|12-28-2006, 04:50 AM||#1|
By popular demand
Join Date: Aug 2003
40 crab legs (or: cellular reaction)
It was a tight fit on the train, balancing my pepsi in one hand, umbrella in the other newspaper delicately in lap and folder/notebook under arm. Dark clouds loomed overhead most of the day, but proved to be just about as threatening as a lollipop rainbow unicorn, and it was at least fifty on the mercury, causing me to swim in my suit and tie. I found little resolve in the sign under the window indicating that the train was air-conditioned, considering that it had long been disabled due to the recent (normal) winter-like temperatures.
i browsed over the comics as i took to my pepsi like a Sheen to liquor; drawing some irate stares from tired peak-hour regulars whom had already dealt with their fair-share of aural abuse. The city's a tough place to live if you have hearing.
After delays and special effects, i limped out across the gap to the platform and hobbled down the steps to the bridge. The blisters were already starting to form, i could tell. The glow of tail-lights and streetlamps from the road made my sidewalk vantage point seem bright and whimsical, almost, a shimmering sea of sharp yellows, hues of red and green abound. It took my mind off the feet for sa second, but another step to the pavement in my dress shoes slapped me back into reality.
The buffet place was a block ahead, and i needed to sit down now, more than ever. I needed something that would take time to eat, that i could regain my foot strength and be able to make it back to the house.
I'll eat as many crab legs as i can. Maybe i can eat 40.
I sat down gingerly inside, and while the pepsi came, reflected on my day.
Mid-town Manhattan is hell to walk. uptown streets and avenues are closer together, but getting down around central park, the spacing becomes evident in the narrowing of the walkways and the broadening of the streets themselves. at peak hours, which in Manhattan can be anywhere from 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM, you have several hundred thousand people marching down the street in a messy single or double file; rather much like traffic flow: faster people dodge left and right to avoid the elderly/handicapped/people with babies/dogs/sideburns/costumes, but instead of honking your horn and flipping your finger, a passing glare is enough to alert one of transgressions.
It was about 20. I turned on the phone as i walked down 50th toward Penn.
"bzzzzztclick" "Yo, sup?"
"hey anthony, you busy later?"
"yeah, no, why?"
"i'm in the city, i need a ride back from the train station in like a half hour."
"uhhhhhhhh, well, my sister has my car..."
I put my hand over the mouthpiece. "FUCK!" i orated haltingly, much to the chagrin of an old man feeding pigeons off the stoop of a brownstone i spotted out of the corner of my eye as i strode by. He mumbled something in italian, and then went back to throwing corn at the bird.
Plate 1. I took off my suit jacket and loosened my tie, preparing for the inevitable. Eating crab legs, like a house painting project, Are best performed with an old t-shirt and sweatpants. I felt pity for anyone who happened to be sitting near me, as i loaded my tray with lemon wedges and filled a soupbowl with butter.
There were about thirty legs (which had apparantly been out for some while) at the food table, which was mostly empty. I took about half of them, went back down to my seat, and dug in. I was going to be here for a while, better make myself comfortable.
I paused to ponder for a second, and uncovered the mouthpiece.
"call me when you get your car back, alright?"
an affirmative responce and a goodbye was exchanged, without me so much as missing a step.
i approached 2nd avenue going down 50th, and saw on the other side of the street, a japanese restaraunt by the name of "Guyu-kaku". i nursed this around in my head for a few steps, and then i remebered steve's thread about the "secret" meaning of "kaku". i hesatated, and considered taking out my phone to take a picture of this overhang, and then though again of it, and simply grabbed a pen from my pocket and wrote down on my folder, "Guyu-kaku, 50th".
As i turned on to 2nd avenue and headed downtown, i noticed a fruit stand on several corners. Normally, a hot dog-soda-pretzel stand would suffice, but this was intriguing to me, as i had not eaten all day and craved a cheap piece of food, so i slowed down and reached into my pocket to check on my change.
Nothing but a couple of gold dollars that i could fish out.
I fished while i walked, juggling the umbrella, the notebook, the newspaper, and the folder. At the end of 45th, another fruit stand appeared, and i exchanged a quarter with an old lady for a banana, which i ate with much gusto as i continued my walk downtown, depositing the remains in a recepticle on east 44th.
After i crossed the street, it occured to me that i might have to rush to catch the last off-peak train; my ticket was paid only for that, and were i to miss it, the fare would be raised. I reached into my right piocket for my cell phone.
Little pocket flaps on the sides?
*Crack* slurp splash.
In manhattan, everything happens fast. I went through the five stages of grief in exactly seven seconds.
*Crack* slurp splash.
Denial: "it's probably in my front poc--"
*Crack* slurp splash.
*Crack* slurp splash.
Bargaining: "please be in my jacket pocket please ple--"
*Crack* slurp splash.
Depression: "i wish this next car would just hit me--"
*Crack* slurp splash.
Acceptance: "better go back and tell my aunt to deactivate the plan."
*Crack* slurp splash.
*Crack* slurp splash. I was starting to get odd looks from people around me. a small piece of shell went flying about 5 feet from the table, so i slowed down.
The thing about crab legs is, it burns calories getting to the meat: by the time you get there, you've evened out the calories you gain from eating it. It's possible to eat crab legs left and right and not get full at all. Don't know how the buffets manage to stay in business.
As i walked back towards the financial disctrict to park avenue, i realize i should probably retrace my steps, and sweep the area with my eyes. I pinpointed the three areas where i might have lost the phone:
1. Second fruit stand, while paying for banana
2. First fruit stand, while fishing
3. On 50th, grabbing pen from pocket
As is consistant with what was previously mentioned, that's a lot of ground to cover, and in uncomfortable dress shoes after several hours spent already walking isn't too good on the feet.
Back on 50th, past guyu-kaka and back to 45th again with no sign of a phone on the ground, i ask a fruit stand vendor if they had seen it.
"No...maybe they'll call you back if they find it, that's what happened to my sister".
An idea hits me. I go to a payphone and deposit a quarter and dial my phone number.
A metallic female voice responds: Please deposit 25 cents to make your call.
Shit. Dialing out of area code means another quarter, and i'm out of change. I drop the reciever and beeline for the next fruitstand, all while grasping my items closer than Tomlinson over a goal line.
People in manhattan are pretty much immune to hearing other people talking to them while walking: shouting "sir" or "ma'am" rarely works as an attention grabber, due to the fact that these people have steel walled through years of sidewalk vending, potential robberies, and money-demanding performers that they've developed their own personal mental pop-up ad blocker.
I draw his attention, finally.
"Can i have change for a dollar please?"
The man stops percieving me as a threat, and looks down at the gold dollar and back up at me, and without looking back down again, reaches into his bag and pulls out four shiny quarters.
"Thanks a lot!"
I dash back to the phone, still dangling.
15 crab legs down; i go back to the table, still devoid of people, where the same 15 crab legs i left before were. it wasn't particularly busy, but i had a feeling that the crab legs weren't going to get filled up again soon, so i grabbed five, and some peking duck.
Rumors spread around the town that this place has been using ducks from the local pond for their duck dishes. I didn't see the problem with that, honestly. why argue with fresh duck?
I dug in, abeit more slowly than my last attempt. the duck slowed me down a but, it was warm, fattening, and flavorful. 20 down and 20 to go, i thought as i sipped my soda. Then, i saw the line.
Every four years, the winter olympics takes place; and every 4 years, manhattan telephones are cleaned. the sheer unsanitariness is enough to scare away potential customers, but the outragious fees are the whipped cream and cherry on the public telephone sundae. still, i was wilkling to risk getting ear cancer (?) for a chance to recover my phone. I put in another quarter.
The beeping tone that eminated from that phone would put techno rave remixers to shame, along with the same metallic woman interjecting with "error 16" every 10 seconds or so.
So, now, i just wasted 50 cents and i don't know if someone picked up my phone, or if it was smashed by a car/dropped in water/dissolved in acid.
I tried again.
Crossed my fingers and waited.
One right, two rings, three rings.
Four rings. my voice mail message.
This threw me off, i was happy my phone had not been smashed/destroyed, and gave me hope it was still laying on the ground, but it's possible that someone picked it up, has access to all my numbers, and just isn't answering it.
The beep sounded. i panicked.
"Uh, hi, if you've found this phone, i'm on the corner of 44th and 2nd...44 east and 2nd, i'd realy appreciate it if you could bring it back to me, i'm wearing a suit and...a red tie. Thank you very much."
I waited at the corner for 20 minutes, realizing all too late that several tens of men who pased by also had suits and red ties.
I had 75 cents left.
|12-28-2006, 04:50 AM||#2|
By popular demand
Join Date: Aug 2003
There were 4 people gathered around the simmering tray of crab bits by the time i looked up. A pretty, thin, blonde woman, a small black girl, couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 years old, a grandmother-type person, and a large middle-aged latino man.
Each had a different look on their face as they waited; the young woman was antsy, the girl looked sad, almost depresed, the man looked impatient, and the grandmother looked peevish.
I saw a giant bowl full of crab legs headed towards the food table, got up, and walked over. the young girl and the grandmother were first on either side with the tongs, as i waited for a chance.
There would be plenty of crab legs left by the time they were done picking....
Another idea came to me.
Figured i'd call anthony first, and tell him that he might recieve a call from someone who found my cell phone: and then leave a message on my cellphone, cancelling out the last one, to call anthony if the cell phone was found.
Another gold dollar, changed at a pizza place.
Another dirty look for not making a purchase.
I went back to the same payphone, figured i'd minimize the amount of germs i'd come in contact with by only using one phone to make my calls.
I put the quarters in, and...realized i didn't know anthony's number. It was saved on my cell phone.
Okay, okay, but i remebered anthony's house number. He dodn't pick up his cell half the time anyway, there's 4 people living at his house, at least one of them's got to be home.
I dialed after putting 50 in.
Ring one. ring two. ring three. ring four.
It was then i remembered what happened a few months ago when i was at his house. The phone rang, and the entire family flocked to the caller ID. when it came up as an unfamiliar, no one had picked it up.
Goddamn fucking anthony's stupid religious use of caller ID.
Ring five. ring 6.
They're all probably standing around the dining room table phone, looking at each other.
Ring 7. ring 8. dial tone.
What happened next threw me off-guard. The grandmother and the pretty woman started snapping up crab legs as if the apocolypse were imminent and a shelted of crab legs would provide the only means of survival. I watched helplessly as the grandmother picked 5, 10, 15 legs, and the woman picked up the rest, at least 25 on her tray.
The latino man acted indifferent as he walked away to get something else to eat, while the young girl looked at the bottom of the empty tray in disbelief after the two crab-wranglers departed.
I awkwardly moved around and got myself a few more pieces of duck and some shrimp.
The lemon-butter had become gelatinous, cold, and disgusting by the time i sat back down.
I re-emerged with an unprecidented third idea in a row.
Put in the 50 cents, and dialed my own house number.
My mother picked up.
"Hi, i need you to do me a favor. Call anthony's house number and ask what his cell phone number is? do you see the number from where i'm dialing from?"
"Call me back in around 5 minutes, okay?"
As i stood on the corner waiting for the phone to ring, i turned my back and when i look at the phone booths again, my phone was occupied.
I panicked a little bit and hoped this person wouldn't take long.
He didn't. i hovered closer after he left, so that i would be able to pick up the phone when she called back.
The phone ra--well, beeped, but made some kind of noise, and i picked up.
I hung up.
30 seconds later.
I finished my duck and shrimp slowly as i sipped on my pepsi. I was starting to become full. had i just eaten the crab legs, i'd still be hungry.
I looked back at the food table. the little black girl was still there.
I decided to read the sports pages while i waited.
With 1.25 left, i attempted to dial my house number to ask her if she got the cell phone number.
50 cents put in, i start to dial.
The first 3 digits, after the zip code i start dialing the number to our OLD house.
I quickly hang up and hear the jingle of the coin slot return, like a vegas winner.
I push my finger to open the door of the slot, and it comes out half way. i can feel the quarters at the bottom, but my fingers can't pull them out.
I try my pinky.
It's about this time where a tour group of young girls poses to take some shots of the building next to me. the camera is obscured by the phone booth, but i see five girls in a pose seemingly staring straight at me as i jam my pinky in the coin slot, desperate to salvage my remaining change.
I can almost get the quarters to the lip of ths slot, but not quite.
I grab my car keys and gently operate on the broken slot, successfully freeing my quarters, which i drop back in the pay slot and dial again, this time, the right number.
After a short conversation in which she gives me anthony's cell phone number, my pen runs out of ink so i impress it deeply in the cover of my book:
"Can you please call anthony's house and tell him to expect a call to his cell phone from someone who found my phone?
"You call him and tell him, why do you want me to do it?"
A familliar metallic voice talks over the conversation: "You have one minute left."
Me: "because i'm running out of money...i need to call my own cell phone and leave a message so if someone finds the phone, they'll call him to return it"
Metallic voice: "ten seconds"
Me: "i'm out of money for call--"
Metallic voice: "--goodbye." (dialtone)
Every five minutes or so, i glance back across the room. i notice the woman from before, who had taken an ungodly amount of legs: she was sitting at the table with a toddler and a young man and a very elderly man in a wheelchair. small family, maybe, and they were all sharing in the bonanza.
I had precieved her as greedy at first, but i realized that she had reasons for the amount she took.
On the other hand, leaving the young girl with nothing left....
Sports page. The knicks were doing god-awful. The atlantic division was worse, though, and the knicks were a game out of first place.
After walking back to the financial center to my aunt's building and briefing her on the situation, i realize that it's starting to get dark out fast, and 34th and penn is several miles away, and my my feet were starting to feel awful sore from all the walking.
I decided to use the public transportation provided and paid for by the taxpayers: the subways.
My aunt has mentioned that the nearest subway station to her was grand central. As i'm somewhat(mostly) unfamiliar with midtown, in fact, have barely been there more than several times in my life, i had no idea where to go.
A david cross look-alike sat on the bottom steps, using a stylus with a very small wireless technojunk.
"Scuse me sir? SIR?"
He looks up.
"Do you know where the subway is?
"Grand central. that way" he hastily says as he nods his head in the vague direction of straight ahead.
I follow the instructions, after several blocks, i ask a smoker outside a restaraunt.
"Grand central? Keep going, make a left at the end."
I walk into grand central station under an overhang advertising Michael Jordan's steakhouse.
Almost done with the sports page, i look up and notice a fresh tray of legs coming. There's no one else at the table.
I put down the paper, get up and grab my plate: first one there. the young girl lollygags in behind me, while across from me is the latino man.
It's a huge batch coming, i could easily get 20 legs from it.....
I've lived in or around the city of new york for my entire life, and i had never been to grand central station before. the top was domed and looked like a planetarium, the floors were laid out like a ballroom, and what semed like thousands of people, swarming like a colony of ants, scattered to and fro to board metro-north trains. i walked around dazed for a bit. this was my first touristy feature in years; and i had no idea where the subways are.
10 minutes of wandering corrected that, as i followed the signs to the shuttle bus.
I had seen images of trains in india, packed full of people inside, outside, on the sides, roof, and handbars, but i never expected a similar experience here.
A cursory glance at a scheduele clock explained this: it was 5:00. time for the evning rush.
I walked to the train as the doors were still open. the first car was packed completely, it would be impossible to get in. same as with the second through the seventh cars. the eight car had a little space, so i squeezed in.
People backed away to give some illusion of space, but everyone was touching at least one other person.
Two other people tried to get in as the doors closed and the bell dinged. An old man had the door clamp on his arm, as he wriggled in, they reopened; and a short latino man tried to burrow in after him, having the fdoor shut in his chest as he forced his way in.
The old man started to gripe arout his day. I mentioned the weather, and he went off on a rant that would make lewis black look blunt. I could feel the heat of the eyes of the other passangers for breaking the unwritten taboo of not talking on a rush hour train.
At the 42nd stop, i had a choice. i could either walk the 8 blocks to 34th, or take a subway train. several mazes later, i found myself deep in the dungeon of 7-train land. as i glanced at the scheduele, i found that i would require the services of the A C or E trains instead. the escalator was broken, and the gravity of the stairs seemed almost unbearable.
The waitress dumps the legs into the brine, and the latino man starts a grabbing frenzy. I hesitate, mostly in shock of the speed this man operates at....
There's got to be less than 25 crab legs by the time he's done.
I grab just 3 of them and give the tongs to the little black girl behind me. i'm not hungry anymore.
the three legs i took were the best damned crab legs i'd had all day.
When i got the 34th, i could feel the cool night breeze on my skin from the exit; rather than go underground back to the LIRR, i decided to head to the surface.
Madison Square Garden, home to the one of the worst still-in-contention teams in NBA history, loomed in the distance, as i walked to Penn. it was chaos when i got there around 5:50; as much foot traffic as grand central, maybe more. luscious aromas filled the air, of popcorn and hot dogs and fried things as i approached the food areas, past the NJ transit area. the board indicated no trians on my line for another 20 minutes; i needed to sit down badly. i gave into the overwhelming hunger from the scents that sourrounded the area, wolfed down a 99 cent hot dog and gently sipped on my buck fifty pepsi, risking brain-freeze effect.
It was quite possibly the best hot dog i had ever eaten in my entire life.
I took my time with the rest of the meal, had a chinese donut, some rice, and a few other things, until i was full. My legs felt much better.
Paid the bill, got the fortune cookie, and as per tradition, ate the whole cookie before readng the fortune.
I smiled a bit when i read what it had to say:
"Crisis is often an opportunity in disguise".
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