I don’t get games. The few times I played Scrabble with my husband–we were student flatmates then, not even going out together–he tiled the board while I sulked. He is brighter than me, and understood that Scrabble is a game of numbers, not words. I would frown and shuffle my seven letters, looking for greatness and finding ‘GOOD’. He would look thoughtful for a moment, then lay four letters so they sucked the juice out of my vowels and tupped both triple-letter and triple-word scores. 74 points.
    “‘Zo’ isn’t a word! Bollocks!”
    “It is.” Mildly, he would wave the rules leaflet. It felt like cheating, this nebbishy memorizing of short words to map to the pink and red tiles.

This is why I still write error message copy, while he runs a profitable company. It’s also why I don’t get business parties. I forget it’s a game of numbers, not words.

On Thursday, I went to my first internet party since the days when VC(venture capital) money launched companies like Helen launched ships. I had used the product that morning, and had plenty to say about it. And compellingly, the party was on my route home. I chained my bike up under the changing guard of the smokers outside.

Little had changed but the smoking ban. These parties are theater, a stage-managed peek at the booty this little warship/enterprise might bring back. The -SoHo loft setting is borrowed-. The waiters are actors (and the handsomest men in the room, by too far). The champagne is on the never-never. Last time there were internet parties, the piñata might have held a SoHo loft conversion for everyone, and they fizzed with that promise. Now people look glad to get a free drink.

I didn’t know anyone but the host, whom I’d met once. I knew several names on the -ostentatiously- accidentally open To: line of the email invitation, but would recognize only their words. Still, a woman alone can cuddle a drink until someone says hello. I reminded myself to hold the champagne flute in the paw not smeared with chain grease. This was SoHo, not Brooklyn, I thought, so I should make an effort. The room was a mixture of meeja and web types; friendly enough.

Various nice men stopped to chat. I kept a straight face as they ‘fessed up to founding or abetting the silly companies of five years ago. (Their between-year stories were fuzzier.) I said what I did in fifteen words or fewer, though I have no talent for elevator-pitching my life. A slick and toothy fellow–New York raised–told me he’d tried to resist the temptation to start another company, but couldn’t.
    “The entrepreneur is a serial monogamist,” I said, as the bubbles came up my nose. His eyes widened at this profundity. Then he excused himself to go to another party.

In Manhattan, most parties are business (and that’s why I do my living across the bridge). It’s an island of transactions, of Getting Needs Met, as Rageboy would say. You circulate, extract information, and move on. You’re allowed to look over a person’s shoulder in mid-sentence, scanning for better prospects. _What can you do for me?_ I know these rules but in the wrong mood they make me as sulky as Scrabble. I can’t do the graceful, gotta-go-freshen-my-drink exit, for fear of hurting feelings, and I can’t shake the primitive desire to feel, rather than collect, connections. So this time I made no excuses, and left–remembering that it’s hard to look _Sex and the City_ when you carry a bike helmet everywhere.

SHEEPISH UPDATE: Nick Denton, Kinja Big Cheese, tells me that was his own apartment. *And* that he provided indoor ashtrays (though New Yorker smokers are now programmed to use the street). His manners are much better than mine.

9 thoughts on “Gawking”

  1. In the first place NYC is not America. It’s NYC and must stand or fall on its own merits. Please discontinue drawing any comparisons with it and America.

    Games are just that. They distract the mind from reality no differently than most social gatherings or the watching of TV and movies, with “art” certainly being largely absent from either of the latter.

    So what’s wrong with wasting time? We all do it in one way or another. Don’t you know any stamp collectors or horse breeders?


  2. Oh for God’s sake. At least read before you scold. Where have I drawn a conclusion about America? I make an observation about Manhattan versus Brooklyn, and note in passing that I prefer Brooklyn.

    And can’t I admit I don’t get games, without a sniffy interpretation that I’m saying they are somehow beneath me (when the reverse is true)? What’s art got to do with it? People who play games are generally smarter than me. I just choose different timewasters. Like this.



  3. My premature exit would have been far more depressing. Choire Sicha! Peter Rojas! Elizabeth Spiers! Lindsay Robertson! Jason Kottke and Meg Hourihan! I would have left early, drunk, starry-eyed and sheepish, muttering to myself that the obscurity of my idols counterbalances the creepiness of my idolatry.


  4. Now Dervala, would you want a man in your life who didn’t consider a bicycle helmet a kind of aphrodisiac? (I suspect a kayaking Canadian falls into this category ).

    My kind of Sex and the City is The Third Policeman melded with His Girl Friday, with the occasional guest appearance of a Manolo Blahnik.


  5. When I lived in Manhattan, I used ride a Razor scooter everywhere, which (rightly) irritated everyone who knew me. I have a weakness for girl-powered transport.

    It was a LOT easier to scoot wearing a Marc Jacobs skirt (or a Roz Russell nipped-waist suit) than it is to bike. I used to arrive at parties looking quite shevelled in those days. Alas, Brooklyn is a bridge too far.

    And back in Manhattan, I used to live right above the Manolo Blahnik store. Still don’t own a single pair; I’m a baby about stilettos. Prada is my poison, though now sadly out of reach.

    The Third Policeman: my kind of fella.


  6. hee hee. I do all the dis-sing to make up for your shevelled, I think. I have been known to shake hands of Important Tech Folk I’m about to interview for a story with smudges of bicycle grease on my palms — or after having emerged sweaty and panting from within a rainsuit. I try to imagine myself as having a kind of Katherine Hepburn element of jaunty, quirky surprise but I am sure I look more like a (bicycle) basket case!


  7. Sorry to go back to the original story, but I think your taste and ability to write more than compensate for your lack of gaming skills. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and people with mathematical skills (Scrabble-izers) are boring. I actually like Scrabble and do understand games, and yet I think I’ve won Scrabble maybe once in my whole life. And anyone who seeks to be Sex in the City is intelligent, so stop claiming that your Scrabble-friend is smarter than you (please).


  8. Classic! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who’s word game challenged. I played with two friends and their seven-year-old son over Christmas, and I beat him by a very slim margin.

    If you were wearing stilettos and we found ourselves standing next to each other at a party, it would be impossible for us to have a conversation (kind of like Alice unable to reach the key from either direction).


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