Markreynolds & Jeffjones
Being Male Now
Here’s the thing: you may think you “know” someone, but you don’t. Neither do I. If you’re lucky enough to know yourself, who you are at core and what you stand for, then you’ve got that, and that’s monumental. But knowing someone else? That seems rather presumptuous and possibly even preposterous, so I won’t pretend that I really know either Markreynolds or Jeffjones. I don’t have a clue, truthfully. But I’ve shared modest amounts of time with each recently and each spurred further reflection on what it now means to be an American male.
Markreynolds and Jeffjones don’t know one another and they almost certainly never will. One of them lives in borough of Queens, city of New York, while the other resides in the entirely less multi-cultural suburb of Indianapolis called Greenwood. But they occupy portions of the same equation, by definition of their gender and circumstances, helping to define affluent-world adult male life as we now know it.
Markreynolds has this aura, this almost tangible persona, best described as post-modern-Renaissance-urban-surly man. Neanderthal man wouldn’t recognize this ancestral species for sure. Markreynolds is stylishly disheveled, carefully practiced at the art of not appearing to be carefully practiced at anything. He could be the love child of James Dean and a Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie.
I find myself in a nearly pitch-black Cuban restaurant in East Harlem. Markreynolds is perched to my left on a black leather bar stool drinking a Negra Modelo. An overly-amplified three-piece Cuban combo is doing their thing even though the restaurant is 90 percent empty. Markreynolds is sneering at the lime removed from his beer on the countertop. Eye contact is intermittent. Our conversation leads to a discourse of our least favored phrases. Mine include “It is what it is” and “At the end of the day.” Markreynolds waves those aside and turns the tables deftly.
“I like despondent women with badly dyed blond hair and very dark eyebrows who say words like 'irregardless' and 'supposably'.” Markreynolds continued to stare down the lime, fixated. Maybe it was the rum, but for me he began to take on a pronounced Dustin Hoffman Rainman vibe.
His red t-shirt underneath the obligatory weather-worn leather jacket stated the legend SNITCHES REQUIRE STITCHES across the front. Later, sans jacket, I notice that the reverse side reads, IF YOU SEE IT, SAY IT: REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY. I assume it’s all a calculated yen/yang pose of some sort, or Jung’s duality of man dilemma, or just a damn clever red t-shirt. While all this is rolling around my brain, Markreynolds is going on about some ultra-clever Halloween costume he’s sewing (post-modern-Renaissance, remember) for some equally clever theme party. His costume involves a subtly hip tie-in between the Marx Brothers and Hinduism that completely sails over my head. New Yorkers, I have decided, perhaps because they either don’t want or can’t afford children, value dogs and Halloween theme parties a great deal. About this time, Markreynolds sneered, “I like my women the way I like my coffee: full of booze.”
All told [at the end of the day], Markreynolds became my New York City action figure role model, replete with leather jacket, cigarette, booze, and world-weariness by age 35. But he had to catch a train home to Queens to finish sewing faux arms onto his Halloween costume. It’s just what real men do now. Our grandpas may have wasted Nazis and Gooks yet here we are, stitching ironic Halloween costumes. Yet, admittedly, I prefer us. However, it vaguely made me wonder what our male grandchildren might be like one day and I mentioned this to Markreynolds. He immediately snarled phrases like “pansy faggot monkeys” and “bastard-ass mu-tards,” but I suspected this was only for effect. Once again, where Markreynolds was concerned I proved to be a full step behind, woefully off balance. I had mistakenly thought he was referring to our mythical grandchildren, but he was instead referencing the Baby Boomer-era American male.
“That generation killed on epic levels and then came home to GI bills, cheap affordable housing, and abundant low-skill jobs. As fathers, they were expected to do next to nothing. As husbands, they had mistresses stashed willy-nilly.” Markreynolds was on a definite roll. He was equal parts disgusted and spastic with insight.
“They lacked perception, involvement, commitment, and effort. Shit was handed to them – the $27 an hour jobs at GM on the assembly line. Those bastards were stupid lucky. It’s so much harder to be a man now. I have to care what my girlfriend feels, thinks, wants. I have to hustle for a living against global competition. I have to sew.” He took a long drag of his cigarette and brushed a rogue hair off his leather jacket. I remained silent as he finished off his fourth Negra Modelo. Eventually Markreynolds said softly, “It is what it is,” and left to catch his train.
Next installment: Jeffjones just plain don’t care.