Ducts is proud to introduce our newest columnist:

"My name is Eric Gillin. I am 22 years old. My favorite drink is Bass Ale. I love my mother. I work from noon until 8 p.m. Boston is my hometown. No, I don't have an accent. I rarely fall asleep before 3 a.m. I moved to New York in July of 1999. I wear jeans and sneakers to work. Friends suspect I drink too much, I counter that I am merely overeager.

"My television viewing is infrequent, save for professional wrestling, the game-show, Blind Date and the HBO-phenomenon, The Sopranos. My favorite soda is Fresca, with Diet Coke a close second. My father is a diabetic. I moved into my first apartment on my 22nd birthday. I list Tom Hoban as one of my closest friends. Somedays, I daydream about Ralph Macchio. Where is he anyway?

"My name is Virgil. Welcome to Hell."


Welcome to New York City
by Eric Gillin



Last night I turned to my friend Rahul and said, "If this NYU party is lame, then we need to go somewhere different and exciting." He smirked, knowing full-well that the New York University dorm party would be one of the worst parties since the Donners got to the mountains. "Somewhere different, eh? Sure. Sure. Just put your trust in me."

"Okay, let's go to this party then."

At NYU, students can only sign in three people a night and the security keeps your ID, which means that in order to leave, the person who signs you in must sign you out. Then security must flip through a billion IDs, a complete pain in the ass. We enter the dorm on the corner of 3rd and 11th. After calling down a fleet of people to sign in four people and haggling with the NYU security to get in the building, we ascend in the elevator.

"...the social dregs at the bottom of the social melting pot."

I enter the apartment first, since I know absolutely nobody and I cannot believe how packed and tiny the apartment is. I turn to Rahul and Chris and say, "Thirty minutes."

They nod.

It's like a comic book convention. These are the social dregs at the bottom of the social melting pot. Clad in a simple blue shirt, khakis and shoes I look like a god. I'm not wearing a snow-cap indoors, my pants arent ripped, drawn-on or shredded and I have styling product in my hair. I immediately run the gauntlet down a cramped hallway for the booze, some social lubricant. The card table features a cake that someone grabbed a handful of, as opposed to the more conventional slice. The missing bit looks like a crater, making the round chocolate chip cake look like a gigantic muffin on a desk somewhere. Next to the cake is a girl who struggles to hold her eyelids open under the weight of all that eye shadow. She apparently made this cake.


"Want cake! Want cake! Have cake!"

"Uh -- no thank you. Want booze. Want booze."

The spread is lackluster. Two empty bottles of Absolut, three inches of Bacardi and a nearly-depleted handle of Tanqueray. I pick the gin. For my troubles, I am given the worst gin and tonic of all time. They poured in the tonic first, had no ice cubes and then dumped in two shots of gin. It tasted like Drano and not in the good "burny down-the-hatch" way.

I sip it. And when I say sip, I mean I wet my upper lip with the foul concoction and then lick it off with my tongue. Drinking directly would've killed me.

I talk to Rahul and we decide to play a game. On the count of three we start laughing for no reason, pretending that someone said something hysterically funny.

"One. Two. Three," we whisper in unison.

Insert hysterical laughter here, followed by bewildered, longing stares.

Clearly, we are having the best time at the party. Which is pathetic, considering we were lying.

"...I'm not used to this quiet."

After what seems like the better part of Post-Modernism, we leave.

Rahul grins as we hail a cab.

"Division and Orchard," he tells the confused cabbie.

"Where?" a soft Pakistani voice lolls through the partition.


"Okay," he says unsteadily. We're about to get lost.

We get lost, zig-zagging in the broken grid of lower Manhattan. I mention that I need to hit an ATM, which elicits a collective "Fuck" from my travel partner. When the cab finally lurches to a halt on a darkened corner in the fringe of Chinatown, I understand why. It's like a ghost town there. Nothing is lit up. There's no neon. No flashing anything. No people. No cars. It's quiet and I'm not used to this quiet.


We spot a deli three blocks away. It's called "Moe's Deli." As I use the ATM, which charges the odd fee of $1.60, I giggle picturing an Asian man named Moe, who owns the only Deli still open left of 1st Avenue after midnight. Moe, you know an Asian guy named Moe.

The bar is called "The Barber Shop." Next to the deli, it too is the only thing open in and around Division Street. People are milling around beneath the awning, which is almost entirely in Chinese characters except for a rim of white English text that says "The Barber Shop."

"...she is lighting up the night with fire."

I get carded at the door, which aggravates me since my compatriots walked in unscathed. I grab a beer. And then I see it.

There's a woman out front, clad in all black, topped by a black watch cap. Finally, I realize why people are milling around out front. She's whirling flaming disks around in the middle of the street. As in flaming oily rags on the end of chains that spin around her black body in huge quick arcs.

Like some crazed Polynesian, she is lighting up the night with fire. Only she's standing in the middle of the street, not at a beach luau. Her friends are trying to climb the light pole behind her to knock out the street lamp. They fail. She keeps whirling, taking a break, only to dip her chains back in the concoction of lighter fluid and God knows what else. Fifteen people stare, unquestioning.


Why is there a woman performing tricks with flaming oily rags on the end of spiraling metal chains in front of a bar on the edge of a vacant Chinatown street on a Thursday night at 1:36 in the morning?

Welcome to New York City.



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