New York boasts an unusual, lush anonymity that allows you to take ownership of the city the morning after you’ve moved in. It also exaggerates the self-absorption that rules the place. It’s no accident that a drag queen named ‘Mimi Imfurst’ is one of the hottest acts in the borough’s nocturnal venues. The assumption is that since no one’s paying attention, you have a free pass to show your balls.
I went to a meeting last night where a young woman came in late, insisted on squeezing her chair into the circle and then proceeded to pick away compulsively at her raw-pink cuticles with no hint of a clue that this might be distasteful to her neighbors. We politely pretended to be transported by yogic bliss to avert our gaze.
Then on the subway someone reached down his back to scrape up some substance found there and proceeded to examine it carefully after each excavation. I had a tissue in my pocket and wanted desperately to offer it for the preservation of these important artifacts.
We won’t even discuss the ubiquitous iPod owners singing loudly out of tune, or the girls who get out their make-up kits and turn public sites into their bathrooms. Just let me know when you’re going to urinate, lady, so I can look away!
So the never-ending Tim Russert funeral and public circle jerk should come as no surprise. We can’t find out whether it’s going to rain tomorrow without also being force-fed TMI about the newscaster’s daughter’s teacher’s birthday party or whether the meteorologist likes white or rye. All is permitted if you have an audience, and getting the biggest one by any means available is a legitimate pursuit. So why not force people to contemplate your pointless life, hear about your neuroses or look at your pus?
It’s amazing to me not only that these phenomena occur and multiply but that hardly anyone perceives them as the assaults they clearly constitute. In North Korea people have to know (and learn) endless crap about Kim Jong Il; here, it’s democratic—you have to know endless crap about everybody.