The Unbearable Banishment: January 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The internet is for porn!

Avenue Q is the lively send-up of Sesame Street that includes doppelgangers of familiar characters. There's an internet/porn-addicted Cookie Monster, a closeted Republican Bert, a slacker layabout Ernie and two adorable Bad Idea Bears who encourage you to drink to excess, have drunken, unprotected sex and sleep late enough to miss important meetings at work. By all means, go, but do NOT bring the kiddies.

The internet is for porn.
The internet is for porn.
Why you think the net was born?
Porn! Porn! Porn!

I, along with a gaggle of other bloggers, was invited to see the Tony Award winning musical. Ask anyone who has see it here in New York, in Las Vegas, or any of the touring companies, it's two solid hours of fun.

The internet is for porn.
The internet is for porn.
All these guys unzip their flies
Porn! Porn! Porn!

Initially I was concerned that the show might have gotten a little long in the tooth. It won the Tony for Best Musical way back in 2004. That's a long time ago and sometimes, productions are allowed to go on a lot longer than they should. I remember seeing Cats well beyond its freshness date and it was tired, tired, tired.

The internet is for porn.
The internet is for porn.
Me up all night honking me horn to
Porn! Porn! Porn!

I am relieved to report that the current production, which was relocated to Off-Broadway in 2009, still smells fresh as a flower. And that's not just because they plied me with free drink coupons. I took CB with me. He hadn't seen it before (I don't know how he avoided it all these years) and he loved it.

The cast is enthusiastic and more than capable. The material is so strong that I think it'd be hard to drive this boat onto the rocks. After the show, the house lights went up and we were treated to a actor/puppet meet-and-greet. There was a lively and informative Q and A that I wish had gone on a lot longer than it did, but after two hours of simultaneously singing, delivering dialog, and playing multiple characters, all while hoisting puppets, the cast was, understandably, exhausted.

I did have time to meet with Rod who, despite claiming to have a girlfriend in Canada, likes to relax by reading his favorite book, Broadway Musicals of 1940.

I also met with one of the Bad Idea Bears. Don't let the pink bow fool you. This show has my all-time favorite character name; a bossy, matronly kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Fizzletwat.

If you're in town or live here and haven't seen it yet, you should treat yourself. It's a sure thing. If you order tickets at the box office or at and use the code AQBLOG12, you can get discounted tickets as low as $55. (Valid through 5/26/11)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Brother, can you spare $398,000 for a book?

Bauman Rare Books is one of the premier rare book dealers in the U.S. I've always thought of them as the the dealer of choice for wealthy, lazy collectors. Granted, Bauman's stock is top-shelf, but the prices they charge are so far above the market median that I can only think their clientele is people for whom money is no object. A little homework would turn up a comparable copy at a more reasonable price. But sometimes, they get a truly one-of-a-kind book and can charge whatever the hell they feel like. There IS no comparable!

Bauman occasionally buys a full-page ad in the New York Times Book Review. They'll feature a dozen or so books. Most of them are show-off pieces. The type of posturing and preening you see at rare book fairs.

Currently, they have for sale, a Second Folio of Shakespeare plays (1632). It's no exaggeration to say this book is a cornerstone of Western literature. There are fewer than 200 known copies and most of them are incomplete or somehow defective. This is a complete copy and is reported to be in excellent condition. Most of of the surviving copies are housed in institutions; there are very few in private hands.

So I would like this book. I'd like to keep it in my little hamlet in New Jersey. (Ha. See what I did there?) The asking price is $398K. That's not so bad when you consider a First Folio would easily run in the millions. True, you can buy a house for $398K, but I'd really like this book.

Can you help me out, brothers and sisters?

Monday, January 24, 2011

My skin cancer odyssey: A photo essay. [Not for the squeamish.]

This morning I had a spot of basal cell carcinoma removed from my forehead. It cost me a day of work and since I'm just a consultant, it will leave a hole in this month's budget (not unlike the one in my head, as you will soon see). The doctor, who was a nice guy and had a good sense of humor, allowed me to take a few cell phone snapshots during the procedure. I am posting these as a cautionary tale. It should serve as a warning that there are consequences to be paid if you, like me, disdain sunscreen while walking on the beach. Sadly, my days as a bronzed God seem to be over. Will I ever turn a head again?

First, the numbing agent. It was a rather nasty looking needle and you bet your ass I felt it going in. After the initial injection (there were two) I had to sit for :10 minutes until it kicked in. The front quadrant of my entire head went numb. It still is.

He cut out a section of my forehead that was slightly larger than the affected area...

...and then bandaged me up.

The procedure is to take the extracted skin to a lab in the back room and examine it under a microscope to insure that all of the cancer cells were captured and none remain. The results took about :45 minutes. Well, guess what? He didn't get it all! The doctor numbed my head again and extracted an even larger piece. I decided not to post a pic of that because it's really horrifying.

The absolute worst part was getting stitched-up tight. My head was still numb but I could feel the thread running through my skin and the two open pieces of my forehead being pulled together. The doctor had to do some tugging to get it all to meet in the middle. I almost got sick. I felt him knotting the thread and heard it being clipped.

He got it all the second time around, thank God. I wasn't about to let him hack any more of my head away. My friend D told me I should tape two bolts to my neck and chase children in the subway.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Choosing my favorite Bukowski poem. (An almost impossible task.)

It's not easy but this one knocks me on my ass every time I stumble across it (as I did tonight). Upon first reading, you might think it's dark and defeatist. But it's not. To me, it's a poem of perseverance and fortitude.

* * *

a consistent sort*

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

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

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

get down

* * *

* This one is for my brother-in-law, who threw his back out in a very bad way while vacationing in Florida.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's obscure for a good reason

The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore is the clunky-titled Tennessee Williams obscurity that's in previews at the Roundabout. I think the Roundabout was looking to strike gold twice with old Tennessee. Last year, they mounted a landmark production of The Glass Menagerie with Judith Ivey that was, as far as I'm concerned, as good a night of theater as you can ever hope to get. Blue roses!~~~

Milk Train premiered in 1962 to generally poor reviews, which is probably why you don't hear it mentioned in the same breath as Glass Menagerie, Streetcar and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. A Broadway revival in 1964 starring Tallulah Bankhead and Tab Hunter (!?!?!?!) also tanked.

I admire the Roundabout's spirit and sense of daring but, I'm sorry, this train is off the tracks. (Ha. I said it first. I guarantee that some legitimate critic will steal that from me.)

I went with CB who liked it a lot, especially the first act. It's all so subjective! We saw the exact same performance and the things that didn't work for me (dialogue, some of the cast, the ludicrous plot) weren't a problem for CB at all! CB has a masters degree from Columbia and has written full-blown plays, so it's probably safer if you take his word for it. Don't listen to me. I like Rush.

Olympia Dukakis plays Flora Goforth, the fatally ill, supremely wealthy matron who's just looking for love, love, love, baby, in between morphine injections. All the Tennessee Williams women have the same desperate nature. She does a fine job but I don't think the script does her any favors. Her hysterical geisha dance is almost worth the cost of the ticket alone.

Flora's secretary, Francis "Blackie" Black (rolls his eyes), is her eventual rival for the hot young stud who climbs up the side of a mountain to meet them. (But not before being attacked and bloodied by the security dogs. Not kidding.) The actress playing Blackie seemed uncomfortable in the her character's shoes.

Isn't that a great poster, though?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Inbred Royals on Parade!

How’s this for an introduction:
"The proliferation of inbreeding among royal families, as documented in Appendix II, spawned a tragic historical heritage of simpletons, “sad-heads,” and hideously deformed imbeciles, all laughingly given powers beyond their comprehension."
Who *wouldn’t* get sucked into a book like that?!

A British gentleman I work with pulled my name for the Secret Santa exchange this past Christmas. Knowing my mania for all things British and royal, he bought me Mad Kings & Queens: History's Most Famous Raving Royals by Alison Rattle & Allison Vale, a fantastic book about how the royal lineages of Europe and Britain have been genetically corrupt by centuries of inbreeding. This book isn’t a serious study but, rather, a scandalous look at the worst of the worst. I’ve treated myself to a few delicious morsels just before drifting off to sleep at night.

The most heinous ruler was Vlad “The Impaler” of Walachia (1431-1476). He’s reported to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Among other atrocities, he would impale his own subjects with wooden stakes, plunged from the anus to the mouth. To insure an agonizingly slow death, the stakes were smoothed and oiled so that no vital organs were damaged as they passed through the body. Gross!

Poor Ferdinand I of Austria (1793-1875) had a pleasant temperament but because he was “…a descendant of the inbred Hapsburg line, it was no surprise that he turned out to be a monstrous genetic mutation.” I know how he feels. His parents were kissing cousins. As a result, he was born with a huge swollen head, a vast nose, the famous Hapsburg drooping lower lip and a vacant expression. He was a simpleton and it is said that the only complete sentence he every spoke was, "I am the Emperor, and I want dumplings." Yet, he was crowned! There were guys just like him in my shop class in high school, except that a crown did not sit upon their father's head.

The common thread that seems to run through all this blue blood is that the majority of these Royals had insatiable sexual appetites. That goes for both the Kings AND Queens. But, think about it. If you had supreme Godlike power over a nation, wouldn’t you do a lot of experimenting in the bedroom? I doubt that their appetites were any different than anyone else; they just had better opportunities.

What exactly is a “sad-head,” anyway? Is that a British colloquialism?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

This one with authentic father issues

My monthly column at the Undie Press is supposed to be about collecting rare books. I have no idea how my issues with my father crept in all of a sudden. It wasn't by design. But you know how it is when you're writing. Once the train leaves the station and it works up a good head of steam and the breaks fail, there's no stopping it.

I do eventually get around to discussing books, but not before I vent my spleen just a bit.

This month I’m featuring an author you’ve probably never read but who deserves your immediate attention.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New York = Rat Town, U.S.A.!

New York City isn't all beautiful snowfalls and elegant skylines. (See previous post for that.) In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I submit the following. The best part: watch the riders on the subway. Casually lifting their feet and ho-humming the whole thing. True New Yorkers to the bone! Hilarious. Unless it happens to you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The one-hand clap stomp

We got socked on the jaw with another big snowstorm last night. The New York Times has such a wonderful way with words. They called it a "giant amoeba-shaped storm." An excellent metaphor. They called the December 26th mega-blizzard "diabolical" because of the timing. Not only did it deprive everyone of a white Christmas, but it also prevented people from getting home. Some for a week or more! Diabolical, indeed.

I have colleagues who are on staff who spread the word yesterday that they were going to "work from home" today. Up here in the Northeast, "work from home" is a euphemism for staying in your pajamas and fucking off all day. But not me, brothers and sisters! Because I'm still just a consultant, it's imperative that I make it in to work. No work = no pay.

So at 5:15 a.m. I was shoveling about 14 inches of powdery snow out of my driveway. Have I mentioned that I'm a martyr? I am! You'd think that I'd be violently heaving shovels of snow in great, angry arcs but that wasn't the case at all. Snow can be a big pain in the ass but, good Christ, it's beautiful.

Everything was white-white. Snow was clinging to the tiniest tree branch and there was a muffled calm. There was no wind and the storm had passed so the stars were out. One bright planet was shining in the southern sky. I would have gotten the driveway cleared in half the time if I hadn't stopped to soak it all in every few minutes. There was a true Zen-like tranquility in the air. Being tripped-up by circumstances was the furthest thing from my mind. For fleeting moments, I felt kind of lucky.

* * *

This is cheating but because I'm so in love with the snow this morning, I've decided to rerun some pics of Central Park I took last season after a big snowstorm. I lived in Phoenix for about 18 months and left because, believe it or not, I missed this sort of thing. You can click on these to expand.

The stone bridge near the 59th St. + 5th Ave. entrance.

The luxury hotels along Central Park South viewed from inside the park.

The elegant Plaza Hotel.

Natural beauty with a bit of urban architecture peeking out at the top.

This snowman is from the Tim Burton school of design. The eyes are pitch black and set deep into the snowman's head.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Don't you love surprises?

I paid a visit to the Whitney Museum of Art to take in their current exhibit, Modern Life: Edward Hopper and His Time. The Whitney has more Hoppers in their permanent collection than any other museum, so they trot them out on a fairly regular basis because they're crowd pleasers. (Which is to say, revenue-generators.)

I've read that some folks complain but I don't mind one bit. Call me pedestrian but I love Hopper's work. The idea (this time) is to pair a selection of Hopper paintings with works from other artists who were his contemporaries. I believe the intention is to give the viewer a feeling of the moment in time when these pieces were created. Initially, it sounded like kind of a flimsy premise but I think the exhibit is a success.

The majority of the painting on display are by Hopper but you also have works by Charles Demuth, Alfred Stieglitz, Ben Shahn, etc., etc. You'll see this beauty, which was painted by Hopper in 1921...

...hung near this fantastic photograph of Wall Street that was taken in 1915 by Paul Strand. The pieces really do work in concert with one another and I'd like to see the show again before it closes in April.

* * *

What I wasn't expecting was to be blown away by another exhibit running through February 13th; Charles LeDray: workworkworkworkwork. I'm a bit of a traditionalist and a snob when it comes to museum exhibits. I'm not much for contemporary art, so it takes quite a bit for me to take notice. LeDray, who I knew nothing of walking into his exhibit, is a sculpture who creates objects to small scale. It looks like painstaking work but the end result is a fun romp.

The best piece is this miniature men's clothing store. The clothing is hand-sewn miniatures. There's a round table with a selection of tiny ties splayed out as you might see them in Macy's. It's impressively detailed work.

One of the mediums he works in is human bone. Apparently, you can get bone on the market. Somewhere. Not New York, I'm sure. I think there's a deeper meaning attached to this wedding band on bone piece but my enjoyment is all right there on the surface.

This is a cricket cage carved from human bone. Again, what does it mean? I don't know but it doesn't rob me of any enjoyment.

LeDray created hundreds (thousands?) of tiny clay pots. There are three display cases. One has works done in all black...

...and another in all white. I would have liked to get a shot of the third case containing pots in a multitude of colors but the security guard was on to me. You can't really tell how small these are because there's nothing to reference the scale, but these are tiny, tiny pieces. I'm not sure how he accomplished this. If you happen to be in town visiting from a far-off land, it's worth your time and effort to visit this before it closes. I'm talking to you, Dinah.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Unbearable recommendations

I just added the asshat lounge to my blogroll over there on the right. It's a pretty good show. Kind of like an American Jimmy Bastard without the shivs, blood, enforcers and broken bones. His post from January 4th will lay you flat. Also, just as a reminder, don't forget to click over to secondWide every once in a while. She's still posting consistently interesting photographs. I don't know how she does it.

* * *

What's the perfect Christmas gift for a 17-year old who had not one, but two traffic accidents just one month after getting his driver's license this past August? Why, you buy him a BMW 330ci which, according to the newspaper, goes 0-60 in about six seconds, of course.

Can you guess what happened? A violent wreck. He's dead and his two friends who were passengers, both 16, are in critical condition. One is in an induced coma.

Oh, by the way, he wasn't wearing a seat belt.

I've complained about this in the past so I won't elaborate. I'm sure the family is devastated. But as far as I'm concerned, the father should be brought up on manslaughter charges. Stupid ass. If that kid had taken out my family, or if that were one of The Daughters in a coma, I'd snap. Christ, I hate humanity sometimes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The flotsam and jetsam of 2010

Here are some leftover nuggets from 2010. I stole this idea from The Beatles. It's like the medley at the end of Abbey Road whereby they took a bunch of half-finished songs, mashed them all together and created an epic.

* * *

I see this ad and many more just like it in the subways almost every day. Cell phone providers boast that their networks are so powerful that you needn't ever be without the internet.

The premise of these ads is always the same; a guy or gal in a remote, bucolic setting, surrounded by nature, with their faces buried in a laptop or cell phone. They are seemingly oblivious to the beauty around them. Pardon me for judging, but if you're on vacation in the vast wilderness and you simply cannot tear yourself away from the internet, you are a LOSER. That's what these ads say to me: "Our products will turn you into a needy LOSER."

* * *

This morning I woke up in the bathroom. I didn't know how I got there. Did I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or did I wake up because the alarm went off? I was standing there completely flummoxed! I tiptoed back into the bedroom to check the clock and, sure enough, the alarm had gone off. It was 5:18 a.m. I had no memory of turning it off, getting out of bed and walking into the bathroom.

I use to have to smoke a ton of weed to achieve this state. I'm happy that it requires less effort.

* * *

9-Year Old Daughter has a friend in school whose father passed away last week while shoveling snow. He wasn't that old but he was pretty overweight, which was probably a contributing factor. You read about stuff like this in the paper all the time. Someone is missing in a flood. A fatality from a fire. A traffic accident claims a life. You turn the page and check the box scores. But when something like this happens to someone you sort-of know, you see the aftermath. What goes on after everyone else is on to something else. It makes you realize how fragile life is. All that guy wanted to do was clear the driveway and it cost him his life.

* * *

The best reason to quit smoking:

I did not Photoshop that image. Cigarettes in New York City cost $11.00 per pack.

When I was smoking, we bought our cigarettes for 50 cents a pack at the Bi-Lo Gas Station on Pearl Road right behind the Junior High School. Marlboro Lights. I started smoking because, to be perfectly honest, it make me look pretty damn suave. I looked like a poor man's James Bond. (Substitute the Austin Martin for a brown Chrysler Newport and the martini-shaken-not-stirred for a pop top Pabst Blue Ribbon.) Then, whoops!, I got addicted and smelled bad. So I quit. It's a good thing. I couldn't afford the habit now.

* * *

I work in Soho in a building that use be a printing plant. Lots of buildings down here that were purposed for heavy industry have been converted to living and office space. Because they're not traditional skyscrapers and more factory-like, it occasionally takes a while for the heat to kick on in the winter. This is my colleague:

She looks like something out of a cruel scene that Charles Dickens dreamed up.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I call first tantrum of 2011

Over this past weekend I read a heartbreaking article in The New York Times about the war. There's no shortage of pencil-pushers in Washington who insist that American troops need to fight the fight in Afghanistan, but they make no personal sacrifices themselves towards that end.

The article, Families Bear Brunt of Deployment Strains, tells the story of families who are torn apart because of the overseas deployment of a mother or father. All the sacrifices are born by the troops and their loved ones. The politicians don't give a shit. It's always been that way. The article is full of quotes like this:

It's pretty hard worrying if he'll come back safe. I think about it, like, 10 or more times a day.

Isaac Eisch, 12, on this father, an Army Sergent deployed to Afghanistan

How does a little kid rise above something that?

It's a tough read. The article began on the font page. I opened the inside spread and finished it. On the opposite spread, my eyes fell on an article about the Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria this weekend.

It was about the difficulty of executing the perfect Texas Dip. The Texas Dip is a bow the Debutantes from Texas have to perform when they enter the ballroom and are announced to society. It's a maneuver that requires the Deb to throw their arms apart and bow forward to the floor until their chin almost touches the carpet.

The Dip is difficult to perform because the large white meringue dresses they wear limit their range of motion. One of the little princesses complained that it made her "quads hurt." Another was featured for her heroic act of performing The Dip with a broken collarbone. Her arm was bound in a raw silk sling that matched her dress perfectly.

The juxtaposition between the two article could not have been worse.

I don't consider myself an angry guy. By that, I mean that I lose my temper just like you do, but I don't get into fistfights, shout or kick walls. But the bile rose in me and I wanted to mash a Debutant in the face. Don't you?