As we approach the end of this blighted year, it makes a little sense, I think, to back the razor away from the vein, and instead think of how fucking great the world is, or at least New York.
Last night, I went to a "Times Talk" down at the New School hosted by Times' reporter Dave Itzkoff talking to New York comedians Colin Quinn and Jerry Seinfeld.
Quinn and Seinfeld are New Yorkers through and through. Their humor grows from the noise, the mayhem, the mixing of culture and races, and the comedy that friction causes.
I guess they'd be funny if they were born in Kansas or Iowa--this is not fly-over-disparagement, we've had enough of that. But their timing, their observations, their edge is New York.
"I can't say which is worse," Quinn said. "Times' Square in the 70s, when it was 'Taxi Driver,' or Times' Square today, when it's Disneyfied."
"Basically a choice," Seinfeld said. "Between soul-crushing or blood-letting. Between living with Disney or at the point of a knife."
"I can tell you," Quinn said. "I spent more time there in the 70s." (so did I.)
That was the tenor of the night. Jokes and some tips about life.
To wit, "you can't just wing it. You have to confront the fact that you're not a genius," said Seinfeld. That's how Seinfeld faces what he calls "the brutality of writing." That is, the labor it takes to succeed.
As if to prove Quinn's point, and Seinfeld's, about the vibrancy of New York, when the hour-long chat was over, I hopped into a cab, heading west on 13th Street before we made the long trek over to the FDR.
The driver was an old man from Mauritania. We talked for the 30 minutes it took to get us home. We talked and laughed. We shook hands at the end. The fare was $23. But I let him keep the $30 I gave him. Mauritania, after all.
Then just now, I was in a little deli on 45th and Tenth, not my usual place, grabbing my morning java.
Deli manners demand you're as brusque as can be--especially if you're not a regular.
"Large coffee black and put it in a bag," I said without making eye contact.
"You don't want it in a cup?" The counterman said.
And we laughed and shook hands.
Be thankful for life around you.
It's better than the alternative.