Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Excuse me, sir...

Last week my erudite blogging doppelganger, George Tannenbaum, told a familiar story about living in the Big Apple. He was on the early morning train to work and the subway, one of the more decrepit lines, was fairly packed.

George spotted an older gentlemen hanging on to the straps and did what nice Jewish boys always do.

He approached the frail looking man and gently offered up his seat.

"Would you like to sit down, sir?"

The old man looked over George, a man two decades his junior, and said, "What do I look like a fucking invalid?"

Hearing these kind of stories make me homesick.

I don't miss the filth of NY. Or the crappy weather. Or the way every minor task can become a major battle against the elements, the logistics and the specialness that is Gotham. But I sure do miss the people and the colorful dialogue that swirls around the city 24/7.

In fact, years ago I had an idea for a book. It would be a collection of bite-size stories about NYC. Each story would be no longer than 150 words, the number of words one can record in a 60 second radio commercial. And the book was to be entitled, In A New York Minute.

A good idea except I don't live there anymore and hardly have enough material. And these are not the kind of stories you can make up. Their worth is derived from the fact that they actually happened.

Like the time I was in Manhattan on a job finding mission. This was when portfolios lived not online but in big, heavy leather cases. I was working my way up 9th Avenue -- I know, what self-respecting ad agency situates themselves on 9th Avenue? -- and couldn't locate an address I had scribbled on a scrap of paper.

Hell's Kitchen is not an area where you want to look like a lost tourist. Or anyone carrying something of value. So after aiming around, fruitlessly, for about 45 minutes I came upon what I took to be a soft spoken old man donning an expensive looking black overcoat.

"Excuse me sir, do you know where I might find this address?", I said and slipped him the scrap of paper.

He put on his old man reading glasses, looked at the address, put the mental picture together in his head and replied, "I think it's down two blocks, make a left and it's the first building on the right."

In addition to looking very distinguished, he was about as gentle and helpful as a stranger can be.

Then, seeking a little affirmation, I held out the scrap of paper one more time and said, "Are you sure?"

He squinted at first, almost as if he didn't hear my question.

And then he snapped, like a frothing Rotweiler...

"What am I Rand-Fucking-McNally?"

In the 30 plus years I have lived in Los Angeles, a city brimming with aspiring thespians, no one, not one, has ever delivered a line with such stinging perfection.

No one.


Tony Mariani said...

Rich, I would have bought that book!

Tony Mariani said...
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