Category Archives: Gripes

Rudy Giuliani: Turncoat Liar

I was living in Illinois on 9/11 and, like many people, saw events in New York unfold on network news. CNN, ABC, all of them were a bizarre mixture of hyper-patriotism, diffuse anger, and simple fear, with Rudy Giuliani playing the role of the sound-byte hero. I remember thinking vaguely, “huh, he’s really stepped up.”

Six years later, with Guantanamo and Extraordinary Rendition and a continual stream of Bush-originated bullshit, I’m a bit more savvy about what the news tries to feed me. I’ve also lived in New York for nearly three years and heard from people who lived here what the city was like in the 90s, and how much it continues to change.

Rudy Giuliani’s campaign for President is predicated on his credentials as a protector of the homeland (read: Fear-monger) and, by extension, his time as mayor of New York. I wasn’t in the city at the time, so I can’t speak to the Giuliani years personally, but I’m here now and he’s pissing me off. Giuliani has sold us down the river. He’s pulled a Benedict Arnold. He’s a traitor to the city that made him the worthless national figure he is.

Consider this quote from an excellent article in New York Magazine by Chris Smith, summarizing the thrust of Giuliani’s rhetoric:

Before Mayor Rudy, the city was a black-and-white jungle-land of sex shops, violence, and crushing taxes. After Rudy, New York is Oz: sunshine, happy young couples, and shiny gold-plated statues. The message, which Giuliani hammers in his appearances outside the city, is that he made big bad New York safe for the rest of the country. For the pitch to work, Giuliani has to demonize the city he inherited and claim all the credit for the improvements he left behind. The city itself is his original enemy.

There it is. Bashing New York to bolster his failing campaign, painting this immensely diverse city as a den of iniquity piled high with homeless person shit. By all reports, New York was a troubled city and, if my neighborhood is any indication, it still is. Rents are rising and forcing out entire immigrant communities. Infrastructure is aging and increasingly unreliable. There continues to be shootings, stabbings, corruption, police brutality, public gropings, and lots of dog crap on the sidewalk.  Through all this, however, New York is thriving and Rudy Giuliani would like American to think he’s solely responsible.

If you live in the city, read Smith’s article and get pissed. We know better than anyone that Giuliani is a turncoat assface. Spread the word.

The Shit List #3

1. Ticketmaster – Pure unadulterated highway robbery.

2. Larry King – De-animate his corpse and let the man rest.

3. Auto-flush toilets that flush too soon – They spatter your ass with your own shitwater and ruin the whole experience.

4. Bitches.

5. Ho’s.

-Keesup & Scrib.

New York City Public Transportation: A Daily Hell

I take the L train from Williamsburg/Bushwick to Manhattan every day, and today the commute was a small hell. It started off Ok – I got my third favorite position, leaning against one of the two poles in the center-most vestibules of the car, the smooth, matte steel cold against the space between my shoulder blades. I adopted my heavy-lidded, unconcerned Subway Demeanor and listened to “Equus” by Blonde Redhead and “Recently” (live) by the Dave Matthews Band. “Recently” opens with Matthews singing, “Sunlight on my shoulders makes me happy/ Sunlight almost always makes me high.” I tried, as Mitch Hedberg says, “to force the trip” and transport myself to a bright, grassy place where the sun warms my shoulders. It did not work.

Three stops after mine, the train was filling up. Four stops, and riders were packed like sardines in a large and fast-moving aluminum can. Five stops, and the human crush reached critical mass and the entire state of New York was consumed by a vengeful black hole. Hipsters at the Bedford stop pushed, squeezed, pried, hammered, wriggled, and climbed in to spaces that didn’t exist. A small Latino gentleman was eaten to make more room. I found myself facing the smooth metal pole, nose nearly touching it, left hand grasping the pole at neck level, unable to move my right arm to change the song on my Ipod Shuffle. I had to endure “Human Touch” by Bruce Springsteen (Good song, I just wasn’t in the mood), and various plunkings by Townes Van Zandt. I was beginning to feel a little panicked.

On a packed subway car, bodies cease to be discrete and begin to move as one organism. When there is a jolt or sudden deceleration, everyone heaves like a rolling wave. If you cut out one side of the car, replaced it with a glass wall, and viewed it from the side, it would look like one of those desktop wave-making water tables that you can buy at a museum gift shop.

All manner of unintentional sensory exchange happens on a densely crowded train. Smelly people (and in the summer, pretty much everyone) coat you with stink. A teenager with cheap headphones shares a maddeningly repetitious Caribbean hip-hop beat with the whole car – dunk dada dunk dada dunk. The worst, however, is the touching. This morning, I was pressed up against four things, representing the four cardinal directions: to the north, a balding hipster reading something in French. To the south and east, girls with their backs to me, wearing backpacks and messenger bags. To the west was a sprite of a woman reading Johnathan Safran Foer. She was smallish – perhaps 5′ 5″ with brown hair the texture of half-wet pasta. I couldn’t see her face. She was pushed up against my side by the press of people near the door, the inner face of her left leg against my outer thigh.

The minutes passed. The train stalled. The automated voice warned us to “please alert the police or MTA official in the event of an emergency.” This is about to be a goddamn emergency, I thought. If someone sneezes, this car is gonna explode. I began to feel something warm against my leg. At first, I thought it was just cumulative human energy, but I could feel it – my left leg wasn’t just warm, it was hot. I looked down – pasta hair woman, bent over her book, was placing some of her weight on me. I was suddenly alert, my sleepy, cool attitude gone. What is this, I thought. Is this a Senator Larry Craig situation and I’m not aware of it? Admittedly, it’s sad that the first scenario that came to mind was, “Am I being solicited for sexual acts?” But I’m single. These things happen.

My next thought was, how can she not notice this? The heat our legs was generating could have melted cheese. She was, essentially, straddling my leg. Casually, of course, but the contact was tight, down to the level on which atoms are exchanged. The heat, the touching, the beautifulness of my leg: I’m pretty sure I was vaguely molested this morning.

At Union Square, the crowd disembarked. Pasta Hair went her way, and I mine. I had wanted to see her face, to try and gauge her potential as a molester, but I couldn’t. I was, as Anthony Lane put it in a recent review, “feeling spooked and sullied,” and still a little bewildered. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had just missed some social subtlety.

Whatever the case, Attention perverts: if you’re not getting enough public feelies in your repressive Midwestern town, the L train at 9:15 is the place for you.

New York is a city of grand cultural institutions and unlimited human energy, but as mornings like this one remind me: it is a bitch of a place to live.

Puppies and 15 Min. of Blogosphere Fame

The Internet is not subject to the laws of good taste. Content about breasts always wins the day. I was talking about this last night with my friend, Keesup. Our dialogue:

Scribblerist: “You know, one night we’re going to be joking around and post some comparison pictures of puppies and Ahmandinejad and that’s going to blow up and become the one thing The Scribblerist is known for.”

Keesup: “You’ll tell people, ‘Why don’t you check out our hyper-literate book review?’ and they’ll say, ‘Fuck that! Puppies!'”

I can already see the irate comments: “Hey jackass stop being so smart and GIVE US MORE PUPPIES!”

Genius (Not Required)

For a long time I’ve known you don’t have to be a genius in order to write, but I still get caught in that assumption, like a fox in a set of those nasty steel jaws that trappers use in the North Woods. My ankle snaps and I limp around for a while, disheartened. Unlike a fox, however, my pelt is not sold and I don’t starve to death – a small consolation.

The reality is harsh: I will probably never have David Sedaris’s humor, or the quiet, informed outrage of George Packer. I just won’t. I have to accept that and keep scribbling.

I am comforted, however, by the fact that I’m not incompetant. There are a lot of stupid people out there publishing How-To books about writing. Look in the writing/publishing section of any Barnes & Nobles and you’ll fine dozens of volumes of irredeemable shit that give vague, faulty advice. Who are these master writers? I’ve never heard of Jerry B. Jenkins. Screw Jerry B. Jenkins. 

Then there is the industry that taps into the vanity and insecurity of new writers (or old, talentless writers) by offering publishing services and workshops that will magically, and instantly, bestow authorship and fulfillment. It’s a sham. In the same way that donating to a televangelist won’t get you a VIP ticket to Heaven, there is no shortcut, formula, or service that can make a good writer. The worst thing is, many of these businesses wrap themselves in a cloak of Supportive Feel Good Bullshit. Don’t be fooled, and don’t give them money. There should be a circle of hell reserved for people who make money by exploiting the insecurity of beginning writers.

I don’t remember the moment when I realized genius wasn’t a requisite for writership (writerBeing? Wrizardliness?). A lightbulb moment came a couple of years ago while I was reading the first few chapters of “The Bourne Identity” by Robert Ludlum. The characters were wooden, the plot full of shallow turns, and the description haphazard. I thought, “I can do better than this, and I suck.” It was startling. Here was a bestselling author who wrote bad, cliqued prose – the kind of thing that would get torn to pieces if I submitted it to a college workshop.

Perhaps the lesson I discovered is this: there is a difference between being a Writer, as imagined by media and culture, and being a writer, i.e., someone who writes. Robert Ludlum is a Writer, because media and society says he is. He’s popular. His books get made into movies starring the incomparable Matt Damon. But he’s not a writer in terms of tradecraft, and he’s not a Writer in the historical sense.

As I learned in high school, Earnest Hemingway and Faulkner are Writers. Society has given them a kind of sage status – they are the storytellers around the collective national campfire. Even minor writers who teach undergraduate creative writing courses have their own following. Writers are, in the popular imagination, very special people and this can be seductive for a beginning scribbler.

I remember saying to a writing professor my sophomore year of college, “Writers…just see deeper,” and then adjusting my beret. He replied, “Writers are just people who write.” I felt an inner structure collapse in my brain as I realized he was right – I am not special, and neither is David Sedaris (actually, David Sedaris is special). In his own time, Hemingway wasn’t a mythical genius, but a successful, celebrity writer, much like Salman Rushdie is today. It can be difficult to remember that these people aren’t demigods. With all due respect to their importance (and Hemingway and Rushdie are important) they are simply smart, interesting people who also happened/happen to write. Writers (both kinds) are artists, but also craftsmen, as much cabinetmaker as Picasso.

I wholeheartedly believe that one needs only three things to be a writer: 1. Talent, which seems to be innate, 2. Desire, which arises or doesn’t, and, most importantly, 3. Discipline, which I don’t have. Discipline encompasses: reading excellent books, observing the world closely, and writing. That’s it. If I ever publish a How-To book on writing that includes more than this, please beat me with my own ego.

So! I exhort you – go scribble. And be sure to avoid traps.