The Unbearable Banishment: July 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

the soundtrack of your day

I was navigating my way across a crowded 42nd Street and through the beautiful madness of Grand Central Station and my iPod shuffle, freak show that it is, selected Five O'Clock World by The Vogues. Do you know this song? It's a great example of 60's American pop and exactly what you'd want to hear on your way to work. The iPod shuffle scares me a little bit.

Up every morning just to keep a job
I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob
Sounds of the city pounding in my brain
While another day goes down the drain

But its a five o'clock world when the whistle blows
No one owns a piece of my time
And there's a five o'clock me inside my clothes
Thinking that the world looks fine, yeah

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

an englishman who loves new york

The Manhattan skyline blew my mind the first time
We went down to the scene of the crime

Lookin' for the soul of America

Those are Ian Hunter’s lyrics.

Ian Hunter is a British 70’s B-list glam rocker who was the lead singer/songwriter for Mott the Hoople. They had a big hit with All the Young Dudes, which was written by 70’s A-list glam rocker David Bowie. Andy Mackay, saxophone player from 70’s (A? B?)-list glam rockers Roxy Music played the searing sax solo on Mott the Hoople’s hit All the Way From Memphis.

Hunter also had a fairly successful solo career. 80’s hair band Great White scored a minor hit with a cover of his Once Bitten Twice Shy which was, not surprisingly, not as good as the original, and his Cleveland Rocks was the title song for The Drew Carey Show.

When I was a teen, Mott the Hoople was one of the bands I idolized. My fascination with all things British started at an early age. Additionally, Hunter has incorporated his love of New York City into several of his songs, which has endeared him to me even more as the years peeled away.

Recently, I got to see him perform at a free outdoor concert in Manhattan. It was part of the River to River Festival. The Festival is an annual NYC summer event that offers free concerts, plays and readings in parks along the Hudson and East Rivers.

When Mott the Hoople was touring, I was too young and too broke to ever see them perform. Watching him perform Central Park n’ West with Manhattan as the backdrop made my 15-year old glam-rock heart sing. Just look at him. The glam is long gone but the music remains.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

i'm peter pan

I won't grow up,
(I won't grow up)

I don't want to wear a tie.

(I don't want to wear a tie)

And a serious expression

(And a serious expression)

In the middle of July.

(In the middle of July)

Yup. That's me on my skateboard riding next to 7-Year Old Daughter on her scooter. I can still ride a skateboard as though the devil were twisting my tail. Those of you who know how old I am will look upon me with either admiration for having retained my dexterity so late in life, or sadness for being in denial about my advanced age.

Daughter said I committed a "safety violation" by not wearing a helmet and that I owed her 10 cents. I am policed by everyone.

A tip o' the hat to Mrs. Wife for taking such fine shots.

Monday, July 27, 2009

around the dial and into my head

Monday morning. I get into my car, back it out of the driveway and turn the radio on.


…Palin stepped down as Governor of Alaska…


…with three gunshot wounds to the chest…


Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean
Higher than any bird ever flew
Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens
I’ve been in love with you.

BARF. click

…which makes nine out of 10 victories for the surging Yankees…


…with heavy downpours expected…


And then, seriously,

Tell me why
I don’t like Mondays

Saturday, July 25, 2009

New Jersey: the Tony Soprano state. For real.

The FBI just arrested 44 people and charged them with money laundering and bribery in a sting operation here in New Jersey. Those indicted include three New Jersey mayors, two state assemblyman and five rabbis. The scope of the corruption and arrests is unprecedented, even by New Jersey standards—and that’s saying something!

Included in the arrests was an 87 year-old Chief Rabbi who is charged with taking $200,000 in bribes to launder money through Israel. His congregation is located in (of course) Deal, NJ.

In one bizarre episode, $97,000 cash was delivered in a stuffed Apple Jacks cereal box. By who, I wonder? Paulie Walnuts or Big Pussy?

While accepting a bribe, an informant wearing a wire recorded the mayor of Hoboken claiming he was so popular that he would win the election even if he was “uh, indicted.”

But I think my favorite criminal must be Democrat Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith of Jersey City who ran for office on an anti-corruption platform, telling The New York Times: “I don’t take cash. I don’t let people give me things.” He is charged with taking $15,000 in bribes.

Only $15K? That’s cheap by corruption standards. New Jersey: our crooked politicos work at a discount.

On the same day, Evangelist Tony Alamo, who ran a multimillion-dollar Christian ministry, was convicted of 10 counts of sex abuse with his parishioners, some of whom were minors.

* * *

Politicians and theologians get paid to tell other people how to live their lives. Ironically, you'll never find a more vile and corrupt collection of villainous scumbags on the plant.

Humanity, you never disappoint me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

another blackberry maniac on the loose

I understand owning two Blackberrys. A lot of people have one for professional use and one for personal use. That’s fine. But how empty and needy do you have to be to use both simultaneously?

Here, our subject is talking on her old pink Blackberry while texting on her shiny new black Blackberry at the same time. I have neither the attention span nor the dexterity for this sort of thing.

Can you carry on two texting conversations concurrently? Apparently, you can!

Here, she frantically texts on old pink Blackberry, sets it down on her purse, picks up new black Blackberry and shoots off another message. Back and forth. It didn‘t stop. I have to believe that this is a New York thing. People in the real world don't engage in this sort of behavior, do they?

Am I making too much of this or does she need to get a grip? Read a book, for Christ’s sake!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

alley oops

Artisté Florenza and I saw the Roundabout Theater Company’s production of The Tin Pan Alley Rag at the Larua Pels. It’s a fantastic premise and an elaborate production for such a small space that delivers the goods in uneven servings.

The play imagines a meeting between Irving Berlin and Scott Joplin in Berlin’s music publishing office on 28th Street—the Tin Pan Alley of the title. The meeting is fictitious but the idea is ripe with possibilities. Though not a big Berlin fan, I’ve always admired Joplin’s music and was predisposed to like the show before it began, but it could use a sharp knife to trim some fat off the meat.

Scott Joplin wrote an opera that’s a hybrid of ragtime and traditional European opera. Treemonisha was finally produced in 1976 and won the Pulitzer but, honestly, I didn’t think it was all that. So one of the main plot devices and some of the music is sourced from something that I couldn’t get interested in. But I do like The Maple Leaf Rag.

Sad coincidence: Both Berlin and Joplin lost their wives to illness just months after their wedding.

This YouTube vid isn't much to look at, but it's Scott Joplin playing and of the several versions I previewed, this is by far the best. I’ve always heard that ragtime is very difficult to play. Can anyone confirm that?


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

hello, stranger. i believe we've met.

Mrs. Wife won a night in Brooklyn at a charity auction. Nope, that’s not a typo. We dumped the kiddies at the in-laws and stayed at the Brooklyn Marriott, which is a beautiful hotel in downtown Brooklyn. In addition to the hotel, we dined at The River Café. I sat across the table from Mrs. Wife and soaked in our solitude. We are usually flanked by a 3-year old and 7-year old who feel it necessary to fill in every quiet moment with dialogue.

The River Café is one of the most elegant restaurants in town (although it’s a bit of a tourist trap). I had to wear a jacket, which isn't terribly comfortable in July. Fortunately, I clean-up quite nicely, if I do say so myself. It’s located at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge on the East River and overlooks the southern tip of Manhattan. There’s a panoramic view of the bridge (an architectural masterpiece) and off to the left is the Lady in the Harbor. I had a duck breast that melted in my mouth. Dinner for two with drinks and tip: $275.

I looked across the river at the big hole in the sky where the World Trade Center used to be. It dominated the skyline. A lot of architect snobs didn’t like the twin towers, but I did. They were the first thing I spotted when flying or driving home. They were my beacon. Now, the skyline looks a bit more pedestrian. I miss them.

We took an after dinner sunset walk on the Brooklyn Bridge. The Bridge has a beautiful promenade. Anyone who visits should make the effort to walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It’s something to see, that’s for sure.

As regular readers know, I love The Daughters. But it was nice to walk without them, hand in hand with my bride, in the city we use to own.

All the folks in Manhattan are sad
'cause they look at her and wish they had

The good old Brooklyn Bridge

For brunch I had baked eggs at Bocca Lupo, a swell little cafe in Cobble Hill. I didn't know you could bake eggs but here they are. Were.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

check out Mr. Fancy Pants

These two dapper gents were queued in front of me at the theater the other night.

How do you like them slacks? Click on the pic and give them a proper look.

I wish I had the guts to dress like that but I’m too repressed. I have a deep-seeded fear of drawing attention to myself and having people take clandestine photos of me and then posting them to a blog.

Do they have the nerve to dress like this where you live?

Friday, July 17, 2009

random nyc photo: amazingly graceful

Early in the morning in Bryant Park behind the 42nd Street library, you can occasionally catch this chap playing his bagpipes.

He usually warms-up with a mournful rendition of Amazing Grace and then plays one or two other tunes. I think he works in a nearby office and likes to get in a few bars of practice before the grind begins.

If I see him when I approach the park, I quickly grab a cup of coffee and a chocolate cigar from a coffee cart guy and get a nearby table. It’s like dinner and a show except it’s breakfast.

New York City is chocked full of small, undiscovered pleasures.

They say there’s always magic in the air.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

how the other half (meaning, not you) lives

I stumbled home from work at 9:00 p.m. last night and sitting in the family room were Mrs. Wife and two of her Consigliere from the Mommy Mafia. They were all drinking wine, eating little snacky things and watching/making fun of The Bachelor. There was hysterical laughter. The only thing missing was a young, shirtless cabana boy peeling the skins off grapes and fanning them with palm fronds.

The caporegime are all fantastically tan. They are bronzed suburban goddesses. During the week, they spend the sunny summer afternoons on the beach with the kiddies. They don’t fight shore traffic or beach crowds because all the commoners are at work.

I, on the other hand, spend my days in an office cubicle under a florescent light. I am pale, like a vampire, and the harsh white light accentuates all the imperfections in my skin. I was meditating on what a sweet life the Mommy Mafia leads and how I got myself into this mess.

The Mommy Mafia are a group of Jersey Shore stay-at-home moms whose sole responsibility it is to raise the children while their husbands drag their sorry asses off to work every day.

I have been schooled many times by stay-at-home moms who insist that raising children IS a job and a damn hard one at that. I concur. But there is something enviable about not having to be in an office for a specific number of hours on specific days of the week and see the same gaggle of people who you don't really enjoy being around all that much. Especially during the summer months. At least the Mommy Mafia can have someone thrown out of the family. I've seen it done and it's not pretty.

I'm not spewing negativity. I’m just sayin’.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

using my cell phone jammer knowledge for good instead of evil

This gem is from the New York Times:

South Carolina petitioned the Federal Communications Commission on Monday to protect the public safety by blocking signals from contraband cellphones emanating from prisons.

Of course, the scumbag lobbyists jumped into the fray with this line of nonsense:

Lobbyists for telecommunication companies say that any weakening of antijamming legislation could become a slippery slope that eventually could inappropriately limit cellphone use.

Why can't they just come right out and say they're worried that the industry's revenue stream will be compromised? What is "inappropriate?" Washington lobbyists occupy the same rung on the moral ladder as old men who expose themselves on the subway.

Do you suppose I can get a paying gig as a jamming consultant/expert. I've got plenty of field knowledge that I would happily share.

* * *

In the gym locker room this morning I saw a man hold a hair dryer over his shoulder and dry his back hair.

I wretched.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

perfect day [with apologies to lou reed]

Just a perfect day,
Problems all left alone.
I thought I was someone else,
Someone good.

Taking off work on my birthday and spending the afternoon in Atlantic City shooting craps and being home in time to have dinner on the patio with the girls made me yearn for an early retirement.

After breakfast and birthday cards, I drove my another-year-older ass down to Atlantic City. Alone. I like being alone. I spent many, many years alone by choice. I’m pretty good company. You can put me in an empty room with a piece of string and I’d still manage to have a nice time. I miss being alone and sometimes I cut loose.

A long time ago, Atlantic City was this:

I’m sorry to report that it has turned into this:

That town is a peroxide blond who can’t afford a new bottle. I am amazed at the dichotomy between the glamour depicted in the ad campaigns for Atlantic City and Las Vegas and the harsh reality. Those cities are successfully marketed as bastions of elegant sophistication. Beautiful, well dressed people frolic into the night. The reality couldn’t be more different.

Do you know who gambles in Atlantic City on a Wednesday afternoon? The downtrodden. The hand-to-mouthers. The people who are bankrolled with that month’s mortgage payment. I can’t explain its appeal. It’s like a horrifying traffic accident that I can’t take my eyes off of.

Good God almighty I love craps. I love it so much that I play it sparingly. I love how the points of the dice dig into my palm when I squeeze them. I love the clacking sound they make when shaken. I love the feel of the felt on the table. I love to rifle the chips in my hand and run my finger along the smooth edges of the wooden trays.

I like the lingo and the chatter by the stickman. (Six. Six. The number is six. Stevie Nicks. Pick up sticks. John Hicks and his Hot Licks. Put your money on the six.) They try to get you to bet the sucker bets. Sometimes I fall for it. I’m only human, after all.

I returned from the dark side of the moon in time to have dinner in the sunlight with my girls. While I was away, Mrs. Wife whipped up some ribs on the auld grill. I looked at The Daughters BBQ sauce-smeared faces and thought I could not be further away from where I was just a few hours ago.

Friday, July 10, 2009

playwright theresa rebeck hates cbs president les moonves

I saw Our House, the latest comedy-drama by Theresa Rebeck at Playwrights Horizons. Rebeck is primarily a playwright, but she also wrote episodes for NYPD Blue, which I’m assuming provided her with a pretty healthy income. She burns so many bridges in Our House that I can only assume she never wants to work in TV again.

There are several plot strings but the funniest and most interesting (to me) was the biting parody of the real-life relationship between the skeevy CBS president Les Moonves and his young, hot employee, Julie Chen.

Ms. Chen was a B-list member of the CBS news team, which is an old and dignified news organization. After fucking old Les (he is old enough to be her father) she scored a plum position as host of Big Brother. It's the oldest story in the oldest book.

There was a lot of gnashing of teeth in the newsroom over Moonves's decision. The conflict of interest could damage the network’s journalistic integrity, but top-shelf sex will make a man do crazy things (see recent Republican foibles). One character in the play accused “Wes,” of “…thinking with is dick.” I‘ve done that myself once or twice.

The story has two great plot twists, but I found the casting and acting to be uneven. It’s always a shock to see sub-par acting being performed at an established company like Playwrights Horizons.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

attention: ladies and gay men

This fall you can see this guy…

and this guy...

together on a Broadway stage in Keith Huff’s A Steady Rain. They both have stage credentials (Craig has acted for The Royal National Theater and Jackman won a Tony), so aside from the eye candy factor, it might be a pretty decent show.

I wish I looked like either one of them. I probably would have had a more interesting and varied sexual past.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

it's my birthday too, yea

Today is Billy Crudup's birthday. Also, Graham Jones, guitarist from Haircut 100. Kevin Bacon, Wolfgang Puck, Billy Eckstine, Beck and Nelson Rockefeller.

And me.

Apropos of nothing, here I am accessorizing with a daughter.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the best pizza in nyc: i am schooled by the experts

I received a sudden up-tick in hits overnight. Upon further investigation, I found that Slice, a blog about pizza, linked to my post about the best slice in town. These guys are serious about pizza. Fanatically so. They titled the link, “You Are Incorrect, Sir.” It’s all so subjective! Who’s to say which is best? I’m sure their best slice is something elegant that’s pretty to look at. Well, I find The Famous Ray’s (11th Street version) to be delightful and will stand by it. Satisfaction guaranteed or see me for a refund.

Monday, July 6, 2009

case closed: the best pizza in new york city

A recent post about the best sneaker store in Brooklyn begat the question: “Where is the best pizza in town?” After an exhaustive, two-decade study, whereby hundreds of slices were consumed, I can affirm with unequivocal certainty that this…

…is the best pizza parlor in the city. It’s a tiny runt of a joint. Typically, the four or five tables are all occupied and you have to stand at the counter. But standing with a slice of Ray’s pizza beats the living hell out of sitting in any other parlor.

It’s on 11th Street and 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village. I’ve been going there since I arrived in New York as a young punk circa 1980. The fact that it’s still there and has stood the test of time should tell you something. And I don't want to hear any smack from anny a you fuggin' goombahs in Bay Ridge.

There are dozens of pizza parlors who all claim to be the "Original" Ray’s or the "Famous" Ray's. The urban legend I’ve always heard kicked around is that “Ray” is a derivative of the Italian Re for king. Hence, the King of Pizzas. Whatever. I can’t be certain this is, indeed, the “Famous” Ray’s, nor do I care. The fact is that there’s something about the cheese they use in concert with the texture of the crust that makes this:


* * *

There’s a somewhat famous Pizza joint on Bleecker Street called John’s. It’s in all the guide books. The pizza is decent and worth a visit if you’re in the neighborhood. Many years ago, legend had it that it was frequented by Woody Allen. Once, I was standing at the urinal in the men's room and saw that someone had written “HI WOODY” on the wall at eye level. I thought of poor Woody Allen reading that while taking a piss and it made me laugh.

On another visit to John’s, Lou Reed and his then wife, Susan, came in and sat in the booth behind me.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I included a pic of David Mamet to make it appear as though he's reading this post. Tee-hee.

The fall theater season is starting to take shape and if you like the acerbic wit of David Mamet (who doesn’t?), you’re in luck. There are no fewer than THREE Mamet productions being mounted. His, some claim, woman-hating play Oleanna, will get a Broadway revival staring Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman. It’s Stiles’ Broadway debut. Good luck, cupcake. I saw this play years ago in the East Village with William H. Macy and Rebecca Pidgeon (Mamet’s wife). A college professor stands accused of sexual harassment. Did he do it? That depends on who you ask. Men tend to say he was falsely accused. Women tend to be wrong.

Mamet’s new play, Race, is also getting a run on Broadway. Mamet’s new productions are shrouded in secrecy. I think it’s more of a marketing ploy than anything else. Race will star James Spader and Richard Thomas.

Finally, The Atlantic Theater Company, one of my favorite venues in the city, will host a pair of Mamet one act plays. One-acts are great because if the first one stinks, you needn’t suffer for very long. An entirely new play will start after the interval. After the Mamet one-acts, the Atlantic is mounting a Sam Sheppard play. Those guys really have their shit together.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

random nyc pic / born into the right circumstances

This is the view out my office window. I work on the 7th Floor and this overlooks Lexington Avenue and 47th St. It’s a beautiful, old stone building with bold 2-story columns on the façade and ornamental turrets on the four corners.

A closer inspection reveals that this is a residential building, which is an anomaly in this neighborhood. This area, just north of Grand Central Station, is populated with office buildings. Some of the apartments in this building have beautiful French doors that open onto spacious outdoor decks that wrap around the corners.

During my workday, I occasionally stop to watch a woman carry a baby outside, put him/her in a swing and tend the garden. Here, she feeds the baby breakfast.

This kid is growing up in rarefied air. People who are this wealthy, who can afford to live in such splendor in midtown Manhattan, usually have more than one home. This kid will never have to worry about how to pay for college. I never went to college because I was broke. I think most folks believe that a college education is their God-given right. Well, it isn’t.

This kid will never know want. That’s not to say he’ll be trouble-free. But he’ll never know the financial struggles most of us have to endure.

* * *

The café I’m posting this from just played the Annie Lennox cover of Bob Marley’s I Don’t Want to Wait in Vein. I’m generally not a fan of covers—the original is almost always better—but once in a while someone gets it right. The way she sings it, Annie sounds like she's hurting for someone. I wish I could give her a hug right now.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

the magical world of bobzyeruncle

My old pal and wedding party alumni bobzyeruncle was in town from London last week. Bob carries an aura about him. He sprinkles pixie dust on the evening. When he was living in the city and I would get together with him, I would always end up meeting someone new or doing something I hadn’t done before or seeing someone I haven’t seen in a long time. He has a way of drawing people together. He can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.

To report what we did isn't all that impressive on paper. We met for drinks. That’s it. It was a small group and I had such a nice time. Mrs. Wife and I visited London in September and I hadn’t seen him since then so we caught up on news and views. He has a new fancy hair-doo. Nurse H was there, as was a friend of his who I know just slightly and someone else whom I had never met. The chemistry was nice and the conversation was easy.

That’s the way it’s always been with Bobzeruncle. If it weren’t for him I never would have started a blog (which has become my favorite hobby of all time). So you can blame him for this pit of grammatical mishaps. I doubt Mrs. Wife and I would ever have attended a drag show (and we've seen more than one!). We never would have met L, who I like quite a lot. They've been together for 17 years and can teach the "sanctity of marriage" crowd a thing or two about longevity. L is about to run for the sake of gorillas and would appreciate your support. We wouldn’t have traveled to London on those few occasions. If you’ve got a Bobzyeruncle in your life, then you’re one of the lucky ones.