Taking a page from Alec Baldwin’s remarkable manifesto in New York Magazine – which was to free-floating hostility what Ella Fitzgerald was to scat singing – I have decided to resign from public life as well.
I’m back in New York as it happens – and why is really none of your concern – and I notice the change when I go out the door. As soon as I try to leave the food market they start with the questions:
“Did you find everything you were looking for?”
“Do you want to buy a bag for ten cents?”
“Do you want your receipt?”
It used to be you could go out on the street and be left alone. Like many rubes from the provinces, I marveled at how, the first time I came here in the eighties, people would walk right by me when I tried to ask a question. Then, over time, I came to understand that most people asking questions are a) trying to hustle you or b) too stupid to be real.
Or as the fellow said to the cop in Times Square, having asked many strangers: “Is there any way to get to the Statue of Liberty without fucking myself?”
You could count on people to leave you alone. I remember, having seen Eric Bogosian in one of his one-man shows the night before, walking past the monologist on a street in Soho. “Hey, great show last night!” I shouted. He looked at me like he wanted to call security.
Note to Alec: I don’t think Bogosian has many strangers bugging him these days.
Not that I’m saying Alec was overreacting but I did see him once on West 12th Street. I happened to be on the phone and smiling about something when I made eye contact with him and he looked at me like I owed him money. So paranoia may just be his Pepsodent.
But back to me. It used to be, here in Fort Greene (and wouldn’t you like to know my exact address?) you could count on no one asking you for nothing. Okay, there was that crack head that offered to blow me but she did call me “Sir.” Now total strangers emerge from the subway in the summer and ask, with a French accent, “Where is ze flea market?” Really, pal: Do I look like Fodor’s?
Which is why I’m moving to California. Actually, I moved to California last year – When? I don’t think’s that’s really any of your business – and the energy has changed in the Bay Area. Where people used to ask you inappropriate questions all the time – “How’s it going?” “What’s up?” – now most people are content to interact with their phones and leave you alone.
Except for the homeless people. They’re still asking me for money.
So if you want to find me you’ll have to use the phone book (“What’s that?” I hear you say) and then drive around my neighborhood and hope to see me out walking my dog.
What kind of dog? The nerve of some people.