It all started with a big gay ice cream truck.
The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, to be precise.
I had decided to walk to work, after a long day jaunting around town delivering deliverables and putting up a wan smile to post-house cronies for whom I was “just another brick in the wall”.
I had already eaten lunch, but the whole city-traipsing affair had tired me out and I knew what I wanted:
Some ice cream.
Yes, ice cream. A kids’ version of a “pick-me-up”. Some smooth, creamy deliciousness that was thought-obliterating in its wonder.
So what if you probably didn’t get that job you want, so what if your boss found two different ways of yelling at you today, or you’re not sure if you’re life’s going on the “right path”, or if you’re suddenly not sure of any value the last four years of your life might have had.
Who cared: there’s ice cream.
But I was tired of Cold Stone, whose eerie chemical-flavoring had started seeping into my taste-buds, and even the once wonderous Shake Shack had lost its veneer, as my job took me to that area enough that I could have it whenever I wanted, turning it from an object of unrequited desire, to an easy pay-fer lay.
So, walking along University Place, up by Union Square, I felt that ice cream urge, but I panicked, knowing that the old flavors wouldn’t do it. Il Laboratorio and Ruby et Violette were far away and the Mister Softee’s truck? Well that was so 7th grade.
So I did the unthinkable.
I called my mom and asked her to decide.
Then when she had no answer, I did the even more unthinkable.
I used Yelp.
“Yelp” is the sort of iPhone application that I usually hate, because it turns clueless tourists into people who think that they are like me.
In other words, Yelp is a search engine that incorporates user-generated reviews to tell you, based on what you type in, what other people think of places. Like a “ChowHound” for everything.
But sorry, just because you have a nifty iPhone application doesn’t mean you have experience or savvy. It doesn’t even mean you’ll know the real reviews from the business hucksters who post on their own Yelp reviews to bolster their sales. It just means you have an iPhone. And this is the sound of one hand clapping.
But it did take me to a big gay ice cream truck.
Or, as I said before, The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.
The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck looks innocuous at first from the side. Like a modified Mister Softee, which it is, that or one of the other brands.
In fact, there is no “Big Gay” sign on the opposite side of the truck, no signal that would indicate any fey-ness or “temperamental” quality. But when you go to the window, you see Olive Oil and Sea Salt advertised as 1-dollar toppings, Nutella offered on an ice-cream sandwich and the particular special shown at the top of this post.
I approached the truck warily, wondering if this big-gay truck might claim some sort of stake in me if I enjoyed it.
Or actually I didn’t know if I was daring enough to try the sea salt.
I ended up getting an olive-oil and sea-salt taste, on a spoon with some swirly soft-serve.
It tasted good, sweet and Tuscan, like I was eating ice cream (not gelato) in Italy.
“You’re going to try that.” The actually small (though probably still at least bi-welcome) proprietor told me. “And then you’re going to get the Bea Arthur.”
I didn’t feel a need to argue with big, gay prophecy. So I assented and here it is:
Nilla Wafers, ground to bits, Dulce De Leche syrup and a vanilla swirly, all on top of a good ol’ fashioned wafer cone.
I was originally considering the “pimp” as it had the chocolate dip shell that I so often prefer on my soft-serve, but the sea-salt threw me off.
The Bea ended up being sweet, but a little salty too in a way that was mostly very satisfying.
It was a little crunchy and the salt helped cut the sweetness of the ice cream and the syrup, while the Dulce de Leche acted like a glue, keeping everything around.
If I had a complaint, it was that when I took a bite, the wafer crumbs fell on my Carhardt hoodie which, if a hoodie could shurg, would have probably done so.
I tipped the BG-proprietor an extra buck for the service and walked on my way, me and Bea.
Sunday, Eva left in the morning and it was hard to take.
In fact, in the last 20 minutes or so between when you know she’s going to leave and she leaves, it’s hard for me not to feel disconsolate.
It’s so nice spending time with her, hearing her funny gasps, bearing witness to a surprised, sudden smile, that it causes a sort of rebound, thinking about the time she’s going to go, when you are with her.
What’s more I didn’t know what to do with my day. The weekend had seemed something of a bust, so much so that its highlight (apart from Eva), was probably my relapse into playing Magic cards in a church basement on Saturday afternoon.
I had nothing to do that day and the majority of my friends were gone for the weekend on two separate shoots, that left me longing both for my friends and for that on-set thrill of being wanted/needed/used in the way production-life seems to do to you.
Sunday was worse though, as I had already seen all the movies there were to see, with the people there were to see them with.
When, on Sunday morning, I talked to Jason Lee, a visitor to the city for a while, I asked him if he would see a play with me at 2, asked sometime in the mid-morning.
He said he was interested in the play but that it was “doubtful” that he would “muster the strength” to be in Manhattan by then.
A lazy Sunday, I suppose.
After Eva left, for homework and solitude, I spent a few hours playing video games and playing with Boxee, my new internet-TV, I had gotten after I made sure I had all the seasons of King of the Hill and decided to cut off my cable.
Still, just like watching regular TV, there’s only so long you can do it before you just get sad, and I reached that threshold quickly.
So I did what I had to do to dodge depression: I headed downtown, to eat something good.
I went to Bon-Chon Chicken (whose competitor, Kyo-Chon is mentioned in the previous post).
I knew Bon-Chon and knew that they were flavorful, tasty, uncomplicated and easy to access.
In other words, a quick fix. Somewhere I could eat that might make me happy.
And it was good and tasty, but I was alone there, with a sole female counter-host, who took my order gave it to me and then was silent, a silence accentuated by the fact that my streaming “This American Life” app was on the fritz, leaving me with only a tantalizing bit of Ira Glass through my headphones before it cut off and I was alone.
In all, it didn’t take an afternoon. I thought of the Big Gay Truck, but it was far in the other direction and I had had it recently.
So I decided to do something crazy.
I’d walk to Brooklyn to get Pizza and Ice Cream.
Walking accross the Brooklyn Bridge was something I had done before. I remembered at least one time, walking there from my friend’s Chinatown dormitory to shoot experimental super-8 footage where I played a combination novelist/slacker/astronaut.
But this time I was there to get Pizza.
The reward for crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot is the pizza and ice cream at Fulton Landing, directly under the bridge, right into Brooklyn.
There Grimaldi’s Pizza, the thin soft-crusted basil-topped pies, has a rustic outlet where tourists queue up on the sidealk and a 250-pound plus Italian stereotype profiles them by age, ethnicity and group size before deciding whether or not they get a table.
Also there is the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, known for its comparatively scant selections (8 flavors), light-creaminess, and good ice-creaming location, looking over the water.
When I got past the first line, the one for ice cream, I had waited past tourists and crowds of children, over-active or perhaps normally active, given that they were about to eat ice-cream.
I myself was over-excited, when I got there and no picture remains.
Only a picture of regret as I looked across the river, ice-cream-less.
I also got a Grimaldi’s pizza on a lark.
I realized that since I was getting take-out, I could skip the whole line situation. And even though I wasn’t that hungry (chicken strips and ice cream will do that to you), I figured I’d do something with it.
After all, how often would I be by Grimaldi’s.
I sat down in the park, folded my slice and bit in.
Looking back on this encounter, the strange thing was neither the pizza nor the ice cream (both were predictably great), but the way I wedged myself into authority in both situations.
When I went to get my pizza, the old Italian guy at the door bounced me, telling em to wait until the white/Indian couple who had just gone in to order came out.
As I sat in front of the doorway, waiting my turn, I saw the old guy waddle over to a car to talk to a friend and deliver him his pizza.
While I sat there though, a hipster attempted entry.
“Woah, woah!” I decried. “Who are you, buddy?”
“What.” He replied flatly.
“Where you going?” I asked.
“To get some pizza, that ok?” He asked innocently.
“No, no. You see this?” I gestured open with one arm at myself and the empty chair next to me. “This is what we call a line here, buddy.”
And I pointed down into the chair.
And he accepted my authority.
I did this for a few people until my pizza came out.
And when I went to go eat it, down in the park, I sat and ate a slice or two and realized there was no way I was finishing this pizza.
Luckily for me, there was a Water Taxi station behind me that stopped at the World Financial Center.
I would bring this pizza to Eva. I would see her again. I would give her some delicious food.
I would probably get a few kisses out of it and a nice smile.
It would be a nice cap to my day.
But as I leaned there, waiting against the fence, looking out toward the water, my pizza tucked under an anchor-shaped bench, I entertained questions from tourists as to the nature of the Water Taxi, the cost and the schedule.
Hold on, I told the passengers.
As I took out my phone and began Yelping.
The water taxi never came.
I felt bad for the tourists who I had given information to, but they left before I did, as I sat on cold Fulton’s Landing, waiting for my ship to come in.
I ended up walking up-hill, through Brooklyn Heights over to the Clark Street Station, which was built into an old hotel and is apparently elevator-access only.
When I finally got to Eva’s place, after doing a jitterbug getting out at Wall and then back in the train to Fulton and then back out to Wall again, I had crossed the West Side Highway and several rivers with pizza in hand.
But when I got there, Eva was fast asleep, picking up neither her phone nor her buzzer.
I pleaded with her doorman. I called up no less than 11 times. I even considered throwing a pebble before realizing that Eva lived on 8, and I was no Hank Aaron.
I left her a sad message and headed home.
She called me and was sad later.
But I was fine.
At least I had made it through the day.
A lot has been going on in my family lately and I feel like I have to say something about it.
My sister recently left her 3-year treatment program after a couple weeks, with 4 one-dollar bills, six quarters, some sunglasses, a bag, and a bus ticket back to New York.
Ostensibly, she sold the ticket, bought some beer, got in a cab my parents paid for, threw up in the cab, which took her to the police station and then left, with her bag still in the car.
She told the cops what had happened, they smelled alcohol on her breath and took her to the hospital.
When my dad drove out there to pick her up today and take her to see her court-appointed social worker. When her social worker told her she needed to see the judge today, she walked out on the session and left.
The program was court-mandated and the judge told her last if she didn’t complete it, it would be six months in jail.
As she is homeless and a warrant issued for her arrest, she is again a fugitive from the New York State judicial system.
The prevailing opinion in my family seems to be that it’s jail for her, pretty soon, or a drug-related death.
My dad put the odds at 50/50.
In someways, I take a look at her story and it’s more interesting than the one I’ve told today, of pizza and boredom and ice cream trucks.
In fact that might seem obvious.
But to know my family, is to know that this is a story, sad and expected from us. A state of affairs that has repeated, one way or another, throughout my sister’s life.
For me, that is, it’s really more boring than anything else.
To tell the truth, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of my sister ruling my family, of taking over all of our lives in her despotic, all-destructive fashion.
As I look at my mother and father and the enormous stress they’ve been under in their own lives without this, I think it’s a miracle they are still standing.
I wonder how much more they can take. When or how this will end.
When I checked my phone for a text message earlier, it was my sister from my dad’s phone telling me she loved me.
When my dad told me she’d ran away and put her survival at 50/50, I told him that my morning had gone well.
And that I hoped it was over soon.
THE BIG GAY ICE CREAM TRUCK
The Bea Arthur- $4
NW Corner of Broadway and 17th st (limited days, check their site)
NRQW456L to 14th St-Union Square
Small Plain Pie (6 slices)- $15.25
19 Old Fulton St, Brooklyn near Fulton Landing
AC to High St-Brooklyn Bridge, F to York St, 23 to Clark St.