The New York World: New York Without a Net

I go to my aunt’s to use her landline. It’s big and plastic and I can’t work it into the crook of my arm in the way French teenagers in high-school textbooks always seemed to be able to. I call five people, and only the fifth, an unemployed friend, picks up with the kind of ring in his voice like he expects me to be a job. Sorry. Later, at home, I call the police station, whose new deputy I’ve been assigned to profile. No one ever picks up the phone. Ever.

I decide to walk to the police station. I run into a dude in jeans who asks, “Can I help you, ma’am?” This turns out to be the new deputy, whose whole spiel is that he wants to “make the office more approachable.” This will provide the perfect lead for my profile.

I go to a play, arrive super-early, so I duck around the corner to a coffee shop. An acquaintance who works there is bored, so we go bond over whiskey dicks at the Metropolitan. Afterward I swing back by the coffee shop and convince him to come to my best friend Lane’s house in Astoria and get drunk. A hot-tempered Southerner, Lane reminisces over how she has broken multiple phones by throwing them down onto slate pavements, tiled floors, brick. “I can’t actually break Scott’s neck,” she says. “But he can’t defend himself if he’s a phone.”

Then the people at Lane’s apartment party all go on YouTube, clicking from video to video.

 

FRIDAY

The New York Times is five times the price of the Daily News. Reading it on the subway, you look like a rich ass. I have switched to buying the Daily News.

I think of the famous E. B. White line, “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” And maybe this is what I’ve been experiencing all week—making a friend on the train, dragging an acquaintance out to get drunk in Astoria, where we become legitimate friends. But also, I am seeing people less. I am more neighborhood- and family-focused. I see less, more crisply.

In the Bryant Park library are phone booths—dark and lovely as confessionals. The only person in them is on his Nokia, telling someone about his boss. It’s a Friday afternoon so I make some calls to ensure I have a social life. No one picks up save my unemployed friend, Lucy, who admits she only did thinking I was an employer calling with a job.

I call a boy I think I have a crush on to meet a few of us at the Yale Club. It turns out he has to work, but I only learn this later. In the meantime, I muster up anger toward him that turns out to be eventually useful—next week I’ll meet someone I really like.

I don’t mind waiting forever in the Yale Club lobby for Lane, watching all the young banker types swagger. This is more fun than playing iPhone Topple. Lane finally shows up with the excuse that she had an argument with her boyfriend and couldn’t call me to warn me.

We do what we would have done here 150 years ago, which is get drunk while reading the hard copy New York Times and then sneak around the private parties on the upper floors. On the 18th we find red wine and old men, singing “Danny Boy” a cappella. I drink myself through the minor chords.

Somehow we end up at the Harvard Club on a mission to affirm that there really is an elephant, stuck dead on the wall. There is; I want to take a camera-phone picture but I can’t. When I get home at 2 a.m. I have a voice mail from unemployed Lucy at 5:34 p.m.: “It’s really annoying that you’re not using technology,” she says, “’cause I actually need you for something in the next half-hour.”

 

WEEKEND

It takes me 2.5 hours to read the whole Sunday Times and at the end, I basically only remember that David Segal’s article about the Mall of America uses the verb “limoed.” I watch too much of a movie with Matthew McConaughay; I compose a to-do list of what I will do when I get the Internet. Finally, it’s 12:04 a.m. Monday. I start up my laptop. Four hundred and nine emails. The ex-lover whose power ballad mix I’ve been listening to all week emailed me some shitty book of poems, and 20 minutes later I’m still reading them online.

At 2:20 a.m., I find myself watching a video called “suicide cat” on YouTube.