Tag Archives: brooklyn

Voyeurism, rent money and kissing: A brush with the Hipster Grifter

[update 5/4: see also latest posts Hipster Grifter + Swine Flu Meme Combo, and the Griftster’s latest video]

I’m turning most of today’s post over to good friend Chris Giganti, who has quite the tale to tell about his brush with the girl now being known as “the Hipster Grifter,” the con artist who has the makings of a Brooklyn legend. Prerequisite reading is this article in the NY Observer about her crimes including outstanding charges that made her one of Salt Lake City’s most wanted before she moved on to prey on unsuspecting Brooklyn boys. I’ll summarize as follows, because I know reading is hard these days:

  • Wanted for more than $60,000 in outstanding warrants in Salt Lake City for forgery, bad checks and theft
  • Lied her way into a job at Vice
  • Stole the cell phone of a guy she nailed after a Girl Talk concert
  • Lied about having cancer, having only a few months to live, being pregnant, in addition to threatening suicide
  • Made sexually aggressive comments to seemingly everyone she met, including the soon-to-be-famous “I want to give you a hand-job with my mouth” comment
  • Tried to get everyone’s money all the time

    the Hipster Grifter

    Kari Ferrell, the Hipster Grifter

So Chris met her. They made out a bit. Take it away, Chris:


The first sensation that hit me after I began reading the New York Observer’s ‘Hipster Grifter’ article at 2 a.m. Wednesday night was a sense of growing nausea, as the paragraphs continued to describe charge after charge, account after account. The second was to check my wallet and make sure nothing had been missing in the two weeks since I was at Kari Ferrell’s apartment in Crown Heights.

There are a number of ways one can run into a con artist, I suppose. This was my first time, but it was not how I imagined it. Our introduction was more of the ‘your parents warned you about strangers’ variety.

Being new to New York, I decided to post a personals ad on Craigslist pretending to be an unemployed pirate looking for a three-eyed hipster girl (glasses plus eye patch = three eyes) [read the ad here – Tim]. I wrote it with a mixture of sincerity and ludicrousness, with the secret hope that someone interesting and attractive might actually come across it and respond.

Most of the responses were from porn sites looking for subscribers. But then I got this very well-written note from someone named Korean Abdul-Jabar, listing about seven reasons why I should want to get to know her, signed Kari.

And I have to admit, they were pretty compelling reasons. She talked about being into music and science, and she said she had a degree in physics. She attached a photo, and the tattoo on her chest of a phoenix was nearly as enticing as the pixie crop and the mild look of benevolent disdain. She included a line indicating her enjoyment of giving handjobs via mouth — a phrase already on its way to Brooklyn infamy — that was both provocative and hilarious in its directness.

How could any self-respecting skinny nerd boy not respond to that? If nothing else, it deserved a congratulations on the effort, as far as I’m concerned, and so I wrote back, and, a few e-mails later, I asked if she wanted to get a drink at Great Lakes after work on a Thursday. She said she didn’t drink, but that she’d love to hang out.

Things turned strange a couple of days later. The day we were supposed to meet [April 2], we were texting back and forth, had decided to go to the Bob Ross Tribute in the Lower East Side instead of having drinks in Park Slope, when out of nowhere she sends me a message that something terrible had happened.

‘I’m so screwed. Ughhhhhhh. My debit card was stolen, money is missing, account frozen, no money, rent due.’

Now this sort of thing, to anyone with half an ounce of sense, will of course raise some red flags, especially when it’s someone you’ve only spoken to online a handful of times. But at the same time, you want to give a person the benefit of the doubt. I offered my condolences, told her she should call her bank and that they would help her resolve the problem.

‘Maybe your landlord will give you some leeway if you talk to him?’ I texted.

‘Landlord is a no-go. So frustrated. Ugh.’

After a few exchanges along those lines, she said she didn’t feel like going out, that she was having a nervous breakdown and just wanted to stay in. As I was headed home to Fort Greene after work, I texted her one more time.

‘If there’s anything I can do, or you change your mind, let me know.’

‘Are you a millionaire … and a charitable one at that?’

‘Sadly, I’m barely a hundredaire.’

There was no response.

There was no point when I considered, or would have considered, giving her money, but skepticism was setting in. Surely there’s no way that anyone would think that someone they had spoken to three or four times over the course of a week would be willing to fork out cash like that, I thought.

About an hour later as I was sitting around, doing nothing, she called me and asked if I wanted to come over. We’d never met in person, and she was inviting me to her house. But, being someone who considers himself fairly resourceful, able to know a bad situation and high-tail it if necessary, I thought, ‘Why not?’

‘Can I bring anything?’

‘No, but thank you.’

And I headed over to Bedford Ave. on the G.

When I got to her apartment at about 11 p.m., this cute Asian girl opened the door. She was chubbier in real life than her digital pictures had suggested. Her hair was shorter, and her face rounder. She was cute, but not pretty, with a face marked by pimple scars. On the elevator up, I joked that it was brave of her to invite a strange boy over, and that I could only assume she was going to tie me up and rob me.

Her roommates, one a painter and the other I can’t remember what, were playing college basketball on their Xbox. While they were doing that, Kari and I talked. She liked the Utah Jazz, and was excited about the game that night. She told me she was from Salt Lake, adopted, so forth and so on. All details of her life that have since been laid out for the entire internet to read.

But mostly I was caught by the mix of shyness, in contrast to the sexual forwardness she displayed online.

One second she would be looking up porn on her iPhone, showing it to the three guys in the room, and then she was sharing her leftover spicy tofu and cabbage soup with me, as she talked about her tattoos. She showed me some copies of Vice, where she worked, and talked about what she did there, though not in much detail. Her title, she said, was assistant publisher, or assistant to the publisher, more realistically. It was her vacation week, but they still had her working.

Then she began talking about waiting on a former roommate to come over with $2,000 that he owed her, and that was the reason she really didn’t want to go out. She said she kept calling him, and e-mailing, and even showed me the responses from him, cryptic messages that went along the lines of ‘are you OK, Kari?’ and ‘I’m so sorry.’

Kari said she had been living with a man a couple of blocks away whose wife and daughter had left him, but that he never cleared out his daughter’s room, so she was having to sleep on the couch. Things got confused around here. She also said she was staying with friends somewhere else in the city, because of the couch thing, but regardless, she had decided to move out, and he said he would give her deposit and rent back, because she had never really had a room.

We were waiting on a man, a man who may or may not have existed, who never showed up anyway, while it got later and she got more distraught about the whole thing. There was a point when she asked if we should go over to his house and ask for the money, considering he had promised to bring it over that night, but that idea got quashed fairly quickly by her roommate, who figured that the only thing that would happen would be a fight.

Eventually, one roommate left to go spend the night with his girlfriend, and the painter decided to go to bed. Kari and I took the dog outside, and there was a police car up the road, blue lights blaring, as the dog took his shit and piss on a green fence. She made a joke about not wanting to get arrested for not picking up the dog’s shit, but we left it on the sidewalk anyway, and went back.

Upstairs again, it was just the two of us, and she started looking up voyeurism sites online, the sort of webcam things that mostly teenage girls are on or watch, except for a few adult couples who are just into that sort of thing. There’s generally no nudity or sex, just people talking, and perverts making chat comments about wanting 15-year-old girls to take their clothes off. She went back and forth between that and the end of the Jazz game, and since then, I’ve wondered how much of an effect their loss had on the way the rest of our night progressed.

After the game was done, we were watching a couple on webcam, and she was criticizing the performers for being dull. She said we could do a better job, but that we’d probably end up just having sex on camera. It was around that point that I kissed her. Nothing too intense, just a kiss, and a hand in her hair.

Kari smiled, and stopped, and said, ‘I’m kind of trying to take things slow right now.’ I asked her what she meant, and she said she didn’t know. So I ran my hand through her hair again, and said, ‘OK.’

A few minutes later, I got up to leave. She walked with me downstairs, and hugged me. I kissed her again, a perfunctory thing, and she said I was sweet. It was 2 a.m.

‘I’ll talk to you soon,’ I said, walking out the door.

I didn’t speak to her again. I had a cigarette as I walked back to the subway, went home and to bed, knowing that I had no desire to see her again, but thinking about the situation, nonetheless. I wondered if I would have slept with her, if she had wanted to. I wondered why I would kiss a girl whom I wasn’t attracted to. And, over the next couple of weeks, I wondered what she was doing a few times, and I told a couple of friends what had happened. But it wasn’t much to talk about, just another in a long line of fairly uninspiring quasiromantic interactions.

Then a certain article was published in the New York Observer and started spreading rapidly across the New York blogs.

A friend [that’s me! -Tim] sent me the link to the Observer story Wednesday night, asking, ‘Was this the girl you were telling me about?’ As each of the charges was detailed, one after another, I had to reconcile the thought that I could easily have been one of those victims. Most Wanted List in Utah. $60,000 stolen. Bad checks and broken bank accounts. A wake of friends stolen from and roommates bilked. Claims of cancer and easy sex to anyone who would listen, and the same lines used from one to the next, now her personal cliches of social malice and obsession.

There’s a distinct quality to being involved with the infamous that goes beyond the typical celebrity sighting in New York City. There’s a fear that seeps through it, a way of knowing that one step different could have landed you in a ditch, or some impenetrable situation.

Like other people who knew Kari in New York and are now speaking out, I was shocked. There’s the part of you that tells you something is strange, but we still tend to have this grounded sense of trust in others, or that the average person isn’t trying to steal from us or harass us in some way. We generally have faith in such fundamental principles, whether they’re dependable or not.

When someone shatters that notion, the mind implodes a little, and you’re left lapping at the shards with a sense of unease.

Tonight, two weeks later, I was walking home, considering the whole thing, wondering how exactly I would write about it for Tim [that’s me! -Tim]. ‘Femme Fatale’ by The Velvet Underground came on my iPod, and I couldn’t help but laugh at the timing.

In the end, I can’t say I felt much sympathy for her, if there was a sense of politeness in my actions. (Being from the South ingrains politeness in a boy, and love for sweet tea, if nothing else.) There was not even attraction or interest on my part, really. But there was one thing, certainly: curiosity.

From the start, you could tell she wanted attention. As many others have said, her actions revolve around that idea, and the more extreme one’s acts are, the greater the attention. Is she merely a reflection of what any of us would do to be noticed, if we were so courageous as to flout society’s will and pursue our own agendas at any cost? Instead, we let her do the dirty work, and the rest of us feed off her actions, writing about how we knew her, and what it meant, or might have meant.

She is wrong, and she is OK with being wrong. That will never change the wrongness that courses through her cherubic frame, nor afford her any rash or noble justifications. But it does make you look in her direction, which is what she really wants to extract from those around her. She will suck out every eyeball for 20 miles around to keep the glances on her.

I don’t think Kari is a monster, as some who have crossed paths with her are suggesting, but she is a rotten eggplant in a self-touring museum. And while she might not mind the smell of herself, no matter how far she goes, to Philadelphia or Salt Lake City or prison or all the way to Korea, where she was born, the mold will continue to rise and infest, delight and disgust those around her. She is a sociopathic chimera, at once in love with and in dire hatred of the thing she needs: people. And those near her, they will always return the favor.

This morning, as I was still only beginning to absorb the whole thing, I received an e-mail from an address I’d never seen before containing links to the stories about Kari. The e-mail address was a kitschy reference to Jon Voight, and it reminded me of the address Kari first used to reply to my pirate ad on Craigslist.

I wrote back, ‘How does it feel to be a star?’

There was no response.


Thanks, Chris. So, let’s talk about the lesson from all this folks: Kari conned her way into some jobs and several dudes pants and/or wallets all until they decided to check the Googles to see what they said about her. That pulled up her most-wanted status (and now 11 hundred thousand blog posts like this) about her past. I’ll admit — if I find people intersting, I Google them nearly immediately after we meet. If we go on a date, you had beter hope that that poetry contest you won in high school is something you’re proud of. Some would make you feel creepy for doing this. But the lesson here is clearly: Google that shit. Always. The internet was invented for a reason people. And even if it is creepy, you can be the creepy guy who still has his wallet and cell phone.

Stories about this girl are turning into a serious meme around the Brook Lins this week, and FreeWilliamsburg already put out the call for a T shirt. We’ll leave you with the t-shirt image (and instructions on how to get one), as a reminder of the perilous world full of would-be hj givers every day in the BK.

Diving into the Dumpsters of NY journalism

I was walking to work today when a familiar image caught my eye in the Metro newspaper box, causing me to skid to a halt, lose my footing on the snow covered sidewalk followed by being trampled underfoot by a crowd of rabid Liz Smith supporters before picking myself up and grabbing a copy. Here’s the front-page centerpiece story that did it:

‘Dumpster divers’ rate

best trash eats

Easy on the wallet, not as hard on stomach as you think

A Dumpster diver sifts for edible food outside the Trader Joe’s Brooklyn store.

A Dumpster diver sifts for edible food outside the Trader Joe’s Brooklyn store.

Most folks flock to the Brooklyn Trader Joe’s for discounts on bulk food. But another group heads there because it’s got the best place in the city to eat out of the garbage.

Kelly is typical of so-called “Dumpster divers,” who sift trash for useful items, including food.

“Pretty much all my food is from Dumpster diving,” said Kelly, 21, who did not want her last name published.

She follows a few rules, like “no sushi,” don’t leave a mess and “be polite” to store employees and authorities.

Read the rest of the online version here.

This story angered me something fierce. Not because the trash pickers are the bane of the existence of the TJ’s management. In truth, I could really give a shit about these folks picking through the trash, because the store does throw away quite a lot of food (even beyond the stuff we donate to local charities) ranging from bruised fruit to half-opened boxes of cookies to salad that’s a day away from its expiration date. Sure, the turkey slammer sandwiches pictured above are goddamn disgusting, even if they weren’t soaking in warm chicken juice for hours, even if I weren’t a vegetarian, but plenty of other food is often just missing a label or in a box that’s too damaged to sell, and some employees don’t take the time to put them in the donation pile.

The managers’ problem that they sometimes leave a mess all over the sidewalk, and they’ve discussed draconian measures such as pouring ammonia over the trash before putting it out or just opening and pouring out all the containers first. I suggested just talking to them one night. Then they asked me why I was busy telling them how to do their jobs and not using my protractor to make sure the labels on the cans of marinated bean salad were perfectly aligned, so I shut up.

I was upset because the story is terrible, and because it was in my tickler file of freelance stories to pitch around the city. Odds are it would have been a long shot to pull off without pissing off both current employer and prospective editor, seeing as I pull a paycheck from what is now considered the No. 1 freegan site in all the city.

But there is a bigger story here. Many articles have been written in recent years about freeganism and so-called Dumpster-diving, so that’s nothing new (side style note: “Dumpster” divers is not the correct term. Dumpster is a trademarked name, like Ziplock, Jetski, Jeep and even Velcro. Unless it is a Dumpster brand trash receptacle, which you can tell it is not from the photo, proper AP style would be the un-alliterative “trash-bin diver,” or, may I suggest, “trash troweler.” Style nerd!).

But trash troweling in New York City is clearly an art form. People show up with bikes with wagons attached. They obviously have a stealth system in place for avoiding detection by store management and law enforcement. And they must have a pattern down: Store X puts its trash out at this hour, we can get to store Y before the rats take over, etc. This means they must have some form of communication, a subculture of procedures and planning and organization, that the rest of us would never think about, followed by some sort of distinct preparation and serving techniques for half-opened food. I know for a fact there have been tense run-ins with the management at that store; surely other incidents elsewhere have involved the police at one point or another.

And, the bigger picture question that’s only hinted at in the story but never really discussed: how have the economic downturn and nationwide financial woes affected the trash troweler scene? Is it suddenly competitive? Are former top-executives at Fortune 500 companies among those face-deep in expired cage-free organic eggs (as this New York Times story hints may be the case)?

OK, so I know Metro is a crappy free commuter paper distributed as much, if not more, to sell ads to a broad audience as it is to actually provide news and journalism. The story was maybe 12 inches long (about 500 words) and probably included all the grand research of going to TJ’s one night and talking to three people.

I know this because I’ve done stories like this before, when an editor slinks up to your desk and is all “hey…. we need a front-page story. Fast. Like, tonight. Whattya got?” Not to mention the factual error anyone who had stepped foot inside the store would know: TJ’s doesn’t sell “bulk” food, despite what the lede suggests.

There was more even Metro could have done in its limited space, like at least made a somewhat scientific approach to the ranking of free trash food. The point is, there’s a very good story to tell here, one that speaks to the broader heart of the city in a rough winter of 2009, not just a quick synopsis. And it makes me worried that as papers from the seemingly doomed SF Chronicle up to the New York Times are worried about their futures, still nothing has really stepped up to offer an alternative.

I’ve been pitching a handful of stories to different publications since landing in New York, largely with no success, probably having something to do with naivette and terribleness and the fact that even my e-mails smell like unwashed, uncut Brooklyn hair. I’m still learning my way around the city and feeling out where the good stories are hiding, what untold things the city needs to know about itself to create and foster a worthwhile dialogue. I pick up all the papers, free and otherwise, regularly to help develop this kind of knowledge.

It’s hard not to wonder, when the big papers go away and all the freelance budgets at magazines and elsewhere dry up, where will the real conversations about our city and its people begin? Certainly parsed blog posts or quick-hit subway readers can be part of it, but sometimes you just need depth and time and research to truly paint a picture.

I don’t know the answer (SF Chronicle critics have some ideas) but for now let’s turn back to the Metro story and conclude this post with its list of trash troweler places. It is introduced by the aforementioned Kelly, who, upon looking at her picture, is kinda seriously cute, and should probably get in touch with me if she ever reads this. I’ll be one of the struggling writers working the cash register inside. You bring the turkey slammers:

"Pretty much all my food is from Dumpster diving.” Kelly

“Pretty much all my food
is from Dumpster diving.”

1. Everything: Trader Joe’s, Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, Brooklyn

2. Fruits and Vegetables: Atlantic Fruit & Vegetables, Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

3. Bread: Caputo’s bakery, Court Street, Brooklyn, New York

4. Pastries: McNally-Jackson Bookstore, Prince Street, SoHo

Another note: the story references, but does not describe fully, the blog Abroad’r View, where author Courtney Scott is chronicling her efforts to eat completely off free samples and the like, almost like a MyOpenBar for free sustenance. Maybe someone wants a freelance story just on that experiment, if Metro doesn’t get to it first.

Send an SOS to the interwebs

As V-day approaches, let us take a moment to appreciate the eternal optimism of the Missed Connections section of Craigslist. The section has been around for years in one form or another, typically in alt weekly papers (the I Saw Yous in the Washington City Paper, for instance). Could love be found so easily in a city of 8 million simply by putting out the 21st century version of a message in a bottle? Some people seem to think so, and Craig bless them for it. Take for instance the following example:

Glasses & V-Neck – w4m – 21 (Williamsburg)

Reply to: pers-1031174244@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2009-02-11, 7:57PM EST

Saw you on the L train after the morning commute. You had big chunky glasses with black frames and a v-neck on. You were also listening to your ipod. I was the girl reading the book sitting next to you (you were standing) with the black hair and bangs.


Stripping away the common characteristics shared by nearly all males and females in Williamsburg, and therefore, by extension, the L train, the distinguishing parts of this ad read as following:

Saw you on the L train after the morning commute. You were a man. I was sitting next to you. I was a woman with hair.

Beware, of course, fair iPod listener, because the folks over at Die Hipster have hipster baited on Craigslist before. It almost seems too easy, and it’s kind of … genius:

Lets run through the snow today! – 27 (billyburg)

Reply to: pers-963833418@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2008-12-19, 11:12AM EST

hi I recently moved to brooklyn from Michigan and I love it here, I absolutely love it! I’m feeling in a weird mood
today and would like to run through the park naked in the snow with a cute scruffy artsy creative type guy and
then possibly cuddle up with some herbal tea, maybe some shots and listen to some vinyl. Also my friend will
have a gallery exhibit tonight weather permitting that we can go to.

Tell me about you and send a pic if you have and maybe we can make arrangements?

Love Molly

Read the responses here. They are exactly what you’re expecting.

Whatever your take on v-day is, maybe the most we can hope for out of true love these days is ambiguity and anonynimity. But at least messages in a bottle weren’t KILLING NEWSPAPERS.

BONUS link: Very Small Array created illustrations showing the most common locations of Missed Connections throughout the country. Pretty fascinating stuff, particularly to think of the time this would have taken to put together:

W4M missed connections

W4M missed connections

Holla at Wash state.  More here. Apparently, Wal-Mart is a huge unrequited love palace in large swaths of the country, a place where lots of men nervously eye lots of women, never seizing the opportunity to chat them up in between putting 42 pounds of dog chow on the checkout counter. Brooklyn’s love-lorn train riders can only sit at home and pray for the day when more Wal-Marts open nearby.

Matching game!

Places I’ve Lived and Worked, As Represented Through Songs I Would Hear At Least Once A Day


A. The boardwalk, Seaside Heights, NJ

B. Brooklyn, NY

C. Darryl’s Restaurant, Raleigh, NC

D. Hilton Head Island, SC

E. The GW Hatchet, Washington DC (Hint: DC101 was always on)

F. South Campus Commons (with Barry Schwartz), College Park, MD


1. Sublime, “What I Got”

2. Ted Leo, “Me and Mia”

3. Lifehouse, “Waiting on a Moment”

4. Jimmy Buffet, “Margaritaville”

CM Wangs?

CM Wangs?

5. Bon Iver, “Skinny Love”

6. Wings, “Silly Love Songs”

This test is so easy it should be in a pop-up ad advertising a free iPod.

You think people would have had enough of hearing the same songs.

But I look around me and I see it isnt so.

The microphone smells like monkey torture

Things that Actually Happened Tonight

Piano daughter

Piano daughter

1. Ate dinner in a restaurant down the block one table over from Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley’s daughter, Alexa Ray Joel.

2. Might possibly have kinda stumbled up the apartment stairs half drunk and decided to … sort of … borrow … a projector screen that belonged to Michael Ian Black at one point.


1. Roommates Brittany and Christine eyed the adjacent table when the party first sat down and launched into hushed-tones conversation about where they recognized the people from. After many minutes of debate and brain-searching, an epiphany was reached. Christine pulled out a pen, quickly scribbled something onto a napkin and passed it over to my side of the table: “That’s Billy Joel’s daughter,” it said.

How could you possibly know such a thing?,  I asked later. We just do, they said. Brittany is apparently an eagle-eyed celebrity scout. Good thing we left when we did too, Brit and Christine said, because another margarita or two and their tendency to spew forth inappropriate comments about adjacent tables would have come out. And I may even have joined in with my opinion about how BJ is only the second-best piano player from my childhood, well behind Rowlf the dog.

2. How could you possibly know such a thing?, you’re asking me as you read this. Two reasons: One, because of previous knowledge of the building’s most notable former tenant. The other reason might have something to do with this:

little edible luggage? yeah, that does sound good

little edible luggage? yeah, that does sound good!

The projector screen has been sitting up against the wall of the hallway for nigh on two years now (as the baggage claim date shows) and seeing as Showalter has now vacated the building, the consensus in our apartment (by a 2-1 vote, at least) was that it was up for grabs at this point. Much trash is often left out in our building hallway for grabs or until someone finally decides to take it down to the curb, a collection that also includes: a 24 (the TV show) board game, a case of empty bottles of He’Brew, the “chosen beer,” and the sad remnants of what looks like a futon.

for advance screenings of I Love the 80s

for advance screenings of I Love the 80s

There is a purpose to this borrowing of the discarded film equipment, of course. Our apartment has no TV but does have a projector that takes input from DVD players, VHS and laptops, projected onto the living room wall. With a real screen, Christine said, we can finally paint that wall a new color. With a new screen, Brittany said, we can finally hold dinner parties and show interesting film footage as background entertainment. With a screen, I though, finally no one will have an excuse not to watch my hour-long Powerpoint presentation on new revenue models and cost dividend projections for fiscal solvency in the digital age of newspapers.

All this while, a disgustingly overdue reunion of The State is taking place in San Francisco, and Showalter and Black’s new show, Michael and Michael Have Issues, is getting picked up for a full season. So I’m pretty sure they can afford another one if needed.

But if they ever want the screen back, wacky neighbor Michael Ian Black is welcome to knock on the window and ask for it, at which point I’m sure we will be glad to hand it over, if this crazy sideways apartment doesn’t kill us first.

Adventures in Subletting: I’m Doug, but I’m outta here

Just a few short days after moving into my second Brooklyn sublet, while I was still exploring its own rich quirks from the extensive comic book collection to the hodgepodge mix of furniture, my roommates hit me with bombshell news for a potential celebrity sighting that would trump all others so far.

Michael Showalter is a resident of the building. Just two floors down.

In our relatively  small building with only four apartments, the chances for intersection on the stairwell and multiple passings of pleasantries were high. But not wanting to cast my lot on happenstance, I immediately began drafting a full-on, creepy to the max, has-to-go-before-a-trial-judge-before-it-stops stalking campaign.

Stalking, but with a very defined, even noble purpose, mind you: Showalter must answer the question once and for all of when I am going to get the goddamned State on DVD.

My roommates saw him occasionally over the months. Not exactly the most outwardly friendly person, they said, though roommate Christine had several discussions with him; roommate Charlie had only exchanged a few words here and there. Roommate Brittany said she sometimes would check whether he was home by reading his blog.

Indeed, when I went downstairs the next day, one of the mailboxes had his name on it, accompanied by a name of another person he is listed as living with on Wikipedia. Wikipedia being the salted cud at which all human knowledge licks, any remaining skepticism weakened.

Then, sifting through the mail one day (completely legit I SWEAR, FEDERAL AUTHORITIES, because all the mail for the building comes in one pile), I found this:

return address of Porcupine Racetrack

not pictured: return address of Porcupine Racetrack

This news came only a few days after watching Wet Hot American Summer again with a group at the home of L. Golfer, who named her cat Coop after Showalter’s character. Her friends recite nearly every line from the movie Rocky Horror-style. I was impressed at their rampant fangirlism.

The State on DVD, as any fan will tell you through gathering tears, is quickly turning into one of the last remaining pop culture unicorns, even as other contemporary improbabilities such as Chinese Democracy somehow stumbled into the world of the tangible. The State for me and others represents everything that was right about Generation X and MTV at its peak in the 90s — absurdism as a means of shaking up boundaries, grunge-fueled wild binges of humor and art, the last vestiges of what it was like to be part of an alternative culture operating below the mainstream radar before the alternative got absorbed by the ever-hungry gaping maw of its parent. They spoofed MTV Sports and spoke as a cast directly to Chelsea Clinton. They lampooned censorship and publicity stunts while never seeming to care that much about the topics beyond the humorous impacts.

And it was retarded funny.These were the years when Saturday Night Live was funny but reeking of staleness and the only competition deemed worthy of a prime spot was the middle-school fart joke known as Mad TV.* Even Kids In the Hall sketches were occasionally over long, and the genre’s sainted king, Monty Python, was often the kind of humor you laughed at more inside your head more than outside on later viewings.

Before the internet created a free market for creativity, with FunnyOrDie and Dr. Horrible challenging the tyranny of the TV network board room, and before Stewart and Colbert provided a nightly sanity check, The State was a vehicle for salvation, though ultimately, a short-lived one. Not to mention the group got its start doing bits for the Jon Stewart show, “You Wrote It, You Watch It.”

The State found humor in juxtaposition, nihilism and octane, from the discussion of what kind of wine goes with Muppet to the classic Louie appearance at the Last Supper, to the cerebral discussion of monkey torture. And I don’t doubt that it was the perfect show for its time and place that probably would not have worked outside the context of the mid-90s.

Most cast members from the show went on to varied comedy projects like Reno 911!, the well-reviewed live show Stella followed by the terrible Comedy Central program of the same name, several movies and, for Michael Ian Black, a thriving career in VH-1 instant nostalgia. Some reunion shows have taken place, and more projects are in talks.

But no sign of the DVDs. The internet says this is because the show was broadcast during a time when MTV had the rights to a vast pantheon of contemporary music. Obtaining the rights to the songs  now (“Cannonball” or “Supernova,” for instance) would be too costly. They released the first season of the show on iTunes a few years back with rerecorded, generic versions of the songs in place.

It just wasn’t the same. The problem is: the music is an integral part of the aesthetic of the show. You couldn’t put a DVD together and change the names of “Barry and Levon” to “Burt and Lenny”; you couldn’t change the beards of Space Station 11 to mustaches or put Louie in a bowtie. And you can’t have the Pants sketch without “Cannonball.”

The show was visual grunge — scruffy faced, disaffected slackers scouring the bottom of the Buzz Bin for something new and different for a vastly unsatisfied generation.

Back at my building earlier this month, I passed by Showalter’s room a few days later to see the door open. I craned my neck to peak inside. My heart sank like frozen pudding. The signs of a move in progress were apparent. Later that day, the name tag had been ripped from his mail slot.

Roommate Christine ran into him a few days later. Turns out he moved just down the street. The chances for an encounter still exist. He also frequents local coffee shops and comedy performances, and is working on other shows, including one with Michael Ian Black.

Scour the intertubes and you’ll find most State fans have given up on ever getting the series released on DVD, even as trash like “According to Jim” and “Delta Farce” are replicated for home viewing almost instantly. Fans have for now resigned themselves to coveting deteriorating VHS copies of the show, like one I came across sophomore year of college that was six hours long (with commercials edited out). Sorry, expensive education — I need to watch a grown man in a button-up short-sleeved shirt dip his balls in things.

Only the other day did it hit me that Showalter and I both live on State Street; me only temporarily and him for who knows how long, since he clearly could’ve afforded more lavish digs anywhere else in Brooklyn or Manhattan solely from the income from The Michael Showalter Showalter alone.

Maybe he chose to live on State Street for the same reasons I did: because he remembers what it’s like to be broke and struggling, to be in love with time and place and circumstance and determined to forge even a small path to success through unconventional means. The spirit of Brooklyn is multi-generational but still frenetic, pushed on by music and art and young people of all ages wandering the streets, always scouring the skyline and gutter for something new and exciting before the rest of the world catches on.

Maybe there’s still hope for a State DVD some day. Us bearded men of apartment 5 will still hold out hope.

*I have memories of The Edge being pretty funny,though also short-lived. I don’t entirely trust my memory on this. Other input is welcome.

Poor Pours: Trophy Bar

cheap living for the broke-ass writer

Trophy Bar

351 Broadway, Williamsburg


The Deal: A shot of tequila and a can of Tecate for $5; a shot of Overholt and a bottle of Bud for $5

Why it’s the bomb: average (non-PBR) beer price in New York City is $5-$7; haven’t even bothered to find out what tequila shots cost yet.

Upon discovering this deal Saturday night, we agreed, what with the economy in its current state and all, we’d be stupid not to take advantage. And that’s why I woke up at 1:30 Sunday feeling like I’d been bashed in the head by the Stanley Cup.

Why it’s meh: You have to swim through a sea of beards to order it; plus, the bathroom at Trophy Bar emits an ominous odor every time the door opens that probably means the plumbing stopped working about four generations of Taco Truck back.