May I see your permit?

It's getting to be that time of year where men take off their shirts. Considering our current financial state, I have an idea that would raise revenue for our state AND beautify new York.

I think if you want to be topless in NY, you need to apply for a permit. There would be a standard permit cost. Whether you are granted a permit would be determined by your rating by a board of straight women and gay men. The permit would have to be renewed YEARLY. The permit, of course, could be worn like a badge-clipped to the belt or, tackily, hung around the neck on a chain. If a cop catches a person topless without a permit, he will be subject to a fine.

To be fair, the women have their own summer problems. The skirts this summer, and mind you I am fairly liberal, reveal more than just panties, but I could perform an entire gynecological exam with just a sweep of the eyes.

And heels.

Now ladies, I know how you feel about heels. I myself love heels, but I can't walk in 'em, so I don't. I know you think you look sexy, but just wearing the heels doesn't make you sexy, you have to be able to walk in a way that doesn't resemble the outlaw josey wales. And if you think flats can't be sexy-go look at Audrey Hepburn.

"Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?"

Last night I was hanging out in a bar by myself, I was reading a copy of "S/Z" by Roland Barthes ( who, if what I've told told is correct, died while crossing the street)when a young couple walked in. The young guy, a kind of Bryan Seacrest-y type, sat down next to me and said, "Do you believe we just met two hours ago?" I looked from one to the other. The girl reminded me of Reese Witherspoon in that terrible high school version of Dangerous liaisons. She had red hair, and she was dressed ultra prep-coral LaCoste sweater over a kind of lighter coral LaCoste shirt. Jeans cuffed and well pedicured feet in flat black sandals.

They both had the large "I've been drinking" pupils.

"Yes, I believe it." I didn't know what they had invested in telling me. They sat next to me, and Seacrest-y simply had to involve me in the conversation. He was an attractive guy. He was reading the Stand. He took it out to show me. She liked more "intellectual books", although she declined to name one. They both loved the DaVinci Code. "You have to read it," they both exclaimed.

Seacrest-y was quite taken with his find. When she went to the ladies room, I asked him how they had met. He was a little concerned about how things were developing. "She's young. And I'm 27. I've been around. I mean, I'm no slut. But she's a good girl. One of those been with the same guy since 16 girls."

When he went to the bathroom, she revealed that he had been right. She HAD been with the same guy since 16, in fact, she had been living with him right up until they broke up 2 weeks ago.

Seacrest-y put some song on the jukebox for Reese. He came back and grabbed her by the shoulders, "I love this girl."

I, on the other hand, had been running ex-boyfriend gauntlet the whole evening. I happened to quickly stumble by Farm Fresh, then I was called by the Beast, and finally I saw one of the young Irish boys who abducted me last Friday hitting on two rather pedestrian bar chicks. (He did come out and try to pick me up-at which point I was quite cruel to him-not intentionally, but I was-he went and continued hitting on the bar chicks.) Here I was, no romantic possibilities in sight, and young love sitting right in front of me.

"Tell me what book I should read," demand Seacrest-y. I thought about it, "Damn, she's really thinking about it," he commented. What exactly was he expecting me to do? Write a sonata? I asked him a few questions. Frustrated by the procedure. He said, "OK name the one book that you think everyone should read." I couldn't come up with that either, but he said, "Just answer without thinking." "The Tin Drum by Gunter Grasse." He asked me to write it down. He shook the paper in my face, "You think I'm not going to read it. But I promise you. I will."

Then he went onto Shakespeare. "Do you know any Shakespeare because he's really deep." I began to recite a monologue from Titus Andronicus at which point he hugged me. I don't know why Seacreast-y needed me there, but he did. He made sure I wasn't leaving and went to play more music. If I was the girl, I would have been displeased, as she told me later-having just come out of a major relationship "I'm not really in the right place to meet someone right now." I looked faced Reese, "Listen, Destiny has its own schedule. Do you know how hard it is to find someone you can tolerate for more than 20 minutes in NYC? You do not say no to this. You just wait and see. I'm not saying marry the guy, just hang out with him again on another night." She smiled, so drunken her pupils almost eclipsed her irises.

Reese went to the ladies again. At which point Seacrest-y told me, "I really like this girl. I'm just afraid of fucking up. I mean I just really hope I don't fuck this up." I put my hand on his sleeve and looked him in the eye, "I'm going to give you the best advice in the world right now." He stared at me silently. "Don't think. You're thinking too much. Just sit here and enjoy having a nice evening with her."

"You're so right," he replied. He hugged me. When Reese returned he pointed at me, "She's such a cool chick."

By this time, both of them are seriously toasted.

And there I sit, with Barthes analysis of Balzas's Sarrasine in my hand. The story is all about how love is based on illusion, the revelation of the truth kills love.

And here was young love, in a bar with half light, the two of them half conscious-the bar thick with shadows and smoke (coming in from the street through the open windows)-two people, younger, more attractive, better dressed than I can ever hope to be bonded over alcohol and bad music.

And I was trying to help. As much as I believe in Balzac's view, as much as when I see a happy well dressed couple I grumble at them "That's right, keep walking," as much as I resent the fact that these idiots will be and are more successful than I ever will, I did actually try to help them.

She gave him her number and staggered home. He gave me one last hug "I'll see you around. It was great meeting you." He wandered out into the street. Leaving me, finally, alone with my book.

"Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?"

How did you get that?

Last night I was hanging with my friend Cain who is a rather charming, seemingly dopey, but extremely intelligent guy. He has a rather large and noticeable scar on the left side of his head. I've known Cain for two years and never mentioned it. Last night I asked him, "OK how did you get that scar?"

"My service in the Israeli army. I usually tell people it was a car accident, but it was during my service."

He left it at that.

I was confused on a number of levels, first the taunting "I got it in the service" but without any details, although I'm sure I can imagine a number of reasons why Cain wouldn't divulge the story to me. (Cain is very secretive about his time with the Israeli army.) Then I began wondering why he preferred to tell people it was a car accident. Why did he think that was a better or more acceptable story? Are people less curious about a car accident than a "war" scar?

In film, scars particularly facial scars can indicate villainy. If the hero is scarred, it is often the result of a rash or immature act performed in youth (Indiana Jones, Inigo Mantoya-Princess Bride).

In literature, scars are often associated with heroism and identity. Odysseus is identified by the scar on his thigh by his nurse. The famed Fisher King, in version I studied in high school, is scarred in his youth by fire ( he too is wounded in his thigh in some versions). Moses has a scarred tongue. The female heroine of Bleak House is facially scarred after her spiritually transformative brush with smallpox.

Whenever I see someone with a scar, to me, it indicates a story. I have a faint one on my finger that I got from cutting stale bread for my mother's insane cat. I have another one on the back of my thighs from leaning up against a radiator. My mother has a few from falling down the stairs to answer the phone when I called her one night. I have a faint scar, which only I can see, the result of some bad theatrical special effects. Eric had a few, one the result of his brother stabbing him with a pencil. My manicurist has one on her upper arm from a small pox vaccination.

I was with a new boy once, naked in bed, and he rolled me on my stomach. "Jesus," he said, "Where did you get that?" "What?" I asked, panicked that something horrible had happened to my back. "This scar. Did you have spina bifida?" "Oh no, it was a tumor removal." My body bears witness to the events, even though I have no conscious memory of them. It tells my story even to me, as I often forget that it's there. That scar, down my spine, is almost as old as I am.

I have often thought of scar removal. Many people have it done. The scars, however, that I would have removed are not the ones I think most people would target. The scar across my abdomen, so long has it been with me, I didn't even know it was a scar until my mother told me. I wouldn't have it removed, despite its visibility, because it is too much of who I am. The more recent scars, the ones resulting from my botched surgery at thirteen, those I could do without, even though they are easier to hide.

But I have never, despite my serious consideration, actually had the scars removed. And the odds are I never will. Partially because I am terrified of surgery, and partially because to remove them would be to hide those incidents, to say that I am ashamed or embarrassed. A smart man when seeing those scars would not find them unattractive.

A smart man would see in them the beauty of survival.

To educate, possibly. To fail, never. To annoy, always.

Should be the motto of my department. You must forgive the lack of bloggage, but my mind has turned the consistency of the banana pudding at the magnolia cafe. (Oh, oh, I love the cupcakes there-simply the best-haven't had one in maybe three years, but still I dream of them-perhaps that should be an outing for bakerina and myself.) I promise a post tomorrow of some merit. Really.

No, honestly.

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