Paul McCartney is rumored to have at least 800 rubber ducks. Though his official spokesman denies this, the story persists on Beatles Web sites. “I’ve seen the collection-or at least part of it,” writes Robert B. on Beatlefan.com. “Most of the ducks are quite small, but one is the size of a desk.”
“Paul-who, remember, is now a knight!-has a lot to lose if this story is authenticated,” observes Beatles researcher Brian Neels. “Sir Paul doesn’t want people picturing him in a bathtub surrounded by 20 or 30 yellow duckies. He’s trying to position himself as an elder statesman of Pop.”
The New Softies
Erections are out.
Sexual misers-you’ve met them. They’re men in their 20′s and 30′s and early 40′s. They’re often successful, career-wise. They dress well, date well. But then you notice: They carry soft attaché cases; they wear soft clothes, soft-as-cream boxer shorts. They’re on a first-name basis with the soft-smiling folks at Kiehl’s.
The New Softies are not, technically, impotent; they choose not to get erections. They reject arousal. They abhor firmness and willpower-they are masters of passive aggression.
Erections, they believe, are relics.
They eat sushi almost daily.
Softies know the myth of how the odds are skewed against single women in New York City-and they exploit that myth by joyfully abandoning the old heave-ho of sex, the woody of their father’s priapic youth. They pursue and woo women with unchecked ardor-but underneath their wool-check Cerruti trousers lurks … a softie.
One way to spot a Softie: When you see a couple on the street and the guy is all smug, oblivious to her, probably thinking about how soft the new face lotion he bought at Bergdorf’s makes his face feel-if you look at her face carefully, you notice she’s swiveling her eyes, hungrily checking out other guys. That means the guy is a Softie.
Softies are sperm hoarders. They’ve read that New Age stuff about how if a man doesn’t ejaculate, he reabsorbs his sperm and becomes stronger. They smile secretly to themselves, imagining their sperm fertilizing their own inner organs. When they’re challenged, they might respond with that old Hemingway saw about how each man is given only a certain number of sperm drops for his lifetime. They suck the foam off the top of their cappuccino and pour the actual coffee out on the sidewalk.
But Softies are still pricks.
“David” is pure Softie. A 38-year-old boy-man with a damp handshake, he writes pop-culture analysis for a fancy magazine four times a year. He hasn’t given anyone the nightstick in years.
“The whole thing, the screwing thing, I find it kind of … icky,” he said recently at a crowded media party in a West 32nd Street hovel. “I don’t know, the pushing, the shoving-it seems impolite. And there’s so much liquid …. So I just said, ‘No more!’”
To compensate for his unwillingness to pin a gal to the headboard and whack away, he has become an expert in the art of lap-lap-lapping.
“A little licky goes a long way,” he said, licking his salty lips.
“He’s my little lapdog,” said “Cate,” his wife, also a writer. “And we’ve said goodbye to the horrid tools of birth control. We are, functionally, lesbians.”
In many ways, Softies are lesbians manqués. They keep their hair short and, on Saturday afternoons, they fight with their wives or girlfriends about who gets to do the chores.
They like k.d. lang and other artists with small initials.
The bags they carry with them are, oddly, like purses.
Meet the Creambots
Have any doubts that New York City has lost its edge? Then get yourself down to Astor Place-that somewhat seedy, vaguely beatnik/punk neighborhood where suburban teens in the 1980′s and 1990′s used to get the cheap, scary-cool haircuts and nose rings that pissed off their parents back in Darien-and walk into Cold Stone Creamery, an ice-cream place, order yourself a cone, drop a buck into the tip jar and wait. On seeing your tip, the server will start to sing.
“A-scoopin’ we will go, / A-mixin’ we will go, / Heigh ho, the dairy-o, / We thank you for your dough.”
There’s something jarring about all this Midwestern hokiness in a Manhattan ice-cream joint, especially one south of 14th Street.
Kim Theus, 34, who works at an investment bank in the neighborhood, said that she occasionally will spot a Cold Stone “mixer”-as the crew members are called, because they mix toppings into the ice cream-looking less than enthusiastic about this merry-making. “I’m happy for them when the song is over,” she said.
The cheery creambots have left some ice-cream lovers cowering.
“I’m almost afraid to give them a tip, because I’m afraid that will happen,” said Karen McGurder, a Cold Stone regular in her 40′s.
“It’s like one of those machines you put the change in and they start singing,” said Ari Sebert, 11, a freckled sixth-grader digging into a Chocolate Devotion sundae.
“At first I was like, ‘I don’t want to sing,’ but I don’t mind it anymore. It’s just a part of the job,” said Heather Costas, 22.
“I think it’s better than most people would see it, because in order for us to sing, we have to get tips,” said Remy Guzman, 18, a mixer. “I think it’s all right. You get used to it after a while. It just turns into, like, breathing.”
Cold Stone Creamery is an Arizona-based chain with over 900 stores; the Astor Place branch opened in September, on the former site of the Astor Place Barber Shop (which has now moved its entire operation to its 8,000-square-foot basement quarters). The other two branches are near Times Square and on East 86th Street.
The job-application process requires an audition, with dancing and singing. A lot of the songs are handed down from corporate, but the mixers design their own, to tunes by TLC and J-Kwon, for example.
“It kind of coaxes people into tipping more,” Ms. Costas said of the singing, with a shy smile. When she got the job, her friends threatened to visit and drop pennies in slowly.
“That’s the most degrading thing,” said Mr. Guzman, a lanky aspiring screenwriter. “When a whole bunch of little eighth-graders run in and say, ‘Oh my God, is this the place where you guys have to sing?’ And they’ll put in a quarter, and I’ll be like”-he paused and rolled his eyes-”I just stare at them. But I know lots of people get a kick out of it.”
“A lot of the regulars say, ‘We feel bad that you have to sing,’” Ms. Costas said. So she tells them they can give a “silent tip.” It’s only semi-silent, though: When a customer drops in some cash and requests anonymity, she’ll shout out, “Hey guys, we got a silent tip!” to her co-workers, and then they all cheer: “Thanks for the tip, see you tomorrow!”
At corporate headquarters in Tempe, Ariz., director of public relations Kevin Donnellan said that the singing connected with getting a tip was merely “encouraged,” and that there were other moments when singing is a “part of your job as a crew member,” such as during special promotions.
Young Mr. Guzman, however, said that singing after a tip was required, at least at the Astor Place branch. “Otherwise we don’t get our tips,” he explained.
(“I’m not aware of anybody who is not provided tips because they choose not to sing,” said Mr. Donnellan.)
That this jolly bunch of cream carolers have found their way to Astor Place makes some sense to Mr. Guzman. “There’s a bunch of weirdoes around here, so I guess we fit in, in our own little way,” he said. “I think we contribute a nice aspect for the downtown area.”
But still, there are standards. “Sometimes people come in and leave two cents,” said Ms. Costas. “I just say, ‘Thanks for the tip! See you tomorrow!’ I’m not going to sing for two cents.”
-Anna Schneider Mayerson