Friday, July 29, 2011

City Life: Subway Logjams Suck Ass

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Stephen Gianakis is sweating. Wearing a double-breasted wool suit will make you do that when you’re forced to stand for several stops on a crowded rush-hour subway train. Mr. Gianakis, a bond trader, is making the trek this morning from his Upper West Side apartment to his job in the Financial District. His immediate concern, however, is neither perspiration nor punctuality.

“This ride sucks in and of itself,” said Mr. Gianakis, 34, “but it’s these dumb motherfuckers who try to get on the train before everyone else gets off that make this shit fucking miserable.”

It would seem logical for passengers waiting to board subway trains to stand aside and allow debarking passengers to exit – there are regular announcements to this effect – but the practice doesn’t seem to have caught on among the majority of New York straphangers.

If you’ve ever tried to leave a subway car and found yourself in the midst of a standoff with a dull-eyed fellow commuter, you’re in good company. According to a comprehensive analysis performed by the New York Mass Transit Logistics Association (NYMTLA), roughly 30% of Manhattan commuters will attempt to board trains with no regard for societal convention, common courtesy or common sense.

“We’ve run the numbers on this over a five year period,” says Jason Moffatt, a NYMTLA research analyst, “and what we’ve found is that people in New York City, especially in Midtown Manhattan, tend to disregard what decent people consider to be rules. I’m speaking subjectively here, but what makes sense to people with at least average intelligence isn’t always the way things work in practice.”

Mr. Gianakis agrees. “I ride this motherfucking train every fucking day, and it just blatantly sucks. From the hot stations that ruin my fucking clothes ten minutes after I get out of the fucking shower to these fucking people I have to ride with, by the time I get where I’m going, I want to take a chainsaw to all these fucking people standing in front of the door. Seriously. One day I totally fucking will.”

Following his organization’s extensive five-year research project, Mr. Moffatt said NYMTLA’s statisticians have noted a number of common threads among commuters who fail to step aside. “We’ve charted just about everything about them,” she said, “and it seems as though the practice is most common among Eastern European and Asian tourists, along with high school students. It’s also quite prevalent among people without work-related paraphernalia like briefcases, which is indicative of a state of unemployment. This piqued our curiosity as to why they’re in such a hurry to get on the train.”


Unbeknownst to Joseph Merritt, he’s been under NYMTLA observation for two years. Mr. Merritt, 43, is a self-employed “search engine optimization specialist” from Yonkers who commutes daily from Grand Central Terminal to Water Street in the Financial District. He also consistently attempts to run into subway trains as soon as the doors open, infuriating at least those fellow passengers with intelligence levels high enough to notice how irritating he is.

“We’ve run surveillance on him long enough to be able to predict what he’s going to do on the platform,” said Mr. Moffatt. “He was, essentially, the spark that set off the entire study, because he abjectly refused to have any regard for the personal space of his fellow commuters. That, of course, extends to his habit of inexplicably rushing onto the train for no apparent reason.”

Mr. Moffatt said Mr. Merritt’s decorum hasn’t improved one iota over two years. “The guy’s a fucking asshole, honestly. There was one night we followed him, and he shoves his way onto the train even though there was plenty of space, and you know what he does? The fucking guy lit up a cigarette. On a fucking subway train. I looked at my colleague, and I was like, ‘I went to college to fucking follow this guy around?’ I mean, what the fuck?”

At the end of his workday, Mr. Merritt’s subway behavior seemed to have deteriorated further. Sporting a pair of white “earbud” headphones connected to an iPod, his music was audible – and abrasive – from the opposite end of his subway car.

When he first boarded the train, Mr. Merritt seemed content to stand holding the pole in the section of floor between the two middle sets of doors. After a few stops, however, he continually bent down for reasons Mr. Moffatt – observing the situation from approximately ten feet away – could not ascertain. In the process, he repeatedly brushed his hair across the hand of Mr. Gianakis, the other man holding the pole.

“If he did it again, I was going to punch him in the face,” said Mr. Giannakis. “Are you fucking kidding me? Stand still, you stupid fucking drug addicted fuck. What the fuck do they all have to fucking touch me for? People are fucking disgusting. And hand sanitizer? You really think that shit’s going to work? I don’t even like eating lunch anymore. Fuck this.”


For commuters like Mr. Merritt, according to Mr. Giannakis, commuting on the subway is a pleasure. “Oh, he doesn’t fucking care,” he said. “He’s too stupid to fucking care. He’s got an easy life, because he can walk around being so fucking stupid that he’s got a fucking bulls-eye on his fucking head, but if I give him what he deserves and punch his fucking face in, I’m the one who goes to jail. Fuck that guy, man. Fuck all these fucking people. Must be a really great life being a fucking moron.”

Dr. Barbara Feldspar, a Brooklyn psychologist and expert on decorum regression, says Mr. Merritt’s behavior is strictly biological in nature.

“We’d like to think this sort of thing has something to do with the quality of one’s parenting, but I’ve rarely found that to be the case,” she said. “The extensive testing that’s been done on these people has simply shown them to be of less than average intelligence. Very far down the scale in some cases. That’s why I’ve begun carrying a Taser on my way to work. I’ve theorized that all I have to do is shock one of these people, and the rest will move out of the way. Clinical studies have shown that the stupid respond rapidly to force.”

The New York City subway system, said Dr. Feldspar, tends to amplify one’s mental deficiencies in ways that may not be quite as apparent aboveground. “On the subway, people are in such close quarters that they’re forced to use common sense. The problem, however, is that very few people have any. When you take a person who’s barely functional in polite society and place him in a situation where he actually has to address the needs of others and show care and caution, he’s not going to be very successful. We see this every day, and it’s generally why people stab one another.”

This, said Mr. Giannakis, is why his health is beginning to decline. “It’s total, total bullshit. The world is a completely fucking unfair place when I have to get up in the morning and I can’t just go to work and be a productive member of society without some fucked up piece of shit touching me with his hair or not letting me off the fucking subway. It sucks. New York sucks. I hate this fucking place. Seriously, fuck all of you.”

“As someone who’s monitored this closely for years,” added Mr. Moffatt, “I really find these studies amazing, because this behavior is so foreign to anyone who knows how to tie his own shoes. As a guy who rides the subway every day, though, I’ve come to consider everyone else on the train my fucking enemy.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Here’s what happened.

Someone very, very, very, very close to me was diagnosed with cancer, and I went off the deep end because two other people who were very, very, very, very close to me have died from cancer over the past 16 years. I erroneously started focusing on something that had nothing to do with this person’s troubles. I did that because this person, who cares about me more than anyone else in the world, chose to focus on that other something instead of her own situation – and that led me to do the same.

I just spent the last several hours hanging out with this person and talking, and there has been a shift.

Some people wait until Monday to begin an exercise program, or the first of the month to start a diet. I’ve never been like that. I’ve never needed milestones to start anything. She does, though. She’s always been like that.

“Let’s just get out of July, man. Let’s just focus on getting to August.”

And we will. Fuck you, July. Eat a dick.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life, man. Life.

The 1 train at South Ferry is a very nice place to think, at least for the seven minutes it sits idle before leaving, plus the three minutes it takes to get to Chambers Street, where you transfer to the 2 or the 3. You transfer to the 2 or 3 if you actually want to get where you’re going. You stay on the 1 if you don’t give a flying fuck. I transferred today. I was in the rear car of the train, so when I got to Chambers, I walked around that inexplicable railing on the south end of the uptown platform, sat on it, and waited for the 2.

You don’t really sit on that rail. You lean. It’s a comfortable lean for someone my height, but with the heat on the platform and the never-ending trickle of jerkoffs that stand too close, you can’t settle in the way you want to. You’re always on the move, squirming. Inching left. Inching right. Taking a walk. Checking the sign to see when the next fucking train is coming. Making as much forward progress as you can, just to get the shit over with and get home. Or get to work. There’s really nowhere else to go, is there?

That’s what there is for me right now. Home and work. Work is work, and I can shut it down and not think about what happened on Sunday – at least not constantly. Home is home, and I tend to dwell on it, but at least I’m in the middle of it, which is where I need to be, and where people need me. In between is where I figured I’d find problems, but when I ride the subway, all I’m thinking about is how to ride the fucking subway. None of this shit’s on my mind when I’m worried about staying as far away from them as I comfortably can. When I’m checking to see if the 2 train passed the 1 train so I’ll know whether changing trains is worth the hassle. When I’m worried about keeping my new briefcase off the floor. When I’m enraged at the people who don’t give a shit how loud their fucking music is when it comes through their cheesy-ass stock iPod earbuds.

When some guy slides between trains with a bucket and yells about how “lucky” I am and wants my money.

I remember the first time I took her into Manhattan with me on one of my school-cutting deals. It was a bad idea, and I knew it, but I did it anyway. I’d cut school and take the train down to West 4th Street and play basketball. I had a purple backpack. I would pack my ball, some bananas and a container I’d frozen the night before so it would melt and turn into cold water. When I got to the playground, I’d climb all the way up to the top of the fence and hang my backpack on one of the metal posts. That way, if anyone went up there to steal it, even while I was playing, I’d see him and raise the hue and cry – and people wouldn’t put up with that shit back then. Even the street guys. Nothing ever happened.

I played and played and played and sat on the side, waiting for more run with guys who didn’t have homes. I could shoot.

I took her in there on the train and we roamed around, and she watched me play ball, and then we roamed around some more and went home. We were filthy by the time we got back. The city was a dirty shithole back then, and basketball at West 4th was about the dirtiest thing a 16-year-old kid could do in Manhattan short of driving a backhoe. We didn’t know where the fuck we even were. I wish I knew the city now like I knew it then – which was not so much. It still had something for us. It doesn’t anymore. Especially not now. The only surprises you get now are ones you don’t want.

But when I think of that stuff when I think about New York, everything else goes away the way I want it to. I was all about this place for a long, long time, and I want to be again. I just need her to make it and it’ll be okay again. I know it will. We’ve come too far from there to just fold up.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Something Happened

Life works like this.

It’s all fucking relative. This is so clichéd it’s a bad joke, really, but it’s true. You go through your stupid little life with blinders on, thinking you’ve got “real” problems when things don’t break your way. Then something smacks you in the mouth and reminds you what a genuine, dyed-in-the-wool problem actually looks and feels like.

Honestly? It’s liberating, especially for someone like me, who has a history of problems that actually are “real” on just about anyone’s scale. I didn’t want the reminder, but I probably needed it. What I didn’t need was for it to be at someone else’s expense, but that’s how it is. And no, it’s not my fault. I’m the solution here, not the cause.

It happened yesterday morning. That would be Sunday, if you’re keeping track. My phone rang at exactly 10:23 AM, Eastern Daylight Time, and the news I received was markedly unpleasant. Ridiculously unpleasant. So unpleasant, in fact, that it knocked me out of this fucking stupor I’ve been in, and brought me back to some semblance of reality. My paradigms? They fucking shifted, that’s for sure. Every other “problem” in my life is now just fucking background noise.

I figure there’s two kinds of bad news: the kind that knocks you on your ass and doesn’t let you move, and the kind that leaves you no option but to get up and fucking do something. Yesterday’s was the second kind.

And what was it?

Make a list of a the five worst pieces of news you could ever possibly hear. It’s not number one, but it’s not number five, either. That’s what it was. Do the math.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I went out for a work-related happy hour and just got home. I had fun.

Off the top of my head, I'd say there are about five people that still read this blog who know me in person and actually worry about me. There used to be a lot more, but I haven't told anyone that I'm writing here again, and anyone who knows me hasn't checked this thing in months.

For the five of you who still do, I'm fine. Really. Have I ever been a problem?

You know where to reach me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Crap

I did good today. Very, very good. Well, too. I was up at 5:15, got my ass to work, and didn’t get home until after 10 – and here I am, sitting down to write something even though I’m tired as fuck. I think what I’m happiest about tonight is that I’m actually starting to give a crap again – about my “career,” about developing the discipline to do some shit I don’t want to do once in a while, and about learning the meaning of the word “professional.”

That’s probably the biggest key for me – being a pro. I think I can still be a little fucked in the head and complain about shit, but I’m pretty much free and clear to do that as long as I’m moving forward and trying to actually get better. Until recently, I was all former and no latter, and that shit doesn’t get you anywhere, because when you don’t do this every day, you start to suck at it. Sure, you can be grammatically correct and spell everything right, but you still suck because your mind isn’t working the way it needs to.

You’ll have to excuse me for writing posts like the ones you’re reading this week. It’s almost like I have to work these basics out in my head in order to start shaking the rust off so I can write about the good shit – stuff that happens at work, shit I see on the sidewalk, etc, etc. I need to get this crap out of my system and figure out my next move, and I need to open up my head and look around so I can figure out what to focus on. The whole bouncing thing was a damned good idea, but that’s out the fucking window now – even though I miss the ready-to-roll aspect of having funny shit to write about every single day.

My life right now isn’t as funny as it was five years ago. It can be, though. I just need to start looking at it like I used to.

Also, I’ve had a Kindle for about a year. Thing is fucking amazing. I’ll write out what’s on it soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Honestly, the reason I haven’t done dick as a writer – despite being able to write pretty fucking well – is that I’m lazy as shit and can’t get going most days. When your goal was (is) to write something people want to read – and that sells like a motherfucker – it’s a problem when you’d rather do anything but sit in a chair, at a desk, and crank shit out. Forget how long I did this and how much material is on this site. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re supposed to write every damned day if you want to be any good at this shit, and I don’t.

Got some furniture to move? Need a roof on your house? I’ll sit there and bang it out without a break. Need a few paragraphs written? I’ll need a few months on that, thanks.

This post right here is a perfect example. I typed less than 100 words, then stopped what I was doing to see who just texted me.

Then, after typing this last sentence – and I even thought about turning my fucking phone off while I was typing it – I replied to this bullshit text that meant absolutely nothing to my life in the grand scheme of things, then sat there staring at my phone to see what the reply would be. And the reply was more bullshit, but me being me, I sent something back. And so on.

Meanwhile, this post sat here unattended.

For me, it’s about output and discipline. The former is painfully low. The latter, I don’t have. At all, at least with writing. It sucks, and it’s something I have to do something about. Even now, I’m looking at the clock, and I’m realizing I have to go to sleep soon – but I haven’t done jack shit tonight except write a post complaining about how badly I suck at sticking with this tenaciously enough to make something out of it.

And I’ve been sitting here texting the entire time, even though I mentioned turning my phone off a few paragraphs back.

It’s a problem.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Hi Everyone.

For the (now very) few of you who’ve hung in there checking this site every day for, well, something, I have some news for you. Of course, if you’re familiar with all my false starts here, you’ll take this with an understandable grain of salt, but I’m going to start writing here a lot more – about just about anything and everything.

Why? Because I’ve spent a couple of years now writing solely for work, and I want to start branching out again and seeing where things lead. I’ve become something of a “professional” – notice the quotes – in this “business,” but I’ve fallen into a rut where I just go to work every day, do the same thing for ten hours, and go home. There’s obviously nothing wrong with this, and I’ve been doing that, more or less, for my whole life, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and I’m ready to do more. I’m also quite capable of doing a lot more.

And yeah, I’m fucking thrilled to death to have a job, but I’m tired of falling back on that as an excuse to not be dissatisfied. People are doing shit despite the way things are. They’re putting out books, they’re making movies and they’re making money, because they’re taking risks and not paralyzed by the lack of self-confidence that’s been murdering me for the past few years.

So, consider this an introductory post for an entirely new chapter in my career – one where I actually get off my ass and do something. That’d be kind of nice, wouldn’t it?

I’m tanned, rested and ready to roll.