The Unbearable Banishment: March 2012

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Pump

As regular subscribers know, I'm a big supporter of public art installations. I believe it's public funds well spent. Here's a new one up at 8th Avenue and 46th Street, right in the heart of the theater district. It's called the Manhattan Oil Project by Josephine Meckseper. It's two full-scale functioning oil wells in the middle of an empty lot.

video

The work is supposed to "...draw parallels between the American industrial system...and the disembodied present of electronic mass-media, surface advertising, and consumerism - so clearly embodied in Times Square." I hate artist-speak. It always comes off as pretentious blabber to me. What do oil wells have to do with surface advertising and consumerism in Times Square? Nothing, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm being too literal.

Sorry, but this piece doesn't work for me. Seeing an oil well plunked down in the middle of Manhattan might make you do a brief double-take, but it's not a spectacle. I liked the tire tube tornado of a few posts back better. That was pretty special, but I seem to be the only one who was impressed by it. Maybe everyone will love this even though I am underwhelmed. I'm often out of step.

My favorite part of the exhibit was stumbling across the unintentional juxtaposition of and ad for Jesus Christ Superstar, which just opened on Broadway to lukewarm reviews, and the neon sign for the Midtown Scientology center.


* * *

How can you tell that spring has officially arrived in the city? That's easy! You're sitting in the warm, midday Central Park sunshine on your lunch hour enjoying a good book and a New York City bluebird of happiness (aka pigeon) shits on your favorite pants.

It could have been a lot worse. It could have fallen about three feet north of where it landed.

* * *

10-Year Old Daughter is having a bit of a struggle with her grades. Nothing too serious, but I'm concerned. I was a terrible student and wasn't able to attend college because of my poor grades and lack of ambition and I don't want the same fate to befall her.

She has a friend who has, what appears to me to be, a hard life at home. His dad left and married a younger woman. Money is tight. The house is in need of repair. His mom is looking for love and at 10-years old, that can't be an easy thing to bear witness to. Yet his grades are spectacular. He's in an advanced reading group.

Can someone explain why my daughter is being raised in a safe, nurturing home but struggles with some aspects of her schoolwork, while he's excelling in such an emotionally challenging environment?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bloody reminders

There was a horrific accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. My arrival home was severely delayed because of the traffic jam. They had to land a medivac helicopter on the freeway and airlift someone who was critically injured. As we crawled passed the accident scene, I saw a car that had been flipped upside-down and reduced to a ball of mangled metal.

The very next morning I got a text from a friend. She had to rush to Ohio. A friend's wife had passed away suddenly. She wasn't sick and didn't have a history of medical problems. The trauma of the event caused him to have a heart attack. My friend and her husband were rushing to be by his side.

That's two reality checks in a 12-hour period. I am guilty of getting too wrapped-up in the minutia. I forget that it can all go in an instant. Some guy is commuting home from work. It's the same boring drive he's made hundreds of times. But on a random Thursday, it all changes in an instant. A woman gets out of bed and for no apparent reason, drops dead. As if someone snapped their fingers and the life drained out of her.

I'm not one to fret about being visited by a host of horrors but, brothers and sisters, please seize the day. Life is so fragile. Sometimes I lose sight of the way and I really take these unintentional reminders to heart.

* * *

5th Avenue at 40th Street. Friday, March 23, 2012, 5:20 p.m.

video

Grim-faced and forbidding
their faces closed tight

an angular mass of New Yorkers
.
Pacing in rhythm

race the oncoming night

they chase through the streets of Manhattan.

Headfirst humanity

pause at a light

then flow through the streets of the city.


Peart

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Outdoor art season hath sprung

I love when public space is used for outdoor exhibits and New York has an abundance of projects that pop up every spring and summer. They don't always work, but I'm always appreciative of the effort. In most cases, the exhibits simply cannot fit in a closed space. Many are site-specific and wouldn't work in an indoor setting. Here are a couple of recent examples. Thank you, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York Public Art Fund. More of the same, please!

This is Mr. Fun himself, Andy Warhol by Rob Pruitt.


I think the inspiration is Warhol's Mylar balloons. It stands at the north end of Union Square at 17th Street and Broadway.


It's outside the building where Warhol's Factory was. [I believe this was The Factory's second address. This is the location where he was shot by Valerie Solanas.] The building now has a Petco on the ground floor.


The Factory was located on the third floor. When Warhol moved The Factory here, Union Square was a den of gypsies, tramps and thieves. In addition to the Petco, Union Square now has a big Barnes & Noble and a busy McDonalds. I think he'd approve.

* * *

This beauty is Tornado, a commission by Berlin-based artist Michael Sailstorfer.


It's made from inflated truck tire inner tubes. That's Sailstorfer's medium. Inner tubes. I spoke to a couple of people and they weren't overly impressed but I really liked it.


It stands at the southeast corner of Central Park, near The Plaza Hotel and works nicely when you view it in concert with the trees. It really is kind of tornado-like. So clever.

* * *

I couldn't decide which of these shots of The Flatiron Building I liked best so I decided to post both of them. When it opened, The Flatiron Building was described glowingly as "a great battleship steaming up Broadway."


This is Mrs. Wife's favorite building in New York. Doesn't she have great taste?! They've taken a portion of Broadway in front of The Flatiron away from the taxis and traffic and turned it into public space. It's a fantastic place to sit and whittle away a few hours.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

I'm about to begin the indoctrination program that will make Daughter the Second comfortable with navigating New York City. You have to get inside their tiny heads as soon as possible for it to stick and she's almost six, so it's time. It's a rite of passage. Daughter the First is already hopelessly attached to Gotham, so my work there is pretty much complete.

You start with something safe and simple and then move on to more complex things. And take it from me, you can't get safer than a matinee production of Disney's The Lion King. It's visually stunning but the music is boring and forgettable. It's the bait I used on Daughter the First and it worked like a charm.

I marched down to the Minskoff Theater box office on my lunch hour and whipped out my credit card. Things have changed a bit since the last time I was there. The seating plan has been reconfigured. They now deem over half the house as "Premium Seating." Typically, a premium seat would indicate a seat in the center orchestra and no further than, say, five or six rows from the stage. You can now pay $210 for ONE ticket in the 14th row off to the side. Or, if you'd like to sit in the last row on the floor in the back of the house, you can pay $154 for a seat. There's money to be made and tourists to be gouged and fathers with good intentions to be taken advantage of. What a bunch of greedy, blood sucking leeches.

2 tickets = $310. A considerable expense for someone in my income bracket. And those aren't premium seats. For all that money, we're sitting up in the balcony. The whole thing has left me feeling utterly inadequate. And it's not about having good sight lines at a tacky musical. It's broader than that. It feels like I didn't try hard enough in The Game of Life and can't provide for my daughters the way other, more successful, fathers can.

# # #

Here's an interesting factoid: Eugene O'Neill, arguably one of America's greatest playwrights, was born in a hotel room on 44th Street and Broadway. Right in the heart of the theater district! Isn't that strange?! It's analogous to President Obama being born in the White House or me being born in an office cubicle.

At that time, the neighborhood was called Longacre Square. It was rechristened Times Square in 1904 when The New York Times opened its offices there. They've posted a brass commemorative plaque on the site where the hotel once stood.




Wanna know what's on the site now?


Mourning Becomes Cappuccino. Long Day's Journey into Caffeine. The Ice Coffee Cometh. A Moonpie for the Misbegotten. I've got a million of 'em.

# # #

What's that dot on the horizon? Daisyfae approacheth from the west.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Memory Lane needs repaving

One of the first restaurants I frequented when I moved to New York [mumble-mumble] years ago was a place called Acme on Great Jones Street in the East Village. It served southern/New Orleans favorites. Catfish po' boys. Fried chicken. Collard greens. Red beans and rice. It had a nice selection of brews. The food was comforting and the price was conducive to my new-to-New York broke ass. Downstairs was a performance space called Under Acme where I spent many, many nights watching my musician friends perform in their bands. Unlike most New York restaurants, Acme lasted for years.

A few months ago it was closed and gutted. The new owners just reopened it under the same name. Jay Cheshes, the restaurant reviewer for TimeOut New York, called the new owners "cool-kids" and gave it four out of five stars. It now serves "cutting-edge New Nordic cuisine" (whatever the hell that is) and has a "hot crowd" and is a "chic downtown bistro."

They ruined it. The average main course is now $25 and the menu includes items like bison tartare. That sounds appetizing, doesn't it? For desert, you can order a Danish doughnut for $10.

In the review my old, fond, warm memories were disparaged as being from a place that was "once-grungy," "...a former Cajun dive..." and "...a downtown dump." I fucking hate New York snobs and New York food snobs are the worst of the worst. They're worse than New York fashion snobs, and that's saying plenty. Scratch the surface of any foodie and underneath you'll find a pretentious bore who couldn't tell the difference between expensive wine and ripple in a blind taste test.

###

I was walking up Sixth Avenue yesterday afternoon and saw who was the current tenant at Radio City Music Hall:


Rush! A blast from my teenage past! I began listening to Rush as an act of rebellion. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, hated them. The media hated them. Radio ignored them. Everyone in school hated them. My brother hated them. Their cool-quotient was sub-zero. They got no respect. So I decided to be "different" and follow the band. But I soon discovered that they were masters of their instruments and never wrote songs about obsessing over a broken heart, which I found refreshing. I started enjoying their work for more legitimate reasons. Their music was smart and complicated.

I haven't seen them for many, many years and I thought it might make for an enjoyable stroll down memory lane to see them perform in one of the most architecturally beautiful buildings in all of Manhattan.

Then I turned the corner.


Doh! Not these guys:


These guys:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Girl of 1,000 Faces

Although I've heard her name kicked around the museum circuit for years, by and large I was unfamiliar with Cindy Sherman's work. A big retrospective just opened at MoMA so I ran over on my lunch hour. Wow! is her stuff strange! I liked it, but it isn't something I'll take the girlies to, that's for sure.

The exhibit is a series of portraits. Sherman (supposedly) does her own conceptualization, make-up, prosthetics, lighting, photography and post-production work, which is pretty amazing if you think about it since those are all separate and distinguishable skill sets. I think there's a deeper meaning to her work about the symbolic role of women in society sprinkled with a hint of feminism but, as is usually the case, that stuff eluded me and I had to enjoy the work (or not) based on my purely visceral reactions. Thank God almighty I'm not bogged down with a proper education. It's liberating.

Each gallery is a sampling from the various projects she's done over the years. There's nothing pretty about these portraits. All the characters she portrays are hideous gargoyles with a ramped-up hyper-realism. She depicts a slice of decidedly blue collar America...


...or aimless, angst ridden Long Island youth...



...or wealthy society matrons. The kind who buy her work, made her a multi-millionaire and fund museum wings that house her retrospectives. Perhaps this is the ironic part of the exhibit?


She recreated a series of Renaissance paintings. This was her first foray into depicting men.


And a downright bizarre series of clowns. Lots and lots of clowns!


She is absolutely unrecognizable in all these photos, not just the ones where she's buried under a ton of make-up.


It might be a kick to smoke a big fatty and then walk through this show. You'd either die of fright or hysterical laughter.

* * *

I would like to issue a public thank-you and express a debt of gratitude to Ellie at The Daily Smoke for correctly diagnosing my heel problem in the comments section of two posts ago as plantar fasciitis. I applied the remedies suggested on the Mayo Clinic website and I'm at about 90%. I should be able to run in another week or so. Ellie, come to New York City and I'll buy you a big goblet of red wine.

Where did people go for advice before the internet was invented? I vaguely remember having a life before www. was around, but I don't really recall the specifics. When The Daughters get older, I'll be able to tell them I was there when the internet was invented. I'm sure their response will be, "So what?"

Friday, March 2, 2012

Hellriders

It's March. Do you know what that means? That means we escaped winter unscathed. After two cataclysmic winters when we were pounded with one city-closing blizzard after another, we deserved the reprieve. Naturally, the kiddies were disappointed but I didn't mind one bit. That's how you can tell you've become an adult. Winter isn't fun anymore. We had exactly ONE snowfall. I suppose we can still get a late season surprise, but overall we got off easy.

It may have been only one snowfall, but we made the best of it. Please spare me your sarcastic witticisms regarding my camera skills. I know I fucked up the orientation. I was too busy concentrating on not dropping my iPhone and coming to a halt in a safe spot. Mush, indeed!

video

* * *

What the hell is this supposed to mean?


Japan week runs from the 1st through the 3rd? Have any of you been to Japan? Are the weeks there measured out in 72-hour increments? Advertising fail. I may walk over to Grand Central on my lunch hour to take this in. I have an affinity for Japan.

* * *

I turned off the word verification requirement in the comments section. Blogger has initiated a new WV system that I find both cumbersome and annoying. I wanted to save you, gentle reader, the hassle. But I reserve the right to reactivate it if I'm suddenly flooded with spam about hating American women.