More than a year after the attack, New York still finds itself in something of a “down” mood. So here are some “N.Y.C. Practi-Pranks,” little practical jokes that you and your friends can play on the city to cheer up its populace. None are copyrighted, so feel free to make use of them. (Hey, can you do them all?)
· Leave a phone message for one of your colleagues. On it, write down the number for the Bronx Zoo. Beneath the number, write the words, “Mr. Lyon called. Please call him back.” If all goes according to plan, everyone in your part of the office will be laughing for days. (Note: This prank can be used again, with the phone number for the New York Aquarium substituted for that of the Bronx Zoo, and the name “Mr. Crabbe” in place of “Mr. Lyon.”)
· Mug an old lady, just for the Benny Hill –ness of it all. If the police give chase, run into the nearest department store and stand very, very still next to the mannequins. Laugh to yourself as they run past, blowing their whistles and brandishing their nightsticks. Then head straight to Central Park, where a group of young nurses is sure to be having a running race. Join in, zigzagging your way through your fellow contestants.
· Go just outside Henry Miller’s Theater on West 43rd Street, where the hit alterna-musical Urinetown is playing, and pee on the sidewalk. Repeat, night after night. Soon enough, the Urinetown players and those who come to see their show will get a big whiff of something that will surely cheer them up. The smell will also gladden the hearts of anyone else who has ever gotten a chuckle out of the title of what is surely an overrated production.
· Invite a group of the city’s elite gatekeepers-financiers, media moguls, society dames, etc.-to a private dinner at the ESPN Zone restaurant. Laugh to yourself as they struggle their way through a meal of bacon cheeseburgers, etc.
· Late at night, approach any group of disaffected-seeming street-corner youths, saying, “What are you looking at? Are you looking at me? You better not be looking at me, unless you’re wanting an ass-whupping.” If they take the bait and get all mad, simply explain to them that you were just kidding. Then step back and enjoy the laughter you will share with them.
· Design a sandwich-board placard with the words “Bloomberg Makes Man-Love With Saddam Hussein. I Have Evidence.” Wear it as you stroll back and forth along the steps of City Hall with a dumb grin on your face.
· If you’re a white man, say to your girlfriend, “Damn, baby, you look fine.” If you’re a black man, turn to your girlfriend and say, “I find you to be quite fetching, sweetie.”
· If you are called to serve on a jury, keep humming the old Matlock theme in the jurors’ room during the deliberations. Vote “guilty” if you think the accused is innocent, and vice versa.
· Go to a dance club, get very drunk, flick your lighter and yell up to the D.J., “Play ‘Free Bird,’ asswipe! I didn’t come here to hear no disco music!”
· Go to Joe’s Pub and demand that the proprietors make the beer prices as low as their bar’s humble-sounding name would suggest.
· Don’t bathe for weeks. In the office, say to your colleagues, “Somethin’ stinks around here, and I think it might be me.”
· Get yourself invited to a soirée at the home of one of the city’s grande dames. In the bathroom, leave copies of various biker and tattoo magazines beside the toilet bowl.
· Spend a day at the Virgin store in Times Square, de-alphabetizing the CD’s.
· The next time the Kansas City Royals come to Yankee Stadium, wrangle field-level box seats on the first-base side. Toward the end of the game, run onto the grass and attack the Royals’ first-base coach, who was recently assaulted on the field in Chicago. Everyone will begin to wonder, “Why does that guy get beaten up everywhere he goes?” He might even begin to wonder the same thing himself!
· Attach a radio to the handlebars of your bicycle, then ride around searching for one of those charming urban eccentrics who have radios attached to theirs. Then say, “This town ain’t big enough for the both of us!”
· Turn to your best friend and say, “If you don’t get outta my sight right now, I’m gonna whup your ass.” If he or she doesn’t leave, let your fists fly and hope for the best.
· Call every newspaper columnist in town. Leave anonymous voice-mail messages saying other columnists have been talking behind their backs.
Cinema (Semi) Paradiso
What kind of a person gives up a portion of their life every year to sit through 27 New York Film Festival selections (most of them foreign) in 17 days? Me: I’m an addict.
I’ve done it every year for the past seven. There are only a handful of freaks like me: some of them film-festival donors, some of them bona fide filmmakers (like Wes Anderson) and some of them, well, just freaks. Though it sounds like a dilettante’s holiday, seeing every movie is harder than it looks; it becomes, in essence, a job. The NYFF order form is a nightmare. I have to concentrate …. The Son (28A) is Saturday, the 28th, at 12 noon or Sunday, the 29th, (29C) at 6:45 p.m. But I already have Ten on Sunday at 4:15 and Unknown Pleasures at 9:30. If I pick The Son for Sunday, then ….
If you see every movie, chances are you’re a weirdo about seating. I’m a front-and-center person; I know Wes Anderson has a thing for Row M. He’s also unafraid of the occasional “triple.” A “triple” is seeing three films in one day. Triples were fine when you were in college nursing a tequila-shot hangover and watched Big , Uncle Buck and Hot Dog in succession while wrapped in a blanket on the couch. But a NYFF triple is like a nine-hour oral exam; it drains your synapses and leaves you bleary. By the end, you practically hallucinate your way out of Alice Tully Hall.
You don’t really enjoy the fun parts of the festival, either. This year’s opening-night feature was About Schmidt , a film directed by Alexander Payne, the guy who did Election . It starred Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates, and afterward there was a big party at Tavern on the Green. The stars showed up, and there was an avalanche of food and booze, but I couldn’t really go nuts because the next day I had to be up there again for Russian Ark , a 96-minute tour through the Hermitage museum, all shot in one take. Then there was The Magdalene Sisters , a movie about slave-labor laundries run by hostile nuns in 1964 Ireland, and that uplifting piece of work ended at midnight.
Still, I always get into it. For the first three or four days of the NYFF, I’m like a virgin moviegoer: I enjoy every ounce of what’s on-screen, no matter what language is being spoken or whose story is being told (and sometimes I don’t even know what language it is).
By the end of the first week, however, my husband sees signs of deterioration. My social skills and hygiene start to slip. My friends leave messages that I ignore-after all, I’m in a four-hour Japanese movie with no words. My family says I’m irritable at best. The halfway-through festival “centerpiece” is a huge morale booster, but for every event like Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love , you’ll have to drag yourself to something like Chihwaseon, a South Korean tale about an artist. For the final week of films, I’m pretty miserable. I’m ready for a divorce from my “festival friends”; Wes and I are communicating by nods and grunts. By the time that old festival stalwart, Pedro Almodóvar, shows up on closing night, I’m crashing hard and ready for rehab.
So what do I do the day after the film festival ends … catch up on work and sleep? Hell, no. I gotta get out there and see all the Hollywood crap that I’ve neglected. That’s right: Sweet Home Alabama , here I come.