Tarnished Part III: Get Weird, Yale!
New Haven: name dropped by The Doors, home to less distinguished family members of more important artists, training ground for the bureaucrats and CEOs of tomorrow, mini-York for suburban shitsters and mecca for the white-haired-pixie-cut-art-cunt AARP elite. If ever one wanted a convenient display of everything that is wrong with America in general, a brief stroll from Cutler’s to Cosi would suffice nicely. I have often walked those hallowed streets with a quiet awe – so much for me to gleefully contaminate, so little time. But where to begin? Further, with a budget of twenty dollars, how far could I actually get in one of the wealthiest cities in the wealthiest state in the union?
Insular as it may seem, New Haven’s cards are in all reality stacked in favor of the learned outsider, the subtle pariah from parts unspoken. Let’s face it, the rich are the rich no matter where you go and very few stray too far from the flock. All it really takes to fleece the golden-fleeced is a dash of charm, a dab of grime and the right bag of tricks. And, as we’ve learned together in previous installments, the good Dr. Helm puts Felix the motherfucking Cat to shame on the regular. But with so many gilded hearts to break, where to begin? The less adventurous may play it safe, taking in a show at Cafe Nine (one of the few redeeming hovels in the city proper) or shoveling down some falafel at Mamoun’s, but on the balmy summer eve in focus my palate simply couldn’t settle for falafel – no – I was in the mood for fish. Big fish. Yale fish.
But none of this was clear to me at first, certainly not. My initial plans were more sober, more sound. As Cafe Nine is one of the few redeeming piss-holes in the city, a starry-eyed compatriot of mine, a certain Mr. Brian Leroux, is one of gun wavin’ New Haven’s few redeeming people. I resolved to pay him a visit, trade ludicrous anecdotes over a bottle of Rebel Yell and revel together in a night that is perpetually young. We were fine examples, us two gents, well dressed and even better versed, full of the fire that drives able men either to the bottle and the alley or the stem and the throne. We talked, we laughed, we drank deeply whilst practicing our Morrissey wails – all the world was green until he revealed his own plans for the night. The Breeders were in town and I suspect our kid had a bit of a hard on for Ms. Deal, so I left him on his way asking for little more than a lift downtown – he had his path to walk, I would stumble onto mine eventually.
A jostle here, a right turn there and I bade him farewell in front of Toad’s Place, walking hip-first from the entrance where he’d confirmed his guest list status past the mongrel throngs with their neckbeards, their cankled girlfriends and their e-tickets. Ahead of me lay downtown in all its filthy glory. Now at this point, dear novitiates, your fearless doctor hadn’t the slightest idea of how to amuse himself. New Haven proper had long since been exhausted of all excitement in my eyes. Even the many bars and armpit-clubs held little interest. I mean really, what diversions would I find there? Booze? Please, I’d already been drunk since noon. Women? Thanks, but no; sleeping with New Haven women is like shooting incredibly white fish in an incredibly white barrel. All you’ve got to do is hum the first couple of bars to an Annuals tune or be caught looking at a Gustav Klimt picture-book and they’re already a slap and tickle away from the whiniest, fussiest orgasm of their ironic little lives. I had a job to do, damnit, I needed something big, something huge, something…elite.
I must have walked up and down Whalley Avenue for hours, or did it only seem like hours? Either way, New Haven was turning out to be a bit of a bust. If something didn’t turn up soon, my only course of action would have been to go searching for one of the city’s many entertaining homeless. I perked my ears up, hoping to hear a stray gunshot and in turn find the source (yes, dear reader, drug-related murder can actually end up being more entertaining than New fucking Haven), when my ears were met with a different sort of percussion. There was a shot, yes, but the shot of a snare drum firing off an introduction to…a Madonna tune? By God, yes! It was a Madonna tune! And coming from…YALE? I could hardly believe what my senses were telling me. I had always associated Yale with ugly foreign girls, future heads of state masturbating in coffins, young Republicans and foxy Democrats, but never with Madonna. I had to investigate, I had to infiltrate, I had to urinate on something expensive. I prowled like a hipper Sam Fisher around the outskirts of the campus, quietly darting my way towards the lurching bass that grew louder at the end of every block until I found my quarry. Through the iron gates (updated from the 16th century to the 21st by way of electronic security locks) I caught glimpses of suits, ties and trophy wives all under what appeared to be an appropriately tacky rent-a-tent. I had a thirst, a lust, a bit of an erection in anticipation of the endless amounts of hell I could raise if only I could get inside, but how?
That’s when it happened. From around the nearest corner came two of the finest examples of Yale-tail I had ever seen. One was Asian, gangly in that “I would be doing scat-porn if I were back in the old country” sort of way and the other was little more than your standard issue, pear-shaped export from Westchester county. Both were sporting their bulldog pride to the highest degree in their crew shirts and sweatpants, both were clutching books and doggie bags from the local organic buffet. To most observers they would be cause for little interest, but to me they may as well have been accompanied by all the heavenly hosts rejoicing in perfect unison for what they represented: a ticket to motherfucking riiiiiiiiide.
*Now for any of you that remain puzzled as to why in our first installment I constructed our toolbox in exactly the way that I did, pay close attention as three of our weapons are about to be wielded.*
The sweater-vest/button down combo was the first wave of attack, blending me in seamlessly with a) my current surroundings and b) my intended surroundings. I looked non-threatening, a stone’s throw away from your average Yalie, but overdone just enough to peg me as a hypothetical Philosophy major or English grad-student. Now that I looked the part, all I had to do was act it.
I leaned back into the gateway and hurriedly rolled a cigarette, lit up and took a few deep drags in order to achieve that perfect 1/3 burn that says “I’m a little upset, but not so much so that I’ve been chain-smoking or anything.” The phone came out just as I nervously paced into view of my two little meal-tickets and immediately picked up in the middle of a fake conversation with absolutely no one. “I can’t fucking believe you,” I grated, just within earshot of the oncoming ladies; “if you lose your card you get another one, you don’t just go into my wallet and take mine and expect me to go about my business like everything is fine. How the hell am I supposed to get back in now with you at home for the weekend? My dissertation isn’t going to write itself, Roderick.”
In the midst of my pacing I realized that I had caught their attention (game). The blonde eyed me a bit. “Did you get locked out?” said she, dripping with sympathy.
I sighed, audibly, one hand annoyingly placed on my hip; “Unfortunately. It seems my roommates get dumber with each new year” (set).
“Haha! That’s horrible. Here, just follow us in.”
“Oh my God, thank you so much, you girls just saved my life” (and match).
And so with a little luck and a little help from the well-dressed man’s toolbox, Dr. Helm clicked a tentative heel on the hallowed campus of Yale University. What treasures of puritanical prestige await within? Find out next time, Donnybrook novitiates, in “Tarnished Pt. 4: Skull and Boners.”