Monday, July 20, 2009

Perhaps I am not so entitled to this

Not too long ago I had to go into a tourist store near Times Square. This is the equivalent of going into one of those stores on Hollywood Blvd. near the Walk of Stars. If you’ve been to neither of these places, then you might not fully appreciate what I’m going to describe, but if you have, you know exactly the sort of torture I experienced. At its best, it’s like going to Hell and back again.

Since people have been visiting us in California (so nearly as long as I can remember), one of the pilgrimages we made was to Hollywood Blvd. and to one of the many souvenir stores there. Now, I have to admit that despite how much I abhor these places, I have a sort of fascination with them. Where else in the world can you buy salt and pepper shakers in the shape of Elvis, towels with Marilyn Monroe’s face printed in garish colors on it, flip flops with “BABE” printed all over them, or have shot glasses with unmentionable things in or on them? The answer to that is nowhere. Nowhere in this world can you buy such glorious crap as you find in those stores!!!! And what remains a mystery to me is how even though there are mountains of stuff just everywhere, mugs, cups, key chains, t-shirts, sweaters, etc., EVERYTHING is in order. Everything looks like it was just arranged two minutes before you got there. Absolutely all this stuff is neatly lined up and in order, and it looks like no one has touched anything, even though millions of eager tourists paw through this stuff daily.

So my roommate and I knew for a while we might have to pay a visit to one of these godforsaken places, but I suspect we were holding out actually going to see who would cave first. A battle of wills, in a manner of speaking. Much in the way roommates see who will actually take the initiative and put the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser instead of keeping it on top of the toilet. And since Mary Kate had been the one to put the toilet paper on the roller most recently, I decided I could take one for the team and go visit the nearest tourist shop.

I will remind everyone again that we live near Times Square. Lately my mom has frequently been asking me if I’ve been looking for a place to live next year, reminding me that it can’t be in a dangerous part of town and that she has maternal concern for my safety. Now, I know that it seems like a tourist magnet is not the most dangerous part of town (people always around, they try to keep it relatively decent for out of towners) but after living here for close to a year, I can confidently say that I am ready to live in the roughest part of town. I am ready to face any hooligan I may cross. Ladies and gentlemen since living in close proximity to Times Square I have witnessed such frightening things as Very Large Women squeeze themselves in between cars to go pee. I have seen people shoving pizzas as large as beach balls into their mouths while loudly contemplating what time they should go to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. I have seen small children narrowly avoiding certain death dodging between speeding taxis to get to the Sephora or M&M store on the other side of the street. I have had every manner of person shoving flyers, brochures, tickets to the biggest bus tours in the world, to comedy shows, stand up comedy, jazz clubs, Yankees games, to Lord knows what shows, condoms, deodorant, shampoo, trash, EVERYTHING and ANYTHING they could get their hands on in my face. And I’ve seen people sitting on the sidewalk. I have seen girls wearing shorts so short and tank tops so small in the middle of winter that I wonder if they ever had mothers. I’ve seen people trampled to a pulp into the sidewalk. I’ve also seen tourists pick things off of the ground and eat them. I’m pretty sure I have seen people lose their minds in Times Square. This place is, for lack of a more delicate descriptor, the biggest shit show in the world. I am battered and bruised, but I have emerged victorious from the battle and thanks to them, I now doubt that all the excrement found on the sidewalk of my street is strictly canine. And my mother is concerned for my safety in the future. HA. Every day I walk through Times Square I take my life into my own hands, and I pray that if I see a tourist barreling toward me I’ll be the ones to get my hands on him first instead of vice-versa.

My secret to survival? Every time I walk through this cursed place, this armpit of the world, I imagine myself astride my pet rhinoceros, lion, water buffalo, or any other dangerous (usually African, but always fierce) animal-pet, galloping through Times Square wearing nothing but a loincloth and with a sword drawn from its scabbard hanging at my waist (sometimes I have a bow and arrow), my faithful pet dismembering any person who stands in our way to the subway station entrance. The sounds of trumpets blaring is also involved. Because in my short life I have learned a couple of things and one of these is that there is no force of this world that can sway a Midwestern family wearing matching Crocs enroute on their way to Red Lobster from their projected path or a group of high school girls wearing their tightest jeans and highest heels and carrying their newest purses on their way to a club where they MIGHT not be carded. An atom bomb explosion can’t stop these people from altering their projected path. I think the only thing that can stop them is an act of God.

Back to the point, though, I obviously survived my excursion to the tourist shop with minimal damage done to my person. I walked in and was almost bowled over with all the t-shirts hanging on the walls 45 foot high walls! Seven for $10.00! And the cups! And the towels! And the snow globes! Oh God, the snow globes! And look! Hats! And socks! And magnets! And key chains! And shot glasses! The result of all this was that I bought a can of tins with “I <3 NY” and the name “Lori” written on it (incidentally, I know no one named Lori, least of all the person who is getting the tin), socks with the subway map printed on them, and a cup with, once again “I <3 NY” emblazoned on it. When I went to the checkout the clerk smirked at me as if he had once again won. “Another tourist has succumbed!!!” he was probably thinking. I know I would if I were him. I just smiled back because one happy day when I am retired I will come in every day and gleefully mix up the magnets and put the green pencils with the purple ones.