That Guy, The Standard High Line, New York City, September 25, 2012
Production note: A law-minded friend pointed out that we should protect That Guy’s anonymity so from here on out we will do just that.
It was a blustery early autumn night on one of The Standard’s many terraces. Bored waiters in black vests and equally bored waitresses in French maid get-ups served “aphrodisiac-inspired” drinks to a disproportionately animated crowd. We were assembled for a monthly Standard Talks panel discussion. The evening’s subject matter was the intersection of food, sex, the human heart, and the brain.
And so, naturally, That Guy was in attendance. Now, you don’t often see people employing the Montgomery Burns power-steeple hand gesture but this was not your ordinary guy. You see, he had opinions.
Lots of opinions.
His cute/hapless friend in the sneakers was stuck, drowning in the undulating current of BS that issued forth from That Guy’s mouth, unable to get a word or even a nod in edgewise as That Guy held forth on a number of topics which included, but are not limited to, the following:
-Bike-Sharing (importance to urban infrastructure)
-Vintage ’78s (sound quality superiority of)
-Smoking (strength of personal willpower to overcome addiction to)
-The iPhone 5 (evils of engineered obsolescence as evidenced by)
Now none of this is unusual or surprising or offensive. It’s not as though That Guy was bashing Muslims or endorsing the Black Eyed Peas comeback album. No, it wasn’t the late-20’s urbanite topical banter that so irked your correspondent, it was the staggering degree of self-importance that surrounded him like a smug, small-batch-distilled-bourbon-scented halo.
It was as though he was delivering a sermon from high up on the mount, and we, the congregation, should drink in his divine wisdom in order to transcend the basic confines of our own mortality and be renewed, revived, reborn - as people who, deep in our hearts believe that Mumford & Sons are inauthentic bluegrass-plagarist sellouts.
And than it hit me. That Guy is a very special sub-species: The Q&A That Guy! This is the type who shows up at film screenings and lectures specifically to dominate the post-panel Q&A. That Guy was born to grab the mike and drone on as the panel guests shift uncomfortably in their stools and nod politely and the moderator makes halting noises and futile grabbing gestures to reclaim control over the proceedings.
Dreading the inevitable, your correspondent rode out the discussion but bailed before the Q&A, leaving another of life’s mysteries lingering in the darkening skies over the Hudson.
That Guy, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Sunday, August 19, 2012
Where do I begin. I suppose it will behoove us all to set the scene. “Mr. Sunday Night” is an offshoot of a popular Gowanus Canal-proximate dance party (“Mr. Saturday Night”) and some friends and I decided, in the spirit of $5 afternoon beers, to check it out. Shake our money-makers. Get into the groove, etc.
Yet…you know that sad Sunday night feeling? You just want the fun times to last forever, but there’s an inescapable weekend-is-over gloom that even ice cold Summer Pale Ale can’t dissipate. Well, That Guy was doing everything in his camo-shorts power to defy that feeling.
And, I’m sorry to report, he did not quite succeed. First, he was lingering little bit outside the event’s demographic, which was either young/hot/gay; young/hot-ish/ female (self-absorbed variety); or bookishly old/former biology professor.
That Guy’s un-ironic appropriation of early ’90s Billy Ray Cyrus hair and heaving beer gut made it impossible to brand him either a merrily aging gay hipster or a toffy intellectual, rather he recalled someone’s Canadian cousin who couch-surfs one day too many.
I can’t imagine what combination of hallucinogens he was on (or perhaps he was just high on life) but he remained in the corner of the concrete dance floor, eyes shut, rear end wagging, oblivious to everything but the high-energy techno beats supplied by a tired-eyed DJ for two solid hours.
It brought to mind that quote that will occasionally show up in one of your mom’s email forwards, typically in a bright, 16 point Comic Sans font. It goes like this:
Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth!
Well, That Guy…sometimes, people are watching. And you end up on their tumblr. But you know what? I will bet you a nice chunk of American currency that That Guy does not care. He probably does not “do” the Internet. He likely gets his news from NPR or his local bus driver, or Salty Sal down at the slice joint.
So, like another vaguely melancholy Sunday night, this missive means no harm, rather to instead shine a weak but benevolent light on one of mankind’s more puzzling denizens of the Brooklyn bootleg outdoor party circuit.
That Guy, Raoul’s, Prince Street, Saturday, August 11. Photo Credit: Jack Preston
Simply put, Raoul’s is a great downtown restaurant. It seems to typify a certain pre-millenial mindset, thumbing a Sauterne-sniffing nose at blandly postmodern Williamsburg condos and Times Square-as-Orlando-theme-park and Mayor Bloomberg taking our soda away.
Actually, it doesn’t feel all that “New York” at all - and maybe therein lies the appeal. On a good night, Raoul’s just feels like a cozy, fashionably shabby 3 star French restaurant that you might luckily stumble upon in Minneapolis or San Francisco or Denver. Yes, Denver.
However on a recent balmy Saturday night, That Guy entered the frame to muddle my vision of homey, unpretentious fine dining. He wasn’t bombastic or rude or one of those people who employ expansive hand gestures or bark-laugh. The rest of the table seemed congenial and low-key. But (and this is a bit hard to discern in the photo as he held his cocktail with an iron fist) That Guy was wearing a pink polo, collar popped, and drinking a Cosmopolitan.
Perhaps this whole tableau was an ironic comment on ’90s-’00s consumerism run amuck (which, if so, bravo, That Guy!). But, truth be told, he seemed to enjoy his pink-hued sartorial and beverage choices with earnest gusto.
I am trying to imagine him actually placing the drink order.
“May I start you off with something to drink, tap, still or sparkling?”
“Oh, tap is fine.”
“Excellent. A cocktail before dinner?”
“Ah-hem, yes, I’ll have a…”
I can’t even type it. The Cosmopolitan has not swung around to being cool again the way PBR did in 2004, and it will never, ever do so, because it did not come from an organic place. It did not spring from the ’80s dance scene or the livelier truck stop diners of the rust belt. It came from an HBO writers’ room. An incessantly quippy one.
The offending Cosmo was so jarringly out of place in a restaurant where steak au poivre and artichokes are begging, pleading to be paired with a nice plummy glass o’ vino. Why slake your thirst with this sickly sweet concoction, Triple-Sec oozing glumly down the interior of the glass, when a reasonably priced Bordeaux is within your reach? Why, That Guy, why?
But as the check arrived and I fell into a mellow chocolate mousse reverie, I began to regard That Guy with a bit less vitriol and a bit more admiration. It’s probably not easy to be so blissfully, boldly oblivious to current trends, and I think it’s actually quite masculine to go against type and double down on Pink Shirt + Pink Drink. As the night concluded, he seemed content. His friends did, too. Maybe he was actually on to something.
After dinner we headed across the street to The Dutch, what some might call the buzzing, iPhone-addled, short-attention-span Gen Y grandson of Raoul’s. This sleek, bright, “farm to table” restaurant and oyster bar proffers, of course, a laundry list of elaborate cocktails. We ordered Mai Tais as a silent salute to That Guy’s shameless joie de vivre, but - and here is the final turn of the screw, the “mixologist” lady with the feather hair extensions and illegible tattoos put BITTERS in our Mai Tais.
The thing about bitters is that they are just that - bitter. While just fine in moderation, this was more than a dash, it was more like a dose. This cocktail did not conjure Pacific sunsets or jam sessions in the back of Jimmy Buffett’s tour bus. It was something dark, gothic and evil, possibly conceived during the cholera years of the Victorian era.
So as we sent the drink back, we had to ask ourselves, if forced to choose, which would we prefer: the pink, poppy, carefree, sweet falseness of the pre- 9/11 Cosmo, or the dark, calculated hipness of the bitters-infused 2012 Artisanal Mai Tai?
The answer? Next time, order a beer. And I hope, wherever That Guy is, he will do the same.
It’s August. New York is collectively sweaty, exhausted, and hungover from the weekend. Nobody feels like working and everybody wishes our society were more European, taking the fetid month off to lounge on some obscure Greek island with vast turquoise waters and bleached-white buildings to soothe away our urban ennui.
So it is in this particularly weary mindset that I found myself staring at the post-pubescent brown eyes (and prominent groin-bone) of That Guy, an anonymous Hollister model.
Now, I have never put my finger on what, exactly, “Hollister” is. It boasts of a California pedigree in its marketing, yet I grew up in California and never once heard of it, not amongst Billabong and Stussy and Vision Street Wear, whose legitimate surf/skate credibility this brand clearly seeks to co-opt.
Thus I already felt a sense of mild ire at the very idea of this focus group-hatched newcomer brandishing its west coast bonafides, quite literally in my face.
Then. You have the image itself, a model who, while objectively hot, must be what, 16? Dressed as a dubious lifeguard (whistle, barely visible board shorts), the art direction of which may have outdone Dov Charney for sheer perviness.
Here I will acknowledge that I was born in the late 70s and am thus Old and if Hollister existed back then maybe I would have That Guy tacked up on my wall next to my Michael Jackson and ALF (yep) posters. Maybe.
Yet an image that is suppose to entice, to make one desire whatever it is they’re selling - youth, hotness, lifeguard boyfriends, hairless chests, hoodies - instead made me profoundly uncomfortable, an against-my-will peeping tom, ogling without a cause.
I realize I am not in the Hollister target market. But neither was the woman brandishing the shopping bag, and suddenly I was forced to ponder what this middle-aged lady reading AM New York had purchased from Hollister at 9 a.m. on a Monday.
I bet That Guy will go on to have a successful modeling career, or maybe he’ll return to UCSD next semester to play water polo. I’m sure no matter what he’ll be alright.
I suppose it’s the rest of us - those who live in a world walled in by brands - disingenuous entities that promise a purchasable identity: Pink and Abercrombie and Juicy and yes, the immortal Ed Hardy - that I worry about.
That Guy, Somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, July 4, 2012 (photo credit Amanda Olsson)
Who doesn’t love a hammock? The humble hammock evokes a sense of dreamy summer idyll, of soft breezes, drowsy naps and tall glasses of peach iced tea. Sadly, That Guy has managed to obliterate any positive feelings for this time-honored lounge system, transforming it from a sweet lakeside indulgence into something better suited to the Sanford & Son prop department.
Here at Oh-That Guy Headquarters we try not to be overty judgmental about body type, however I might posit that one perhaps shouldn’t settle into a hammock at a social gathering if one’s hearty BMI causes the canvas to physically graze the (patchy) grass beneath. Also, the shoes! While my urge to see That Guy’s bare feet is not a strong one, there seems something just wrong about loafers in a hammock.
Then we have the death blow for That Guy’s likeability - he is reading what looks to be a religious or political text at a Fourth of July party. Is it Hindu scripture? The Communist Manifesto? Whatever tiny text Franny was reading in Franny in Zooey?
We will never know, but what we do know is, if he ever manages to rise himself from this low-slung repose, he will likely corner you for a good 40 minutes as you desperately signal distress to your friends, who will pretend not to know you, until finally, you retreat to the bathroom and stare at the tile floor and wonder why you came to this party, or any party, and why even the most well-intentioned attempts at socializing so often reveal the vast swaths of nothingness between people, of connections constantly broken, of the isolating vagaries of modern life.
On a lighter note, That Guy does get minor accolades for balancing what looks to be a Michelob Ultra on his chest. Power move.
I feel compelled to point out one detail here: That Guy is not only holding his lady’s purse, he is also toting her recent purchase from the 8th Avenue TJ MAXX. One can only speculate in re: the contents of said bag. Perhaps some salted almonds or a savvy new top, bought on the fly?
Maybe this couple was married on a whim in Reno in the ’60s, just a couple of crazy kids, and have been together for so long they don’t need to communicate verbally anymore. Or maybe they met recently, both looking for love and companionship late in life, connecting at a community yoga retreat or Jersey jazz club. I cannot pinpoint the longevity or nature of their union but here’s the thing that struck me - when you reach the stage of life where your hair matches your silver-sweater-dress, or even way before then, it doesn’t matter if That Guy next to you is on the shorter side, or wearing a fedora with an ill-tailored business suit.
What matters is…he will carry your massive shoulder bag and impulse buy, take your arm, and walk you patiently through the crowd.
So to That Guy - your style may be suspect but your sensitivity is 100 percent genuine, and to this, I say, in all earnestness, hats off.
That Guy, 59th Street A/C/E station, New York City Thursday, May 24, 2012
Lest you worry that this here site was taking a turn for the gloomy and dire, I thought I would liven things up with a little pre-long-weekend treat.
Behold, That Guy! I suppose I could also just refer to him as That Shirt, but really there is so much more to celebrate here. First of all, That Guy stood patiently for a good five minutes as I tried to un-freeze my iPhone and take this photo. Second of all, he knew the owner of the subway bodega, who high-fived him. Third of all, and this is now totally heartbreaking - That Guy was hearing impaired. He kept pointing to his ears and finally had to execute some pretty badass sign language before I got it.
Let’s all think about that for a moment as we finalize our plans, hop in our cars, calibrate our playlists, and fire up our inevitable grills. Unlike all of us bobbing along to Beach House in our headphone cocoons or gabbing into our various devices about the traffic, the drama, the craziness, That Guy is out there, in complete, utter, silence.
That Guy, Columbus Circle, New York City, May 17, 2012
I rarely use the word “cocky”, it’s one of those slang-isms that makes me tacitly uncomfortable, but there is just no other way to describe That Guy. I saw him from across the street, and he initially caught my eye because he was blowing a big pink bubblegum bubble. Usually bubblegum-chewing falls somewhere on the charming/mildly irksome spectrum but somehow That Guy made even Hubba Bubba seem pretentious and aggressive.
POP! I own this town.
Note how his fancy-wine-faced wife struggles to keep up as he strides across Broadway, surveying the rabble at his feet. See the Seamless Web paunch pulling at his Brooks Brothers button-down. I assume they must be en route to an early dinner or some sort of Cultural Event, floating in the rarefied air of foie gras terrine and heartbreaking sonatas as the rest of us hustle on, into the darkening night, the struggle unyielding, the pace breakneck, the victories dwindling and the disappointments deep as we march on into irrelevance and decline.
But don’t worry about That Guy. He’s going to be juuust fine.
That Guy, uptown A Train, New York City, May 10, 2012
Is there a cooler individual on land or sea than this week’s That Guy? The boots, the shades, the buttery leather shoulder bag, the monochrome suit with its subtle inky-black textures…man, That Guy has got it down.
Sometimes I wonder what makes a person “cool” - is it a simple lack of timidity, an ingrained sense of ease in the world…or is it something else, something deeply coded in one’s consciousness? If this is the case, I don’t believe that “cool” is the antithesis of “uncool”, dorky, awkward, Urkle-y.
No, I think to truly be “cool” is to live life without fear.
That Guy is not worried about being late for his next appointment, getting a bad haircut or bleak economic prospects. If it happens, it happens. And he’s not stressed about his romantic attachments. If, say, his girlfriend starts acting distant and weird, he doesn’t start checking her text messages or calling her eight times a day. He just lays back in the flow of his own awesomeness and realizes that if she can’t appreciate his considerable charms, this is simply her problem, and ultimately her loss.
That Guy was so cool, in fact, that he didn’t even flinch at me blatantly taking photos of him on a near-empty train. Happens all the time, I bet.
It makes me wonder, could any of us aspire to be like That Guy? Is it something you can teach yourself through rigorous study, like irregular French verbs or the tango? Or do you need to be born That Guy? Born with a sense that your place in the world is secure, that no matter what, fate will elevate you above the strivers, the pretenders, the razor-scooter rollers and the girls who flatiron their hair. Born with the sense that maybe, just maybe, you’re a bit better than everyone else - but why would you bother trying to prove it?
I’ll never know, but at least I have That Guy’s image as a source of inspiration and quiet awe.
William Randolph Hearst, May 8, 2012, 300 West 57th Street
Every day, emerging from the train, I see the watery, spooky eyes of this week’s That Guy - William Randolph Hearst. You’d think the Hearst Corp would have chosen a cheerier photo to greet its employees each morning, but as you might surmise, Hearst was not exactly a fun-loving dude. This was a guy who bought out his own father’s newspaper at the age of 21. A guy who started a WAR. How, you may ask?
In 1898 the American battleship The U.S.S. Maine docked on the shore of Spanish-occupied Havana. All was diplomatic and well between the US and Spain. But then…
Captain Sigsbee describes what happened:
I laid down my pen and listened to the notes of the bugle, which were singularly beautiful in the oppressive stillness of the night… . I was enclosing my letter in its envelope when the explosion came. It was a bursting, rending, and crashing roar of immense volume, largely metallic in character. It was followed by heavy, ominous metallic sounds. There was a trembling and lurching motion of the vessel, a list to port. The electric lights went out. Then there was intense blackness and smoke.
The situation could not be mistaken. The Maine was blown up and sinking. For a moment the instinct of self-preservation took charge of me, but this was immediately dominated by the habit of command.
The cause of the explosion was unknown. However Hearst’s New YorkJournal had no qualms identifying the culprits. The next day’s headline ran: “REMEMBER THE MAINE, TO HELL WITH SPAIN”!
And with what I will admit is a very catchy headline, thus began the Spanish-American War. See, wars sell newspapers. Hearst owned newspapers. Lots of them. His hyperbolic, yellow journalism (what we now call “truthiness”) made him a very wealthy, and ruthlessly competitive man.
Yet, as with all That Guys, Hearst had a softer side. He fell madly in love with actress Marion Davies and had a prolonged, passionate affair with her (while still married to his wife, former chorus girl Millicent, so, I guess negative points for infidelity, but positive points for the drama factor of Forbidden Love). And San Simeon is pretty mind-blowing - he had entire rooms from European estates shipped overseas to furnish it like a true old-world castle. There is a swimming pool with 24 karat gold mosaic tiles! And a zoo housing the following: black bears, grizzly bears, sun bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, chimpanzees, orangutans, monkeys, macaws, kinkajous, coati mundis, swans, storks, a tapir, and an elephant. I mean…baller.
His other California estate was the setting for the severed horse head scene in The Godfather and also where JFK and Jackie honeymooned. Citizen Kane is based on him. As with most That Guys, there’s a lot to like, a lot to loathe, and a lot to wonder about. Even if he died, paranoid and alone, he certainly did have a capital L Life. And I suppose I should be thankful, for it is That Guy who provides me not only with a fascinating, some might say quintessentially American story, but also with a bi-weekly paycheck.