Sunday, April 30, 2006

What's the Opposite of Serendipity?

A city story:
Late Saturday afternoon, after cruising around the Brooklyn Botantical Gardens' glorious Cherry Blossoms Festival for a couple of hours, long enough to decide that three-inch heels really are Satan's tools and that I really should have insisted on my place rather than his the night before, I settled down with this week's Village Voice on a 2 train for a long ride from Brooklyn to way-uptown Manhattan.

Some distance for a freebie: I wanted to make the paper last as long as possible, so I hunkered down to read it carefully, only emerging to ask my 40ish, male neighbor whether the conductor's announcement had meant that the 2 was continuing express past 14th.

Since it was, I bent over to focus on this article by Kathryn Belgiorno about cyber-vigilantism. Belgiorno's hook was that story about, in which a woman used a camera-phone to take a picture of a man masturbating across from her on the subway. The man was later identified as prominent raw-foodist Dan Hoyt and has now pled guilty to a charge of public lewdness. Cyber-vigilantism makes me nervous, since I've seen almost appallingly effective blogswarms launched on what have seemed to me very trivial causes, so I was reading the article carefully for some insight.

That's when a slight movement caught my peripheral vision. I remember thinking, "Oh my God, wouldn't it be ironic if the guy next to me had his hand in his pants right now?" Sadly, no: he had his entire, semi-erect cock out of his pants to fondle.

Of course, I gathered up my bags and moved up the train instantly, and, when I looked back before the next stop (66th, IIRC), the man had likewise disappeared.

I mutter on in "Mutterings Continued."

I can't help thinking that the man had assumed I'd seen him before I had and that, somehow, I was into it; otherwise the risk of being seen by all the other passengers on the train should have dissuaded him. I think he had a jacket or something rumpled around his cock to obscure the view from others, although I couldn't swear to it. I'd been intently focussed on my paper, bent over slightly and looking down; perhaps he thought that most people's eyes would wander from a VV page. I think he had a fantasy going that involved both of us, but he was wrong. I blame Craigslist's Missed Connections board.

And I feel slightly silly for being bothered by it. One cherished, battle-hardened alter ego of myself would laugh it off: "Oh yeah, some asshole wanker pulled his pud at me on the subway this afternoon. Schmuck! As though I'd be interested!" That's obviously not an honest representation of how I feel about this weird little episode, though.

Dan Hoyt's much mocked comments about how some women are into being masturbated at in public might not be irrelevant here. The Craigslist "Missed Connections" board, when I read it with any frequency, had rather frequent posts that validated the Anais Nin fantasy of reciprocated desire between total strangers. Handjobs on a crowded subway: that sort of thing. When I was reading the MC board, I was emerging out of a very messy, long breakup, and simply imagining a sexual topography of New York did wonders for me. I liked to read that people were getting the hots for each other on trains I took, and, frankly, it helped get me out of the house during a rather agoraphobic period.

And yet, of course, on Saturday the sexual pleaure was not mutual, no matter what fantasies he might have entertained. In some ways, my having been oblivious to whatever he was doing gradually makes me feel obscurely guilty (mind you, I can feel guilty about anything). Urban self-defense for women requires awareness; the generalized "minding one's own business" that New Yorkers generally practice can only go so far. If indeed there had been an intermediate step between that X and taking his cock out to stroke it, could I have signalled my disapproval at X?

At the end of the day, I know that I didn't give him any positive signals. I was focussed on my paper, enough so not enough to notice his penis, so whatever signals he received would have been the absence of revulsion. I hope he's spending commensurate time wondering about this episode--but I doubt it.

And yeah, in that split second that I shifted focus from the VV article to my neighbor's penis, I thought about a camera. Unfortunately, my digital camera was at home, and had I had my camera, I would have had the choice of catching my five-millimeter-proximate neighbor either at the cock or at the face. I don't regret my instinctual decision of decamping post-haste.


Anonymous Anonymous:


(Wish I had something more constructive to say than that but, no, that's all I can think.)


4/30/2006 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Marilee Scott:

Yeah, that's about right.

5/01/2006 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous:

Well, you had asked if the 2 was continuing express past 14th...

Seriously, about 20 years ago I was on the train and a very disheveled young woman, bent her head down next to mine and propositioned me (for money). Specific acts were mentioned, made particular by such references to me as she could take in. I shook my head, or maybe just trembled and she didn't press, but I was disturbed for the rest of the day, and in fact for a while afterwards. The usual: why me? did I give off some signal? It's easy to take for a random occurance looking back when it never happened again, but it's hard not to take it personally when it's just happened.

5/01/2006 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

Funny you would think of Craig's List -- what I thought of was the back page of the Village Voice itself, which carries ads along the lines of "The 2 train Friday. You caught my eye at Court St. but I was getting off. Let's chat." So: "The 2 train Saturday. You looked up from the paper at 59th St. as I was getting off. Let's chat."

5/01/2006 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Marilee Scott:

You know, as I was preparing this post's links, I looked through Craig's List's "Missed Connections" pages to make sure my random wanker hadn't posted.

Does the VV still have a section like that? I can't imagine that people would pay for it these days. (I generally don't even flip through the pages after "Savage Love.")

5/01/2006 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

I don't actually know. I haven't looked at the back page of the Voice in ages. This is something I am remembering from like 15 years ago, when I used it to send Ellen a Valentine's day message; and have glanced at it now and then in intervening years but certainly not for the past 5.

5/01/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger Marilee Scott:

Okay, so it's come down to this. You and I are going to have to look through the back of the Village Voice.

5/01/2006 08:29:00 PM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

Yeah I know -- I was thinking the same thing. It's not even a matter of "looking through the back of the Village Voice" -- if you did that all you would find would be ads for escort services and phone-sex lines -- ok if that's what rocks your boat but not what we are seeking -- as much as "looking at the back cover of the Voice", which is where the ads I'm talking about appeared. My Valentine's Day message to Ellen, in (if my counting backwards facility is anything like it used to be) 1991, was an ad that read, to the best of my recollection: "Hey Ellen, some weirdo named Jeremy keeps coming around here to say he loves you. Let me know if he's giving you any trouble."

5/01/2006 09:52:00 PM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

Yes! Score one for Jeremy's sometimes-reliable memory! I just went up to the office and looked up the ad -- 1991 is the correct year (it was the first year we were living together), and I got the wording almost exactly right -- substitute "over" for "around", reverse the order of the two clauses in the second sentence, and insert "just" before "let me", and it is exact. However the occasion was Ellen's birthday, not Valentine's Day.

5/01/2006 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Marilee Scott:

When I was lonely in Paris, the back-page "missed connections" equivalent in Liberation gave me some hope, of something: "complicite" seemed liked such a reasonable goal.

I think it's great that you used the VV page, at one point, to communicate in a different way with your honey. But it's telling, of what I'm not quite sure, that you no longer do so.

5/01/2006 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

Yeah, it was fun to do one time but didn't really seem to me like something that would bear repetition.

5/01/2006 10:32:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

I need to apologize on the behalf of penii everywhere.

Possibly, also, Brooklynites, though I'm less sure there.

But I'm very clear that my willy should only go where invited.

And my apologies for that guy. Somehow.

5/06/2006 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

And, incidentally, I've never before referred to my penis, my [WHAT HAVE YOU] by the term "willy," before. I don't know why I was moved to, other than ickiness. Ick. (If I'm having sex with someone, we can have fun with terms, but that's an entirely different, and fun, context.)

5/06/2006 09:44:00 PM  
Blogger Gary Farber:

Um, there's something weird about the previous comment being dated/timed "11:32 PM" and mine "10:39 PM" after it. WTF?

(Setting aside that it's around 8ish in the evening, here.)

5/06/2006 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger Marilee Scott:

The comment software doesn't mark the date. Anacreon's comment above yours was posted at least two days before.

Thanks for the apology on behalf of your gender. It'll keep me from an ax-wielding rampage for another month, or it should.

5/07/2006 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid:

Hey Gary, plural of penis is penes, not penii.

5/07/2006 08:04:00 PM  

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