The Unbearable Banishment: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dog v. Porcupine

I stumbled across this post from back in 2008 when I first opened this space and since most everyone reading today wasn't around back then (and since I have NOTHING to write about right now), I thought I'd rerun it. I'd forgotten all about it and it gave me a chuckle.

* * *

This is C.'s dog, Buddy. Buddy isn't all that bright and C. is the first person who'll point that out. You see, Buddy likes to chase porcupines. They're slow and easy to catch! This is the sixth time that Buddy has had a quill facial. You would think that he'd learn after the fourth or fifth time that porcupines = excruciating pain, but not our Buddy.

You can't see it in the photo, but he had quills running all down his chest and legs and some in his back, as well. He had to be anesthetized in order to have them removed and is sleeping it off behind the sofa. C.'s bank account is $400 lighter for the trouble (x 6 = $2,400). Oh, Buddy. Stop chasing porcupines. They'll always come out on top.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A deep cut begets deep anger

"Daddy, I don't want to go to school anymore. They tease me."

It has come to light that my little 5-year old peanut of a daughter is being teased in kindergarten. At recess, she walks around the playground by herself. Kindergartners who have older siblings are taught early on how to stick the knife in. 9-Year Old Daughter has sailed through school without any of this nonsense, so this is new to me. Something biological kicks in when you discover your child is being picked on. A chemical reaction. It has fostered a swelling of anger in me that I've never experienced before.

Every class has one kid who is singled out and relentlessly hammered by everyone else. I had a bit of a problem with being picked on back in Eastpark Elementary School, but it was nothing as compared to what happened to poor Joy Keck. You didn't want to get near Joy or you would get "Joy Keck germs." Her torment continued straight through Midpark High. I don't recall her having one friend. I'd love to report that after high school, Joy gave Cleveland the middle finger and is now a successful cardiologist with homes in Beverly Hills and Geneva. But the truth is she committed suicide.

Mrs. Wife is taking the calm, rational approach. Writing letters. Trying to separate fact from fiction. I, on the other hand, would very much like to walk into her classroom and ask, "Honey, which one of these mutants is picking on you?", rip their tiny arms out of their tiny sockets and calmly ask, "Anyone else?" As satisfying as that would be, it's probably the wrong approach.

I just read an article about how kids are reluctant to report that they're being bullied. If you report you're being bullied, you label yourself as a victim and are likely to walk around feeling like one. If you make a public declaration that you're a victim, you'll be treated like a victim by everyone around you. Kids know this.

My greatest fear is that if we don't get a handle on this, it'll snowball and there'll be no end to it. She'll end up with the same low self-esteem her father is plagued with.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ham ‘n art

I usually sit on a bench and read in Central Park for my lunch hour but there was a terrific, pounding, rainstorm this afternoon so instead I walked across the street and took in the Carlito Carvalhosa: Sum of Days exhibit at MoMA. [Admission is $22.50 but I get in for free using my corporate ID. Working for “The Man” occasionally has its benefits.]

I love these big-room exhibits. It’s interesting to see what happens when you hand an open area this size to an artist. The last really good exhibit I saw in this space was the Marina Abramović bizarro starring contest.

Sum of Days is a floor to ceiling drape of soft, white, translucent fabric that’s hung in a spiral. The material is so thin that as you walk through it, it bellows and breathes when you disturb the air around it.

There are microphones hung that record whatever ambient noise visitors make. People clap, sing and whistle as they pass through and the recordings are played back in the museum. There are also a series of speakers that periodically play pieces by Philip Glass, Mick Rossi and a few others.

It all sounds like a great idea but it didn’t work for me. It reminded me of the world’s largest shower curtain.

My heart didn’t flutter the way it usually does when I turn corner and am faced with a piece this size. And I'm an easy audience!

* * *

I had a bit more time to kill so I wandered amongst the soaking wet tourists and did a quick “greatest hits” tour. I saw Picasso’s landmark Les Demoiselles d'Avignon...

...van Gogh’s crowd-pleasing Starry Night...

...Duchamp’s playful, yet, idiotic Bicycle Wheel...

…Modigliani’s seductive Reclining Nude

…and Matisse’s vibrant Red Studio.

I discovered a new one, too. M’Amenez-y by Francis Picabia. I'm sure it's been hanging there all these years but sometimes you look but don't really see. I don't get it but it's fantastic! Fell free to provide a commentary on this. Use little words, please.

* * *

After that, I went back to my desk, ate a ham sandwich and got back to work. It was a nice repose. I'm sure I'll do it more frequently as the weather deteriorates.

A big de Kooning retrospective just opened at MoMA. 200+ pieces! But you won’t be reading about it here. No, sir! I’m not going. Do you know why? Because I don’t like ugly paintings.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More China-bashing

Regular readers have enjoyed my occasional tirades against China, an evil country, run by corrupt individuals. The fact that I once suffered at the hands of a manager who was an insane, yammering Chinese woman only made my loathing of China deeper and richer.

I don't blog about hard news stories often but if I stumble across one that's going to reinforce my prejudices, I’m more than happy to oblige.

The Chinese steal every western technological innovation they can get their tiny hands on because they lack the freedom of imagination and creative juice necessary to invent things like Apple products and movies. Although, admittedly, they’ve gotten pretty good at hacking into the computer systems (a western invention) of other countries via the internet (another western invention). Also, paying royalties doesn’t mesh with their agenda of crushing the west.

My latest out-loud laugh at China came when they canceled Super Girl. Super Girl is an American Idol/Pop Idol rip-off. The official reason for the cancellation was that the show exceeded the :90 minute, state-imposed, time limit placed on ALL talent competitions. Additionally, it was branded as “vulgar, manipulative and poison for our youth.” The culture minister issued a harsh statement saying, “What the market chooses is not necessarily a good thing.” Have you seen Jersey Shore or Teen Mom? He might have a good point. He also said, “...we can’t have working people reveling all day in low culture.”

In its place, the state will run shows with programs that promote “healthy morals, public safety and practical information about housework.” One fan of Super Girl blogged, “I will never be happy again!” and another suggested that, “Maybe we need another revolution.”

The real reason it was canceled is that bureaucrats were caught off-guard by the show’s astounding popularity. The show relied on audience votes to pick the winner and the LAST thing the Politburo wants is for people to become accustom to voting.

I just won a pair of tickets to the Broadway musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. (Which, as an aside, I would never pay to see. It's just not my thing.) Mrs. Wife and I will soon be reveling in some low culture and I’ll bet our life will be better off for it.

If Christian fundamentalists were to come into power here in the U.S., I could see them doing the EXACT same thing as the Chinese communists. Canceling shows they deemed "poison for our youth." Controlling what's allowed over the airwaves so that only their approved messages came through. They're cut from the same cloth.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bombs Away: Parts I and II

Part I

Each morning while my Mac is booting up I stand at my window, cup of coffee in hand, and survey my fiefdom. I'm ten floors above 6th Avenue and from that vantage point the streets look like veins, flowing with taxis, buses and pedestrians.

On Wednesday morning I saw something new outside my window. Overnight, the hotel across the avenue had been ringed with concrete NYPD car/truck bomb barricades.

Many high-profile buildings in Manhattan have cement barricades that are disguised as planters, but the temporary ones used by the NYPD are more function than form. They're pretty obvious. The cops are expecting trouble.

The Warwick Hotel isn't exactly a top-tier hotel and I couldn't imagine what high profile guest would warrant protection against a possible truck bomb. It seems absurd. Then it came out in the news. This week, the UN General Assembly is meeting and this turd will be speaking:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran and "wee man" syndrome sufferer, is staying right across the street. Boy, is the hotel catching hell. There will be protests. Great. I don't want to be collateral damage! Why can't he stay at the Iranian consulate's residence? More importantly, if I see him, would that count as a celebrity spotting? I hope he wears that snazzy 1988 Members Only jacket.

Part II

When I was 18, I thought it wasn't a proper party until someone dumped a beer on the carpet or broke a piece of furniture or the cops were called. Now that I'm ensconced in the suburbs, things don't get wild until the top layer of a two-layer cake...

...slides off onto the floor...

...bouncing off a chair on the way down. Some frosting was quickly applied to the surviving layer and all was forgotten but, my God, I couldn't stop laughing. I don't think it was appreciated when I started clicking photos with my iPhone. I couldn't help myself!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Urban cacti

I stumbled across this exhibit during a trip to The Public Theater to pick up tickets for Love's Labor's Lost. [They're also doing Titus Andronicus, which is a real bloodbath of a play. One rape, one tongue cut out, three hands chopped off, a castration and two ground-up heads baked into a pie. Shakespeare at The Public for only $15 bucks! Seriously, if you live in the vicinity, you owe it to yourself to take advantage of this.]

Believe it or not, this exhibit was commissioned by the NYC Department of Transportation. Who knew transportation funds were being allocated for public art? I approve! Flaming Cactus, a product of the Animus Arts Collective, is a wrap project. Thousands of fluorescent colored cable ties are attached to lampposts surrounding Astor Place.

I was there during the afternoon rush hour and nobody stopped to look at it. It's been there for a month so perhaps they're locals who are sick of it. I think it's pretty neat. And it's weatherproof!

I appreciate the fact that the artists chose a color scheme that would compliment Starbucks' brand palate. How thoughtful!

Each strip had to be put on individually by hand. Imagine the amount of work involved! What a crazy, labor-intensive project. But it works.

They look more like fine hairs than cactus needles, especially from a distance.

* * *

I was having a pre-theater stinky gyro and realized that I have been coming to this same gyro joint in Greenwich Village and sitting at this same table since I was 21. I've never revealed my age, and I'm sure as hell not going to do it now, but take my word for it, that's a loooong time ago and a LOT of gyros down the gullet. I'm happy to report that the quality has remained consistent through the decades.

This is where 6th Avenue, West 4th St. and Cornelia St. come to a point. The table is practically right on the sidewalk and is perfect for dinner and a show (the show being, NYC).

My long, lost buddy, Klinger, used to live two doors down in a tiny second floor apartment with French windows that opened onto Cornelia St. He would throw crazy, overcrowded parties. We were both utterly smitten with the same girl, Mimi (an actress, of course). She thought we were two nice, funny boys but she was involved with a successful artist who would take her to his place in the Hamptons on summer weekends. Klinger and I would eat gyros, drink cheap draft beer and wallow in our broken-hearted loserdom. Good times.

* * *

Bad trades by a rogue trader cost the United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) $2 billion. That's billion with a big B. Believe me, if that guy had MADE $2 billion, they'd have given him a raise, a corner office and a promotion, despite the rogue activity. That industry is amoral.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Two anniversaries. One dark. One light.

This weekend here in NY/NJ, everyone is focused on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Is it like that where you live, or is it the third story in the newscast? It looks to me like the overwhelming display of grief is reopening a lot of old wounds. But it's necessary. It's right. The memorial. The special programing on TV. The visiting dignitaries. It has to be done.

Mrs. Wife and I lived in the East Village, less than a mile from the WTC. We both worked in midtown and had to walk home because the transit system was shut down. She was six months pregnant and was wearing terrible shoes that chewed her feet up. We had to stop so she could rest. The streets were choked with people trying to get home. It's the only time I saw New Yorkers not complain about being inconvenienced. The air stunk like burning electricity for weeks after. South of Houston St., where we lived, was a militarized zone and we had to show ID and pass an armed checkpoint in order to get home. But we were alive and so were all of our friends, and that's what mattered.

Architectural purists complained about the design of the World Trade Center but I loved it. I would ride my bike there all the time. If you stood with your back against one of the towers and looked up, an optical illusion made the tower seem as if it were bending over you. Even more so if you had a few good bong hits in you. They were astonishingly tall buildings. When flying home, those two towers were the first things I'd see. Hello, fellas! It's good to be back!

Here's a very good exhibit that's up in Bryant Park for only two days. There are 2,819 empty chairs lined up across the lawn; one for each life lost in the attack. They're all pointed south where the World Trade Center once stood.

Our wedding anniversary is 9/11. Not THE 9/11. Today is 12 years. For the first few years after the attacks, I didn't feel that being in a celebratory mood was respectful or right. I feel awful that some families were torn asunder and that my beautiful shining city has a big gash in it. But I'm reclaiming 9/11 to celebrate my marriage. 12 years is a pretty damn good run. A lot of folks don't make it this far, but we did.

I lived in New York City, but 9/11 is so much more than a terrorist attack to me.

* * *

The annual 9/11 remembrance has given rise to a new sensation. In addition to the sad reflection and thoughtful meditation, 9/11 also serves as a reminder that autumn is upon us. It's the opening weekend of the football season. The weather turns cool. The theater season gets underway. The kids are back in school. It's time to swap out my summer clothes.

Also, it's the final week that this place, a New Jersey summer institution, is open.

Mrs. Wife and 9-Year Old Daughter place an order.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Young, nearly naked, lithe and Irish. 0% body fat.

I could take the high road and say I was interested in seeing this show to study its aesthetics, but instead I’ll tell the truth. I was intrigued by this provocative and highly effective ad:

Just look at them. Couldn't you just eat them up? They’re dancers and you can see them in a blast furnace of a show called NOĊTÚ that’s in previews at the Irish Rep.

I've started this sentence three times and still cannot find the right combination of words to convey how much fun this show is. And, mind you, I'm not a big fan of dance. It's choreographed and directed by Riverdance Principal Dancer Breandán de Gallaí, but to simply call it “Irish dancing” seems wholly inadequate. It uses traditional step dancing merely as a jumping off point.

Maybe it’s because the Irish Rep is such a small venue and the dancers are right in your FACE. (I'm not certain it would work as well in a larger house.) Or perhaps it's the perfect song selections. Or maybe it’s because they're such accomplished dancers (they all have impressive bios). But this is such a powerful piece of theater. I wish I could take you to see it.

13 superb dancers wind their way through routines choreographed to the likes of Björk, Goldfrapp, Leonard Cohen (of course) and Kate Bush. There’s a seductive pas de trois to Imelda May’s My Big Bad Handsome Man that made me wish I had taken more chances when I was in my 20s. There's a section of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite that’s worth another viewing (which I hope to get before word gets out and tickets vanish). Although, please, can you spare me the false ending? It's unnecessary. False endings are right up there with audience participation for spoiling my night out.

* * *

Can the Irish Rep ever do wrong?! It would seem not. Their next show is the rarely performed Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel. The autumn theater season is just underway. Tonight, it's seasoned pro Frank Langella in Terrence Rattigan's 1963 drama Man and Boy at the Roundabout. It’s time, once again, for those dreary theater posts that you all pass over.

* * *

I did not listen to the President's speech last night. Nor did I watch the Republican presidential candidate debate on Wednesday. My apathy towards politicians is at an absolute nadir. None of those fucking clowns can help me with my problem. No one can. I have to figure it out for myself. We should all pray that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg runs for President. There's a guy who could light the political fires under my ass again. But this current crop? Worse than useless.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are New York Yankee fans brain damaged?

Steiner Sports Gifts and Collectibles is an outfit that deals in sports memorabilia. Aside from the usual bubble gum cards and signed baseballs, they specialize in catering to wealthy micro-collectors. They cut “exclusive” deals with players and teams. They are big on partnering with the New York Yankees.

Yankee deity Derek Jeter hit his 3,000th major league hit this summer. Steiner Sports, in partnership with the Yankees consigliere, swooped in and created the following collectible items from the game where he achieved this milestone.
  • Bases used in the game: $7,000
  • Balls (unsigned): $2,000
  • Dirt that Jeter walked on from the shortstop and right-hand batters box: $250 for a half-ounce container
  • Jeter’s used sox: $1,000
Under a separate agreement, you can buy a vial of dirt from the old Yankee stadium that was demolished in 2008. And there’s no need to worry whether or not it’s legitimate Yankee Stadium dirt. Rest assured. All dirt sold by Steiner Sports Marketing is collected “under strict supervision to assure authenticity.” The target audience for these items appears to be brain damaged Yankee fans with deep pockets.

I understand the pull of nostalgia and the want to hold onto a piece of your youth. But this strikes me as both tragic and laughable. Ladies...if you walked into some guy's apartment and saw a container of (potentially bogus) Yankee Stadium dirt sitting in worship up on his mantle, would you not run for the hills as fast as your feet could carry you? I wouldn’t want The Daughters to date someone of this ilk.

* * *

Well! That was uncharacteristically mean-spirited! I usually try not to judge people too harshly but as long as I rang that bell, I might as well get it all out of my system. Buckle up.

* * *

If I was emperor of the planet for one day, I would write an irrevocable law that would state; if you are caught talking on a cell phone while walking down the sidewalk so loudly that everyone can hear you, you have to go to the county jail for seven days. If you’re using a Bluetooth, you have to go to a federal penitentiary for nine months. I know that sounds a bit harsh but things have gotten pretty bad out here.

* * *

I hurt myself at the gym in the stupidest way imaginable.

I was doing reverse curls (grab a barbell with palms facing inwards and pull it up to your chin). In front of me were two TV monitors. One was playing an interview with Sean Hannity and Dick Cheney. Sean, he of the steely look in the eye and jutting square jaw and Good Ole’ Dick, looking every bit the Bond villain he is, sat in front of an animated waving American flag backdrop. Two heroes. The other monitor played the corporate cyborg New York Yankees beating-up on the small-market Toronto Blue Jays.

My eyes frantically darted from one monitor to the other. I became so angry that I lost my concentration, pulled the barbell up too fast and smacked myself in the chin. My jaw snapped shut so hard that my teeth banged together. They still kind of hurt.

Anger. It’ll get you nowhere, brothers and sisters.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Winnie-the-Pooh's big cancer scare

I had a horrendous dream yesterday morning. I was walking through a half animated/half real forest. Waddling down a pretty, sun speckled trail appeared none other than Winnie-the-Pooh, your favorite "bear of very little brain." But right behind him, waddling in hot pursuit, was ANOTHER Winnie-the-Pooh. The second Winnie had cancer! He was trying to catch the first Winnie to give him his cancer.

The only physical difference between the two was that the second, cancerous, Winnie-the-Pooh had white eyes instead of black. "Jesus Christ, Winnie, run! It's cancer, for fuck's sake!," I yelled. Realizing he was in mortal danger, healthy Winnie waddled as fast as he could, big, stupid smile frozen on his face, and kept repeating over and over "Oh, bother!, Oh, bother!"

My alarm went off and I woke up in an absolute stupor. I walked to the bathroom through thick air and replayed the dream over and over while in the shower. I got into the city, still not fully awake, turned the corner at 44th and Broadway and was hit in the face with this:

Sweet Mother Mary! The big Times Square Disney store animated billboard is featuring Pooh characters. It's as though this town is a living entity that peers into my innermost thoughts and daydreams and uses them to torment me. My iTouch shuffle does it sometimes, too.

* * *

A friend invited me over for a post-work glass of vino and a bite to eat. He lives on the Upper West Side and was home with his charming 3-year old daughter while his wife was out at a business dinner. I had some time to kill so I walked up from 54th and 6th, cut across a corner of Central Park, and then up Amsterdam Avenue into the west 70's. The sky was a brilliant blue hue and there was just a slight twinge of a cool breeze to announce the coming of autumn.

I didn't listen to my iTouch or bury my face in a smart phone (as many did). Instead, I did a lot of people-watching and soaked it all in. Walking up Central Park West and winding through the neighborhood, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the sense that I was surrounded by successful, happy people. People who had interesting careers and lots of friends. Pretty homes, perfect marriages, stable work they enjoyed and no financial duress. They don't get bad haircuts, don't drive a car with a big dent in the front quarter panel and don't wear shoes that hurt their feet. Frankly, it made me feel kind of sad.

Now, I know better. All those people who I clandestinely envied are probably just as neurotic and I am. Possibly more so. The Upper West Side of Manhattan is one of the top two epicenters in the U.S. for neurotic behavior (the other being the Upper East Side). But it seems to me they handle their neurosis with a lot more panache and joie de vivre than I do mine. I felt melancholy.

What are we longing for? Where does all this yearning come from?

—Pina Bausch