Category Archives: Insanity

The great pretender

I think it’s fair to say that West Hollywood is somewhat of a tourist trap, with hundreds of people of all nationalities taking in the sights from the Walk Of Fame to Grauman’s Chinese Theatreer. Everywhere you look there are people trying to hustle you into taking a bus ride around the homes of the rich and the famous. Well, a tour of the roads leading to the homes of the rich and the famous, I’d imagine. I somehow doubt that George Clooney is going to open the gates to his mansion to allow a minibus packed full of Japanese tourists to gain unfettered access to his pot-bellied pig.

Indeed, wherever there are tourists, there are people trying to make some money for themselves. Given that this is Hollywood, that generally means dressing up as a famous character from movie history, and attempting to cajole allcomers to part with a bit of cash in order to have their photo taken with you.

The problem is, of course, that where movies can employ cinematic sheen and a healthy dose of computer generated imagery, real-life lends no such luxuries. Thus while Brandon Routh may look very convincing as Superman on screen, Tony from Long Beach just looks like a bloke dressed in a poorly fitting Superman costume that was machined by his sister.

Being confronted by ‘Hollywood legends’ wherever you walk is a little disconcerting, especially when they momentarily drop out of character. As I passed Spiderman this morning, for instance, the ‘actor’ within spotted somebody he knew and called out to her in a thick Southern accent to ask whether she was going to ‘the party’ tonight. That the person he called out to turned out to be (the poor man’s) Supergirl is no excuse.

The whole sorry façade reached its lowest ebb when I made my way to Baja Fresh to grab a lunchtime burrito. As I sat eating, a weary out-of-shape man in his mid to late 40s with dark dyed wavy hair ordered himself a quesadilla. He looked like a member of Kiss without the makeup (and without the charisma or cash in the bank), and wore a dark black cape with some kind of faux electronic trickery attached to his belt.

It couldn’t be, could it?

Darth Vader

Sadly, it was. For the record, I’d like it to be known that he had left this on his table while he went to use the facilities. Who knew that the Dark Lord of the Sith ever had to attend to anything so mundane? It was like finally unmasking Batman and discovering that for all these years, it had been your mum underneath.

Ironically, the ‘actress’ playing Marilyn Monroe looked more like somebody’s dad in a blonde wig, so I guess what goes around comes around, huh?

Cross crossing

This Brit Out Of Water almost became Brit Out Of Water (Deceased) at lunchtime, on an abortive trip to find a new washbag. It would hardly have been the most rock’n’roll way to go out, let’s face it. Some people die in a blazing gun battle, others perish saving the life of others – my family would have been forced to admit that I lost my life in the reckless pursuit of a new holder for my shampoo and shaving gel. Jimmy Dean, I ain’t.

Fortunately, I live to fight another day. That’s despite the efforts of one 4×4 driver as I crossed 8th Avenue. With the white pedestrian sign firmly lit, I marched purposefully across the road, confident in my right to do so. I could see a golden 4×4 approaching, but knew that it would slow down to give way to the striding man ahead of him. But no, instead the arseholedriver put his foot to the metal and raced infront of me, forcing me to jump back rapidly to avoid becoming one of the three pedestrians who are killed on the streets of New York City every week.

It all happened so quickly, I almost didn’t have the chance to angrily mouth “you f**kwit” at him. Almost.

However, to be honest, it wasn’t so much the near-miss that annoyed me.

Whenever I do something wrong, I have the good grace to be a bit sheepish about it. When I didn’t replace the seal in the dishwasher, and the kitchen flooded as a result, I was red-faced and regretful. When I mistakenly pushed in the queueline for a bagel last week, I bowed and scraped with the best of them. Remorse is an admirable quality, one demonstrated by rueful troublemakers the world over.

Not by this particular New York troublemaker, though.

You’d imagine the driver would offer a silent ‘sorry’ as he looked me square in the eye. Maybe a hand in the air to express regret? Perhaps even winding down the window to apologise in person?

But no. Instead all he managed was a steady gaze directly at me, an obnoxious wink, and a smile before speeding off into the distance.

It’s hard to imagine that somebody could be so self-involved to think that causing a pedestrian to jump out of the way is not only something he doesn’t need to have any regret about, but actually something to laugh about and maybe chat to his fratboy mates about over a beer a few hours later. But you learn something every day in New York, it would seem.

Perhaps I’ve misjudged the whole thing, and the wink was actually his attempt to indicate that he wanted more than just a passing lunatic-victim relationship. Who said chivalry was dead?

The Mad Old Lady Of Met Foods

Trips to do the grocery shopping are never dull in the USA. For a start, there’s the constant battle to make any sense of brand names, and the awe and wonder at the preponderance of items that you could never imagine anyone ever having a need for (pumpkin flavoured egg nog, anyone?). But more than that, the regular trip to the store gives you the strongest possible sense of the community in which you now exist.

For all the years that I lived in Wandsworth or Mortlake, the nearby Sainsbury’s or Waitrose only ever acted as a place to stock up on the essential items to get you through the week. I don’t think that I ever bumped into anybody I knew in a supermarket in twelve years of living in London. Yet here in Brooklyn, a visit to the grocery store is more like a coffee morning, with The Special One greeting all-comers while I furtively attempt to sneak jars of Coleman’s Mustard and HP Sauce into the trolley.

Inevitably when I make the trip alone, it’s back to my rightful role as Billy No Mates. Although even I now have a nodding acquaintance with the blokeguy who generally delivers our food after we’ve paid for it. But even though I don’t know the same number of people, it doesn’t mean I don’t from time-to-time get dragged into the soap opera that is Met Foods on Henry Street. And never more so than this weekend.

The shopping trip all started perfectly smoothly, as I carefully navigated through the potential assault course of 372 different types of milk before successfully picking up the organic lactose-free variety (don’t ask me, I was just doing what I was told). Then came canned goods such as soups and tuna, followed by hundreds of different organic cereals with names that I didn’t recognise but which left me with the distinct impression that they might taste of cardboard. Nevertheless, so far so good.

Until I reached the cleaning products section, that is. Having managed to secure toilet roll and what I refer to as ‘kitchen roll’ but am forced by law into calling ‘paper towels’ here, I started to move my trolley slowly across the aisle to get a bottle of laundry detergent.

And that’s when I came across the Mad Old Lady Of Met Foods. Now, bear in mind that when I started to shift my trolley across the aisle, Mad Old Lady was maybe ten yards behind me. Having seen her coming, I nonetheless stopped to let her go by. Which is why her response of “There are other people in the store, you know” as she slowly wheeled past me was possibly a little surprising and maybe a tad unnecessary.

Unwilling to let her get away with such public disdain, I shouted after her that “you may be old, but that doesn’t mean you have to be so rude.” And so started a five minute argument the length and breadth of the store, with her random attacks on my personality being followed by my retorts about her general rudeness, as I looked imploringly at fellow customers for sympathy. My particular favourite exchange was the following:

Mad Old Lady: (mutters under breath)

Brit Out Of Water: “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said?”

Mad Old Lady: “I was calling you a dummy. Are you a dummy?”

Although it has to be said that the fifteen second interlude when she chased me down the beer aisle with her trolley, shouting “Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me” was pretty damn memorable too.

Fortunately, some pretty sharp cornering at the crispspotato chips stand took me racing away from her, shouting a defiant “God bless America” as I departed. By the time I reached the checkout, she’d moved on to another unwitting victim. Thankfully it seems that this was not the Mad Old Lady Of Met Foods’ first outing in her adopted grocery store home. One man looked at me sympathetically and confided that she was “missing a thousand marbles” while another woman just smiled the half-smile of someone who has been there, and indeed, done that.

Shocked though I was at the whole experience, I’ll be back at Met Foods next weekend no doubt. Maybe I’ll be even more careful when I reach for the washing powder. But if the Mad Old Lady wants to square up for Round Two, this dummy will be lying in wait, mark my words…