Wednesday, August 02, 2006


There are people we know, and people we both know and love. We meet people, or we're born into knowing them, and we fall in love with them. We fall in love with these people in vastly different ways -- you wouldn't express your love for your wife the same way you would for your brother -- but it's love just the same. These people, the ones we love, constitute what's known as our inner circle.

We care about the people in our inner circle. If you're in mine, I'll lift heavy things when you need me to, or I'll mow your lawn. Or give you a ride to the airport. If you're in my inner circle, I'll expect you to give me food. I'll expect this because there's a precedent. You've given me food before, and I've no reason to think it won't happen again whenever I ask. This is fine, you'll think. You'll give me the food I've asked you for because I've probably installed your air conditioner. Or put together your bed. Or carried your sofa through the snow when you moved out to Coram.

This is what an inner circle is all about. It's about keeping score, and making absolutely certain that the favor tally matches up at the end of the day. Yes, I said it. That's precisely what it's about.

Outside our inner circle is what's known as the rest of the world. The Great Unwashed. All those dumb motherfuckers out there who don't know us, and couldn't give a rat's ass if we live or die. If we dropped off the face of the earth tomorrow morning, it wouldn't make a damned bit of difference to them, and it wouldn't matter a lick to their inner circle either, unless, by some strange coincidence, their inner circle somehow overlaps with ours. When that happens, you offer some throwaway line like, "Hey, small world, eh?" and you carry on with whatever it was you were doing before you learned this information.

These moments offer what we call glimmers of recognition, but they don't happen very often. We'll adhere to the script, offer the requisite throwaway line, and smile and shake our heads as if our inner circle intersects with that of someone from the Great Unwashed virtually every day. It doesn't, and we know this because what happens, most of the time, is that we don't actually know the person who comes up in conversation. We've heard of them, but that's the extent of it. We wouldn't recognize them walking down the street. They couldn't pick us out of a lineup. For all we know, the person we're claiming to know could be the same cocksucker who cut in front of us, across three lanes of traffic without signaling, to get off the expressway. It could be, but we wouldn't know because most times, the only thing that truly matches between the inner circles of two random people are names, and names alone.

Eventually, when you get older and scarred and have to work for a living, you realize why the Great Unwashed exist. You have no use for them and don't want them around, but they won't go away and eventually you figure this out. You have a moment of clarity between infuriations, and it all unfolds before you. Why they're out there, that is.

After ruminating on this for the better part of three decades -- with much of this rumination taking place while standing on a carpeted box -- I've finally had my epiphany. I finally understand why you're all here. Why you take up space in restaurants, on the road, on the subway, in the gym, in the supermarket and everywhere else I'm trying to accomplish something.

You were put here to get in the way.

Obviously, there's not a whole hell of a lot you can do about it. And there's nothing I can really do to get the fuck our of your way. It is what it is, especially here in New York, where getting in the way is what life is all about. Where just by the simple act of leaving your house, or apartment or cardboard box, you're taking seconds, minutes and even hours away from people who need them.

This concept hits home nightly for me at work, where New York's professional obstacles choose to unwind. They stand in doorways. They block flights and flights of stairs. They stop in entryways, causing logjams. They preclude any sort of efficiency. They do this because they're drunk, and stupid, and because they don't have the "necessities" to know better.

Have you ever told a Guido to stop blocking a doorway? Have you ever told a prostitute to move out of a stairwell? Have you ever tried to reason with them? To explain to them, in terms they can understand, what they're doing wrong?

Something new happened on Friday. Something I hadn't seen before. A dilemma I hadn't ever considered:

A morbidly obese man came to the door, alone. He weighed, easily, at least five-hundred pounds. When the morbidly obese come to your door, you have to let them in. I'm heartless, but not to the point where I'd send a man in a muumuu packing. I couldn't do that. No fucking way. If what the guy had in mind, when leaving the house, was to come to the club and feel something, who the fuck am I to tell him he can't?

"You let that dude in?"

"What the fuck was I supposed to do?" I asked. "You wanna be the one to tell some handicapped guy he can't fuckin' come in? And don't even tell me that's not a handicap. I'm not gettin' involved in an argument with some guy and lookin' like an asshole out here."

What he did, however, was get in the way. That's what our obese friend did. He got in the way. You can be sympathetic toward a man and his condition. You can go out of your way not to offend. You can think all the right thoughts. You can say, "Wow, I'm lucky to have my health." And, "Boy, I'm so fortunate I'm not like that. I'll never let a day of exercise go to waste." You can be polite to him, and empathize, and make certain he doesn't feel like an animal in a zoo. You can do all of those things and still have it backfire in your face.

"Which one of you guys," asked JD, "let that giant fat guy in?"

"You can't say fat, dude. He's obese."

"Who let him in?"

"I did," I replied.


"Why not? What the fuck was I supposed to do?"

"You were supposed to use some fucking common sense," he said. "You were supposed to realize that letting a giant fucking fat guy into a crowded club is a bad idea."

It was a bad idea, because when he walked into the main room of the club, and saw daylight, he broke for it. Daylight, predictably, was someplace he wasn't supposed to stand: the service end of the main bar, where barbacks and waitresses run in and out throughout the night. The busiest part of the entire place, and he's blocking the whole fucking area and refusing to move.

"Go inside and take care of it."

"You want me to throw him out?" I asked.

"I said I want you to take care of it. Whatever you want to do is fine. Just get him the fuck out of the fucking service bar."

I tapped JD's elbow and pointed to a spot away from the podium, away from the other door bouncers. "Can we take a walk over there?"


"Listen, I get your fucking point, but do you really think it makes sense to send me in there to move that guy? Like it's my fault he's standing in front of the fucking service bar? You weren't up here when the guy came in, JD. What the fuck am I supposed to tell him? That he can't come in? Why? Because he's too fat? Who the fuck's gonna do that? The guy's clean, and well groomed, and there's nothin' wrong with him otherwise. He paid like everyone else."

"Come on, man," JD said. "Look at that fuckin' guy. What's he comin' here for? You'd have been doin' him a favor by not lettin' him in."

"Anyways, that's not even my fuckin' point. I just wanna know how it's my fault that the guy anchored himself in front of a busy area. When Freddie lets some stupid fuck from Staten Island in, and the guy gets in a fight, do you make Freddie go throw him out? I could tell you who every asshole in line is just from standin' here, but you still make me let 'em all in. Is that my fuckin' fault? Go tell one of the inside guys to go move him. That's what they're there for. And fine, lesson learned. I won't let obese guys in anymore, okay? My point is that I thought the situation through and tried to do the right thing. If the guy stays out front and calls the cops and starts yellin' about how he's gonna sue the club for discrimination, you'd have been out here tellin' me I shoulda just let him in."

"Fine. You made your point."

"I'm just sick of all the fuckin' catch twenny-two shit that goes on up here. Do it one way, I'm wrong. Do it the other way, I'm wrong too. You think I give a shit about that guy and his fucking feelings? You make a call on some stupid little bullshit, and somebody doesn't like what you did, like you, and now you're up here yellin' at me like I just dropped the test tube with the fuckin' cure for cancer in it. It's a fucking bar, man. It's just a fucking bar."

"You okay?" he asked.

"I just got a lot on my mind lately."

"I know you do. You ever want to..."

"I don't," I interrupted. "And if I did, it sure as hell wouldn't be with you."

"That's a relief."