14 April 2005

On Slang

The New York Times recently ran a piece on how the term "Bling" is dead. I'm in despair. But it got me thinking about all of the past and present slang that, unlike the bigtime slang words of the past:

1. Homey
2. Slam!
3. Werd Up!
4. Phat
5. Shizzle
6. Tubular
7. Wicked
8. Whoop!
Etc Etc Etc

...groups of friends tend to develop equally meaningless slang that has its season in the sun, and then is relegated to a distant collective memory. My friend Jaron is a never-ending source for terrible catch-phrases past and present (mostly past), but in his absence I've become keen to noticing other words that friends throw around. It seems that even the most demure individual in a group will on occasion attempt to incorporate new phrases into a group lexicon. Forgive me for this, but for the sake of hindsight, I'd like to throw down some current and ...well, 'Bling'ed out slang that I've used over the last few years. Included is their authors and any relevant backstory I can recall. Not in any particular order, here is some post-millenial... jive?

1. Rocky Tocky -This phrase of excited revery was retired (forcefully) by me, not because of its overuse but because of its inability to be said with a hint of sarcasm or eloquence. Its a big dumb phrase and I can only butcher it. I lectured my friend Max about it (he authored the phrase) but he could pull it off handsomely. Its primary use before retirement was to replace a phrase like, "You'll like this," or "That was good clean fun." You would say, "Rocky Tocky" and offer a big grin and maybe a high five. Rarely would five fingers and a palm be forthcoming, but the phrase's sheer exuberance lends it a certain charm.

2. Frunion Dippers. - A long weekend a few weeks back coined one of two new phrases on this list. My friend Nick decided to keep the party going all night long and then all day and the following evening, even if it meant flying solo. On the drive back to New York he gets quiet and says nothing for almost two hours. When we arrive at Friendly's for a terrifying Long Island-is-a-death-trap-you're-shit-out-of-luck late night dinner, his only words in 2 hours are "Frunion Dippers?" Right off the menu. If you're confused, in sort of a disgusted/holier than thou kind of way, you ask "Frunion Dippers?" Sort of a "What the hell is this shit?" kind of phrase. Not very versatile, but exceedingly fun to say.

3. It's not a teller, Dog. -Well used in South America by a friend and I, it was originally coined, once again, by Max. The phrase works as a kind of cover for a bad story. If you embellish a tale of recent debaucheries or just plain monopolize the conversation to an extent that your ramblings can't possibly compensate, you smile winningly and say, "It's not a teller, Dog." To replace the phrase, "You had to be there," which unlike the new phrase, cannot be performed with a never-admitting-defeat grin.

4. Get your soda -One day my old friend Josh had this on a Tshirt. I asked him what it was about. He was at some hotel party in Delaware and they'd run out of soda. He went out to get a can from the vending machine in the parking lot. Some black girls in a convertible go by just as Josh's friend is bending down to retrieve the can from the machine's tray. His backside is facing streetward. He is briefly in a compromising situation. One of the girls yells as loud as she can, "Get your soda, Boo! Get your soda!" When excited, you should congratulate a job well done by saying "Get your soda!"

5. He's on Front Street. -Another fine morsel authored by Josh. As far as I can remember (I may be making this up completely) one night a cab driver gets lost while Josh and Co. are on there way to a party in Lower Manhattan. They end up in Brooklyn's Dumbo neighborhood, circling endlessly. Because of the proximity to the Brooklyn Bridge, Josh can't tell whether they've arrived in Manhattan or not. He tells the cabby to let them out. They look around and realize they have no idea where they are. A companion looks around and says, "We're on Front Street." Josh looks at the cab pulling away and says, "No that guy, he's on Front Street." Used primarily when somebody has done something for no apparent reason, and is hopelessly lost. "What's his deal?" No. "He's on Front Street."

6. See ya! -The phase that inspired this blog. Currently in rotation, developed three weekends ago. My friend Kevin came to stay at my apartment in Harlem and ran into my roommate Jillian's boyfriend. Kevin said, "Hello." Her boyfriend responded with "See ya." The problem was, neither of them were going anywhere. Recounting the story later on, Kevin began pronouncing the ya as YUH, as if it was a dis. "See YUH!" The trick is not to say it when you're leaving, but to insert it while people are in mid-conversation. If done correctly, it will cut off the speaker and give the impression the user is about to leave. No need. Just shrug and give a face like, "Yeah? What?" You're just using freshly coined slang. Its all about the surprise delivery. Done without the correct delivery it could prove to be quite idiotic for you.

7. Raw Dog-a-thon! - A marathon-like sexual encounter. Sex so dirty it was like you decided to go at it without skin. When the details of a romantic engagement can't possibly be summed up in our current lexicon's inept sexual lingo, you just say, "Raw Dog-a-thon, Dog. Un-fuckin-believable." Again, have to attribute that one to old Maxwell.

That's all I got time for. Try em out and let me know how they feel.

13 April 2005

Steamboat Bill Jr.

This weekend I visited "the boat," my friend Max's floating home on the Hudson River, for the first time this year. The hundred year old steamship docked on Pier 25 has an incredible view of the sun setting over the New Jersey skyline, and the breeze on the top deck is absolutely unparalleled. Max had a few drinks and felt it necessary to perform his band's newest material for the small crowd of people in attendance. By perform I mean sing and dance along while playing air guitar to a cd of his own material. But the new tracks by his two-man boy band "Blackmale" are astounding, and when I do get my hands on the newest versions I'd love to be the first to punch out a review. Rarely does one have the opportunity to consider new music before it has even been performed live, but a scholarly critique of songs like "Cock Block Me and Die" and "Bitches Wanna Tango" is desperately needed. I accept the challenge. Plus I've had those fucking songs in my head now for four days...

But previous to boarding the boat I watched "Steamboat Bill Jr," Buster Keaton's 1928 film about a rivalry between two competing steamship companies. I've been absorbing as much Keaton as possible lately, as I find it is perfect for commutes with my laptop (the black and white is easy to see on fluorescent trains, the silence requires no headphones). What I found watching these movies is how much I prefer The General (1927) to nearly everything else he did. I began to think of him as a one picture star. Although he predates the Marx Brothers, I felt as though the films weren't as consistently good. That is how one feels 45 minutes into Steamboat Bill Jr. And then all hell breaks loose.

For the last twenty minutes of the film, Keaton stages a full hurricane. Through wide-angle shots and panoramas, you see an entire town engulfed in a giant storm. There's rain, mud, debris, and brutal winds. Houses are shredded to sticks or torn from the ground and thrown into rivers. People are spun 360 degrees in mid-walk, and doorframes collapse onto them as they pass. In one poignant shot, Keaton gets stuck in an empty field. There are no dangerous props to entertain us. We have only his ridiculous struggle to stand up, and shot at an incredible distance, its truly a strange and remarkable thing to watch a very small man fight nature. Then a house falls from the sky and traps him. When he opens the door it collapses. Later on he will ride a steamship into the county jail (that's sinking in the river) to free the inmate inside.

In the credits, Buster Keaton is listed as playing "William Canfield Jr, A Dandy." I had to laugh. Seeing that made me think that even with my loafers and button-up shirts, I'm probably still capable of manning a giant steamer and saving the town.

Unfortunately, I have to find a competing steamer, because Steamboat Max has taken the only decent ship in town.

10 April 2005


On nothing more than a fragile whim, I have decided to move back to Brooklyn. I'm signing a lease tomorrow on a quaint little 2 bedroom apartment in Greenpoint, about 3 blocks north of Williamsburg in Brooklyn's northwest corner. While I decided to move for fine reasons, I haven't had a second to think much about them. I was helping a friend with her apartment search, and just watching the enthusiasm she exerted from finding great apartments in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Bushwick, Crown Heights and Prospect Heights (some of the Brooklyn's worst neighborhoods), I became filled with that strange joy of the New York apartment search. I decided I wanted to be a part of it. So I said, "Let's find something cool." And we did.

The apartment is a small 2 bedroom in a classy little 6 story apartment building. If you've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's, the scene where Hepburn is conversing with her upstair's neighbor (a Japanese Mickey Rooney...awful) through the space between the railings, it is exactly that type of building. The entire place is immaculate. Gorgeous. A little small, but the bedrooms are large and the Empire State Building lights up my kitchen window at night. Not too bad.

I lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn for two years, then moved to Manhattan's Upper West Side and Harlem for a year each. Actually, I've only made it in Harlem nine months. But that I feel is enough. I do not like the prospects of moving off of the 2/3 train (by far the city's best subway line), but the two parks, dozens of easily accessible bars, and nearby friends more than makes up for sitting on a train to go somewhere else for the evening. With my absolutely brilliant mate Kevin in town for the week, I'd been south of Houston Street 7 nights in a row. So a downtown-accessible locale is a good ingredient for the summer.

It's been 21 months since I lived in Brooklyn. It's been exactly 6 years since I lived with a former resident of Queensbury, NY (my hometown). In April of 1999 I concluded the most despicably extravagant living arrangement I will ever know. I took the first shift living with the irrepressible bachelor Chris Skogesburg, in a 3 bedroom house belonging to his grandmother. It was our first apartment. And now I'm moving in with one of my friends from the city, who happens to have grown up next door to (and played kickball with) my good friend and Jaron's, Matt Spence. Ms. Florio and I will be on Monitor Street in Greenpoint by next week.

I guess its a small, hip, Polish neighborhood of a world after all.