The Unbearable Banishment: June 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"You touched me!"

I boarded my 5:35 a.m. bus to the city and about :15 minutes into my ride the woman sitting in front of me lurched her seat back in a violent manner and cracked me in the knee caps. This is an almost (twice) daily occurrence.

We turned off the Garden State Parkway onto the New Jersey Turnpike and the guy sitting next to me suddenly yells out, loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear, "Look. I don't mind if you use your little computer but you're MOVING AROUND TOO MUCH. You touched my arm, LIKE, 20 TIMES!" I know what you're picturing. You're picturing a milquetoast pencil pushing desk jockey with thick-lensed glasses. A whiny little bitch. But you're wrong. This was a hulking construction worker with arms like pythons. So I kept my mouth shut and didn't move a muscle for the remainder of the ride. Hell yeah, I did.

I was stewing in my juices when I left Port Authority, wasn't watching where I was going and I STEPPED IN VOMIT. That's right. Some parts of New York are still olde style New York. I stepped in vomit. It used to happen more frequently.

Then I was walking up Madison Avenue at 44th Street and a jogger passed by who wasn't wearing any shoes. Running barefoot in Manhattan! What a madman! I turned to look at the soles of his feet as he ran by and they were BLACK. No amount of scrubbing would ever get them clean enough for me. This is just minutes after I stepped in vomit and I suddenly imagined it squishing up between my toes. Retch, I did. The very next morning I saw him again and I tried to whip out my cell phone but he was too fast. Now I walk with my cell phone in my hand and the camera on when I walk that stretch of Madison.

* * *

We received the following company-wide email at work:

"The NYC OEM (Office of Emergency Management) has reported that several aircraft will be flying at a very low altitude in the vicinity of the Statue of Liberty and Battery Park at approximately 11:00 a.m. today. This is a planned event that is part of the Fleet Week celebration. There is no cause for alarm."

My, goodness. It's been 10 years and this town is still fucked-up over 9/11. Tell me, London, were you still in a nervous state of mind 10 years after the Blitz of 1941? I'll bet not. I mean no disrespect but it's time to move on.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not FDIC Insured | May Lose Value | No Bank Guarantee

This past week I was designing a library of marketing brochures to promote a group of investment vehicles. One of them is called The Russian Fund. As the name implies, the fund is populated with Russian growth stocks and investments. While I was laying it out I was thinking to myself, isn't the Russian business and political machine notoriously corrupt? Why would anyone send their money to Russia? It seems like a bad bet to me, but what do I know? I'm just a dopey graphic designer. I passed on Google when it was $32/share. [Sadly, not kidding about that].

Then I got to the all-important disclosure. You know what that is? That's the tiny, tiny print in the back that NOBODY ever reads. Get a load of these two sentences that were buried within. And the bold emphasis is theirs, not mine!

There may be a Lack of Reliable Financial Information and there is less transparency with Russian investments. Potential for Expropriation, Dilution, Devaluation, Default or Excessive Taxation by the Russian government.

I didn't know what "expropriation" meant so I had to looked it up. It means that the Russian government might take your money and/or property for no good reason and there's nothing you can do about it. Isn't that crazy! Why am I actively involved with promoting this investment? I feel dirty. Buyer beware, indeed.

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Speaking of warnings...I recently saw a movie in Times Square. Some of the Times Square movie houses are still like the wild west. If you're bothered by people talking out loud to each other, cell phone calls during the quiet parts of the film, 4-year old children frantic from drinking jumbo-sized Coca-Colas and that sort of thing, you'd better not bother.

When I walked into the theater I turned the corner and saw two kids who must have been about 19 years old changing the diaper of their baby who was laid down on the seat between them. Kids with kids. There's nothing sadder. At the box office, they post this warning sign. It says, basically, don't bring a kid in who is under six years old to an R rated movie after 6:00 p.m. They call it "Distraction Free Entertainment."

You don't see THAT in the suburbs! This means there were SO MANY 5-year old children being brought into loud, VIOLENT, scary R-rated movies, that they actually had to CREATE A SIGN asking people (mainly, kids with kids) to refrain from doing it. Tragic Town, U.S.A.

* * *

Random NYC photo.

This is where I eat lunch every day when the weather is cooperating. There are several streets in the city that have been turned into permanent pedestrian malls and plazas. This one is right outside Grand Central Station. A great place to watch the chaos pass by. It's like a beehive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I wanna take a walk along Action Strasse

I have been uninspired to read or write anything lately. Like a light bulb that was suddenly switched off. Amazing! Let's try this, shall we?

* * *

I took two days off between consulting gigs. On one day, I watched The Daughters while Mrs. Wife went on a well-deserved long weekend away. Before she left, I spent a day strolling around Chelsea with CB ducking in an out of the galleries. It was mid-week so, naturally, they were all gloriously empty. It's the only way to see these things and it made me yearn for the days when I was unemployed (with a severance).

I'm not a huge Picasso fan—a lot of his stuff is too esoteric for me and it sails over my head—but I was really moved by the Picasso and Marie-Thérèse exhibit at the Gagosian Gallery on 21st Street (through July 15). The idea that you can see such a huge gathering of Picassos in a beautifully lit gallery for FREE blows my mind.

The Gagosian has gotten into the habit of putting on blockbuster exhibits for free...because they can, I guess. They mounted a spectacular Monet exhibit not long ago. None of the pieces in these exhibits are for sale, which is counterintuitive to what a gallery is all about. But it's not as though I could afford any them if they were. The gallery is turning itself into a de facto museum.

* * *

CB is a scribe in the fashion industry so we had a professional obligation to visit the Kate Moss photo exhibit at the Danzinger Gallery on W. 23rd Street. There are about two dozen pics by different photographers that span her career. Like the Picasso work, I didn't think this would be for me but enjoyed it despite my preconceived notions. That happens a LOT.

This was my favorite shot because it shows Kate on 42nd Street right around the time I got to New York. The city was dank, dirty and scary—especially 42nd Street. I like looking back on old New York but don't miss it all that much. In some of the photos, Kate is no more than a child and they were kind of creepy and sad to look at. They certainly explain some of the horribleness she was to experience later in life.

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Here's a fun one also at the Gagosian Gallery (the one on 24th Street). John Chamberlain's sculptures are constructed from mangled auto parts.

You have to stand next to these things to really feel the scale of how massive they are. Get down heavy.

I can understand hanging a Picasso or a photo of Kate Moss but what the hell are you supposed to do with these? They must weigh a ton!

I was hoping for a price guide to see what one costs. They're interesting in that if you slowly walk around them, they change shape, light and color. Well done to you, Mr. Chamberlain, sir!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The rich are different than you and me—they're insane

I've been working down in Soho for the past several months but now I am, happily, back in midtown Manhattan. It's where the action is. Casual observation: Soho tourists are all from Europe. Midtown tourists are from the U.S.

My morning walk takes me past the Brooks Brothers store on Madison Avenue. This window display caught my eye. Initially, I couldn't figure out what kind of nutty theme they were going for with the lemonade stand. I then realized that these clothes are for children!

Who the hell goes to Brooks Brothers to shop for children's clothing?! Rich New Yorkers are a crazy lot. There seems to be a constant push to fashion their kids into tiny adults. I think a lot of Upper East Side children are treated more like fashion accessories than individual personalities. They're mirrors that mom and dad can peer into and see themselves. I don't think they have normal upbringings. Look at these clothes! They're ridiculous!

Who'd want to wear a blue jacket with a gold Brooks Brothers crest on the breast? And are people still tying sweater arms around their necks? These clothes AREN'T CHEAP and if you have kids, you know that they grow out of them in very short order.

It's not envy. Even if I had the money to buy The Daughter's clothes at Brooks Brothers, I wouldn't do it. I'd feel like a pretentious idiot.

Do you know who buys their kid's clothes at Brooks Brothers? The same dopes who wait in a line outside Grand Central Station that stretches out the door to buy a $4.95 cup of coffee.

You can walk one block in any direction and get a perfectly acceptable cup of coffee from a coffee cart for $1. No waiting!

* * *

Early morning Bryant Park behind the Library. The lawn was watered overnight so all the chairs were removed. Some guy carries an arm full of chairs onto the lawn, places them at equal distances apart in a perfect line, and walks away.

I understand why people feel this place is uninhabitable. Country legend Buck Owens wrote a song called I Wouldn't Live in New York City (If They Gave Me the Whole Damn Town). But I love this joint and all its crazy citizens.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fanfare for a Common Man

I've been a bit preoccupied with the Thunder Road chapbook, hence no new blog posts. Do you miss me? I miss you. Worldwide distribution is out of my office next to the family room. People have started to receive their copies and here are some nice things they've said about it. Copies are still available. Hint.

Here I am at Lead Graffiti lettering the hardcover copies.

* * *

I received the book today, thanks for the quick delivery!

I have to tell you, the pictures don't do it justice. What a beautiful design, from the BTR typeface to the raised lettering...simply gorgeous. I've been a Springsteen fan for three decades and this has to rank up there with some of the best Bruce-related items I've collected over the years. I feel very fortunate to be one of the lucky 200. And of course Nick's passionate and lovingly written essay. That it's personally signed is quite the bonus. This will sit well with the 1st edition copies of some of my all-time favorite books and I know I will revisit your hard-won labor of love often.

* * *

In my hand... a thing of absolute beauty. Wow. My book arrived today, and I'm floored... even more beautiful than expected.

* * *

Got the book yesterday and it is a beautiful thing. I really love it. Especially enjoy the black on black and white on white cloud prints. Adds a beautiful subtle layer to it all. The yellow against black is super and the letterpress text looks really nice. I kept noticing it while I was re-reading the essay.

I love the song Thunder Road, and Nick Hornby's essay just nails it!! The song is corny, overwrought and bombastic but I still love it. Like great art the song as a whole manages to create a set of emotions beyond its words.

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Additionally, the nice people at Indie found out about the book via Nick Hornby's Facebook page and wrote a feature story that (as of this writing) is on their landing page.

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Speaking of Nick, I received this after he opened his box o' books that included his hardcover inscribed to him by Bruce:

They came! They look really, really lovely, and I'm thrilled. I'm so glad you stuck it out...



* * *

I told Nick that his hardcover is the ultimate association copy and if it ever appeared at a rare book auction, it would ignite a fierce bidding war.

Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

:15 Second Reviews

Once again, I am too lazy to write individual posts for these plays so I decided to lump them together. We are all better off for it.

* * *

Through a Glass Darkly
is a stage adaptation of a 1962 Ingmar Bergman film. Cheery, it ain't. But Carey Mulligan, who was so good in An Eduction, gives such a powerful and convincing performance as a woman who is descending into mental illness, that I'm actually quite worried for her. I don't know how she can put herself through that wringer eight times a week for eight weeks and come out the other side undamaged. When I left the theater, I was actually upset and had to phone Mrs. Wife so she could talk me down.

Part of what makes this so effective is that it's playing in a small, off-Broadway venue in the East Village and everything is RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. You don't feel the detached protection that a big Broadway house offers. Not to be missed but not for the meek.

* * *

What to say about Spider-man: Turn off the Dark? It is not good. The friend I went with saw an early preview and he said that it has improved insofar as it now has a coherent plot (albeit the same tired Spider-Man story I've been reading since I was a kid). Apparently, prior to being shut down, it was a confused mess of junk.

Some of it was quite stunning to look at from a design standpoint and the costumes were fantastic. Julie Taymor's influences were pretty obvious. The actors wanted it to work so bad but it didn't. And I'll tell you whose fault it is:

Bono and The Edge.

Those guys should stay the hell off Broadway. The music was AWFUL. Each song was one boring funeral dirge after another that dragged the show down. Songs would start and I couldn't wait until they were over. That's a major problem if you're trying to stage a musical. 2:35 long and there were exactly two—that's TWO—songs that didn't work like a 50-pound stone strapped to the actors' backs. And, yet, the crowd gave a standing ovation. I don't get it.

* * *

Mark Ryalnce is the current man of the hour in New York theater. What a tough, funny performance. Jerusalem is three hours of pure adrenalin rush. There was some concern that this London transplant was too "British" for a U.S. stage. (Whatever the hell that means. Shakespeare is pretty British and he does just fine.) Rylance is Johnny Byron, local seducer of disenfranchised youth. Firmly anti-establishment and not one to respect the rules, he pays for his rebellion in a most violent way. My toes curled back to my heels. Hope they perform a snippet of the torture sequence on the Tony Awards this Sunday.

* * *

Check all your razors and your guns
We gonna be rasslin' when the wagon comes

I wanna pigfoot and a bottle of beer

Gimme a reefer and a gang o' gin

Slay me 'cause I'm in my sin

Slay me 'cause I'm full of gin

Needless to say, I won't be bringing the daughter to see this one. The Devil's Music: The Life and Blues of Bessie Smith is less play and more musical review. There are some brief biographical interludes but it's mostly one great blues song after another. A sax. A stand-up bass. An upright piano and one strong voice belting out songs from the early blues era about love and sex and cheating and drinking. Kind of like country music today.

* * *

Robin William was great for two reasons. First of all, he wasn't Robin Williams. He altered his voice, look, posture and body movements to become someone who isn't quite so recognizable. I dispensed with the preconceived notions within a few minutes. Second, he's being used as bait. His name is above the title but he is not the lead. More like the third or fourth, actually. The actors who drive the show are committed, believable characters. So people are drawn in to see Robin Williams and what they end up with are solid performances by actors who otherwise wouldn't get this kind of exposure. And that's a beautiful thing. The play is rough stuff. Lots of war and blood and mysticism and ghosts and talking to God. I liked it a lot.

* * *

Oh, let's see Play Dead! It'll be a funny, spooky night out in Greenwich Village. Ha ha. So fun! It's just a magic show!

Okay. There were a couple of moments in this show that were so genuinely frightening that if the lights had been on, I'd have run screaming out of the theater like a little girl. Creepy old Todd Robbins got together with the magician Teller and created a show that is definitely for adults only. In more than one segment they turn out the lights. They somehow received permission from the City of New York to also turn out the exit sign lights, so that you are plunged into a pitch-black darkness. The he starts telling gory stories.

You've been warned.


Sunday, June 5, 2011


I've just spent the last several days basking in the unexpected tsunami of congratulations that followed my post about the Thunder Road chapbook I helped publish. All I wanted to do was tell a story and sell some books, but the kind words that were left in the comments section and included with the orders I received were a complete surprise. What a treat!

Let's see...there are about 48 comments right now and in order to appease my pathetically needy ego, I've probably read each one no fewer than five times. That means I've read and reread about 250 comments. What an utterly shameless waste of time. I approve!

Included was a clever quip from Nick Hornby which, I suppose, is as close as I'll get to the :15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol promised me, and a remarkably gracious comment from my buddy, Jim, who started this project with me all those years ago. Although things kind of imploded along the way, there wouldn't have been a book without him. Truth.

Thanks to those who have already submitted orders. I beg your patience, as I am a one-man worldwide fulfillment center. So far, I've gotten orders from all over the U.S., Denmark, Canada, Australia and England. (Now that I look at the list, I realize they are from the epicenters of lily-white Caucasian culture. Springsteen and Hornby's base!) Also, I'm shouldering a 40-hour work week and have two young daughters who feel they own all my free time. I wonder where they got that idea? And thanks to all who provided links, especially whoever put it on My hit rate went from a measly 80-90 per day to a fertile and potent 475 per day.

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Did I just write a post about a post? Now, that's just lazy. I've got posts about New York City in the queue.