When we last left off, I had just headed to the airport for my nine-day trip that would include New York City, Upstate New York, and Florida.
I arrived at JFK airport in New York City, and before I could even exit the building my prayers were answered by a cab driver looking for a customer. I would be taking the subway, but he provided me with a greeting I’d been pining for since the move out West:
“Hey Boss – you want a cab?”
Oh sweet mother of God do I miss being called, and calling other people, “boss”. It took me a few weeks of strange looks here in Los Angeles before I realized that New York City had it’s own specific usages of the the following words: “Boss” and “Bro”.
In Los Angeles, the word ‘Bro’ is more or less used by people that go with the flow (ie mooch off of others). I heard it for the first time when I went to Venice Beach. “Hey bro, what’s happening”. My heart started racing as I got ready for what might be a fist-fight with the hippie that started walking along side of me. Maybe I had accidentally walked on his self-designated property and I should pay him some sort of peace-toll. Whatever it was, it was clear he had a problem with me, since he called me ‘Bro’.
But it turns out that ‘Bro’ isn’t fighting words at all in these parts like it is in New York. It’s not that the hippie didn’t want some money, it’s just that he wasn’t angry with me is all.
In NYC the word ‘Bro’ is used to get the attention of someone that should be expecting to fight. I’m not sure why, it just seems to be the case. Tim Clancy always manages to come to the rescue for me in these instances in which I can’t quite explain the “how come”. If you skip ahead to the 1:56 minute mark you can see what I mean:
I’m not one to use the word ‘Bro’ much, but I have always relished the use of the word “Boss”. I never actually thought about it’s meaning or appropriate usage until I started getting weird faces from it. So what was it that made me want to call someone boss? Would I call just anyone boss?
I think it’s safe to say that anyone making six figures will not be called ‘boss’ by anyone in New York City other than his employees. The word, as far as I can tell, is a term of endearment for your fellow man. Perhaps it’s similar to the Russian use of the word “Comrade”. It shows respect to your fellow, equal man.
I would use it when I would go to a bodega, when I would stop at a newspaper stand, or when I’d thank a bus boy for filling my water. I’d be called it by a cab driver asking me where I was headed, someone letting me know I dropped something in the subway station, or the guy working the make-your-own-salad station. It has a strange “we’re all in this together” quality about it, in stark contrast to the “I’m planning on punching you in the face” quality that the word ‘bro’ has.
Why all this nonsense with the Bro and the Boss and the Boss and the Bro? Because after three months in Los Angeles, being called Boss made me feel like I was home again.
You may remember that I went back to NYC when I was just eight days into my Los Angeles experience, under much different circumstances. I more or less hated LA that time around, and damn near walked to LAX Airport from the center lane of the 110 where my car was firmly stationed, billowing smoke out from under the hood. The trip back that time was nice, but I got that ‘home’ feeling upon arriving back on the West Coast.
This time around I was a much bigger fan of Los Angeles. My car had gone from being a menace to being merely a nuisance. It’s most notable foible in the preceding weeks had been that the trunk stopped opening. Literally just wouldn’t open. That ain’t so bad, right? I just can’t get stuff out of my trunk anymore, ya know?
I was enjoying the clear skies Los Angeles was offering me on a nearly constant basis. I liked how people would look all frantic, fear in their eyes at word of an approaching two days of rain. It was like they were talking about the Recession.
I liked my job, which was not waiting tables. I had met so many cool and interesting people, and these people had become my friends already. I would go to parties and not wish I was at home. I was living in the most magical house to ever exist, leading me to believe that I ought to seriously consider spending my life living in communes. It worked for the hippies, right? (save for a few stragglers that escaped and have been calling me “bro”).
So all this seemed to be immediately erased with the word “boss”. This one single word got me thinking that perhaps this trip would be a reminder of how much I belong in New York City. And the trip had barely begun! I’d be acting the next day, which is my favorite thing to do; I’d be staying in my favorite places, seeing my favorite people and doing my favorite things. If being called “boss” had this much of an effect on me, chances are the rest of the trip was going to make it very hard to leave.
Turns out I just really, really, really like the word “boss”.
My trip was splendid. I got to hang with the people I truly miss, eat at the Dosa stand in Washington Square Park, see a movie at the IFC, and get absolutely obliterated at Rudy’s. I had the best, most meaningful conversations I’d had since moving, with people that have known me for a long time. But New York, for the first time ever, lost it’s magic for me:
Hopping on a train to Upstate New York, it was clear to me that this Los Angeles thing was not just a mistake I’d be learning from. It wasn’t a place I’d be scoffing at as I drank PBR’s in the East Village. It wasn’t even a place I was moving strictly for the opportunities it offered. It was home.
PREVIOUS CHAPTER: Crumbling (again)