November 30, 2007

Oh, the things Republicans say when they're not running for the Senate again!

Chuck Hagel: "This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about."

And thus Bush's place in the history books begins to be written.

Posted by Francis at 09:57 AM | Comments (1)

November 29, 2007

Search queries gone wrong

Somehow I don't think my recounting of the three-way tie on Jeopardy! is what someone was hoping to find when they searched Google for "one guy three way".

Posted by Francis at 03:15 PM | Comments (4)

Poster girls

Once again we learn that there is no topic that New York Post editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas cannot turn into a referendum on the attractiveness (or lack thereof) of Camilla Parker-Bowles. Mind you, what that topic is, I'm not exactly sure.

But because Sean Delonas is a creative, restless man, Camilla is far from the only woman romantically linked to a British luminary that he mocks based on her physical traits. There's also Heather Mills, who gets the Delonas treatment in THREE cartoons this month (although I honestly don't really get the most recent one -- he's saying Heather is a witch, and her witch friends are consoling her by saying that Paul's new lady friend is not a witch, so he's not Paul's type? I am confused). And sometimes he mocks women who aren't romantically linked to British people at all!

I just can't believe he isn't still finding excuses to make fun of Paris Hilton.

(Previously on the subject of Camilla, and more of the same.)

Posted by Francis at 12:09 PM | Comments (4)

November 28, 2007

The Heaneyland holiday gift guide

Somehow I seem to have failed to plug all of the puzzle books of mine that came out this fall. This obviously will not do.

If you enjoy trivia, but feel that most trivia books don't leave nearly enough bits of silver dust all over your floor, your salvation has arrived in the form of Scratch and Solve Trivia Games. On each two-page spread, you're given a list of items that can be sorted into two groups (for instance, Muppets from Sesame Street vs. Muppets from The Muppet Show), and you try to pick as many of the items that fit one of the given categories before getting three wrong. Or, you know, make up your own rules, nobody's watching.

Also trivia-related is Trivial Pursuit Crosswords, 50 crosswords whose theme entries are all answers to Trivial Pursuit questions (as are many of the non-theme entries as well). There are two typos in this book that I know of: On page 15, the clue for 67-Across should be "1970 role for Raquel"; and on page 16, "unit" should be "units" in 6-Across.

But you're looking for gift ideas, and I can't think of anyone who wouldn't love to get a copy of Crasswords: Dirty Crosswords for Cunning Linguists. I wrote about a third of the puzzles in the book; other contributors include Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patrick Berry, Frank Longo, Matt Jones, and many others, including two well-known but craven constructors who opted to use pseudonyms. (There are also a few typos in this book that I know of, but I can't find my copy at the moment to list the page numbers, so I'll update this entry later with the corrections.)

Also out recently is Howl, a book of humor pieces about dogs, to which I contributed "Excerpts from Great Books in the Canine Canon", another chance for me to trot out my literary pastiche tricks. (This was the project for which this piece was rejected as being too dark. "It's a book for dog lovers," I was reminded. "No biting off chihuahuas' ears.")

If you absolutely must buy something I didn't write, might I suggest something lavishly expensive so I'll get a big fat referral fee?

Posted by Francis at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2007

Stupidest lawsuit today

The Romantics are suing because the cover version of "What I Like About You" that appears in Guitar Hero Rocks the '80s sounds too much like the original. Were they unclear on the concept? The whole point of Guitar Hero is for the covers to sound like the originals.

Anyway, I hope this doesn't affect the availability of the game for at least three days, because that's when my extra holiday discount kicks in at GameStop, and I've been waiting to buy it until I didn't have to pay full price for it.

Posted by Francis at 05:28 PM | Comments (1)

November 26, 2007

Behold the Platonic ideal of a "shit-eating grin"

The lead photo in this New York Times article about Gore meeting with Bush to discuss global warming makes my skin crawl. Bush has such a look of "Hee hee, I totally cheated you out of the presidency, and now here you are trying to convince me to pay attention to science! Like I'm ever going to do that."

Anyway, the really head-slapping part comes at the end of the article:

Aides say the two have had little contact in the years since, meeting only occasionally, at public events like Mr. Bush’s first inaugural and the dedication of President Clinton’s presidential library. Mr. Bush made no comment when the Nobel was announced, and today, the two stood silently, and a bit awkwardly, during the photo opportunity.

But the president did personally telephone Mr. Gore to extend the invitation, and the White House changed the date of the event so Mr. Gore could attend. Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Dana Perino, told reporters the president is willing to let bygones be bygones.

“This president does not harbor any resentments,” she said. “He never has.”

Harbor resentments? About what? "I don't harbor any resentments for the fact that you made an effort, however feeble, to prevent me from stealing the election from you and then proceeding to grind the Constitution under the dung-stained heel of my cowboy boot."

"BOO-YA," he did not go on to add.

Posted by Francis at 08:08 PM | Comments (1)

Being wounded can cost you an arm and a leg

Soldiers who were given a $10,000 enlisting bonus as an incentive for signing up to go to Iraq are being asked to return some of the money because they did not complete their complete term of duty. Sounds reasonable until you learn the reason they did not get to complete their term is that they were discharged because of being seriously wounded in the war. Careless of them, really.

Posted by Francis at 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

November 20, 2007

Neon Bible

As requested, here is the cover of the book quoted extensively in this weekend's entry:


I think you'll agree: Classy!

Posted by Francis at 10:00 PM | Comments (2)

November 18, 2007

A little pick-me-up

A while ago, Rose and I found a little black paperback book on the street: Broadman's Social Guide to New York Bars, by Evan Broadman, published in 1973. (Genre, according to the back cover: Personal Reference.) Only two-thirds of the book is a guide to bars, however. The rest is a little tract on the singles scene that might be called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Having Cheap, Meaningless Sex".

The whole book is dated, of course -- I doubt that any of the bars listed still exist, and if they do, pieces of advice like "George Valente, a great waiter, will introduce you to the regulars if you ask" are not going to avail you much. But it's the first section of the book that has aged especially ungracefully. So come with me, won't you, on a little voyage back to the ostensibly-liberated-but-still-pretty-chauvinistic-when-you-got-right-down-to-it 1970s? (Suggested soundtrack here.)

In theory, this book is aimed at all singles. But an awful lot of time is spent talking to the newly divorced -- as given away in paragraph four of the first chapter of the book, and many many times after that. Said chapter (below) is a little pep talk for rejoining the singles scene, and starts off with enough touchy-feeliness to make you feel like maybe you're being hit on yourself.


Welcome. Let's forget for the time being about your mental condition and concentrate on this strange, new world of pills and panaceas, of living together, of vibrations, and of sexual openness.


Perhaps that's the one word that best expresses an important part of your new world; an openness to accept sex, touching, feeling, and loving. This same openness will make you more vulnerable but, in the long run, give you more pleasure. This new world is filled with more honest women and men -- more honest in their feelings and, more important, in the search for themselves, in an attempt to grow and to like themselves better. And if you can like yourself, you can love others in a meaningful way.

When you walk into a bar or a singles gathering, you'll still find the creeps and the crazies, the touchers and the talkers. But you'll find more human beings. Look for them...and be yourself. Your new world is not only new because you've been out of the scene so long but because people have come to realize that perhaps there is a better way. A way with less pain and anguish.

This new world is not guiltless but guilt-less. [I can't read that sentence without imagining Simpsons self-help guru Brad Goodman saying it -- Ed.] It will accept both the old and the new ways. It will not accept a self-styled puritanical moralism. In other words, anything you do is okay as long as it is really what you want to do, you feel good doing it, and you don't hurt anybody but yourself in the process.

If what you want is to sleep with a man (or woman) for the animal joy of it, the new world is the place. Or if you need a warm, affectionate love relationship, the right partner is waiting.

Living with a man or a woman without legal ties is socially acceptable in this world. Sleeping together is a matter of feeling, not of law. There are exceptions in all things, but generally speaking, many of the socially acceptable courting procedures that were followed in the fifties showed signs of disease in the sixties and were buried in the seventies. Amen.

This new world appears to have made living a little bit easier for both sexes, but we do recognize that the games between man and woman are still played to some extent and are sometimes necessary at the getting-to-know-you stage.

Then, if you weren't clear about the actual intended reader of this book, the next chapter is all about "getting your head together" after a separation or divorce, followed by a chapter on "Sex for the Liberated Separated", which advises:

Sex, of course, is more than the act of intercourse. It's affection, touching, feeling, tenderness, understanding, and all the things that poems and greeting cards are made of. But you can't and shouldn't expect everything at once. Settle for a lay with a person that you like or are physically attracted to: the rest may follow. Above all, forget what you've read about those five-or-six-times-a-night orgasms and the three-hour sex sessions and that girl who is fantastically wild. They happen but only rarely. After all, sex isn't a competition: it's an expression of good feelings or a need or you name it. Competing with an imaginary hero or heroine can be crippling. Do your own thing and find some person who likes your own thing with you. There's somebody for everybody.

We are not implying that a serious sexual problem shouldn't be investigated. To the contrary, if you have one, it's about time you did something about it. Discuss the problem with your doctor or therapist -- and your lover. And while you're discussing your very personal problems, don't forget contraception. In this new world, making a baby can be a bummer.

Well, you might say, that's not all bad advice, it's just presented in the most cheesy way possible. All right then -- let's take a look at some bad advice. I give you:


Like you, most people prefer to meet in the more relaxed atmosphere of private parties, at dinner at a common friend's house, or by accident. You don't have to commit yourself to the uncomfortable situation of having to talk to someone to whom you're not attracted (you can trade off the conversation); you don't have to maneuver to extricate yourself from a dull conversation; you don't have to put your ego on the line. At a bar or dance, once you've said hello, you're stuck, even if only for a few moments, but those moments can be like hours.

There are some men and women who are just beautiful at a bar. They're attractive, have outgoing personalities, and find it easy to start and stop a conversation with the opposite sex. Great. But 9 out of 10 are prone to stand in one spot trying to look as suave as hell, eyeing the crowd before deciding that this is the wrong night. The gals are dogs and the guys are creeps. A judgment made without any hellos at all.

Let's imagine first how a man can make the approach and come away with his ego intact. Surprisingly, a lot of these techniques will seem elementary to one who has never been married and has been in the singles scene for some time. But since the separated or divorced man has lived a very circumscribed "to work and to home" existence, this is new all over again.

The scene, an East Side New York bar. Dim but not dark. Tiffany fixtures. Heavy wooden straight bar. About 10 high-backed stools. Three guys sit together on the stools to the right. Two girls are in the middle. Two couples take up the next four stools, and the remaining stool is occupied by another guy. Our hero is standing behind the stools, facing the backs of the people at the bar. Around him are groups of guys. Some talking to each other. Some just staring. All have drinks in their hands. A juke box is blasting away in the background. [All this scene-setting is key -- Ed.]

Our hero seems attracted to one of the two girls in the middle. It's her beautiful hair. He moves slightly to his left and nonchalantly steps forward to catch a glimpse of her face. Yes, she's all right. He takes a deep breath and walks up to her and then next to her.

Hero (his arm on the bar): Bartender, J&B and soda, please. (While waiting, he turns toward the girl) Hi, can I buy you a drink?

She: No, thank you.

Hero (picking up drink): It's been nice talking to you. It seems like we've talked for hours.

I'm sorry, does anybody translate that response as anything else besides "Well, screw you if you're too stuck-up to talk to me"? I don't know if I approve of this book's theory that calculatedly concealed snideness is the secret to salvaging the male ego. But let's continue.

And now the same scene but with a dance floor and live music.

Hero: Would you like to dance?

She: No, thank you.

Hero (pausing): I'll give you a quarter.

If the woman gets angry, she obviously has no sense of humor and our hero wouldn't really have liked her anyway. If she laughs, but still says no, it's a start. If she says yes, our hero will give her the quarter.

This line also works wonders when you're trying to get her into bed, but up the amount a bit -- twenty or forty dollars, say. If she gets angry, she obviously has no sense of trampiness and you wouldn't really have liked having sex with her anyway. Try to find someone with less self-respect next time.

Again, the same scene.

Hero: Bartender, J&B and soda, please.

(While waiting, he looks down and seems to see something on the floor. He bends down, secretly removing an earring from his pocket.)

Hero: Is this your earring I just found on the floor.

She: No.

Hero: I didn't think so. You're more the golden hoop or single pearl.

(Our hero then plays it by ear.)


Seriously, though, what? Here's how I imagine the rest of that conversation going.

She: If you didn't think it was my earring, why did you ask me if it was?

Hero: Well, you're sitting right here, so...

She: And how the hell would you know what kind of earrings I like?

Hero: Well, you seem sort of...

She: If you had actually looked at my ears instead of down my dress when you sat down, you would have seen I'm wearing two earrings, they don't look anything like the one you pretended to pick up from the floor, and they're sure as hell not single pearls or golden hoops either.

Hero: No, I actually found it on the --

She: Oh, please. You think I didn't look to see what you were doing when you crouched down on the floor? You could have been trying to steal my purse, for all I knew. And you're hardly the first guy to try that line on me, anyway. You'd think there was an epidemic of women dropping their earrings.

Hero: It's been nice talking to you. It seems like we've talked for hours.

Moving on.

Important note for men: Regardless of what the old hands tell you, if you talk to a girl more than 10 minutes, buy her a drink. If you can't afford it, you shouldn't be out that night.

The approaches outlined above may not fit your particular personality. [If you're not a big skeeve. -- Ed.] Here are some alternative opening lines:

1. "How come you didn't keep our date last night? I waited for hours."

2. "I'm writing a book on the singles scene in New York. May I interview you?" [I suspect the author used this one a lot. -- Ed.]

3. "Aren't you a stewardess on Northwestern? No? United?"

"...because stewardesses are very promiscuous, according to the stereotype."

I don't know what you're supposed to do if none of those lines fit your particular personality either. Anyway, let's see what advice the author has for the ladies.

Now, let's imagine how a woman can make an approach without having her ego blown to hell. Admittedly, any approach is tough for most women to initiate. Instead, they'll turn to a friend and say, "I'd like to meet him. He looks interesting." That's as far as it goes. Okay -- it is tough. But when giving him the eye or a bright smile doesn't work, an overt move is called for:

Heroine: Hi, my name is _______. What's yours?

He (surprised): Marty.

Heroine: You must think I'm very forward, but (she opens pocketbook and takes out this book) it says in this book that sometimes a woman has to be a little aggressive and introduce herself. (She shows him this page.)

If the man is interested at all, this one approach that combines humor with technique is hard to beat. It is also true, however, that women can use the most commonplace approaches (as compared with men) [who must use creepy, hackneyed approaches -- Ed.] and open a conversation. Since women are not expected to initiate the conversation, they have an edge to begin with.

Here are some other opening lines that may fit your own personality:

1. "Do you always wear your hair in front of your eyes?" (Heroine brushes back hair of guy.) [Possible response: "Don't try to change me, baby" -- Ed.]

2. "What's a guy like you doing in a place like this?" (Of course, you run the risk of him telling you.)

3. "You look very interesting. Would you like to talk?" [HOLY CRAP A SUGGESTION THAT ACTUALLY SOUNDS REASONABLE -- Ed.]

If you are one of those truly liberated women and have more than the usual self-confidence, you can, in all probability, force yourself to make these approaches. But, as we said, most women find it difficult to make the first move. In our society, where certain old rules still hang over, this is understandable. But sometimes it just has to be tried.

Although honesty is a guideline, a bit of playacting is a definite must in these circumstances. If you're not usually aggressive, all the more reason to say to yourself, "I'll experiment. What the hell, it's only a bar and these are people just like me. Damn it! I'm going to do it!"

Keep in mind that if you -- man or woman -- don't appeal to the person approached, no icebreaker in the world is going to work. That's life. But let us suppose that the ice has been broken. What next? You talk about what you both seem to be interested in -- the singles scene, music, art, theater, movies, weather ["How did you and your wife meet?" "Well, we discovered that we share a passion for weather" -- Ed.] -- searching for a common denominator upon which you can base a growing relationship.

Again, be honest. If you get the feeling that this person is interested in you, be vulnerable, be open. You can say, "You know, I really like you very much," or "It feels good being with you." And while you're talking, make believe that the only other person on this earth besides you is the one you're talking with. Don't just listen: hear and respond to what you hear. Try it. It's not as easy to do as it sounds. But the effort is worth it.

After breaking the ice, the man has a number of ways to follow up:

1. Ask for her name and telephone number and emphasize that you will call. This follow-up is the weakest and often is meaningless because the woman assumes that you won't call and that you're like all the rest.

2. Make a specific date right there and then.

3. If you feel that this girl is something special [From context, I assume this means "will put out" -- Ed.], don't hang around the bar with her for more than an hour. Suggest that you go for coffee or a bite to eat someplace else.

4. If you meet her on a weeknight, she, too, will have to get to work the next day or get back home to pay the babysitter, so she'll be ready to go around midnight. Ask if you can drive her home or get a cab.

After the ice has been broken, the woman, too, has a number of ways to indicate that she would like to see the man again:

1. "I like you and want to see you again." (He will see you again!)

2. Suggest coffee (not a bite to eat) after you've talked a while. [Coffee, not dinner; female forwardness can only go so far -- Ed.]

Almost every divorced or separated woman that we have interviewed [as a thinly veiled pretext for trying to pick her up -- Ed.] felt, upon being thrown back into the rat race, that (a) she couldn't compete with the young, pretty girls, (b) men were only out to sleep with her, (c) men expected to sleep with her, and (d) there just aren't enough men to go around.

The answer is that there is somebody for everybody. But you have to go out there in that cruel, cold singles world and meet new people to find the one that's right for you. But timing is very important to prevent mistakes. If you "fall in love" too quickly, you may be falling in love with love.

...which segues into the next chapter, "Choosing THE One", which is not all that funny, and a chapter on "rebound-itis". Yawn. What's next? Oooh!


Picture this. You're a business executive flying into New York for an early appointment the next morning. You'll land at the airport at four in the afternoon, rent a car or take a cab into the city, check into the hotel, unpack, and then what? Call your wife and tell her that everything's okay? Go down to the hotel bar for a drink and then up to your room for a nap before dinner?

What a waste.

That's right. This book just told you to cheat on your wife. Aw yeah.

New York is an exciting, moving, throbbing, dynamic city. [Did you really have to say "throbbing"? -- Ed.] Everything's going on outside of that hotel! And you're going to take a nap!

Look down out of that window. Among those millions of people down there, something is just waiting to happen. Stop fantasizing about connecting with a woman for the night or slipping the bellhop a ten to do your work for you by sending up a beautiful woman. [Wait, you can do that??? -- Ed.] Go out into the strange, forbidding city and become part of it or you'll end up on a sterile bed looking up at a sterile ceiling and maybe, just maybe, you'll get the urge to masturbate.

It takes a sexier ceiling than that to make me want to masturbate. Anyway, let's skip ahead a bit.

Being a one-nighter makes time most important. A New Yorker can make contact with another New Yorker, take a name and number, and follow it up the next day, week, or month. You, on the other hand, are looking for a one-night (this night) stand. And believe it or not, because there are women looking for the same thing, you must go where they are waiting for that uncomplicated quickee [sic].

And that brings us to the female one-nighter.

Like you, she doesn't want to sleep alone, and like you, she dreads being involved, entangled, or caught in a never-ending affair. She just wants to get laid. No meaningful relationships, no "I love you" or "Will you see me again?" Maybe she's (relatively) happily married but is just fed-up or depressed this one night and has to break loose. Maybe she's been divorced or single too long and has come to terms with her normal sexual drives. Maybe she's in the same situation that you are, with the same needs and drives. And she can be any age, size, or shape.

Then we get a bunch of yawn about different types of bars at which you might find this hypothetical hookup and what you ought to wear at them. (No brown shoes unless you're wearing a brown suit; during the summer "a turtleneck is called for, of course". Of course!)

After that detailed description, we must add that you can always dress as you damn well please just so you're neat and comfortable. The point is, though, you have a better chance of connecting if you match your dress to the type of watering hole that you prefer.

Also, we differentiate between a business suit and, let's say, a fashion-styled suit with broad lapels, patch pockets, and the like. [Patch pockets! Oh you're killing me -- Ed.] This "continental" look is always preferred if you can swing it. And at a posh hotel bar, you'll attract them like bees to honey. Hot diggety dog.

Let's all just take a moment to shudder.

After the businessman-on-the-make chapter, it only makes sense that we would then move on to a chapter of advice to all would-be cheaters.


According to the dictionary, a "cheater" is one who is sexually unfaithful (man or woman). A cheater, in other words, is obligated, contracted, and committed to another but has consciously broken this verbal or mutually understood agreement. In cases where cheating serves to keep the legal marriage together (and the partners more or less content), it may be considered a positive act, but in other cases, a tragic one. [And now that we've paid lip service to the idea that lying to your spouse is a bad thing, let's get on with it -- Ed.] Let's look at cheating, first from the man's and then from the woman's point of view.

The man cheats for one or more reasons:

1. He is not satisfied sexually by his lover (she won't do certain things).

2. He needs to constantly prove himself sexually.

3. He is turned off, generally, by his wife or lover.

4. He is not getting the mental stimulation he needs.

5. He is dying of curiosity and has the opportunity.

6. He is wildly attracted to another female.

7. He always has an enormous erection.

8. Circumstances beyond his control (really?).

I really like #7. "Yes, honey, I cheated on you, but it's because I always have an enormous erection. Surely you must understand."

And the woman:

1. She is not satisfied sexually by her lover.

2. He ignores her emotional needs other than sex.

3. He's a lousy lover and she seldom (or never) has an orgasm. [Isn't that the same as #1? -- Ed.]

4. She's attracted to an accessible male.

5. She's curious.

6. She's angry at her husband or lover and is "getting back."

7. She's not getting the mental stimulation she needs.

8. She's "liberated." [Gotta love the scare quotes on that one -- Ed.]

9. It's better than divorce and the insecurity divorce brings.

10. He's into his "own thing" and she's lonely.

I personally don't think it's a great idea to leave it ambiguous exactly what the "thing" there is -- it sounds a little like a teenager's somewhat squeamish parent talking to a doctor ("He's too into his thing! What can I do?") -- but whatever.

We neither condone nor condemn cheating. But let it be known that almost every watering hole that attracts singles and separated or divorced people also attracts the cheater. Unless you have an expert eye and experience, you just can't tell a cheater from a single. Not at first glance, anyway.

If you're planning to cheat and have made peace with yourself and feel little or no guilt about denting the commitment to your lover, you're off the mental hook. [Well, thank goodness -- Ed.]

The first rule is don't attempt to cheat near your lover's nesting place and, second, try to eliminate your secretary, your best friends' wives or husbands, your neighbors, your relatives [Wow...did that really need to be pointed out? -- Ed.], and your baby-sitters as possible objects of your charm. Common sense also dictates the need to keep far, far away from spots that may be frequented by anyone you know or who knows you. Just be damned sure you're not caught. An ounce of prevention can save you headaches and heartaches.

To tell them or not to tell them? That is the question. The answer depends upon whom you meet and, surprisingly, whether you're a male or female cheater. If you're male, your natural instincts will help prevent you from being totally honest. You probably won't divulge your status on the first night. As things progress, however, you'll probably let the cat out of the bag because you'll find yourself being squeezed emotionally and for time.

If you are female, it probably won't make any difference if he knows or not and, in many cases, your intended lover will think your being married is just great. It may build his ego and keep you safe.

For many of the separated and divorced, the cheater poses a problem: to have and have not; secret meetings; motels; frustration when the situation gets out of hand; frustration and tragedy when they find out. If you are a woman looking for another marriageable partner, a cheater is a bad bet no matter how many times he tells you that a divorce is imminent. Nine times out of ten, it'll never happen. But cheaters aren't all bastards by any means. They're doing their thing and if it isn't your thing, keep away. [After the first night when they didn't tell you -- Ed.] You have no one else to blame but yourself if you get hurt. Many woman (more than men) are masochists and receive an added kick from a married man until the time comes for him to go back home permanently. Then it's "that bastard" and "son of a bitch." Come off it honey. You loved every moment of it. And the end of the road to nowhere was always nowhere.

Goddamn, that got mean and film noir all of a sudden. I half-expected the author to pull out a flask of whiskey and slap a blonde around.

Although, as we mentioned, every bar and dance has its share of cheaters, there are very specific watering holes that are known to be "cheater's places," where the cheaters outnumber the separated and divorced. The cheater-to-be naturally hands out at a saloon near the commuter train station, particularly Grand Central Station on 42nd Street, east of Fifth Avenue. He or she also gravitates to bars in restaurants a few blocks from where they work [so figure out where the sort of person you want to have an affair with would work, and look for a bar near there -- Ed.] and are firmly ensconced during the cocktail hour from 5:30 to 7:30 in the evening. After the cocktail hour, hotel bars in the Midtown area are fertile grounds for the cheater. We won't name names because there's just no way to legally prove it. But they're there.

Again, if you can cheat without suffering crippling guilt, you may attain a beautiful and delightful balance between mistress or lover and the person to whom you are committed. And don't forget to keep your mouth shut.

I believe that if this book collided with The Ethical Slut, they would explode, a la matter and antimatter.

At this point the advice starts turning away from the act of picking and being picked up and toward potential venues. New York, we are told is full of "Irish bars, Italian bars, bars that attract predominantly Jewish clientele, watering holes for advertising executives, writers, actors, swingers, hippies, hop heads, chess players, students, stewardesses, socialites, homosexuals, and harlots." Also, we are told, we should stay away from bad neighborhoods, which "are those that harbor more than a fair share of winos, the poor and impoverished, drug addicts, and the down-at-the-heels. It is one in which your chances or being raped, mugged, knifed, or accosted is greater than 50 percent at any given time. A good neighborhood is one in which you have a better than 80 percent chance of coming out unscathed." So you'll only get raped one night out of five? Well, that is an advertisement for a neighborhood, isn't it.

But New York was pretty different in the 70s, I suppose:

The oldest profession is alive and well in Fun City. At this writing, the neighborhoods are between 43rd and 49th streets on the West Side bordered on east and west by Seventh and Eighth avenues and from 36th to 40th streets on Lexington Avenue. Prostitutes in all sizes, shapes, and colors loiter or stroll through these neighborhoods from about 10:00 in the morning to about midnight. But if you're in the West Side area after 8:30 in the evening, get your head examined because you're taking your life into your hands.

Some areas in New York are extremely dangerous, no matter how many cops are on the beat and no matter what the mayor may advertise. If you walk alone, don't ask for trouble. After dark just keep away from Broadway in Midtown and the area mentioned above. The prostitutes really feel the same fear of life and limb. That's why they're out on the street early.

Now, you may ask, how do you tell a prostitute from the average housewife and -- not that you're interested -- how do you go about approaching a prostitute?

Oh, are we going there? I guess we are.

A prostitute advertises. It is a highly competitive business. She usually is dressed in an eye-catching short skirt or hot pants and blouse and high boots and she usually wears a highly teased wig. We say "usually" because many a prostitute dresses simply in slacks and a blouse and (pardon us) gives the appearance of an 18-year-old schoolgirl. The fact is that if they went to school, they would be 18-year-old schoolgirls.

How then does a potential customer spot them? Prostitutes loiter. They stand against a building wall or on the steps of some flea-bag hotel. They ogle the passing parade and indicate to the "John," as the male prospect is called in the trade, by a toss of the head or a direct stare that they are in business. The prostitute may not directly address the prospect because that would be "soliciting" in legal terms -- although the fine line is often ignored by the plainclothesman intent on an arrest. The John responds to the silent, but very clear, signals of the prostitute by slowing down as he passes by and, if so inclined, asking her how she is or the directions to Fifth Avenue. ["Fifth Avenue"? Is that what they called it in those days? -- Ed.]

Of course, the more professional prostitue tries to size up the prospect as he is walking toward her...and, figuring that the guy can't possibly be a cop, she may come on strong with a provocative pitch as he goes by.

Whatever approach is used to make contact, the neophyte John should realize that for the prostitute this is her living and she is not embarrassed, coy, or shy, nor does she feel guilty. The last thing she wants to hear is the John ask for her tragic life story...or the Sermon on the Mount.

Another thing, if a man happens to solicit or patronize a prostitute, he might be arrested and might even face a jail sentence. It's one of those new-fangled liberationist ideas that says "what's good for the goose is good for the gander." Be careful; don't cook yours.

I don't really remember that being a cornerstone of the women's lib movement.

The John's immediate conversation, after the initial meeting, then turns to cost. It varies from $20 to $35. When the price is agreed upon, the John follows her to her room. The rooms vary, but usually they are bare-light-bulb rooms with a bed, cracked ceilings, peeling paint, and air soured by urine odors. [I guess the author did a lot of research on this part too -- Ed.] Any man who goes the prostitute route must be careful about getting rolled, contracting venereal disease, or whatever. But that's part of the game.

Another game along the same lines, but with a different twist, is the New York Massage Parlor Game. These massage parlors boast "unlicensed girls" and are (or were) ensconced in storefronts along Eighth Avenue. These establishments perform the same services as the streetwalker. Oh, you'll get a massage, all right, for about 5 or 10 bucks -- and anything else for about 30 more. Of course, at this writing, the feature writers have touted their existence in the local press, so now the heat is on. They may be just a memory by the time you get around for a visit. But the long arm of the law does work slowly, so take a look. I must emphasize that there are aboveboard massage establishments that do cater to business men and women that are perfectly legitimate and dedicated to massage only, but we don't feel that you will confuse the two.

This same area of the city also gave birth to the porno film for general consumption; but now, your local theater is apt to have the latest in X-rated films, so you may find you've already seen what's playing. Check the theater listings in a New York newspaper anyway. Something might turn up.

While we're on the subject of the oldest profession in New York, we must turn our attention to the streetwalker's sister, the hooker. Although, to many, they are one and the same, there is a subtle difference. The "hooker," as used here, means the woman who (a) makes a bar or lounge the base of her operation, (b) does not advertise her business by heavy makeup or conspicuous dress, and (c) has a much more discreet approach. She is usually a little more expensive ($40 to $75) and will go to your place if pressed.

The hooker "hooks" you: you're talking to an attractive woman that you've just met at the hotel bar or in a nice saloon on Madison or Lexington avenues (between 39th and 59th streets). She has asked you for a light. The conversation then lightly travels up and down the scale...and then the bombshell. Forty dollars! Or, if you've started a conversation with the bartender, he'll introduce you to his "friend" if you're a "right" guy.

How, then, if it isn't that obvious, can you tell a tell a hooker from a freebee? You can't. Some of our best and most accomplished friends [oh, right, friends -- Ed.] have been caught by the hook of the hooker. That's life. But you can always decline.

I get the feeling that the author is secretly advising a steady decline. However, the book is limited to bars, and not opium dens and shooting galleries, so after cheating on your spouse by bedding down with a hooker in a urine-soaked room, you're on your own.

Now get out there and find the one for you!

Posted by Francis at 09:47 PM | Comments (16)

November 15, 2007

What's black and white...

Hello. I hope to have a substantial blog post up this weekend to make up for the lack of, well, much of anything here while I've been working on the first draft of my novel (about 58,000 words so far, thanks for asking). Until then, please enjoy my latest New York Sun crossword, "A Study in Scarlet". For full enjoyment, I recommend printing before solving...although, personally, I always recommend that because I don't really enjoy solving onscreen in general. (Download Across Lite to open the file if you don't have it installed already.) And as a bonus game, see if you can figure out which clue I tried to my damnedest to get Peter Gordon to change, but he didn't.

Posted by Francis at 11:34 AM | Comments (6)

November 14, 2007

"Resisting arrest" is always a good one

You don't need me to tell you that things are totally crazy in Pakistan right now, but I did want to share this quote from the latest New York Times article about the situation:

A senior police official, Aftab Cheema, told the Associated Press that [opposition politican Imran] Khan is being held at an undisclosed location, and will be charged with crimes yet to be determined.

"We'll figure something out," Mr. Cheema did not go on to say.

Posted by Francis at 11:26 AM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2007

The Tie Project, days 195 to 201

Let's reminisce about the ties of yestermonth.

Day 195. I think I appropriated this tie from my stepfather's closet. I guess his prime tie-wearing years were in the 1970s. I also have a wide yellow tie of his that is decorated with alternating black and white railroad lanterns, but I don't think you'll be seeing that one anytime soon.


Day 196. Another one of the ties bought in a batch from my former roommate Kenny. This shirt has always irritated my neck when I wear it, and somehow it took me this long to realize that I could cut the tag out of it if I wanted to. Sigh.


Day 197. This tie is getting on in years. Unlike many of my used ties, this one clearly is "vintage", and moreover was well loved by whoever previously owned it. I love it too, and keep wearing it even though it's getting pretty frayed along the edges; I am just denying the inevitable, I suppose. But, I mean, it's the only tie that goes with this shirt, so what else am I supposed to do?


Day 198. Another patchwork shirt, worn with a tie that is now older than I was when I bought it. (Seen previously on day 135.)


Day 199. You can tell I'm running out of shirts, because this definitely one of my B-list items. The fabric pattern is okay, if nothing particularly special, but the pocket is very weird (note the button in the corner). And I don't have anything that matches it especially well. This tie came close enough for me to leave the house, at least.


Day 200. Mixing and matching a previously worn shirt and tie. (Day 44 + day 160, if you're keeping track.)


Day 201. Today I wore a T-shirt. Ohhhhh shit did I just blow your mind???


Okay, okay, that one doesn't actually count. Although I do wear T-shirts every once in a blue moon. I wore one on Halloween weekend, for instance. (Regular readers of the Tie Project may recognize Rose's outfit from the same day.)

Day 201 for reals. A new outfit. I love love love love love it. I found the shirt while shopping with Lorinne in an East Village thrift store, and the tie is also of fairly recent provenance, but I forget where and when.


Next time: No T-shirts.

Posted by Francis at 11:12 PM in Ties | Comments (0)