The Endless Crotch-Grab

So I’d like to take a second to tell the world about my recent run-in with the TSA.  After it happened I googled it and got a ton of hits on these forums I had no idea existed; basically traveler forums I guess where people share their horror stories and ask advice.  It’s a little weird to think that these things even exist, because for any forum community to thrive there need to be several people who check and post regularly, along with a few wise members who serve as fonts of specialized knowledge that they dribble out if your post strikes their interest.  I don’t know why I find the perseverance of these so difficult to swallow, considering I used to regularly check usenet groups about soundcards and graphics upgrades, etc, etc, and found nothing strange about people discussing that shit every day.  This was in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  Maybe it’s the fact that the internet has so much more to consume than it did when it took 2 days to download an EGA pic of some topless chick on the hood of a sports car, or a seriously impossible-to-win strip poker game.  Whatevs. (Also, forget checking into usenet now.  It still exists but I think most of the internet resources devoted to it are geared toward using it to download illegal shit, which I don’t actually do or condone.  What a square)

The Story:

This weekend I made a mad dash to the south to visit my grandfather along with my mother and a significant portion of her side of the family.  Good news, he’s in his 90’s and has a full head of hair.  Bad news, apparently I’ve been handling chemicals that can be used to make explosives (dear FBI/Homeland Security, please don’t add me to some watchlist just because my houseplant hobby got me searched).

So, I get to the airport super early, and enter the security line.  It’s pretty short, but moving incredibly slowly.  The reason why?  They are making everyone in the 2 lines go through the one full-body scanner.  Last time I checked in on this issue, they had declared those things unconstitutional or something, but I’m obviously out of touch.  I also notice that there are maybe 10-15 security personnel in the area a-buzzin’ with activity.  I see two extended searches of blonde women underway past the scanner.  Whatever.  I took my shoes off, emptied my pockets into my backpack, took off my belt, took out my ipad and thought about whether I wanted to opt for the extra-gropey pat down rather than subject myself to an extra dose of radiation.  It only takes one free radical to start the cancer, after all.  But when the moment arrived, I decided a scan would be faster, and kind of exciting.  Like I would be the guy who went before Arnold in Total Recall.

So I jumped up and got scanned… It took them a while to hit the start button so I stood there like an eager puppy with my arms in the air ready to become part of science fiction, glancing around like an idiot.  So then the scan happens, and I pop out the other side of the cylinder only to be halted by an aging indian man with a nervous smile and his hand out, palm toward me in the international sign for “HALT!”  Ok, I said, no worries.  I looked down at my socks on the dingy floor pad, and idly placed my feet in the footprints printed there.

He closed the velvet rope thing behind him and told me I had caused an alarm, so now I’d need an extended search.  Huh? How so? He pointed behind be and asked if I had anything in my back right pocket.  I said no and glanced back to where he was pointing.  There was a screen on this side of the scanner pod thing with a generic human body, front and back, and a yellow box drawn around its back right ass cheek.  Apparently there was maybe something in there.  What the fuck is the point?  Just check the fucking image you took, I was thinking.  But knowing i was clear and wanting to convey the sense that I was a compliant, non-threatening normal guy, I said ok sure, search me all you want.  And then I asked, why not just check the test, you can see everything, can’t you? He responded vaguely that it didn’t take a picture anymore, but just detected things and pointed out where they were.  Huh.  Right.  Useful and not pointless.

Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice the guy was genuinely nervous and seemed to think I would bolt through his blockade at any minute, but he put on some gloves (i think?) and checked out the pocket.  Nothing. Empty.  So he patted to be sure there wasn’t anything underneath.  Nothing.  Then the luggage x-ray conveyor belt started backing up and shit was getting dicey.  The dude behind me (by now through the scanner, squeaky clean) saw his wallet watch phone and foldin’ money get pushed off the track and started making angry sounds.

Stop the belt! MY indian jailer shouted and they hit the kill switch and shit stopped piling on top of shit.  He went to assist in clearing some of the crap off the belt and asked me to point out my stuff, which i did.  The whole time he kept his arm out toward me in that STOP gesture and nervously insisted that I remain behind the barrier.  I wasn’t even looming.  I was chilled and slouchy about 3 feet back from it.  But his TSA buddies seemed to pick up on his nerves and get nervous too; there we a lot of eyes on me.  He came back and told me to hold out my hands, palms up and wiped a rough paper swab across them, saying that when the scanner gives a positive, they have to test for explosives residue (test is called the ETD, you can look it up).

Let me stop here a second.  Why the fuck do we get full body future-scanned and patted up and down if none of that shit actually tells the TSA if we’re a threat or not?  What kind of algorithm is in that machine that it thought my “possible weapon” was in my back right pocket, which was as empty of everything as my back left?  Why localize in a pre-defined “pocket area” at all?  Why would a terrorist tape a bomb to such an obvious and easily searchable area in the first place?!  Clearly the machine has some culturally derived predetermined assumptions built into its scanner/reporting and I think that’s a cause for concern in itself.  Incidentally all the “finds” i witnessed were located in typical pocket locations: right breast pocket, front pockets, etc.  Never once did it ping “inner thigh” or “left torso.”  Not so useful if it’s tied to pre-defined regions, I say.

Anyway, he swiped the hands and walked over to a machine and held it over some area of it… nothing was inserted into anything.  A very loud beep drew attention from about 5 of the nearby security dudes and the tension level went up palpably.  Old indian geezer was pretty freaked out.  I was getting a little nervous despite knowing 100% that I had not touched explosives, never had any, never touched any, and certainly had none in my bag or on my person.  I couldn’t help but begin to imagine what a bunch of trigger happy skittish underpaid undertrained yokels would do if the false positives continued.  [you can search for a list of substances that will trigger a positive reading, but it doesn’t exist.  The closest I can get to a list is glycerin-containing lotions, heart medication, most types of fertilizer, guns, fireworks, etc., but there are some interesting stories of people discovering weird shit sets it off, like waterproof film bags.  I have no idea what I could have touched that might set it off, unless plant fertilizer stays in your skin for 3 days]

I was informed that because I got a positive on that test, that I would be subject to further examination, and lead to a seat off to the side of the main action.  A doughy white dude brought my shit over and fed me some bland bullshit about the search he was about to do, mentioning the underwear bomber, clearly improvising based on his own understanding of his responsibilities.  Off script, I’d say.  Which of course made me more nervous.  It didn’t help that everyone around was fairly vague and non-specific about what was happening.  It was almost like they thought that telling me too much about what they were going to do to me would tip me off and right then and there I’d trigger my nefarious scheme of death and destruction.  It creeped me the fuck out, as did this dude’s running commentary on what he was finding in my bag: “Ipad, huh? So you swallowed the Kool-Aid already, eh?” Already? What? Jesus… a Best Buy Geek Squad flunky is rifling through my wallet and underwear and what, is he taking extra time with my condoms? OH god.

Of course they didn’t find anything.  Done? No.

An older version of that guy came over and told me to follow him.  Wait wait wait.  Hold on one second, I said, knowing I was near their supervisor – the one agent who seemed to have a normal personality.  I intend to comply, I said, but I want to know what’s happening.  Every word I say seems to amp the tension in the TSA people around me.  I see some odd looks from agents by the scanner and body language is screaming “ready to pounce”

It was explained to him already, one guy said, presumably to the supervisor.  I notice that noone is actually talking to me, which gives me a serious case of heebs.  Dehumanize your victim and you’re capable of serious inhumanity, was running through my gut.  I say listen, no one said anything about going somewhere else.  That’s freaking me out.  I need you to talk me through it.

“Follow me and I’ll explain the procedure”

No offense, but I want to hear about it here in the open because like I said, this is getting a little creepy.

So the guy launches into the whole thing I had already heard about the scanner, and never actually says specifically what will happen.  But reference is definitely made to a search with the feely side of his hand, rather than the back.  Early on I tried to say that I understood the scanner stuff, but–and was cut off forcefully and told to be quiet and listen.  Let me emphasize that I was VERY docile and mild.  In fact I’m really kind of ashamed at how well I adopted the body language and speech patterns of a submissive, broken prisoner.

Ok, so I comply and young sketchy child molester guy and old sketchy child molester guy (that is the vibe these guys gave me, with weird smiles and dead-yet-eager eyes) walk me over to a very small room the size of a closet.  More creepy small talk and I try to diffuse the tension caused by my concerns with a “listen I usually expect at least a dinner and drinks before someone gets that far” joke, and it’s mildly successful.  They probe into my job some (which involves the production of video), and ask some pointed questions.  Not pointed questions like, hey I’m a trained security professional sussing out your cover story.  But more like, hey, I might dabble a little in child porn and could use some professional advice kind of pointed questions.

After a double/triple groping-over (my cock was touched over my pants about 8 times and I’m not sure how sliding one’s hands up my inner thigh 4 times is supposed to yield better results than once or twice), the older guy announced that now he needed to test his gloves for explosives residue.  Oh god.  Oh god.  There’s more?! This could keep going?

I think I said that I understood or something, and he added: “This is where things can get really bad for you.”  Just like that.  What? Really bad? Huh? You haven’t found anything? Whaaaat?  All I actually said was, Oh Geez, this is getting a little ridiculous.  My imagination was already threatening to overrun my calm, trapped in a tight space without shoes on, my pants barely staying up because I’m beltless and these dudes actually enjoying themselves.  That was some seriously demoralizing shit.

Luckily for me that guy didn’t have any residue on his gloves and I was free to go.  I felt severely demoralized, disappointed, and scared despite knowing I had done nothing wrong.  I really think this kind of testing degrades the human experience and is redefining what it means to be an American in a very bad way.  The only silver lining is that the intensely random nature of the selection process is resulting in just as many red-blooded salt of the earth, tax-hating republicans getting a taste of having their rights completely taken away for 30 minutes, so hopefully the reality of this shit is sinking in for a lot of people.

Comments appreciated

And here it is, Part one?!?!

So I think now’s a good time to lay out the Reese story.  I honestly can’t think of a legitimately interesting post topic (because let’s face it, my life is full of problems that no decent human being can relate to), so I’m gonna cheat and rehash/recount something from the past.

You may remember I mentioned Reese in a previous post about Saturday Night Live cast members.  Ironically, searches for “SNL cast hangouts” are my main source of internet traffic.  How can I get rich off that?!  Naw.  Anyway, Reese.  I’ve had a little wine tonight, so I’m going to be brutally honest.  It won’t make me look like sunshine, but it’ll be more fun for you, my lone reader.

Ok, wow. So, we met on an interesting night.  I had been invited to attend a party at this dude’s super fance condo in Williamsburg (former center of the cool universe, current center of the commodification and consumption of cool), and the party was designated as “wear something elegant” or something.  I haven’t talked much about this group of friends, but they party like rich people.  Many of them are, it turns out.  I was lucky to be invited to this one (because I only get invited to about 5% of the total super-fun group activities they do, not because the swankiness was super desirable), so I went.  Earlier that night, and because when I get one invitation I get 30 on the same night, I had a back yard dinner party at an ex-coworker’s house in sketch Bushwick.  Which justifies my choice of slightly not-elegant clothing.  Ok, it wasn’t elegant at all at all.  I was just dressed for a sat night.  But if I had dressed fancy, I would probably have been shanked in the kidneys and left for dead.  Just sayin’.  Good thing too, because this guy had a hookup for the original Four Loko, which I tried for the first and last time (baby sips).

I show up at the thing.  It’s interesting.  There’s some sort of fancy laser light ball installation thing that works via remote control.  The place itself is two stories starting on the ground floor, with a back yard filled with beach sand (WASTE), with a sort of overhanging walkway thing leading from the back wall of the top floor to the ground.  Party upstairs, party downstairs.  Rich douches “spinning” tunes on fancy laptop plus PA speakers plus DJ software setups.  No-one dancing yet.  There’s food that’s trying reeeeally hard to live up to the “elegant” requirement.  Failing. And most people are in sharp suits and cocktail dresses.  Or fancy dresses from the 20’s complete with feathers and shit.  Whatevvvvzzzz. It was a little awkward for me, especially since my closest friend there (basically dominating the elegant outfit requirement) is also this girl I dated and got dumped by twice, and for whom I carry a touch of the hates right next to the torch, and probably always will.  She’s hot AND annoying.  She swooped me up (lets face it we have this insane chemistry, too, like Diane Chambers and Sam Malone from Cheers)

and took me around introducing me to the lovely people.  We had conversations that got awkward and from which people walked away without a word.  I was a regular fish out of water.  But not really, as my Diane pointed out to me.  And then her pointing that out to me turned into an excuse to get mad at me.  She stormed off.  And thusly was I liberated, free to cast my line as it were and see what I could catch.

First off, I ran into this crazy Polish chick I had sex with about 5 years ago.  Weirdly, she was a satellite of a completely different group of kids who I went to college with but don’t EVER see anymore, so it was a really interesting treat to run into her there in swankland.  She wasn’t happy to see me.  In fact it was pretty clear she had been nursing a grudge for all 5 years.  We had gotten hot and heavy really early in our fling, and then one night we had a date lined up but she she fell asleep and was 30 minutes late.  I had a headache and was in a foul mood so I told her we should just reschedule (she was still at home “getting ready”, and I was outside the spot).  I got on the subway home and when i emerged I had a string of intense voicemails starting with honey and ending in vitriol.  Moving on.

Ran into some dudes I knew and we rated ladies.  Turned our attention to guys and started rating them.  It turned out we were all super jealous of this dude who was basically a tall hipster Kennedy, who we all decided was going to nail whomever he chose that night.  We also figured he was probably going to ruin our chances with the ladays he didn’t nail.

So the party heats up and I see this tall blonde smiling and laughing and chatting with my acquaintances like she’s one of the gang.  Which intrigued me because I had never seen nor heard of this girl.  A regular piece of American apple pie she was.  And dressed well and cetera.  I don’t remember how, but I managed to get introduced and to pour on some charm and we talked and smiled and laughed and drank.  I have to admit she was pouring on quite a lot of charm too.  Then, of course, there was a bona fide fight upstairs.  Like between the rich dudes who really identified most with “street culture.”  I think one of the dewds was literally wearing a bandana.  You could see it through the floor-to-ceiling large plate glass windows from the ground level.  And hear the shattering tinkle of some fine crystal getting smooshed.

I took my cue and wandered away (you don’t want to cling at parties, it’s a recipe for failure).  And I got swept into a tiny whirlwind around this shorter, crazier brunette.  She was the real fire at the ball and we swapped a few jokes slash flirts.  But nothing deep or memorable until i passed her on the “dancefloor” upstairs.  I sort of fake danced behind her, which she embraced as real, and we danced a little…ironically and not.  We swayed and moved closer, smiled, and she grabbed my junk, and then breezed away smiling even more.  After that, I guess the ice was broken so we talked and laughed and I’m having a great time.  Meanwhile it had started raining.  People were escaping the back yard, tracking wet sand into the ground floor.  Until the water, which hadn’t been draining from the “beach,” began to encroach on the indoors.  A drain in the bathroom also began to let water into the house.  Everyone fled upstairs, people began calling cabs, which of course everyone in the neighborhood were doing, so there weren’t any.  I went to the bathroom and saw that Reese was still there still having a good time still charming all and sundry around her.  When I returned upstairs Brunette was gone.  She had driven (her car!) to the party so I assume she drove away too.  I also assume (and I’m always right about this shit) that she either had a boyfriend or a fiance or a husband and needed to get the fuck out before she went “too far” with the random dude from the dancefloor.

At the time I just felt rejected.  Chastising myself for letting the rush of a junk grab distract me from the real prize, I VERY drunkenly staggered up to Reese and asked her for her number.  She obliged.

Having gotten that, I felt better.  I waited in the hall by the front door for a cab with a bunch of friends who happened to still be there as well, and when one finally pulled up I piled in with (lo and behold), my Diane.  When her stop came she dragged me upstairs to her place and we had probably the best night we’d ever had.  Not going into detailz, losers.

So.  A few days later I summoned up the courage to call Reese.  She does not have voicemail.  What?  No voicemail? What. The. Fuck?  So what do I do? I leave the rest of our story for PART 2.  It gets better and worse.

Sorta Bored? Sorta Not?

So, life out here in the BK equivalent of Siberia gets a little boring, yeah?  And it’s especially hard to connect with people for good wholesome friend-timez for like a random drink or some such.  So I end up turning to some fairly lame pasttimes.  You could say OkCupid serves as a kind of hobby for me…like halfway between watching TV and actually connecting with people.  Except for the fact that that gets messy really quick.  Because in the words of the very last date I canceled on:

…please know its shitty, its not some online shopping site, and I made time specifically for this date and turned down other plans.  Anyway good luck guess you saved me some trouble.

Heheh.  I got over that guilt pretty quickly, if I do say so myself.  But I do have a healthy conscience and am pretty sure I should stop wasting the time of those legions of single ladies out there, desperate to score a solid man who absolutely has no interest in any of the younger, hotter, nicer, funnier/smarter, more pleasant girls out there on the scene.

But I digress.  Also I exaggerate so don’t get all upset and whatnot. The point of this post is to ramble on a little about the absolutely pathetic hobbies I’ve picked up.

Here’s one:

I got some packets of seeds from a hardware store in Greenpoint a few weekends ago.  Plants are like my pets.  They are also like my only neighbors and friends out here.  So sad.  I couldn’t even take a pic in focus (iphone plus shaky hands)… well I took some with my camera, but I haven’t seen the fucking cable for that thing in over a year, so those pics will never be seen by human eyes.  Maybe 1000 years in the future they’ll dig it up and plug it in (it will turn out to be 2 feet away from the cable) and analyze my photos of hundreds of tiny green shoots, and wonder why.  Why did this man dump a whole packet of seeds into one pot? Didn’t he know they would all die before they grew 2 centimeters?

The answer is: he doesn’t really care.  He’s just killing time on hobbies that take forever.  Like growing plants from seeds.  I also bake bread (badly) and make jam (ok I did it twice, and it turned out pretty good).  Activities that are crazy cheap, take aaaaalllll day to finish, and then don’t matter if you fail miserably.  My breads, for example, all tend to be heavy and super dense.  This last one had a shot of being pretty good because I said “what the hell” and doubled the yeast (which is what makes it rise and get all fluffy).  No such luck.  But who cares, because at most it cost me $2 to entertain myself for a whole day.  The seeds were $1.20 plus the dirt left over from some other plants i killed this winter.  And who knows, maybe I’ll wak up some afternoon, hungover and depressed only to have my spirits magically lifted by a window box full of blooming petunias.  Because I think there may be plant elves out there… like the shoe ones that come and make the shoes at night for you.  Only with flowers.  Yadda yadda bored bored.

Having said all that, it’s getting warmer outside.  It’s getting less painful to stumble in to the neighborhood late at night.  Having sworn off dating for a while (I shut down cupid, stopped returning texts, and told a girl no more sex), I need to hang with people who don’t want to have my baby.  Or who don’t want me to carry their purses while they put on their sweaters or dig out some cigs or whatever.  People who aren’t weighing everything I say to see if it adds up to good husband material.  I need to start choosing the questionably fun options (e.g., silent disco with old friend-quaintances) over the sad pathetic ones (play draw something on the couch all night).  So that’s what I’m going to do.  And finish my first novel too.  In fact, I am trying to read it for the first time and I FINALLY came across a page of pretty good shit.  I might just post ya up some.

Oh, and somewhere in between I should tell you the story of the date with Reese, in which I found and then lost the perfect after-work bar of my dreams.

How to tell you’re an asshole

So I’m clearly posting here more often.  Playin’ it fast and loose with the topics and practically flooding the internet with garbage.  This post aims to be absolutely no different.  I’m sitting here cleaning up the ole cavernous den of loneliness (my apartment) and I’ve got my itunes playing on random.  And it’s one of those times when all the songs that come up are all the songs I kind of hate.  So here I am in front of the computer (instead of making breakfast-I’m-thinking-eggs-and-toast) skipping every track.

Man I have some boring ass shit.  The problem is that I’m so open to new experiences (please tell me you got the sarcastic tone) that I’ve got basically a mountain of really boring mild awfulness in my library.  So I came across a track from an ex which inspired the title of this post.  But first a digression:

When I got tossed to the curb 4 years ago by the ex-who-lasted-for-six-years I of course went on a voyage of self discovery and misery that consisted of me holed up in my studio apartment in Bushwick sipping whisky and desparately trying to figure out just what the kids were listening to these days.  I discovered of course a world of free tracks being posted all over the music blog world, and a chunk of websites that would aggregate those into an online player for you to suffer through.  I’m thinking of Hype Machine, but there were tons of those suckers back then (okok, there were tons of startups trying to figure out legal ways to stream us copyrighted music, and also hype machine).

So I stumbled on a few podcasts that provided a free song every day.  Specifically some by KEXP, and some from this thing called indiefeed.  And what’s awesome about podcasts is you get access to all the past issues back to a certain point…so I went to town and hit the jackpot.  But this was when Band of Horses, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, etc, etc, were just getting noticed so there were plenty of incrediballz songs to snag.  But now I’m even mildly embarrassed to list those specific finds as “finds,” they’re so overplayed these days.  And new shit now is so fucking formulaic I almost can’t stand it immediately.  Like the first half of a track like this:

is great but by the end I’m rolling my eyes and sighing in anticipation of their triumphant appearance on SNL (why the fuck am I so obsessed with SNL these days?).

Ok, stage set for how I know I’m an asshole.  In those past four years I’ve had some flings with some really aces dames (let’s all work together to diversify the slang we use, ok?).  And a few of them even made regular mixtapes (cds with mp3s on them) for me.  Now it wasn’t like they decided to take up making mixes just because I was such a swell guy.  These girls, namely “Red” and “Kiddo” let’s call them, were very into music and making mixes.  So that was my excuse for not even really listening to the mixes they gave me.  Let’s zero in on Red’s gifts to me for example, but assume that what I say also applies to Kiddo (she was 23! HIGH FIVE!).

So it went like this: I got a mix, I set it next to my computer.  In a week or two, I ripped the songs to my compy.  Around this point I’d hit play, and wash some dishes or something productive while it played.  Eventually I notice the music has stopped so I go back to my podcasts and hit play.  The end.  Red would ask me, did you like the mix I gave you, you listened to it right? To which I could truthfully reply, Of course I did! There was some good stuff on there, thanks!

Inevitably these relationships ended and I hit the musical dry spell we’re still kind of suffering through (although there are signs it’s getting better..summer save us).  Also I got an iphone and needed to put some shit on it.  So I went back to the mixes.  Holy shit.  There were messages on them! I mean bona fide, I made you a meaningful mixtape and this is the 90s messages.  Months were going by between us and I was operating on business as usual mode and Red was operating on “message received by him and ignored on purpose” mode.  Example: “Shut up and Kiss me” by Pony Up!, or “My life is starting over again” by Daniel Johnston near the end of our relationship run.  Another good one is “Straight to Hell Boy” by the Clash.  All this SIGNIFICANCE that I was missing.  But not only that, I was nodding my head and going “Oh yeah totally good mix,” like an idiot.  Like an asshole.

So here’s my advice to future me (I would never presume to assume that my 2 readers are anywhere near as egocentric and clueless as I am): when someone gives you a mix, fucking PAY ATTENTION to what’s on it.  Sit and actually LISTEN to the words in the songs.

HOLY SHIT a great example just came through my speakers; here’s a snippet of the kinds of lyrics I think you’d be wise to catch before it’s too late to not look like a dick:

Tell me how would it feel with an open heart?

You cruise around and play the field with your gropin’ heart.

Break it down to the beat and it’s brokenhearted

And I’d love to see you with an open heart” – Pardon Me by  the Blow

Sighs sighs, the shame never ends.  Also read the song TITLES.  I mean for real.  It’s important.  That mixtape may seem like a cliche throwaway chunk of mildly good music to suck into your giant and pointless music library, but it’s not.  It’s a love note.  It’s a friend note.  It’s a break-up note.  It means something.

If upon listening and paying attention you find that it really is just a random assortment of catchy tunes they thought you’d enjoy (that’s always my approach to mixes, fyi), then no harm done.  And you did the right thing, so pat yourself on the back.  One more day you weren’t a total asshole, congrats.