The Unbearable Banishment: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A souring relationship

My assumption was that getting a puppy was going to open my eyes to the heretofore unknown pleasures of canine companionship. Dogs are awfully popular. People form emotional bonds to them. There must be something magical about having a dog in your life, or so I assumed. Sadly, what has come to pass is that all of my preconceived notions and prejudices about dogs (which I made a valiant and largely successful effort to tamp down) are being confirmed. It would seem that dogs really are dumb, needy, dirty beasts. They're ambitious. I'll give them that.

I was standing in my driveway with the puppy looking up at the night sky. I have this great app called SkyView. You point your phone up to the heavens and it identifies stars, planets and satellites, and draws the constellations for you. When I was a kid you had to imagine what all those animals and Gods looked like but thanks to technology you no longer have to develop an imagination. It's all done for you. Anyway, I was getting my celestial bearings and I heard a crunching sound. I looked down and the dog was eating pieces of asphalt. Asphalt! Apparently, $850 doesn't buy you a smart dog. If you gave an asphalt pebble to a cat expecting him to eat it, he'd look at you with the contempt you'd deserve.

I'm going to assume that having a puppy is not that far removed from having children. Taking care of a baby is negative fun but the satisfaction of having children increases exponentially as they grow older until they reach their teen years, when it once again dissolves back into negative fun. I'm going to soldier on in the hopes that once this puppy becomes a dog, it won't be so irritating to have around.

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One-man shows are dicey affairs. You might end up watching somebody die on stage all alone. Last season I saw Hugh Jackman's one man show and it was a pretty entertaining, despite the fact that it was a musical, which I normally shun. I've seen a few of John Leguizamo's shows and they're always satisfying. He works hard. Tomorrow night I'm seeing The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Mike Daisey's monologue about the slave conditions under which Apple products are made in China.

This mess is about to open on Broadway:

William Shatner, standing center stage alone. Can this POSSIBLY be any good? Shatner has the ability to laugh at himself and has a campy appeal, but do I really want to pay Broadway prices (albeit at a discount—I never pay retail) to sit through film clips from T.J. Hooker and chart the evolution of his toupee? And what if he sings Rocket Man or Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? How would you survive something like that without permanent brain damage?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mr. Fix-It works his magic

This is my first ever wall patch job. Isn't it splendid! Sanded to absolute perfection. Not a blemish. You can hardly tell there was a big hole there from when Daughter #2 mistook the towel rack for the uneven parallel bars and tore it off the wall.


I am hopeless. I'm sure that my brother-in-law is having big laugh over this. Not only can that dude smoke and cook ribs to absolute mouth-watering perfection, he can tear an engine apart and put it back together. Blindfolded, if necessary. He and his father single-handedly installed central air conditioning in their home. The only thing I keep in my toolbox is a checkbook.

I think your dad is supposed to teach you these practical skills. But I was such a repugnant failure to that guy, that he couldn't stand to look me in the eye much less take the time to teach me how to properly patch a wall.

After leaving home I spent the vast majority of my life (up until New Jersey happened to me) living in apartments. If something went awry I called the superintendent from my office and, for the most part, it was fixed when I got home. The good old days.

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Me, with WAY too much enthusiasm: “I have fantastic news, [Mrs. Wife]!!!”

Her: “What is it?!! Did they hire you on staff!?”

Me: “Nope. That's not it.”

Her: “Was the mortgage refinance finally approved?!?!”

Me: “Ummm...no. Not exactly."

Her: “What happened?!”

Me: “The corporate cafeteria is serving buttermilk fried chicken and collard greens this Thursday! Not yesterday! I didn’t miss it!

Her: “...?” “Are you serious?”

This is the type of nonsense she has put up with for a long, long time. I can’t wait until The Daughters are old enough to get a dose of my irritating, hyper-childlike enthusiasm. Just ask daisyfae what it's like to walk through Rockefeller Center with me at Christmastime. It's not sexy. It's not mature.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

55th Street; 7:34 a.m.

I like the way the morning light hits the façade of that building in the foreground. [It's more dramatic in person. I'm disappointed with this shot.] It only lasts a minute or two. And how about that Chippendale dresser top on the crown of the Sony building? Petty fancy.



Fun line art on a Times Square subway stanchion.

If you resist the urge to read the name and just look at it in conjunction with the reflection, it makes an interesting glyph. Two hour glasses. An infinity symbol. An end tag.



View from inside Central Park of the R train stop across from The Plaza hotel on 59th Street.


The girlies admiring Pollock's One: Number 31.

Anaïs Nin called New York “an ugly prison.”

I don't know. I just don't see it.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Do you have any seeds?

On my lunch hour I hopped on a downtown C train to the Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea to view Ai Weiwei's exhibit, Sunflower Seeds. Last May I did a post about his fantastic Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads installation outside The Plaza Hotel. He's become so enmeshed in Chinese politics that many people view his work through a filter. He is also seen as a human rights activist. Fortunately I'm not a deep thinker, so I can enjoy his work on a purely visceral level.

This is a scaled-down version of the exhibit that appeared in the Tate Modern in London in 2010. At that show, the turbine hall was covered about four inches deep with porcelain seeds that were hand painted to look like sunflower seeds. Supposedly, there were 100 million pieces to the exhibit. He employed 1,600 villagers and it took several years for them to create the seeds and then paint them. Originally, it was a participatory exhibit that allowed visitors to walk in the seeds. But as people walked on it, a toxic cloud of porcelain dust rose and that put an end to any contact.


While the London exhibit looked to be awe-inspiring, this is a much smaller showing and it doesn't have much impact. The gallery euro trash employee I chatted up said that only about 3% of the seeds were on display. When I go to special exhibits of this ilk, I always hope for a punch when I turn the corner but this was underwhelming. It was a bit of a disappointment. More would have been better.


I badly want to reach down and run my hand through it and even pocket one, but there is a security guard posted who means business. I heard him yell at a few people while I was there.

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On the way back to the subway I passed by the Bryce_Wolkowitz_Gallery and these fun sculptures caught my eye. The artist is David Updike. I think he might be John Updike's son but I'm not sure.

Do you see the pretty pink blossoms in the bud vase?


They're tiny commodes! How fun is that?!


This leaning sculpture is another work in miniature.


They're actually tiny hand painted boxes from retailers like FreshDirect, IKEA, Pampers, etc. I wish I had held a quarter up to give it some scale. These are very, very small works. I like it a lot but I think the piece was $17,000, so you won't see it in my home. The new puppy would make mincemeat of it.


Incidentally, the dog's name has been changed from Coco to Goddamn It Coco.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Another mouth to feed

The girls had been relentlessly hammering Mrs. Wife and I for a dog for quite some time. There’s been a big influx of puppies in our suburban enclave and it put ideas into their tiny little heads. We thought if we didn’t talk about it, their resolve would simply fade and dry up. We should have known better. A big thanks-for-nuthin’ to area parents who gave in too easily.

I had two Lower East Side Siamese cats for about 12 years. Women walked in and out of my life but those two cats were always there and happy to see me. I like cats. They’re graceful and mysterious. I admire their aloofness, which is the very thing that turns a lot of people off. Personally, I would prefer a cat. But since we live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, and I was outvoted 3-1, we got a dog.

You don’t just go out and buy a dog. It’s not like selecting a shirt or a sandwich. You have to conduct your due diligence. Each breed has a specific personality trait. (Who knew?!) Some breeds are better with kids than others. Mrs. Wife did all the research and heavy lifting. Originally, we wanted to rescue a dog from a shelter but each time we visited, our choices boiled down to either a pit bull or other psychologically questionable breed or a dog on its last legs. Apparently, the nice family-oriented breeds disappear almost immediately. Your timing has to be impeccable.

We ended up doing the very thing I wanted to avoid; we went to a breeder. I couldn’t see the sense paying a lot of money for a dog when there were free dogs littering the county. But if we were to get our kid-friendly breed of choice, we were going to have to pay for it. And pay we did.

I pictured our breeder living on a farm way out in the pretty New Jersey countryside. Ma and Pa would greet us at the door and take us out back to the barn where mama was nursing some of her pups in a big bale of hay while others frolicked and played in the blue open spaces. We got a recommendation for a breeder from a neighbor, punched the address into the GPS and headed out. It was no bucolic farm.

What we found at the end of the rainbow was a run-down house in a dicey neighborhood. We walked into a small living room that had the thick drapes drawn, blocking out all light. A massive flat screen TV that covered an entire wall was blasting Fox News. When we walked in, volume wasn’t lowered and no lights were illuminated.

We had put a deposit on a puppy back in November and she was just now old enough to take home. It felt like we were rescuing the her from a horrible place and that WE, in fact, were the ones who should be paid. But we were the ones who wrote out a check for $850.

This is Coco. She’s a chocolate cockapoo. If you pay $850 for a dog, it’s chocolate. If you get it from a shelter, it’s brown.


I’ve raised cats and I’ve raised dogs. Cats are a lot smarter. Coco is trying to consume our entire back yard. She eats grass, twigs, dirt, moss, little stones, sand, leaves and pretty much anything else she can get in her mouth. Can anyone tell me when this dog will stop being so dumb?


I’ve done an awful lot for the girls but nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has made them so happy as getting them a dog. I am away at work all day so Mrs. Wife is charged with the unpleasant task of training the dog. She’s doing an exemplary job. We are about to take Coco to dog school. The expenses will start to mount. But I think it’ll be worth it. I think it’ll be cool for the kids to grow up with a dog.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"What does this button do?" "Don't touch tha...!"

I was passing through Times Square and saw these two dudes up on a crane fixing an LED billboard. Let's call them Moe and Curly.

"Hey Moe, what happens if I twist this dial?

"You imbecile! Are you trying to get us fired!

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Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk. And what does this button do?

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Apropos of nothing (perhaps because it's the dead of winter) here's a fantastic pic that Mrs. Wife took of the girls and I on the beach. She gets a big A+ for composition and color. Well done, you.


Here's a rare full frontal shot of us with a pumpkin. This was taken just a couple of weeks before the shit hit the fan. And now, all that angst is behind us. For now. See...all you have to do is ride it out. So simple!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Po, po pitiful me. (With apologies to Mr. Zevon.)

Self-pity is one of, if not the, least attractive all human traits. As soon as I catch myself wallowing in the throws of it (which is pretty often) I make an effort to grind it down to a fine powder. It’s downright unmanly.

What helped snap me out of my recent funk (although I had good reasons this time) was the theater, which will come as no surprise to regular readers. I am moved by a live performance the same way others are moved by a piece of music or literature or a gourmet meal.

Who in their right mind would sit through a play about a woman dying of cancer? Sounds like an awful night out. But it isn't! When WIT opened off-Broadway in 1999, there was talk of moving it to a Broadway house. But the bean counters decided that nobody would go. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and there have been countless regional productions.

It’s finally about to open on Broadway with Cynthia Nixon. She’s on stage dying of ovarian cancer for the entire 1:45 with no intermission. It was a tough, superb performance and an exceptional piece of writing.

They mess with your emotions by loading the script with heaping helpings of sharp humor. Laughs abound. But they can’t fool me. They only do that for juxtaposition. They get you laughing so that when she’s crying in pain it seems all the more horrific. It’s the oldest trick on the book but it works. There was a lot of weeping in the house.

If anything, I suppose the play can be accused of being highly manipulative. But I dare anyone to not surrender to Nixon’s performance. I can’t imagine the critics saying anything negative about her or her excellent cast mates. (Although, you never know, with those bitter old queens.) In the last scene, in a final act of heroism, Nixon stands in a bright, white spotlight, arms stretched upwards, completely naked. Not that her nakedness was the primary focus of the moment. But I did notice.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

As I was saying...

For the past few years, December has had the uncanny ability to be a watershed month for both joy and cruelty. The Christmas season arrives all wrapped up in a pretty package that contains bad news on my doorstep I couldn’t take one more step. So I didn’t care to write very much. It’s difficult to type with a 50-pound stone strapped to your back.

I used to have a pretty good belly laugh at the expense of people who constantly poured over facebook, twitter and other social media sites. Foursqare. Please. “Here I am everyone! Look at ME!” Don't be such a stooge for Madison Avenue. Get a life.

Then I stopped posting to my blog.

Those first few weeks of not posting exacerbated my melancholy. I couldn’t put my thumb on it. Then I recognized that old, familiar pang. I got the same blue blues you get from a break-up. As the years peel away, I find there are fewer and fewer people in my social circle. One of Christopher Hitchens' parting shots before he died was, "As you get older, you realize that you can’t meet any new old friends." And I realized that over the years, unbeknown to me, this stupid, tedious blog had become an on-call friend. This explains my weird obsession with my comments section. Along with my other issues, I was grieving over the loss of that connection.

Who’s laughing now?

It’s a shame that I didn't post any photos of the city over Christmas/New Years because that has become one of my favorite holiday traditions. The town gets all gussied up like an old, cheap, broken-down, 10-cent whore on my arm and I like to show her off. Bergdorf had the best window displays I‘ve ever seen. But the few times I sat at a keyboard, all it spat out was dreary junk. And you know what you do with dreary junk, don't you? You throw it in the garbage.

Thank-you x 1,000 for your thoughtful comments and emails.

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I had these left over in my iPhone. Consider them a late entry for the holiday season.

Not all holiday window displays are of the heartfelt Norman Rockwell/ Hallmark variety, particularly here in New York. A drug store on 57th Street really knows how to get into the spirit of things in a Tim Burton-ish kind of way.

This consumer-crazed holiday shopper...


...is actually a monstrous 8-armed shopaholic, grabbing everything off a store shelf that comes within reach of her tentacles. To hell with credit card limits! This is Christmastime in America, baby!


Poor, clumsy Santa had a Christmas Eve mishap. This'll be one Christmas morning the kiddies will never forget.


As I gazed into Santa's glassy, dead eyes, I got the notion that this was once a female. So much gender confusion going on these days!


Ommmmmchristmas.


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If things don't start to improve around here I could throw another hissy-fit and disappear again. Just so you know.