NEW YORK—I have settled into my Big Bagel routine as if I never went away: up early, a 25-minute walk through the park, one hour of judo working with three opponents, walk back, have breakfast, and collapse with the newspapers. In the evening it is karate with Richard Amos and a couple of other black belts, then dinner at home. Three times per week I go out and get hammered in case I get too healthy, more often than not with Michael Mailer at the Boom Boom Room, André Balazs’s downtown hot spot. The women there are mostly young, tall, thin, and much better than the men, except when either sex is Russian. Then they’re both awful. I’m trying to find one of those old communist hammer-and-sickle pins to draw their negative attention as I once did in Gstaad by wearing a CCCP judo jumper.
Spring is in full bloom over here, cherry blossoms and wisteria reaching a peak, the latter cascading magnificently around Rockefeller Center, not that anyone takes notice. Everyone’s much too busy texting. I run across these morons daily when crossing the park. Not a single person, not even those dumb tourists, ever looks up. Trees, grass, nature, and birds all go unnoticed. No one speaks, everyone’s plugged-in, and even the homeless are texting. These are the idiots weaned on reality shows who also wear headphones like that poor radio officer on the Titanic. They are listening to crap music, texting moronic messages to fellow morons, and speaking in mobile telephones while reading emails.
There are a few attention-craving phonies who use their mobiles as a dumping ground of cornball clichés while they try to impress the rest of us peasants who happen to be within hearing distance. These are the worst, and they are mostly men. They shout out orders to unknowns—most probably speaking to a dial tone. I could be wrong. The utter banality of some women’s conversations should in time constitute an offense worthy of justifiable homicide.
Here you have a park of 843 magnificent acres, including 150 acres of water, 250 acres of lawn, and 136 acres of woodland, and what do people do when they find themselves inside this paradise? They text each other and never look up. Not too long ago, before horrors such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg surfaced, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water and the sky and one another. Now they keep typing as if they never left the office. But please don’t think I’m complaining. I’m actually bragging, as I don’t use a mobile telephone (except when onboard Bushido), nor do I practice the modern version of masturbation (texting), nor do I own an iPad or a Kindle.
Speaking of Bushido, I am about to start a new career. My friend Michael Mailer is producing a film which will be directed by the terrific James Toback and starring Alec Baldwin. They’re already shooting it, and the greatest of all Greek thespians starts his role in ten days onboard my yacht. (I have a fight with Baldwin and we both fall overboard.) Graydon Carter has given us permission to shoot during the Vanity Fair bash at the Cannes Film Festival, which means a broken-down old actor like me might finally get lucky. (Nurse Jenny, eat your heart out. And you, too, Jessica Raine.)
But back to those mentally atrophied types who confuse conversation with connection. A big city can be a very lonely place, but it seems to have gotten lonelier for those who are unable to be alone unless they are constantly connected. What has certainly gotten worse—if it ever existed among Noo Yawkers—is the art of conversation. Among the young, fuggedaboutit. They can barely manage a grunt. Laptops, iPads, and mobile phones get in the way. Communication has been dumbed-down to a degree that only severe stroke victims can comprehend what anyone’s saying.
Imagine a modern version of Casablanca with Rick texting his faithful Dooley Wilson, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Or Rick writing to Ilsa, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” It is as absurd as some of those ludicrous people I see texting in the park daily. Being online is being out of touch, and for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to be on Facebook. It’s bad enough to be pursued by children and wives for acting like a normal man acts without posting it for all to see.
Connecting emotionally is what it’s all about—at least with friends or with women—and looking at smart phones will not cut it. Get unconnected and start living.
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