Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Spoiler: Part 9 -- The involuntary celeb

The meat-packing district had done a real estate 180 since I moved there a dozen years ago. For one thing, nobody packed meat anymore, and the only cow carcasses that arrived there were exhibited in galleries. The transvestite hookers that used to lurk in the greasy shadows were gone, replaced by young professionals whose profession seemed to be “alcoholic.” After putting in a day on Wall Street, they’d flock to Ninth Avenue to pickle themselves in some fake Edwardian tavern, downing shots with the desperate abandon of people trying to smother their conscience. (There were even reports of young professionals fucking on the bar, which even the tranny hookers would’ve thought déclassé.) Tucked-away Spanish joints that offered trough-sized portions of gummily comforting paella were forced out by landlords renting to swank “event” restaurants that attracted celebrities and sprayed your dinner from an aerosol can.

Stella McCartney had a boutique. There were stores named Shoegasm and a four-star hotel on the corner of Ninth Avenue, across the street from a building that had once housed a multi-level S&M club (one floor for gays, another for straights, like an outlet mini-mall for perverts).

The neighborhood had been totally consumed.

Usually, I felt invisible there, or like a ghost in an old fable who was cursed to eternally wander his old stomping grounds.

But not today.

“Yo, man! How you let that bitch do dat to you?” yelled an Hispanic man hauling supplies into Gauche, a newly opened all-night eatery that catered to a clientele coming down from crystal meth and Special K who had just recovered feeling in their lower torso and realized they were hungry.

“Sorry,” I said, as if I had no idea what she was talking about, and averting my head, I kept walking. A few heads turned, and I noticed a gaggle of women wearing miniskirts and leather boots and carrying shopping bags staring at me and chattering conspiratorially.

At a red light, a pale, gaunt young woman – most likely a vegan – tugged at my jacket.

“I just want to say that I love your work.”

“You must have me confused with somebody else.”

“You’re the guy Shawna dumped, right? I forgot your name. Is it Brad?”


“I’m really sorry, I like, never do this, but can I have your autograph?”

Before I could even get to Western Beef, four more people had stopped me, and a couple of Japanese tourists had snapped photos, which they would undoubtedly email to their friends back home. Maybe some TV producers would see it and invite me to wrestle a squid on one of those goofy Japanese shows.

When I got home, there was a message from C.J. Bastone, the booker for Stand Up and Take It, a club I’d used to play. Wondering if I’d be interested in doing a gig as part of a theme night entitled, “Losers, Screw-Ups, and Schmucks: A Night of Laughter.”


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