The Unbearable Banishment: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today is ‘count your blessings’ Wednesday in NYC

In the span of about :30 minutes this morning I received two badly needed reality checks. They were timely reminders of how fragile life is. I needed them light of the aforementioned problems I‘ve been having at A Company Called Malice, Inc.

On the way into the city I passed a terrible auto accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. It looked like a spin-out/head on collision. There were no emergency services on scene yet, so it was just people sitting on the pavement next to mangled cars with dazed looks on their faces. Awful. They were on their way to work or out of town or whatever and in a split second their lives were changed. Perhaps forever.

A short time later I was walking through Times Square and at 42nd and Broadway I passed a homeless man (or damn close to it) who had neurofibromatosis, which is the disease that John Merrick—The Elephant Man—had. His ear was three times as large as it should have been and was down on his cheek. His lower mouth and jaw were a mass of swollen, twisted flesh. He walked with his head down. It makes you wonder if there’s a God at all.

I'm typing this in Bryant Park. The sun is rising in the blue autumn sky and the streams of light are gleaming off the spire of Chrysler Building. Last night, I arrived home unexpectedly early and read to both daughters at bedtime. They, and Mrs. Wife, seemed genuinely happy to see me. Today, I don't think work is going to get me down as much as it usually does.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My 9-5 fantasy

I’m grateful to have found work after being laid off but I have begun a casual job search for something else. A Company Called Malice, Inc. came to my rescue in my time of need, but since then it has been slowly grinding me down. Mrs. Wife, correct me if I’m mistaken, but since I started in mid-April I have not had one dinner at home during the week. Not ONE!

There’s a degree of maliciousness to it. The workload doesn’t always require such “dedication” but at the level I was hired on, I am not permitted to work a 40 hour week. The unwritten law at A Company Called Malice is: Company first, family a distant second and friends? Don’t even think about it. It’s anti-family. It’s anti-humanity.

That’s all well and good if you aspire to be a Managing Director but I don’t give a shit about that stuff and never will. I miss my girls. Just showing up at home on the weekends is a recipe for a failed marriage and resentful children. I thought I lived in a more enlightened age but apparently I was mistaken.

Then Mrs. Wife stumbled across this fantasy:

Rare Book Seller
Bauman Rare Books

We seek, for our Las Vegas gallery, an articulate, well-read, energetic individual for a long-term, full-time Bookseller position. Etc., etc., etc.

Okay. Calm down. So. Let me get this straight. It’s a job at one of the premier rare book dealers in the United States selling rare books out of their newly-opened location in the Palazzo in Las Vegas? Be still, my beating heart.

Long-time readers and family members will know that this is a marriage of my two primary passions in life: rare books and craps. I would be happy to hang out in Bauman Rare Books and help people research and purchase rare books for FREE and you’re telling me they want to pay someone to do it? The salary isn’t anywhere near what I make at A Company Called Malice, Inc., but I can make up the difference at the crap tables during my off hours. Can’t you see how perfect this is?

Monday, September 28, 2009

After Sienna Miller

I saw the luscious (and, for bonus points, British) Sienna Miller in After Miss Julie—an adaptation of Strindburg’s Miss Julie. There were six of us and because it’s still in previews and hasn't been reviewed yet, we were forced to form our own opinions. Usually, when a gaggle of New Yorkers get together to see a play, they like to do so after the reviews are already in so they know what to think beforehand. We are that shallow.

It was a split decision. Three of us liked it, and the other three didn’t necessarily dislike it, but they didn’t know what to make of it. Well, I thought it was fantastic and the fact that she slinked out in a form-fitting dress and played a wealthy, albeit troubled, seductress didn’t hurt the cause. Just look at that ad! That says it all. I was kind of hoping she would walk down off the stage, into the audience, sit in my lap and nuzzle my neck but, needless to say, sadly, that didn't happen. It’s a three-hander and all three actors were suburb.

It doesn’t open until October 22nd. To my actor/lurkers: Can you imagine five weeks of previews!? It’s ridiculous.

[Special note to Nursemyra: I read your mention regarding Cate Blanchette in Tennessee’s Streetcar. That production is on its way here to New York (Brooklyn, actually) after Oz. Is it worth time and money? Also, you were right about the Robert Frank exhibit at the Met! It just opened! How is it you live on the other side of the planet, yet heard about this exhibit long before I did? I need to pay closer attention.]


Friday, September 25, 2009

A proper brainwashing: the second part

I’ve begun brainwashing 3-Year Old Daughter in the same manner that I did 7-Year Old when she was about that age. It’s important to embed your ideas into their tiny, little heads early. If you wait too long, they’re off on their own without any curiosity whatsoever about books or The Beatles or art or the New York Giants or The Little Rascals. It’s like trying to bake a soufflé and not slam the oven door.

A key ingredient for a proper brainwashing is lots of alone time. Enough so they develop Stockholm Syndrome. It begins, innocently enough, in New Jersey. The first step is weekend trips to the local diner. You’ve GOT to get a diner into a kid’s life. Think of how poor your life would have been if you hadn't had a diner to hang out in. Bars are for later on. Diners are the stuff of youth.

This is our first trip to the diner alone. She was a perfect little lady. As a treat, I put a little puddle of syrup on her plate for her to dip her french fries into. Her favorite activity is passing the salt and pepper shakers back and forth. It’s the only thing she is able to do so she does it over and over and over again.

A short drive later we explore the botanical gardens. There‘s a pond stocked with koi and we feed them bits of bread. She leans over far enough so that she can practically drop the bread into their gaping mouths. She almost falls in.

[Fun side note: The house, rolling hills and green acres that comprise the botanical gardens were once the villa of feared mafioso and New York crime family boss Vito Genovese. The land was confiscated by the State of New Jersey and converted to public park land. Inside the house, there's a fun display chronicling the events leading to the property seizure.]

When she’s a bit older we’ll go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and I’ll expose her to some traditional European art. And after she’s acclimated herself to that, I’ll give her the old one-two with some Jasper Johns target and Savarin paintings at MoMA. She won’t know what hit her until it’s too late.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday potpourri

Me to 7-Year Old Daughter: "You've got to stop biting your nails!"

7-Year Old Daughter: "Okay! Seriously, if I do it again, I'll stick a rose with thorns down my throat."

* * *

3-Year Old Daughter: "Daddy what time is it?"

Me: "1:40"

3-Year Old Daughter: "Why?"

I hate 'why.' I can't wait until she grows out of the 'why' phase. It's maddening.

* * *

Random shots with my cheap-o cell phone camera. Both clickable.

This is my attempt at conceptual art. It's called Pant Leg, Favorite Pair of Shoes, Subway Platform Edge.

I know. You don't have to say it.

This is the interior of St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue next door to Saks Fifth Avenue with my cell camera set to "cloudy." The temple of Catholicism next to the temple of consumerism. Are they really so far apart?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What to avoid in NYC. Tip #2: dining options

If you walk north on Seventh Avenue, just before you enter Times Square at 41st Street, you’ll be greeted on the northwest corner by this:

[Edit: Jason made an astute comment that‘s worth mentioning. Do you see that giant plastic illumined lobster? It slowly rotates! It’s simply awful. It’s hard to be tacky in Times Square but they’ve managed.]

And by on the northeast corner by this:

First, let me state that I am neither anti-chain restaurant, nor a “foodie“ (I hate that word). I am as far away from a food snob as you could possibly get, which is a shame since some of the finest restaurants on the planet can be found here. I have nothing against the Red Lobsters and Ruby Tuesdays of the world. (Or McDonalds’s, for that matter.) They all serve a purpose.


If you’re going to spend the time and the money to come all the way to New York City, for the love of GOD, please don’t eat at the Red Lobster. I beg you. Save it for the mall. There are hundreds, nay, thousands of places to get a good cheap meal in the city. And this notion that you have to be a “local” to know where the good joints are is a load of horseshit. Get yourself a decent guidebook.

I know that familiarity breeds comfort and it‘s always easier to go with what you know. But if all you’re going to do is eat at the TGI Fridays on 48th Street in Times Square, then you’re wasting your vacation time and dollars. You were courageous enough to come to NYC, so step out of your comfort zone. Don’t eat at the Red Lobster!

In New York freedom looks like
Too many choices

New York


Monday, September 21, 2009

Open season

The fall theater season got underway last week and the first sampling, from the almost always reliable David Mamet, left me a little cold. Two Unrelated Plays is about to open at the Atlantic Theater Company. It’ll be interesting to see what the professional critics have to say.

The first play, School, was a brief :15 minute conversation between two teachers. It was a primer of Mamet syntax; half finished sentences, partial thoughts and colliding lines. You either love it or you hate it. When it works it’s magic. I saw Ron Silver and Joe Mantegna in Speed the Plow when it opened [mumble-mumble] years ago. They found a groove and watching them bat lines back and forth was like watching a really great tennis match. That sort of timing was missing from this first piece. And the subject matter seemed trite.

The second play, Keep Your Pantheon was an enjoyable farce but I don’t think it’s going to win him another Pulitzer, that’s for damn sure. It’s a comedy in the mistaken-identity-double-entendre-Borscht-Belt-humor vein and it was fun but the lead actor got on my nerves to the point of distraction. I think he was *suppose* to get on my nerves, but probably not to where it took me out of the story.

Okay. That's a start. Next up: Carrie Fisher and Sienna Miller. Not together. Separately.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Gratuitous family post

This post is specifically for family lurkers who live 500 miles away and never get to see The Daughters [or Mrs. Wife and I, for that matter]. The rest of you might find this too saccharine. It almost verges into mommy blog territory. *Shudder!*

Here are the little darlings on the beach in Asbury Park flying a kite. It’s off-season and living on the Jersey Shore is suddenly a pleasure. The beaches are gloriously empty and, more importantly, there’s NO shore traffic. Would it be wrong for me to spread rumors of an epidemic next June to keep the seasonals away?

Mrs. Wife has no experience flying a kite, so it’s a lucky thing she brought an old pro like me along.

Here’s a rare full-frontal shot. I assume that only family members have made it this far into the post, so there’s no fear of outing the kiddies to the general public.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Unbearable mind reading game

I was in Barnes & Noble picking out a few books for The Daughters and came across this end display in the pre-teen literature department. It's a series of books that tell the story of people who devoted—and in some cases gave—their lives fighting for the rights of the oppressed. They were great humanitarians who were beacons of hope for the poor and the disenfranchised.

In my humble opinion, one of these books was slipped in as a joke. It's almost shocking in its inclusion. Click on this pic and see if you can figure out which of these books does NOT belong. C'mon! Play along!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A happy problem

Let's say you find yourself in midtown Manhattan with a few hours to kill (as I do). Would you visit the recently opened:

Georgia O'Keeffe Abstraction exhibit at the Whitney;

or the Kandinsky retrospective at the Guggenheim;

or Monet's Water Lilies at MoMA?

It's a feast for the eyes. It boggles the mind. It's an embarrassment of riches. It deserves a whole new cliché.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Daughter in a Maelstrom

On a summer day/evening, the best view in town is from the roof garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You can look over the tree canopy of Central Park to the west, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet along 5th Avenue to the east and the Manhattan skyline to the south. It’s a pretty site.

As if that weren’t enough, every summer, the Met hosts a spectacular sculpture exhibit. Last year is was a set of playful sculptures by Jeff Koons.

I took daughter to the roof for this year’s exhibit, the appropriately named Maelstrom by Roxy Paine. It’s a series of polished metal tree branches that twist and snake over the expanse of the roof. [Click to expand.]

I wondered what the perception was for someone half my size. I watched her walk around the perimeter of the sculpture and then inside and it really did seem to consume her.

The exhibit runs through late November, so if you’re going to be in town or are just a subway ride away (Jason/Leah) it’s worth the trip. Just don’t go on Friday night. It’s packed with after-work office drones who just want to drink and hook up. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it tends to spoil the experience. I’m not sure the Friday night crowd cares about the art so much. They seem distracted.

Here's a very cool video of the installation.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Two ladies

Did you happen to see the covers of last month's Vanity Fair? It was two black and white photos of Farrah and Michael in the exact same pose. It's an interesting juxtaposition.

It was clever and weird and a little sad. I'm sure they each had their pictures taken thousands of times and since there are a finite number of poses you can strike, it stands to reason that you can find two similar pics of these two. Vanity Fair should have gone for the trifecta and dug out a black and white glam shot of Ed McMahon with his arms crossed.

* * *

Keyword activity used for a recent hit on my blog:

does giving head make you sick

I can assure you that I have NO information about that! You'll not find ANY medical advice on my blog that concerns the ingestion of any bodily fluids.

* * *

I'm having some personnel problems at A Company Called Malice, Inc. I need some money. I need a LOT of money. I need so much money, that I don't ever have to go into work again. How do I do that?

Sunday, September 13, 2009


I thought that New York City had the most fashion forward women on the planet. So what the hell is this?

I was walking behind her down 41st Street just off 7th Avenue. (Fashion Avenue.) You know what these are, don't you? These are a pair of clown pants.

Oh, excuse me. I mean MC Hammer pants.

Are these back? Do you know what, ladies? They looked silly in 1990 and the passage of time has not improved them.

The older I get the more I realize that nothing in the fashion industry is all that revolutionary. They just recycle whatever was popular from the previous generation. The width of neckties and jacket lapels expand and contract on a scheduled basis.

Which brings us to this.

[CB, you might want to bail out at this point.]

Bryant park where I spend my mornings...has been closed off and invaded by the fashion glamoratti. It's fashion week here in New York. It's an important industry that pumps loads of cash into the city coffers but, personally, I don't understand high fashion one bit. It's an industry that preys on the vain and the insecure. If you need to spend $1,400 on a pair of shoes, you've probably got some self-esteem issues you need to address. You should take that money and spend it on a proper therapist.

I want my park back.


Friday, September 11, 2009

It's Friday, I'm in love.

A happy 10th anniversary, Mrs. Wife. 10 years is pretty good, don’t you think? A lot of couples don’t make it this far. But we did. And it was fun, too! Well, most of it. The whole childbirth episode was pretty upsetting, if you don’t mind my saying so. We’re a long ways away from good ole' Avenue B and Houston.

We were together for a bit over 2 years prior to getting hitched so do you think I could backdate our anniversary and say we’ve been together for a dozen years? I’ve been living the life of a married man for that amount of time so I’d like the credit for it.

Tonight we will abandon our children to the in-laws and stay at The Chateau Inn in Spring Lake, New Jersey, and dine at Vivas in scenic Belmar.

I will have the same conversation I always have with you when we find ourselves in these circumstances: How did we get so lucky? More importantly, can you imagine anyone else putting up with our shared neurosis? :10 minutes early is :10 minutes late.

That was pretty easy. How about it? Are you up for another 10?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Insult + injury

Let's say you saved up all your paper route money and bought yourself a big, dumb American muscle car. And just after your first inflated insurance payment, someone smacks into the rear bumper and puts a ding in it when you're not around.

At this point, what you DON'T need are the neighborhood hooligans writing graffiti on the damage.

That mutherfucking Jizzy. How many times do I have to tell him he's too young to drive?

Or perhaps it WAS Grover! At least he apologized.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The magic necklace

7-Year Old Daughter was wearing a leather necklace that I hadn't seen before so I asked her if it was new. She said she it was and that, “It’s a magic necklace.”

“Is that so? And what makes it magical?”

“Well, whenever I see one of my friends in trouble, or if I see two adults fighting, I take it in my hands [cups the pendant] and I whisper [she whispers] Please help my friend. And then, everything is better and everyone is happy again.”

Honestly, I thought she was going to tell me that she uses it to make a new pair of shoes appear out of thin air. What a cynic! I promise to make a concerted effort to not foist my neurosis on her or her little sister.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Welcome to New York! Did you remember to pack a helmet?

A block to the east of this building...

...near the entrance to Bryant Park you'll find these two beauties.

That fella on the right is the new headquarters for Bank of America. I'm not a big modernist but I actually like that design. At least it's not just another upended glass cracker box like its neighbor to the left. It has some interesting contours and angles.

Here’s a close-up of the façade of the Bank of America building.

Those dark spots? Those are boarded up windows where the panes of glass fell to 6th Avenue during construction! This occurred on more than one occasion. It happened at this time last year and I don't understand why they haven't replace the glass yet. I remember coming out of work and being horribly annoyed because I couldn't walk down 43rd St. I later found out that they had to block off the area because it was raining windows.

My favorite quote from the linked story:

“I saw the glass fall,” said Ana Contreras, 40, a roasted-nut vendor who runs a stand at 43rd Street and the Avenue of the Americas. “I was sitting right here.”

And then, proof positive that Ana is a true New Yorker:

Ms. Contreras said she was seated on a milk crate under an umbrella next to her vending cart and was unafraid as the shards of glass fell around her.

Because everyone knows that a vendor umbrella is the best protection against a plate glass window that's plummeting to earth at a high rate of speed.

The previous year, eight people on the ground were injured when a bathtub-size steel bucket full of debris fell from the roof of the same building.

Not long after these incidents, Bank of America purchased the detritus of the collapsed Lehman Brothers, which was the first step in pulling BoA under water.


Monday, September 7, 2009

One too many Stephen King stories

We walked to the local Italian Ice stand last evening. This place is a Jersey shore summer institution and it will soon be closed until next spring, so we had to get our final licks in.

The walk takes us down our street and over a short bridge that spans the Navasink River. At this time of year, you can see jellyfish swimming under the bridge and people are crabbing both off the bridge and in small boats bobbing in the river.

Mrs. Wife was pushing 3-Year Old in her stroller (it’s too far for her to walk), 7-Year Old was slightly ahead of us and I was trailing. I was watching the oncoming traffic and saw a woman approaching in an older model white sedan.

She was in her mid-50s and looked to be the product of too much inbreeding between her aunts and uncles. The car was traveling about 25-30 miles per hour. In one hand she held a cell phone up to her thick skull. In the other hand she gripped the steering wheel and a lit cigarette.

Then, as the car approached dear family, while still yammering on her cell phone, she let go of the steering wheel to take a long drag on her cigarette.

Have you been watching True Blood? When madness grips one of the characters, their eyes go completely black. That was me. I pictured the car hitting a bump, careening out of control and heading towards 7-Year Old. I imagined that I was Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man (same superpower, different publisher). I elongated my arms and with one I snatched 7-Year Old from the car's path and with the other I smashed the driver's nose into tiny bits of cartilage.

She finished her puff and the car passed by without incident.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Priceless therapy. Only $0.99 on iTunes.

Initially, I wasn't going to do a post about this because I have a tough guy reputation to protect. But for the sake of great art I will humble myself to you all.

I was having a bitch of a week—awful from top to bottom. At the very moment that things reached critical mass and I was on the threshold of losing it, this song came on. I hadn't heard it before and am only vaguely familiar with the artist. Before he got to the second verse I had burst into tears like a little girl—something I haven't done for a very long time. Not even when my mother passed away a few months ago. It was awful and cathartic.

Who needs a psychiatrist or religion with stuff like this floating around to help you out of the rabbit hole and through the thick bramble? This is The Weight off of Twelve Mondays, the new album by Ari Hest.

I’m going down to the riverbank this morning

Way before the family is awake

Gonna lay me down at the foot of the water

And spill out all my troubles for everyone’s sake

You can’t have love when you never can surrender

I’ve been spreading around my anger like a plague

I’ve sailed this far with my boat on fire

Fighting flames each day, too stubborn to expire

I will soak my soul

Let the river take control

I know it’s not too late

To let go the weight

The sun will rise and shine on me this morning

It will seep its way into my heart

And untie all the knots that have hardened me through the years

And I’ll embrace wisdom that sun will impart

And with this heat burning inside me

I will warm all of the people that I love

In their darkest of hours and weakest of minds

I’ll light up their nights with every star I can find

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Jersey beautification project

Ah, the tall, majestic pine trees of central New Jersey. You can almost smell...hey. Waitaminute. That's no pine tree!

It's hard to tell from this photo (it's from my cell phone) but that's not a tree. It's a cell phone relay tower. We were in one of the more tony neighborhoods of New Jersey and the people who live in big houses that are situated on big plots of land care a lot about the aesthetics of their community. They don't want any ugly-ass cell phone towers littering their beautiful landscape. But, of course, they need cell phone service. Can you imagine life without it?

So the cell phone providers came up with this fantastic idea. They disguise the cell phone towers as pine trees. Call me cynical but they're not fooling me one bit. I wonder if the birds are duped and build nests in them?

If you click on this you can see some of the white antennas sticking up out of the branches. Do they have these things in your community?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

There is a season

Last night it got down to 58F (14C). The air conditioner was decommissioned and the windows were opened. While my back was turned, the calendar flipped from August to September. I had to break out a jacket this morning. That's it for summer. So long. Adios.

Bring it on. All-day pots of hot coffee, Sunday New York Giants football games, more theater openings than I have the time or money for, roast beef and potato dinners and thick sweaters.

It's all very nice but I'll miss watching The Daughters dance on the beach. [Family lurkers: click pic to see your niece.]

Billie Holiday knew: