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Blame It On Cain

I’m on the Sixth Avenue Local, sometimes called the F, trying not to spill my lukewarm coffee and staring at a poster for the new Courteney Cox vehicle Cougar Town, a TV program with the tag line “40 is the new 20.” Yeah, sure it is. Just like fat is the new thin, bondage the new freedom, and Mad Men the new Sopranos. The stops pass in familiar succession – East Broadway, Delancey, 2nd Avenue – as they did at first and hundreds of times since. The haunted eyes and fat ankles of the woman opposite me look familiar; we may have had a blind date back in ’04.  She remains locked on her book, spooked peepers refusing to acknowledge me . I’m wearing roughly the same outfit as I was back then, but am five years older and unshaven. Still, it wouldn’t be impossible to fish me out of a lineup.  I rise to exit at 42nd and she gives me a good once-over, head to toe, in sync with the opening doors.

My parents, still kicking admirably and capable of withstanding the Times Square circus better than I, visited last week. We dropped Mom off at Bloomingdale’s one afternoon, and I worried momentarily about her finding a cab back.  I set aside concern, reasoning that of all places this represented the greatest concentration of seventy-year-old women looking to get home safely.  “She lived in London for three years,” Dad assured as we walked away. “She’s a lot better at this stuff than I am.”

We pressed on and up to the park, shot the shit about cheap people and bicycle accidents, then pointed ourselves back toward the Marriott Marquis where we got stuck inside one of their high-speed glass elevators. If you’re going to get stuck in an elevator, a glass one with only two occupants is probably the way to go. The old man held it together admirably for the fifteen minutes it took to get a serviceman up there to remedy the situation. We exited on the thirty-second floor deciding not to trust another lift to forty-two. Instead we hoofed it up ten flights, Dad pleased to demonstrate his ageless Italian-Swiss pegs, sturdier than those of most half his age. Meanwhile, Mom had scored two new outfits, but indeed failed in her quest to hail a return cab, even after engaging the assistance of a store doorman. Instead she hopped the N-R-W subway line at Lexington, using her language skills from Perth Academy to chat up the French woman next to her and ascertain the correct stop. Before surfacing, she’d also befriended a fellow countryman from Glasgow and an African American woman who thanked her for shopping Bloomingdale’s and pointed her in the right direction.

In a week they’d come and gone, beginning with driving rain and an early-season nor’easter and ending with temperatures hovering in the seventies. We dined at an overpriced, revolving restaurant one night and shared a pizza and the impressive view from their room the next. We watched an episode of  House with Mom providing running, insightful commentary in her Scottish accent ( “oooh – he’s a clever wee thing ..”)  They said they had a great time and I believed them.

A few days after their visit, I notice a typically premature, stoop-side holiday display on DeGraw featuring a sign with changeable numbers. Only 61 Days Until Christmas it boasts, in oblivious pre-Halloween cheer. A half block on I catch this piece of a conversation between two neighborhood gentlemen: “After that shit, I don’t pass no judgment no more on nobody.” I attempt to do the double-negative math, and decipher whether this guy’s just professed to pass judgment on everyone, constantly – but I give up and walk on. Brooklyn. New York City. October, 2009.

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One Comment

  1. Denis Munro wrote:

    Hi, Rick. No disrespect, but it’s a quiet day in the office and I have been googling various things to pass the time. Not for the first time, I have been scrolling through your pages and enjoying them thoroughly. Your fascination with baseball and football – for their own sake and as metaphors for the human predicament – come across strongly as does your love of music ( I didn’t know, or had forgotten, your admiration for Ray Davies and The Kinks). This one jumped out at me because of the reference to your mother and, of all things, Perth Academy. I’m going to keep reading to see if I’m in here anywhere and, if I am, you’ll be hearing from my lawyer.
    Keep it up, Denis

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010 at 9:12 am | Permalink

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