The Unbearable Banishment: May 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

a brief programming note

The Tony Awards are on tomorrow night. I hope to be back home in time to see it. Here’s the thing; I realize that 98% of people reading this don’t give a rat’s ass about the Tony Awards or Broadway plays in general, and that’s perfectly understandable. The Tonys are a gaggle of out-of-touch-with-reality actors over-emoting and prattling on endlessly about their CRAFT and their FEELINGS. The ratings are low for a reason.

But this year there was an unusually robust crop of plays. Perhaps one of the best seasons in a decade. During the Tony Awards, they always perform a scene or two from the nominated shows, so if you can suffer through the nauseating acceptance speeches, you might see some world-class acting.

If you care.



I just discovered that the Tony Awards are on NEXT Sunday, June 7th. Not tomorrow. I could have taken this post down but I decided to leave it up as proof positive that I rarely know what I'm talking about. I could have easily blamed my fragile state of mind on my Mom's recent passing (see post below), but the truth is that I'm like this ALL THE TIME.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

some things DO change

While watching the morning chat program here in Cleveland, I saw a story on my old high school. It was the featured “cool school” of the week. The track team won a record number of meets. The robotics team is in the finals of a competition. The glee club visits retirement homes to spread their joy.

When I attended, they had a smoking lounge. In order to get a passing grade, all you had to do was show up the majority of the time. Most of the students (myself included) walked around in a weed-induced haze. I have no idea who my guidance counselor was. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm not completely certain that I had one. So things are looking up at old Midpark High from an academic standpoint.

* * *

I had to delete my Mom’s name from my phone contacts. How sad is that?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

mom, r.i.p.

My Mom passed away. I’m in Ohio for the funeral. Her's was not a sad passing. She lived to a ripe age and never had any serious health problems until the end.

She had pulmonary fibrosis. Her lungs were irreparably scarred. When first diagnosed, the doctor asked my sister how long she has been smoking. The irony is that my Mom never smoked a cigarette in her life. Unfortunately, her father and the two zeros she married were all chain smokers, so she lived her life inside a cloud of cigarette smoke. I told her, “See, Mom, you should have smoked after all.”

She facilitated her own demise. Because of her deteriorated condition, we had to move her from her condo into a nursing home. She hated it, but knew there was no alternative. She couldn’t live alone and none of us had the wherewithal to take her in. Among other needs, she had to wear an oxygen mask 24-7.

She lasted three days in the home. As soon as Fr. Jim gave her her Last Rights, she refused to take any more medications and signed a Do Not Resuscitate order. The only drug she allowed was morphine to ease the pain. She slipped into a deep morphine induced sleep and, according to my sister, her last words were a stab at black humor: “I’m a morphine addict!”

She had a rough life but had mad ninja skills as an optimist. I think some people are genetically predisposed to always be happy or always be sad, no matter what their circumstances. She was the former and I’ll miss her.

Eerie factoid #1: When my sister phoned to say she was gone, she grabbed the nearest cell phone, which happened to be my Mom’s. Her death was imminent and I knew what the nature of the call was, but I had to stutter-stop when my caller ID read: “Mom.”

Eerie factoid #2: My Mom was born in 1935 and died in room 35 in the hospital. Later that day, after Mom passed, my sister’s neighbor paid a visit to express her condolences. While walking up my sister’s driveway, she picked up a penny that was on the ground. It’s wheat-back penny from 1935. My sister has it as a keepsake.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

words fail me, so take a look at these photos instead

I wish I was enough of a wordsmith to describe how overwhelmed I was when I walked into the Park Avenue Armory to view Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto's anthropodino, the installation currently running through June 14. If you’re reading this and you live in the area, you really owe it to yourself and to your kids (if you got 'em) to pay a visit. The New York Times called it magical and that’s the best way to describe it.

The Armory is starting a program of “big-room” installations. The Tate Modern in London has had a series of successful exhibits in the turbine hall that require a large open space. New York wants to get into the act and the only space in Manhattan big enough to accommodate artwork of this scope is the Park Avenue Armory. It’s not as sexy as the Tate Modern, but it’s functional.

Neto’s hard-to-describe exhibit uses yards of stretched, translucent Lycra to create forms, labyrinths and weird objects. To wit (clickable pics):

It’s both mounted on the floor and pours down from the ceiling.

Here’s the view as you walk into the beast.

The tunnels are filled with soft white, blue and gold light. The sacks hanging down contain spices—cumin, ginger and cloves—so the fragrances permeate the air.

The wooden lattice work is made to look like bones.

Here’s a large purple sack inside a Lycra enclosure that’s filled with tiny Styrofoam pellets. You can take your shoes off and go inside to relax.

Of course I, child that I am, couldn't resist.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

bruce works hard for all that money

Bruce Springsteen could live to be 175 and still not spend all the money he's earned. So why does he do it? Why on earth does he knock himself out the way he does? I pretty much work for the money. Don't you?

I like Bruce but I'm not as fanatical as some. I have a lot of respect for his catalog, and his work ethic is second to none. He's a people-pleaser, that's for sure. Mrs. Wife and I saw his Saturday night show at the Meadowlands Sports Arena in New Jersey. Seeing Bruce in New Jersey is akin to seeing the Beatles in Liverpool. He began the evening with a heartfelt, "Good evening, neighbors!" That's a nice sentiment but I know the area where Bruce lives and I can assure you that I am NOT his neighbor.

It's one of those concerts whereby you don't realize how familiar you are with the material until one recognizable song after another rolls off the stage. The same thing happened to me when I saw the Rolling Stones. I don't have any Stones albums, but I knew the lyrics to just about every song. Bruce, too. You just know his stuff. That's how steeped into our cultural consciousness their work is.

And, yes, he was great. At just past 3:00 hours he announced that, "The turnpike is closed! Nobody goes home!" and ripped into a version of Tommy James & the Shondells Mony Mony that tore the roof off. Just like he promised it would. He's the man.

We got backstage passes. He briefly chatted with Mrs. Wife and pretty much ignored me, which is fine by me. I hate going backstage. I always feel like I have no business being back there because...well...frankly, I have no business being backstage. I was talking to his sister and I said I felt sorry that after working his ass off for 3+ hours, he now has to meet and greet a corridor full of people. She said, in a flat tone, "It's part of the job."

True dat. Meeting a bunch glazed-eyed worshipers after performing to the point of exhaustion might be a pain in the ass, but it beats the hell out of commuting 4 hours a day.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the hazard of glowing reviews

CB and I saw Christmas is Miles Away at the Connelly Theater. It’s a coming of age drama set in Manchester by British playwright Chole Moss. She’s all the rage and a Bright Young Thing.

The Connelly is small, 19th century theater on East 4th Street off of Avenue A. It appears to be an old Jewish vaudeville house. It’s an intimate space with peeling paint, a set of oversized comedy and tragedy masks above the stage and great sightlines.

Typically, I try to see a show before it’s reviewed. I am easily swayed and it’s better if I walk into a show cold without any preconceived notions. I had my eye on Christmas is Miles Away but didn’t see it until after Time Out New York gave it a 5-star review and the New York Times called it a “well-observed and ultimately engaging three-hander.”

Five fucking stars! Wouldn’t you expect a life-altering experience after a review like that!? Well, it was good. The story is believable and the young actors are all credible, although I’m not entirely convinced that the Manchester accents were accurate. How the hell would I know?

But I’m not sure I concur with all the fuss. CB said that he thought the first half was compelling but that it lost a little steam as it played out. I, on the other hand, thought it had a weak first act but then became more compelling as it drew to its conclusion.

Same planet, different worlds.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

cell phone douche bag

Look at this douche bag on my train:

He is simultaneously working an iPhone in his left hand, a Blackberry in his right hand and watching a movie on a portable DVD player. I'd be afraid to have all those radio frequencies and electronic gadgets so near my crotch. I'll bet his testicles are the size of raisins. He's Sensory-Overload Man.

I thought technology was suppose to set us free.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

random NYC pic—Chrysler R.I.P. part II

Since Chrysler is back in the news with the announcement that 25% of their dealerships are about to close, I thought I’d do a follow-up post on the Chrysler Building, so you can gauge how precipitous their fall has been.

Once again, I wanted to stay away from pics of the spire that you're already familiar with, so I took a few lobby shots. Are you ready for some beautiful examples of 1930s-era design? Click on each for a detailed study.

Here’s the signage above the revolving doors that lead out to 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. Like the outdoor Lexington Avenue entrance shot I posted last week, these have needle-sharp flourishes. They’re polished silver steel and look both elegant and industrial.

The elevator doors have beautiful inlaid wood. The interiors are equally ornate but I couldn’t get past the security guard to get a shot. Before 9/11 you were free to stroll in an out of any building to study the design but now, everything is on lockdown. It’s a shame. The terrorists fucked up my shit.

Here’s a mural that stretches across the lobby ceiling. The depiction is of a slightly elongated, thinned-out Chrysler building painted to match the inlaid wood of the elevators. Studying it gives you a stiff neck but it’s worth it.

This is the lobby. I'm not crazy about how this shot turned out—the lighting is all wrong—but I thought I'd post it anyway.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

home again. i like to be here when I can.

Last evening was the first time since I started working for A Company Called Malice, Inc. that I got home before The Daughters were sleeping. I read to them for the first time in over a month. What a treat! Nobody has ever been as happy to see me walk into a room as The Daughters. You can see it in their faces. It’s sincere.

I’m sure when they’re angst-filled teens they’ll hate my guts but at this stage of the game, they still run up to me and wrap their arms around my waist (7-Year Old) and leg (3-Year Old) when they see me.

I was a reluctant father and had children very late in the game. I still believe that my life would have been just as satisfying if I hadn’t had them. I would have been one of those crusty old New Yorkers who everyone wants dead so they can have my apartment. That would have been fine with me.

But I have to admit; the attention they lavish on me is deeply satisfying. It’s a foreign sensation, as I never felt that way about my own father. As soon as I was old enough, I made damn sure I was out of the house when he got home from work. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Monday, May 18, 2009

down home cookin’ down on avenue B

Have you ever bitten into a piece of fried chicken that was so succulent and so bursting with flavor that a tear of joy trickled gently down your cheek? It can happen to YOU here:

This is Mama’s Food Shop on East 3rd Street and Avenue B in the East Village. I was visiting my old neighborhood the other night and was glad to see it still in business. I remember when it first opened and how happy I was to have decent fried chicken just three blocks away.

[As I walked the familiar streets I noticed many places that I frequented while a resident are now gone. The Pioneer movie theater closed. Like sands through the hourglass…]

This place is sassy. In addition to Mama’s Chicken (fried, baked or roasted), you can load up on Mama’s Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf or Mama’s Seared Salmon. Each dish is only $11! (One side included. Add a side for just a buck.) They have the best mashed potatoes and mac & cheese on Avenue B. The portions are, shall I say, uniquely American.

Here’s Mama’s logo.

See what I mean? Sassy. Mama’s motto is: “SHUT UP AND EAT IT!” So I did.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

is it okay to like John Mayer? i'm looking for a little guidance here

I just watched John Mayer on Austin City Limits. I didn't know anything about the guy except what I read in the tabloids. I guess he likes to tramp around. He periodically dates Jennifer Aniston and dumps her. That seems to happen to Jennifer a lot. She must be a monumental pain in the ass.

But I digress. I thought he was great. The guy's a hell of a guitar player. His style reminded me of Stevie Ray Vaughn, if you can imagine that! Did you know he could play? I didn't! I thought he wrote songs you hear on Lite FM.

Is that okay? You know what I mean. Is it okay to like John Mayer or does that make me...I don't know...kind of...girly. During an extended guitar solo they cut to three girls in the audience who all wore matching green t-shirts that said "John." They looked like lonely, middle-aged Catholic girls who wanted to cuddle him. So I'm feeling a little unsure about liking John Mayer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

a horrible decision to make

Five months ago I was laid off from Benevolent Dictators, Inc., aka, Morgan Stanley. My family and I gutted out four months of unemployment. At one point, 7-Year Old Daughter’s first grade teacher phoned to say that Daughter told her, “My Daddy got fired and nobody wants him.” It was rough stuff.

Four weeks ago I lucked into a consulting gig at A Company Called Malice, Inc., a global investment banking superpower. The financial services community in New York City is flat on its ass and the fact that I found a job AT ALL, much less one in investment banking, is a miracle.

I signed a three-month contract. At its expiration, they can elect to renew it, offer me a staff position or leave me to the tender mercies of the economy.

While the work I’m doing at A Company Called Malice, Inc. is satisfying, it requires 60+ hour work weeks. I’ve not seen my daughters, wife or friends since the day I started there. It’s horribly managed and the workload is heavy.

Yesterday I was pulled into a conference room by the department head. He said that everyone is so pleased with my work that they want to terminate my contract and offer me a staff position straight away. The horrible paradox is that I love what I’m doing, but am afraid I’ll never see my family again. I don't want to overhear my daughters say, “Oh, I never really knew my dad. All he ever did was work.” I don’t want to be weekend dad. I'm not that motivated professionally. I'm just regular.

But I have to be pragmatic. I need the benefits. I could take the job right now and trade up when the economy improves but you have to be careful about stuff like that. You know what they say:

And then one day you find
10 years have got behind you

No one told you when to run

You missed the starting gun

* * *

I’m posting this from Bryant Park near 42nd Street and 6th Avenue. It’s very early in the morning and there aren't many people about yet. It's warm and the sun is just starting to crack between the Chrysler Building and the New Your Public Library and spill onto the freshly sodden lawn. The trees are finally full of leaves. I thank God for this dirty old town that causes me untold heartache and then helps me to get through it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

nothing says “happy mother’s day” quite like horseracing

Monmouth Park Racetrack, New Jersey’s premier home for thoroughbred racing, opens on Mother’s Day weekend and bringing mom to the track on her special day is a Garden State tradition. We all went with my mother- and father-in-law in tow.

The horses are called to the starting gate before each race by the At The Post trumpet.

My father-in-law poured over the racing program before each race. He performed complicated mathematical calculations that took track condition, jockey weight, length of race and performance history into account. Each painfully scrutinized bet resulted in one crushing loss after another.

I asked 3-year old daughter which horse would win.


“Number 3? The number 3 horse is going to win?”

“Yes. Free.”

Of course, number 3 won. This happened a few times. Try to imagine how satisfying that was.

The girls anxiously eye the finish line. Placing a $2 bet is a critical life skill that should be taught to your children. When she's 14 I'll show her where the sucker bets are on a crap table.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

random NYC pic—Chrysler R.I.P.

This post is in honor of Chrysler Corporation filing for bankruptcy.

Photos of Chrysler Building always feature the beautiful steel tipped apex with the surrounding gargoyles. But the view from street level is pretty special too.

This is a shot looking up from Lexington Avenue. I like the streetlamp on the right. I think it adds to the photo composition. Each morning on my way to work, I walk through the marble main hall of Grand Central Station and then pass this monument. I consider it a privilege. When it no longer gives me a cheap thrill, I’ll leave this dirty old town for good.

Here’s the Lexington Avenue entrance just north of 42nd Street. It’s an awesome site in the early morning light. Click on this pic and have a closer look. The entrance is full of pointy arc deco flourishes.

Here’s a pullback shot of the entrance from across Lexington. The archway looks almost coffin-shaped (to me).

* * *

I would like to direct your attention to the comments section of two posts ago. I wrote a rant about the conspicuously wealthy Tovar family and how jealous I am of their freedom of movement. Well, "Mrs. Tovar," that old bitch, wrote me a very terse comment. I have to admit, I had it coming.


Monday, May 11, 2009

hooray for hollywood

Star Trek had a strong opening this weekend. Its $76.5 million three day take was propelled by unexpectedly strong reviews. In a New York Times article this morning, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore was described as being “giddy.” He said, “It’s a great relaunch to this classic property.”

He referred to the movie as a “property” and was giddy about the money. What a corporate cog. What a prototypical anti-humanity Hollywood stuffed shirt. Can you imagine going out for a pint with this guy?

* * *

ABC is making a TV series out of Robert J. Sawyer’s novel Flash Forward. The novel supposes a worldwide 2-minute 17-second period of unconsciousness in which people are able to see themselves six months into the future.

I have to be perfectly honest and say that six months from now, barring unexpected calamity, my life will almost certainly be exactly as it is this morning. Six months isn’t a long enough period of time to effect significant change unless you’re about to graduate from a University. How interesting can that program possibly be?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

an uncharacteristically bitter post

The following teaser paragraph appeared on the front page of the Sunday New York Times real estate section:

The Tovar family wanted to move to New York for health reasons. They found a town house in Greenwich Village with a $15,000 monthly rent. So far, it seems to be the right medicine.

Having the wherewithal to pay $15K a month for rent would be the right medicine for just about anything that ailed you, I suppose. The Tovar’s son has asthma and living in Florida exacerbated his condition. Apparently, because of New York City’s lack of botany, he is able to live a healthier life in the city.

One day Mrs. Tovar said, “Let’s leave.” So they did. The plan was to test New York City through all four seasons…


Their real estate agent in New York said, “To them, 2,000 square feet it tiny.”

They considered a three-bedroom at 15 Central Park West, listed at $27,000 a month. “I wasn’t completely satisfied,” Mrs. Tovar said. “Everyone gets drawn into the amenities, but to me the space was a factor.”

Mrs. Tovar sounds like a big a pain in the ass to me.

This was tough for me to read. I’ve just come off of four months of unemployment and have a consulting job that doesn’t pay benefits. My gut reaction was, “Hey, fuck you, Tovar family, and your bottomless well of money and prima donna attitudes.” Then I came to my senses and realized how immature and unfair that is.

But the Times got the story all wrong. It's not about the search for a suitable apartment in Manhattan. It’s about how some people have so much cash at their disposal that they can solve some of life’s problems by shoveling money into a furnace. I mean, who rents? Isn’t this a buyer’s market?

Friday, May 8, 2009


There’s a portion of my commute whereby the train hugs the Atlantic Ocean shoreline for about 5 miles. It was sunny and quiet this morning. The ocean was absolutely flat. I rarely see it that calm. It was like a piece of glass. It hurt to look at it in the morning sun.

I was walking through Penn Station and saw a New York City Police officer patrolling the station with a German Sheppard. He took his iPhone out of his pocket, looked at something on the screen and then showed it to his dog. The dog looked at the iPhone and then up at the Officer. I have no idea what that was about but it was a funny slice o’ life.

The new Kindle is another nail in the coffin for traditional newspapers. It’s so sad. Print newspapers are dying and they cannot be resurrected. I’ll miss having ink stained hands.

This is a great time to live in New York if you are not a fan of the Yankees. You get to witness, up close, the flame-out of a once storied sports dynasty. The new stadium is a terrible mistake for many reasons. The insufferable and endless boasts of Yankee fans are a thing of the past. Now, it’s all schadenfreude, all the time. It’s great!

I left work at 11:15 p.m. last night. The next person didn’t leave until 1:00 a.m. Today, I’m in the dog house for leaving “early.” Fucking management. I hate them all.

I can no longer smoke weed. After I get high, I start to question every decision I’ve ever made in life. Weed is supposed to be fun. That’s not fun.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

cell phone jammer: a new low, even for me

I committed my first act of blatant, outright cruelty with my cell phone jammer this morning. I’m afraid I’m becoming drunk with all this power I have over the cell phone frequencies on my train. Perhaps the 60+ hour work weeks are getting to me. I’ve been a bit thin-skinned recently.

Apparently, the chatty young gentleman in front of me parked his car in the train lot but was unable to pay the parking fee because the meter didn’t take dollar bills and he had no coins. He was desperately trying to give his friend directions to where his car was parked so the money could be deposited. The meter police patrol the lot quite frequently, so it was only a matter of time until a summons was issued. It’s hard to convey which spot number your car is in (it was 62, by the way) when your phone keeps cutting out.

I don’t know why I didn’t just let him give out the pertinent information and then cut off his call if he started chatting about who was booted off American Idol. I’ve been working so much over the past few weeks that I’m not getting the proper amount of sleep and I’m a bit bitchy. I miss my family and I resent the amount of hours I’m required to work. I took it out on some poor sap who couldn’t pay the parking meter fee. That wasn’t very nice of me.

What is this strange sensation I’m feeling? It’s like a gnat buzzing around my ear. Is this guilt? A conscience rearing its ugly head? God, I hope not. What an inconvenience that would be!


Monday, May 4, 2009

why write jut one play when you are talented enough write a trilogy?

You would think that seven hours of theater would be too much to tolerate but if the reviews are to be believed, it’s not enough.

CB and I saw The Norman Conquests at the Circle in the Square on Broadway. It's an Old Vic comedy from London. It comprises three interlocking plays; Table Manners, Living Together and Round and Round the Garden. They can be seen in any order as a trilogy. Each play is also a self-contained story that can be viewed individually. HOW CLEVER IS THAT?

It’s British author Alan Ayckbourn's take on a contemporary rake (Norman) who tries his damnedest to bed three sisters. It matters not a whit that two are his sisters-in-law. We saw Round and Round the Garden and it was gut-busting funny from start to finish. AGAIN with the British authors! Wha?! Is it in the water? Something to do with the Thames?

I’d love to see the other two parts of the trilogy but there are so many other great shows to see that I’m not sure I’ll get around to it. The 2008-09 theater season in New York has been extraordinary. This is going to be remembered as a golden age for plays. Not musicals. Plays. (Although the revivals of Hair and West Side Story are suppose to be great. CB loved Hair and, unlike me, he has standards, so that’s saying something.)

It’s been one great show opening after another. The writing has never been stronger and you can see big celebs with top-notch acting chops on stage, which is always a treat. Jane Fonda, David Hyde Pierce, Allison Janney, James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Geoffrey Rush, Brian Dennehy, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels, Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett, Cynthia Nixon and many others are currently tripping the lights. C’mon down!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

oh my GOD! you're EATING MY LEGS! you BASTARDS!

I rank “office hijinks” blogs on the same low rung as “mommy” blogs, but certain things are creeping up that I simply cannot ignore. I’ll keep it to a minimum.

Some people bring cookies and biscuits to work. It’s a nice gesture that lifts everyone’s spirits and provides a sugar jolt.

My Chinese colleague brought in a bag of dried octopus tentacles. She said it’s an Asian delicacy

Somewhere on the bottom of the ocean there’s an octopus in a wheel chair cursing humans.

(Thank you very much. I’m here all week. Please tip your waitress.)

I embarrassed myself by asking her what was written on the bag and she said didn’t know since she is Chinese and the writing is in Japanese. What a dopey White person I am!

For lunch she ordered fried rice with anchovies and chicken. I passed on the octopus tentacles but the fried rice sounds delicious. To me.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

it's pet peeve saturday (again)!

I am re-posting this. After reading it, I thought it gave off a terrible stink and sounded bitchy so I deleted it. But Rob liked it and I trust his judgment.

* * *
Dear White People:

Please stop using the word “sweet" as a descriptor for things unrelated to taste. Cars, shirts, movies, electronic gadgets etc., are not sweet. Also, please stop inserting “like” into the middle of a sentence where it doesn’t belong. And don’t turn every sentence into a question, as in, “I was, like, calling my sorority sister?”

Dear Black People:

Please stop using the word “situation” to describe your circumstances. It’s time to retire it from your lexicon. Find a different descriptor. Use predicament. It contains the same number of syllables so it’ll be an easy transition. Also, please stop punctuating your sentences with, “ya know what I’m sayin’.” We know what you’re saying.

Thank you.