I had the same next door neighbor for all four years I lived in Midtown Manhattan. Michael was in his late fifties, well dressed, well groomed, well read, and had an unnerving ability to maintain unflinching eye-contact for unusually long periods of time. This last quality led to him acquiring the nickname “Fava Beans” one night, after telling my roommate and I about the lady from the third floor that was lighting candles on the roof.
“She’ll burn us all alive” he warned with the terrifying vocal quality of Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter. It was tough to tell who we should be worrying about, the lady on the third floor or the guy across the hall with a proclivity for Chianti
I distinctly remember the first time that it crossed my mind that Michael was absolutely insane. At this point I had only experienced his deliberate stillness, so the aggressive burst of movement I witnessed that particular night was surprising to say the least.
As peculiar as it would have seemed with any other neighbor, the fact that I always arrived at the building’s front door at the same time as Michael did was something I didn’t think twice about. Conversations would always ensue before entering, continue while walking up the stairs, and linger on for far too long in front of my apartment door.
So we were mid-conversation when the front door was opened this Autumn evening in 2003. Upon seeing a pile of menus that had been slipped under the door by the local Mexican Restaurant, Michael burst into stream of expletives directed into the general airspace of Ninth Avenue. Without interrupting his own word flow, he bent down and picked up the menus with the nimbleness of Ian McKellan, which I had not realized was an option for this man up until this point.
“Fucking assholes!!!” he roared as he proceeded to throw all ten of the brightly colored menus onto the sidewalk with a trajectory that enabled each one to separate itself from the pack and find it’s own special place on the concrete, thus maximizing the surface area that El Taco would inhabit.
Noticing the perplexed and slightly aghast look on my face, he pointed to a sign on the door that says “No Menus Please”, explaining that the impudient Restaurants know better and this was just a recalcitrant ploy to make a few extra bucks.
“If I want a fucking menu, I’ll go and get a fucking menu myself, thank you very much!”
At this point I had gotten over the shock of what was happening and began thinking about how uncomfortable the rest of the journey up to the fourth floor and into the actual door of my apartment was going to be. Michael regained his composure, and his stoic nature took on a new level of creepiness, as I was now aware of the volcano that was always ready to erupt.
And that was just over menus…
However, five years of living in New York City gave me insight as to why Michael may have gone so nutty over what would seem to be an innocuous attempt to advertise on the part of the Restaurant. People were always handing you something, putting something under your door, or wearing a giant sign (in this last example, as they simultaneously re-traced all the steps in their lives that led them to being a walking “Men’s Tuxedos” billboard). Living in Los Angeles, however, is different. There’s not much foot traffic, so having people hand out flyers is pretty inefficient. Door to door flyering is pretty much nonexistent, as the population is spread out over houses and three-story apartment buildings.
So what’s a guy with a bunch of flyers to do? The solution lies, as does the answer to every question regarding Los Angeles, in Automobiles.
I couldn’t help but channel Michael the first day someone put a flyer under my windshield wiper. Having already gotten a ticket for forgetting to move my car for street cleaning, I was in a state of paranoia at all times regarding where it was I had parked The Beast. Twenty feet away I noticed what appeared to be the same size and color as the citation I had just received.
“Fucking son of a bitch!” I thought, my heart racing and my disdain for Los Angeles expanding and mutating. I didn’t even want to look at it, I just put the groceries I had in my hand in the car, maniacally postulating over whether it was worth the time to compare prices of the several varieties Dried Figs for sale when it must have put me over my time limit on the meter and cost me whatever Fascist price the LA DMV thought such an offense dictated.
I took a deep breath, gathered myself, and calmly walked to the front of the car to open the ticket. But what did I find?
I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t you glad it wasn’t a ticket?
Well that’s because you didn’t live in New York City. Had you lived there, you would be with me in thinking:
“Thanks a lot, Tony! How about I come into your barber shop and give you a beating with my windshield wiper? Huh?! That’ll teach you not to put shit on my car!
But here I was with an option that was not afforded to me in New York. I didn’t have to physically take this flyer out from under my windshield wiper. It would eventually come off on it’s own, either from the driving on the highway or using the wipers next time it rained. And in the meantime, it will send a message to all the other flyering jerks that I don’t take flyers out from under my windshield wiper.
Atta way to stick it to ‘em, Gavin.
Why should I have to waste three seconds of my day lifting my windshield wiper and disposing of this piece of junk? They’re wasting paper as it is! Just like Michael said, if I want to find out about Tony’s Haircuts I’ll go to Tony’s Haircuts and be like “hey, Tony, tell me about these haircuts you got.”
So here it is, after seven weeks (it finally came off a few days after I took this picture):
And for those of you that don’t get the New York City hatred of flyers, let my good buddy Tim Clancy’s video enlighten you: