The Unbearable Banishment: October 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another cell phone imbecile

Cell phones are here to stay. I'm trying not to sound dramatic but I think that, for many people, giving up their cell phone would be akin to kicking heroin. They are permanently weaved into the fabric of society, so should I just accept them. [By the way, I think that the UK/Euro "mobile" phone is a far more apt term. We should adapt it here.]

But vent, I must.

On my way out of the city I stumbled across this imbecile. She's holding a conversation on one phone, while having a separate texting conversation on a second. Why do I let this stuff get under my skin? She's not bothering me. Proof positive that I am a curmudgeon. You can take the boy out of the city, etc.

I showed these pics to Mrs. Wife and she said, "What's the big deal? One phone is probably for business and the other is personal." And I get that. But I see this sort of gadget-overload with increasing frequency and it worries me. What are we turning into? Hasn't the promise of new technology always been to make our lives easier and set us free? Look at this poor thing! She's enslaved by technology. She'd probably have a public meltdown if both batteries died simultaneously.

I'm still not very good at meditation, even though I've been doing it for a few years. But occasionally, I catch a wave. I can't tell you how refreshing it is to empty all the noise out of your head and sit in perfect silence, do nothing and, best of all, think nothing. It's a peace you'll never experience while juggling cell phone conversations.

* * *

As long as I'm on an anti-technology kick...

This has been floating around in the ether for a while now. Have you seen it? It's a spoof of Facebook users and it's hysterical. Everyone is reduced to a nice, neat stereotype. Breeder Betsy. Alcoholic Alice. Perfect Pam. etc. Each funny comment is posted by "The Enabler."

The sad part, the part that resonates with me, is the true part. Let's face it; reading a book is a lot more work than going on Facebook. But just think of how rich our lives would be if we all put down our gadgets and read more.

Recently, on the way home from the city, I sat next to a guy who spent half the ride scrolling through Facebook and the other half playing games on his phone. He could be reading On The Road. And I'll bet he'd love it. But Facebook is easier. And after a hard day of counting beans and pushing buttons, who wants to work more?


Do I make fun of the girl above and mock people on Facebook because I'm jealous? I don't have a Facebook account. I don't need a website to constantly remind me of how few friends I have. I can count them on one hand and have a few fingers to spare. The girl above is sustaining two conversations. I, on the other hand, got my new phone in May and haven't bothered to set up my voicemail because I never get any calls. So maybe this is all just a case of simple, human envy.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


What's this, then?! European banks have just agreed to forgive upwards of 50% of Greek debt in order to avoid a Euro meltdown? Isn't that just rewarding a bunch of lay-about tax dodgers for their bad behavior? Do you suppose I could get JPMorgan Chase to forgive 50% of the principal on my mortgage? Probably not. Foolish me for being responsible.

Didn't Germany do their due diligence before signing up for the Euro and see that the Grecian lifestyle model couldn't possibly sustain itself? Why would you marry your currency to a society whose people throw their tax bills in the furnace and close their businesses for months at at time? I see that the Greeks finally got up off their fat, lazy asses to protest austerity measures. Hey, Greece. You're a bunch of soft babies.

As of this typing, European markets are +5%an astonishing bump for one day. What do I know? Apparently, nothing.

* * *

I was scouring the help wanteds and came across a position that included the following in the description:

Facilitate the transfer of knowledge.

Develop/execute winning pursuit strategies.

What the hell does that even mean?! What a bunch of corporate gobbledygook. I can't believe I'm trapped in this world. Why the hell didn't I learn to paint or play guitar or write? ANYTHING to have kept me out of this machine?

* * *

5th Avenue as a catwalk. I was visiting the Apple Store on 5th and 59th and stumbled across this cool model shoot.

I usually don't pay any mind to this sort of thing but the gowns were beautiful. I think they might have been wedding gowns. I'm not sure. They were shooting in front of Bergdorf Goodman.

Hey, Pat, does this take you back? The models were striking these crazy poses!

The photographer was standing across 5th Avenue right next to me and had to snap photos between waves of traffic.

Most people just kept walking and didn't pay any attention to them. Here, a woman hails a cab and takes no note. What a bunch of cool cumbers New Yorkers are.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The change of a season

After Steve Jobs passed away, these Post-It Note tributes popped up at Apple stores across the city. This is the Soho store. I thought the "sad Mac" was really clever.

* * *

I took 5-Year Old Daughter to the local town Halloween parade this afternoon. [9-Year Old was away at a birthday party at the Silverball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park. The Zombie Walk was also on tap for the Asbury Park boardwalk. I was wishing I was there.] After the parade, I watched some football. It is the clearest evidence yet that Fall has arrived. Time for thick sweaters, all-day pots of hot coffee and roast beef sandwiches. I love the change of the season and don't know how those who live in a uni-climate can stand it.

The suburbs have their Autumnal charms; the colorful leaves, the fragrance of burning leaves in the air, the hay rides and Fall festivals. New York City is lacking any of these natural beauties, but there's definitely a feeling of change in the air when Autumn arrives. Theater activity is picking up. [A play written by and starring Jesse Esienberg last week and Love's Labor's Lost at The Public this week.] I've posted this video for the past couple of years. Billie Holiday really captures the essence of walking through town on those shorter days and cooler nights.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Summer food fest photo follies

I did a big photo-dump of my iPhone and found a bunch of food shots taken over the summer. I had intended to provide my usual droll commentary for each but never got around to it. Does that happen to you? Do you have a big backlog of material that never actually makes it to Publish Post? I think I throw away more than I post. Lucky for you.

Summer is synonymous with eating scrumptious dishes that might not necessarily be in my best interest from a health and wellness standpoint. I should be more mindful of what I put in my body since I have very young children and need to be around for a few more decades. It doesn't help that I bought our healthcare plan from some guy in the Times Square subway station who was selling policies off a card table. But I simply CANNOT HELP MYSELF when faced with these masterpieces of culinary artistic endeavor. These hard/bad choices are almost exclusively related to our annual trip to Cleveland. Make of that what you will.

It's probably because it's what I was raised on, but I feel there's no better pizza than what's served on the great North Coast of Ohio. The style of crust in Cleveland is thicker than the weak, thin-crust variety served on the eastern seaboard, but it's not nearly as thick as Chicago deep dish pizza. Like it's place on the map, Cleveland crust is somewhere between the two.

This is the supreme-ninja-grandmaster-combo of all time; pepperoni, anchovies and onions. I'll bet you're having trouble breathing right now, aren't you? Back in New Jersey I am surrounded by the IRISH, who apparently have a broad cultural disdain for the delicioso tiny, salty fish, so the only time I ever actually GET an anchovy pie is in Cleveland amongst my Italian brethren. You can't have everything. The Italians are lousy playwrights.

For years, I have been writing ad nauseam about my bro-in-law's ribs. Their miraculous quality. The soulful essence that billows up from the grill when he lifts the lid. They have a narcotic, almost addictive quality. This past summer's batch were, as always, perfection and grace. It's October and I'm still having dreams about these beauties.

There was a new item on the menu this summer. He served homemade baked beans. He MADE them! I always assumed baked beans came from a can. I didn't know you could actually make the damn things from scratch. Boy, did they taste better than the ones that come dribbling out of a can. They looked more enticing, too. Just out of camera range: a bottle of Dortmunder Gold from the Great Lakes Brewing Company. Viva!

If I'm clutching a big fist full of Clevo ribs, that can only mean one thing; the marinara sauce is only a day or two away. I know the "old-world recipe handed down through the generations" is a tired, worn-out cliché, but that's exactly what you're looking at here, folks. It migrated over from Calabria, through Ellis Island to Cleveland, then to my grandmother, then mother and now sister. That's how it's done! One of my nieces had better learn how to make this. There'll be a pop quiz one day.

No, I didn't arrange the sausage and meatballs on my plate like that intentionally. I didn't even notice it until just now. What would Freud say?

Mom's parents immigrated from Italy but Dad's parents immigrated from Poland. Growing up, we weren't as steeped in Polish cuisine as we were Italian, but I still have a soft spot on my palate for it. The perogies that come off of Grandma Ski's Polish Food truck at the Cuyahoga County Fair are pretty much an exact replica of the ones that Grandma P used to make. As a child, I didn't have a great affinity for them and turned my nose up. But now, I gladly pay good money for something that was once free.

Take a look at "Grandma Ski." It looks like Grandma Ski can set up a little side business as an arc welder or mob enforcer.

After your big, heavy County Fair perogie orgy, for desert you can treat yourself to one of these:
Or not. NEW taste sensation, indeed.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brush with death

I was knocked on my ass with the flu all weekend. All my life I've had a fairly healthy constitution and never had a propensity to get sick. Since I have no benchmark for what it's like to be really ill, something like the flu seems cataclysmic to me. But this was a bad one. I didn't leave my bed for two days and was delirious.

I slept for astonishingly long periods of time. I occupied a half awake/half asleep dream state whereby I could hear things going on around me but couldn't respond to any of it. I looked really, really bad and was moaning a lot. At one point, 9-Year Old Daughter walked up to me and asked, in all seriousness, "Dad, are you going to die?"

I was tossing in bed having one of my torturous fever-dreams. Mrs. Wife and the two Daughters were gone from my life. Just like that! Pfft! No reason was provided by the devils sticking forks in me. Someone walked up and asked me, "Do you feel liberated?" I knew what he meant. And I thought about it. And my answer welled up from the part of me that was still of sound mind and I yelled at him, "No! Bring them back immediately!"

* * *

I started feeling dizzy on Friday night while in a Broadway house seeing Venus in Fur. If you were in the audience for that performance and don't feel quite up to par, you can blame me.

Hugh Dancy is such a good actor. He holds his place on a stage well. Not just a pretty boy. He turned out an exhausting, effective performance. But here's his problem: The show is a two-hander and he's sharing the stage with a newbie just out of acting school named Nina Arianda and she is a friggin' firecracker. She spends long swaths of the show in black leather and lace underthings seducing him and, I felt, me. It's hard to take your (my) eyes off of her. What I did see of Dancy was great. It's a play about control. Who has it. What are you willing to give it up for. It'll be interesting to see if any community theaters have the guts to put this on.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unbearable recommendation

Every time I pull the bucket up from the well of inspiration it's bone dry. Not a drop in it! Until that resolves itself, have a look at The Last Mortician, by writer Tim Hall and Emmy-winning cartoonist Dean Haspiel. Set the creepy meter to 11.

* * *
Random NYC iPhone photo.

The New York Times headquarters with taxi cabs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steel ribbon

If you scroll down a bit, you'll see a post about the current "big space" exhibit at MoMA, which struck me as being somewhat bland and uninspired. Here, on the other hand, is how it's done.

The Gagosian gallery on 24th Street just opened Junction/Cycle, a thrill ride by Richard Serra. It's another of his room-filling steel ribbon sculptures. I love this guy's work. I pinched this first photo from the NY Times to give you a view from above that was not available to me. It affords some perspective on the scale and mass of the piece. The rest of these pics are mine.

The gallery is filled with huge, gently curved, slabs of steel. The metal is oxidized so it has a soft orange tint to it. We went on a sunny Saturday afternoon and the natural light pouring in made it glow where the sun hit it and cast dark shadows around corners.

I saw the piece he did at MoMA in 2007 and this one is even better. It fits beautifully into this gallery space. Again, 10,000 thank-yous to the Gagosian, who constantly puts on these fantastic exhibits for free. The Gagosian is not a museum but it continues to behave like one.

I was almost maniacally adamant to Mrs. Wife that we bring the girls in to see this. We are very fortunate to have this at our doorstep. I argued that not exposing them to stuff like this would boarder on irresponsible parenting. That may sound like a lot of histrionics but I really feel that way.

Besides, if you live in reasonably close proximity to this, have even a modicum of interest but don't bother to go, then all you're doing is suffering the high cost of living in this area without taking advantage of what's so great about it.

There are narrow passageways that can only be entered single file that open into winding orange canyons. The urge to reach out and touch the metal is overwhelming but there are security guards posted who prevent people from putting their oily, dirty hands on it. I completely understand. Can you imagine what this piece would look like after two months if thousands of people ran their fingers along it?

All apologies, as I went slightly overboard with the photos and a brief video at the end, but this exhibit loves the camera.

I hope you're looking at these on a proper monitor, as opposed to a smart phone.

This exhibit just opened and is up through November 26th. It's a shame they couldn't leave it up through the Christmas holiday. I'll make an effort to see it again before it closes.

My last two years have been a terrible struggle. My insufferably long commute is finally starting to grind me down, as is the relentless, ongoing search for permanent work. I'm grateful to be gainfully employed and love the work I'm doing right now, but consulting is not what I want. There are other difficulties that don't make their way into this blog because they're none of your business. But afternoons like this, to steal from Charles Bukowski:

...lift me high through the night
and put me down
in a better


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do I have latent homophobic tendencies?

The Great Gay White Way.

I saw a fantastic new play at the Roundabout Theater. Sons of the Profit is still in previews and it'll be interesting to see what the critics say once it opens. I always like to have my opinion validated by the professionals, although sometimes it works the other way around. I loved Enron but it closed the week after it opened. What do I know?

Sons of the Profit is a well-written and superbly acted comedy/drama. Some of the plot elements regarding an aging family member in declining health hit a little too close to home for comfort, but most of it was very funny with a whip-smart script by Stephan Karam. I'd like to see it again to catch the punchlines I missed.

Here's what concerns me: There was a gay make-out scene, which typically isn't a big deal. But I suddenly found myself surprisingly uncomfortable watching two dudes paw at each other. This discomfort came out of nowhere! I've seen the original production of Angels in America and many other gay librettos and never gave this sort of thing a second thought. But this time, it pulled me out of the story and made me want to thumb through my Playbill until the scene ended.

Does that mean I have latent homophobic tendencies? Because all of a sudden I don't want to watch two guys make-out? I hope not! (Two girls making out is a completely different matter.) I reject the notion that it makes me uncomfortable because I might actually BE gay. All those decades in Manhattan afforded me plenty of opportunities to experiment, but it never interested me. I told one of my gay friends what happened and he suggested, in all seriousness, that I watch a bunch of gay porn to "desensitize" myself. What an idiot.

* * *

Speaking of gay theater, Mrs. Wife and I saw Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I won tickets in a trivia contest. I'll see pretty much anything for free.

It seems mean spirited to say anything bad about it. It tries so hard to be a happy, crowd-pleasing show, but I'm not the target audience. I'm not big into musicals and the songs played throughout the show are the big disco hits that, when played on the radio, cause me to turn the station. So, IF you like drag queens to the 10th power and IF It's Raining Men makes you want to wave your hands above your head and IF you like to see what a costume designer's acid trip looks like, you'll love this show. The best part of the evening was being out with my lovely bride on her birthday, who seemed to enjoy herself tremendously.

Sitting next to us was a woman who brought her two children. By children, I mean they were so young that in order to see the stage, they needed those plastic booster seats that theaters keep on hand. This is NOT a show for toddlers! What the fuck is wrong with people? I wonder if mommy had to explain why the woman was shooting ping pong balls out of her vagina into the audience or why the man was wearing a silver panties and a bra ensemble?


* * *

Look at this crazy picture Mrs. Wife took of me in Times Square just before the curtain of Priscilla. It looks like my big Polish kielbasa fell out of my pants!

It isn't Aul' Cyclops and it isn't Photoshop trickery, either. It's someone's leg!

They walked behind me just as she took the photo. When she saw it, she was laughing hysterically and claiming she didn't do it on purpose, but I know better. You can't fool me. I've been married a long time.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

My last column

For the past year, I've written a monthly column over at the Undie Press on collecting rare books. Specifically, I tried to convey why certain authors got under my skin and how I obtained some of the more rare pieces in my library. The quality of the column was uneven but overall I am pleased with the results. Having a monthly column taught me that a deadline can suck all the joy out of writing.

This month will be my final column. Undie Press is moving towards more traditional long-form publishing (as opposed to monthly bits and bites). Also, I've pretty much exhausted the subject of egomaniacally prattling on about my books.

Explicit warning: This last column contains nudity and sexual situations. Hence, it is one of my best. I'm glad to go out on a high note. Bukowski's Admirers is about how literary fame changed an alcoholic, pock-marked Charles Bukowski into an object of desire.

Many thanks to Tim Hall, Undie Press editor and publisher extraordinaire, for the opportunity.