The Unbearable Banishment: August 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

That old radical Matisse

There's happy news for those in, and about to visit, New York. The Matisse show at MoMA, Matisse: Radical Invention, doesn't close until October 11th, so there's still time to catch it. And catch it you should. You'll need a timed ticket to get it because, as with all blockbuster shows, it's packed. [Guess what recent blockbuster show at MoMA was one of best-attended EVER? Ready for this? The Tim Burton retrospective!] The whole timed ticket thing is a bit of a pain in the ass, but it doesn't cost any extra and you won't get in without it.

Boy, I love Matisse. He's the anti-Renoir. I can't stand Auguste Renoir, with his pastelly, soft focus greeting card art. But Matisse is the guts, man. This show is the proof. These painting were executed mid-career and don't fit into neat categories. It was a period of experimentation for Matisse. They are some of his more abstract works.

I love this painting. The Italian Woman. Look at those fantastic angles on the left side of the canvas. Mama mia!

This painting is as creepy as anything that was in the Burton show. His eyes are black and hollow. They follow you around the gallery and know what's in your demented little soul. Easily, the best work in the show.

Matisse at play: On the left, a table, a bowl and some apples, quickly sketched and rendered. The table and background are given a radical treatment. Remember, folks, this is around 1914! Hanging next to this is the same table, bowl and apples. This time, however, a slower, more thoughtful rendition.

The Moroccans. Matisse considered this work to be one of his most "pivotal." I thought they were men bowed in prayer. They're melons! I don't know shit from shinola.

MoMA has early morning viewing hours for members before the museum opens, Wednesdays–Mondays, 9:30–10:30 a.m. You can buy breakfast with
mimosas and there ain't no crowds. If you're in my zip code, contact me and I'll get us in.

* * *

Here are a few bonus paintings from MoMA for those of you who hung in through the entire post.

Gauguin's playful Still Life with Three Puppies.

Vinnie van G.'s Starry Night. There's always a big crowd around this painting. Do you know why? Because it's a really moving piece of art. And, unlike the Mona Lisa, when you see this in person for the fist time, you're not disappointed.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The best table in the house State of New Jersey

If you go to Asbury Park and walk to the far end of the boardwalk, you'll find an utterly charming diner called Dorian's. There's nothing at all wrong with the food. In fact, as you are about to see, it can be quite delectable. But just look at this view from the booths. It's right on the beach! I can't wait until I'm retired so I can go there and sit with my laptop and drink cup after cup after cup of coffee and watch the waves roll in. It must be a pretty great place to watch a storm roll in off the Atlantic.

I ordered a pork roll sandwich. Pork roll is a local delicacy that's also known as Taylor ham. It's a breakfast meat. For the life of me, I cannot understand why Taylor ham has not made its way outside of New Jersey. It's fantastic. It's like Canadian bacon but much saltier, which is to say, much more flavor-full

A Taylor ham sandwich is served on a roll and is accompanied by two over easy eggs and cheese. See the cheese dripping out in the picture above? Don't you wish you had one right now? I sure do. Add a little salt and pepper and you're ready to go.

You can walk off that big fat sandwich by strolling up and down the boardwalk. Or, you can ride one of these. They're beach cruisers. They're made of thick tube steel and have fat tires and baskets. You seem them on boardwalks all up and down the Jersey Shore.

Did you hear the cops finally busted Madame Marie
for tellin' fortunes better than they do?
For me this boardwalk life is through, baby

4th Of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
Bruce Springsteen

Southside Johnny at the Stone Pony. You can't get more Jersey than this, folks.

Friday, August 27, 2010

As if the New Jersey Turnpike wasn't dangerous enough

I was driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike and right around Newark Airport, a billboard with an attention-getting red background caught my eye. I almost drove through a guardrail and onto the airport tarmac once I got close enough to read it.

It's that lunatic Dick Cheney’s big stupid face looking down on all us poor motorists. It should say (Actual Size) right below his photo.

Over the course of the summer, the Hilton Hotel in Atlantic City has, bizarrely, hosted a speaker series that featured the right-wing demigods who have driven the Republican party over a cliff. Bill O’Reilly spoke. Glen Beck. Ann Coulter. Is that how you’d like to spend your summer evening at the shore casinos? Listening to these bottom-feeders spew their hatred and lies?

The aforementioned are all part of a media conglomerate and it’s not surprising to see them out on speaking tours. But seeing Dick Cheney’s face up there is a little upsetting, and not a little dangerous at 70 mph. Here’s a guy who spent eight years hiding in secret bunkers pulling puppet strings. You couldn't find him anywhere! But now his soft, plump, white face is on a billboard scaring New Jersey motorists. Another chicken hawk from the previous administration who callously sent people off to war while going to extreme lengths to avoid service himself. Some patriot. Ptu.

The reason he always gives that crooked closed-mouth grin is that if he parted his lips, you'd see the blood dripping from his teeth. Hide the women and children.

For what it’s worth, I voted for Obama, but I think his presidency has, thus far, been a terrible disappointment. But the GOP had nothing to offer as an alternative. I can’t think of one single plank of the Republican platform that I can get behind. I've voted for Republicans in the pastI've never been a party-line voter—but the crazies have seized control of the GOP.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The odd man out

In the song New York, New York, they claim that if you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere. Well, take it from me, pallies, some of us make it there because we are incapable of making it anywhere else.

Since leaving New York for the suburbs of New Jersey 8.7 years ago, Mrs. Wife has put forth an valiant and steadfast effort to integrate me into our new community. Last weekend she took me on another husband play date. Despite my best efforts, the end results were the same as they ever were.

I simply cannot make a connection with any of the good people of New Jersey. They’re nice, regular folks who are simply trying to live their lives and grab an occasional night away from the kids. But I have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever with any of them. It’s a new sensation because one of my strengths the thing that got me this far without the advantage of a college education is that I can talk a pretty good game. But I got nuthin’ in the tank when I get together with these big gaggles of suburbanites. My poor wife!

I’m a broken misfit. The qualities that once made me feel unique and unlike everyone else now make me feel like an outcast in my own home. Do you know what I’m excited about? I’m excited that the much-praised Shakespeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino as Shylock is going to open on Broadway in October. What an oddball! Believe me, there was no way to work something like that into any of the conversations I attempted on Saturday night. I’ll re-double my efforts. I want to fit in.

* * *

Recently spotted in the New York Times:

“The market is just happy the tests are coming out,” said Win Thin, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.

What kind of monsters would name their kid Win if their last name was Thin? It's inexcusable.

Monday, August 23, 2010

New York City = Crazy Town, U.S.A.

I've written posts about the crazy outdoor art installations that pop up throughout the summer. There were giant statues in the shape of famous photos, a bunch of painted pianos scattered around town and a group of models strolling on top of a big, wooden cube. But this last one is just plain crazy.

The fun folk at MacroSea have elevated the term dumpster-diving to a new art form. As part of the Summer Streets festival, they have taken clean, unused shipping containers and transformed them into swimming pools. Now, that's recycling.

They're set up on weekends at 40th Street and Park Avenue. MacroSea mounted an underground, unannounced version of this last year in Brooklyn and the response was so positive that they brought it to Manhattan this summer.

The area around the containers is lined with beach chairs and they have hula-hoops on hand. It's a real festive atmosphere and there aren't any drunken idiots there to ruin it for everyone.

Each container has a deck and a lifeguard. Swimming is free! That's the best part of these outdoor installations. You don't pay a cent. Wristbands are handed out on a first come/first served basis. There's a time limit so that everyone gets a turn. That's Grand Central Station in the background. It's been an insanely hot, dry summer and this is just the thing for parched city dwellers who can't escape.

All images by Inhabitat.

* * *

I'm not one of these old school New Yorkers who bitch and moan about how the city had been sanitized and Disney-fied and robbed of its soul. I remember the dark years when it was quite dangerous to walk the streets and parks after dark and, believe me, this is much better. But I think they may have finally crossed a line.

They just opened a Pop Tarts Store in Times Square. A fucking Pop Tarts Store?! It's called Pop Tarts World. Criminy! This is on the heels of the M&Ms Store and the Hershey's Chocolate Store, which I kind of get, but I don't feel good about this one.

It's finally too much for me. Do we need a place that sells specialty Pop Tarts? Nay. I disapprove. Please take it away.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fun fair food photos

Do you guys know what these are?

They're Dippin' Dots. I'm not sure how they're made but they're delicious. They're super-cold ice cream pellets. 8-Year Old Daughter and I are in love with them. The above example is the vanilla/strawberry combo. We got them when I took 8-Year Old Daughter to the county fair back in Ohio. 4-Year Old Daughter couldn't go because of an ankle injury, poor thing.

My mom use to take us to the Berea Fair every year when we were kids. It was the highlight of our summer. Now that I'm taking my own kid, the circle seems complete. Happy news: It hasn't changed one bit!

County fairs are about a lot of things. They're about rides and farm displays and shows and animals and politicians who want to shake your hand. But for me, they're mainly about food. Good bad food, if you know what I mean.

This is the grilled turkey leg man. I ate them for years and finally decided that I didn't really like them all that much and I was eating them out of a sense of tradition. I wonder what they do with the rest of the bird?

Here's the stuff of dreams. Grandma Ski's Polish Food truck. Just look at that menu. All of the major food groups are represented. I had a big 'ole kielbasa sandwich. Daughter, much to my disappointment, turned her nose up at these gourmet delights and had an utterly ordinary slice of pizza. Kids. They don't know what's good.

They still have a side show. It's now called the Palace of Illusion, but when I was a kid it was the Freak Show. During those unenlightened times, you paid money to stare at people who had physical deformities. It was a parade of social rejects. It's still a bit strange but it's definitely been softened since then. That's probably for the better, don't you think? That's my brother in the foreground. He is not part of the show. This year.

Here's daughter coming out of the fun house. [That drum was rotating.] All I need at a county fair are the bumper cars and the fun house. I'll have nothing whatsoever to do with all the sick-inducing rides. This ride would have been a perfect place to take LSD, if you were so inclined to do that sort of thing.

The Berea Fair is a true county fair with 4-H displays and lots of farm animals entered into blue ribbon competitions. Here's a massive pig, almost as big as Daughter, and her young piglets. They were cute but looking at them just make me HUNGRY for a bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo sandwich on toast. Yum-yum. Eat 'em up.

The evening we attended, they held the Demolition Derby. Have you even been to one? Fantastic entertainment. This particular evening was the Suburban Mom Minivan Edition. An all-minivan demolition derby! We couldn't attend because we had to leave for New Jersey the next morning. There was also a Pink Floyd tribute band later in the evening. It killed me to miss these unique events. I won't make the same scheduling error next year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What do Bukowski and Madonna have in common?

They share the same birthday, which was yesterday. Aside from their mutual admiration of Sean Penn, it's probably the only thread you can draw between them.

I've been reading and collecting Bukowski rarities for a long, long time. I don't know why that guy's stuff gets under my skin the way it does. My life doesn't parallel his in any way. I'm not much of a drinker. He would have disapproved of the way I've thrown my life away on office work. But we both had, shall we say, less than perfect fathers. So there's that to consider.

Bukowski taught me that you don't need a college degree in order to be well-read and literary. Until he revealed that to me, I wasted a lot of time feeling bad about myself.

Instead of a poem, which is what I was originally going to post, here are some of his words of wisdom. He was a pretty good prose writer. He would have been 90 years old yesterday. His stuff means a lot to me.

This is very important — to take leisure time. Pace is the essence. Without stopping entirely and doing nothing at all for great periods, you're gonna lose everything. Whether you're an actor, anything, a housewife … there has to be great pauses between highs, where you do nothing at all. You just lay on a bed and stare at the ceiling.

The nine-to-five is one of the greatest atrocities sprung upon mankind. You give your life away to a function that doesn't interest you. This situation so repelled me that I was driven to drink, starvation, and mad females, simply as an alternative.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

[All I've got is a] Photograph

Two days ago I was in the car and the local classic rock station played Def Leppard's 1983 slog hit Photograph. I turned up the volume to extra-crispy and haven't been able to get that lick out of my head since. I love it! And I'm not ashamed to admit it. Good cowbell. Here are a few random photographs.

* * *

I was sitting on a park bench having my lunch and this lady sat down next to me and cracked open a Budweiser tall boy. I don't suppose there's anything wrong with drinking a Bud at 11:40 a.m.

...unless, of course, you're about seven months pregnant.

Mrs. Wife was looking over my shoulder when I posted this and said, "Are you sure she's not just overweight?" I'm no OB/GYN, but I know a thing or two about breasts and those don't look like overweight breasts to me. They look like pregnant breasts. Mrs. Wife said, "I'll bet she's got a sad story to tell." Are y'all having a good day today? If not, cheer up. You could be in a worse predicament.

* * *

It's August in New Jersey and you know what that means, don't you? It's LOCUST season! [Edit: CICADA. I stand corrected. See Ponita's comment.] Go ahead. Click on it. I dare you.

Do you guys get these things? My finger is in the pic to give you a sense of scale. They're big, ugly and, worst of all, NOISY beasties. Their drone goes on all. Day. Long. I hate insects. They make my flesh crawl.

By the way, that patch of brown, dry, dead plantation is my front lawn. We've had terrible heatwaves and droughts all summer long. This follows the numerous pounding blizzards we had a few months ago. Good thing we blasted a big hole in the ozone layer, otherwise we wouldn't have this entertaining weather.

* * *

If you scroll down, you'll see three posts about some astonishingly good, home cooked meals I had while visiting Cleveland. This post is the antithesis of those meals.

I met a friend at an Irish restaurant called Harp. They serve the usual burgers and bar food that you'd see in any Irish pub/restaurant, but they also serve some (supposedly) authentic Irish dishes. I always go ethnic whenever possible.

I ordered a meal that I had never heard of. I've been asking around and, apparently, it's more common that I thought. Have you guys ever heard of a boxty cake? It can be best describe it as an Irish burrito. It's a massive potato pancake folded over with stuff inside. Harp serves steak boxty, salmon boxty, vegetarian boxty, corned beef boxty and chicken boxty. I had the chicken. Inside were sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers with a sun-dried tomato pesto cream sauce. Sounds scrumptious, doesn't it? Take a look:

It was truly awful. A massive, heavy, flavorless blob of food. That's the corned beef boxty in the background. When I left the table, I didn't think I'd have to eat again for several days. I'm hoping it was just ill-prepared and not always that bad. Put it on the list of things I'll never order again right next to haggis and camel. (Yes, I ate camel meat once. It tasted kind of rancid.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Back to the Garden of Eden

I see faces and traces of home back in New York City.

Back in N.Y.C.
Peter Gabriel

I might do a another post or two about my trip to Cleveland but for now let it be known that I’m back in New York. My siblings and nieces are in Cleveland, my wife and kids in New Jersey, but New York is my home and it feels good walk though Times Square again.

* * *

This giant (26 ft./8m.) bronze sculpture is Unconditional Surrender by Seward Johnson. It’s up through August 16th. How fun is that!

It’s a replica of the famous photograph taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a sailor and nurse kissing to celebrate the end of World War II. It was taken on August 14th, 194565 years ago tomorrow.

This angle makes it look as though Jay-Z is eavesdropping on a private moment.

* * *
It's not often I'll see a play twice. There are too many out there and my funds are too limited to double-up on something I've already seen, but I made an exception last night for David Mamet's Race. It's due to close next week and I really wanted to see it with its new cast. As much as I enjoyed the first viewing, this second night was even better. The original cast did a great job, but I think the new cast is an improvement.

Ad with original cast

James Spader was replaced by Eddie Izzard. I'm a huge fan of Izzard and I'll see anything that guy does. As good as Spader was, Izzard was even better. His delivery had more punch and he seemed more at ease in his role of an attorney caught up in his own prejudices. And he seemed much more comfortable prowling the stage.

David Alan Grier was replaced by Dennis Haysbert (of 24). Again, Haysbert had better command of the role. Kerry Washington was replaced by Afton Williamson, who I saw last year in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Her's was an angrier, grittier performance. Richard Thomas is a holdover from the original cast. After so many months, he has a sharper focus on his character, a clueless, wealthy, white man who stands accused of raping a black girl. Is he guilty? Can the truth be found with her red sequined dress? You have to draw your own conclusions.

I checked my notes and although I've seen several plays since April, this is the first full-blown Broadway production I've attended since then. It was nice to be in a big house again. Have I mentioned that it's good to be back?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Unexpected expenses arise

During the last 18 hours I spent in Cleveland visiting my family, the following happened:
  • I received a speeding ticket on I-480. Unbeknown to me, I was going 74 mph in a 60 mph zone. Cost: $155.00
  • 4-Year Old Daughter landed on the side of her foot while on a trampoline. The initial diagnosis was a hairline fracture in her ankle. Later at the pediatric orthopedist, it was discovered she just has a bad sprain. She has to wear a boot and revisit the doctor in a few days. Cost: Still calculating
  • I received a phone call from an exterminator back in New Jersey. As we suspected, there is a carpenter bee hive behind our shutters. What is a carpenter bee? I don't know. Cost: $267.50
  • I stepped in a pile of fresh, moist, squishy dog crap with my new (12-day old) deck shoes. They have a detailed and intricate tread pattern and because they're so new, the treads are quite deep. I had to clean them out with a series of toothpicks. The worst part? 8-Year Old Daughter warned me it was there just :05 minutes prior. I hate dogs and this hasn't helped matters. Cost: Approximately :50 minutes of my precious vacation time
The happy news is that we were undercharged for the hotel to the tune of about $87.00. So there's that to be thankful for.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The REAL reason I visit my family. Part III: The Final Feeding

Here is the final in what turned out to be a culinary trilogy of home cooking in Cleveland.

My grandmother immigrated from Calabria, Italy, to Cleveland when she was a young girl. Her mother taught her how to make marinara sauce the way her mother made it. My grandmother taught my mom how to make it and my mom taught my sister. My niece is next in line and she had better get on it and, more importantly, get it right.

I cannot provide the recipe because I don't know it. It's a mystery that's been passed through the generations. I do know that you have to make it many, many times before you finally produce a successful batch.

I also know that it's made the day before it's to be served and allowed to sit overnight. I don't know the science behind why that's done but the end results can't be described. I'm not a good enough wordsmith to tell you how good this stuff is.

It goes without saying that Italian sausage and meatballs are made with the sauce. They are a meal unto themselves.

In addition to sausage and meatballs, she throws in a few neck bones. I've been eating neck bones for most of my life and have never stopped to think of what animal that tender, sweet meat is from. I think it's a cow but I suppose it could be a pig. I honestly don't know. I don't care.

Neck bone before

Neck bone after

I asked (practically begged) my sister to whip up some sauce for my visit. Initially, I thought the heat of August wasn't conducive to a heavy pasta meal but then I considered that they probably eat pasta in August in Italy. If it's good enough for my cultural brethren, it's good enough for my family and I.

Do you know what this tastes like? It tastes like home.

A little bit of Great Lakes lore for you.

Micro brewing is popular in Cleveland (as it is in most regions). The Great Lakes Brewing Co. makes a lovely Porter called Edmund Fitzgerald. It's named in honor of the Great Lakes freighter Edmund Fitzgerald. In 1975, the ship sank in Lake Superior during a gale. It happened so quickly that a distress signal was never sent. She was just 17 miles from safe harbor. All 29 of her crew perished, with none of the bodies recovered.

When the wreckage was located, it was discovered that she broke in half. When I was in the Coast Guard, I remember reading the controversial investigation reports. There are some interesting theories about what would cause a ship that size to split in half but, to this day, they still don't know.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The REAL reason I visit my family: Part II

This probably isn't going to have as wide an appeal as his bar-b-que ribs, but bro-in-law also knows how to glamor a package of bratwurst. Bratwurst, for the (unfortunate) uninitiated, are a German sausage that contains either veal, beef or pork. Or it could be all three for all I know. I'm not entirely sure, nor do I have any interest in finding out.

You could slap 'em on a grill and that'd be fine, but do you know what's really good? Poke each brat 4x with a fork and allow those puppies to simmer for about :45 minutes in concoction of beer, onions and garlic.

At this point they're ready for the grill. Put them over a hot flame until the skin becomes crispy. I like mine to be just a bit blackened.

Some common cheeseburgers were grilled for those who have more pedestrian tastes. Believe it or not, there are people who would turn their noses up at a grilled bratwurst. Like a certain wife I know.

All you need to do is drape a little Gulden's Spicy Brown mustard on and THAT'S IT. They don't need sauerkraut, relish, ketchup or any other condiment. You'll ruin it. You don't want to do anything to mask the flavor of the sausage. A little leftover potato salad and cole slaw on the side is highly recommended.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The REAL reason I visit my family

Twice a year I pack Mrs. Wife and The Daughters into the car and drive 480 miles from New Jersey to Cleveland to visit my family. I'd do it more frequently if I had more time off. We get along splendidly and the Daughters are crazy about their cousins. The days leading up to the trip, it's all they talk about.

But there's an underlying motivation for my efforts. Something that is unsaid but understood by all. Do you know what's in this measuring cup?

This witch's brew is my brother-in-law's special bar-b-que sauce. I don't know it for a fact, but I believe it contains a mysterious element that give it an addictive quality. It should be criminal to own it. Once poured over three racks of baby back ribs, you are powerless against it's allure.

I'm not supposed to spread this around but fuck it. My readership isn't that great. The ribs are first treated with a special dry rub of powdered garlic, powdered rotisserie chicken seasoning, paprika, white cane sugar, onion powder and Uncle Charlie's Cajun spices. They're allowed to marinate for a while and then tossed into an oven for two hours at 265, low heat being the key.

Then they're slapped onto a grill and a wet rub is generously applied. The wet rub contains fresh garlic, honey, a half can of beer and Sweet Baby Ray's bar-b-cue rib sauce. Then, the excruciating wait.

Approximately :20 minutes later they're done. They're CAREFULLY lifted off the grill because, at this point, the meat is falling off the bone. It takes a delicate touch. You need someone with the hands of a skilled surgeon. This isn't a job for amateurs. That's why I stay the hell out of his way.

Just look at them in all their grilled perfection. It brings a tear to my eye. I'm an evolved human being. I can understand why someone would choose to be a vegetarian.

Actually, that's not true. I have no idea why anyone would deny themselves this succulent, singular pleasure.

Garnish with homemade potato salad and cole slaw. Resistance is futile. Feel free to lick your monitor. Welcome to August in Cleveland.