The Unbearable Banishment: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Am a Bad Person

We need to talk. It’s about this goddamn cell phone jammer that I have allowed into my life.

When I took delivery on this thing, I made a commitment to only use it in an emergency. I was going to allow brief message-oriented calls and extended conversations that were conducted in hushed, respectful tones. That seemed fair. Well, I'm sorry to report that my good intentions have turned to dust. I have morphed into a horrible, selfish monster. I find knocking people off of their cell phone calls so dastardly and satisfying that I tend to do it whether they deserve it or not. And I don't just turn on my jammer and leave it on. That would be too easy. I like to torment my prey. I'll activate my disruptor ray to terminate the call, enjoy their reaction, turn it off, allow them to reestablish the connection and give them the juice again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Awful.

I've noticed that there's a definite correlation between the type of person calling and their reaction to repeated dropped calls. Guys with BlackBerrys? They get the angriest. They are Masters of the Universe and they are being deprived of their Divine Right to use a cell phone for as long and as loud as they see fit. Their sense of entitlement is being compromised and they don't take it very well. It's not dissimilar to snatching a blankee away from a two year old.

Yappy sorority chippies are, like, you know, the most persistent? They'll dial over and over and over again hoping that the connection improves. It never does. (I swear to you, as I was writing this, I hear from two rows behind me, "So, like, are you going shopping with us?" She'll get hers in a minute.)

The elderly are the best. It takes them a long, long time to finally realize that their call has been terminated. They compensate for the silence on the other end of the line by speaking louder and louder until they're practically screaming into their phone. I feel kinda bad about them.

I don't want to get caught walking around town with this thing because I have a sneaking suspicion that it might not be entirely legal to own but I can't seem to stop myself. I should cool it. Instant karma’s gonna get you. Gonna knock you right on the head.


Free Tips from the Buddha 2

Not by matted hair,
by clan, or by birth,
is one a brahmin.
Whoever has truth
& rectitude:
he is a pure one,
he, a brahmin.

What's the use of your matted hair,
you dullard?
What's the use of your deerskin cloak?
The tangle's inside you.
You comb the outside.

-Dhammapada, 26, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Warren Zevon

Warren Zevon is one of the best and most underappreciated lyricists that this country has ever spit out. To wit: (Stick with this. It starts off good and it achieves greatness.)

Mr. Bad Example

I started as an altar boy, working at the church
Learning all my holy moves, doing some research
Which led me to a cash box, labeled "Children's Fund"
I'd leave the change, and tuck the bills inside my cummerbund

I got a part-time job at my father's carpet store

Laying tackless stripping, and housewives by the score
I loaded up their furniture, and took it to Spokane
And auctioned off every last naugahyde divan

I'm very well acquainted with the seven deadly sins

I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in
I'm proud to be a glutton, and I don't have time for sloth
I'm greedy, and I'm angry, and I don't care who I cross

I'm Mr. Bad Example, intruder in the dirt

I like to have a good time, and I don't care who gets hurt
I'm Mr. Bad Example, take a look at me
I'll live to be a hundred, and go down in infamy

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

Whereupon I stole her passport and her wig

And headed for the airport and the midnight flight, you dig?
And fourteen hours later I was down in Adelaide
Looking through the want ads sipping Fosters in the shade

I opened up an agency somewhere down the line

To hire Aboriginals to work the opal mines
But I attached their wages and took a whopping cut
And whisked away their workman's comp and pauperized the lot

I'm Mr. Bad Example

I bought a first class ticket on Malaysian Air

And landed in Sri Lanka none the worse for wear
I'm thinking of retiring from all my dirty deals
I'll see you in the next life, wake me up for meals

My God! That contains more plot and imagery than a typical Michael Bay film. He even worked in a clever rhyme for chemin de fer, for cryin' out loud! The song has no bridge. He just keeps slamming you with one great chorus after another and throws in two refrains. Nothing is more refreshing than a great song about something other than heartache. The last thing this world needs is yet another weepy ballad from a Sensitive Singer Songwriter. Barf. They are almost always dull and disappointing.

As long as I'm holding class today, if you really want to treat yourself to a big, satisfying slice of 60's pop pie, go into iTunes and grab a copy of "Five O'Clock World" by The Vogues. The disjointed note sequence played on an acoustic guitar in the song's intro will stay with you for the rest of the day. Every time I hear it, I wonder how they were able to come out of it and craft a song, but they did. The tune itself borrows from Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang," which fits in perfectly with the theme of having to survive the 9 to 5 grind. Class dismissed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Absolute Worst Nightmare. Well…One of Them

I was making the bed and minding 2-year old daughter who was on the other side of the room when I heard a thump and something being dragged across the rug. I thought it prudent to investigate. I turned a corner and saw that she had reached up, pulled my first edition of "Ask The Dust" by John Fante—the one that’s inscribed by Fante in 1939—the year of publication—to the book reviewer of the L.A. Times and is worth, quite literally, thousands of dollars—off my bookshelf, opened the custom made leather clamshell box, took the book out, removed the protective mylar covering from the pristine dust jacket, opened the book and was playing with the black and white publicity photo of Fante that's laid into it. I got woozy. My knees started to buckle and everything turned white. I dived. There was a puff of smoke where I once stood. I grabbed the book and photo out of her hand with such velocity and force that I startled her. Her face went blank, then flush, then she let out a wail. I didn't mean to scare her. I should probably take a more Zen approach to life and not be so attached to material things, but when it comes to my books, I have the serenity of an infant. She'd better watch herself. Next time I might lose control.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Take a look at this Jersey Shore citadel of culture and dining.

It’s the fabulous Circus Drive-In. This is one of—if not the—last working drive-in diners with curb service left in the U.S. You can sit inside the restaurant and be awash in its tackiness or stay in your car and a car hop will take your order, put a tray on your car, and bring your food to you. No, they’re not on roller skates.

This place was opened in 1954 and is much the same today as it was then. The diner is round. Like a circus tent. Get it? And take a look at this interior.

My goodness! Isn’t that just beautiful! I had a grilled pork roll and cheese on rye with fries. Don’t know what pork roll is? Well, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll just have to drive/fly/crawl to the Jersey Shore and find out for yourself. This place is pure Americana and even a cynical old curmudgeon like myself is susceptible to its charm. Now, where'd I pack my bong?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chinatown, My Chinatown

I met J after work. She and I went down to Chinatown for dinner. The food is cheap and the show is free. I met her at Rockefeller Center where she works. I got there early so I could wander around inside and look at the murals. They’re nice. I use to work at Rockefeller Center. That place is an art deco masterpiece, but the cheap bastards at Benevolent Dictators, Inc. didn’t want to spend so much for rent so we moved to a dull nondescript cracker box on 5th Avenue. I miss it, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been in Chinatown for a very long time and I’m happy to report that the economic boom that changed the character of even the most unlikely neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side, didn’t touch Chinatown. It is much the same as I ever remember it being.

We got off the beaten path (meaning Mott St.) and ate at a primo Vietnamese restaurant on Doyers St. Doyers St. is a dark, narrow alley with a bend in it. It looks like a movie set. The restaurant is located across the street from the Toy Apple Beauty Barber Saloon (sic). I gorged myself on fried spring rolls, spring rolls with shrimp and crab meat, chicken satay and some of J’s pork with glass noodles and mint leaves. We each had a bottle of Tsingtao and she had an iced pressed coffee with condensed milk. It was all delicious and the bill was $35.16. Not each. Total. You can’t beat it.

J is also in exile from the city and misses it as much as I do. We like to imagine the city in a flattering light that has no basis in reality. It’s easy to romanticize a place and time and forget the day-to-day grind of it all. After dinner we walked up Mott, over to and up Mulberry, across Broome through Soho to Varick and took the number 1 at Varick and King. We sat on a bench in front of Balthazar in Soho and I showed her my cell phone videos of daughters No. 1 and 2 dancing in my living room. After that, we got out my cell phone jammer and ended the phone calls of passers by who we thought might be assholes. We’re pretty good at sizing people up just based on the way they look. Eurotrash was an automatic ding and, this being Soho in front of Balthazar, there were plenty of them. I ended the call of a girl who looked like she might be having some serious problems and J yelled at me. I get carried away with that thing sometimes.

I got a late train home. Penn Station at that hour makes me sick. I went into the men’s room and saw one bum clearing his nose into the sink and another bum right next to him rinsing off a baloney sandwich. It was depressing. I know “bum” is a derogatory term, but it feels appropriate.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lust for Carnival Cruise Lines

I just saw another TV spot for Carnival Cruse Lines that uses "Lust for Life" by Iggy Pop as its music/theme. The ad is a series of quick edits that depict Mom and Dad and Sis and Bud having a swell family vacation on a big boat filled with white people. I wonder who at Carnival or their ad agency felt that "Lust for Life" would be an appropriate soundtrack for this happy scene? Let's look at a sampling of lyrics from Iggy's catchy tune, shall we?

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With his liquor and drugs
And his flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?

Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.

Well, I'm just a modern guy

Of course, I've had it in my ear before

I'm worth a million in prizes

With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Yeah, I'm through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
With liquor and drugs

Of course! What wholesome family vacation doesn't include alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual deviancy? Let's create a fond family memory that we'll NEVER forget! Next port of call: psychotherapy. I've got a lust for life!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I just read that Jeremy Piven is doing the lead in a revival of David Mamet's "Speed-The-Plow" in October. To borrow Mr. Mamet's syntax; I cannot fucking WAIT! This is a casting stroke of genius. Ari Gold is the bastard evil spawn of Bobby Gould. I saw the original Broadway production in 1988. At that time, I remember that it was fashionable—particularly in the New York media—to pile on Madonna. The consensus was that the role was just too much for her meager acting skills. I tend to view such universal condemnation by the New York theater Nazis with deep suspicion. It usually spews forth from a group of people who could never actually do the thing that they are criticizing, but do you know what? In this case they were right on the money. She stunk! Currently, Kevin Spacy is doing Mamet's American Buffalo in London. What I wouldn't give for a reasonably priced round trip ticket to the UK.

* * *

Last night when I walked in the house, 2-year old daughter ran up, wrapped her arms around my leg, looked up at me and gave me a glad-to-see-you look that broke my stupid heart. What am I going to do when she starts to make unreasonable demands? I'm as doomed as doomed could be.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Thee-a-tah

I saw a show last night at The Public Theater. "How Theater Failed America." It's a monologue by Mike Daisey. I liked it a lot but I wouldn't recommend it to too many people. The scope of the subject matter is very narrow. He tells some pretty compelling stories about how acting and the performing arts saved his depressed, suicidal ass, but the core of the show was about how regional theater in America is deteriorating. Repertory companies are becoming extinct. They are an economic impossibility. You'd enjoy the show if you were an actor, and you'd REALLY enjoy it if you were an actor in a repertory company. (Actually, I'm neither, and I enjoyed it very much. I don't know what I'm saying half the time. It's a fact!)

I have a tremendous amount of respect for monologists and, believe it or not, stand up comedians. It's hard enough to walk out on a stage armed with a script and surrounded by your fellow actors. Imagine the terror of standing alone on a stage with only your words to save you. It's a crazy notion and I can't imagine why anyone would want to do it.

I love The Public. It's a beautiful building in my favorite neighborhood. Plus, they take risks. I've see some terrible theater there. Last month, CB and I saw a play by noted British playwright Caryl Chruchill that was so dull, a man in the first row fell asleep and started to snore. The entire show was a measly :45 minutes long but he couldn't tough it out like the rest of us. He started to snore about :30 minutes in. It was one of the smaller theaters in The Public and since he was in the first row, the stage was only about 15 feet in front of him. Imagine that! Trying to remember your lines with a patron of the arts fast asleep and snoring right in your face! Finally, someone in the second row showed some mercy (for the actors), leaned forward and gave him a good, hard poke in the back of his head.

One evening, many years ago, I was waiting outside The Public for a habitually late friend and a pretty girl walked up to me, took a sandwich out of her purse, asked me if I was hungry and offered it to me. I'm not kidding! This really happened! And I didn't look homeless. The sandwich was wrapped in a baggie. It wasn't from a deli—she made it at home. I politely declined the sandwich, but she and I became good friends. Only in New York, folks! Mrs. Wife and I had our first date at The Public. We saw...a monologue, of course! The Public has been very good to me, although not in the way that Joseph Papp intended.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Great Man, A Great Poem

This is probably against every copywrite law known to man, but I was glancing through some Bukowski poems today and wanted to post this one. It’s so funny, and so good and so true. That guy really knew how to nail it down.

a consistent sort

at the track
the other day
during the
stretch run
the announcer screamed:

I had a bet on
Pain and
he finished
one half-length

he didn’t win
that time
but he will
win soon
and you can
bet on that
again and
again and

get down

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Yea, But, is it Art?

There was an exhibit at the Guggenheim that I’d been dying to see. I had mentioned it to S. a while back and she called me out of the clear blue asking if I wanted to go on Friday. It was really beautiful out and my workload was calm and I was owed a day off so I met her at 10:00. D. was supposed to go as well but at the last minute he got extra work on the Woody Allen movie, so he dusted us.

It was a crazy, crazy exhibit. Cai Guo-Qiang is a Chinese artist who does huge, outdoor environmental installations. He works with gunpowder and fireworks a lot. In one series of paintings, he spread gunpowder on large sheets of white paper and ignited it. The burn marks made really beautiful patterns. For the Guggenheim show, he suspended several cars in the air starting from the ground floor all the way up to the top of the rotunda. Each car had fiber optic light tubes sticking out that pulsated racing color lights.

He also mounted 99 fabricated stuffed coyotes that raced up the rotunda ramp, arced up in the air, and then smashed into a glass wall. I thought it was a fantastic spectacle but, as S. kept asking, is it art? She’s such a traditionalist. She likes it when a brush touches canvas or a hand molds clay. I thought it was fun.

I always try to go to art museums with an artist in tow. I go with S. because she paints (and sells them) and every time I go with her, she schools my ignorant ass. She tells me how certain paints react to different surfaces and reveals the tricks a painter uses to achieve a desired effect. I also get quick history lessons. Did you know that the Abstract Expressionists used unorthodox material, like house paint, and that many of them didn’t bother to treat their canvases and boards? Their work is fading and conservators cannot restore them. Those beautiful color bands by Mark Rothko are just going to disappear over time. She even corrects my mispronunciations for me and doesn’t make me feel like a dumb-dumb. (Klee is “Clay,” by the way). I remember, years ago, standing in front of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at MOMA and my brother explaining why it was a great painting. It was like a fog lifting. It pays to hang out with people who are a lot smarter than you are.


Friday, April 18, 2008


About a month ago I had to work over a weekend, so the Benevolent Dictators that employ me said I could have a comp day as a sop. Today was the first really nice day outside – plentiful warm sunshine – so I took my comp day and spent it in the Guggenheim and wandering around Central Park. If you are in Central Park on a weekday in the middle of the afternoon, you will bear witness to a remarkable phenomena. People are out and about, casually strolling, enjoying the day, with no particular place to go. A lot of people in New York just do not work. I have no idea how they generate income but I can tell you one thing, they are not sitting in a skyscraper at a specific desk for a set amount of time on the same five days of the week while trying to clandestinely check the baseball scores and the latest Bukowski titles up on eBay. It’s maddening to watch these people. I wish I could take the afternoon I had today and somehow turn it into a money making venture. Now THAT’S a career path worth following!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Last week, I walked down 7th Avenue, took a right on 30th St. and then walked over to 8th Avenue. Here's what I passed while strolling down 30th St.:

Megaris Men's Furs (Men's furs, for Christ's sake! Super Fly TNT must be back in town.)
30th St. Guitars
Image Anime (The go-to place in New York for Japanese anime mags.)
American Dental Center
The Recording & Rehearsal Arts Building
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church
D.P. Cigars (Proprietors of fine handmade cigars featuring the imported Bravo El Grande 9" 62 Gauge. Viva!)
Urban Stages Theater (Theater for those whose political leanings are to the left of Mao.)
Rebel Nightclub (Live music, all night long.)
Antonio Oliveri Drop In Center (Yes, there are still junkies in Manhattan. This place hasn't been COMPLETELY sanitized.)
The Molly Wee Pub and Restaurant

Without straying off this one block, you could conceivably find yourself smoking an expensive, hand rolled cigar in your full length mink coat while buying a new Gibson Les Paul and then taking in some guerilla theater after enjoying a hearty Irish meal and a pint o' Guinness, during which you read the new issue of Megami. After the theater, you could stop and say a novena that the demo you just cut would get your band a Friday night slot, for which you would look razor sharp with your newly whitened teeth.

There’s more life in this measly 1/5th of a mile than there is in the whole expanse of my sleepy bedroom community in New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday

On Sunday we went to a birthday party for a 3 year-old that was thrown by an insanely wealthy family. Not merely rich and comfortable mind you, but a degree of wealth that is rare, even for this prosperous country. Out in the suburbs, birthday parties for children have taken on the seriousness and grandeur of a presidential inauguration and they require the same degree of planning and careful execution as does a military operation. I believe that this unhealthy trend was born out of a parents' insecurity about their place in society and, more than anything else, a lack of anything better to do.

I don't know these people. I hadn't met them before. In fact, Mrs. Wife barely knows them and we are still wondering why we received an invitation in the first place. However, as soon as we saw the address and realized that it was in the high net worth district, we thought we should go. If nothing else, it would give me a new benchmark for my own mediocrity. The "house" was across the street from Jon Bon Jovi's "house." (He has a pretty nice "house" too.) We pulled into the gated driveway and looked up to the top of a hill and saw, what appeared to be, a medium-sized hotel. Six year-old said, "Wow! They live in a palace!" My house, in contrast, has faded yellow vinyl siding and a driveway that floods when it rains hard. We drove up a winding driveway (that, I'm betting, doesn't flood) through a—not kidding— vineyard where the—not kidding—Mexicans toiled in the field pruning the grapevines. We parked the car and, me feeling a bit like Jed Clampett, walked up a grand stone staircase to the main entrance to the palace. It was beautiful, but in a McMansionish kind of way. It wasn't the kind of classic old mansion they could use as a location to film an adaptation of a Jane Austin novel. This is better suited to film one of Martha Stewart's Caucasian tomes.

We were greeted at the door by The King himself and after some perfunctory introductions and an uncomfortable moment, I handed him the birthday gift and made my way into the dining room where a large round table in the center of the room was loaded down with food. It was only 10:30 the morning so they served a brunch. I am here to testify that I had The Most Amazing Bagel I have ever eaten. And I've eaten tens of thousands. I sliced open a pumpernickel bagel that was as big and soft as a pillow and loaded it down with lox, Sopressa Salami and whitefish spread. Heaven in every bite, my friends.

After stuffing my face and insuring that I smelled like a fishmonger with a caffeine addiction, I sought out The King to thank him for his hospitality. I told him how much I admired the painting above the fireplace and he said that he picked it up while honeymooning in Bali. Because of the insecurities, envy and deep feelings of inadequacy that I've been carefully nurturing my whole life, I badly wanted to dislike these people. I wanted to believe that, despite their ludicrous wealth, they were unhappy and lacked a soul. The fact is that both The King and The Queen could not have been nicer to my family and their two children seemed to be perfectly charming. I had no choice but to put my judgment and negative preconceived notions back on the shelf for another day and enjoy their hospitality. Drat.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Six year old daughter likes to sing. A lot. When she thinks she's alone and nobody can hear her, she'll break out into long arias about whatever is on her mind. She makes up the lyrics and tune as she goes along and is heavily influenced by the songs of Alan Menkin, writer of The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, etc. etc. ad nauseam. Yesterday, she thought she was alone and broke out into song and I surreptitiously grabbed a pad and pen and quickly jotted down the lyrics. This, from a 6 year-old's tormented soul:

I made my decision
I want to go to Disney World
I'll pack everything
Like my seashell collection
And say, "Disney, here I come!"

I'll be courageous
I'll bring my earplugs
I'll go to Disney
It will freak me out

I told my mom
But she wouldn't believe me
So I'm trapped in this world
But if I trust my heart
I've simply got to try

I want to be with Meredith
(her friend at church)
I want to be with Ian (her boyfriend in kindergarten)
I want him to be in love with me
But I don't know how to do that
It's like a fairy tale

That’s correct, daughter. It’s a fairy tale.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Curiously Strong

I was given the following hygiene report from 6 year-old daughter:

I don’t think Doree brushed her teeth today because she went like this to me—HHHAAAAAAGGGH!!!—and it smelled like pretzels.

Sure, it’s just pretzels now but what happens when she moves on to the hard stuff? Have you ever gotten close to someone who just polished off a big bag of sour cream and onion chips? Or, that neutron bomb of snack foods, Smokin’ Cheddar Cheese BBQ Doritos? It’s a slippery slope, Doree. Please don’t make me organize an intervention.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's Never Too Late

I saw Miss H. sing last night. She and her band participated in a Battle of the Bands at a club on 30th St. The bands, nine in all, are part of an organization comprised of weekend warriors. They are all highly accomplished musicians who got caught in the maelstrom of life and woke up one day to find themselves doing something other than making music for a living.

It’s a little disconcerting to be listening to a speed metal version of “Hocus Pocus” by Focus and look up on stage and see a bunch a guys who look more like accountants and plumbers than rock stars. There were a lot of receding hairlines, bulging waists and preening that’s more appropriate for people half their age, but do you know what? It was obvious that they were all visiting their version of heaven, so I will not judge. Miss H. ripped through a version of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” that was a world away from her life as a former client service executive at a financial institution. I didn’t recognize her. She was great. There were girls dancing in suspended cages who were, thank God, age appropriate for that job.

Beforehand, I ate at the infamous Gyro II across the street from Madison Square Garden. How can a sandwich that smells so rancid and trails such a foul stench and looks like guts on pita be so scrumptious? A Gyro II gyro laughs at the laws of science and nature. It may reek and give you trench breath, but when you bite into it, it fills your mouth with happiness and joy. And for a lousy $6.50, well, you just can’t go wrong. I wish I were using a scratch-n’-sniff font so I could share its essence with you right now.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Free Tips from the Buddha

Here’s a pearl of wisdom to chew on from our friends the Buddhists:

Hey you, expecting results without effort! So sensitive! So long-suffering! You, in the clutches of death, acting like an immortal! Hey sufferer, you are destroying yourself!

-Santideva, Bodhicaryavatara

I’m reading Religions of the World: Buddhism by Bradley Hawkins. Holy Christ, it’s dull! I was hoping to supplement some of the material I’ve been reading about Buddhist philosophy with a history lesson but I don’t know if I’ll make it through this. The names are too long to remember and contain too many Y’s and V’s.

* * *

Nick Lowe played Manhattan’s Grand Ballroom this week. I saw the same show last Fall. It was a balmy September evening and he played on an outdoor stage that was set up about two blocks north of a big hole in the ground where the World Trade Center use to be. If you have a minute, read the review that ran in the N.Y. Times today. That guy is a genius from way, way back and his new album At My Age is a quiet masterpiece. It'll make you wistful. Get it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Please Keep Off the Grass

I walked through Bryant Park this morning. It was just beautiful out. [Architectural highlight: if you stand in the southwest corner and look up, you can see the Chrysler Building in front of you and the Empire State Building to your right.] Around the edge of the newly-planted lawn were a bunch of signs that read:

Lawn Closed.
The new sod is establishing its root system.
Thank you for your cooperation.

A thin red rope about knee high ran along the perimeter of the lawn. The lawn looked like the fairway of a golf course. Each blade of grass was the exact same uniform height. Nobody walked on it. I started to think about the incredible arc that the city has traveled from the first day I got here until this morning. When I arrived, Bryant Park (along with Union Square) were dangerous, decrepit places that you didn’t even THINK about going into. They were overrun with drug addicts, homeless alcoholics and all manner of predators. The slime from the strip of porno theaters on 42nd St. emptied out into the Park. They would have used the “Lawn Closed” signs to feed their trash can bonfires and the rope to tie up and roll tourists who accidented into the area. It was a far cry from the 60’s when Mr. French use to take Buffy and Jodi there for walks.

I like it better this way. A lot of people lament the demise of “old” New York and scorn the Disneyficiation of 42nd St., and I get that. I see their point. Something was lost. But I don’t agree with them. It was scary and unpleasant and I’m glad that it’s different now. I like walking through the Park in the morning listening to Ella Fitzgerald singing out of my earbuds and not having to look over my shoulder. Just call me whitey-white man, I suppose.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Die!

It arrived.
I am Dr. No, as in, No, you cannot use your cell phone right now. In fact, you can't use it again until after you disembark from MY train.

I'm trying to think of an electronic gadget that has had a more profound impact on my life, or has given me as much pleasure, as my new cell phone jammer. The personal computer? Nope. My iPod? Naw. The cell phone itself? Definitely not! How about my Panasonic nose/ear hair trimmer. Close, but no. Imaging listening to a yappy twenty-something girl prattle on endlessly about the injustice of having her yoghurt stolen from out of the company refrigerator. Each new sentence starts with "And, like." Her voice rises at the end of each sentence as though it were a question, even though it's a statement. "And, like, my name was on it and everything?" Now, imagine putting and end to this horror show by pressing a button. A small green diode light glows warmly. She continues yapping for a bit because in her self-absorbed head, she doesn't realize that she's talking into a dead piece of plastic. Soon, it dawns on her. She stares at her phone dumbly. Tries to redial, only to be met with repeated failure.

Look, I'm a reasonable man. I will tolerate brief conversations. "Hi, honey, I'm on the 5:23. See you later." I will even permit lengthy calls that are conducted in hushed, respectful tones. But the days of long, loud phone calls by imaginary Barons of Finance discussing the plumeting value of the Mortgage Back Securities in their portfolios, or the late night drunken fights between broken lovers are over, my friends. I OWN the cell phone frequencies! I control them. All this power to abuse for a measly $42.90 plus shipping and handling from Hong Kong. Who can stop me? Not you.

Calling 007.

Oh, no, wait. You can't call him right now because your cell phone is dead, muthereffer.



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Envelope Please…

Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for “August: Osage County.” Hell, yes. It’s an insane, entertaining three hour ride. As soon as it ended, I wanted the cast to go back to the beginning and do it all over again. The Pulitzer committee also created a “Special Music Citation” for Bob Dylan. Isn’t the Pulitzer a writing prize? Primarily for journalism? Way to dilute your award, fellas. Perhaps next year they’ll create a special Reality TV Citation.

* * *

After many, many weeks of painstaking research and due diligence, I finally bought a new laptop last night. I was primarily concerned with portability. Companies who manufacture six pound laptops have a lot of nerve calling them “portable.” Try walking nine blocks up and two Avenues over with that in your bag! Perhaps I need more upper body strength. Anyway, I selected the lightest laptop that HP makes. I was driving to the train this morning and on the 1010 WINS business report, they announced that HP is introducing a 9”, 2.5 pound ULTRA portable laptop today. I almost drove off a bridge. Hey you! Universe! Stop fucking with me, okay?!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Doctor, My Eyes

I was given the following medical report from 6 year-old daughter:

“Doree had to go to the eye doctor and she said they put drops in her eyes that steamed like hot lava.”

OH, MY GOD! What kind of animal would do that to a child?! That’s what happened to the Nazi’s in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” who looked at the Ark of Covenant once it was opened. Their eyes melted. I’m going to report him to the AMA. That cruel bastard.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Book ‘em: Part Deux

I walked into the Park Avenue Armory on Saturday afternoon for the ABAA Bookfair and I could have sworn I heard angelic voices singing from on high. Were my feet even touching the ground? I don’t recall. Without exaggerating, I could have easily dropped $30K. The fattest morsel there was as a signed first edition of “Wait Until Spring, Bandini” by John Fante for $8,500. There were also a few primo Graham Greene first editions and an inscribed copy of “The Curtains are Waving” by Bukowski for a measly $3,500. It is SO worth that much! Walking in a bookfair is no different than walking in a casino. Money becomes an abstract and something that’s not really measurable. If $100 fell out of your wallet, you’d be pretty upset, but if you dropped $100 at a craps table in 7 minutes, you’d simply go to the bar, get a quick bloody mary and try again later. Same thing with the bookfair. Is $3,500 really all that much to spend on a book? Not if its got a great contemporary inscription!

Here’s the dirty little secret that the rare book world doesn’t want out: a first edition of “On The Road” by Kerouac is probably the least rare rare book there is. If it’s so scarce, why do I see about a dozen copies at every bookfair I attend? And people pay THOUDANDS for that book! There’s not doubt about it; people are lemmings.

Unfortunately, I walked out of the Armory empty handed. I’m buying a laptop and that’s just too much to spend in such a short amount of time. When the hell did I become so responsible? Not too long ago, I would have made a few clandestine purchases and snuck them onto my bookshelves before Mrs. Wife knew what hit her. Take my word for it, it’s easy to do. I hope this trend stops immediately. I am a disappointment to myself. I miss my deviousness

What a day. I met Miss H. before the bookfair at a little coffee joint on 2nd Ave. and 68th St. She was boning up for her finals and needed the distraction that only a charmer like me can provide. After the fair I took a stroll. There were blue skies over Park Avenue and the sunshine poured down onto my bookless, happy ass. I walked about a dozen or so blocks down Park and looked into the windows of the mega-wealthy to steal decorating ideas. I’ve surmised that wealth is not necessarily an accurate barometer for good taste.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hail to the Chief

Take a look at this priceless photo of El Presidente surrounded by his fellow world leaders at the Nato conference in Bucharest. This is a man with no friends. I almost feel bad for him. B is convinced that he's back to drinking. I can tell you that if I'm at a party and I'm being ignored by everyone, my first impulse is to quickly find a lubricant, so he might be right about that.

Talk Show

I saw a show last night. “The Conversation” at the 29th St. Rep. This is off-off Broadway at its offest. A climb up a noisy flight of stairs to a low ceiling uncomfortable cracker box theater located in the fur district. The 29th St. Rep has a proud tradition of producing aggressive, sometimes violent, plays. A few years ago I saw a show there that was a series of vignettes that were based on a book of short stories by Charles Bukowski. That show was quite enjoyable but this one was a fish and could use a trim.

It’s a stage adaptation of the 1974 Francis Ford Coppola movie starring Gene Hackman about a professional wiretapper. It’s a great premise with some great Hitchcockian twists at the end but, Lord, it was long. It wasn’t the actors fault. They were all fine. One girl took off her clothes and that’s always a big treat for me. [I’m always shocked to see nudity in a play. It wakes your ass up, that’s for sure! Last year I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear and in it, Sir Ian McKellen showed everybody his package. I almost wretched.] Towards the end of the first act, someone in the audience fell asleep and started to snore. That’s never a good sign. The same thing happened to me about a month ago when I saw a show at The Public. It’s so embarrassing! It was pretty dull stuff, but it still beat the hell out of a night in front of the TV.

Beforehand I ate at the Molly Wee on 30th St. and 8th Ave. It is operated and patronized by Irish ex-pats. What a beautiful accent! I had a big bowl of Irish lamb stew that was so delicious I had a dream about it last night. I had a big tumbler of Dewar’s as well and CB told me enviable stories about his trip to Tokyo.

It’s a different crowd on NJ Transit at that hour of the night. Instead of the slow-shuffling-dead-end-job-shoot-me-now-commuting zombies, the train is overrun with drunken animals carrying bags of fast food that stink up my car.

Speaking of…A friend of mine insisted that I try the Angus burger at McDonald’s so I had one for lunch at that filthy McD's on 42nd and Lex. It was meat-a-licious, despite the fact that the restaurant smelled like mop bucket slop. About an hour later I felt like I ate an entire heard of cattle. At this point, most people would throw in the towel and say, “I’ll never eat one of those again!” but not me. I’m no quitter! Line ‘em up, baby. Urp. My poor colon.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Night Shift

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. this morning and never fell back to sleep. It doesn’t happen too often. Once in a while. I lay there in bed and tried to remember the name of every girl I ever kissed. I feel bad for those early ones who had to suffer though my clumsy slobbering. I remember there being a lot of begging on my part. I thought that you got a girl to kiss you through incessant begging and wearing down her resolve not to. It was quite some time until I realized that begging was not necessarily the best prelude to kissing someone. Imagine my surprise when I realized what the true nature of seduction involved. Those poor angels. Where are they now?

* * *

My friend J, another NYC exile, suggested that once the weather breaks and we have our first sunny, balmy day, we should call in sick to work, bring beach chairs into the city and plant them in Times Square to watch the world pass by. I love that idea.