The Unbearable Banishment: March 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Defying death as your job description

Have you ever been to the circus? There were three adults and four children, ages 8, 8, 5 and 3. Guess who had the most fun? ME. Maybe I’m a cheap audience (which is what I’ve always suspected) but I was in awe. I don’t think the kids get it. Kids are too young for the circus. They don’t realize how difficult these feats are and, more importantly, that the performers could die at any moment. They just assume everything will work out and it does.

The staging is a show-within-a-show. While one set of performers are in the spotlight trying not to die, a crack team of stagehands are setting up the next act where someone might die. There's no pause in the action. It's rapid-fire, one performance right after the other.

I felt somewhat vindicated when The New York Times ran a glowing review of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus a few days after we attended. That the circus started in the late 1800’s and is still up and running today is pretty surprising, if you think about it.

The circus doesn’t do “funny” very well—I don’t recall laughing at any of the clown’s antics—but the acts whereby performers put their lives at risk are truly amazing. I was shocked that none of the acrobats hit the ground the wrong way and split their heads open or that two trapeze artists didn’t collide in mid air and break a few limbs.

The tiger tamer didn’t have his face slashed to ribbons by an unpredictable tiger. Remember Siegfried & Roy? It happens!

Three Chinese gymnasts inside a small (small) plexiglas cube. What. The. Fuck. Just imagine the four-way possibilities.

The Bionic Brothers. Astonishing feats of strength and balance. Zero body fat.

The biggest lunatics have to be the family of motocross stunt riders. At one point, all seven ride inside a giant steel sphere, crossing each other’s path. It’s madness. How do you rehearse something like this?

A parade of elephants. Peta distributed some literature on the train pointing out that the circus is guilty of animal cruelty. Trying to spoil our fun. I’ve never seen an organization do more to alienate people from their cause than the dolts at Peta.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Meet me for a drink or two

Not all of Manhattan has been gentrified. Yet. Some of it, especially some stretches of 8th Avenue, are still Original Recipe. For instance, we have this primo establishment on 8th Avenue and 30th Street:

Deno's Party House and Bikini Bar??!!
On a dicey part of 8th Av.? Are you kidding me?! No good could come from that. But admit it. You want to meet me there for a few drinks, don't you? Any bar with an illuminated sign that includes tilted champagne glasses and balloons is the place for me! Above Deno's is an aromatherapy supply company. How great is that?

But time has a way of steamrolling over your memories. Does anybody out there remember Billy's Topless on 24th and 6th Avenue? It's long gone and is now a bagel shop. It wasn't so much a strip club as it was a neighborhood bar. Fun fact: When the zoning laws were toughened under Mayor Giuliani to try and rid Manhattan of the sex/strip trade, Billy's, in an effort to avoid closure by the new puritanism, took the apostrophe from its name and became Billy Stopless and the dancers donned bikinis. It didn't work.

Billy's without the apostrophe

I am happy to report that the old man bar around the corner from where Mrs. Wife and I lived on the Lower East Side is still going strong. The Parkside Lounge is located at Houston and Attorney St. (And it’s “house-ton.” Not “hyoo-stun.”) Long live the Parkside.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

The buzzards of suburban New Jersey

Driving along on a misty gray early New Jersey morning, down winding roads, over smooth hills and banked turns, the telephone poles blur by. It's quiet. Nobody is out yet. This bucolic scene is broken by a pair of turkey buzzards having their morning road kill breakfast. Yum-yum. Eat-'em-up.

I spent the remainder of my drive trying to think of a proper metaphor. One never materialized. Perhaps that's a good thing.

* * *

I got the news that I was awarded a four-week contract for a project that I interviewed for at a financial institution (see below). I wish it were for a longer period of time but the pay is quite good, so I took it. That's the upside of working for an investment bank. They tend to pay well and have top-notch equipment. Don't laugh. There's nothing more depressing than sitting down to do a project only to find that they've stuck you with a beat-to-shit computer that's running Mac OS 6.

Before I can start I need to submit the following:
  • A criminal background check
  • A drug test
  • A set of fingerprints
  • A residential history going back five years
  • An employment history going back 10 years
Keep in mind that this is for a four week contract position. Who do they think they are!? I guess investment banks are tired of being burned by rogue employees and CEOs. They need to be cautious. I could be a brilliant criminal mastermind in sheep's clothing for all they know. The next Bernie Madoff. Yeah, that's me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Job hunting follies

I received a call from Moody’s Investor Service. They wanted to know if I would be interested in interviewing for a position working from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight.

No, I would not.

Aside from the fact that I would never (NEVER) see the girls, I wouldn’t feel good about working for Moody’s. They had a hand in the economic collapse. They’re the shitheads who rated toxic investments as AAA because it was lucrative for them to do so. I feel less ashamed collecting unemployment than I would being a part of their machine.

* * *

I interviewed at an investment bank this afternoon. I had to meet with three different people. All you do sit there and talk but it’s amazing how draining it is. When I left, I needed a nap. Three interviews just for a lousy 4-week project. It was overkill. Employers can afford to be choosy. But I'll take it if they'll have me.

* * *

I've mentioned before that I'm going through this transition without the benefit of a college degree on my resume. That I made it at far as I have without one has always been a wonder to me. I talk a pretty good game in the interview room. That's how I got into bastions of snobbery like JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.

When I was in my 20s, I was reluctant to reveal that I didn't have a degree. You get judged real fast and rising above a stereotype is a lot of work. It's probably what motivated me to develop a good rap.

[For the record, while all my friends disappeared into various universities, I spent six years in the Coast Guard, which was a fantastic experience. I had a hand in saving more than a few lives, thank you very much.]

After revealing my secret shame, some people would carry on about how their degree never did them any good and how they ended up working in a field that's wholly unrelated to their area of expertise. Some even went so far to say that college a waste of their time. I think some of them sensed my unease and were being supportive. Others sincerely felt their degree was meaningless.

I received an email from a headhunter with the "perfect" position for my skill set. (They all say that.) He noted that I left my educational background off my resume. I wrote back that it was not an error and that I am, in fact, self-taught.

Unfortunately, this client has no flexibility at all re educational requirements. Will certainly hold your resume for future opportunities. Sorry!

The next person who tells me they wasted their money going to college (and means it) is going to get a swift, accurate kick in the nuts/ovaries.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tennessee’s unholy mother from hell

The Roundabout Theater’s production of The Glass Menagerie is about to open and I dare anyone to say anything negative about Judith Ivey's performance. I’ve been going back and forth with a friend over the quality of the performances by the actors playing the daughter and son, but we both agree that Ms. Ivey’s Amanda Wingfield was pitch perfect as the ex-Southern Belle smothering shrew of a mother. At the interval I wanted to jump up on stage and strangle her. Isn’t that about as convincing as you can get? Her long (loooong) streams of dialog seemed like natural conversation, as though the words were being spoken for the first time. That’s hard to do.

I thought the performance of the actor playing the son, Tom, (Tennessee Williams’ doppelganger) was labored and unconvincing. It felt like a script reading to me. Mr. D. thought he was fine but that the actor playing the daughter, Laura, played her as someone who was mentally retarded. “The character is supposed to have emotional flaws. Not a learning disability,” he reasoned. I thought she played it from the heart and did a fantastic job. Same show, but different evenings. That could factor into it.

* * *

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of this blog. It has replaced chasing rare books as my hobby of choice (although I still do that, too). Kudos, once again, to Bob, who got me started on this venture without ever realizing it.

Since the very start I have been far too concerned with uncontrollable, idiotic things like stats, traffic and comments. I’ve resolved to be more keenly aware of the quality of the posts and less concerned with whether or not anyone is reading them. What an ego!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Central Park photo blast: spring hath sprung

It was a long time coming, but spring has finally arrived. I'm certain that we'll get one or two more blasts of cold, raw weather, but unless the earth unexpectedly shifts on its axis, I think we're done with snowstorms and winter.

After finishing some bizznizz in the city, I met Nurse H. We had lunch in Central Park and watched the big parade of humanity walk by. With commentary, of course. Don't worry. We were in good spirits and nobody got trashed too terribly.

Do you know how "they" say that you have to have something to occupy your days? That without meaningful work, you'll slip into a fits of depression? NOT ME, pals! I could easily spend each and every day like this and not be saddened in the least. I realize that most people require intellectual and emotional stimulation in order to feel alive, but I think that living in New York City for as long as I did gave me a lifetime's worth of fulfillment and I could very easily coast the rest of the way. Like John Lennon, I could happily dream my life away, just watching the wheels go 'round. People say I'm lazy! Too bad it doesn't pay.

These two were so extraordinarily attractive that they should be forced to breed for humanity's sake. This picture really doesn't do them justice. They're right out of a J. Crew catalog.

This guy was a great musician. He played American popular standards with real depth of soul and feeling. And for all that ability, he's playing for tips in the park. It made me wonder if having talent can sometimes work out to be a curse.

A shot to give the kiddies nightmares. Heh-heh.

This is the Angel of the Waters fountain on Bethesda Terrace. I'm pretty sure I've posted pics of this before but it never gets old for me. She was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868. Emma was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City. Hoo-ha for Emma!

Lovely Central Park Lake. The best show in town is standing on that bridge and watching people row their boats stern-forward.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive. If at all possible.

8-Year Old Daughter: I drew this picture for you, Dad. It's for you to hang at your desk when you get a job.

That hurt. Do you know what's worse than being unemployed? Being unemployed with a daughter who is old enough to realize that you're unemployed. Should I try to explain what investment income is in order to ease her mind? Or is that pointing out a problem that she is unaware of?

Jesus Christ. How did this happen to me? I started in investment banking years ago and thought I was set for life. I was never a six-figure "earner" but I thought I could carve out a fairly comfortable life. "What could possibly go wrong?," I thought to myself. Plenty, it turns out.

* * *

Me: Give me a little kiss on my cheek.

3-Year Old Daughter: NO!

Me: Pleeeeease? I'll pay you for one. How much are they?

3-Year Old Daughter: TWO DOLLARS!

Me: That's a lot of money for a kiss!

3-Year Old Daughter: Well, they're NOT ON SALE!

* * *

3-Year Old had a secret for the Easter bunny.
Shortly afterwards, we bumped into the Easter Bunny coming out of the men's restroom, which lead to a host of questions regarding the bathroom habits of bunnies.

* * *

I took the girls to the Broadway Diner. I've done posts about this place before. It's our home away from home. The diner opened in 1959 and has many of the original accouterments.

Honestly? The food is not that great but we keep going back. We probably always will.

There was a renovation in the 70's so even though the structure is the same, the color palate has been changed. Unfortunately, if you ask me. I'd have preferred they keep the chrome, tube steel and red.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

On the dole again

My contract at Massive Retirement Conglomerate, Inc. ended this week and I find myself on the dole and looking for work again. It’s painful and draining, to say the least. I was laid off from J.P. Morgan in December (a blessing in disguise) and found contract work a few weeks later. I knew it wouldn’t last but took it for practical reasons.

This is the first time in my life I’ve been an active participant in a full-blown crisis. Earthquakes, falling pianos and crimes are things that you read about in the paper but don’t happen to you. You tsk-tsk and turn to the sports page.

You lucky folks who are gainfully employed can afford to be blissfully unaware, but it’s still pretty bad out here. Especially in New York. You read the monthly new jobless claim figures and are unaffected, but take it from me, to be a part of a catastrophe is enough to test a man’s resolve. I have a friend who is an attorney. He recently told me his office received over 800 applications for eight openings.

Mrs. Wife and I consider ourselves lucky. We have some cash in reserve and can also live (very frugally) off of income derived from our investments and unemployment. Mrs. Wife has also picked up some side-work project managing the construction of a web site. Obviously, this can’t continue indefinitely, but we aren’t going to go underwater anytime soon. But not having work when you have two little girls looking up to you hurts, hurts, hurts. What the hell kind of provider am I?!

But it's not all grief. There's something sweet about being home. I painted the front door today because it needed it. It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. I put training wheels on 3-Year Old’s bicycle and inflated the tires on all the bikes. I went to the gym and worked my ass off and then made myself a scrumptious plate of hash and eggs with rye toast for lunch. I had dinner with all three of my girls, which has never failed to satisfy me, and I gave 3-Year Old her bath. That never happens.

Tomorrow I have to visit the tax accountant in the city, but then I’m meeting up with Nurse H. The weather is going to be perfect (finally). We’re buying sandwiches and walking to Sheep Meadow in Central Park for lunch. Afterwards, I’m stopping into the International Center for Photography for an exhibit I’m dying to see—Twilight Visions: Surrealism Photography and Paris.

After that, I’m seeing a revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, that I hear is great. (The museum and theater tickets are complimentary, of course. All discretionary spending has been halted.)

So I will continue to hunt for employment and try to fight off the fits of depression with a whip and a chair. Mrs. Wife is a rock. I see no panic/fear in her eyes. And if you’ve got to be on the dole, you can do a hell of a lot worse than being surrounded by family and a stone’s throw from New York City. Amen, my brothers and sisters.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

For sale: Ireland's history

I promise not to turn this blog into a auction house "greatest hits" repository, but I thought this was particularly interesting.

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Next Monday, March 23rd, Bloomsbury Auctions here in New York will hold The Irish Sale. The lots are comprised of paintings, silver, books and manuscripts. There’s a first edition of the unreadable (to me, anyway. I tried twice.) ULYSSES by James Joyce (est. $50,000-$70,000) and first editions by Yeats, Samuel Beckett and others.

The most significant (and, by far, expensive) item up for grabs is this only know existing Tricolor from the Irish Revolution. This was the Republic’s first flag and the rallying symbol for the 1916 Easter Uprising. It was captured by British troops at the General Post Office in Dublin in April of 1916. After five days of warfare, the G.P.O. was in ruins but the flag, miraculously, still flew undamaged. It was reported to still be aloft two days after the surrender.

Auction estimate: $500,000-$700,000

The design is borrowed from the French and was intended to unify Ireland. The green stripe represents the Gaelic and Catholic, the orange represents the Protestant minority and the white is the peace between them. From the catalog:

That the flag survived undisturbed for some time is not surprising. Until it was hoisted above the GPO, few of even Dublin’s citizens had seen a Tricolour before and it was certainly unfamiliar to the British forces. It was up to a Sergeant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers to recognize its importance (no doubt after seeing Tricolour armbands in the ruins of some rebel positions and on the arms of surrendered men).

I can't imagine this belonging anywhere except with the people of Ireland, however, it's entirely possible that some wealthy bloke will buy this and stow it away so that no one ever sees it again.

Here's the full listing in the auction catalog. It's a bit lengthy but it's compelling reading. The account of the capture of the Tricolour and its subsequent provenance is fascinating.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Riders on the storm

It was an awful moment that will stay with me forever. I almost lost her in a gust of wind.

Mrs. Wife was away for the weekend. She took a well-deserved trip down to the shore with some friends. They had spa treatments and slept in ‘til ungodly hours of the morning. 8:00. 8:30. Such decadence.

That left me alone with The Daughters and a raging nor'easter heading up the coast. My plans to take them for a walk in the woods or to the boardwalk were dust. I hate to say this because it shows a complete lack of imagination, but I threw them in the car and, with the wind starting to howl and rain falling in sheets, headed to the mall.

Out trip didn’t last. We got there as the storm intensified and after about an hour, the power went out in the entire complex. The storm grew much bigger than anyone had anticipated. Entire city grids were blown out. We watched the indoor carousel as it slowed to a halt. I made light of the events but as we walked through a darkened Nordstroms, I got the sense that we might be in serious danger. We were quite a ways from home.

We reached the exit out to the parking lot. The weather was fierce. The wind was howling and I’ve never seen rain fall in such quantities or with such force. I put their hoods up and tied them. I picked up 3-Year Old, held her under my umbrella and told her to put her arms around my neck. I put my other arm around 8-Year Old. I told her to stay with me and to not run ahead through the parking lot because people couldn’t see three feet in front of them. We slowly made our way towards the car.

We reached the car. I opened the back door and 8-Year Old got in. While she was climbing in, I started to open the driver’s door, still holding 3-Year Old and my umbrella. And then it hit us. A powerful, blast of wind that came up from hell. I’ve never felt anything like it. It caught the driver’s door and flung it open. I thought it would be ripped off its hinges.

My umbrella was yanked out of my hand and shot straight up into the air. The clasp cut my finger. 3-Year Old’s hood flew off and the wind and rain caught her square in the face. Her head snapped back and her hair was flying perpendicular to the ground. Her face was in a horrible grimace. We were both instantly soaked to the skin. In a panic, she started kicking me and was slipping down out of my arms. In one unbroken motion, I jammed her into the front passenger seat, dove into the driver’s seat and slammed the door shut behind us. The interior of the car was drenched. The whole thing lasted less than 10 seconds but I will never, ever forget the look of abject horror on her little, 3-year old face.

The drive home was murder. The entire packed mall was emptying out all at once. Because the electricity grids had been knocked out, there were no traffic lights and no police had arrived to direct cars. It was pandemonium. While waiting in the long crawl to the exit, I could feel the wind buffeting and rocking the car. We sang Christmas carols. My hands started hurting and I suddenly realized that I was strangling the steering wheel.

* * *

I spent today cleaning the detritus of the storm out of my back yard. I’ve never lived through a storm season like this one. We were pounded with one blizzard after another. And now, this. It was reported that some wind gusts yesterday reached 75 mph.

There's a lot of this:

I also stumbled across this:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three lines for your midnight contemplations

You follow desire, and you are not satisfied.
Again you follow desire, and again you are not satisfied.
Again you try, and again you are not satisfied.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Friday, March 12, 2010

Happiness is a warm cell phone jammer

[In a loud voice:] Stop tellin’ me how to live my life ma! I’m 37 years old!...zzzap...No, I ain’t hangin’ up on ya, ma! It’s the recep--...zzzap...I SWEAR I ain’t hangin’ up on ya! Quit yellin’. Don‘t talk to me like tha--...zzzap...It ain’t ME. No, YOU shaddup! It’s this gaddamn CELL PHONE!...zzzap

Happiness is a warm cell phone jammer.
Bang, bang. Shoot, shoot.

* * *

Here's my favorite recent key phrase search hit on my blog:

can i collect unemployment if my job is unbearable?

Yes, I suppose I could qualify as an authority on that. Other, more disturbing search hits include:

disney princess sexy

disney princesses sexuality

hottest disney princess

princesses disney hot image

sexy Disney princess - costumes


banished, I have been banished

Me, too, brother.

* * *

Over a two-decade period in New York, I’ve probably visited hundreds of pizza parlors and have eaten thousands of slices in many different variations. But I've never come across this beauty. It’s a breakfast slice! Bacon, fried egg, green and red pepper, onion, tomato and black olives.

Cold pizza in the morning was a staple of my diet during my bachelor days, but this is carrying things a bit too far. I didn’t try a slice but now I kind of wish I had.

* * *

From the New York Times:

A 12-Hour Play, and Endless Bragging Rights

“The Demons,” a 12-hour production of a grim Dostoevsky novel that will be performed only twice, may be the must-see show of the New York theater season.

I disagree in the strongest of terms. I love a good dramatic production, but I’d rather sit through a Green Acres/Petticoat Junction marathon than a 12-hour (“grim”) Dostoevsky play. Seriously, what are they thinking? And who would subject themselves to it just to be able to brag to their friends that they did, as the article insinuated? There are people out here who would do just that! The Times is showing its pretentious jerk-off side. Again.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I got a p*rn*graphic catalog in the mail

por·nog·ra·phy (pôr-nŏg'rə-fē) n.
1. Explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause arousal.

If that's the dictionary definition of pornography, then the Pacific Book Auction catalog for the Fine Books auction to be held on March 18th in San Francisco qualifies as porn for me because, baby, I'm aroused.

Long-time readers and family know that I chase after rare books. I have a theory that I started this hobby as a sop to my low self esteem. I spent my early years defining myself as someone without a college degree. I felt pretty bad about it. Don't laugh. Pretty Manhattan girls and potential employers like to see a fat degree on your CV. If you haven't got one, it's hard to get hired. Or kissed.

I thought that collecting rare books would be seen as an intellectual pursuit, but a funny thing happened along the way. I actually fell in love with it. What a happy accident!

There are a few important pieces in the upcoming auction that are well out of my range of affordability, but they're worth mentioning. For instance, this is a first edition of Galileo's groundbreaking work from 1613 whereby he advocated the idea that the planets orbit the sun, which earned him a censure from the dolts in the Vatican. It almost cost him his life. You have to understand; this book NEVER comes up for auction. Auction estimate: $20,000-$30,000.

This rather ordinary looking piece of paper is a leaf (page) from a Gutenberg Bible (c. 1450-1455). It's not a stretch to say this page came from a book that altered the course of civilization. The Gutenberg Bibles were the first books printed on a movable type letterpress. Prior to these, it was all quills, parchment and sexually frustrated monks locked in towers.

There aren't many Gutenberg Bibles left because as the centuries passed, people discovered that you could make a hell of a lot more money by disassembling them and selling the individual pages than you could by selling the whole book. If you ever come to New York, there's a Gutenberg Bible on permanent display in the Morgan Library and also in the big New York Public Library on 42nd and Madison. For this single leaf, the auction estimate is $40,000-$50,000.

Here's a first edition of Catcher in the Rye with its iconic dust jacket designed by
E. Michael Mitchel. The illustration features the Central Park carousel. (The same carousel that's still up and running today.) The whole thing is beautiful. The design. The color scheme. The fonts. It makes me woozy when I see one in person at a rare book fair. And it's a pretty good read, too. Auction estimate: $6,000-$9,000.

WTF happened to me? I've said this before but it bears repeating; I use to drive drunk, smoke as much weed as I could get my hands on, have unprotected sex and dabble in narcotics. Now, I chase rare books. As Ray Davies would say, where have all the good times gone?

Monday, March 8, 2010

My oldest friend

As the years peel away, your tastes change. Authors, musicians, artists, etc. fall in and out of favor. But there's always that one defining body of work that stays with you. That helped shape you and continues to provide nourishment.

When I was 22 and in the Coast Guard, my brother gave me a book by Charles Bukowski. Bukowski is not a great writer. His output isn't very literary. You won't find him being taught in the universities. But all of these decades later, his stuff still speaks to me on a very visceral level. I actually got a chill when I read these again. As though I was reading them for the first time. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!

Here are a few samples from that book my brother gave me, Mockingbird Wish Me Luck, when Bukowski was, in my opinion, at the peak of his powers.

* * *


style is the answer to everything —
a fresh way to approach a dull or a
dangerous thing.
to do a dull thing with style
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing
without it.

Joan of Arch had style
John the Baptist
Garcia Lorca.

style is the difference,
a way of doing
a way of being done.

6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water
or you walking out the bathroom naked
without seeing

* * *

and the moon and the stars
and the world:

long walks at
night —
that's what's good
for the
peeking into windows
watching tired
trying to fight
their beer-maddened
* * *

Bukowski wrote this one for his daughter when she was about 8. Same age as my daughter, who's upstairs sleeping as I type these words.


majestic, magic
my little girl is
on the carpet —
out the door
picking a
flower, ha!,
an old man,
emerges from his
and she looks at me
but only sees
ha!, and I become
quick with the world
and love right back
just like I was meant
to do.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mother! Oh, God, mother! Blood! Blood!

And lots of it.

During the course of the story, the following happens. Hang in there because it keeps getting worse (which is to say, better).

Roman General vanquishes Goths. Goth Queen begs for son's life but General stabs him in front of her. Claims it was his "religious duty." Queen vows revenge. (Who wouldn't?)

Roman Emperor was suppose to marry General's daughter, but she runs away with Emperor's brother with the aid of General's sons. General feels sons have "betrayed" Rome and, in a fit of rage, stabs one of them, killing him.

Goth Queen marries Roman Emperor instead. During hunting expedition, Goth Queen's sons murder General's son-in-law, throws his carcass into a pit and then rapes General's daughter. To keep her quiet, they cut out her tongue and cut off both of her hands. She spends the remainder of the play with two stumps and bloody clothes.

General's two sons are framed for the murder of their brother-in-law by Queen's Henchman and are carted off for execution. Henchman tells General that Emperor will spare son's life if he chops off his (the General's) hand. General chops off hand, Henchman takes it away. General spends remainder of play with a stump.

Had enough? Well, too bad. We're just getting warmed up.

It turns out that the Henchman was lying about the Emperor sparing the General's sons. The two severed heads are brought in and presented to the General, along with his hand that was needlessly sacrificed. Henchman laughs. General picks up heads of sons, his daughter picks up the severed hand WITH HER TEETH and they sulk off stage, vowing revenge.

Queen delivers baby. Baby is of mixed race. Uh oh! Henchman is black! Nurse that delivers news is strangled and Henchman flees with baby. Eventually, Henchman is captured and is buried up to his chest and left to starve to death. He is unrepentant and says he would do it all over again.

Queen's sons are captured (don't ask!). General castrates them (without anesthesia) and slits their throats. Daughter holds a basin IN HER STUMPS and catches draining blood. Blood and ground-up heads are baked into a pie. (You see where this is going, right?)

The next day at a banquet, General asks Emperor if a father should kill his daughter if she has been raped. He replies, "Yes, so she doesn't have to live with the shame." General snaps daughter's neck, killing her instantly. Queen asks recipe for delicious pie she just consumed and is told she ate her sons. General jumps up on table and cuts Queen's throat. Emperor eviscerates General. General's lone remaining son stabs Emperor. General's son becomes new Emperor and first order of business is to have Queen's body tossed into the wilderness where it can be "devoured by wild beasts."

Did I leave anybody out? I don't think so. This is not the latest in the Saw series. It's Shakespeare! Supposedly. Though attributed to him, many scholars doubt that he actually wrote it. The violence is so graphic and characters so over-the-top that they don't think it's his. T.S. Elliot deemed it "THE WORST PLAY EVER WRITTEN." That's a bold statement.

The production of Titus Andronicus I saw at the American Globe Theater was well staged and the costumes were pretty cool for such a small production. A few of the principals were good but many in the cast were young whelps just out of acting school and, boy, it showed. What a bunch of hams.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Christian indoctrination

I’m not going to delve too deeply into this because I don’t want to offend anybody. It’s sensitive stuff and I don’t want to hit any raw nerves.

I attended a parochial elementary school but left the church when I became an adult. There are many Catholic teachings that I disagree with and I gradually distanced myself. It took a long time, but I found that Buddhist teachings speak to me in a way that Christianity never did. No disrespect meant to my Christian brothers and sisters.

Mrs. Wife takes The Daughters to church every Sunday. Because she attends a public school, 8-Year Old Daughter also participates in a religious education class 1x per week at the church. Although I’ve rejected Catholicism, I think it's a good idea to get the kiddies involved in church. It’ll stimulate the idea of spirituality and make them feel part of a community. Later in life, I'll make my feelings known and they can either embrace what they've been taught or reject it (as I did). That’s how my mom ran the show and I approve. Aside from that, it’s important to Mrs. Wife and, hence, it’s important to me.


…are Silly Bands. All the cool kids are wearing them. They’re rubber bands (elastics) in fun shapes that are worn on the wrist, 20-25 at a time. My daughters gave me these two because they know how much I love music and how much I love to abuse my guitar.* I wear them on my right wrist and will probably never take them off.

8-Year Old Daughter has a few Silly Bands that are shaped into Christian icons. Angels. Crosses. Crowns (i.e., King of Kings). I saw one that was shaped into a white apple with a bite taken out of it and said, “Oh, that’s the logo for Apple Computers!” She said, “No, Dad, that’s an apple to remind us that we are all sinners.

I was taken aback. Stunned. It made me so sad. I hate it that my pure, innocent little 8-year old girl is having that “you’re a sinner in God’s eyes” shit pumped into her head. To me, it's the dark side of what she's being taught. You tear ‘em down to build ‘em up. It’s what I went through in boot camp. It’s the oldest method in the book.

* * *
Hell is other people.
Jean-Paul Sartre

Hell is a dead cell phone jammer.
The Unbearable Banishment

* My all-time favorite critique regarding my abilities as a musician: Daughter opens the door, pokes her head in and says, “Dad. We can't hear the TV. You’re playing too loud.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Central Park snowstorm photo blast

It has since turned into a blackened, half-melted mess, but last weekend a fresh blanket of snow fell on Central Park. Here are a few indulgent photos. All are clickable.

The stone bridge near the 59th St. + 5th Ave. entrance.

The luxury hotels along Central Park South viewed from inside the park.

This snowman is from the Tim Burton school of design. The eyes are pitch black and set deep into the snowman's head.

Miró. In the snow. [Ha. See what I did there?]

More snowmen. Clearly, these were made by adults.

A wedding. I like her shoes.

The elegant Plaza Hotel.

I like the contrast between the bottom half of this photo, with its natural beauty, and the top half, which couldn’t be more urban.

Yes, the snowgirl has nipples.

The quality of his playing didn't seem to be compromised by his cold hands. He told me he picked up a violin just seven years ago and taught himself how to play. He was pretty good!


Monday, March 1, 2010

Who hacked off Christopher Walken's hand?

When he was 17 years old and living in Spokane, four "hillbillies" grabbed him and, for no apparent reason, held his arm down on a railroad track. A freight train came by and amputated his hand. The hillbillies took the hand with them and used it to wave good bye.

He spent the next 47 years looking for his hand and those four hillbillies. He eventually found the hillbillies and removed their faces, but he could never find his hand. He knew it was folly to look for it—it couldn't be reattached—but it was his and he wanted it back.

Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

A girl and a boy, young street hustlers, said they know where his hand is. They want $500 for it. The three meet in a seedy hotel room to exchange the cash for the hand.

This, believe it or not, is a comedy. And a damn funny one, at that.

Irish genius playwright and lunatic Martin McDonagh's new play is A Behanding in Spokane. The four actors are all fine but Christopher Walken gives one of the most enjoyable performances I've ever seen. Ever. The play really comes alive when he's on stage. When he delivers his lines, with his wonderful invented cadence, you hang on and absorb every word. His comedic timing is impeccable, but he can switch to sinister in a split second. Towards the end of the play there's a dialog between Sam Rockwell and Walken (Walken pointing a gun at Rockwell) that works so beautifully that I wish I could sit through it again.

The play unfolds in real time. It's an interesting device that I can't recall ever seeing before. What other play has done that? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Like all of McDonagh's plays, this isn't for the general masses. It's violent and profane and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but there are a few people I'd love to drag in to see this. [Mr. Jimmy, consider this an open invitation if you and Mrs. Hen happen to be in town. My treat.]

I saw McDonaugh's last play, The Pillowman, which is also a black comedy. That one is about a child murderer and torture. The audience was filled with unsuspecting innocents who hadn't done their homework. It starred Billy Crudup and Jeff Goldblum and I think a lot of tourists thought it would be a big thrill to see some movie stars in a play. You should have seen the looks on their faces when they exited the theater. They looked like they just got mugged. Not all theater is sissy stuff.