The Unbearable Banishment: June 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When a Man Likes a Woman*

*With apologies to Percy Sledge.

I was scheduled to meet my pal, Jane, at an Irish/Manhattan after-work watering hole. I've known her for many, many years and we like to drink. She almost married a friend of mine. Personally, I think she dodged a bullet. We hang out as often as we can. I cannot tell you how liberating it is to go out drinking with a girl and have absolutely no sexual tension in the room to distract and muck things up. We've never had any sparks between us and because of that or, perhaps, despite it, we've become the bestest of pals. It's a very satisfying friendship. She's got her husband. I've got Mrs. Wife. No problems! It's great! Hombres, if you can pull it off, I highly recommend it. You can say stuff to a girl you're not trying to seduce that you can't say to your guy friends or to a girl who you would like to seduce.

She's a news editor at one of the major networks and is often sent to far-off, sometimes exotic, locals. It's almost always in relation to some kind of disaster, so she's got great stories to tell, although she complains about the constant travel. My work is so boring compared to hers.

The nature of her work often results in last-minute cancellations because she needs to chase a story. It happened a few nights ago. Since I was granted the night off and it was such a pretty evening, instead of rushing back to New Jersey, I went down to the World Financial Center at the southern tip of Manhattan to hear some music. During the summer months, there are dozens of outdoor free concerts littered all over New York. I saw blues musician Angelo M and his trio. It was very satisfying. I love watching an accomplished guitarist play up close. I like to see his fingers dance on the fretboard.

Here are some random shots I took of the World Financial Center. Just to compare/contrast, here's what the big glass Atrium looked like immediately after 9/11. What a mess!

I'm happy to report that it's been restored to its original grandeur. I hope you're looking at these through a nice, big, bright monitor.

The construction project peeking out in the center is the new Freedom Tower. Christ, I hate that name. It's too jingoistic for my tastes. It reminds me too much of Freedom Fries. But it's an architectural home run. Wait 'till you see it.

Bonus pic with lovely contrasting angles.

While listening to the music, I bought a couple of tacos and a bottle of beer. Delicioso! I ate them at a little table under a tree, Hudson River to my back, blues solos in front of me. They gave me one of those little packets with a cloth wipe inside for clean-up. I flipped it over and was shocked to see this:

Directions?! Is there someone out there who doesn't realize you need to open the packet and remove the moist towelette? Are they rubbing the packet on their hands wondering why they're not getting any cleaner? I'll bet this wrapper edict was a mandate handed down by some desk monkey in Compliance.

* * *

Ad from last week's Sunday New York Times Book Review:

Two HOT Summer Reads!

Contracts in the Real World (Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter)


The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America

My God. I think they're serious.

* * *

Can anyone tell me why my dog likes to roll in feces? What abhorrent behavior! It sickens me a little bit. I keep telling you...cats, cats, cats is the way to go.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Black heart

For, lo, these past 14 years, my mother- and father-in-law have, basically, tolerated my existence. They see that I adore their daughter and love their granddaughters more than life itself and for that I get a pass. They’re pleasant enough to me. We have an amicable relationship. But I’m fairly certain that if, God forbid, anything ever happened to Mrs. Wife and I, not only would I never hear from them again, they’d probably take me to court and litigate to get their name back. [For recent arrivals, I took her name when we got married.]

In the beginning…

I never asked my father-in-law for permission to marry Mrs. Wife. The thought never occurred to me! Who the hell asks for permission anymore?! (Actually, my brother-in-law did, that boy scout. I’d love to resent him for it but he’s one of the nicest, funniest people I’ve ever met so I can’t.). They are olde world traditionalists and it rubbed them the wrong way. A tone was set that hasn’t changed much over the years. I tend to walk on egg shells around them. I probably always will. It’s exhausting. In my defense, my mother-in-law was recently lamenting the fact that because of a demographic shift here in the U.S., there are now more minority babies being born than white babies. So there‘s that to take into consideration.

They came over on Father’s Day for dinner. All I wanted was for everything to be perfect. I wanted the food to be perfect. I wanted the conversation to be pleasant. I wanted The Daughters to display perfect table manners (no picking up food with their hands!) and I wanted the dog to leave them the hell alone. (My mother-in-law doesn’t like dogs.) It’s nearly impossible to pull off perfection, particularly  when you’re as deeply flawed an individual as I am.

I cooked a London broil on the grill. I’ve done this dozens of times. It’s not that hard. But I looked at this thick piece of meat, it looked back at me, and I knew it was going to be a fight to the death. I slapped that motherfucker on the grill and it just would not cook properly. I weighed my options; serve a dried up, burnt hunk of shoe leather or serve a piece of road kill.

All the side dishes were ready so I took it into the kitchen and carved that bad boy up. I wouldn’t say it was raw necessarily, but it wasn't done. But once you carve into a piece of meat, you can’t put it back on the grill. You’ll torch it. I threw a childish hissy fit directed at my bride, who did nothing whatsoever to deserve it. I put it on a platter and marched out to the patio. Judgment Day.

Outside, the dog was being a puppy. She’s only, what?, seven months old? What can you expect? Running around in circles, under the table, jumping up and being a pain in the ass. When I sat down to eat, I was stewing in my raw meat juices and trying to watch every word that came out of my mouth.

The dog, about 25 feet away, started digging a hole in my grass. Dogs are genetically predisposed to dig. They can‘t help themselves. But I don’t want my yard torn up and yelling “STOP!“ didn’t do the trick so I lost my cool, took off my flip-flop and tossed it at her.

I have no athleticism. ZERO. I have, literally, never played a game of basketball, football or baseball in my life. I never learned how and no one bothered to teach me. I used to bowl a decent game but not anymore. (Does that even count? Bowling?) When I throw, I look like someone having an epileptic fit.

That damn flip-flop sailed across the yard and connected with laser, pinpoint accuracy. Best throw of my life. The dog yelped. I didn’t hurt her, but it sure scared the hell out of her. My beautiful 10-Year Old Daughter, whom I would give up my rotten life for, burst into tears. I hurt her dog. What a man I was (am). She got up from the table and ran into the house weeping. Mother- and father-in-law saw the whole sordid episode. Dinner and a show.

Then I felt it. It landed like a rouge wave wrecking the shoreline. It came from the dawn of time, through wars, petulance and across scorched earth that reeked of sulfur. It laid waste to civilizations sparing no innocents. Down to New Jersey and from the other side of the patio table where my in-laws sat: hatred. White, hot, hatred.

Of course, I apologized. Since then, the dog, my daughter and wife seem to have forgiven me. Daughter and dog run up to me when I walk in the door from work at night. Mrs. Wife still has dinner waiting for me on the table. But at night when I lie awake in bed staring into the dark, I am haunted by these images. I will be for the rest of my days. What kind of monster throws a flip-flop at a little girl’s dog and makes her cry? Happy Father’s Day, asshole.

Don't call me daughter
not fit to.
The picture kept
will remind me.

P.S. The meat continued to cook while I carved it and it was actually not that bad. Of course.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cool cat, looking for a kitty

Take a look at this hot mess:

There’s no heat like midtown Manhattan heat. The glass skyscrapers reflect the sunlight down onto the sidewalk and cook your ass. Underground, the air conditioned subways suck all the hot air out of the cars, expel it into the stations and back out onto the street. If you walk over a sidewalk grate as a train is pulling into a station, you'll be treated to a blast of hot air up your pant leg (or skirt). Add generous gulps of bus and taxi exhaust and, dammit, you feel alive. On my lunch hour, I’m going to Central Park to watch the carriage horses pass out onto 59th Street.

The only remedy is this…

An option not available to poor, working class stiffs like your humble author.

*     *     *

It’s summer intern season here at the financial institution I work at. I love the summer interns. They’re so bright and enthusiastic. They radiate life and youth. Up to this point, their whole world has been the vacuum of academia. They have zero real-world experience. Perhaps a summer job here or there, but nothing relevant. We were showing off a certain piece of software's more efficient properties to one eager, red suspendered, young buck and he excitedly said, “That is so money!” He used “money” as an adjective. It made my molars grind but I didn’t say anything. He could end up being my boss one day.

There’s a specific type of young gun who makes it through the vetting process and is selected to intern. They’re excellent students from top-tier schools who, for the most part, have never heard the word “no.” They've never suffered a broken heart. And I'm not talking about a twee, adolescent, Hallmark greeting card college romance. (True! Love! Always!) I mean an adult haymaker, like a divorce or wayward spouse. They’ve never experienced a significant personal or professional setback. Life’s been grand! I’m cordial but I don’t say much to them. I wouldn’t want to spoil any of the surprises that are just around the corner.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mish mash mosh

There's a lot of mush slopping around inside my head but none of it feels worthy of fleshing out for an individual post. On Abbey Road, The Beatles took several half-finished song fragments and turned them into what is now considered a medley masterpiece. I'm going to co-opt that idea and maybe make one halfway entertaining post out of a bunch of flotsam and jetsam.

*     *     *

Is there a handy guy or gal out there who can give me some painting tips? Why is this always happening to me?

WHY IS IT that when I pull off the painter's masking tape, it takes some of the paint with it? I wait 24 hours until it's dry but it still happens every single time.

I thought this shit was supposed to be super non-adhesive to prevent this sort of thing from happening? I always end up with a lot of extra touch-up work when any normal handy guy or gal would be done. It's annoying.

*     *     *

Fashion catastrophe #1.

This is bad, right? You shouldn't wear socks with sandals. And isn't wearing socks that color-coordinate with your sandals just adding insult to injury? I showed this to my friend and he said that no man, under any circumstances, should wear sandals in the first place. [Sheepishly admits to owning sandals.]

*     *     *

Rooting for the New York Yankees to win is like rooting for Goldman Sachs to post record profits in the third quarter.

*     *     *

Do you remember the Wantologist nonsense from the previous post? Well, here's another winning profession courtesy of, once again, the idiot features editor of The New York Times.

Lynsey Stone [already the "unique" spelling of her first name tells me what direction we're headed in] has morphed from ordinary photographer to a Birth Photographer. A Birth Photographer will rush to the hospital when a woman has dilated six centimeters. There's a growing demand to capture the blessed moment when the baby first appears and share those photos (where else?) on Facebook. The photos have to have artistic merit. Mere snapshots are inadequate.

A woman in Long Beach, California shelled out $1,895 to have the birth of her child documented. Quoteth her: "That moment when both my husband and I look to see what the sex is? That's something that I want to see happen." Can you imagine being married to that? The Birth Photographer interviewed spoke of "Divas" who insist that their faces be depicted from certain flattering angles.

I remember when I was in the delivery room when Daughter #2 arrived. During the labor, I whispered gently into Mrs. Wife's ear, "You're doing great. Breath." She looked over to me and said, "Will you shut up!?" No diva, she!

*     *     *

Fashion catastrophe #2.

I was waiting for my transport back to New Jersey after a long day in the salt mines and noticed a BIG spot on a shirt collar in front of me.

I zoomed in and saw that this guy had never removed the sales label.

Van Heusen classic fit. 17 34/35. What can we surmise? First, this guy isn't married. No wife would allow her husband to step out of the house looking like this. Also, I think we can assume that he's not very well liked at work. Shouldn't one of his colleagues tell him? I refuse to believe that nobody noticed. Now, that's just mean!

*     *     *

This is from when I flew over the snow-capped Rocky Mountains on my way to Las Vegas.

A good friend of mine recently pointed out that my Las Vegas trip was a month ago to the day. Is that all? It seems much, much longer than just a month. Time bends to its own will. Not yours.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Foolishness in black and white

The New York Times recently published an article by Alice Randall, who is an educator at Vandervilt, claiming that "four out of five black women are seriously overweight" because, among other reasons, it's "a part of black culture" to be fat. It's a conscious choice they make. She claims that many black men worry that their women's weight will drop below 200 pounds.

They're also making a political statement. A "...fat black woman can be a rounded opposite of the fit black slave." Their fatness is "an explicit political statement and active political resistance."

To her credit, she goes on to say that the black community is in crisis and that weight reduction needs to be made a priority. But I am aghast at this foolish intellectualization of the problem. Only an academic would come up with this kind of dizzy, misguided logic. I'm going to take a walk down to the Fulton Mall in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and ask the fattest black woman I can find if she's worried that losing weight will remind her of slavery.

The quasi-liberal in me is squirming at my keyboard. I've been conditioned to feel that any criticism of the black community equates to racism. Here in New York, you can be the most ardent supporter of Israel (Which I am. It's the only true Democracy in the middle east) but if you hazard to suggest that, perhaps, the West Bank land grab isn't in anyone's best interest, you're made to feel like an anti-Semite. Pretty clever.

The EXACT SAME DAY, the Times printed an article about Katherine Ziegler, who is a Wantologist. Do you know what Wantology is? Wantology is a new psychological practice that therapists and life coaches apply to help their patients figure out what they want in life. Through this miracle of science, "Dr." Ziegler was able to help one of her clients figure out that she wanted a bigger house.

The whole idea of a life coach has always made me kind of snicker, and this Wantology scam is the cherry on top. Do you know who has the disposable income and free time to employ life coaches and Wantologists? Wealthy, white, navel-gazers on the upper east side who have it so soft and easy that they can afford the luxury of introspection. Can you imagine things going so well that you got the blues because you couldn't figure out what you wanted in life? Personally, I'm too busy trying to insure that the mortgage gets paid on time. Once again, the Times distinguishes itself.

 * * * 

This canine has stolen my daughters away from me. I still don't have any warm feelings towards her, but I'm trying.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Another sign of the apocalypse

When it’s nice outside, I like to spend my lunch hour in Central Park. It can provide an instant and miraculous change of attitude after a stressful morning. It’s peaceful. It really is!

There are a few specific benches I like to occupy. One is by the pond near 59th Street. Another is in a bit deeper near Wollman Rink. I’ll read a book or text/chat with friends. It’s the quickest hour of my day.

I also like to sit near the 6th Avenue entrance and watch the tourists. They congregate there to rent bicycles or hire a Pedicab. They’re such a happy bunch! And why not? They’re on vacation.

You can also hire a handsome carriage, which is the quintessential Central Park experience. From my bench, I watch the plumed horses parade by and I catch snippets of the driver’s rehearsed Central Park history lesson. Why is a driver with an Irish accent more compelling to listen to that the others?

But what do we have here? Surrounded by friends and riding through Central Park on a beautiful, perfect, blue afternoon, he would rather BURY HIS FACE IN HIS iPAD than soak it all in.

Wife had to talk to the other couple to get any attention.

I couldn’t believe it. I watched as they slowly passed by with my big stupid mouth agape. He wasn’t taking photos. He never looked up once. Why would you even bring the damn thing with you?! And those carriage rides aren’t cheap. They’ll set you back about $80 bucks. He might just as well have stayed in his hotel room alone with his iPad. Or home. This isn't even the worst case. Yesterday, I saw a father and his young son in a carriage and Dear Old Dad never once looked up from his cell phone. It's what gave me the idea for this post. Seriously, earthlings, if we don’t change our ways, we’re doomed.

* * *

I recently finished re-reading Nabokov’s Lolita. I read it many years ago when I was in my 20s and remember it being not only astonishingly well written but also unexpectedly funny. Now that I have a 10-year old daughter, I didn’t think it was so goddamn funny. I was still impressed with how well it’s written. Some of the sentences are so perfectly constructed that I had to read them a few times before moving on.

The problem is the book’s reputation. A friend sent me an article about how difficult it is to design cover artwork that accurately reflects the story. Many of the jackets, and also the Stanley Kubrick movie from 1962, depict Lolita as a little sexpot. That is not the case at all. The story is much more horrible than that. She’s a 12-year old child who is held captive and repeatedly raped. It’s pretty rough stuff. "...and her sobs in the night—every night, every night—the moment I feigned sleep." What the hell was I thinking when I first read it? How did I ever get the impression it was funny?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Eat the rich

This is the lead from a story on the front page of the real estate section of the Sunday New York Times:
Charlene and Jon Simonian were longtime renters, occasionally looking for a place to buy. They got serious, but everything in Manhattan seemed too expensive. Until they found a three-bedroom condo at 1280 Fifth avenue. They bought it for $1,525,000, and moved in last spring. 
Is it the Simonian's textbook narcissism that I'm so annoyed at? [The article included a photo of them holding cups of tea and another of them on their balcony overlooking Central Park.] Their need to tell their tale in a public forum of a struggle against almost insurmountable odds? Their triumph over adversity? Thank heavens they found something within their meager budget. Good for you, Charlene and Jon! We all celebrate your success!

Or is it the New York Times itself, who likes to fancy itself as a populist publication and a champion for the common good, but then prints tripe like this?

Or is it my own insecurity? The fact that I will never have the wherewithal to plant my clan in a $1.5 million home?

I suspect it might be a combination of the three. I can tell you one thing for certain; it doesn't go well with coffee and a Hostess Ho-Ho on a Sunday morning.

*     *     *

I promise this is the last time I'll prattle on about Las Vegas. It was three weeks ago and I need to move on. I know. You don't have to say anything. But there was magic at my fingertips. I keep looking back in my mind's eye and I can still see it all so clearly. The focus is still sharp. It hasn't begun to blur yet. This isn't how I get to live all the time. I'm just regular.

I spent hours lounging on my balcony, day and night, and became lost in thought. This is extraordinary when you consider the fact that crap tables were only an elevator ride away and I am a borderline addict. I memorized the view. They had a nice chair and end table set that made it comfortable and hard to leave. I was entertainingly appalled by the gruesome lights and architecture, the fake Eiffel Tower and the dancing waters.

On my last night in town, I requested a wake-up call for 4:45 a.m. to catch a 7:30 flight. But I couldn't tear myself away and stayed out there just drifting until 3:30 a.m. It was a new sensation and I was afraid that if I stood up, opened the sliding door, went to bed and closed my eyes, it would all disappear like vapor. But I have this bright memory. I'm not convinced it's ever going to go away.

Me + the other wizard.