The Unbearable Banishment: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

random nyc pic/the lighter side of unemployment

This is the New York Public Library internet access room with the early evening sun pouring in. I spent many hours here conducting my job search. This is a great place to spend a cold February day if you're unemployed.

* * *

I got a message from a friend who was recently laid off. He was sitting in a Manhattan coffee shop, reading a Philip K. Dick novel and watching the world pass by. We had a freak 5-day heat wave and all the girls had shelved their winter clothing for lighter fare, so there was plenty to look at. Seeing the female populace change their wardrobe from winter to summer is akin to a chrysalis opening to reveal a beautiful butterfly.

I remember having days like that during my four-month bout of unemployment. If you can calm yourself and not panic, unemployment can be quite enjoyable.

Enjoy it, pal. It won't last forever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

is that a cell phone jammer in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

I continue to work horribly long hours at my new consultant gig at Gigantic Institutional Investor. There’s a lot I don’t like about working so late. It’s going to be a while until I am able to sit down and have dinner with the family or make an 8:00 curtain. The New York economy is still a wreck so this is how it must be for now. But there are small pleasures to be had from working late for a Big Corporation.

The days of corporate excess are not completely over. They feed us pretty much whatever we want for dinner. For instance, last night I had a BBQ duck burrito with black beans and rice. Dee. Lish. Us. If I work past 9:00 p.m., which is pretty much every night, I don’t have to deal with Penn Station and New Jersey transit to get home. They provide a company car and driver. It’s a nice black sedan. The only people at Penn Station at that hour of the night are the residents. Once, I walked into the men’s room at 10:30 p.m. and saw a man rinsing a sandwich off in the sink. I feel awful for our downtrodden citizens, but it’s not what I need to see after a 13-hour shift.

Last night was a beautiful, warm, night in Manhattan. I sat in the back seat and rolled down the window as we drove south on Park Avenue and then west across Seventh Avenue, through the fashion district, towards the Lincoln Tunnel. People were out walking in droves. Girls in short black dresses. Hot town. Summer in the city.

Once we’re on the Garden State Parkway, my drivers have an annoying habit of chatting on their cell phones while I’m in the back seat trying to read the paper or meditate or bang out a blog entry. You know the remedy for that, don’t you?

Say hello to my little friend. [And that quote is from…? anyone...? anyone...? Bueller?]

They’re professional drivers and if I asked them nicely, they would certainly stop their calls. But where’s the sport in that?! If you thought people on trains were easy marks, you should get a load of these poor guys. Knocking out a cell phone call is easiest when your intended victim is a mere few feet away.


Monday, April 27, 2009

England v. Scotland

It was a good night of theater for the Scots. Mary Stewart is yet another take on the Mary, Queen of Scots/Elizabeth I smackdown. In this version, beautifully transferred to Broadway from the Donmar Warehouse in London, British national treasures Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter play the battling Queens who are Kings.

I like small theater but I’ve always said it’s nice to see what they can do with a big budget. The second act opens with Mary enjoying a brief taste of freedom from prison. She dances in a surprisingly realistic stage-soaking rainstorm and then confronts Elizabeth. Impressive stage effects are nice but it’s just window dressing without superb acting behind it. This is the only scene in the entire three hour production where the two face off and Mary, Queen of Scots, takes down Elizabeth I in one round. Pow.

Phyllida Lloyd, the smart director, dressed the two Queens in period costumes but the men around them in contemporary dark suit and tie. It made them look like the bureaucrats they are. A very clever conceit.

I am such a sucker for British drama. I don’t really like Russian theater and some American playwrights leave me cold. But the UK seems to consistently pump out one great show after another. Thanks, guys!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

you've got to hand it to Green Day

Have you heard the new single from Green Day, Know Your Enemy? Holy shit, man. These guys amaze me. How long have they been at it? 20 years? And they’re still great!

Billie Joe Armstrong is the grand master of the lyric and crunchy guitar hook. He inherited the guitar lick mantle from Keith Richards after Keith stopped giving a shit (right after Tattoo You, if you ask me).

Give this a listen but close your eyes. The visuals are a lot of kewl rock star poses and explosions, which can be off-putting, but the song is extraordinary. And if you want it, buy the single from iTunes or wait for the album to come out and then buy it. DO NOT FUCKING STEAL THIS SONG! That bullshit has got to stop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

how to relax on a busy New York City street

A fun new idea dreamed up by city planners this summer is to close off sections of main thoroughfares in Manhattan, lay a new surface over the asphalt, set up tables and chairs and create a lovely public space. They place big concrete planters around the perimeter of the area to protect you from potential out of control taxi cabs.

There are sections of Broadway blocked off where you can sit, relax and have coffee or read a book while cabs and buses whizz by just a few feet away going 35+ miles per hour. It’s a crazy idea but it works!

This is my absolute favorite spot. It’s just north of the Flatiron Building in Chelsea. The Flatiron is one of the most beautiful and majestic buildings in Manhattan. When it opened, an architectural critic called it a great battleship steaming up Broadway. Sitting in the sun at its bow and watching all of New York pass by is a very fine way to spend an afternoon. God, I wish I was unemployed again!

Click on that pic for a better view.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

viva cuba! viva food!

Here’s my favorite midtown Manhattan lunch spot. It’s a tiny tiny Cuban cafeteria tucked onto West 46th St. just off of Times Square. It’s called Margon and according to the sign outside, it’s New York’s Best Kept Secret. I don’t know about that. If you don’t get there early for lunch you don’t get a seat.

It’s nothing fancy. If you’re looking for elegant surroundings you’d best steer clear. But if you’d like some authentic Cuban grub for under $10 bucks, you can’t do better. Here are a few of the daily specials.

I ALWAYS go with the oxtail and a big plate of black beans and rice with fried sweet plantains. They have killer empanadas, too. God, I want to lick my monitor.

* * *

The long hours at my new yob means that I don't see The Daughters as much as I use to. The other unfortunate by-product is that I can't keep up with the blogs in my Google Reader. I really miss it. I don't have time to read or comment. I'm New Guy at the Investment Bank and it's too soon to read blogs at work.

Can everyone please put their lives/blogs on hold until I can get back to you? Is that asking a lot?

* * *

Isn’t Friday I’m In Love by The Cure just the happiest damn song ever? How ironic is that?!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

r.i.p. twitter

This, from yesterday’s New York Times business section:

Pizza Hut is hiring a “Twintern,” to chronicle “in 140 characters or less what’s going on at Pizza Hut,” a company official said.

Is that a burning question that needs answering? Who give a shit what’s going on at Pizza Hut? Thanks, Twitter, you paragon of uselessness.

Good riddance.

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was going to try and lighten up about Twitter. Obviously, my feeble attempts have failed.

* * *

Yesterday was my first day back at work after a four month layoff. I was there for 15 hours. That’s not one of my witty sarcasms or exaggerations. 15 hours! What’s wrong with those people?! Thank God I’m a consultant and am being paid an hourly wage.

They said they do it all the time and I believe them. I think they do it for the money. Why else would someone subject themselves to this type of unpleasantness? I wonder how long it’s going to take for me to snap and tell a stuffed suit to go jam a few reams of Xerox paper up his ass? Time will tell!

Monday, April 20, 2009

employed! (well, sort of…)

I was looking for a job, and then I found a job.
And heaven knows I'm miserable now.

The Smiths

I found work. Sort of. It’s a three month contract with a major investment bank in Manhattan. This is an unlikely and improbable turn of events. The investment banking industry is on a respirator. You can count the number of healthy firms on one hand. That I found work at one of the survivors is a miracle. At the end of three months, they can elect to extend my contract or make an offer for a staff position. I got lucky.

But I’m not here to thank the fates. Regular readers will know that that’s not me. If you’re not in the mood to hear it, you’d better click on out right now.

I signed on for a project that will require 10-12 hour days for the next two or three months, I will be making less than I was at Morgan Stanley and because the office is nowhere near Penn Station, my commute will probably top off at 2:15. One way. Do you know what that means?

I will not see The Daughters.

They’ll be asleep when I wake up and asleep when I get home. I’ve gotten quite use to having them in my life and now they’ll stand on the periphery. I know the world is full of weekend dads but I never wanted to be one of them. I’ll miss them terribly but I’ve got a job to do.

Back to the salt mine. Blogging will be light.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

jersey shore math






A perfect day.
I love the city but the suburbs has its charms.

* My beloved Indians inaugurated the new $1.5 billion Yankee Stadium by scoring 14 runs in the second--the most runs ever scored in a single inning in the 96-year history of the Yankees. Way to open your new park, "Legends."

Friday, April 17, 2009

My old, cynical new york self

This headline just posted to CNN:

Oprah, Ashton Kutcher mark Twitter 'turning point'

I think the story is about how popular and socially relevant Twitter has become. I'm not sure. I didn't bother reading it. The headline was enough.

For me, this headline is the best argument for avoiding Twitter if you’ve never been on it, or canceling your subscription if you have one.

Isn’t that rather dark of me? I mean, what’s the harm, really? Shouldn't I just lighten up?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

random nyc pic

This awning stretches out over a Park Avenue sidewalk and is attached to the Waldorf-Astoria.

Built in 1931, The corners are accented with beautiful art deco flourishes (click-on for a closer look).

The best part of this iconic NYC logo? The words are separated by an equal sign. Genius! The Registered mark kind of spoils it.

Fun fact: Gangsters Frank Costello, Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel and Charles "Lucky" Luciano once lived in the Waldorf-Astoria.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Krapp, 39—yet another night with Beckett

Krapp, 39 is the fine, funny monologue currently at the Soho Playhouse that was inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. In Krapp’s Last Tape, a 69 year old man ruminates on his life while listening to a tape he recorded when he was 39.

Krapp, 39 is the invention of Michael Laurence. The clever premise is that on this, his 39th birthday, Laurence records a tape that he will use 30 years from now in a production of Krapp’s Last Tape. The tape is a jumping off point to examine his life. Could you sit alone on a stage and reveal all your personal and professional failures to an audience? Not I.

We learn what it's like to be an actor barely scraping by. Actors cannot plant roots. They travel from town to town looking for work in regional theater. Relationships don’t flourish and having children is out of the question.

Although he lived that way for many years, Laurence isn’t having a problem right now. This show overlaps with his work as an understudy in the upcoming Broadway production of Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms with Brian Dennehey. To accommodate this overlap, curtain for Krapp 39 is at 5:00. After his :90 minute monologue, he dashes uptown for rehearsal. I suppose it’s an actor’s dream, although I would need a nap between gigs.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

obama's new neighborhood

For the Easter weekend we drove down to lovely Arlington, VA to visit my in-laws. They live just across the river from Washington D.C. I've never see an area so saturated with traffic jams. And I live near New York City!

I wish I had a device in my car that would vaporize aggressive drivers on the freeway. I would only use it if someone really deserved to be vaporized. Just like my cell phone jammer. When I see a car fast-approaching in my rear view mirror weaving in and out of traffic, I get some very un-Zen like thoughts running through my brain.

* * *

Saturday we took the kiddies to the Capitol building while waiting for the storm clouds to part. It's the seat of government, you know!

We sat through a 13 minute film about the Meaning of the American Government. There was a stark contrast between the idealism portrayed in the film and the cesspool that Washington D.C. actually is. Frankly, I think the kids were bored out of their minds.

The architecture of the Capitol dome was quite nice.

And the sun finally broke through.

Monday, April 13, 2009

news flash: New York Yankee fans are sodomized by management

The baseball season is just underway and I thought it might be fun to take my family to Yankee Stadium to see my beloved Cleveland Indians (hopefully) pound the hell out the New York Yankees in this, the inaugural 3-game series at the brand spanking new Yankee Stadium. The Indians were instrumental in dismantling the Joe Torre dynasty and I hope they continue to be a thorn in the Yankees side for many years to come.

I hopped onto the Yankees site to shop for tickets. I had heard rumors that ticket prices were raised at the new stadium but was unprepared for what I saw. Just for fun I clicked on “Best Available Seats” as an option. Using that parameter, the four tickets would cost me a grand total of:


That’s not a typo.

Each ticket costs $2,625 and there's a “Convenience Charge” (whatever the hell that is) of $59.70 PER TICKET. That doesn’t factor in parking or food or souvenirs.

They’re called “Legend Seats.” I guess that’s because only a fool of Legendary proportions would spend $10K+ to watch a fucking baseball game. Have they lost their minds?

The Yankees are owned and operated by the Steinbrenners—a family of greedy, bottom-feeding parasites. I can’t wait to watch the games on TV and see all the empty seats behind the Yankees dugout. Bend over and grab your ankles Yankee fans. Play ball!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

a question of love

7-Year Old Daughter attempts to unlock the mystery of unconditional parental love while I tuck her in:

"Daddy, will you always love me?"

"Of course, I will."

"Even if I punch you in the eye?"

Daughter, you can punch me in both eyes. Just don't break my heart.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

an old catholic church in the heart of greenwich village

If I find myself with a spare :20 minutes to kill and a church is nearby, I always duck in for a quick meditation session. I’ll say one thing about people in churches: they know how to keep their mouths shut. The silence is conducive to a peaceful meditation.

Our Lady of Pompeii is just off 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village. It’s an old school Italian church that contains many of the types of icons that drove me out of Catholicism many years ago and into the loving arms of Buddhism. I don’t have the right to call myself Buddhist yet but I may get there someday.

How is Buddha typically depicted?

An overweight, happy man. He wishes well on everyone, regardless of their theological beliefs. There are no sad Buddhas and no condemnation if you don’t follow him!

Christian icons? Lots and lots of pain and suffering. Here we have St. Lucy with this afternoon’s blue plate special: eyeballs of martyr. Does that come with toast?

Here is St. Rocco showing off his fancy open, festering sore on his leg. Yuck!

I'm not sure who this chap is, but someone better tell him that the top of his head is on fire!

He reminds me of Mayor Ralph Perk of Cleveland, whose hair caught on fire during a 1972 ribbon cutting ceremony when he got too close to a welder’s arc.

And here is Christ, dead in his mother’s arms. Just imagine holding your dead child in your arms! Horrible imagery. And remember, he died because you are a sinner. I’ll bet you’re sorry now.

The Christ in this statue has the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen. This pic doesn’t do them justice. They’re sky blue. What are the odds that someone who was living in the Middle East in the year 35 A.D. had Tiffany box blue eyes? Well, you have to play to your audience, I suppose.

And here is Christ carrying the cross in Louis XIV splendor.

Look, I don’t mean to poke fun (well, perhaps just a little) but the relentless negativity—the scenes of torture and mayhem—finally did me in. And they teach this stuff to children! Should a church look like a Halloween haunted house with scenes of gore and violence? Have you seen the Stations of the Cross? It’s not right. Count me out.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

there's no pleasing some people

7-Year Old Daughter took my job loss pretty hard at first but since then she has gotten quite use to having my unemployed ass around the house. Both Daughters seem delighted. I love them but, honestly, I could use a change of scenery.

I walked downstairs in my best suit and tie and 7-Year Old Daughter asked if I was going into the city for another interview. I told her I was and that, hopefully, I would be back to work very soon.

She burst into tears. "I don't want you to go back to work! I want you to stay here! Can't you work in my school?!" Later, she said that she hopes I find a job, but not for the rest of the year.

God forbid.

Monday, April 6, 2009

feeding my addiction

I honestly don't know what happened to me. I use to drive drunk, have unprotected sex and smoke a ton of weed. Today, I get my kicks by chasing rare books. I'm sure I'm a big disappointment to my friends back home.

I attended the annual rare book fair at the Park Avenue armory. Holy Mother of God what a show. When it comes to rare books I have a rather weak disposition and it was probably not wise for me to walk into a large room filled with temptations. But I am happy to report that although I had a few moments where I was woozy and weak, I successfully fought off all attempts to rationalize a purchase.

The one item I would have loved to own was a set of early (1966) broadsides by Charles Bukowski in PERFECT condition in a custom made clamshell box. But at $37,000, it was easy to say no. Here are a few fun items. You can click on these pics to for a better look.

A first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Not one of his masterworks but just look at the design on that jacket. Beautiful.

It seems to me that authors don’t take pride in their signatures like they use to. Here’s a signed copy of The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald signed in 1922, the year of publication, in his hometown of St. Paul Minnesota. Look at that handwriting and signature!

Hemingway was another author whose inscriptions have an art-like quality. Here’s an inscribed copy of The Green Hills of Africa by Hemingway signed in Key West in 1936.

Here’s another example of Hemingway’s signature. This is a signed first edition of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Isn't that grand?

This is a first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royal—the first (and most violent) Bond book. The jacket was designed by Fleming and the phrases in the wreath reads: A Whisper of Love. A Whisper of Hate. I love that. The price is a measly £18,750.

The fair is mainly about books, but there are also autographs, some artwork and other sundry items. Here’s a manuscript leaf in Mozart’s hand from the Serenade in D Major. Take it home and hang it on your wall for only $195,000!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

my taxes

I just had our taxes done. Last year, we had to write the I.R.S. a check for $4,000. This year, I am getting a $1,000 refund.

"Why the difference?" I asked Tim the Accountant.

"You suffered monumental losses in your equity accounts."

That was 2008 for a lot of people, I suppose. But I'm happy about the refund. It'll come in handy.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

nothing to be done: a night with Beckett

CB and I saw the Roundabout Theater Company production of Waiting for Godot with Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin and John Goodman. Goodman shaved his head! He’s gotten so massive that he looks like a Bond villain. And nobody can navigate a stage like Nathan Lane. His movements are fluid and graceful.

We loved it, although some audience members didn’t return after the intermission. I understand why they would bail out. Samuel Beckett is about as esoteric as Broadway gets and he’s definitely an acquired taste, so if you've wandered in off the street and didn’t know what you were getting yourself into, you might be more inclined to walk out.

The first time I saw a production of Godot was many years ago in a dingy Bowery theater. I was prepared for an evening of pretentious babble and nonsense but it’s actually a surprisingly funny play. The absurdity of two idiots waiting for someone who is never coming has more comic potential than you would think. It’s worth the effort to hang on to the stream of dialog as it’s flying by (and, yes, it can be an effort at times).

You have to let go of the notion that there’s a traditional linear plot with a beginning, middle and end. As we were leaving the theater, I overheard someone say, “Well, I have no idea what that was about.” It’s not about anything. (Well, to me, anyway. The show is probably fraught with metaphor but that stuff always gets by me. You can’t be subtle with me. It won’t work.) If it's about anything at all, it seems to me it's about the language and the acting. A story? Not so much.

The last 30 seconds might have been the best part of the show. There was a gloriously staged fade-out. Estragon (Lane) and Vladimir (Irwin) wait under the tree looking slightly upward. The lights begin to slowly, slowly dim. The shadows thicken, nothing is said, and the silence is heavy. It was a masterwork of stage design and lighting. Beautiful.

Someone did us a solid favor. We were sitting way the hell in the back of the balcony and during the intermission a man walked up to us, asked if we wanted to sit in the orchestra section and handed us his two ticket stubs. He didn’t like the show and instead of just leaving the theater, he walked back to the worst seats in the house and upgraded us. They were $116 seats. What a pal!


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lennon/McCartney smackdown

Here’s a fine example of the difference between a John Lennon lyric and a Paul McCartney lyric.

In Getting Better off of Sgt. Pepper, we hear:

It’s getting better all the time
I use to get mad at my school
The teachers that taught me weren’t cool

Do you see what he did there? He rhymed school with cool. Right out of the ole’ rhyming dictionary. The teachers weren’t cool. That’s kind of obvious, don’t you think? Can you guess who wrote that? A little later in the same song, we hear:

I used to be cruel to my woman I beat her
and kept her apart from the things that she loved
Man, I was mean but I’m changing my scene

Holy shit! He went from thinking school wasn’t cool to beating his woman! That’s quite a leap, don't you think? I think we can guess who contributed that part of the song. It sure ain’t the guy who would go on to write:

You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs
I look around me and I see it isn’t so
Oh no.

More likely, it’s the guy who would later write:

Father, you left me but I never left you.
I needed you but you didn't need me.