The Unbearable Banishment: May 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

As Lazarus rose from the dead

I went swimming and my cell phone was in my pocket. It’s currently in a bag of rice on my car dash. I was assured that my phone, like Lazarus, would arise after four days. If any of you have sent me text messages, you won’t get a response until later in the week.

* * *

I’ve been in a terrible funk. I haven’t felt like posting, reading any blogs or commenting. I’ll spare you the boring details. But in the thick of my self-pity, I attended a funeral. Sadness, sadness. God, the loss.

The day after the funeral, I received word that a friend’s 20-year old daughter passed away. She battled neurofibromatosis. Her entire life was spent in pain and wheelchairs. Her condition lead to hydrocephalus, legal blindness, loss of limb function and other sundry miseries. Yet, she managed to graduate from high school and never saw herself as handicapped.

And I still sit in my shallow funk. Who am I?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Anniversary / Teach your children

My mom passed away a year ago today. There's no sadness. Only happy memories. She drifted away peacefully on a cloud of morphine.

When she was in the hospital and obviously not going to recover, my brother asked her, "Hey, ma, are you going to haunt me?"

"Not if you don't want me to."

That's how we rolled with her. And she with us. That's how it was done and we loved it.

Actually, now that I consider it, I *am* kind of sad that The Daughters will never know her. She was rock solid, that one.

* * *

On the afternoons when I don't have work, I try to sneak away to the museums. The crowds are thin, especially early in the morning. Can you look at masterworks too many times? Nay, I say. What is boring for many, never gets old for me.

One thing that was new to me—something I never saw on the weekends—were the roving classes. Groups of kids sit, surprisingly patient and well-behaved, are queried by the docents and asked for feedback. I look at their faces and as the talks progress and for some, you can see a fog lifting and a new clarity arise.

Sometimes, they're given an assignment. For instance, Giacometti originally intended the piece below to include a second figure. His arm is suppose to be draped around someone's shoulders. But time ran out on the commission and he was forced to deliver it incomplete. The students were asked to draw that second figure. What THEY thought it should look like. The statue is, basically, a stick figure, so it doesn't take a lot of artistic dexterity to draw it.

I try to get The Daughters into the museums a couple time a year, but it's tough. I do what I can.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

That damn race music

The Tony nominations came out and I actually saw two of the four nominees for Best Musical. I'm not much for musicals so it's an unusual coincidence.

My pal CB is a writer in the fashion industry and he did a piece on Chad Kimball, one of the co-stars of Memphis. (That's him in the poster.) Are you ready to feel like an under-achiever? Not only is Mr. Kimball in a Broadway hit musical and nominated for a Tony (Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical) but he, along with his brother, are successful clothing designers. Bastards! Their line is carried in Bloomingdale's. I'm not sure if you can do better than that.

Mr. Kimball invited CB to a performance and I tagged along. We had house seats. House seats are the best seats in the theater. They're held back by management for VIP's, press and hangers-on. When I go to a play, I usually sit in the last few rows of the balcony. It's all I can afford! Sitting up front is a completely different experience. It's easier to get sucked into the performance. I guess that's why they cost so much. Duh.

[Side comment: Many years ago I was upgraded to a first class seat on a flight to Las Vegas. It was a terrible mistake. It warped my perspective. My days of blissful ignorance in coach are over.]

This isn't just another jukebox musical with a plot loosely built around an artist's catalog, as were Movin' Out (Billy Joel songs), Come Fly Away (Sinatra songs), The Times They Are A-Changin' (Bob Dylan songs), Mama Mia (ABBA songs) Good Vibrations (Beach Boy songs) Love, Janis (Janis Joplin songs) etc, etc x 100.

The story takes place as rhythm and blues music was just starting to be embraced by a young, white audience. There is much parental angst in the plot. The songs are genre originals written by David Bryan, a member of the girlie band Bon Jovi, and playwright Joe DiPietro. The music kinda worked for me, but what really sucked me into the story was the performance by the two leads. Seeing two actors inhabit their roles so completely was the real treat of the show. And sitting front and center certainly didn't hurt.

A public thank-you to CB.


Monday, May 24, 2010

My mid-week colleagues in the casinos

Last Thursday I began another consulting project. This one might go a bit long but it's too soon to tell. Honestly, I don't know what to expect anymore. The last two years of work have been so tumultuous that my confidence is completely wrecked. Between being laid off and the numerous finite consulting projects, I've HAD IT with the uncertainty of not knowing how long I'll be at any one particular desk. It's maddening.

One thing is certain; for the time being, my days no longer belong to me. They belong to an investment bank and are paycheck-oriented. And thank God for that.

Mrs. Wife correctly labeled last Wednesday as my "last day of freedom" and didn't object when I told her I wanted to blow off some steam at a crap table in Atlantic City. I didn't hang around long enough for her to change her mind. She said go and I got.

The casino glam factor on a Wednesday afternoon is -10 to the 10th power. It's anti-glamor, but I like it just fine. The crowds that choke the casinos on Friday and Saturday nights are empty-head Jersey Shore-types trolling for something other than a hot craps table. The men are overweight goombahs with unbuttoned shirts, gold chains and pinky rings. The women walk by and an odor trails behind them. They all interfere with my casino buzz.

Take a look at these old Sherman Tanks.

These are my boys. He limps up, hangs his cane on the edge of the table and pulls out a wad of cash. He knew how to bet properly. He didn't place any of the sucker bets that the stickmen try to draw you into. His drinkin' pal had carpel tunnel damage to his right hand, but it didn't prevent him from lifting the dice or riffling his chips.

At least they had each other. The casino can be an empty, lonely place.

The charter buses pull up and spit out their occupants. Most waddle over to the slot machines. Once there, it doesn't make a bit of difference if they're alone. They sit mesmerized and watch the screens flicker until the buses scoop them up and take them away.

Many, many fashion faux pas are committed. It's easy to feel ahead of the curve in this crowd.

I love this shot. It's perfectly framed. The green blur on the right is the zero. This pic is the current screen saver on my phone.

I was able to take it clandestinely while the wheel was still spinning. They don't like cameras in the casino. Later, I tried to get another pic of the craps table but the croupier put his hand in front of my phone and yelled, "No pictures!"

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This time, the New York Post has gone TOO FAR!

Longtime readers know that I'm a huge fan of our low-rent, Rupert Murdoch-owned, tabloid delight New York Post. To say that their covers often lack, ahem, dignity, is stating the obvious. It's like accusing water of being wet. Recent favorites have included calling Congress sacks of shit and the Photoshop abuse of Tiger Woods.

Here is the cover of this morning's Post:

My God! Newsstands all over Manhattan display the daily papers front and center. Little kids walk by and can see this stuff! It's a new low, which is to say, a new high. The photo and caption are self explanatory.

Bull - 1. Matador - nil.

I'm no fan of the Post's loony politics, but I really do love these covers. How could you not?!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Young and oh so clueless in the ways of love

When I think back on it, the breadth of my cluelessness regarding the science of love during my early conquests is almost too astonishing to be believed. I was quite awful at it. I knew nothing. The group of guys I hung out with weren't exactly lady-killers, so there was no talk about what to do or not do. It was a painful, embarrassing learning process.

For a good long while, I thought that you got a girl to kiss, and then sleep with you, through insistent begging. I thought the game of love was to wear down her resolve until she finally capitulated. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that haranguing was not an element of a seduction.

* * *

The first time I had sex, she said, "You can do it," but the DIRTY DEED had already been DONE. Admittedly, an inauspicious debut.

The first girl I slept with had the temperament of a sea monster. She kinda looked like one, too.

* * *

With my first regular lover, I used condoms that were about as thick as a garden hose. I didn't know anything about lamb skins and sensitivity. I was mortified that I had to buy them. I just wanted to get in and out of the drugstore as quickly as possible without asking (or being asked) any questions.

The condoms robbed me of all sensation. So much so, that I often couldn't finish. So I would occasionally pull it off just so I could finally climax. In retrospect, a terrible idea.

I remained in my semi-clueless state for a couple years. During that time, I missed a lot of signs and opportunities. I was unaware of how many women were willing to sleep with me. But I realize it now.

When I think of all the unprotected sex I had, it's a miracle I've never had to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Or worse.

* * *

I once read an article by a woman who said her boyfriend was so emotionally overwhelmed by sex that he routinely wept afterterwards. She found this romantic and touching. So the next time I slept with my girlfriend, I tried to cry but my heart just wasn't in it. It sounded fake and ridiculous and insincere. My girlfriend asked if me I was having a mental breakdown.

* * *

Once upon a time, I was making out with a girl. I got up and put a Kenny G album on the stereo. Personally, I didn't like the guy all that much but I thought it would be romantic. About two songs in she stopped kissing me, sat up and yelled, "Would you PLEASE turn that OFF!"

* * *

I faked an orgasm once. The sex got to be so tedious and went on for far longer than it should have, so I decided to end it by faking an orgasm. I believe she was equally relieved it was over.

* * *

Many years ago, on a warm summer night, I made beautiful amour in a roof garden atop a brownstone with the nighttime Manhattan skyline as the backdrop.

I thought I'd end this with a fond memory.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Analyzing the lyrics: not always advisable

At the gym I attended in the city, they played a steady diet of hip hop, house, trance and club mixes, all of which I cannot stand. Club music is an insult to musicians. THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP, etc. But I wasn't there to listen to music. Just exercise.

The gym I now attend in the lily-white New Jersey suburbs plays the lily-white classic rock hits of the '70s and 80's. Sometimes, I miss the THUMP.

I was doing my warm-ups and dissecting the lyrics of the awful Good Lovin' Gone Bad by British dinosaur rockers, Sad Company. Oh, excuse me. I mean Bad Company. Towards the end of the song, Paul Rogers sings:

Good lovin' gone bad

And baby, I'm a bad man

Ooh. But earlier in the song, he belly aches:

'Cos I'm a man

I got my pride
Don't need no woman
to hurt me inside.

Don't need no?! What the fuck is don't need no?! Isn't that, like, a quadruple-negative? Good-bye, English language. And which is it, buddy? Are you a bad man or a girlie-man who walks around with his broken heart dripping off his puffy white sleeve? Make up your mind.


* * *

I almost got into an auto accident. I was in the Costco parking lot. I came to a full stop, looked right, didn't look left, and hit the gas. The car approaching from the left didn't have a stop sign. I locked up my brakes and he missed me by inches. It would have been my fault, too. Christ, it's the absolute worst feeling in the world.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

You might not like it, but you won't forget it

I saw the Marina Abramović retrospective at MoMA. Oh, LORD what an eye full of daring art and crap-ola! As with most performance art, there's probably some deeper meanings within these pieces that went way over my head, but I enjoyed the them, nonetheless.

Abramović is a performance artist and MoMA is replicating many of her pieces from her 40-year career. The exhibit includes video installations and living, sometimes naked, human beings. Live! Nude! Girls! (And guys.)

Imponderabilia, from 1977, requires that you squeeze through a very narrow doorway between two naked people. They (the performers) have cast iron guts, because you can't get through the doorway without brushing up against them.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

When I first got there, the doorway was manned by two dudes. I prefer my naked performance art to be somewhat titillating so I browsed around the video installations until shift change and there was a girl present. Tee-hee.

People have gotten a bit too familiar with the performers. There have been at least three instances whereby someone was escorted out of the museum for inappropriate touching, including one old man who was not only thrown out but he had his 30-year membership revoked.

Rest Energy
was a video of Abramović on the wrong end of an arrow. The piece required that someone hold a taunt bow with the arrow pointed at her heart.

Gallery/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In another video, she sat before an industrial strength air blower. It was turned on and she sat in the wind gust until she passed out. In other pieces, she cut herself and/or allowed patrons to cut her with various sharp implements. When these things are done in a cathedral like MoMA, it's performance art. To me, however, there's not much difference between these antics and the ones performed by Johnny Knoxville in the Jackass movies.

Relation in Time requires performers sit for HOURS with their hair braided together.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Nude with Skeleton required a naked performer lie down with a skeleton on top of them. The skeleton was supposed to rise and fall with the breath of the performer but when I was there, the girl performing the piece didn't breathe heavy enough for the bones to move. She was really pretty, though.

Photo: Joshua Bright for The New York Times

The title of the exhibit, and the new piece she developed for the show, is Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. She sits silent in a chair in the museum's atrium and patrons take turns sitting in an adjoining chair. They proceed to engage in a starring contest. All of the live pieces are manned by a rotating cast of volunteers who are relieved at timed intervals. But for this piece, Abramović will sit in this chair, all day, every day, for the entire run of the show.

When I was there, the actor James Franco was participating, thus giving the out-of-towners the double thrill of seeing bizarre New York art AND a bona fide movie star at the same time.

I was kind of pissed because patrons are made to wait in a long line for their turn to sit with Abramović, but Franco was permitted to enter the museum before it opened and take a seat, thus jumping the queue. Not that I wanted to participate, but it seemed unfair to those who did. Goddamn Hollywood fighetta.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Body of Christ

This weekend, 8-Year Old Daughter received her First Holy Communion. Longtime readers know that I am deeply suspicious of all organized religions. But this ceremony was a very big deal to my family. My sister drove down from Upstate New York. There was a large gathering at my in-law's house. Pasta was served.

The last time my sister and I were in church together was for my mom’s funeral last year (almost to the day). It was pretty rough stuff. There were some tears. Mom loved the church so much. Not in the unkind “get saved or burn in hell” kind of way. She disagreed with some of its teachings. But she found comfort in the church and if it worked for you, welcome. She would have loved to see her granddaughter receive her First Communion.

I attended a parochial school until 4th grade. My mom and dad ran out of money and thereafter, we were sent to public school. When they first started to teach me about the body and blood and Christ, I was too young to know what a metaphor was. I literally thought that we had to eat flesh and drink blood. I remember seeing Fr. Tully raise the chalice to his mouth, drink, and a trickle of red ran down his chin. OH MY GOD!

I was ruminating with my sister on how each communicant looked like a little bride and groom. She correctly pointed out that this is the day when they marry the church. Can someone please tell me how I should feel about that?

* * *

I recently learned that the name of the city Corpus Christi, TX, means, in English, The Body of Christ.

Are they kidding? The Body of Christ, Texas?! What a terrible name for a town! It's borderline sacrilege. Is there a sister city called The Blood of Christ, Alabama or Stigmata, New Mexico?

Actually, that would be a cool name for a car. The new Ford Stigmata with all wheel drive.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pretty yellow dressess strolling in Manhattan

The outdoor art installation season is upon us. The sculpture garden on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the Big Fish, but you can catch performances and exhibits all throughout the city from now through September.

Kate Gilmore's performance art piece, Walk the Walk, just opened in Bryan Park. It runs for five days during office hours. In it, seven women in bright yellow dresses (when it's chilly, they don pink sweaters) pace back and forth along the top of a 10-by-10-foot plywood box. It's suppose to represent a microcosm of the nearby busy midtown intersections. I think. I'm never exactly sure what the deeper meaning is. I just go along for the ride.

The girls randomly stomp their feet and if you step inside the cube, it sounds like a stampeding herd of buffalo. I don't know if you can consider this choreographed, since the girls are walking randomly. Sometimes, they collide into one another and their energy ebbs and flows.

Does it work? Yeah, I suppose so. It was fun but I got a bit exhausted just watching them for :15 minutes. There's no real beginning or end. They were pacing when I got there and still pacing when I left. They're probably pacing as you read this. (I love that I happened to catch a police siren in this second clip. The soundtrack of my city.)


Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Yorkers to the rules: Drop Dead

I walked out of a tony Manhattan high rise on 6th Avenue a few days ago. The building management was being progressive and insisted the people take their dirty old cigs somewhere else.

Within seconds, a small crowd gathered. They reached into their purses/back pockets, pulled out cigarettes and lit up. How cheeky!

I stood there for a bit and noticed a fairly steady stream of smokers lighting up near the "no smoking" sign. Do you know what I thought? Good for them! I use to smoke a long time ago and I feel some camaraderie with them. I get a bit sick of society treating smokers like criminals. They're outside for Christ's sake! Who are they harming? Does anyone remember smoking on airplanes? It's unthinkable now.

People tailor the laws to fit their needs. And it's not just New Yorkers. In New Jersey, nobody seems to feel that the law banning talking on a cell phone while driving applies to them. They think it's for other people. My hope is that eventually, cell phones + driving is taken as seriously as drinking + driving. That's one I can get behind. But leave the smokers alone if they're outdoors.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hey Greece! Get your shit together!

Dear Greeks:

None of you pay taxes. Under some very flaky circumstances, you are able to retire as early as age 54. You're country is flat broke and dragging everybody down, but you're rioting in the streets and setting fire to banks because of the austere measures that need to be implemented.

Wake up. Get a backbone, you bunch of babies.

The Euro was a terrible idea. I have no idea what rational was used to persuaded an economic powerhouse like Germany to marry the Deutsche Mark to a bunch of lazy-bones like the Greeks, but in hindsight I'll bet Deutschland would like a do-over on that vote. I know I would.

The Anthora cup, created by Leslie Buck.

* * *

3-Year Old Daughter: Daddy, do you sleep naked?

Me: Uhh-uhh-ummm...Why no! Of course not!

3-Year Old Daughter: Well, what do your pajamas look like?

Dang. Busted.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Moe. Neigh.

If you visit New York between now and June 26th and are trolling around for a mind-blowing art exhibit, head over to the Gagosian Gallery on 21st St. between 10th and 11th Avenue. Some of the big-name galleries and art dealers in New York occasionally put on shows that rival those in the major institutions. For example, the nice people at the Gagosian are presenting Claude Monet: Late Work.

The exhibit contains 27 extraordinary works dating from 1904 to 1922. There's not a clunker in the whole show. These aren't the typical Monet "pretty" pictures you're use to seeing. These are paintings of his garden at Giverny that were executed through his failing eyesight.

I nearly passed out. I walked through the exhibit thrice and will probably go back for another peek before it closes.

The show was assembled via loans from museums all over the planet; Paris, Switzerland, Japan, Chicago. When you think of the breadth of what went into this exhibit (not to mention the cost), it's pretty impressive stuff. And what's really shocking is that nothing is for sale! (This is, after all, a gallery. Not a museum.) There's no admission charge, either! It's there for your enjoyment. Amazing. I love New York. And the Gagosians, too.

10 of these paintings (my favorites, as it turned out) are on loan from PRIVATE COLLECTIONS. These are pieces that are rarely, if ever, seen in public. It also means that somewhere in the world, someone walks into their dining room and one of these Monet's is hanging there. A new benchmark for my own ordinariness.

Monet's vision deteriorated to the point where he had to number his tubes of paint so he would know which color he was using. This was one of my favorites. It's borderline abstract expressionism.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

A public service announcement

Your friends at your local New Jersey Bottle King...

Your discount beer emporium...

Would like to remind you that tomorrow is Mother's Day. So...

Because that's how we roll in The Garden State.

This gives me the same "where did we go wrong?" sensation I get when I'm in an elevator in Manhattan and see a man with meticulously manicured nails (including clear nail polish).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Another hilarious headline from your pals at The New York Post

Those of you who don't have a tabloid newspaper in your city don't know what you're missing. London had some pretty good ones. Do they have any in Australia? Here in New York, our tabloid is owned by multi-billionaire bottom feeder Rupert Murdoch. You won't find headlines like this in the stately New York Times, Washington Post or Times of London:

This was published the day after senior Goldman Sachs executives were grilled by Congress about their shady business dealings. On first glance, I thought the headline referred to the parasites and bloodsuckers who run Goldman. I thought they were the Sacks of Shit. But I was mistaken.

This being a Murdoch publication, they were coming to the defense of their bed mates at Goldman. The focus of the article was on the numerous times Congress used the words "shit" and "shitty" during the testimony. Because that's important. The crux of the story was to imply that Congress lacks dignity. The testimony contained a "sack of shits." Arrgh. Fooled me again.

But I'll have to admit, the cover is a classic. Right up there with their Photoshop mauling of Tiger Woods and the time they referred to AIG executives as a bunch of greedy bastards.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hope I die before I get old

I went to a play last night and this old buck in front of me had his glasses on wrong. The temple was OVER his ear instead of tucked behind it.

How could he be so unaware of this? Wouldn't it hurt or be uncomfortable? Finally, midway through the performance, he touched the side of his head and fixed it. It seems the older we get, the more easily we're distracted. I'll bet his underwear was on backwards, as well.

It must have been crazy geriatric discount night because the 80+ year old crow sitting next to me was LOUDLY sucking hard candies throughout the entire play. I could barely concentrate on the performances because it sounded like the person next to me was eating a big pork chop with her mouth open.

And then, of course, her cell phone went off at the exact wrong moment. It was set to extra-loud to compensate for her deteriorating hearing. But that sort of thing isn't just the geriatrics. A cell phone goes off at every single performance I attend.

I hope when I get old I don't annoy people in public. Although, my dream was to stay in my New York apartment until I became the crazy old guy with the big apartment who everyone wishes would croak so they could get their hands on my real estate.

* * *

I saw the recently opened and well received Everyday Rapture. What really impressed me was that she was the co-author of the piece. It's not enough that she has a successful stage career, can sing and act. No. She has to be a writer too. People like that make me feel I'm not trying hard enough.

The play stars Sherie Rene Scott as Sherie Rene Scott—a somewhat fictionalized version of herself. The arc of the plot takes her from her humble beginnings as a Mennonite raised in Kansas to the filthy streets of Broadway.

It's basically a one-woman show except for the musical interludes when she is joined by her two back-up singers, the Mennonettes. (Yes, she wrote the songs, too. Grrrr.) She is torn between two loves; Jesus Christ and Judy Garland. She pokes fun at religion without ever disrespecting it. Come to think of it, she gives theater the same treatment. It made me laugh.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

They tried to blow up my city last night

Last night, a Nissan Pathfinder loaded with propane tanks, gasoline, fireworks (?!) and a detonator was parked on 45th Street and Broadway—right in the heart of Times Square. The detonator went off but it failed to ignite an explosion. It was discovered around 6:30 p.m. I’ve been through that area at that hour and it is choked with beautiful, happy tourists. Those wonderful people who come to New York and help to feed, and feed off of, its greatness.

A quick-thinking T-shirt vendor, who is now a local hero, saw smoke coming from the back of the car and alerted a mounted police officer. The officer smelled gunpowder and Times Square was evacuated.

Then, these tough motherfuckers from the bomb squad moved in and did their thing. Who ARE these guys?!

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The very good Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference at 2:30 a.m. Apparently, he was at an event because he typically doesn’t dress like this when talking to the media.

Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

I’m exhausted with sadness. I don’t want to live through another 9/11. Mrs. Wife and I had an apartment just a mile and a half from the World Trade Center and I’ve experienced all the terrorist activity I care to for one lifetime. And PLEASE spare me any lectures this morning about how other parts of the world suffer this fate on a daily basis. I’m not a blind idiot. I feel for them.

But New York is my home, so this cuts deep and it’s personal. I love this city so much and I don’t want it all fucked up. Again. It's like watching someone try to hurt somebody you love.