Everywhere I look, the news is troubling and sad. Was going to write something about it, but I don’t think I’m clear in my head right now – my injuries are preventing me from going to the gym, which in turn has led to the return of my insomnia, which in turn is leaving me fuzzy.
Not a good start to the week but the weather’s cooled down enough for me to make some lasagne.
Life is better with lasagne.
Here’s an Instagram pic I took of it – oh, and find me on Instagram and Twitter.
I remember what I was doing that day/night well since it happened just under a year since the 9/11 attacks.
Was actually in a real estate closing when I realized that I was missing a check. So I made a mad dash to my office to get it.
On the train ride back to the meeting, the train got stuck in the tunnel. Was already panicked as this was only my third real estate closing so I remember that when the AC shut off in the subway car, I was already a sweaty mess. I also remember the subway car windows steaming up because of the humidity.
Hours later, the car doors opened in the middle of the tunnel and we worked our way in the dark to the station – we used our mobile phones for light. When I finally got out, I was a mile or so from the closing so I ran there with the check.
Was so absorbed in getting to the meeting that I barely noticed that there were no lights.
Arriving, I banged the door repeatedly when the building manager finally came and opened the door. “I’m…here…for the closing. Checks.” I said, breathlessly.
“Closing?” he said, “There’s a ___ing blackout. There’s no closing.” And the slammed the door in my face. Only then did I look up and think, Well, that’s weird.
Eventually, I made it over to Rain’s apartment where we ended up BBQing on his roof since his fridge was stocked. I remember sitting on his roof ledge in a rumpled suit, dirty from my tunnel run.
Hours later in the dark, finally managed to grab a $80 cab ride back to my pad. We went at like three miles an hour up to the Upper West Side because of all the pedestrians and lack of light.
When I got home, found my sister waiting for me since she couldn’t make it to her home. Back then I had a car so I lent it to a buddy to go check up on his mom in Philly. End up eating everything out of my fridge for a late dinner.
Two things happened that day:
I have a checklist for closings now so I never forget another check.
Back then it was kinda dive-y but I was younger and stupider then. Back then, the legendary P&G Bar – which you might know from the Runaway Bride or any number of other films – and the Yogi’s Bar were typical for the neighborhood.
Al Pachino’s Needle Park took place just a few blocks from my doorstep and the film the Warriors had shots all over my hood including the 95th Street Station exterior shots.
After Trump moved into the area and fixed up the pier and they installed the new subway station at West 73rd Street, the place really took off.
But last week, my old haunt, Big Nicks closed. Their menu was as big as a book and if you wanted a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, and a side of gyro with chili at 2:34 AM, they had it. With a Fosters beer, for some strange reason.
As an insomniac, wrote a lot of stuff there; a lot of The Men Made of Stone was done in front of greasy plates there.
That leaves me with two dive bars left in the UWS.
There’s this poem in Chinese I like that goes:
shao xiao li jia lao da hui, xiang yin wu gai bin mao shuai.
er tong xiang jian bu xiang shi ，xiao wen ke cong he chu lai.
少 小 离 家 老 大 回， 乡 音 无 改 鬓 毛 衰.
儿 童 相 见 不 相 识， 笑 问 客 从 何 处 来？
Basically, this dude leaves his hometown and comes back an old man for the first time in decades. He sees children playing and laughing – like he did with his childhood friends – but they’re not him, and they’re not his friends.
But they’re just like him and them when they were kids.
And they call out to him: Hello stranger! And it’s nostalgic and sad in the sense that he’s now a stranger in his own hometown – it doesn’t recognize him and he doesn’t recognize it.
I think one day I’ll leave here and everything will have changed and be like I remember it, but not.
Suppose that’s true anywhere.
More practically: Dammit, there’s no place else now to get a bagel, slice of pizza, foot-long hotdog, a side of gyro, with chili and a Fosters Beer at 2:34 AM.
I wish some things stayed the same.
Not all. Just some.
In other news, went to see the folks last night. It looked and felt like spring.
However, this isn’t a mere coincidence, in fact, it goes to the heart of why I was so irritated at Kirkus Indie when they said that they would assign me a “qualified reviewer” to review my work.
By qualified reviewer, it implies a reader of crime fiction. After all, a reader of children’s books is probably not going to like the amount of violence in a noir crime thriller.
But anyone that reads crime fiction would know that The Men Made of Stone was based on actual events. Moreover, these actual events were recounted in a somewhat famous New Yorker article by Fredric Dannen named – you guessed it – Revenge of the Green Dragons.
Therein lies the nexus.
I never read Dannen’s article but I knew all about the Green Dragons and similar gangs growing up because any Asian-American in Queens and Manhattan during the 80s and 90s knew something about them.
Now, there’s a joke I tell all the time: Do you know the nerds growing up that were never picked to be on a team? Well, I was the guy that those nerds beat up.
As an adult, though, I found there’s one small benefit to being a nerdy nobody growing up; it meant that could fade into the background and listen and observe. Since most of these stories were second, third, and fourth-hand knowledge, that meant that I was probably getting highly exaggerated versions of what was actually going on.
Perfect for any budding writer.
When it came time to write my book, it was a fictionalized account of fictionalized accounts of actual events – as well as a combining of the stories of the Green Dragons, the Born to Kill Gang and the London Kray Brothers.
Just based on what I’ve read, it seems that Lau and Scorsese’s story is their fictionalized based-on-actual-events account of the Green Dragons alone.
But because both stories are based on the same germ of truth, I’m wondering what overlap, if any, there will be. It’s a bit like a modern day, real-life Rashomon – another crime noir reference for those of you that follow the genre.
There is one overlap that I’m already aware of. The thing that infuriated me the most about Kirkus Reviews was that the reviewer said a scene in my book in a pool hall was “completely unrealistic.”
Except that pool hall scene actually happened.
In fact, here’s a video of that scene being shot for Lau and Scorsese’s version of that event four days ago.
In any case, knowing Scorsese and Lau’s prior work, I assume we’ll see the usual suspects of: Loyalty, honor, violence, and revenge – all the ingredients of a good story, IMHO – with the added bonus of it being about Asian-Americans.
Looks like a winner to me.
Oh, and here’s my completely fictionalized version of what happened:
Location: out in Queens, coincidentally
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This weekend Hazel and I went to a rooftop party, crashed the Manic Panic 30 year anniversary party, and crashed the NYC Live Earth party at the Maritime Hotel. The rooftop party was fun, Manic Panic had free products and the Live Earth had an open bar. No rum, though.
I’ve been hanging out with my buddy Sheridan’s group of friends – a motley mix of Jewish and Asian. We floated into the latter two parties because Hazel was “Cynthia Wong” that night. At Manic Panic, I met this sweet looking girl who turned around and had this gi-normous tatoo on her back. Surprising – she looked like the (Chinese) girl next door.
Sheridan’s out and about more than me. A few weeks earlier we went to R Bar where I, of course, ended up talking to 22 year olds. Somehow we slipped in a limo going to Azza. There another very sweet looking girl walked up to me, introduced herself, and asked me if I had cocaine. (?!)
Said no but we hung out until it was time to go home. Of course, she was 22 too.
Didn’t exchange info with tattoo girl, cocaine girl or any woman in the past three weeks. My social card is full and I’m swamped with work. Plus, something tells me that Ms. Right isn’t going to open with, “Hi cutie – have any coke?”
My social life is entertaining, scratch is coming in and, most importantly, I’m getting sleep.
Can’t tell you what all that is doing for my mood.
Me: Do you remember hitting me on New Years? Her: I hit you?! Why? Me: Well, someone, not me, grabbed your butt and you turned to me and you were all pissed. You asked, “Did you grab my butt?” And I said, “No.” Her: Did you grab my butt? Me: No. Her: Then what happened? Me: Then I grabbed your butt. And you immediately slapped me. Her: (pause) Was it any good? Me: (pause) Yes. It was totally worth it.
We then both laughed. My friends are awesome. She thinks I’m in love with her, I think she’s in love with me. We’re both wrong – a good thing.
One would think that, with the sheer quantity of alcohol I ingested last night, I would have slept like death.
One would be mistaken.
I saw a ton of friends last night and it was hella fun. It was my first new year’s eve as a single guy, I think ever in my adult life. Kinda weird. And as the night wore on, it got progressively weirder.
I got slapped at least once but it was totally worth it (not (exactly) what you think)
Almost dis-robed a very cool girl I met last night (totally by accident) – she did not look pleased but I hope to see her again anyway
Got hit on by a friend (that was weird)
Regretted not hitting on her back (that was weirder)
Alexander the Great used to burn his boats once his army landed somewhere so that they had no choice but either fight and win or die in a foreign land.
Heart in hand, I made my way to the west side uptown line. I haven’t taken a cab by myself in a while and I feel it’s somewhat wasteful. Plus the walking always clears my mind.
I was in the subway and this very small woman had a bag covering her hand so that she didn’t have to hold onto the railing.
Not that I blame her, I would do the same thing; there’s 4.7 million subway riders a day. That’s more people than most cities have. You’ve gotta figure someone has something nasty.
But the thing was that this woman had a tiny, tiny sandwich bag around her tiny, tiny hand. I looked at her, then at this pretty blond sitting across from she and we both laughed. The blond took out a pen and a pad and wrote out something. We then reached my stop and the blond exited also.
I had to ask.
Me: Did you write about that woman? Her: Yes, not that I blame her, I would do the same thing. I have a blog about the subway… Me: Funny you say that, it just so happens…
We exchanged blog information, which I think is so comically modern (note that this is all at two or three in the morning). If you’re at all interested, her blog is here.
Yes, I am a complete dweeb. But, I would like to point out that you are reading the blog of a complete dweeb.