The Unbearable Banishment: April 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

Are you going to choose the blue pill or the red pill?

Let's say you were on your way to work and looking to fulfill your a.m. salt bagel and coffee needs (as I often am). Are you going to go here:

Or are you going to go here:

Convenience is not a factor in your decision.

It's a choice that, in a small way, defines who you are and what kind of city you want to live in. New York use to be full of red pills, like the one on the left. But for whatever reason, they are disappearing and being replaced with blue pills, like the one on the right.

This is the same fight that I meditated on in this David v. Goliath New York story. And for the record, even though I don't think my small contribution will amount to squat, I always swallow the red pill of truth vs. the blue pill of blissful ignorance. (For salt bagels and coffee, that is. Please don't test me on Life's Big Decisions.)

* * *

This is Bryant Park, right behind the big library on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, with the new sod all laid out. Can you old-time New Yorkers pick out what's odd about this sod?

What's the biggest surprise in these photos?

The shock is that nobody is ON THE GRASS! The lawn is surrounded by an ankle-high orange rope and small signs imploring people to stay off the sod and allow it to take root.

This is as good an illustration as any as to how far New York has come since I move here over two decades ago. When I got here, Bryant Park was a den of crime and drugs. You didn't dare go NEAR it. All the dregs of 42nd Street would empty out into the park. At that time, the crackheads would have used the rope to tie up wayward tourists and picked their pockets. Now, it's clean and full of law abiding citizens.

Some people bemoan the disappearance of "old" New York and pitch a fit about the "Disneyfication" of Times Square but take it from me, even though it may have cost the city some of its soul, this is a much, much better way to live. Don't argue with me. It just is.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Happy birthday, Atticus Finch

Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is the single most important book in my life.

I didn't read a book until I was 21 years old. It's true! They attempted to force-feed me while attending my below-average schools, but I made it clear that I would only read a book under protest and made every effort to not finish it. I usually succeeded.

Flash to age 21. I'm in the Coast Guard (no university for me, thanks!) and freshly arrived in New York City. I didn't know a soul. I'd not felt so isolated and all alone before or since. At that time, the city was a dirty, overwhelming, scary mess. But I got sick of sitting around and starring at my shoelaces, so I decided to go exploring.

I took the R train from Whitehall up to Central Park. On the way, I passed a street peddler who was selling books. I gave birth to, what I thought was, the most original and exciting idea ever conceived. I was going to sit in the park and read a book. I thought that voluntarily reading a book was a courageous act.

I looked over all the books spread out on the sidewalk (I can still picture it to this day) and saw a tattered, worn paperback of To Kill a Mockingbird. I remembered that some of my friends in school read it, so I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, it was really thin and that appealed to me.

I sat down on a Central Park bench, opened the book and began reading. I was a different man when I got up off that bench. It was a defining moment. That book sucked me in and I haven't stopped reading since. It opened a door for me. I became a reader because of To Kill a Mockingbird. What a gift!

In 2005 I got the notion to write Harper Lee and tell her how much her book meant to me. I wrote that, because of her book, I'm living a better life than someone without a college degree could have expected to live. I wrote that I am a better father to my daughters and honestly don't know what would have become of me if her book hadn't introduced me to reading. I worked hard on the letter and was pleased with the results.

Harper Lee is a recluse who shuns all publicity. All I knew was that she lives in Monroeville, Alabama, so I sent the letter to Harper Lee, c/o Monroeville, AL. I never expected it to arrive, much less be read by her, but I had to get that off my chest.

Just a few short days after I sent my letter, I received the following:

The fact that I moved Harper Lee to write such an elegant thank-you note is meaningful to me. The funny coda is that a few days after that, I received ANOTHER note from Ms. Lee. She couldn't remember whether or not she sent a thank-you note.

"Forgive me if this is a repeat letter; I'm old, my eyesight is failing and I'm FORGETFUL. I may have forgot that I replied to you, but I know one thing:

I'll never forget your letter. In 45 years of receiving fan mail, I never had a letter mean so much to me. Thank you for it.

Happy birthday, Atticus. Thanks for saving me from a boring life.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The angry Americans: Part 2

I promise to refrain from posting any more examples of political extremism that I stumble across (as I did here), but I wanted to take one last shot across your bow to illustrate what I see when I leave the city every night and go home to New Jersey.

We ran across this guy when we took The Daughters to the park over the weekend.

Isn't that clever? They've co-opted the logo from the President's campaign and are using it to insult him. What are the odds that you could sit down with this guy and have a rational conversation about healthcare or financial reform? Here's who he'd like to see in the White House:

The illustration between "Palin" and "2012" is a cartoon of a pit bull. Because that's what this country needs. More ignorant babbling from this polarizing idiot. She quit her Governorship on a holiday weekend because she thought it wouldn't attract as much media attention. Her resignation speech is a classic.

If her popularity (and the anger) increases, it might benefit the Democrats in the short term, but it's going to be bad for my country in the long run. So, if your sympathies tend to skew more towards the Democratic party, please spare me any gloating because if this good ship continues to sink, you're going down with it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

What I’d take you to see if you came to NYC

I just came out of one of the finest plays I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen quite a few. Some beautiful geniuses in London took the most unlikely, dry subject and turned it into a compelling evening. Someone had the questionable idea to write a play about the rise and collapse of Enron. Well, it’s a masterpiece. One for the ages. Fetching to watch, expertly acted, deeply interesting and relevant for today.

Declaring something as the “best” is, of course, purely subjective. But, for me, this show came along at the exact right moment. I am down on the investment banking industry I spent my career in and have worked with people who were similar to the sociopaths portrayed in this play. But even if you care not a whit about finance or Wall Street shenanigans, Enron is worth seeing because it's a visual feast and a master class in drama and humor. (Yes, it's very funny.)

It helps that I did some homework beforehand. It always does. My head is an empty vessel that needs to be filled. Anytime I see a Shakespeare play, I jam the Cliff Notes version the week of the show. Likewise, for Enron, I recently saw the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and it enhanced my experience. The more you carry into a theater, the more you take away.

The dry business of mark-to-market investing is made palpable by actors dressed as three blind mice, red-eyed raptors, neon lightsaber-wielding Jedis, a barber shop quartet (they're from a rating agency!) and two Lehman Brothers employees who are hysterically portrayed as in-lockstep Siamese twins who speak in high-pitch sing-songy voices. It’s surreal. The stage design is smart and the use of multimedia is brilliant. Initially, I panicked at its 2:30 length but I’d gladly sit through it again. Perhaps I will.

Jason, I’m going to have to insist that you watch The Smartest Guys in the Room and then try to beg, borrow or steal a ticket to this show. It’s an unforgettable evening. You should consider yourself lucky that it’s within your geographic reach.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

All I wanted to do was take the A train

I was walking through the tunnel that runs under 42nd Street trying to get to the A train when I stumbled across this guy.

I'm not a believer so I'm pretty sure that qualifies me as being "wicked," which means that eventually I'll be "turned into hell." There are lots of folks like this in the city. People who want you to know that unless you walk the same path they do, you’ll be damned to hell. 98% of the time I don’t care what they have to say. They don’t mean anything to me. But if I’m having a 2% day, it can get under my skin. Don’t judge me. You fuckhead.

* * *

I’m doing some consulting work at an investment bank. I stepped into the men’s room, closed the stall door and sat down. This was stuck to the door. It’s at eye level when you’re sitting.

Or worse? What do you mean? Like, your careless habits can result in someone’s death? And I like the accusatory, guilt-ridden "you know who you are..." I can't put my thumb on it but this note has a certain charm to it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What I learned while unemployed

I lost my job at J.P. Morgan back in December, which was a blessing in disguise if ever there was one. Since that time, I’ve worked a series of consulting/freelance projects and have, by and large, remained gainfully employed. Mrs. Wife and I have always made a point to live below our means, so money hasn’t been a huge problem. Mrs. Wife, to her credit, doesn’t give a shit about material things. We don’t need much to get by.

I seem to be on the threshold of a job offer. I’m probably speaking too soon but even if this one doesn’t work out, the economy is on the mend and I suspect a hire offer isn’t that far into my future. Until then, there seems to be plenty of freelance work floating around.

This has caused me to reflect on the time between projects when I didn’t have work. I’ve had two or three week periods where nothing much was happening. I, as I’m sure all of you, have always suspected that not working would be a pretty sweet deal. I like what I do for a living and I don’t mind working. But what I didn’t realize, and now know, is that not working is FUCKING AWESOME to the 10th power, especially if you have New York at your doorstep.

I know lots and lots of stay-at-home mothers who insist that raising kids is a full time job and that they are, de facto, “working.” I respect that. I prefer Mrs. Wife stay home and take care of The Daughters. I believe they’re happier for it. Raising kids is a lot of hard work but, I’m sorry, it’s way more satisfying than the grind of commuting 2x per day, sitting at the same desk under the same florescent lights, Monday through Friday and being surrounded by people who, by and large, you wouldn’t choose to associate with. Not working is the BEST. But the pay is terrible.

Here are some things I learned while unemployed.

I learned that if you visit any of the art museums in Manhattan during the week and get there just as they’re opening, you can have the whole place to yourself. Especially the Met. The Met is so vast that it disperses the crowd pretty well. The galleries are gloriously empty and you don’t have people walking in front of you while you’re studying a painting. Same goes for the art galleries in Chelsea.

I learned that during the day, the gym is empty. Nobody postures and preens. Nobody is texting or cruising for tail. All the equipment is available. Get in, do your thing and get out.

I learned that sleeping in is overrated.

I learned that there’s an entire subculture in New York City of people who don’t work and don’t seem to have money problems. Central Park is full of people out enjoying themselves in the midday sun and I’m not counting the tourists. You can tell the visitors from the locals. I don’t know how they do it! Who are these people who are able to jog around the reservoir at 3:00 in the afternoon?

I learned how to paint the interior of a house. I never knew! Seriously! The painting is a drag but the end results are pretty satisfying.

I learned that having breakfast with 3-Year Old Daughter and being home when 8-Year Old Daughter gets home from school to help with her homework is a worthwhile expenditure of my time.

I also learned how to do this. And, no, that’s not me. I’m good until about 2:15 in. That’s when I eat this guy’s dust.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leave Britney alone!

I haven't done a theater post in quite a while. It's not because I've stopped attending. Far from it. We're in the heat of the spring season and I think I've got about five under my belt that I've not written about and I'm seeing two more this week. I got the notion in my head that, frankly, the theater posts aren't that interesting to most people. And that's fine. I get that.

Where it all goes horribly wrong is when I lie in bed at night and, instead of sleeping, stare at the ceiling and start to imagine that if I do one more post about the theater, I'll lose all my readers. Isn't that crazy?! But admit it; when you're in bed and on the threshold of sleep, you think a lot of crazy thoughts, too. Right?

Well, I decided that to hell with all of you! I'm going to continue doing my theater posts and if you don't like it, well, you can just...I don't know what but I'm going to do them anyway.

(If you thought that was sad and crazy, you should see what's going on inside my head that I'm not revealing to you.)

* * *

RED is Dr. Octopus—oh, excuse me—I mean Alfred Molina as egomaniac artist (is there any other kind?) Mark Rothko. I loved it but I think it's got very limited appeal. It makes you feel all smart and brainy if you've heard of the artists mentioned. They talk a lot about influences and the arc of contemporary art history. Do you like that stuff? Then go. You'll love it. Molina really is in top form. The play was a big hit at the Donmar Warehouse in London and Eddie Redmayne, who plays Rothko's studio assistant, won all sort of well-deserved awards. They might give him one here in New York, too. All the critics love him in New York. But be warned, it's pretty chatty.

Best moment? The two prepare a huge canvas with a base coat of paint. They blast some classical music and have worked out an intricate dance whereby Molina paints the top half of the canvas while Redmayne prepares the bottom. It's interesting from the standpoint that I've never seen a canvas prepared, but aside from that, it's just a ton of fun to watch. It's fast and live and real-time, and that's what the theater has over movies.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Raw anger. American style.

I passed this in the parking lot on the way to the gym today:

Can you imagine being so out of your mind with anger that you do this to your car? My area of New Jersey is full of conservative, angry white people. They're not adjusting well to the demographic shift of America. They look at Washington D.C. and they see a black man in the white house, a Latina on the Supreme Court and a woman running the House of Representatives. Their numbers are is slipping away, along with their power, and it scares the hell out of them. Their fears are stoked by people who make a LOT of money off of stoking the fears of panicky white people.

There is no room for open discussion in my country anymore. Where is this all going to end up? I saw the guy who owns this car. He is, of course, an old white man. Does he really believe the Democratic party is a communist front? He can't be talked down off the window ledge he's standing on. He's too far gone. I'm afraid there are more just like him being minted every day.

Hey, Australia. Do you have room for a husband and wife with two adorable daughters? Canada? Anybody? (Not you, China.)

* * *

There's an optometrist in Manhattan who, I shit you not, performs lasik eye correction surgery right in his front window. I was walking by and took these pics.

His intention is to prove to people how safe, quick and easy the surgery is. And he doesn't just perform it in a store window on 25th Street. He allows people to come in and observe. The woman in the blue hair net is not a nurse. She walked in off the street to watch. The best part of this pic is the creepy eye in the monitor. Ick.

See? New York really is different than where you're sitting right now.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Every food snob’s nightmare

Here in America, our friends at KFC have invented a new way to delight our taste buds and murder us en masse. Their new Double Down sandwich eschews bread as being tasteless filler. It places in your hands, two pieces of fried chicken with white American cheese, bacon and “Colonel’s sauce” (aka, mayonnaise) between them.

The New York Times, that bastion of food snobbery sent its restaurant critic, Sam Sifton, out to try one on its inaugural day. This is just a stupid stunt. What did they think he was going to write? That it was a satisfying meal? He had some pretty good lines, but his review wasn‘t surprising. He said the sandwich was…

…a new low: a greasy entree dish of chicken with bacon and cheese on it, slathered in sauce, that the company asks customers to eat with their hands. The chicken is watery within its soft casing of “crust,” the cheese familiar to anyone who has eaten food prepared by the United States government, the bacon chemical in its smokiness, the mayonnaise sauce tangy, salty, and sweet, all at once.

He went on to call the workers behind the counter “dour and slow moving.” Hey, Sam. Fuck you. Have you ever had to work in a fast food joint? Do you know what an insufferable, exhausting, soul-sucking experience it is? Sorry there's no maître d’ at the KFC, you little bitch. I hope a fast food employee gives you a proper ass-whupping. You deserve one.

He did concede that the fries “weren’t bad,” but in a final toss-off said the sandwich was “a disgusting meal, a must-to-avoid.” Why does this annoy me so much? I probably won’t ever eat one, but I might. I don’t mind crap food in controlled doses. But his condescending attitude got under my skin. Asshole.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Naked in New York City

The seasons are changing. In a small Mission in Capistrano, California, the swallows have returned from their winter migration. Here in New York City, we also have a touchstone to mark the approaching balmy nights. Last week I had my first sighting of The Naked Cowboy in Times Square. True, he lacks the panache of small, delicate birds returning to a Mission, but give me a break. It's New York. We'll take what we can get.

The Naked Cowboy is a busker who walks around Times Square wearing just his skivvies with "Naked Cowboy" written on his ass, a cowboy hat and boots. If you stand right in front of him, his guitar covers his shorts and he does, in fact, appear to be naked. He's been at it for quite some time and has become a Times Square institution.

Some of the locals think he's just a nut with a gimmick, but I like him. He makes the tourists happy and what's bad about that? When I pass through Times Square and stumble across his act, I always like to step back and watch the reactions of the crowd. Their faces run the gamut between abject horror and raw lust. The guy is built like a brick shithouse.

There's a hole cut into the top of his guitar and after he poses for a pic, you're suppose to drop a few bucks inside. Seems innocent enough to me. My point of all this is that the weather has finally turned a corner. All the cafes have put tables and chairs out on the sidewalks and the new lawn has been planted in Bryant Park. The welcome mat is rolled out, folks.

In New York you can forget,
forget how to sit still.
Tell yourself you will stay in
But it's down to Alphaville.

You got to put the women and children first
But you've got an unquenchable thirst for New York

New York


Tuesday, April 13, 2010


8-Year Old Daughter's shirt has the exact same color values and saturation as the blossoms. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her walk in front of the tree and she disappeared into it. [Clickable.]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

My obsession: a photo blast

This weekend was the annual ABAA antiquarian book fair in Manhattan. I start looking forward to it right around February and it never disappoints. Imagine the one material thing you love the most. Now, imagine an armory filled to the rafters with the best of the best of that one special thing. When I walk in it smells like old paper and glue. I get woozy.

I collect rare books but this stuff is way out of my league. No matter. I have to go. It's like the literature museum except everything has a price tag on it. A dealer from California was selling a book that use to be part of my collection. The asking price was a hell of a lot more than I remember selling it for. That's always a bit of a shock. Here's a few high spots.

This is a fourth folio of the works of Shakespeare. It was printed in 1685 and is in pretty miraculous condition. When you collect books, condition is king. Yours for $225,000. And that's for a fourth folio! A first, if it ever came on the market, would easily run into the millions.

Agatha Christie's most popular novel is And Then There Were None. It's been made into films and plays and has sold millions of copies. In the U.S. it was originally published as Ten Little Indians, which is kind of racist. But it's not quite as racist as the original title from the UK first edition.

I suppose this wasn't a big issue in 1939 but it's pretty difficult to look at today. The illustration of jungle savages is particularly grating. Agatha Christie! My God! What was she thinking?!

This isn't a first edition but it's still pretty valuable. It's an early copy of The Wizard of OZ that signed by the cast on the left free end paper...[You can click on this to study the signatures.]

...and by a bunch of Munchkins on the right free end paper. $85,000

There's always at least one nice copy of The Great Gatsby and this one is a beaut. The stunning jacket, one of the most iconic in American literature, was designed by Francis Cugat (older brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat.) $175,000.

We now move from the sublime to the ridiculous. This is purported to be Ernest Hemingway's typewriter. The asking price is $110,000. For that kind of money, you could get a near-complete run of his first editions. Wouldn't you want that instead? I would.

And if you're interested in beat literature, then you must, must have Jack Kerouac's pants. That's right, his pants. These are his jeans and what they're doing in a rare book fair is beyond me. Looking for a sucker, I suppose. $5,500.

There's always a few first editions of On The Road and Catcher in the Rye in the room. Each of those titles would set you back thousands, but I see them with such regularity that it makes me question their rarity.

That's my obsession. Have you got one?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beauty queen confidential

I am doll eyes
Doll mouth, doll legs
I am doll arms, big veins, dog bait
Yeah, they really want you, they really do
I want to be the girl with the most cake

Doll Parts

Have you ever had an evening that wasn’t suppose to amount to much, but turned out to be magic? I love those.

I am full of hidden prejudices. I'm working hard to rid myself of them but the fact is that I have preconceived notions about some people. I am predisposed to dislike certain types. It’s ugly and unfair.

For instance, politicians. In my mind, politicians are inherently prone to corruption and are not to be trusted. The fact that you would even want to be a politician is an indication that you have a flawed personality. If one of The Daughters marries a politician, I will fell like I failed them.

I was in the city for an interview. Afterwards, I was meeting someone for dinner, but the dinner fell through at the last minute. I sent out a few text messages on my way to the train station and received an invitation to meet a friend and his girlfriend for drinks. They were drinking in one of those unique Manhattan pubs. It’s a converted barge that’s anchored off the 26th Street pier. They were outside on the upper deck. You walk along the side of the ship to the stern and then up a spiral staircase. Cool breeze. Sun setting over New Jersey. The Hudson River slowly floating by. The pub gently rocks. To hell with the train, I decided.

My friend’s girlfriend represented the Dominican Republic in a recent Miss World competition. I’ve seen pics of her and have been wanting to meet her (OF COURSE). She’s a beauty queen. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of beauty pageants? Yeah, me too. JonBenét Ramsey, the nauseating world of child beauty pageants and vapid contestants.

In person, she is so stunning that I was taken aback when I first sat down. Once I regained my composure, I realized that she was speaking in complete, coherent sentences, despite the fact that English is her second language. (She taught herself English by watching TV. She speaks three languages to my one). She couldn’t have been more charming and down to earth. Funny. A good listener. She told interesting stories about living in China for 40 days while in a pageant.

She can’t work in the U.S. because of some immigration documents that haven’t been processed yet. What does she do with all that free time? Does she walk up and down 5th Avenue and spend my friend’s money as quickly as possible? Sit all day and chat with models? Nay. She volunteers. She took it upon herself to find where she could be of good use to the underprivileged. Nobody was looking over her shoulder. It wasn’t to bolster her resume.

Quick to judge. Slow to understand. I wonder what else I’m wrong about?

By the time we left, the boat was packed, packed, packed with the after-work city drones. We walked down the spiral staircase and there was a narrow path out through the crowd. We had to walk single file, my friend first, then his girlfriend, and then me. As we walked through the crowd, I saw men and women freeze in their spot and just stare as she passed by. As though they couldn’t believe their eyes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Follow me, boys (and girls)

Follow me boys, follow me,
When you think you're really beat
That's the time to lift your feet,
And follow me boys, follow me,
Pick'em up, put'em down and follow me,

Follow Me Boys
Written for the Boy Scouts of America
by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman

* * *

I've added a Followers gadget over to the right. To those who are psychologically evolved, inserting a tracking gadget is a non-event. Sadly, my insatiable neediness turned it into an angst-ridden ordeal.

As I've discussed with Daisyfae in several email exchanges, I spend far (far) too much time pouring over my stats and comments. I realize that maintaining a blog is something that is purely for the 'self' and that worrying about the size of your audience is a exercise in futility. Wishing for more readers is inane and pointless, but I've never permitted sound reasoning to interfere with my foggy judgment and I'm not about to start now.

Last summer I received a flattering review from the hard asses at Ask and Ye Shall Receive that I thought would result in a media firestorm. Those guys aren't easy to please, you know! There was a big spike in the bar chart which has since tapered off.

At my worst, I get into comments/unique hits pissing contests with people who are completely unaware that they're in a pissing contest with me. A Followers gadget seemed suicidal! Which evil genius wrote the code for a gadget whose soul purpose it is to cast a harsh spotlight on how few readers I have? Did he/she do it specifically to mock me? I think so.

But there it is, chuckling. Ridiculing me. I might create a dozen false accounts just to goose up my number.

* * *

3-Year Old Daughter removed the flat, wooden slat from its sleeve at the bottom of the window shade, stood up on our bed and stuck it in the rotating ceiling fan. It made a terrible racket. I bolted upstairs and shouted at her.

“What are you doing?!”

“I wanted to see what it felt like. Now, you made me cry. Waaahhhhh…

She’ll be the one who dates a biker. And not one those weekend pretenders, either. You’ve seen them. Actuary accountants who don expensive leather jackets and get all manly on Sunday mornings. She’ll date the real thing. This is the same innocent flower who took a pair of shears to our curtains.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

DON'T JUMP! Oh. Wait. It's only a statue.

I love big art installations and New York has a fairly steady diet of them. They're not like paintings, which can be viewed over and over again. Once they're disassembled, that's it. You'll never see them again. I fondly remember taking 8-Year Old Daughter to see Christo's Gates in Central Park several years ago. People complained about it but I thought it was fantastic. Now it only lives in photographs. If you haven't seen it before, I encourage you to take a look at this post for Ernesto Neto's anthropodino. It's the best installation I've ever seen.

If you're coming to New York this summer [Jo] be sure to visit artist Antony Gormley's Event Horizon outdoor art installation at Madison Square Park. It's a series of statues that are placed on the roof ledges surrounding the park. When it was being set-up, the NYPD took measures to assure the public that they were not jumpers on the threshold of suicide.

This statue stands at the apex of the Flatiron Building. [All pics are clickable.]

There are 31 statues in all, but only four are on the ground. You can spend time craning your neck trying to locate each statue or you can do what I did and printout the map that's on his site and bring it with you.

This is my favorite picture because he stands in the shadow of the Empire State Building spire.

This guy... way the hell up there.

Here's one of the four statues on the ground. The statues on buildings are fiberglass but these four are iron. I was a little shocked about the genitalia. What do you tell the kiddies? For each statue, Gormley wrapped himself in saran wrap and then was covered with wet plaster. He had to remain motionless for about an hour while the plaster dried. I love artists and actors. I love their kookiness.

Here's an article and interview from the New York Times that will enhance your visit.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Who the hell am I to question the scriptures?

I went to mass for Easter. I went for the sake of Mrs. Wife and The Daughters. It’s important to them and I respect that. I even went to communion. 8-Year Old Daughter is receiving her first communion in May and I wanted to set a good example. I’m glad I didn’t burst into flames when the host touched my tongue. That would have sent the wrong message.

Even though I left the church years ago, I still try to keep an open mind and listen hard to the readings and sermons. This was a portion of the gospel reading:

God raised him up the third day, and gave him to be revealed, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen before by God, to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

Acts 10:40-41

If Christ wanted to pave the way for mankind to embrace Christianity, he should have shown Himself to the masses, not just a chosen few. If you had been there, would you have believed them? Would you have taken their word for it? “He’s not dead. But only we’re allowed to see him.” That’s too convenient.

The night before Easter I was watching the annual broadcast of The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. (What a ham.) Marking a doorway with lamb’s blood to avoid the wrath of the Angel of Death made no sense to me. Why would they need to do that? If the Angel of Death is an omnipotent spirit, wouldn’t it, by its own supernatural power, know which houses were Hebrew and which were Egyptian? Isn’t doing something worldly like smearing blood on the door superfluous? It's a good thing the Egyptians didn't catch on or it would have blown the whole operation.

And commanding Abraham to slay his son to prove his devotion is sadistic and cruel.

I don’t understand any of it. And I attended a parochial school! It all boils down to a very simple equation; you either believe or you don’t.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In the beginning God created R. Crumb

I paid a visit to the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea to view the original drawings from R. Crumb's latest book, The Book of Genesis Illustrated. All 50 chapters! It was a Friday and the gallery was gloriously empty. I love Crumb's work. It's so dense.

Each drawing, some 200+ pages, was arranged sequentially along the perimeter of the gallery as they appear in the book. You could see where Crumb made corrections to some of the drawings with white out. Did you know that in the world of collectors, the less white out used on an illustration, the more valuable it is?

Crumb played it straightforward with this book and didn't include any of his usual brilliant sarcastic wit and commentary. It's a studious interpretation that uses text directly quoted from the bible. In perusing the drawings, I couldn't help noticing how violent and erotic some of the bible stories are.

I asked the gallery attendant if the drawings were for sale. She told me that they can only sold as one lot. That's so silly! Who would have room to display all of these?

Friday, April 2, 2010

A perfect day. A perfect wife.

I have a consulting project lined up at an investment bank that won’t start until the 12th. In the meantime, I’m trying to make myself useful at home. I’ve made some cosmetic repairs to the house and have started to paint the family room. I need to clean the winter detritus out of the gutters.

By all rights, I should be home finishing up the painting. But it’s Friday. And after a brutal winter of pounding blizzards, a March with record-setting rainfall and a lot of unemployment drama, the sun is finally out, the sky is blue-blue, and there’s a balmy breeze. So I have put down my paint roller for the day and am in the city for what my pal Bob would refer to as a Fuck-Off Friday.

I’ll stop in the David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea to view the original drawings that R. Crumb made for his most recent book, The Bible Illuminated: R. Crumb’s book of Genesis.

Afterwards, I’ll walk over to Madison Square Park to view the Event Horizon New York outdoor installation. The artist, Antony Gormley, used his own body to cast 31 life-sized statues and scattered them throughout the park and along the top edges of the surrounding buildings. When the first statue went up atop the point of the Flatiron Building, the police received multiple calls about a suicide jumper.

A short walk away is Swann Auction Galleries, where an important rare book auction will be held next week, The Otto Penzler Collection of British Espionage and Thriller Fiction. Lots of Ian Fleming and Graham Greene first editions. The books are way out of my price range, but I want to view them before they pass into private hands.

After that it’s uptown to Christie’s at Rockefeller Center. The author Michael Crichton poured a lot of the money he made off of Jurassic Park and ER into his art collection. Now that he’s dead, it’s up for auction and for the next two weeks you can view the lots. This guy didn’t kid around. Rauschenberg, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Picasso, and the cornerstone of the collection, Flag by Jasper Johns (est. $10-$15 million.) Jesus. $10 mil for a painting. And I can’t find a staff job.

In the evening I’m meeting friends to see Alfred Molina play the troubled/suicidal artist Mark Rothko in Red, a Donmar Warehouse import from London that opened last night to stellar reviews this morning.

Do know how many wives would allow their husbands to do all that with a half-painted family room at home? While I’m out fucking around the city all day and night, Mrs. Wife will be home taking care of The Daughters. She has said nothing about my folly and had not laid any guilt trips on me.

Who has the greatest spouse on the planet? It ain't you. I told my sister about all this and she suggested I kiss Mrs. Wife’s feet when I get home. I might do just that.