It's not unusual for me to see my doppelganger around the city. There are really only three or four different "types" of young, urban Jewish male styles to choose from, and I strongly represent Type 2: HBSS (Hirsute Bespectacled Slope Shouldered). I see myself reflected at concerts, in arthouse theaters, and at upscale sneaker shops all over the place. Friends take some pleasure in telling me how they almost embraced another HBSS, mistaking them for me. Recently, someone sent me a photograph from Last Night's Party, of a man hugging a girl, and the resemblance between the bearded hugger and me was so great that I went through a several-minute process of trying to remember how I knew the girl in the photo.
Today, I sat down on the train and noticed some uncanny similarities between myself and the stranger seated next to me. In this instance the likeness was not physical, but something more conscious and, therefore, more troubling. He was wearing a suit jacket and t-shirt with jeans, which is usually my work attire. He crossed his legs in the same manner. We were both wearing nearly identical NIKE ID Dunks, with only slight differences in wear and tear and color choice. He was reading a book I'd just finished a couple months ago, and I was reading a book that kept grabbing his peripheral attention. And I'm sure the white earbuds plugged into his skull were connected to something on my own iPod "Purchased Music" playlist. (I was wearing SONY's ear-stuffer headphones, connected to my own concealed iPod. I usually tell people I've swapped out the white headphones for these black ones as a safeguard against jackers, but the truth is I just felt the iAsshole factor was getting too high around NYC and I had hoped my nondescript headphones would be like a free pass, without compromising my own boojie value system.)
This guy had my number, and it bugged me so much. It's like hanging out with a bunch of bloggers, and seeing everyone whip out their NOKIA 6670s at the same time. Or attending a Wolf Parade concert with 1,500 guys in matching Terry Richardson specs. Or showing up at the Hobo's Ball, and discovering someone else has the same Helmut Lang crushed velvet bindlestiff as yours. I felt easy; like I was nothing more than a stack of carefully-chosen magazines and mail-order catalogs, left on a subway car. I know I don't have the time, money, or ambition to totally tailor myself as an individual, with regards to cultural accessories, but there's something off-putting about finding out your particular recipe is easy to replicate. You hope there are a few complex, mysterious notes – like a tarragon cookie. Instead, I felt like someone just bit into me and announced, "Rice Krispies, marshmallow, butter. No problem."
I started to dip into a kind of existential tailspin until I glanced over at my style-twin and noticed he was wearing sunglasses. On the subway. And I consoled myself in the knowledge that he was actually a variation on my type: The Todd Levin Tremendous Asshole 3000 model. I don't need sunglasses to appear self-conscious – that's what my web site is for.