Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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The kid has left the picture

I spent yesterday evening and today looking after the kid from massachusetts, who is a pretty resourceful guy but still a 17 year old and possessed of a 17-year-old's lack of discipline and responsibility. I'm not the most responsible guy out there, at any age, but I look back at 17 and wonder if I was ever really like that. Oh well, he's a good kid with a really big heart and it was good to spend some time with him again. Rebuild some bridges I burned in my hermit phase. There are other bigger ones out there still in cinders but they'll have to wait.

I had some things I wanted to say but I'm off caffeine (again) and I'm a little sluggish, not to mention recovering from some stress when he was 3 and a half hours late in getting back to my house and didn't so much as call or email even though he was trying to do something on computer. Kids today! You worry yourself sick and when they flounce in the door after ripping your heart out they have the nerve to not even so much as apologize. It's probably all the loud rock and roll music and the dancing and the T.V. games and whatnot. I blame the MTV.

One of the nice things about hanging out with George is that even though he's from massachusetts he gets New York style humor, which is something that a lot of people seem to have trouble with. There were a whole lot of exchanges like this:

George: Let me ask you something. What's the key to doing well at Columbia?
Ben: Sexual frustration.
George: Really?
Ben: Yeah. Don't worry, if you persist in wearing that shirt with those shorts you should make Dean's list every semester.

It's all in the timing and while it's a somewhat biting remark it doesn't dig at anything important. The key to the New York barbed exchange that differentiates it from actual verbal insult throwing is that it doesn't go after the area where someone has real self-esteem issues unless that person is a good friend (New York is a town where affection is often shown through aggression. You'd never greet a stranger with 'hey fuckface' but that's expected with a friend) or the insult is so ludicrous that it can be laughed at. (For example, if he asks "What kind of woman do you think would want someone like me?" you can say "Bulimic chicks, looking back on your night of passion would save them sticking their finger down their throat." Or "One with low standards." You can not say "Someone who likes chubby insecure boys with flared nostrils.")

A lot of it's in the timing and the moment and doesn't translate to the written word, but I figured I'd provide a bit of a guide since people on the Internet are often confounded by even the most gentle of barbs, and don't know the fine art of trading friendly put downs, something that my friends and I are constantly doing on AIMer, for example.

Everyone talks about how New Yorkers wear black clothing but they don't mention the black humor. Transplants can learn to avoid eye contact and dress in dark clothes and jaywalk but you're not a true New Yorker until you have at least one friendship built almost exclusively on cutting remarks. In a city of 8 million people if you take yourself seriously or try to deal with everyone in an open and interested manner you're soon going to be overwhelmed. Keeping people at arms distance with a glare and a sardonic comment is a matter of survival and can be quite entertaining. It's one of the things I will truly miss when I leave New York.
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