The Unbearable Banishment: October 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Thanks for your on- and off-line messages, everyone. It was a long night. One for the ages. I've never seen or heard anything like it. Yes, it sounded like a freight train. That old metaphor. There are trees down all around us leaning up against houses and puncturing roofs and walls but, thankfully, nothing smashed into Casa de Unbearable. I hear the city is a real mess but I won't get back there until tomorrow or Thursday.

I'd love to watch storm coverage on TV I hear the photos and videos are spectacularbut we won't have power for quite some time. I'm so bored. How many games of Crazy 8's can you play and how many times can you sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight?" I'll never bad mouth TV again.

Here's what yesterday's New York Post had to say:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall

We're going to get a little rain.

RED DOT = your intrepid correspondent

There have been fights. People were cutting in line for gasoline. A woman shot past a queue in her white Lexus SUV and pulled up to a pump. It almost caused a riot. The local hardware store only had four generators in stock for about 200 customers who had been waiting for them to open since it was dark outside. You can imagine how that went over.

As hurricane Sandy approaches off the Atlantic from the east, it will collide with a severe winter storm that's moving across the country from the west. The local media have christened it "Frankenstorm," which I love. New York will shut down the entire transit system at 7:00 p.m., so you'd better be where you want to be for the next three or so days.

I have a ticket tomorrow night to see The Daily Show correspondent Assif Mandvi in a well-received off-Broadway drama. Not many people are aware of it, but he's a hell of an actor. The entire run is sold out so even though I'll be refunded, I'll not get to see his performance. What rotten luck!

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UPDATE: Recent photo taken down the street from me at the Shrewsbury River.  The storm has stirred-up ancient sleeping monsters. Red Bank, New Jersey is under siege!

Friday, October 26, 2012


"If you marry that shiksa and have children, they'll only be half Jewish. If they marry out of the faith, those children will only be a quarter Jewish. What's the logical conclusion? We Jews have been set upon for centuries but we're still standing. We've flourished despite the waves of hatred and violence that have washed over us. And now, when it's easier to be Jewish than at any other time in human history, you'd throw it all away? You have an obligation to something greater than the self. Where is your sense of belonging?"

"I won't turn my back on the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with to one day maybe, maybe, find someone who meets with rabbinical approval. You're a staunch traditionalist but when was the last time you read the Bible? Many of the ancient laws have been dismissed as barbaric. The faith is already being watered down without my help. And your demand for racial purity sounds frighteningly familiar. It's the same philosophy that Nazism was rooted in."

An argument for the ages. For all nationalities. Those paraphrased words aren't mine, but I sure wish I could write like that. It’s two days later and Joshua Harmon’s new play Bad Jews is still rattling around inside my head. Two people screaming at each other in a confined space (the theater only has 62 seats) for 1:40 without an intermission about what it means to be Jewish. It doesn’t necessarily make for a pleasant evening, but it makes for a great one.

It ended on a somewhat contrived note that took me out of the story, but that’s a minor quibble. What preceded it was really powerful stuff. Not for the faint. I don’t know if I’d recommend it to everyone because it’s exhausting, but if you’re in the mood to dig down deep, it’ll challenge you.

They're both right, you know? There’s no winner in that argument.

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The girlies disappear into a corn maze (a maize maze!) at the annual autumn festival in suburban New Jersey.

I follow behind to insure they don't get "lost." Don't tell them but it freaks me out a little bit. I have a touch of claustrophobia and am relieved when we come out the other side.

Gratuitous autumn greeting card/calendar shot:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Git'cher Motor Running

I ran a 5K this past weekend. It was, for me, an unprecedented first-time act of madness. When I meditated on the reason why I would do such a thing, it became clear to me that I was trying to emulate my father. Growing up, the arc of my feelings towards Dear Auld Dad went from abject fear, to resentment (although, inexplicably, never hatred) to complete and utter indifference. That I would mirror him in any way is not a small revelation to me.

I've never been athletic. I never played a sport in school or entered a race. I didn't like the idea of putting myself in a position where I could be defeated. I was already experiencing quite enough of that with academics and trying to lure the opposite sex.

When I was a little kid my dad played softball. The team was sponsored by Hildebrant, an old and storied meatpacking company in Cleveland. Dad was a butcher and he cut meat for them. My mom would take my brother and I to the games and I remember those summer evenings with tremendous fondness. She'd buy us a slab of Bonomo Turkish Taffy at the concession stand. We'd smack it against the bleacher seats and divvy up the pieces.

I remember being thrilled when my father came up to bat. He was a big guy and could really smash the ball. It's one of the few fond memories of my childhood connected directly to him. I felt it was important for my daughters to see me do something athletic. If I could implant that same cheap thrill that I enjoyed into their tiny minds and then nurture it, they might be more inclined to be participants in life and not just fearful spectators sitting on the sidelines, like their pater.

I've been doing short runs on a treadmill for many years but I'm no runner, that's for damn sure. Waiting at the finish line were my two daughters and my mother- and father-in-law. I thought a time of 30:00 would be a respectable showing. I finished in 27:08 and came in 11th in my age category. Not bad for this old geezer. The look on their faces is worth the continued burning in my legs. Isn't it amazing what you can accomplish with the proper motivation?

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Speaking of old geezers, if you were to visit the Barnes & Nobel on 5th Avenue tomorrow at 12:30, you could get a book signed by KISS drummer Peter Criss. Come back at 5:30 the same day and get a book signed by Rod Stewart!

On November 1st you can get a book signed by Ric Ocasek of the Cars. If you had been there on October 9th, you could have gotten a book signed by Pete Townshend. Is this the new trajectory for aging rock stars? I blame Keef Richards for this.

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A very good evening for someone walking down 8th Avenue, don't you think?

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lvng rm w/ vu of park

This is Columbus Circle. It's located at the southwest corner of Central Park. That's a statue of Christopher Columbus atop the pedestal.

In his temporary installation, Discovering Columbus, artist Tatzu Nishi constructed a living room around the statue. Viewing is free but you have to have a timed ticket. You access it by climbing up four flights of scaffolding.

Once atop the scaffolding, you walk down a short corridor that looks like any other city apartment hallway and turn right into the living room.

The clever conceit is that a coffee table was constructed around the statue so that Columbus looks like a ornamental sculpture sitting atop.

The living room has comfortable furniture and a flatscreen TV playing an all-news channel. There are newspapers, magazines and books haphazardly scattered around the coffee table.

The exhibit is an unintended real estate wet dream.

It's the view from my living room window that I've always fantasized about but will never actually enjoy.

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The guy who sits next to me in the beehive is a die-hard New York Yankee fan. Recently, he turned to me and said, earnestly and with a profound deep belief, that the reason the Baltimore Orioles made it into the playoffs this season (a rare occurrence) is because "they were inspired by the winning tradition of the Yankees." In his befuddled mind, the Yankees were indirectly responsible for the Orioles' success. All Yankee fans are delusional idiots. They're the reason I soured on baseball when I moved out here.

I read in the paper that the Detroit Tigers have been handing the Yankees their asses in the playoffs.

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Autumn sunset over suburban New Jersey. These are the raw images taken directly from my iPhone. No Photoshop trickery was applied.

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Self portrait #6. That's me on the left.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A moral quandary: Epilogue

I wrote to the bus company and sent the photos of their best and brightest texting while speeding down the New Jersey Turnpike. I wrestled with whether or not to turn him in. I surmised that it could cost him his job and I don't know if I want that on my hands.

In the end, I took the sage advice that the good Chef left in my comment section. When I was laid off in 2009, that dude provided some words of encouragement (first comment) that I revisited over and over again. They got me through a dark tunnel, so when he talks, I listen. I didn't identify the driver. I blackened out his face, thus:

My note to the bus bosses was dripping with my trademark Unbearable Sarcasm. I didn't expect to ever hear from them but they wrote back almost immediately.


Thanks for sending this.

You are absolutely right that this type of action by the driver is unacceptable. The driver's action is not only contrary to company policy but, more importantly, illegal.

We hold countless safety meetings during each year and topics like cell phone use are discussed regularly.

For us to appropriately deal with this issue we would have to speak with the driver directly. Do you remember your departure time or the bus number?

Yes, I know the departure time and bus number because I wrote it down. But I haven't responded. I also know what "appropriately deal with this issue" is a euphemism for. I confided with another driver and he assured me this guy would be unceremoniously tossed out onto the cold, hard sidewalk. I've been tossed out onto the sidewalk, albeit with an apology and and a fat severance check, but it still sucked. I can't do that to another man. What a rotten manager I'd make. I guess I'm a people person after all.

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I know what you're thinking. You're thinking this is a plate of Mrs. Wife's astonishing, slow-cooked (six and a half hours!) pot roast. But you'd be wrong. This is a plate of autumn. It's a plate of changing leaves, a crisp breeze, thick woolen sweaters, first nights on Broadway, Sunday football and, soon enough, 5th Avenue adorned in bright holiday lights. I do a lot of complaining here but, honestly, I never lose sight of how lucky I am.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A moral quandary: What would you do?

Nothing irritates me more than texting while driving. It's a thing with me. I get much angrier than I should. The amount of anger that washes over me is so grotesquely out of proportion to the offense being committed that I consider this one of my problems. When I see someone texting behind the wheel, my first impulse is to run them off the road. That would be crazy. Right?

The bus drivers who take me in and out of the city on a daily basis are not a happy bunch. It's a difficult job. They're not looking to make any new friends. They mostly come off as being curt, edgy and are prone to scowl and grunt at you as you climb aboard. It's all your fault.

But one guy makes an effort to be customer-friendly. Always a greeting. Big smile on his face. A real sweetheart.

So what do I do when I find this gentle soul amongst a team of marauding huns texting while driving a bus load of lemmings?

Do I turn his ass in? Because he'll probably lose his job.

We were flying out of the Lincoln Tunnel and entering the helix onto the New Jersey Turnpike. It's not like we were stuck in traffic and at a standstill. See how the cars in other lane are blurred?

In this last pic, he's using BOTH HANDS to text and steers the bus with the back of his left hand.

Imagine my daughters being told that dad died in a bus wreck and that the wreck occurred because the driver was TEXTING. And never mind the loss of life. The company would be brought down by the weight of all the litigation.

Do I send these photos to the bus company, which will probably get him fired? Or let it go and be glad I survived the incident?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Is it safe?*

Someone who reads my blog once asked, "Isn't your wife insulted by insinuation that your life is unbearable?" The whole idea of being unbearably banished is an attempted witticism. I'm not banished at all, really. I left the Lower East Side of Manhattan of my own free volition.

All sorts of biological urges kicked in when I had my daughter, the most primal being protection and self-preservation. Even though by the time Daughter #1 came along my street was no longer the Walmart of the heroin trade in NYC and the bum who would defecate in my apartment building vestibule every morning moved on, Alphabet City was still no place to raise a little girl. If I could have afforded a nice place on the Upper West Side or the Upper East Side near Central Park I would have put up a fight to stay in the city. But lacking the financial wherewithal to provide my family with that type of lifestyle, I set sail for safer harbors, far, far away, in the enchanted land of New Jersey.

How safe is it where we live? It's so safe that you can go out on a Sunday morning to walk the dog and stumble across a BMW Z4...

...and the owner feels completely at ease leaving both windows rolled down and the keys in the ignition.

I thought that, perhaps, they had just run in the house for a second but I came around the block about ten minutes later and it was still there. Back on Avenue B, that car wouldn't have lasted ten seconds, much less ten minutes. Is it safe? Yes. Very.

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Strolling through Times Square on my way to work this morning I read the following weather report on the news zipper:

Delightful? I don't recall New York ever being described as being delightful. I've read some bad poetry about how dark the city can be and the tourist guides paint a pretty picture. Both are accurate, in their own myopic way. The truth, as always, resides somewhere in between. But I cannot ever recall anyone saying New York is delightful. It is! +10 points to whoever posted that.

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Self portrait #5. Taken this summer somewhere I've never been before and will probably never go again.

*Can anyone identify where these toe-curling words came from?