Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Beggars and Buskers, Musicians and Thieves, Part I

The Fighting Irishman

One night, I had to take the four train into lower Manhattan to go to a party. At my stop, Kingsbridge, the four is elevated, and as I walked up the clattering metal steps, I noticed the guy in front of me. He was blond-haired and ruddy, about 5'6", with a backwards-facing Yankees baseball cap, baggy pants, and a baseball shirt. As he swaggered up the steps, he carried a cane in his left hand and swung it in slow, lazy circles.

When we get to the platform, he staked out a spot on the southern end, and I made a beeline in the opposite direction. He seemed oddly familiar, and his aggressive stance and jaunty motions made me nervous. He was pacing back and forth, the cane swinging in the air like it was eager to hit something. I wasn't interested in getting in a fight, and this guy was spoiling for one.

He started to wander up and down the platform, full of nervous energy. When the train came, he went into the car ahead of mine. I relaxed and started reading my book. At the next stop, he walked into my car. As the doors closed, I remembered where I had seen him. He was a beggar, and the four train was his regular prowling ground.

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,PLEASE EXCUSE ME FOR BOTHERING YOU" he began, speaking in a tone that I had long since come to associate with subway beggars. It was a disappointed monotone, the sort of voice that an Assistant Principal uses. "I AM SORRY TO BOTHER YOU TODAY, BUT I NEED TO ASK FOR YOUR SUPPORT. AS YOU CAN SEE, I AM GETTING OVER AN INJURY..." The cane, which he had been swinging previously, now supported him as he lurched from one end of the train to the other, favoring his right foot. "I ALSO WAS RECENTLY RELEASED FROM PRISON. I AM NOT HURTING ANYBODY OR COMMITTING ANY CRIMES, BUT I NEED SOME MONEY TO GET BACK ON MY FEET..."

We had all seen him on the platform. At this time of night, there were only about twenty people in the car, and about half of them got on Kingsbridge. We'd all watched him prowling around at Kingsbridge. We all knew that he could walk perfectly well. We all knew that this wasn't begging as much as it was a threat.

At this point, the train pulled into a station and he positioned himself in the middle of the doorway, shoulders broad, facing into the train and daring passengers to squeeze past him. After the train started moving again, he continued his spiel. I zoned him out, and tried to lose myself in my book, although I kept one eye alert as he wandered back and forth in the car, yelling at his fellow passengers, demanding money. Like everybody else, I kept my eyes off his face. I looked at my book, or the windows of the car, the ads, the ceiling, anywhere but this guy. I didn't want to look him in the eye. It's not that I was afraid of feeling pity, or didn't want to see the face of need. To put it simply, this guy gave me the creeps, and I was afraid that, if I looked him in the eye, I'd end up getting in a fight.

I have a name for this one: the Fighting Irishman. He's like an angry, psychotic little James Cagney, and his begging patter has more than a little threat in it. He's a healthy kid, well-muscled and well-fed, with a recent haircut and clean clothes. He seems to enjoy working the cars. Our silence, our refusal to look him in the eye, fuels him. He's not a beggar; he's a minister. He's John Edwards, prowling around his moving pulpit, exhorting his unwilling, weak congregation. He knows he's got us, at least until the train pulls into the station. He glares around the car, letting us know that a buck or two will keep him from going back to the streets, where might just meet him down a darkened alley. Sooner or later, we're going to cough up the dough...

On a long four ride, I can usually count on seeing the Fighting Irishman a couple of times. He moves up and down from car to car, switching at stations or going through the doors at the end while the train hurtles down the track. One day, when I was in the second to last car, he hit us up once, disappeared for two stops, and came back again. Each time, he went through the same spiel, acting as if he hadn't bugged us just a few minutes earlier. As if we were total strangers, a fresh audience for his routine.

I don't give the Fighting Irishman any money. I'll sometimes give out a little change, but I'm pretty particular, and the aggressive, in-your-face beggars don't get any of my cash. The Irishman's patter is familiar, because I hear it a few times a week. I've heard it from dozens of beggars, with surprisingly few variations. It's as if they're all working from the same script, and I sometimes feel like its an audition. Sometimes there will be a sick mother at home, and sometimes there will be a few kids thrown into the mix, but most of the time it's a simple, veiled threat: I'm an ex con with an injury. I can't work, and I'm trying to stay off the streets. Give me your money now or give me your money later, one way or another, you're going to give me your money...

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Interspecies Communication

A year or so ago, when the wife and I first determined that we were moving to New York, I began to contemplate the return to apartment living. I knew that, for me, this was going to be the most difficult part of the transition, as I had spent the previous decade living in a succession of townhomes and houses. I was used to spreading out my stuff over a very large space, not to mention having enough real estate to separate myself from my fellow tenants. The idea of moving into a three-bedroom or even a (horrors!) two-bedroom space was daunting.

I spent the following months paring off large portions of my life. I joined a gym, eliminating the need for our health equipment, and I sold off or gave away my woodworking tools and machines. The wife and I got rid of about half of our books, as well as our king-sized, four-poster bed, and most of our other furniture. We made hard decisions, shedding blankets, old clothes, memorabilia, and all the other detritus that had begun to fill our lives over several years of sedentery living.

By June, we were ready, and could easily fit our lives into a few small rooms. As hard as the shedding process had been, we felt great. We were smaller, sleeker, and ready to roll. No longer carrying layers upon layers of dead weight, we were definitely built for speed.

We didn't count on the cats.

Of course, there had never been any question about keeping them. Jerome, our orange tabby, and Bagheera, our black Siamese mix, were part of the family, and we never even considered giving them away, much less abandoning them. It would be simple, we decided. Just as we would learn to live in a much smaller space, the cats would also adapt.

I'm not sure that the word "adapt" is in the cat dictionary.

Bagheera and Jerome initally seemed happy with the move. They were pleased to see Virginia again and liked the added attention that they got from Georgia. They approved of the sparse decoration of the apartment, and quickly found spaces for themselves. For the first few weeks, they were clearly in heaven. Then the furniture arrived.

All of a sudden, the apartment got a lot smaller, and the cats found themselves desperately trying to stake out their personal space. The walk-in closet where they had previously set up camp was now filled with storage items, and the bedrooms were packed with furniture. The kitchen had things in every cupboard, and all the bedroom closets were filled with clothes. Needless to say, the cats freaked out.

It's worth mentioning that our cats were used to indoor/outdoor living. Whenever the (three bedroom, two storey) house got a little too small for them, they would exit through a back window that we always left ajar. This is also how they went to the bathroom during most of the year, preferring the wide-open spaces of nature's sandbox to the cramped facilities under the stairs.

Now, all of a sudden, Bagheera and Jerome were confined to a tiny apartment and forced to use a smallish litter box in a shared bathroom. Prior to this, the cats had always been fans of the bathroom, viewing it as a venue for a (literally) captive audience. To put it bluntly, they have long since figured out that it's difficult, if not impossible, to shoo them away when one is busy on the toilet. They take advantage of this situation by hopping on the user's lap and demanding to be petted. Visitors to our house soon learn the value of checking the bathroom for cats before attending to nature's call.

The cats were disgusted to discover that the privacy that they had always taken for granted was no longer available. The shoe was now on the other paw, so to speak, and they were quick to voice their complaints. They initially did this by peeing all over the bathroom floor. This, however, did not have the desired effect of making us move back to Blacksburg. Rather, it led to endless cleaning and swearing, accompanied by the occasional veiled threat about a desire for "fur-lined mittens" or "authentic Korean food."

Cats don't easily accept failure, so Jerome and Bagheera upped the ante. They pissed on a few pairs of the wife's shoes and my bookbag. In my case, this required a visit to the laundromat. In the wife's case, this led to the purchase of new shoes, which was a somewhat mixed punishment.

Unsatisfied with the continued miseries of apartment living, Jerome uncovered his master-stroke: he peed on me. One morning, as I was preparing to get up, he climbed into bed, positioned himself, and took a leak on my drowsing body. He then gave me a couple of off-handed donkey kicks and stalked off.

This was a pretty effective wake-up call, and I bounced out of bed. I immediately grabbed the cat and gave him a quick physics lesson as I hurtled him across the apartment. After showering and scrubbing my skin until it glowed an angry red, I bundled up the bedclothes and went to the laundromat.

Jerome and Bagheera soon had a refresher course in species hierarchy as we took off the gloves and dug out the spray bottles. They found themselves barred from the bedroom and the furniture and generally unwelcome in any room that I occupied. Since our apartment has five rooms, this involved a lot of feline scurrying. After about a week of this, I calmed down somewhat, and permitted the cats to again curl up in my lap. However, it was over two months before I let them in the bedroom again.

That was the low point. Since then, my brilliant wife has discovered puppy pads, absorbent sheets that we position near the litterbox. For some reason, the cats are loath to pee on puppy pads. However, if they do, clean-up is very easy. We have also become religious about our catbox hygiene, cleaning it every day. In general, the humans and cats in the apartment do their best to avoid getting on each other's nerves, and interspecies relations are now on a pretty even keel. In fact, last night, I found myself going to the bathroom at the same time as Bagheera. I discovered an interesting fact: cats, like humans, prefer to keep to themselves while peeing. Bagheera stared at a spot on the wall, determined to avoid eye contact. I, of course, obliged.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

A Bad Case of "The City," Part III

My first visit to the City sans father came when I was in fifth grade. My class visited most of the major sites, including the RCA building, Rockefeller Center, the World Trade Center, and the Statue of Liberty. We wandered through Chinatown and Little Italy, and ate at open-air vendors. Looking back, I realize that my only real danger came from our lodgings: my school was run by Opus Dei, an ultraconservative Catholic group, and we stayed in a seminary. Not to brag, but I must have seemed like major eye candy for some of the young priests-in-waiting.

I remember being nervous on the trip. After all, this was THE CITY, the home of sleaze and slime, death and danger, my father's bete noir. However, I quickly got into the swing of things, and found myself wishing that I'd just brought a little more money so I could pick up some of those cool Black Cat, Cherry Bomb, and M-80 firecrackers that they were selling in Chinatown. This, of course, was before you needed a pyrotechnics license or a South Carolina address to buy Class C fireworks, and those little Black Cats were strong enough to blast a hole in a tin can.

As our teachers shepherded us from place to place, distracting us from the advertisements in Times Square, I told myself that this area must be safe, and that my father was worried about some other place in New York. On the other hand, his face went white when I got home and told him about walking around Rockefeller Center after dark.

In college, I started taking my own trips to New York. On every visit, I would stake out a few new places to explore. I found myself wandering through Greenwich Village, Astoria, Long Island City, Union Square, Coney Island, and various other exotic places. The summer before last, shortly before the wife and I decided to move, I actually visited Central Park and was surprised to discover that there wasn't a mugger hiding behind every tree. In fact, I didn't see any muggers at all, which left me a little disappointed.

I still was apprehensive about the Bronx. This, after all, was the heart of New York's urban decay, forever immortalized in The Howling and Fort Apache, the Bronx. This was the home of urban prairies, scenes of burned-out buildings, crack addicts, and vacant lots. America's Dresden. Civic despair writ large.

As time went on, however, it became increasingly clear that the wife and I were going to end up living in the most famously blighted borough. The other options were either the hinterlands of Queens, an unfriendly street in Bedford-Stuyvescent, or a roach motel in Bushwick. The place in Queens was a brutally long commute, Bed-Stuy was sketchy, and the landlord in Bushwick took one look at my wife and kid and decreed that the place wasn't for us. Upon visiting the apartment, my wife immediately agreed that, barring the acquisition of a nasty drug addiction, we probably wouldn't be interested in living in the building.

In our research, we discovered that crime has massively dropped in the Bronx, and that many areas have a lower crime rate than comparable neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn. Upon visiting Fordham Road, my wife pronounced it livable, and even beautiful in places. I was still worried, particularly given my friend Rich's dire statements regarding the area. He had lived in our neighborhood years ago, and told me about the attitude that I would have to adopt if I wanted to make it out alive. He promised that he would come up and make his presence known for us, if need be, and would sort out any messes that I got myself in.

Needless to say, this was less than reassuring. Coming from Southwest Virginia, I felt like I was entering the belly of the beast, and Rich's offers of assistance only made me realize how ill-equipped I was for life in the Bronx. Rich is a former thug who later became a chef, and the stories he's told me of life in New York would make my hair curl, if I had any. Even now, Rich sneers at gentrification, wistfully remembering the days before New York became a private refuge for "whitebreads," when "it was for everyone." This is the point at which he and I usually differ. He points out that the City is now largely oriented toward those with lots of money, to the exclusion of everyone else. I, on the other hand, point out that it used to be oriented toward those with criminal intent, to the exclusion of anyone else. I guess it comes down to politics: Rich favors a sort of Darwinian meritocracy, in which the survival of the fittest is played out on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, favor the rule of law.

At any rate, I found the North Bronx to be a vibrant, lively place. This is not to say that it's safe--I still feel a little nervous walking around after dark, and there are streets where I have to put on a blank face and keep my hands in my pockets. I've had to practice looking mean and threatening, and I make a conscious effort to walk between my wife and the street. The death of my Mustang and the occasional arrests in my neighborhood remind me that this are is not exactly "nice," and the burned out houses and vacant lots down the block bear witness to the fact that the blight of the eighties touched my street.

That having been said, I still like living here.

I like the high-volume domino games. I don't even mind when I fall asleep to the sounds of tiles clacking and male voices yelling "YESSSS! IN YOUR FACE!";

I like the salsa music that pours out of the local laundromat, where the Puerto Rican and Dominican ladies sometimes dance (if I don't make them too self-conscious);

I like the Dominican food in the corner bodega, which is like Picadillo and stew and something else that I've never had before;

I like the Dominican faces that are a beautiful mix of black and white and native american, and remind me that Indians are repopulating the East Coast.

I enjoy the kids in the neighborhood, most of whom go to Parochial schools and clearly are not happy about the ties and jumpers that they have to wear.

I enjoy the young ladies, who wear jeans that are so tight that they don't have to take them off when they visit the gynecologist.

I even enjoy the young men, who are trying so hard to be threatening, but are usually just shy and awkward.

Most of all, I like watching this every day, seeing how it changes, and how it changes me.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Bad Case of "The City," Part II

I apologize for the lack of images. Since giving up my work-supplied G5 Macintosh, working on pictures has been almost impossible. I'm not sure when I will be able to deal with the pictures that are piling up, much less make the beautiful picture-based posts that I've been planning. Consequently, I've decided that a single post without pictures is far better than a thousand "I'll get to it someday" posts with pictures. I'll try to add photos back in when I get a chance!

When my grandparents died in 1986, my family stopped visiting New York every year. Still, we'd come once in a while. We would stay in a hotel, with my Aunt Portia in Midtown, or with my Aunt Libby in Suffolk County, way out on Long Island. During the late-eighties and early nineties, my father became a little braver about visiting the city. We would walk all around (during the day, of course), and would even, occasionally, catch a show or go to a Midtown restaurant after dark.

My Aunt Portia was somewhat responsible for this change. She had lived in New York since the sixties, and often bragged that the only place she'd been mugged was outside Union Station in Washington D.C. Without even realizing it, she coaxed my father further and further out of his comfort zone, simply by being brave enough to wander around after nightfall.

In these days, my father's assessment of New York's crime became more specific. Danger was no longer something endemic to "The City," but rather to "parts of The City." As long as we avoided those dangerous parts, we would be safe. I first discovered this in the late eighties, when we ventured north from DC to meet with one of Dad's publishers, see a show, and attend my cousin's baptism. My father told me that I could set the agenda for the visit, and that he would take me anywhere that I wanted to go. The only caveat was that we had to visit the Strand. This wasn't much of a hardship, as I was a hard-core book junkie, and a few hours wandering the stacks in the Strand was pretty much my idea of heaven.

I had spent years compiling a list of places that I wanted to visit, so I led dad all over the city. I was beginning my flirtation with special effects makeup, so we went to various sculpture houses and stage makeup suppliers. I also dragged him to Hammacher-Schlemmer, an expensive executive doohickey store, and the Sadigh Gallery, which specialized in bargain-basement antiquities. We visited novelty stores and galleries, bookstores and candy makers, generally having a great time. Finally, though, we hit the last place on my list: Maxilla and Mandible.

Maxilla and Mandible was a bone store that was located in the high seventies on Columbus Avenue on the upper West side. This is hardly the wilderness; in fact, it is only a couple of blocks from Zabar's, scourge of Jewish waistlines and almost the textbook definition of a civilized grocery store (actually, this is an overstatement: Zabar's can get a little cutthroat, especially if you happen to be blocking access to the knish window, or take too long ordering cold cuts. Those babushkas can get nasty). Still, when my father caught on that we were travelling north of 60th Street, he immediately tensed up. When we found our way to the store, he had to circle the block a few times until he found a parking space that enabled him to watch the car from inside the store. Our precautions were exhaustive, suggesting to me that we were about to visit a heroin dealer in the most isolated part of Harlem, not a boutique in one of Manhattan's most expensive neighborhoods.

I've since gone back to Maxilla and Mandible. It's still a great store, with tons of animal skulls, bizarre medical instruments, posters, fossils, and various ephemera. When I first went there, though, it was a wonderland. In the eighties, India was a liberal exporter of human bones. I've since heard that they fished corpses out of the Ganges, which they cleaned and sold at rock-bottom prices. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that, before India put a ban on bone sales, it was possible to buy a human humerus for $30. Skulls were in the $100s, and hands were in the $80's. The store even had candy jars filled with loose teeth, which they sold for a few cents each. Within a few minutes, my father was even distracted enough to drag his eyes away from the front window, where he was staring at the car.

We left about an hour later and a few hundred dollars poorer. The car was still there.

When I took my wife and daughter to Maxilla and Mandible this spring, I was a little apprehensive. After all, my father had seemed terrified to be travelling so far into the wilds of northern Manhattan, so I was convinced that the store must be in a skeevy neighborhood. My wife laughed at my nervousness, pointing out that we were only a few blocks from the Museum of Natural History, the Dakota, and Central Park. By the time we got to the store, twilight had fallen, and we spent about a half hour inside (it's still cool, but the de-legalization of the bone trade has really taken a bite out of their inventory). Afterward, we wandered around the neighborhood for about an hour. Darkness had fallen, but it was a safe and well-lit place, and we passed a lot of other people who were pushing strollers.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Bad Case of "The City," Part I

When I was a kid, we used to visit New York every summer. Generally, we'd plan to spend a week or so with my grandparents on Long Island, but would leave after three days. Part of this was the fact that there was very little to do in Floral Park, and part was the fact that my Grandparents were miserable, rotten people, and were very adept at spreading their unhappiness to others.

On these trips, we always had a couple of required visits. We had to see my Aunt Kathy, who also lived in Floral Park, we had to visit my father's elementary and high schools, we had to go to Koenig's, the local German joint, and we had to go to the Tulip bakery, which was truly amazing. We would also hit Cardo's, which made truly amazing pizza, yet was usually empty. My father was convinced that it was a Mob joint. Egg creams at Breyer's would round out the list of required activities. If we played our cards right, we could usually wrap it all up in an afternoon or two. Best of all, this got us out of the house, where my grandparents' constant bitching and plastic-covered furniture combined to have us climbing the walls.

After we visited all the old haunts, if my grandparents hadn't yet insulted my mother or upset my father, we would usually make our way into "The City," as we called New York. Although he had long since shed the accent, my father retained a few key Long Island traits: he tended to be aggressive, he made snap judgments, and he hated New Jersey with a passion. He also had an ambivalent relationship with New York City. On the one hand, he saw the city as a repository of all that was good, advanced, and civilized in the world. He was proud of it, as a boy would be proud of his big brother, and would always tell people that he had grown up in New York City.

On the other hand, My dad viewed the decline of New York with fear and dread. He, like many people in the eighties, saw New York's problems as terminal, and felt that the crime, the crumbling infrastructure, and the corruption were not only going to destroy the city, but would spread out to the burbs, and would inevitably eat away at everything. One night, the local news reported that there had been two cases of leprosy in the city, and I imagined that God had finally begun the end days, introducing biblical diseases into Gamorrah on the Hudson. The next day, I overheard my father and grandfather discussing the spread of crime, and I visualized the criminals slowly working their way down the Jericho Turnpike, eating up all that was good and spreading decay.

It was easy to imagine. In these days, New York seemed like a cesspool. On our visits into the city to see my godmother Portia or my great-aunt Lillian, we would walk down filthy streets and see men pissing on buildings. One day, I saw a man taking a crap on a dead-end street. Years later, I passed the same spot and realized that it was on Sutton Place.

It's hard to remember that New York was once that bad. My father would park the car and shepherd us to whatever building we were visiting, exhorting us to not touch anything. When we got to our destination, our first task was to wash our hands, lest we catch a bad case of whatever was going around. Seeing the scenes of despair, addiction, and poverty, and remembering my father's constant orders that we wash our hands, I used to think that these problems were contagious, and that we had to be on guard lest we catch a bad case of "The City." The symptoms were clear: messiness, apathy, despair, poverty, drug addiction, and a total repudiation of all societal mores. If I wanted to see what a bad case of "The City" looked like, I need only turn on the television, which was always broadcasting scenes of the total misery in Harlem, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Minor Setback


I was recently downsized, laid-off, shitcanned, fired...use your term of choice.

My favorite euphemism is "I am no longer encumbered by employment."

The job concluded amicably, and I'm not too ticked off about the whole thing. However, I do find myself, once again, in the uncomfortable position of trying to find work. Ugh.

Hopefully the next one will be more up my alley.

Many thanks to everyone who checked out the blog that I wrote for my company, not to mention everyone who's been so supportive all along.

I'll keep you posted as the job search continues.

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I don't really know how to discuss Breast Cancer Awareness. I strongly believe in fighting breast cancer, funding research, offering free or reduced-cost mammograms, and so forth, but I can't really get on the "Support Breast Cancer" bandwagon. I think it's because of the confusing structure. After all, I don't support breast cancer. Quite the opposite, really. In fact, it would be far more accurate to say that I despise breast cancer. Yet, somehow, my "Fuck Breast Cancer" campaign never really got off the ground. I guess it gave people the wrong idea.

Inappropriateness aside, I just wanted to give a little shout out to the breast. While I don't have breasts (at least not since I've started doing push-ups), I have always been a big fan of mammalian protuberances. From the time I was born to the present day, breasts have fed me, cuddled me, excited me, inspired me, and filled my life with wonder and delight. I am, in the idiom of our day, a breast man.

I discussed this with one of my friends, who's taking an obscenely long walk in honor of breast cancer awareness. She told me that, in order to increase male concern about breast cancer, she tells her male friends that they can get breast cancer too.

This seems disingenuous to me. Granted, some men can get breast cancer, but the number is statistically insignificant. Moreover, this argument is pretty cynical, as it assumes that men will only get involved in a cause if they feel that it personally affects them. By this logic, I should probably be more interested in Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which was in September. After all, while there is little to no chance of a man getting breast cancer, prostate cancer is a real threat to the vaginally-challenged among us.

To be honest, though, I find it hard to get behind the prostate. Make of that what you will.

More to the point, it's not easy to find the hook in Prostate Awareness Month. The best thing I was able to come up with was "Prostate Cancer: Don't it make your brown eye blue?" For some reason, I don't think this is likely to inspire anyone.

Breasts, on the other hand, are pretty damn compelling, and I've often wondered why the Breast Cancer Awareness people are so loath to target the male fascination with those two (or one, or three) transcendent spheres. I guess the idea is that prurient, drooling, mindless appreciation of the breast is somehow sleazy. This argument is based in the notion that breasts are for feeding children, not for attracting men, and that men who are drawn to breasts are, therefore, infantile. Of course, this line of reasoning falls apart whenever one visits a Victoria's Secret. Are you going to tell me that the "Miracle Bra" is designed to capture that huge infant demographic that's pumping money into the economy?

Of course, one need not even visit a mall or scan the soft-core underwear pages in the Sears catalog to see the silliness in the child-feeding argument. After all, if you've ever met a well-endowed woman who was incapable of breast feeding, or a small-chested woman who was able to satiate her child, then you already know that breast size has fuck-all to do with feeding kids.

And if you're wondering what breasts are designed for, may I humbly direct you back to the aforementioned Victoria's Secret?

In Notting Hill, Julia Roberts' character more or less reiterates this entire argument when she says "What is it about men and nudity? Particularly breasts--how can you be so interested in them...I mean, they're just breasts. Every second person in the world has got them...they're odd-looking. They're for milk. Your mom's got them. You must have seen a thousand of them...what's the fuss about?"

Of course, she's saying this to a man who is clearly enthralled by her breasts. In case you missed the subtext, this is like a guy with a Corvette saying to a drooling admirer "What? It's just a car! Everybody has one!"

Anyway, this is my nod to National Breast Cancer Awareness month, to my Grandmother Viola and my Mother-in-Law (both of whom survived breast cancer), and to all the breasts that have made my life so much more enjoyable. I'd also like to give a little shout-out to another breast cancer survivor: Ann Jillian, one of my favorite actresses when I was a kid. I'd like to ask all my mammarily-enhanced friends to do what they need to do to preserve their breasts. PLEASE get a mammogram, inspect yourself regularly, and generally do your part to preserve one of humanity's greatest natural resources. And, to all my fellow breast admirers, I want to advise you to get your lazy asses off the sidelines. Take a walk for breast cancer awareness, or at least donate some money to a friend who's doing so. Encourage your wife, girlfriend, or a random stranger to get a mammogram. Offer to help out with breast inspections. Buy the t-shirt pictured above. In the name of everything holy, GET INVOLVED!!

On behalf of all the breast men, I thank you.

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