How Racists are Made or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Transience

December 23, 2010 § 1 Comment

First of all, I’m very proud of that title I just came up with. Now to ruin all of your unearned goodwill with what will surely be a mediocre blog post:

So, I have been living here in New York for a few months now, and, while moving to a new place every three weeks or so is great, I figured it was probably time to stop lying to the HR department at work about the address I put on my tax forms, and get an honest-to-god one year lease for a place. I had been staying in Cobble Hill since the end of November, and really loved the area, so I decided to try to find a place there. And, lo and behold, craigslist came through: a 4 bedroom apartment a couple blocks away from where I was currently staying, very affordable, very spacious, and the current tenants said there weren’t really any issues to speak of. Great!

Well, no (obviously).

The man who showed me this apartment, let’s just call him David (because that is actually his name). David happens to be of Asian descent. If I had to guess, I would say he was Chinese (other Asians have confirmed for me that the name David is very likely to be taken by a Chinese man). I met David outside the place, and he brought me up to see it. It looked great. I wanted it. I worked for the next week or so scrounging together 4 roommates, and eventually I brought them all back to see the place. It was that visit that I learned that David was the building’s superintendant, and his in-laws with the owners. OK, fine. He was a little hard to understand, but he seemed like a pretty nice guy, and we really wanted this apartment.

Later that week, we meet up with him to get the leases and to provide our credit check materials. The leases need a little editing, and a few days later, he provides the final lease. Clearly, these were downloaded off of a lease template website, but I was told by others that they would do the trick. This was last Friday. By the following Wednesday (yesterday), we are to have the signed leases and deposit in to him, and the place is ours. Great!

Well, no.

Because I have a new job, I have no vacation time to speak of, so while all of my other future roommates traveled this week to faraway, warm lands, I was stuck here dealing with David on my own. Not a big deal. On Tuesday, after my travelling roommates had finally gotten all of their money and leases in to me, I made the call. “David,” I said, “we are ready to do this.” I said this with the excitement of a man who, for the past few months, had been moving 3 suitcases worth of belongings around various New York boroughs using 1 suitcase and multiple trips on the subway. I was ready for this apartment.

“OK,” he said. “Can you meet tomorrow?”

“Yes. Does 6pm work for you?”

“6pm is good yes.” (See, his English is fine)

“OK, I’ll call when I get out of work to confirm.”

“OK, I see you then.”

It was all happening. Until the following day, when I called David while leaving work. No answer, but no big deal. I left a message, and started my journey over towards the apartment (the agreed upon meeting place was actually a Dunkin’ Donuts down the street from it). When I got off the subway, I called again. No answer. Getting slightly concerned, I entered the Dunkin’ Donuts. There was another Asian man there, but he was not my David.

I waited, called a couple more times, sent some texts, and a growing sense of dread began to come over me. Around half an hour after we were supposed to meet, I went home. On the subway ride back, I got the idea into my head that David might be trying to avoid me for some reason. Why would he? Doug (who was going to me one of the four roommates) works at the Apple store, and had told David he could hook him up with a discounted iPads. At this prospect, David had been ecstatic. The guy loved us. Well, the idea persisted enough that when I got my paranoid self home, I used the voice dial option in Gmail to call David, so that it would come from a different phone number. David, of course, picked up right away.

He was busy, he said, and would call me back in a few minutes. After 25 minutes, he had not called. What did it all mean? What had we done? I tried to avoid thinking the worst, but I was growing very concerned that I was losing this apartment. I called several more times. No answer. Emails, texts, everything. Nothing. What was there to do? I went running for 45 minutes, because of some unexplainable health kick I’ve been on (surely to be explained in a later post), but that didn’t clear my head. So I came back home and went to bed, hoping all the bad things would go away in the morning, and a very apologetic message from David would be on my phone once I awoke.

Well, no.

I went to work, gave him until 10:30, and then used my work phone to call him, just in case he was still avoiding my phone number. He picked up. (Excitement!) He made even less sense than usual on the phone, and he told me that because we didn’t get our money in by the Wednesday deadline, he wasn’t sure if the apartment was ours anymore. I tried to remain calm, and explained that he had missed our meeting, and otherwise the money would have been in on time. “Yes, but you didn’t give me nothing. No money.” We had a circular argument like this, for a few rounds, and each time we went through it, I got louder and louder. People around the office stopped and looked at me. Somebody came over and whispered “I hate idiots, too!” (thanks, brother). We left like this: he would get back to me, because he wasn’t sure if another possible tenant was getting the place or not. This may make no sense to you, but the good news is, it made no sense to me, as well.

I gave him until my lunch break. Again, no response. I had taken lunch with my friend Slams, and on the way back to the office, I gave David a call. “David,” I said, not so calmly, “you need to tell me what is going on right now.”

“Like I told you before, I no get the money in on time.”

We had the same argument again a few more times.

“David, are you telling me that we no longer are able to sign the lease for this apartment?”

“There is nothing I can do.”

So, once I got that confirmation, that was my cue to lose my shit. If you ask my friends or family, I am known once in a rare while to go batshit insane. One time, the catalyst was getting hit in the balls while sleeping. Another, it was thinking that a man stole my iPod touch out of a dressing room (he hadn’t). Well, this time, you know the cause. I won’t try to transcribe what I said, but just know this: while continuing our walk back to work, Slams kept alerting me that everybody on the street was staring at me. How could they not? I was screaming into my phone various threats, nonsense, and correlational information concerning Jews and lawyers.

And then, as he kept repeating the same bullshit back to me, I took a dip into some minor racism.

I’m not proud of it, but I was possessed. I am sure there were countless Asians around me, staring disapprovingly. I brought up the triads, I brought up climate change, I alluded to child labor. Anything that was remotely related to China in my temporary ragebrain came out. And of course, as a good Jew should, I ended my tirade with “you’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” followed by this coda: “you fucking chink piece of shit.” I never use words like this. I am usually afraid to even say “Jew,” as it just sounds like it could be derogatory if said loudly enough.

There are two lessons I have taken away from this experience.

    1. Getting an apartment in New York is Hard.
    2. Racism creeps up on you. I look at Tea Partiers in a different light, now (not really, you fucking pieces of shit).

Doug, please proofread this, as I am still so angry that I forgot how to read.


I’m an immigrant, too!

December 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sitting in the Borders by Wall Street facing a wall of HBO movie DVDs, an Asian lady walks by and coughs into her hand.  My immediate thought is “Claire Danes is way too hot to believably portray an autistic lesbian.”  My second thought is “Fuck! SARS! Cover up, lady!”  Is that racist?  Probably.  But it’s totally okay because I’m an immigrant, too.  I live the way all the other immigrants live in this expensive city.  And there are a lot of them.  It’s like God was invited to a potluck and he made a people salad, except right before he was about to leave for it, he got a call that it was cancelled.  And he wasn’t hungry.  And the salad just sat there and became New York City.  Except there’s no nutritional value and it’s way too oily.

These are the reasons I’m an immigrant:

1. I live with a bunch of people in a small space, and the shower is covered in mold.  The Mold Monster lurks…

2. I will take the subway no matter where I am or what time it is.  All the immigrant taxi drivers (aka all the taxi drivers) like to hike up the fare for the poor souls who don’t normally take cabs and don’t know any better.  Or maybe that’s just how much a cab costs.

3. Wonder Fried Chicken.  When I visit my friends in Harlem, this fine dining establishment is staring at me as soon as I get off the subway.  I usually succumb and go inside, where I am welcomed by potentially Albanian men who call me ‘brother’.  There is an affable, familial atmosphere that encompasses both me, the possible Albanians and the black customers that reside there.  The sign also says they have seafood, but I think that just refers to chickens whose coops had flooded before they were slaughtered.

4. I work at the 5th Avenue Apple Store, the #1 attraction for world tourists and immigrants.  Every customer I talk to is foreign.  Every single one.  The Americans already know what they want, they don’t need my help.

me: Do you want Applecare on your iPod touch?

Sum Yun Guy: I pay da cash.

me: I understand, but do you want Applecare?

SYG: I can have da iPod.

me: Super.  Do you also want Applecare on that iPod?

SYG: I want da music.

me: I bet you have a serious case of crabs, huh?

SYG: Yes, I like crab.

me: Cool beans.

5. I have no choice but to stop and stare wide-eyed and open-mouthed at any Peruvian pan flute band performing in the subway.  Their magical hymns hypnotize me and bring me back to my immigrant childhood of milking alpacas and chasing chinchillas.  And occasionally milking chinchillas.

These are the main reasons I’m an immigrant, aside from the general fact that I can’t afford to do white people things in NYC like ride in cars.  BUT, I have to end this post now because sitting next to me is the other half of my Five Dollar Footlong that I try to stretch into a days worth of meals.  It’s been hanging out there unrefrigerated and I think the Lite Mayo is starting to grow a beard.

The PoorBlog Manifesto (Doug version)

December 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dan’s introductory post left me wondering if it was truly a manifesto since it didn’t really set any policy or solid aims for PoorBlog.  It took only seconds to understand that it was more than a manifesto: it was a proclamation of our rebellion.  It says to me WE HAVE NO RULES.  If I cared about rules, I wouldn’t walk around shirtless with patches of hair missing on my chest because my buzzer ran out of batteries while I was trimming three days ago and I still haven’t done anything about it.  Fuck the police.

PoorBlog, while being about all the things Dan mentioned, is a point of view.  It is the point of view of two guys who graduated and moved to New York City, instantly making us poor.  But this isn’t real poor.  It’s middle class poor.  Where Five Dollar Footlongs are a staple, laundry is attempted twice a month at best, and writhing in a blood clot-induced seizure on the floor of the subway because of the unforeseen slap in the dick of a 30-day metro card running out is a way of life.  No, not real poor.  Not like a Somalian kid offering to pay top mouse carcass for a grain of rice.  It’s much worse than that.

So off we go.  I’m a poor actor and Dan is a poor Teamster at a nonprofit.  I woke up at 12:45 pm today and I couldn’t be more ashamed, but it is hard to wake up in a room with no windows.  Tomorrow isn’t looking any better.  I live in a one bedroom apartment with four people in it, someone had to take the cave.  My bed’s headboard is comprised of empty Fresh Direct boxes stacked 5 high that the previous inhabitant left here.  At least there was once food in this room.

Join us on our journey.  Or not.  It might not be exciting.  But in the spirit of being fake poor, we are donating 10% of the profits we make from this blog (ads, future merchandise, etc) to charity.  All you have to do to give to charity is visit our blog and click on an ad once in a while.  HAS IT EVER BEEN THAT EASY TO GIVE TO CHARITY??  YOU PAY NOTHING!!  ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SURF THE INTERNET!!  WHERE THE HELL DID DENNIS KUCINICH GO??

To get through all this we encourage heavy drinking, smoking and general debauchery.  May the Force be with you.

The PoorBlog Manifesto (Dan version)

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Dustin Hoffman is greatGet it? Manifesto? Manifest? The Sphere?

So, as a peruser of too many blogs through Google Reader, a few times I have found myself wondering about many of these more well-established blogs’ first posts. How does the author decide what to say? Do you just jump in and start writing whatever they want their blog to be about? Does that make it seem like you’ve been writing these things all along, and only one day decided to start sharing your thoughts with the rest of the world? Or, do you cop-out, and make some kind of introductory post? Does that get people more interested in what you’re going to share next?

Or, you might be a little bit pathetic, and might be lacking both original thoughts and creativity, and create a post about first posts. Unfortunately for you, I am both of these things, and, through process of elimination, this last choice seemed like the best idea. The worst part about it is, I can’t even think what more to write about first posts, so I’m going to have to move on to another topic now. Maybe there was another first post choice I hadn’t even considered when I started writing this: the stream of consciousness post. Clearly, we will have no editorial process.

So this blog is called PoorBlog. I’ll be honest here: we (Doug and I) went through several different blog names that we thought people could somehow relate to, but most of the free ones were taken. Some failed possibilities were:

  • PizzaBlog
  • CouchBlog
  • ToiletBlog
  • PuppyBlog
  • CarpetBlog (we almost got really creative and went with CarpetBlogger, but I wasn’t not sure I fully understood the term carpetbagger enough to go with this)
  • CookieBlog

You get the picture. In a span of 5 minutes, Doug and I basically decided we wanted to start a blog, looked around the room for things to name it after, thought of things we both like that we could name it after, and then for some reason settled on PoorBlog.

So, will poverty and those things and feelings and images associated with it be a major part of this blog? No. I think I’ll probably write about some cheap food I find, because I get excited about that, but that’s more of a middle-class, not-really-poor kind of poverty. I guess maybe we should have gone with FrugalBlog. The truth is, I don’t think finances or the lack thereof will even be a major theme to posts here, so we’ll all have to just accept this name and move on.

To give you a little tempting taste of things that I think I’ll probably write about, here are some things that I like:

  • Food
  • The internet
  • Complaining
  • Angry Birds
  • Living above or below my means, but never at just the level commensurate with my means
  • My beard (the kind that grows on your face)

I have no idea what Doug plans to write. Probably some things about long hair, acting, sleeping in, and maybe, if we’re lucky, he’ll touch on frugality, of which I know he is a huge fan.

So, come along on this journey with us. We’ll probably lose interest in a few days, anyway, so you don’t even really have to commit that much time to it. I promise that posts won’t really get longer than this, so hopefully this is the worst and most painful experience you have reading our blog. I’m tired and have work in the morning, so I’ll leave it to Doug to pick up from here. Hopefully he has a better idea for an introductory post.