To plunder from distinguished GS alumna Jane Jacobs and invoke one of the hoariest columnist cliches ever, after living in New York City for a few years, the city begins to percolate into a couple of cozy nooks and crannies that are "yours." I know, I know-you've heard it before, but this being the day after Valentine's, given the sheer volume of crepe paper schmaltz floating around our collective unconsciousness, I figure I can sneak a cliche or two past you.
We pseudo-New Yorkers all have our pre-snuffled nooks and crannies: Some of our spots are aggressively poetic, like the cranked-up Darwinsim on display in the canary window of Thirty-Third and Bird-or dripping with romantic potential like that secret stump you have hidden away somewhere in the Bramble. Or do you allow yourself something a little touristier? A boozy jaunt across the Staten Island Ferry on a hot summer's night, perhaps, or a bench at the Met where you can see three Vermeers at once and wallow for hours in 400-year-old Flemish fireworks for a penny donation? Your New York nook might even be a little sordid, like a stool with an unobstructed view of a barista's rear-trouser cleavage... I hate to break it to you, but unless you're tipping, she's spitting in your drink-and she thinks you're a creep.
Having a significant other in this city means you get to discover another set of nooks and crannies. Or, to put it another way: Mrs. Lucky Jim is constantly dragging me places I'd never consider going if we hadn't been living together for the past five years. Like trudging past creaking cars on the way to her studio beneath [hooker-infested] Queensboro Plaza at four in the morning, or tattoo parlors...
It's grad school notification season. Since Mrs. Jim and I have been spending all of our free time skulking around our mailbox or relentlessly refreshing our e-mail inboxes, a stressed out, crummy Valentine's Day was sort of a foregone conclusion. So instead of flowers, lacy lingerie, or champagne, Mrs. Lucky Jim opted for another tattoo.
Which was lucky for me. There's something cruel about Valentine's falling a day before payday. Mrs. Lucky Jim had saved up enough for her own present. All I had to do was pay for a one-day MTA fun pass. Which damn near wiped me out entirely (stay in school, kiddos). We hopped on a G-train, disembarked in the middle of Williamsburg. We ducked under an underpass, shouldered our way through clusters of goonish hipsters.
It was late at night, windy and cold. The tattoo parlor was new, a converted photographer's studio decorated with dark wooden arches and pillars they'd dremelled patterns into, a grand piano dissected and hung on the wall for decoration, hot antique surgical lighting, and lots of wire mesh and white tile.
The whole Dr. Mabuse vibe was spoiled by the glowing Apple insignias from the staff's matching black MacBooks and the bathroom, which was wallpapered with targets and a toilet seat made of bullets suspended in Lucite. And what should have been cabaret over a Wurlitzer actually tocked back and forth between Morrissey and the Misfits, barely concealing the buzz of the tattoo needle.
Mrs. Lucky Jim didn't even wince. For the un-inked, and I'm going to assume that's pretty much all of us, 'FTW' stands for F*** The World. My darling girlfriend decided to have it tattooed on her forearm. The tattoo is about the size of her open palm. Half-inch black lettering set against a solid red scroll. Behind it a life-size dagger jabs through an old-school-style Pan-Am globe.
We left with her arm wrapped in cellophane, blood and ink slurry oozing up through the Aloe Vera and Bacitracin (the preferred ointment of the tattooed underclass). It took two hours to get home on the subway-in fact, we ended up getting out and getting a cab. I collapsed into bed as soon as I got home, exhausted at the idea of a girlfriend tougher than I could ever be. For the record, I don't have a single tattoo.
I was awoken by a blood-curdling shriek. Cat claws went scrabbling over the hardwood. I opened my eyes and found Mrs. Lucky Jim pressed up against the wall, shivering, pointing towards an upended glass. I lifted it up. A tiny roach hatchling was squirming underneath. It wriggled away through a seam in our floor before I could squash it. I can't fathom why, after living in the city for 10 years, she's still terrified of cockroaches. Happy Valentine's Day, Amy.