The Unbearable Banishment: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

dysfunctional irish family

CB and I saw Brian Freil’s Aristocrats at the Irish Rep down in Chelsea. Freil is a pretty big deal Irish playwright. He had a big hit with Translations and his Dancing at Lughnasa won the Tony in 1992 for Best Play. During the Tony awards, none of the Hollywood actor-presenters knew how to pronounce “Lughnasa” and during the course of the evening there were several stuttered failed attempts. They didn’t care enough to do their homework. I'm sure the playwright was nauseated

Aristocrats was great. The Irish Rep rarely disappoints. It's about a once-wealthy and powerful Irish family that has fallen on hard times because of the failure of subsequent generations to sustain and grow the family wealth. Just like the Kennedys! The story takes place in the family mansion which has fallen into disrepair due to neglect. I think the mansion is a metaphor for the family because all the children are broken and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. I could be wrong because the whole metaphor thing usually sails right over my head.

This is the first play of the year for me with many more to follow. I am grateful that Mrs. Wife keeps me on a slack leash and allows these evenings of theater in the city. To live so close to something that means so much to me but never be able to indulge in it would make me sad. It’s pure luck that I live close to New York City. It’d be wasteful if I never took advantage of it.


Friday, January 30, 2009

kung hay fat choy

In other words, Happy New Year!

Nurse H and I took a trip down to Chinatown to help our Chinese friends ring in the New Year. It’s 4707—the year of the Ox.

The Chinese New Year celebration lasts 15 days. You’re not supposed to say anything negative about anyone for 15 days. That’s quite a challenge, especially in a place as opinionated as New York City!

We strolled up and down Mott Street and watched the dragons parade. The dragons are followed by a team of percussionists. They dance at the entrance of each merchant. To ward off bad luck, the merchant ignites a firework that shoots a big wad of confetti into the air that frightens the dragon away. He then hands a red envelope filled with cash through the mouth of the dragon.

Sometimes, the dragons are invited into the restaurants to parade. I was in the middle of a big plate of beef chow fun and a dragon came in and tried to eat the proprietor.

Mott Street is closed to vehicular traffic and it becomes a big pedestrian mall. (That’s Nurse H in the blue hat.)


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

…and one more thing about Presidential skin pigment

If we’re going to make a big issue out of President Obama’s race (which, as I said a few posts ago, we should not be doing) wouldn’t it be more accurate to call him our first Mulatto President? Isn’t calling him our first African American President revisionist history?

Monday, January 26, 2009

tickling them ivories old school style

I paid a visit to the one and only Carnegie Hall for a piano recital.

J.S. Bach! Maurice Ravel! Franz Schubert! Leoš Janáček!

Waitaminute. Leoš Janáček?! Who the hell is Leoš Janáček!? They always throw in a wild card. Well, three out of four is batting .750 and that’s pretty darn good.

The acoustics in that place are mind-blowing. When they come to a quiet passage, you can actually “feel” the silence on your skin. It’s a phenomenon. I can’t describe it.

Brief, one-sentence rant: People who cough during the quiet passages of Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C minor should be punched in the throat for breaking the spell.

The arc of my taste in music is pretty strange. It seems like it was just the other day I was listening to Rush’s Fountain of Lamneth off of their seminal third album Caress of Steel. Now look at me! Digging a recital by a world-class, award winning British pianist with a bunch of Upper East Side high-brows and European tourists who probably never used a copy of 2112 to clean the stems and seeds out of their weed! What a bunch of losers! I should turn in my bong and be done with it.

God, it was good. Simply beautiful. Close your eyes and drift away…


Friday, January 23, 2009

frost/nixon movie/play

I saw that Frost/Nixon got a best picture Oscar nod and Frank Langella got a best actor nomination. It’s a pretty great film. I was fortunate enough to see the play it was based on in 2007 when it was on Broadway. The two principals in the movie, Frank Langella and Michael Sheen also did the play. Here’s a quote from the New York Times theater critic’s review regarding Langella’s stage performance:

No screen, big or small, could accommodate such showy grandeur.

Well, I don’t think that’s entirely true, but there is an added dimension to a live performance.

One of the penultimate scenes takes place before the final, most crucial, interview between Frost and Nixon. The scene is a drunken middle-of-the-night phone call that Nixon makes to Frost. The incident is a fabrication—the author taking liberties with history—but it’s a master class in acting.

The scene is well-filmed but I kept flashing back to the play. Instead of the back-and-forth editing from one actor to the other that’s in the film, watching the two actors stand alone on a stage toe to toe and duke it out was the best kind of magic.

I wish I could drag everyone to just one really great play so you could see what all this fuss is about. When you find something that works for you—a new piece of music or a book—don’t you want to share it with everyone you know so they can see how satisfying it is?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

how to slowly murder your child

I've had enough of the politics of pigment for a while. Back to what I enjoy the most: bitchin'!

* * *

7-Year Old Daughter was give the "reward" of a coupon for a free pizza at our local suburban Pizza Hut for reading five books. I love junk food as much as the next guy but, holy Mother of God, why do they feed this stuff to kids?

The salad bar had four metal containers filled with gooey dressings in various shades of grey, yellow and brown. One container was filled with chocolate pudding and another with vanilla pudding. I commented to the waitress that it was the first time I'd ever seen chocolate pudding offered at a salad bar and she said, "Oh, yeah. We do it for the kids. They love it." Yea, I'll bet they do.

I saw a mommy share her Coke with her 18-month old. At another booth were two brothers, about 9 and 11, who where a bit “weight-challenged.” One had a t-shirt that read “Thing 1” and the other had a t-shirt that said “Thing 2.” Their faces were buried in a Game Boy Advanced. Neither spoke to the other. They would only pause their game long enough to shove more pizza in their faces.

The desert menu featured Hershey’s chocolate dippers. Here's the menu description. Remember, these are supposed to be consumed right after you've eaten a pizza.

Freshly-baked, soft, melt-in-your-mouth dessert sticks topped with white chocolate and HERSHEY’S® milk chocolate – served with rich chocolate dipping sauce!

I wanted to fucking puke.

Now, ain’t that America? Look, I know I'm suppose to set a good example for my daughters and be humble and not put on airs or do anything to appear elitist, but sometimes it's hard not to feel just a wee bit smarter than some other parents I run across. Please forgive me. As far as I'm concerned, the reading program should be restructured so that if you don’t read five books, you have to eat and work at Pizza Hut. Forever.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the one where i alienate the few readers i have left

I didn’t make any new friends with my last post—someone even took me to task in the comments section for being too old and out of touch to comprehend rap music—and this sure isn’t going to help matters.

I was able to watch quite a bit of today’s news coverage of President Obama’s inauguration and I am in full agreement with my colleague Daisyfae; there was WAAAAYY too much emphasis placed on the fact that he is African American. We don’t have a new black President, folks. We have a new President.

Prior to the election, there was a fear that white America was just paying lip service to the pollsters. There was a theory that Joe/Jane Sixpack would say they were voting for Obama but once inside the voting booth, he/she would never pull the lever for a black man. They even gave it a name: The Bradley Effect. Well, it turns out that white America didn’t give a shit about the pigment in Obama’s skin. We voted for him because he was clearly the right man for the job.

So why did today’s media coverage obsess on the fact that he's black? While it’s important to acknowledge the historical significance of the moment, it’s practically an insult to give the short shift to his qualifications and accomplishments and talk, talk, talk of little else but his black father and black wife and black children.

Daisyfae said it more elegantly than I did. Would the last reader out please extinguish the lights.

Monday, January 19, 2009

in da clubz

On Friday, January 16th, in Greensboro, North Carolina, a patron open fired on a crowd in the packed lobby of a theater that was showing Notorious, the bio pic of rapper The Notorious B.I.G., hitting one man in the abdomen.

Also on Friday, four people were stabbed in a Brooklyn nightclub at an event that was promoted as the "official" after-party for the film. A 21-year-old victim is in critical condition. Fox Searchlight (the film’s distributor) denies any involvement with the event.

In other news, the KKK rejoiced, proudly proclaiming, "We told you so."

Way to go, playas'. You get an A+ for perpetuating a stereotype, you low-expectation dipshits. And just before first African American takes the oath of office!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

feeding my addiction

I attended the semi-annual rare bookfair at the Lexington Avenue armory. God, what a glorious afternoon. Think of the one material thing you love the most in life. Now, imagine an armory chocked full of the very best of that one special thing.

It's like going to the literature museum except you can buy stuff. I had expected to see some depressed prices. The economy is flat on its ass and I expected the prices for rare books to be adjusted downward accordingly but they were not. Stuff was still pretty pricey. Here’s a small sampling of the best of the best.

1. Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not. First edition. $3,000.

2. Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time. The true first edition of his first book, published in Paris in 1924. Only 170 copies were printed. $28,750.

3. Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. The only signed limited edition Hemingway published. One of 510 copies in its original slipcase. $15,000.

1. J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories. First Edition. Signed. $6,500.

2. J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. First Edition. One of the all-time classic dust jacket designs. And a pretty good read, too. $6,500.

3. Ernest Hemingway's Men Without Women. First UK edition. The U.S. first edition would be considerably more expensive. Collectors prefer the first edition published in the author’s country of birth. Graham Greene UK first editions are more expensive than the U.S. counterparts. It’s called “following the flag.” $2,750.

Recession? What recession? Not all books are priced so astronomically. You can easily find books for just a few hundred bucks. I didn’t buy anything. Nothing jumped off the shelf and into my arms, which sometimes happens at these bookfairs. The spring Park Avenue bookfair is the granddaddy of bookfairs. Book collectors from all over the world attend. This one is merely a warm-up. There are worse addictions. Don’t you agree?

Friday, January 16, 2009

bugs bunny's favorite street corner

East thoydy thoyd an' thoyd.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the $3,980,000 harry potter book

I paid a visit to the New York Public Library to view a copy of the excruciatingly rare and valuable The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling. From Wikipedia:

The book was originally produced in a limited edition of only seven copies, each handwritten and illustrated by J. K. Rowling. One of them was offered for auction in late 2007 and was expected to sell for $103,000; ultimately it was bought for $3.98 million by, making the selling price the highest achieved at auction for a modern literary manuscript.

All that money went to a charity. She’s a good egg, that J.K. Rowling. She motivated a lot of kids to pick up a book and read. Huzzah to her for that!

The other six copies are all in private hands; a gift from the author. The copy on display at the Library belonged to someone at Schoolastic Books who was instrumental in getting Harry Potter published. It’s a really beautiful book. The binding is elegant and Rowling’s drawings are actually quite nice. And what spectacular penmanship! She hand-wrote all seven copies. It must have given her a terrible cramp.

* * *
The New York Public Library is an elegant old mausoleum. Here’s the public internet access room on the third floor.

And here’s the carved wood ceiling in the same room. You have to see it in person. The photos don’t do it justice. Click on that last pic and take a look at the detail.

This past Christmas, they didn’t put the wreaths on Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions out front. The statues are so old that they were afraid they couldn’t support the weight of the wreaths. Isn’t that sad? They may never put the wreaths on them again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

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

I'm finally back from Ohio. A worry has not been laid to rest, but the momentum to solve the problem has been created. It was a successful trip but becuase I have so many dragons to slay here in the metro New York/New Jersey area, I couldn't stay another day. Plus, I missed all my girls.

* * *

While in Cleveland, Mr. Z and I were lucky enough to see Rock-a-Billy Godfather Robert Gordon and legendary guitar player Chris Spedding at the fabulous Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. Here they are then (circa 1977)...

and now...

They were fantastic, as always. Are you anywhere near as cool as they are? No, you are not. Pop over and listen to the three songs posted on Robert's MySpace page. Fire was written for him by Bruce Springsteen but the song was robbed, ruined and a big hit for the Pointer Sisters. If you only have time to listen to one song, listen to The Way I Walk. He opened with it on Saturday night. That song is a dark, evil night, baby! Turn it up good and loud. You'll thank me later.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

weep weep weep

My Giants just lost their playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. How could this have happened? It's unthinkable. I have a theory.

After an Eagles touchdown, I saw Donovan McNabb, the Eagles quarterback, point up to the sky with both index fingers and "thank God." I know many Giants fans who were praying for a victory so, obviously, God turned His back on them. It's all God's fault. God is a loser.

Soy un perdedor
I'm a loser baby so why don't you kill me?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

a trip down memory lane in a blizzard

Still in Cleveland. This afternoon, I found myself driving from one end of the city to the other through a raging snowstorm to visit my oldest friend. I first rode my bike to his house 34 years ago. How many people do you have in your life like that? Eh? Family doesn’t count.

The WZIP Saturday Moring Polka show was playing on my radio. The Blue Bell Polka! The Too Fat Polka! The Beer Barrel Polka! The soundtrack of my childhood. My father, who was no hero to me, always played polka music. I was ready for those old familiar feelings of simmering resentment to boil to the surface but instead I was drawn into the music and was overwhelmed with pleasant melancholy. They're such bouncy-happy songs.

* * *

It takes a man with a steely sense of self to play the fool but I am willing to play along if it means an amusing post.

Before I left for Ohio, I made an impulse purchase on iTunes. I was about to undertake an eight hour dive all alone and I wanted a familiar album to listen to that I haven’t heard in a long time. Here’s what I ended up with:

I want yooooo-huuuuuu
To show me the way.

What the hell was I thinking? But I did sing along quite loud.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

road trip/Oprah’s blues

Do you remember the last scene of Carrie where a hand reaches up out of a grave and grabs Amy Irving’s arm, and it turns out it’s just a dream? Okay, that skeletal hand is 2008 and the arm belongs to me and this ain’t no dream.

I’m in Ohio. There’s some family stuff I needed to attend to, so I took a drive out for a few days without my daughters and wife. There is some odorous residue of 2008 that I can’t seem to shake.

I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and flopped around in bed for two hours while being tormented by my inner demons. I finally got out of bed at 5:00 and was on the road by 5:30. I got on Garden State Parkway (a main artery into New York City) and merged into a wall of traffic. At 5:30 a.m. We were traveling the highway speed limit, but it was like a NASCAR race with speeding cars packed together just inches apart. I don’t know how people do it every morning. It woke my ass up, that’s for sure.

As I held the steering wheel in a death grip and drove through the darkness, my mind was racing in a loop of angst. Worries at home. Worries in Ohio. I missed my daughters and wife already and I wasn’t even in Pennsylvania yet. Then, on the Howard Stern radio program, they played the following clip from an Oprah Winfrey interview (emphasis hers):

I feel far more comfortable talking to people on television that I do with this whole role as a cover girl for my own magazine. Doing a photo shoot is a major big deal because there’s a team of people. This past year has been really difficult because I didn’t feel like being a cover girl.

I almost drove into a fucking tree. Are you kidding me?! Hey, Oprah, how’d you like a taste of what’s on my plate? I wanted to reach through my iPod and strangle her. Usually I can laugh at this sort if thing (as Stern was doing) but it was the exact wrong time for me to hear it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

london visits new york

My old pal bobzyeruncle was here in town from London. He’s the reason I started a blog in the first place. He’s been keeping one since 2003—long before blogging worked its way into the mainstream. I always admired his blog and thought it would be fun to have one of my own. My rational for NOT having a blog—“who gives a shit what I ate for lunch?”—finally crumbled away last spring and The Unbearable Banishment was born.

* * *

We met at the Guggenheim. I’ve always loved the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building and I hadn't seen it since the scaffolding came down from a multi-year exterior renovation. Multiple layers of paint were stripped off the façade. The exterior had been painted various shades over the years. The facelift was done for structural integrity reasons, but they also went back to Wright’s original plans and matched the color to his specs. It looks as fresh (and correct) as the day it opened. Take a look at this beauty:

Isn’t that incredible? It looks so—I don’t know—clean. You should see it in person. Never mind what’s inside, the building itself is a work of art. I remember reading a critical review of the building from some gasbag architect and he called it a “toilet bowl” and the interior a “parking ramp.”

That critic is long dead and forgotten, but the building remains dear to New Yorkers. Someone shoved poor Pinocchio from a top floor and he landed face first into a small pool in the main lobby.

I knew virtually nothing at all about the two exhibits, photographs by Catherine Opie and theanyspacewhatever, which includes contributions from 10 artists. They were, quite frankly, awful. It was contemporary art/photography at its absolute ugliest and most pretentious. The visit was saved by the exterior renovation and the Kandinsky and Expressionist Painting before World War I exhibit, which I liked very much.

We needed to flush the stench of bad art out of our nostrils, so we walked down to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is always a home run. I never get sick of that place, no matter how many times I go there. We paid a visit to her:

Someone wrote a children’s book about Mr. Degas’ young dancer. The author even incorporated the hair ribbon into the story. It’s one of 7-Year Old Daughter’s favorite books and I promised to bring her into the city to see it.

We went for one hell of a long walk. We started at the Guggenheim, which is on 5th Avenue and 89th St., walked all through that museum, walked down to the Met on 85th, walked through there and then down 5th Avenue along the east side of Central Park. Most of the holiday tourists are gone and that left the museums and sidewalks clear and easy to navigate.

At 58th Street, I was surprised to see that Bergdorf Goodman still has all their Christmas wreathes out.

Isn’t that nice? bobzyeruncle stopped into Brooks Brothers and bought a stack of dress shirts for him and L. The British Pound is more powerful than the mighty American Peso, so the shirts were a bargain. We got the subway at Rockefeller Center which means we walked a total of 41 blocks PLUS two museums! It was a great way to spend an afternoon. If only I can parlay that into some kind of money-making scheme…


Sunday, January 4, 2009

cell phone jammer: a love story

I was hitting doubles with my cell phone jammer on the train in. With one flick of a switch I was zapping the cell phone calls of both the yappy 19ish year old girl with an urban attitude sitting directly behind me AND the sideways baseball cap-wearing thug sitting in the row behind her. They were both cursing up a blue streak and getting good and angry. I, on the other hand, was feeling much better about the train ride.

They suddenly realized they were each having the same problem. They compared devices and cursed their carriers (his: Verizon, hers: AT&T) for having such wretched service so close to the city. They were drawn together by a common enemy (technology) and by the time we pulled into Newark, they had exchanged phone numbers. For all I know, they're in the process of becoming under-aged parents as I type this! How about that! They put their phones down and made human contact. I’m a regular cupid.

* * *

Also overheard on the same train from a different passenger who was starring out the window, wide-eyed, slack jawed, in utter disbelief:

Look at that! There’s a goddamn cell tower RIGHT THERE! Why can’t I get a decent signal?!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

NBC's worst nightmere

What if the next Super Bowl features the Tennessee Titans vs. the Carolina Panthers? It’s possible! Two small market, uninteresting teams. It would spell certain doom for NBC as far as ratings are concerned. They could rechristen it the Who Gives a Shit Bowl.

Friday, January 2, 2009

mmmmm. baklava math!

Seat at an empty counter in a Greek diner in Manhattan


a big wedge of baklava


bottomless cup of coffee


The New York Times


:45 minutes to kill


HEAVEN on EARTH, my friends.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

a message to the dearly departed

Dear 2008:

GO FUCK YOURSELF. Seriously. I danced on your grave on this cold, bright morning.

If you read this idiot blog on a semi-regular basis, you might come to believe that I've been dealt a pretty strong hand. I’ve got a great wife, two daughters who love me unconditionally and I have some interesting hobbies that are pretty innocuous. All true. (I occasionally spend a bit too much on a rare book, but at least my vice isn't whisky. Or whores. Or gambling. Or all three.)

I don’t reveal a lot of dark matter in my blog, nor should I. Some things are not fit for public consumption. But take my word for it; 2008 was a bucket of raw, untreated sewage poured slowly over my head with an end-of-year grand finale that I'm still trying to come to terms with.

Good riddance you parasite. You fraud. You’ve leached my happiness for 12 long months and I’m glad you’re gone.