Sunday, June 29, 2014

24 Carrot Old

New York City absorbs summer like parched soil getting the first rain in months.  There's always a quick premature teaser--- and within a mere few days, we've got hoards of tourists in shorts and  outdoor concerts in every square, air conditioner exhaust, that sweet garbage smell… people letting it hang out.  Girls and boys baring skin… some of it pretty, some of it not.

On the upper east side women with hats, designer sunglasses, umbrellas to protect their dermatologist's hard work… and on the subways… you get it all.  Scars, bug bites, rashes.  A guy sitting across from me today on the C train-- some hideous disfiguring skin disorder everywhere… and he's just letting all his secrets out.  Contagious?  Who the fuck knows?  In a way, you have to admire the guy.  It's a kind of dare-- just the way these 2 giggling 19-year olds are giving me way more visual information about their their butts and waxing habits than I want.  And the way you see these guys with the quarter-sized holes in their ears, covered with tattoos and piercings, and bumps underneath that give me shivers… after all, once you have covered virtually all of your skin… what's next? Do they envy the natural amputees and the genetic oozers?

When you travel in poor countries you see plenty of disabilities and weeping sores.  Here in New York City the homeless occasionally flaunt their deformities.  People are sometimes more generous when you are a true untouchable.  Then again, some just cross the street and keep their nose in their phone.  There's plenty of hideous stuff going on underneath our clothing-- just some can afford plastic surgeons and some can't.  Some are just lucky.  In my day, beauty used to be a random event-- the luck of the draw-- look back through your old high school yearbook--- everyone looks a little funky-- 1 or 2 genetically fortunate-- the obvious king and queen of the prom.  Look through your kids' yearbook--- or even their Facebook pages… and everyone is airbrushed, altered, hair treated, nose fixed, teeth white and straight--- who are these people? 

People used to tell me I had perfect skin.  I had no idea what that meant.  As a teenager I actually wanted acne; I thought it would make me look older.   My hair was naturally long and smooth.  There was no cure for frizzy hair then.  No Pro-activ.  No one advertised anything on TV but aspirin or cough medicine and food and cars and cigarettes.  Soap and shampoo.  It's so complicated now.

My son lost his job.  Yes, one of those internet startups that dangle the carrot of phantom stock options and the prospect of a Facebook-scale payout at the end of a rainbow which is really a tunnel of 15-hour workdays without overtime, an occasional perk in the form of celebrity investor/visitors; but mostly they are sweatshops which squeeze the new-college-grad spirit and goodness until the next crop comes in, desperate for work, offering free time for the privilege of resume-affiliation with a 'cool' company.  And then there is the carrot, again--- this year's model.  Anyway, at some point, during one of those private pep-talks the well-paid bosses give the kids, one-on-one, to let them think they are special, that they are being taken into the inner inner circle--- my son met the boss's toddler boy, who loved trains.  Do not fall for this, I warn… he is just trying to get a 17-hour day for under-minimum wage.  This is a snake in Comme des Garcons T-shirt.  But my son boxed up our vintage, hand-made Brio set… the bridges and the tunnels and the switchers and the locomotives… collected over generations--- one by one, lovingly cleaned and drooled on and slept with-- for generations… and delivered to the executive office-- -the black room with the buffed matte $50,000 stainless steel desk… and nothing on it but an always-open macbook air.  I cried.

I want my trains back.  I am thinking about going up to his perfect office with all the beautiful 25 and under-year-olds at their perfect matte tables, with their noses in their phones and computers… and the circles under their eyes barely visible because they have perfect skin and the boys all have that unshaven look which is compulsory… and me, in my funky thrift shop jeans with a guitar strapped on..  
with my former perfect skin and my rock and roll ravaged dyed-black hair wearing all of the wounds and realtime life of generations, letting him know exactly what I think of this airbrushed sweatshop of perfect educated kids-- mostly rich, because who else can afford to work 80 hour weeks and weekends for this pittance-- so he can go home to his 20 million dollar condo with his trophy wife who may or not be a genetically natural beauty-- and tell his private sushi chef exactly what exotica his personal trainer will have for dinner.  

I am not buying.  Not their 'brand; not their bullshit.  I want the million hours back that enabled my son to incur more debt than he had before, and duped him into pouring his life and his heart and his unspoiled ambition and belief, like a slave with the prospect of freedom-- into this asshole with a phantom internet company concept--- an app, a hocus-pocus-- a spin artist of the heinous 21st century Wall Street variety who parties with rappers and has a bodyguard because he's weak.  Because this is what the American dream has become.  Not even a company that makes something you can drive or build your house with.  Another swindle.  Another IPO.  Another Nasdaq listing at $20 that gets pushed up by his 'boys' to $40 so he can cash out his options.  Maybe even a buyout.  

But I will look him in the eye because I am not afraid of this guy who is an asshole and I could take him on with my rock and roll energy.  I am going to forget about the cool Hess firetruck I let go for the toddler brat's birthday present.  But I am going to look him right in his eye and say 'Give me my trains'. 

Mybe I should make him deliver them.  But no---I might take a couple of Duane Reade bags in there and load them up.  I'm going to make a lot of noise.  Maybe I can get the guy with the hideous skin disease to come in with me and touch things.  In his boss's office.  Send him a few articles about those laid-off postal workers who come in with guns.  Anthrax envelopes.  I know for a fact the guy is a total germophobe.  He'll surely have his bodyguards remove me.   Besides, I'm not a vengeful person.  I write.  I want my trains.  4 words.  And the shopping bags.  Maybe one of the club bouncers--- the kind with the gold bulldog around their neck and the quarter-sized holes in their ears.  Go ghetto on him.

As for my son, he will not be willing to share my dinner of white rice and black coffee.  Regrettably at 24  he will have learned the harsh lesson that no one has your back.  Trains or no trains.  No one wants your pathetic sentimentality these days.  It's a disease.  Hopefully it's not genetic.  Hopefully he'll nip it in the bud because I don't see him staying up nights writing poems and channeling melodies from dreams.  He has near-perfect skin and just the right hair.  He'll get another job.  He'll learn to hate carrots.  He already does.  He knows now in the new version of the hare is always on top and there is no finish line.  It gets moved to wherever the hare is.  That is the new game, the new 'fair', the new internet-startup black.



Ludovica said...

Wow.. You're so pisssssed!.. Understandable. I think every mother has that raging anger at the people who use and exploit their kids. I know I have had that same rage. It's hard to watch the light die out of their eyes as each hammer blow falls. Hard to watch the cynicism take hold, the sneer grow, the eyes narrow. Il perso suo Brio, senza brio. Those trains have left their station. I do the same as G. does. I do it over and over, and I never learn. I gave away a Strat for goodness sakes. I have given away so much, and I will always continue to do so, because I guess I am stupid, I have bad judgment or maybe , just maybe, there is at least one person out here in the world that really does mean what they say when they say "I have your back". Don't be sad about the trains. That your boy gave them to a littler boy says only good things about your son. The gift makes sense. That the child's father is a douchebag of epic proportions is his own tragedy. I hope the little boy enjoyed the trains, but even if he did not, your son's gesture was everything that is beautiful and good, and that is true riches.

Billy said...

Great blog!
Sorry Griff lost his job...But jobs like that only exist to cheat you...