The Unbearable Banishment: February 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011


We had a big-ass wind storm and it took down a huge pine tree in the neighbor's yard. Here's the view from our side.

It just happened to fall in the right direction (meaning, away from us). It wiped out his fence and fell against the garage. It's currently resting along the length of his driveway.

The Daughters had to climb on and examine the damage. They thought it was "cool." It wouldn't have been so cool if it had fallen in the opposite direction. In that case, it would have crashed right into our dining room.

A branch raked a big hole into the wall of his garage. The gash looks like the hull of the Titanic, post iceberg.

The backstory is that less than six days prior to this, a construction company finished putting new siding on our house. It cost many x $1,000 and it really made me wonder about the science of chance and probability. All this tree had to do was fall in a different direction and we'd have had a major calamity on our hands.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Manly men doing mainly manly things

Last season I saw Lombardi, a play about legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi. It was pretty great stuff but both Mrs. Wife and I couldn't imagine who, other than myself, would be interested in both football and plays.

Well, Lombardi is an unexpected hit. The fact that the Packers won the Super Bowl was an unforeseen bit of good fortune. This might have encouraged the Producing Powers That Be because I just saw another drama that drips testosterone. This time, they're mounting a production that doesn't include any female characters! At least Lombardi's wife was major role.

That Championship Season is still in previews and has not been reviewed yet, so I don't know what I should think.

Just kidding. It was pretty great stuff. A championship-winning basketball team reunites and every one of them is living a deeply flawed life—especially the coach, who is supposed to be their moral compass and mentor. Anti-champions. There's copious amounts of drinking—an amount that stretches credibility.

Keefer Sutherland plays against type as a milk toast junior high school principal. I'm not a huge Chris Noth fan—he tends to be kind of flat—but he showed some real fire. Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan embodies the soft victim. (Although, he couldn't come up with real tears when the script called for it. I hate fake crying on stage. Amateur!) Brian Cox is a British national treasure. He's never bad in anything. [He pulls off an authentic American accent. The next night, I saw him in the movie Red where he dons a convincing Russian accent. What a champ!]

Jason Patrick is also stellar. The added dimension is that this play was written by his father, Jason Miller. Imagine being on the big stage speaking dialogue that your father wrote. It's a thrill that not many will experience. It's a shame his dad isn't alive to see it.

Trivia factoid: Sutherland and Patrick are reunited from the vampire film The Lost Boys, which my brother cleverly rechristened The Lost Boy Models.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Red hot MoMA: A photo essay

Were you expecting something salacious? Well you can forget it. This time.

Nothing will drive you stir crazy quicker than a three-day weekend in the middle of a cold, dark February. If you don't get the hell out of the house you'll be driven mad and you might start picking off your family.

I dragged everyone into the Museum of Modern Art for the afternoon. The Daughters are still too young to have any real appreciation for what they're seeing—to them, there's no difference between what they see at MoMA and a poster they'd see in a restaurant—but I'm trying to plant little seeds of corruption. Plus, I get in free with my corporate ID. A real value, since admission is up to $20 bucks per adult!

There's a big, BIG Abstract Expressionist exhibit running through April 25th. I'm not a huge Abstract Expressionist fan, but it's as important a gathering of these works as you'll ever see under one roof in your lifetime, so it's worth a visit.

The first thing I did was hit 'em with an uppercut—Marcel Duchamp's readymade sculpture Bicycle Wheel. I tried to explain how anything can be art and that it's all very subjective and in the eye of the beholder, etc., etc. Then I started to bore myself, had mercy on them, and kept my mouth shut.

There's a long room with a Monet water lilies triptych along one wall. The museum cleverly set a bench in front of it so people could sit and zone out. It really does calm your nerves and makes you yearn for a mug of warm milk and honey.

"Mommy, is that woman drowning?"
"Because Brad broke her heart."

I was standing off to the side and overheard 9-Year Old Daughter explain to 4-Year Old Daughter that the artist put the canvas on the floor and dribbled paint all over it. Muuhahaha! My work is almost complete.

There's a room full of Mark Rothko's work. I like him a lot. He has one painting that he did over and over and over again, but it's a good painting! (Kind of like the Rolling Stones, who have been reworking that one song for decades.) I heard a story once that some of Rothko's works are done on untreated canvases and are simply fading away and cannot be saved. Can anyone confirm that?

The museum is an exhausting experience. Even *I* get wiped out after a while! But I choose to think of this as their commentary on these goddamn Ad Reinhardt monochrome paintings. ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz.

The most beautiful work of art is, of course, the city itself. I think the MoMA architects knew that and created these windows that look like picture frames.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

New York City's BEST doctor referral service

Foot pain?



Would you like to know where to get the best treatment for these and a host of other maladies? Just hop on the uptown IRT subway to 42nd street.

I find the snoring ad particularly effective. It can kill you! is so melodramatic.

The subways are a chocked-full of useful information. Get healthier. Forge ahead in your career or start a new one. Find a divorce attorney. Do any of you ex-New Yorkers remember Dr. Zizmor? A local icon. "You can have beautiful, clear skin!"

* * *

Look at this poor bastard.

I took this in the theater the other night. It's the Worst. Comb-over. Ever. He worked that pathetic little thing over and over, getting it in just the right spot.

I don't think women have any idea how much some men suffer for their hair loss. Mine is prematurely graying, but I don't care if it turns purple. As long as it doesn't fall out. If it did, I'd embrace it and go bald.
Of course, I went to law school and took a law degree
And counseled all my clients to plead insanity
Then worked in hair replacement, swindling the bald
Where very few are chosen and fewer still are called

Then on to Monte Carlo to play chemin de fer
I threw away the fortune I made transplanting hair
I put my last few francs down on a prostitute
Who took me up to her room to perform the flag salute
Mr. Bad Example
Warren Zevon

Man, I'll never write that well. Not many will.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Jimmy Bastard and his Rasputin-like qualities

Did you guys know that Jimmy is back? I just found out!

Welcome home, you auld tarnished soul. It's good to see you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Drunken renaissance man

Many of you already know that Charles Bukowski was a pretty decent short story writer and poet. But were you also aware that he was an artist of little renown? It's true! Writing. Painting. Drinking. Fighting with women. Working menial jobs. That guy stretched himself pretty thin throughout his long life. In my column on collecting rare books in the February issue of the Undie Press, I reveal more of my fucked-up past and somehow manage to tie it all into some paintings by Bukowski that I own.

# # #

Over this past weekend, Mrs. Wife and I finally saw The Social Network. For some unexplainable reason, it left me feeling smugly satisfied that I don't have a Facebook account. As though my neglect was a dangerous act of rebellion. My rational for ignoring Facebook has always been that maintaining a blog is egomaniacal enough. (Also, I don't need Facebook to constantly remind me of how few "friends" I have.)

For the record, my last act of rebellion prior to ignoring Facebook was waiting as long as I did to get married and have children.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Foreign tongues

Years ago, 9-Year Old Daughter used to watch a show called Dora the Explorer. It was a program designed to teach rudimentary Spanish to Caucasian suburbanite children. I thought it was a pretty clever use of programming for the pre-K set. I reasoned that aside from English, Spanish would be the most useful language learn.

Flash to four years later.

I was walking though the family room and 4-Year Old Daughter was watching TV. It was another foreign language primer but it wasn't Dora or her cousin Diego. She was watching Ni Hao, Kai-Lan. This program teaches basic Chinese words and phrases to children. Boy if THAT isn't a sign of the times! (Ni Hao = hello and Kai-Lan is the character.)

I find this all a bit unsettling. I'm not a fan of China. The government is one of the most corrupt and oppressive on the planet. China's economic success is built on stolen and pirated American technology. They are guilty of keeping the Yuan artificially low on the international currency markets, the result of which is contributing to a sustained high unemployment rate for the world and an overheated inflation-prone economic headache for them. And don't get me started on their bullshit Olympics with their computer-generated fireworks cute girl lip-synching "Ode to the Motherland."

On a personal note, not long ago I worked for a woman who was Chinese. She was the stereotypical high strung, shrill-voiced, joyless, workaholic, dragon lady slave master. She was single-handedly responsible for nine months of unrelenting misery.

So I'd prefer that my daughter not develop warm feelings for China or its culture. Does anyone know how to say "bugger off, Kai-Lan" in Cantonese?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Semolina pilchard

I don't attend many musicals. They're not my thing. I quite enjoyed Avenue Q a few weeks ago but I went by invitation so that doesn't really count. But I couldn't resist the special offer of a $19.64 ticket to see Rain, the Beatles tribute show at the Brooks Atkinson.

They were celebrating the anniversary of The Beatles coming to America in 1964. Get it? I'd see pretty much anything for $19.64. I'd even see Spider-Man!

The producers, cleverly, assume that everyone knows the history of The Beatles and dispenses with any kind of plot. It's purely a concert production and whether or not you enjoy it depends entirely on how much you like The Beatles. (A pretty obvious indictment but it needed to be said.) Well, I like The Beatles a lot so I had a fine time.

I don't think the actors resembled The Beatles in the least, despite the wigs and copious amounts of make-up. Joey Curatolo, the Paul McCartney doppelganger, looked a bit like him. But if you close your eyes and listen, they sound just like The Beatles. There were a few moments of real brilliance and they were masters of their instruments. They worked hard to pull the audience in.

They ran through The Beatles catalog in chronological order cherry picking a few songs from each album. There were a few breaks for costume changes. They ran the gamut from skinny ties to collarless jackets all they way through the Sgt. Pepper outfits, which looked terrific.

Does anyone know where I got the title for this post? No cheating!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I try to keep things light and airy around these parts. There are plenty of bloggers out there who do an excellent job of pointing out what a foul place this world is. I don't need to pile on. For the most part, I stay away from politics. I'm not a deep thinker and do not aspire to be one. I limit my posts to this city I love, the foibles of parenthood and an occasional theater or art review.

But those dirty, rotten mothers in Afghanistan got to me.

I recently read an article that left me on a high heat stewing in my juices. Have you guys ever heard the term bacha bazi? It translates to "boy play." Apparently, it's part of Afghan Army culture to take boys from their families, some as young as nine, dress them as girls and train them to dance for an audience of men. They are then auctioned off into prostitution to the highest bidder. Many of the customers are powerful military commanders and upper echelon members of the police force. They dress them in uniforms and are kept as sex slaves.

This custom is said to be over 300 years old. The former Governor of the Kandahar Province has been routinely seen at public events with teenage boys in tow, some of them in heavy makeup. Officials denied that they were bacha bazi.

This isn't the Taliban! These are supposed to be the good guys! In fact, not only does the Taliban condemn this practice, they intervened in a fight between two pedophile warlords over a coveted "dancing boy." This is who America has gone bankrupt fighting for. We've lost thousand of young soldiers defending this way of life.

The United Nations has stepped in and is trying to halt not only this atrocity, but also the practice of recruiting children into the police force. Good luck turning back 300 years of tradition. I'm sure that'll go over well.

Please spare me any comments about how I need to respect the way other people have lived for hundreds of years. They're animals. I do not understand some aspects of Mideastern culture. So many facets of it are depraved. The women are treated like a piece of property. You can still go to jail for being gay.

I'm officially against the war. Pull our troops out, cut 'em loose and let them slaughter each other for all I care. Barbarians.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Gift-bearing Kiwi invades New York

Lots of folks threaten to come to New York and share a libation with me but only a brave few have followed through. So far.

Dinah of More Idle Thoughts, who was born in New Zealand but moved to London and finally settled in Australia, is in Brooklyn for a six week cat-sitting gig. Lucky her!

The Brooklyn Bridge just before sunset (on the Brooklyn side). Note the beautiful cathedral window cutouts in the stanchion and the spider-web cables.

She's staying in Brooklyn Heights, which is a beautifully preserved neighborhood just off the Brooklyn Bridge. All those years I lived in New York I fantasized about living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights but I was denied that pleasure.

I haven't been out to eat in Brooklyn for quite some time so I asked four people for a recommendation and each of them said the exact same thing; Noodle Pudding. It's a terrible, terrible name for a very nice Italian restaurant. I had a lovely risotto with sausage. She was nice enough to gift me this incredible print she made. She lugged it all the way form Oz! Inscribed it to boot!

You meet some very nice people, who have some very interesting stories to tell, from blogging. When someone comes to New York and takes the time to look me up, I feel a special responsibility to show the city in its best light. It's a happy challenge.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On a Daptone Saturday night

Mrs. Wife and I had a proper night out last Saturday. We saw Daptone recording artists Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. Ever hear of 'em? Fantastic. They're funk/soul/rhythm and blues masters. The Dap-Kings are the band you hear backing Amy Winehouse on her stunning Back to Black album. We saw them, appropriately enough, at the beautifully refurbished Count Basie Theater.

It's a big show with a dozen people on stage. It's an old-style R&B review with a Master of Ceremonies, opening acts and members of the band given solo turns. But Sharon Jones is the real master. It's been a long, long time since I've seen someone work a crowd the way she did. She told a great story about how she honed her skills in a wedding band. The band was a bunch of Italians and initially there was some push-back when the leader wanted to hire her. He told his band mates, "I can hire a white girl, but none of them can sing like SHE can." That settled that.

If they come within shouting distance of your town, do yourself (and your soul) a huge favor and go see them. I guarantee you an unforgettable night. Here's their tour schedule. Lucky Clevelanders can see them this Saturday night at the Beachland Ballroom. I have half a mind to drive out there and take in the show. And I'm not kidding. Here they are on a segment from Later with Jools Holland. By all means, turn it up, baby.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Where the New York City winters aren't bleeding me

Last spring I assured The Daughters that they'd never see another winter like the one we just had. It was indescribably brutal. Mother Nature has, of course, made a complete liar out of me. Once again, we are being hammered with storm after storm. Today and tomorrow is a hellish mix of rain, sleet, freezing rain and snow. I feel the punishment but I can't connect the sin.

The New York Times always finds interesting and elegant ways to describe the storm du jour. This last winter blast was described as "...a giant white smudge over the Northeast on radar maps." Sheer poetry!

Here are some pics. These were taken in Soho where my offices are.

I was particularly struck by the contrast of the white branches against the red brick.

You can't really tell but that's the Empire State Building peeking between the clearing in the branches. All of these pics are clickable but if you only have time for one, look at this one.

I'd very much like to own that brownstone on the left. How charming! My library is on the third floor. Behind a locked door. No children allowed.

Average snowfall in January: 12.1 inches
Snowfall this January: 36 inches
Average annual snowfall: 22 inches
Amount through the end of January: 56.1 inches
And we still have February and March to go! Sweet Mother of GOD!

You won't see tranquil scenes like this in midtown.

Am I the only one who's amazed that I can buy a bananaa tropical fruitin the middle of Manhattan the day after a major blizzard? Ponder that for a moment. From a historical standpoint, it wasn't that long ago that such a thing was unthinkable. The world has shrunk and we're all better off for it, if you ask me.

Poor bicycle. Dead and buried. See you in June.