guy in San Diego. Hilarious, actually, when you consider that we broke up, and I am myself now broke, underemployed, with no weekly comedy show to host and living in Harlem. Stop, my sides hurt!)

Here's a secret: Until this month, I never once bought an unlimited Metro card. I didn't need one! I spent on average only about $20 a month on subway rides.

Yes, times have changed.

My work day begins at 7:00AM. It would begin earlier but for the fact that I make my omelet and set the coffee the night before, so that all I have to do is push a few buttons and voila! Breakfast is ready!

Anyone who doesn't get this reference is too young for me to date.

From 7:00 to 7:20, I munch my omelet and sip my coffee while listening to Howard Stern on Sirius and pretending I have someone else's life. I'm in the shower at 7:20, shaving at 7:30, and dressing at 7:40.  I'll spend about 10 more minutes listening to Howard while I make the bed and pack my gym bag, and then it's out the door at 8:00.

Now I have a choice to make: Do I walk uptown -- the opposite direction of my ultimate destination -- to 125th Street so I can catch an express train? Or do I walk downtown to 116th and take a local? This seems like a no-brainer, as the express goes non-stop to 59th Street while the local makes six additional stops. But the express train is also packed to the rails with commuters. There is nowhere to sit and sometimes not even a pole to hang on to. The local train, on the other hand, is only ever half-full. So if I'm feeling like I need a relaxing ride -- and I'm not already running late -- I go for the local.

Either way, it's a five-block walk and one flight of stairs down to the platform. And, either way, I have to enter on the downtown-most side of the platform. Experience has taught me that I want to be on the uptown-most side of the platform -- the reason why will become apparent later -- so as soon as I arrive, unless there's a train waiting,  I hoof it hard.

Once ensconced in the correct platform area, I await the B train. (Or, if I'm at 125th Street, the D train.) I can also catch the A and C trains, but I don't -- for reasons too excruciating to detail here. Suffice it to say, if you've ultimately got to head east, you don't want to be on the A or C trains.

Sidebar: When I first moved here, I needed to come up with a mnemonic device to remember which trains would bring me home. Cleverly, I came up with Ass, Butt, Cock and Dick. It was only later that I realized I could also just remember the first four letters of the alphabet.


Hooked on Phonics worked for me!

Anyway.

Once on the Butt or Dick train, I read. It doesn't really matter what I'm reading, only that I'm reading something. My first choice is a fresh Entertainment Weekly or Vanity Fair. If it's the former I'm reading, I can usually get through one whole article by 59th Street. If it's the latter, I can get through one-tenth of one article. Barring either magazine, I read bad paperbacks. It took me two months to finish one I had swiped from my sister's guest room, a 1993 pot-boiler called "Private Practices," by Stephen White, the climax of which hinges on a fabulous new high-tech device known as a cellular phone. "Private Practices" has about 100 characters in it, most of whom are terribly uninteresting and impossible to differentiate. For a while, I kept reading back a few pages to try and refresh my memory about what was going on. Then I decided I didn't really care. When I got to the final "A-ha!" moment, it was like experiencing the world's worst orgasm. But I finished -- and that's something.

At 59th Street, the Butt or Dick train makes a dramatic turn eastward. One can actually feel the train lurch, like one of those runaway trains for kids at an amusement park. The next stop is called simply "7th Avenue," which perplexes me. What and 7th Avenue? They never tell us. (I did some research; it's 53rd and 7th.) Then it's on to Rockefeller Center (47th-50th Streets and 6th Avenue), and from there the train continues down 6th Avenue, stopping at 50th Street and 42nd Street. Which is where I get off.
Now the fun begins.

My office is at Lexington and 40th. Theoretically, I could just walk from 6th Avenue. And I have. On nice days, and particularly when I'm running early, I enjoy a vigorous stroll across the length of Bryant Park, then past 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue (whatever the fuck that is) and Park Avenue, until finally reaching Lexington. But we haven't had that many nice days since I moved back to NYC, and I'm rarely running early. Plus, walking a mile on pavement in dress shoes makes me feel like a victim of Chinese foot-binding.

So instead, I ascend the nearest staircase (see -- this is why I had to walk to the uptown side of the platform back in Harlem!) and enter a strange and magical little tunnel. I actually took a photo of it with my phone the other day.


As you can see, the tunnel is lined with a sort of cracked, ceramic tile design, complete with winding gold branches and ominous, vaguely Biblical writings. It links 5th and 6th Avenues underground. On some days, there's an old Chinese man playing a wooden flute (beautifully, I might add). Other days it's a young black man playing a jazz saxophone. They're never there on the same day, and I often wonder if they've worked out some kind of schedule with each other. One morning, the black guy was playing Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies," which I thought was rather awesome. I dropped him a dollar that day.

The tunnel leads to a ramp which leads to a downward staircase which leads to the 7 train. The 7 is a crosstown in Manhattan, which means it goes straight from Port Authority on the West Side to Lexington on the East Side, before heading off into Queens, where it goes on quite a journey before ultimately reaching Flushing (see above). 

I like the 7 train. It's quick and clean and efficient, and it has that automated jolly voice that says, "Stand clear of the closing doors, please!" But for the life of me, I can't fathom why the 7's only Manhattan stops are Broadway, 5th Avenue and Lexington. It seems to me the 7 would be far more useful were it to also stop at 8th, 7th and 6th Avenues, where it could meet commuters directly off the A C E , 1 2 3 and B D F V lines. It would certainly make my life easier.

In any case, there's almost always a 7 waiting for me when I reach the platform following my trip through the magic tunnel, and I hop right on. I only ride it one stop. I imagine the other commuters, especially those heading on to Queens, think to themselves, "What a pussy! He needs a subway to go one stop? Feh!" But I try to keep my head up as I reach my final destination.

Grand Central Station.

Grand Central is fucking terrifying. I don't mean terrifying in that touristy "Oooh, New York is so scary! What if we get shot?" kind of way. I mean it's terrifying in that it's massive, and there are a million directions in which one can go. And if you're someone like me with absolutely no sense of direction, this can be paralyzing. I have been known to stand frozen in the middle of Grand Central for several minutes at a time, blinking like a demented housecat as I try to get my bearings.

I have actually spent 15 minutes walking through Grand Central only to find myself back on Madison Avenue, wondering how I walked backwards.

The trick, as with all New York subway commuting, is in which exit you take from the subway platform. Again, departing the 7 platform at Grand Central is a massive mental challenge. Exit too far west, and you're back on the aforementioned Madison Avenue. Head too far east, and you're on friggin' 3rd Avenue! 

No, my friends, what you must do to get to Lexington and 42nd is to walk to the exact middle of the 7 platform. There you will find a staircase up which you will walk. From there you'll see the world's tallest escalator. It reeks of urine at all times. Take it. Do not place your hand on the handrail, as it is revoltingly sticky. (Do not question who pees on this escalator or why. It is not important to the completion of your journey.)

Once at the top of this escalator, you're in Grand Central proper. Walk a short distance west. If you don't know which way west is, try to remember the 7 train you just disembarked a mile below, and walk in the direction whence it came. But not too far -- just about 15 feet. You'll see a turnstyle which leads to a little tiled hallway. Follow it. Go down a flight of stairs.

Now you're in the world's saddest underground shopping mall, consisting only of a discount clothing store, a dry cleaner and a shoe shine. Keep walking until you reach another flight of stairs. Go up them and through one of those old-fashioned heavy gold-plated doors like they have at Macy's. Now you're in the lobby of what looks like an office building from the 1940s. Head toward the daylight until you reach another set of heavy gold-plated doors, and voila! You're on Lexington at 42nd Street!

When I leave work at the end of the day, I do the same in reverse. Except somehow, I manage to enter the 1940's-style office building at 41st Street, saving me a block of walking.

I still haven't figured out how to find that door in the morning.

Homo commuted.

P.S. Don't forget to come to my new show, "Inside the Comic's Studio," at Don't Tell Mama this coming Saturday, April 3 at 8:30! Details and reservations here!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

UPDATE!!

Literally moments after posting the last blog, I found out that Meathead was fired!!! I am devastated.

RIP, Meathead. There is literally nothing for me to look forward to in coming to work anymore.

Homo heartbroken.

Temporary Insanity

Yeah, I'm still here. Sorry to disappear for so long. Shortly after my last blog post I got a temp job that sucked -- and continues to suck -- every ounce of energy from my being. "Temping" is something of a misnomer, because it conjures up images of someone working now and then, coming and going at will, pushing papers, filing one's nails and ogling one's hot straight officemates.

Well, think again, honeys! Temping is really just working full-time for low wages without benefits. It's a huge drag, in every sense of the word. Although I do have one hot straight officemate, a muscly Italian guy I have affectionately dubbed "Meathead."



Not an actual photo of Meathead, but he's sort of this type.

The people I work for and with are mostly a very nice group. But by and large, it's tedious, mind-numbing, not particularly easy work. I have no choice right now, though. All this moving back and forth across the country, combined with the toilet-bound economy, combined with a never-ending procession of unexpected and shockingly high expenses have left me in financial straits. So I'm doing what I have to do to stay afloat.

Trying to stay positive. Trying to be Zen. Trying to keep myself out there and open to opportunities and humble and grateful and all that other new age bullshit. But it's hard, man. To paraphrase Angelina Jolie in "Changeling," "I want my life back! I want MY life back!"

Of course, there are possibilities on the horizon, some of them immediate. And if there's one thing I've learned in seven years of comedy (and 39 years of life) it's that things can change very quickly on a dime. So I'm putting it out there: Universe, I'm open and ready to receive your love. Take me -- use me -- make me your whore. I surrender to you and all your wonderful possibilities.

Oh, and I could use some really cute new shoes.

The happy news is, I am producing a brand new show at Don't Tell Mama, for which I'm very excited. It's called "Inside the Comic's Studio," and the idea is that I'm the gay James Lipton (redundant, I know), and after comedians come out to do their sets, I interview them on-stage. The first show features Karith Foster, Danny Siegel and John Kurschner. I think it's going to be terrific.


Awesome flyer by Jeff Hardy


OK, my computer's freaking out right now, so I need to sign off. More later.

Homo temping.