August 5, 1995
I just had dinner with Klinger and Fun. The girl who waited on us is my new obsession. Waitresses are my favorite. They’re sitting ducks. Responding in a cheerful manner when I launch a charm initiative is part of their job description. The more receptive they are to my charm, the bigger the tip. And they know it.
Tonight’s candidate was a heart-breakingly beautiful Italian named Robin. Long, black hair and a body built for steam. She’s a student at Yale who’s in the city for the summer break. Jennifer went to Yale, too. You’re not supposed to think that people who attend Ivy League schools are anything special but I’m telling you, a cute girl who goes to Yale has extra hotness. Naturally, I feel completely inadequate around them. As far as I could tell, Jennifer was crazy about me. But I couldn’t get past the fact that she was a Yale graduate. Pretty smart of me, right?
I made Robin laugh a lot. Or, she was working hard for her tip. No matter. Either way, it was satisfying. She’s only in town for three more weeks and then it’s back to New Haven. Every time she left the table, Fun said we were hitting it off and that I should get her number.
She lives with her boyfriend but he’s moving back to LA in a few days. She didn’t have anything nice to say about him. She’s in desperate need of a sublet because she’s losing her boyfriend AND the apartment. The fact that she’s a) leaving town, b) has a boyfriend, c) goes to Yale and is, hence, my intellectual superior and d) is kind of young for me means that this is an impossibility. So, naturally, I MUST HAVE HER. She grew up on the Upper East Side, where her parents still live. UES + Yale = $$$$. She didn’t come off as being spoiled, but she’s probably never wanted for anything in life.
I didn’t know how to get her phone number without it looking creepy but Fun came up with a plan. Robin needs to find a sublet fast. The idea was for me to tell her I have a friend who works in real estate (a lie) and get her number. Klinger said, “Why can’t she just stay with her parents? It’s only three weeks.” Good question. I wonder what the dynamic is there? I got her number and will call her in the morning and ask her out for drinks.
Klinger is having an apartment sale. He’s too broke to keep his spectacular flat on Jones Street and has to move into a roommate situation. It’s a tragedy. This town is so hard on people. He can’t move in with Fun because her parents are super-strict Chinese traditionalists. They’d kung fu his ass if he even asked. If I were any kind of friend I’d offer to let him stay here but I’m too selfish. Plus, at $535/month, I don’t need the help.
[Note: That neighborhood might’ve been junkie central, but for $535/month I got a rent controlled 950 sq ft two bedroom with wood parquet floors, a sunken living room and two exposures in a well-maintained art deco building that opened in 1930—the same year as the Chrysler Building. It was my luckiest break ever.]
His new apartment is around the corner and it’s a dump. When he showed it to me I didn’t know what to say. His room is no bigger than a jail cell. It’s about three paces wide by four paces long. There’s a small window that overlooks 6th Avenue. I don’t know how he expects to function there. He’s moving in with a woman and her 11-year old daughter. Outside his room the place was filthy. I’d go back to Ohio before I lived in a place like that. It’s uninhabitable.
I’m going to miss sitting in the windows at his place on Jones Street on warm summer days and looking down the shirts of girls as they walked by.
August 10, 1995
I’m bored and lonely. It’s a recipe for disaster 100% of the time. Not having anyone to go out with is awesome for my budget. It also frees up my time so I can think about all the things wrong with me. I couldn’t stand the silence anymore so I called Eve. [Note: Eve agreed to go out with me but I quickly rescinded the invitation because it upset a girl who imagined I was her boyfriend.] I told her I was just back from the hospital where I had a spine implant. It made her laugh but she said no thanks because she doesn’t need another emotional basket case in her life. So that went well.
I went to the gym and when I opened my gym bag and took my clothes out, I saw six or seven cockroaches all lined up in the seam at the bottom of the bag. Stowaways. I ran and got a paper towel and started smashing them but one or two got away and ran into a hole in the bottom of the locker. For the gym’s sake, I hope none of them are female.
I bumped into Sheila while walking up Lexington. I was tortured over that woman for so long. We chatted for a bit and, I swear to God, the entire time we spoke I was thinking to myself, “What did I ever see in this woman?” What a waste of time suffering is.
Uptown R train, 6:30 a.m.
Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
starlight and dewdrops are awaiting thee.
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Led by the moonlight have all passed away.
A body built for steam. Oo-err misses. Get you with your raunchy lingo. Everyone wants to nail a smart bird with looks and money, Its the ultimate prize. Hold on… I’m reading as I write my response here…What happened to the round Robin scenario? Spill it! Don’t you go leaving your readers high and dry like that! We want the droplets of steam to feast on!
My mum used to sing Beautiful dreamer to me when I went to bed. I always found it disturbing though I find your underground travellers more so.
Do I get bonus points for being the first commenter?
First! It IS special. It shows you’re paying attention.
I have no idea what ‘a body built for steam’ means. It’s nonsensical but I like the way the words roll off the tongue. It’s too bad I didn’t have the self-worth to nail a smart bird with looks and money. I think I could’ve.
‘Beautiful Dreamer’ is by Roy Orbison. It’s haunting and creepy. Just like those dudes.
Well, “Beautiful Dreamer” was written by a lush (Stephen Foster) so that figures.And a body built for steam could be right out of Raymond Chandler or Micky Spillane! 🙂
I had no idea! I know Roy Orbison recorded it so I just assumed it was his. Rookie mistake.
She was being nice to you because you were a white male who probably had the means to tip. I’ve been reading about the backlash against tipping, which, opponents say, grew out of slavery and remains inherently racist and sexist. But then, what isn’t?
She was being nice because she needed a place to stay. No WAY because I was charming. She was probably going back in the kitchen to vomit.
The tipping backlash started here in NYC. They say it’s an insult to a profession.
Wait wages are generally higher, I believe, in Canadian provinces than U.S. states. Both my older girls have waited and done okay. As for sexism and harassment, there are creeps everywhere, but get this: my daughter worked at a bar where the servers were reprimanded if their shorts were too short.
At long last…progress. It’s hard to imagine my little girls working in a bar but I suppose it’s inevitable. Especially since I don’t live on the Upper East Side.
“What a waste of time suffering is.” Loved that. AND Beautiful Dreamer with the subway pic? Awesome.
If suffering is such a waste of time, why is it so popular? Did you get an earworm from the song? I’m hoping I’m not the only one.
My grandfather used to sing it in his old gravelly voice, saying it was what made him fall in love with my grandmother. Every time I hear it, I think about him. He hated New York. 😉
LOTS of people hate New York, and with good reason. But it got under my skin and there it stayed.
It made the song and the photo even funnier. So thank you. 🙂
I fell asleep on a train once.Missed my stop and only woke when a guard came through checking no one was aboard as it was an end-of-line train.
I’m surprised a 6.30 on the R didn’t have more people!
You fell asleep in a train here in NYC?! Or back home? Or in the UK? That’s the most important part of the story.
Oh, years ago, in London. I’d worked double shifts and didn’t realise I was on a train that’s shunted to a workshop;thought I was on the “loop” of the District & Circle line.
And the monkeys are messing with comments again…this vanished yesterday!
We’ve all done it. Thankfully pre-digital.
That’s very charitable of you to admit. Still wouldn’t recommend it.
Oh how I remember the feeling of being intimidated by smart folks. I had a boyfriend who went to Harvard (as did three generations previously). He was an ass and I think he liked to intimidate. But I got over this fear of smart folks when a brilliant professor I knew at Harvard had to call maintenance to change a light bulb — in a table lamp. I figured that in one way — at the very least — I was smarter than a man considered one of the smartest people at Harvard. It was a revelation that changed my life.
Well, I certainly don’t feel that way any longer but that didn’t do me a lot of good in 1995. I don’t carry a pedigree from a university but I can talk a pretty good game. I was always certain these girls would eventually discover that I’m all talk and no paper and they’d give me the boot. I wanted to avoid that.
I don’t think going to New Haven is really “going away”. It’s only a two hour train ride away – there are probably places in Brooklyn and Staten Island that take longer to get to.
And good line about the spine – if that didn’t get you a second chance with Eve, it probably wasn’t meant to be. Chances are, you could well have ended up in “what did I ever see in her” mood a few weeks later.
I knew that New Haven wasn’t that far away. Had she been going to school in Miami, I wouldn’t of bothered getting her number. I remember Eve being very assertive and happy that I asked her out. It’s astonishing how quickly we can all go wrong. Sometimes, you don’t get a second chance.
The spine implant is quite good. God, I get nervous just imagining calling girls like this. So glad I got out of that when I did, before the Internet, don’t think I’d have the nerve for that either. The image of the roaches is juicy, no females, good. More angst. More female angst. Seems you’ve got a bit in your seams, still.
These entries make me seem like a miserable failure. But the truth is I quite enjoyed my dating years. New York is a fantastic place to go out. There’s always something interesting to do and you don’t need a lot of money to do it. It wasn’t as successful as I would have liked but I was never bored.
Education versus good common sense. The only problem is that now days a damn degree is a virtual necessity, unless you’ve been educated at a trade school. Some folks are snobs and feel they are superior to those who don’t have a degree. I’ve never felt that way but then again I don’t have a degree either. I was educated in a three year RN nursing program eons ago. The program was run by the Daughters of Charity here in my town. Those three year programs no longer exist. My only college credits are those obtained while in that program. The credits equal about 1 year or a bit more of college. Which is to say, nothing. 🙂
There are plenty of people that are successful that have never been to college. It seems that if you have money you are socially accepted in just about any crowd. But again, it depends on the company that you keep and whether those people are snobs or not.
I’ll take a degree over street sense ANY DAY. When looking for a job (or a girlfriend) it’s always preferable to have a tangible piece of paper. Trying to get work without a degree on your resume it rough trade. Take it from me. If you’ll allow me to throw modesty out the window for a moment, I think I’ve done pretty okay for myself considering I didn’t spend one day in college. But it was ROUGH TRADE for a while. Lots of wasted time.
I think you have plenty of smarts and that is what helped you prevail and get where you are now, despite not having that almighty degree.
Love your comment that suffering is a waste of time. It definitely can be! A positive spin on the notion that sometimes, we don’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone. 🙂
I’ve know suffering is a waste for a long time but I still indulge once in a while. It’s a good lesson to repeat over and over. That specific period I’m pulling from didn’t come with a lot of positive spin. Roaches and lonely nights.
As someone who waitressed for years, I’m not sure how to feel about this post. 😉 I was never very flirty, but I still made good tips (well, good tips for the pizza restaurant I worked). I also did a stint as a barmaid, but that didn’t last long. Great tips but lecherous, drunk men and billows and billows of smoke made me bid the place adieu.
I want you to understand I was never rude or crude. I thought I was flirty and breezy but I never made crude comments. If they seemed receptive, I continued. If they weren’t having any of my business, I ordered and shut it. Bartending looks like a rough way to make a living. Worse then because of the smoke.
I didn’t think you were rude or crude. I understood what you were saying. 🙂
Robin sounds as if she was ready to dump her boyfriend, and why shouldn’t she if the guy was moving to LA? I think you were adopting “the vulture position”, as Sam Malone once called it in Cheers. Worrying about the Yale thing was ridiculous – she probably thought you were a real man unlike her classmates.
My memory is vague but I think she was the one who was tossed to the curb. Hate to think of myself as being a vulture but I suppose the shoe fits. And OF COURSE worrying about Yale was ridiculous. I was a chump for that and may other reasons.
I wonder if your Ivy League waitress conquests, pr wannabe conquested, went on to settle down with their Ivy League counterparts? The cynic in me who comprises almost all of me figures that’s usually what happens.
Wow, that was a pretty sweet space you had despite the area crawling with junkies. I was always too much of a lightweight to live in a part of town that was too tough, but I do recall finding a junkie passed out in the entryway to my brownstone. He was familiar to me, so I wasn’t freaked out. I think that he probably came up from Riverside Park. There was quite a bit of that during the crack epidemic, even on the relatively safe Upper West Side in the West 70s in the 80s and early 90s. Back then, I just thought of it as normal.
I’ve been still thinking about The Humans. What do you think the eeriness at the end was about? It turned very creepy, especially when the dad was downstairs in the dark after the lights went out. At one point we saw a cleaning lady walk past in the outside hall, but I was thinking about his dream of the woman, the demon that haunts his subconscience, with skin over where her eyes, mouth and nose were. I wondered if she was going to step out of the shadows. And there was also the clang of pots and pans crashing down in the kitchen when he was alone. It was very disturbing at the end, even after he safely walks out and the door shuts by itself. I thought that meant that he was meant to just go on with his life. What did you make of all that?
I was wondering why someone who was a Yale student with wealthy parents had to waitress for tips. I don’t remember where we ate but I can assure you it wasn’t anyplace nice. Klinger and I were BROKE and never at anywhere except the cheap spots. I was very lucky to have that apartment. As bad as it ever got, I swore I would never leave. Then Mayor Giuliani came to town and the street did a complete flip. The junkies vanished. And junkies were easy. They’d nod. The Bronx had it worse with crack heads.
I don’t know what the final image of The Humans was supposed to signify but I loved it. I’m a bit thick when it comes to detecting metaphors but I can always appreciate a stunning visual, which is what that was. The door slam was perfect, perfect. Tonight, “Boy” at the Clurman.
Maybe waitressing was an act of rebellion? Tonight, I ratcheted up my masochism and watched the GOP debate. I’m sure you had a better evening than me. I’m also thick when it comes to metaphors, but I thought that last scene was very effective, too. There was such tension!
You’ve got to admire a woman who has (presumably) wealthy parents and waits tables. That’s indicative of good character.
I missed the debates. If I’d know there was a scheduling conflict I wouldn’t have double booked. But I got those tickets a while ago and I didn’t know. I enjoyed Boy much more than I thought it would. I was under the impression it would be a screech on how hard transgender people have it and how society is unfair to them (which is all true) but it was more compelling than that. The acting was superb across the board and except for one or two contrived scenes, it was worth the time. Next up: Her Requiem at LCT3 on Monday.
You realise that somewhere in the city, there is a cult of roaches that reveres you as a god?
For some reason I went on at length about where I found roaches and how ill it made me. I’m sparing you guys the details.
My first wife was a waitress. It was a lot of fun, her flirting and me leaving a two dollar tip every morning for for a 25 cent cup of joe. (1970 small town Ohio) Once again I can relate to your past journals. You have now talked about more cockroaches then I have seen in my life. Keep posting past journals and unique pictures of NYC.
I have spared you guys. This was a period when the building was infested and for some reason, I chronicled every roach sighting. To list every mention would be overkill. Thankfully, the problem was eventually solved, but it was a rough summer.
Aren’t waitresses the best? All my Cleveland dates were waitresses.
The dating was fun, the marriage not so much. Years later I went back to the same restaurant and hooked up with another waitress, just for fun this time.
That place has a good menu! Where did you say it was?
Oh no, more roaches. And in your gym bag. I hope you washed it after that. I probably would have just thrown the whole bag away! You have so many tales. I’m sure Robin just would have turned out to be really boring or something. Your friend’s apartments sounds horrible. When I think of New York that’s the kind of thing I think about. People being squished into little cell-like boxes. And I didn’t even imagine the cockroaches. Didn’t go there. Your last picture is great with the Roy Orbison lyrics. It’s the icing on the cake of your post.
Good morning, Amy. There are many more roach stories. For some strange reason, I found it important to chronicle, in fine detail, all my roach problems that summer. I’m happy to report that the problem was eventually cleared up and I spent many, many roach-free years in my apartment. Gross, isn’t it?
Some people put up with deplorable living conditions just to say they live in Manhattan. It’s important to them. I was always very fortunate in that all of my apartments fell into my lap. I had a roommate for a short while after moving there but then found my own place and never had one again. If you can conquer the housing problem in New York, everything else becomes just an inconvenience.
I picked up an earworm from Beautiful Dreamer, so mission accomplished. But Alfalfa from The Little Rascals is warbling through my head. Sure wish I could switch that version out for Roy Orbison’s, but I think we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with when it comes to earworms. Pity.
Did you ever call the waitress, or did I miss something?
I have every little rascals episode on DVD. All of them! My daughters are well-versed. They know Alfalfa’s renditions of not only ‘Beautiful Dreamer,’ but also ‘Learned to Croon’ and ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart.’ The one with soap bubbles coming out of his mouth. That stuff is timeless.
I did call her but according to a subsequent journal entry, she never phone back.
Enough already with the roaches! It’s even grosser to know you squished them in paper towels than stepping on them!
I worked as a waitress in college, but didn’t get my ADD scripts filled on my own, so I couldn’t keep everything straight… didn’t go too well… not many tips! lol So I taught swimming lessons at the club pool at BGSU instead – private lessons, one child at a time, including babies. 🙂
I’m sorry my Roche stories make you want to hurl. There’s a whole lot more that I haven’t bothered to publish because I felt it was redundant.
Part of the reason I’ve always had a soft spot for waitresses is because they work so damn hard and put up with so much BS from stinking customers. I try to be a generous tipper because there’s nothing harder than service industry jobs. My best pal went to BGSU. Small world.
That’s nice that you tip well. Seems to be something that’s dying though… with more restaurants adopting no tipping policies. Maybe it’s due to minimum wage increases.
I had a blast at BG… but don’t want my kids to go there. So what does that tell you?! Hope you have a good weekend, Mark. 🙂
Bowling Green’s a good school, isn’t it? I know that OU is a big party school but I thought Bowling Green was more studious.
“what did I ever see in this woman?” what a waste of time suffering is. Love it.
oops! hit send too soon. I wanted to leave you with a roach story. We once lived in Orlando when I was a kid. Our house was pretty much owned by the cockroaches. I distinctly remember that whenever we came home, my mom would flip on the light switch and yell, “Hey roaches, we’re home!” We’d find them under the sink and even in the bathtub. (shudders)
Do you know what a palmetto bug is? I would never move to Florida because of them. (Not to mention the guns, humidity, swamps, guns, crazies, hurricanes and guns. Have I mentioned the guns?) You traded up when you moved to Maine. Your mom should’ve charge the bugs rent.
I thought you would post about the death of Harper Lee.
Hey! You’re new. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think I said everything I could about Harper Lee. That post got a lot of mileage. It got a slew of hits the day she died so I think a lot of folks revisited it.
In the last week since seeing your pic of the uptown R train, I have actually heard the song ‘Beautiful Dreamer’ in three different old movies. The last one being “SHANE”.
At long last…life imitates art. MY art. I’m a late-blooming trailblazer.
‘What a waste of time suffering is.’
Yes…. with hindsight I do wonder what planet my head was on.
And yet…at times…we continue to suffer. Well, *I* sure do. A work in progress.
Tipping is a bit of a nightmare to me. I hate to under tip and found New York and Paris especially difficult to gauge. It was such a joy to have my husband who always seemed to get it right.
The rule of thumb for me has always been to over-tip. It’s such a rough way to make a living. I do what I can to help out.
So there were some ups and downs going on around that time. You were trying to shag waitresses. That’s fun, but it’s often difficult because their tips depend on being nice. Props to you if you pulled off that maneuver. Cockroaches snuck into your gym bag. That was no good. Ran into an old flame and turns out she was terrible all along – that can be both good and bad. Good because it’s good you’re not with her, but bad because it’s like – “Why did I waste my time on that one?” Ups and downs, I suppose.
My journals are jam-packed with these insane roller coaster rides. I didn’t seem to have a lot of peace and quiet. There wasn’t a plateau. I was either falling or falling faster, it seems. I did manage to successfully date a couple of waitress in my day. They got past my nervous chatter and saw something worthwhile underneath. To this day, I still have a soft spot for them.
I’ve never been a waitress and have always thought it an awful job that I’m so glad I haven’t had to do, it’s not the menial nature, it’s just the way they get spoken to and treated – I don’t mean by you, I’m sure you were always respectful. I’m not saying I would never do it because if needs dictated it then I would, but there are other jobs at that level I would choose first. Probably a better job in the states than over here as the Americans are much better tippers, although the Brits are less likely to complain if things aren’t right so maybe it’s easier in that way. Don’t know why I’m going on about this. Did you actually phone Robin after?
Service industry work–and restaurant work in particular–is some of the hardest, most thankless work on the planet. I started working in a kitchen when I was 16 and it’s rough stuff. I never had to face the maddening crowds, thank heavens. Only a mountain of dirty dishes, pots and pans. But I saw what the waitresses put up with and some of it wasn’t pleasant.
Americans are bigger complainers. We’re a nation of big, entitled babies.
I did phone Robin but I saw an entry a few pages later that said she never returned my call. Saw right through me.
We don’t really have the same kind of tipping culture here, but in any case I don’t think I’d ever be able to trust myself that she was being genuine if she responded in a friendly and apparently encouraging way. That would be my version of the inferiority complex, imagining that she’s only nice to me because she’s being paid to behave in that way.
There’s a movement by restaurants to eliminate tipping. They’re going to pay their employees a fair wage and people, supposedly, will stop tipping. But it’s so ingrained in our culture that I don’t know how they expect to pull off such a seismic shift.
I think a lot of those girls were just being nice and I misinterpreted their kindness as interest. I did that a LOT when I was younger. I still catch myself doing it to this day.
Why did all those roaches hang out in your gym bag? Were there snacks in there?
I wish I didn’t relate to the “WHAT THE HOLY FUCK DID I SEE IN THEM?” feeling, but I suppose we all do.
Man, those subways are clean. Remember what they used to look like? Still wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a snooze on one, though.
I hate when people romanticize graffiti because I *DO* remember what the trains used to look like and “art” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. It was awful. Watch “Saturday Night Fever” and “The Warriors” to see how ugly and scary it was.
How do you even fall asleep in that position?! I can’t sleep on busses or planes, so I sure a hell couldn’t fall asleep all bent over like that. Maybe they’re not sleeping. Maybe they’re passed out or…never mind.
I like waitresses best, bartenders are pretty alright with me too… strippers are fun to hang out with but make sure you go back to their place… roaches i fucking loathe. Bored and lonely? i know people suffer from both but i’ve never really had that problem, mainly cuz i like to be alone and i’m was/am rarely bored, there is always something that interest me, except legit work of course, that bored the living shit outta me… but sometimes it had to be done. Another fine trip down memory lane.
Since I was never much of a drinker, I never established any kind of chummery with a bartender. It wasn’t until my 20’s until I received my first knock. I had no idea what was going on. I kept trying to pay for the drink and he’d rap the bar with his knuckle. I didn’t get it.
I was bored and lonely at the time I typed those words but I can assure you, over two decades of New York living, I was never really bored. That’s what kept me there. I was always broke, but never bored. And your point about legit work is spot-on. It’s boring, it’s always been boring and it always will be boring. I’ve expertly numbed myself.
How the fuck do roaches get in a new container of q-tips? I HAVE led a sheltered life… Ick…
Points for that waitress, though. If she was from big money, then the fact that she was waitressing during summer break says she didn’t carry the sense of entitlement…
Look who’s back! Nice to see you. Hope you’re well, etc., etc. The container wasn’t shrink-wrapped. Just new-ish. They can squeeze into shockingly small spaces. I realized after the fact that Robin had some grit. She probably could’ve skated through the summer without working. But I sensed some tension with the fam. Can you imagine feeling estranged from all that monetary comfort?
Built for steam. So evocative.
I’m almost not following you due to real estate envy. Some of us are trapped in Queens with all the bedbugs, you know. But good writing.
This was all many, many years ago. That beautiful apartment slipped through my fingers. It’s someone else’s now.
And welcome, by the way. First comment. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Thanks for your kind words.
Do lots of people miss their stops on the subway because they are dreaming beautifully?