Saturday, February 02, 2002

Like Sand Through The Hour Glass

let’s stop talking talking talking
wasting precious time
just a lot of empty noise
that isn’t worth a dime - Dory Previn "yada yada la scala"

bedrooms: 1
bathrooms: 1
property type: condo
doorman: yes
approximate square footage: 900
price: $575,000
maint/cc: $450
taxes: $450 (monthly)
down: 10%
- Property ad New York 2 February 2002

"I often drop in to the local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings", a teetotal New York friend once told me. "It's a good place to meet interesting people".

Such is life in the Apple where the "fabric of society" bears more resemblance to polyester than to the natural yarns.

At the neighborhood bar, the "locals" - people you'll only ever meet up with at the bar itself - sit on the barstools, their eyes glued to the quiz show on the telly, answering the questions loudly enough for all present to hear.

There's a tenuous resemblance to the family TV room of Australia in the 1970's. Social interaction is occurring, albeit via a quiz show compare. People comment on other people's guesses. Occasionally they applaud. But there it ends. No friendships are struck up; at least no friendships of the kind that I'm used to. The "friendships" are operative at that particular bar at that particular time.

My friend who drops by the local AA'S, doesn't want to actually meet and know the AAers. She just wants to hear some interesting conversation. In her own time. It is a sort of "user-pays" way of relating. And one suspects that one's use-by date is only a few seconds away at all times.

Of course I'm used to it. I'm one of them. I've learned that the easiest way to conduct a conversation is via the answer machine. This is how it goes... not wanting to tie up valuable time in an interactive mode of conversing, you call a friend when you know she won't be there. This gives you the chance to talk without any danger of interruption. You sign off with a "we must meet up soon", but do not commit. A few days later you get home from work and she's answered. "Great to hear from you. This is what's happening..... ", and so on till the obligatory "we must meet up soon". What could be neater and more time-efficient?

But occasionally I drop my guard and act like the person I was, many moons ago. It usually happens when there's a major change in my life. I feel obliged to communicate it to someone other than my better half. Of course I could call Australia and enjoy the conversation with old friends. But it can happen that I feel the need to talk to a real person in the daytime hours, rather than across the airwaves late at night.

It happened the other day. After months of soul-and money searching, I had finally decided to buy a Manhattan condo. The repayments will be BIG DOLLARS. But I worked out that if I don't go to Frederic Fekkai for my hair cut every six weeks, I can easily afford it.

Nevertheless I was sick to the stomach when the offer was accepted. Some ancient neuron connection fired and I was the me of nine years ago; obliged to COMMUNICATE. Immediately. Australia was sleeping.

I contacted a New Yorker "friend". "We're buying an apartment! I'm so nervous; it's on the Upper East Side", I blahed. "Oh", she replied, "That's nice; I hear it is going to rain today, must go, I have errands to attend to".

I should have known better. That night I called Melbourne. "What's it like?" "What do you feel like" "I'll look it up on a map" "My god!" The responses I was used to in my former life streamed down the phone line with no prompting.

Last night on the telly there was a show about sex dolls. They looked real. Life-sized and detailed. Soon they will simulate orgasms, the manufacturer explained. And perhaps in the not-so-distant future, there'll be doll alcoholics. And doll local-bar-customers. Doll work-collegues and doll-employers. Doll anti-globalisation demonstrators and doll-homeless.

Will we New Yorkers even notice? I Don't THINK so.