David Cross Solves ‘Chee-Pee’ Mystery
David Cross, a comic actor from the HBO sketch comedy series, Mr. Show , was drinking Wild Turkey at 7B, an East Village bar with red lights and good punk music on the jukebox. With him was Quinn Heraty, his lovely 29-year-old girlfriend. She works in the litigation office of an investment bank and goes to law school at night.
It was 9 P.M. on Saturday, Feb. 20. Mr. Cross and Ms. Heraty had been having a lovers’ Saturday: They slept late, got some Starbucks and shared The New York Times , pausing here and there to bicker.
“She handed me this article and said, ‘Oh, man, you gotta read this elitist fuck! If you agree with him, then I can’t see you anymore.’” (The elitist in question was literary critic Sven Birkerts, who was quoted saying that the Internet was destroying the English language.) “And I did agree with her,” Mr. Cross continued. “He was elitist, but, essentially, he was right-and I explained why, and she came to see my point of view, understood why I was right, and we went on to further explore the issue past her knee-jerk reaction.”
“My reaction was not knee-jerk at all,” she said.
“Then we went out and went to Barneys warehouse sale, and I bought my very first suit. I mean, I’ve had suits before, but this is the first one I’ve actually paid for. Six hundred dollars. I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a grown-up and I’m going to get a suit.’ I don’t have a very good eye that way and she not only does have a good eye but enjoys that kind of thing. Whereas I would have gone and got the first thing and made a terrible decision.”
“Is there one thing you contributed to humanity that you’re proud of?” I asked.
“Um, I took the most amazing shit last week and I was so loath to flush it and get rid of it,” Mr. Cross said. “I mean, maybe it’s time I had a family and kids, perhaps, but, I mean, I was proud of it. It was oval, like a cigar-shaped U.F.O.”
“Was that comedy, or do you really feel that way?”
His girlfriend cracked up.
“Are you serious ?” he said. “Yeah, I’m kidding.”
“What was next on the list?”
“Well, reluctantly, I’ve just come to realize over the last six or seven years just how limited my knowledge is.”
“What have you learned recently?”
“I was walking down Broadway,” he said, “and you know that store Andy’s Chee-Pees? I was like 18 or 19 when I first saw it, and I always read it as Andy’s Chee-Pees and I just thought it was a cute name, and I was walking down the street with Quinn, and it just occurred to me, hit me, ‘ Oh! It’s supposed to be ‘ cheapy ,’ like cheap clothing,’ and I didn’t understand that until I was 34!”
Mr. Cross grew up in Atlanta and lives in Los Angeles, where he has shot Mr. Show over the last four years; he comes to Manhattan to see Ms. Heraty, who lives downtown.
“We’ve only had four fights,” he said. “And they’ve all been planned. We’re both part of a junior boxing league.”
“Sometimes we take the gloves off,” she piped in.
They mock-boxed for a second.
“One of the things we fight about is who wears the pants in the family,” Mr. Cross said. “Because we only have one pair of pants and we have a lot of skirts and I think it’s only fair that she wear the skirts, because I can’t wear skirts without people going ‘Hey, faggot!’”
“Have you been called a faggot on the street?” I asked him.
“Many, many times. Growing up in the South, I mean, look at me. I’m balding. You know, I was a little kid, I had no hair. The best insult I ever got: I was working as a messenger in Boston, I was walking downtown and I passed this car, and these two townie guys lean out and they go, ‘Hey, Einstein! Hey-ay-ay-ay!’ And that’s all. Then they’re, like, high-fiving. ‘Ahhh, we got you with an Einstein! We fucking nailed him! Hey, Kierkegaard, thinkin’ about something? All right! We fucking nailed his ass!’”
“What do you fear the most?”
“That I’ll be discovered a fraud. Like everybody’s going to go, ‘Wait a minute, you’re not as fucking funny or clever as you think you are, asshole.’”
“Are there things you’ve done that, if exposed, would drive Quinn away from you?”
“Absolutely. I can’t for obvious reasons say what they were, but when I killed that little boy …”
“We did it together!” said Ms. Heraty.
“Oh, yeah, what am I talking about? That’s not going to drive you away-that’s what brought us together.” He looked around the place. “I love this bar. Great selection of beers, great bartenders, great jukebox, pretty good pinball machines and enough room-not huge, but not small. I like it a lot.”
“Can you name 10 things you’re enthusiastic about?”
“I really like goat cheese. I used to hate it and now I like it.”
“Pinball,” whispered Ms. Heraty.
“I’ve always liked pinball. Still loving it as much as ever. What else? Always loved drugs, still do. I like acid and mushrooms. I’ve really slowed down quite a bit.”
“How much do you do?”
“If I’m taking mushrooms, probably two grams, and if I’m taking acid, I’ll take, like, between a hit or two hits, and then as you come down, sometimes one more. Oh, snowboarding! I love snowboarding. And the bands the Gravel Pit and You Am I. New York City. I fuckin’ love it here. Because this fucking cooze is here. I love the bar culture here.”
“Walking,” said Ms. Heraty.
“I like walking. Red wine, I like red wine. And Internet porn, love Internet porn. You know what? Strike Internet porn and put Charles Portis, my favorite author. His most famous is True Grit , but as great as a book that it is, it’s way down on the scale. Oh, he’s amazing. He’s incredible. Best, best writer. I don’t know why he’s not more popular. He’s brilliant.”
The Metrocard Blessing
You have your Luddites, who still refuse to buy it because they like the “tactility,” or whatever, of tokens. You have your paranoids, who think Big Brother is using its magnetic strip to monitor their every move. And then … and then you have your addicts, whose lives will never be the same because of those little gold passes to freedom.
“I am obsessed with my unlimited Metrocard,” said Jake Kreilkamp, 25, who lives in Washington Heights and works for PEN American Center. He happily fronts $63 for his monthly card. “I admit that, at the beginning, when people had all the conspiracy theories, I thought about it. But I’m totally over it. It makes you feel like the train is working with you to lower your transportation costs. Which is so not New York, you know? New York is all about, you know, ‘Yer gonna pay.’ “
Karen Oberlin, 32, an actress who lives on the Upper West Side, has a $17 weekly pass. “I’ll take the bus from Central Park West over to West End or something, if I see the bus is there. I’ll think, ‘It’s free, why should I walk?’” She seemed to ponder this tremendous new advantage for a moment. “Two avenues!” she said, chuckling ruefully. “It’s sort of a relief, a contentment. A little feeling like I’m getting away with something.”
Carlo Martino, a 25-year-old software engineer, was a reluctant convert to the plastic passes. “It basically seemed just wussy and lame,” he said. “You couldn’t see, like, some tough guy coming up with a Metrocard.” But he cracked after all those full-price commutes from the East Village to Chelsea-but only to a point. “With the pay-as-you-go,” he said, referring to his Metrocard of choice, “you can be gallant. If you’re out with a young lady, you can pay her way. The person who prefers the unlimited is, like, the sniveling accountant. They ride the train just to say they’re ahead.” Also, said Mr. Martino, “It’s somehow un-American to have to buy a monthly pass.”
James Tupper has a recurring role on As the World Turns -and lots of auditions. “I used to walk everywhere, it’s true,” he said. “Now I just jump on the subway.”
The swipe, the dip, the beep-acceptance.
“Oh, my God. There’s a moment there, definitely,” said Mr. Tupper. “I feel accepted . I do. It’s like a green light. Like, I feel that all is well. No, really, I do. For a tiny moment there, all is well.”
– Alexandra Jacobs