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Queens Surface Transport
By Elizabeth Warner

So I've returned to New York City for a few weeks from Los Angeles and I've just completed the fun, ritualized swallowing of glass shards typically associated with an IRS audit, and I'm on my way out when Mother phones. And she's got the Movie Section in front of her and she asks why on earth anyone would ever want to attend a filmed reenactment of a Greek wedding...mine, big, fat or otherwise. And I point out that her own cultural outlook is just a few Ferragamo steps to the right of some of the militia members I hang out with and say I'm going out. And she says to where and I say to the Tropical Rainforest Exhibit at the Central Park Zoo and she says Oh. That's rich...since when do you care about the rainforest? which I maturely reply since now.

So I get to the Simulated Tropical Rainforest Exhibit in the Central Park Zoo where I'd planned to come for months. Because when you live in Los Angeles you spend an inordinate amount of time lamenting the time you're not in New York and then trying to figure out what that lamentation actually means and does it mean that you actually miss it and do you actually belong there or are you just romanticizing it because you've got way too much time on your hands and would you miss Cleveland, too, if you were tan, car-bound and career-free? So you come back to NY for a quick getaway and suddenly you're crossing the avenues like yeah I don't live here anymore but make no mistake I'm eminently qualified to give you directions anywhere, like even to Proper Noun Streets in the West Village that I never knew how to get to when I did live here.

But the fact is I've been trying to get to the Simulated Tropical Rainforest exhibit ever since I read the shattering expose in the Sunday Times Magazine about how we're all no more than boomerang-tossing cannibals whose indifference has already decimated our ever diminishing wildlife kingdom… And how it all amounts to an environmental Armageddon just waiting to happen. So, time running out and all, I decided to hightail it over to the nearest natural resource center, lickety split. To check it out. That's what happens when you notice essays in the Times Magazine located right before the gratuitous luxury condos on Fifth, and next to the Weight Loss Camp ads.

And I'm absentmindedly following a small square placard which details sleep patterns of red Amazon newts... when along comes this guy of those guys who thinks he's gonna tell you something you didn't already know like how we should treat our environment like it's number one. The kind of guy that you can just tell thinks he's got you figured out like nobody's business, see, because here you are at the Simulated Tropical Rainforest Exhibit at the Central Park Zoo, and he's noticed you've got glasses on so you're probably not consumed by your own vanity. And he's also noted that given your yesterdecade clothing you clearly weren't trying to pick anyone up either. On the other hand, he's observed you're not with any children or anything… so that means you came here alone, for your own edification. So he's thinking this suggests somehow you're interested in this sort of stuff.

And you instantaneously hate him for being so patronizing... and thinking he knows he's got your number dialed with that deliberately crooked John Cassavetes smile he offers, like hey, cool, here we are -- two intelligent, educated people in a chance meeting at someplace other than a counter at Barney's or a fern-filled pasteria on the Upper West Side... and clearly he'd like to talk... but you despise his arrogance for reasons you don't fully understand.

And he's got that hip Jewish intellectual thing working, with the rumpled corduroys and the sturdy shoes and the New York Review of Books under his arm and a t-shirt peeking out beneath a button down that either has the Periodic Table of Elements or somebody Live at Red Rocks on it and he knows that's exactly the kind of thing that just sucks you right in.

And he's got that literary bent that means it took him five years to graduate because there was so much Goddamn fun to be had in New Haven... and that kind of thing just spells trouble for you ...and you tell yourself you've absolutely got to steer clear of this Tom Wolfe in sheep's clothing ...and as he's walking toward you, you know with a kind of morbid warmth that he's the kind of guy who says his favorite thing about New York are the free movies in Bryant Park...and you know he'd take a bullet for Saul Bellow or Martin Amis, and he'd tell you Janeane Garafolo hung the moon and that John Sayles was civilization's only hope. And that he knew exactly the right moment to say David Foster Wallace was over, but you also know he's got a big picture of Natalie Merchant on his cork bulletin board right next to a pair of tickets to hear Norman Mailer and Bono argue with Charlie Rose at the 92nd Street Y. And you know that even though he says he watches out for Shark Week on the Discovery Channel he is also acutely aware of precisely when to say Behind the Music was groundbreaking, when it was coasting, and when it got important again... but he's also exactly the kinda guy who says he thinks Catherine Keener's really remarkable and he thinks she's got such an apt mind, but he doesn't know why he's so wild about her, and you hate him for categorically denying that it has anything to do with the fact that she's stunning to look at.

And you know that he always asks for soba noodles off the menu... and that he used to live with a guy who played bass in a band that was just called band… and you know he'd happily tell you California's noteworthy only because it gave us citrus and made option a verb...and he's strolling over to get a better look at the Chilean Salamander but that's because he just wants to chat, maybe tell you about how he likes books too, but how he thinks reading groups are deuxiemme...and that he'd say he'd rather have a knotted rope dragged through his lower intestine than sit through a staged reading of anything and you're getting really woozy now and all you can think of are the horrible whirlpools that faced Ulysses -- but if you tell him that, he'd just ask if you meant Homer or James Joyce… and so you hate him even more ...and you want to smack him and tell him you'd never even seen a John Sayles picture but that Chicken Run was a fine film and he's getting even closer and sure, he'd smile understandingly if you told him you'd never had the intellectual stamina to finish an issue of the New Yorker but you can't can't can't talk to this guy because you've been to that fire before so you turn on your own gutless cloven hoof and you get the hell out of the Simulated Tropical Rainforest Exhibit in the Central Park Zoo.

And then relieved, you walk out into the sprawling urb that is Manhattan. With your dignity intact. Or at least some semblance of pride. You think. And so what if he was impossibly attractive? You can't think about things like that, you don't know why exactly, but someone this week said concentrate on yourself. Like maybe your Mother and your grocer and every medical professional you know. And besides, you notice, there's bright green gum on your shoe and you'd really like to know how long its been there. So instead, at that very moment an eerie manic cloud wells up inside of you and you suddenly become extremely annoying. You wander around arrogantly and pompously, feeling holier than thou and weighted with a greater sensitivity, a more refined angle. You shamelessly lament your own idleness, calling it ennui but unable to spell it. But, turns out, you're also a nearly perfect idiot. Your job appalls you...yes, you're a writer... But you really just create junk mail. You are the devil's script doctor. Which isn't even neat in an archival sort of way.

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