The Unbearable Banishment: January 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gentrified memories

My bride and I abandoned our children for the weekend to attend a wedding in downtown Brooklyn. It was a beautiful affair. The ceremony was at St. Agnes, a church built in 1904 in the Boerum Hill section, just two blocks from where I lived when I first set foot in New York. The reception was in the neighborhood down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass, affectionately referred to by real estate agents and trust fund kids as DUMBO. Seriously. I hadn't been there in about 15 years and was genuinely aghast at what I saw. Gentrification is the oldest story in the oldest city, but when you see its results before your very eyes, it has the power to shock. The last time I walked those streets, it was all artist studios with great light and dirty windows and abandoned warehouses. The neighborhood didn't have a cute name. Now it's residential with a Chase Manhattan Bank branch. It blew my mind.

We stayed in a fancy, new, boutique hotel that didn't have heat because of a steam pipe explosion. They gave us a space heater instead. We didn't mind. We're not babies. On Sunday morning, I walked up Smith Street to buy The New York Times. When I lived there, Smith Street wasn't so nice but now it's become a destination. We had a scrumptious lunch at a Portuguese restaurant the day before. En route to get the paper, I saw no fewer than four strollers. Those expensive Quinny models. It would seem that even at that young age, there's a strict hipster dress code that must be adhered to. I wonder what happened to all the Latinos who lived there?

I saw Zadie Smith read a couple of months ago and she was discussing the gentrification of Holborn, her old neighborhood in London, as it relates to a plot device in her new book NW. She had this to say, and I quote:
(Gentrification) is a global experience. People get priced out of their own neighborhoods. The thing I find funny is that there are all different waves of immigration but there's only one community who moves into an area and feels they're a great boon and that's middle class white people. They always think that everybody should be so happy that they've arrived in droves with their cupcakes and all the rest of it. And that interested me, that state of mind that imagines that when you arrive en masse that you're only bringing good. That you're a benefit to an area. That was always quite funny to me.
She's right, you know. Sorry, cupcake-bearing middle class white people. The entertainment at the reception that evening was quartet of virtuosos who played American popular standards and a few French chanteuse selections. A stand-up bass, vintage guitar, violin and singer who looked and sounded the part. Here's a brief, crappy video. Try to ignore the background noise.

The performances were mesmerizing. I'd love to hear them again will seek them out. I heard a rumor they play a wine bar on Friday nights. Look at that great microphone!

Here are just the boys warming up. Beautiful. Listening to this music and then walking out onto the cobblestone streets below the Manhattan bridge on a cold, clear night was sheer poetry to me.

*     *     *

I'm too old to be traumatized by a bad haircut, right? Or does vanity know no age limit? I had a little talk afterwards with Candi (she dots the "i" with a star), but the damage is done. I actually had a bad dream about it this morning. What would Dr. Freud say?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A powder keg with a lit fuse in my basement

A few years ago I wrote a post soliciting opinions on how to solve a little problem I have. I received some excellent tips in my comments section but have done absolutely nothing in the interim to rid myself of the issue at hand. It's all about these:

This is a plastic bin filled with journals from the late 80s through early 90s. They cover the period when I first moved to New York City as a hopeful, brooding, solitary young boy. There are about a dozen books filled with hand-written pages and the binders are packed with hundreds and hundreds of single space type-written pages. The absolute last thing I want is for these to fall into the hands of my daughters. They're fill with depravation, longing and raunchy exploits. I wasn't as depressed as these writings would make it seem. Not having the money for a proper therapist, stream-of-thought typing became my method for purging all the dark matter clogging my consciousness. It was cathartic, but it's not an accurate representation of my state of mind.

The problem is that on more than one occasion, I've pulled these out with the intention of driving to the town incinerator but before I make it out the front door I'll open one, start reading and get lost in the misty water-colored memories of the way I was. I laugh my ass off at the startling depth of my naïveté and utter cluelessness about life, women and human nature. Especially women. I get sucked into a wormhole and come out the other side in some girl's bed in 1991.

Someone recently sent me a link to an essay by Joan Didion about how it's vital to keep and reread your old journals. She feels there's value in them. But I have extenuating circumstances (i.e., children) that make keeping these problematic. I really need to burn these, don't I? What if I meet with an untimely end? I don't want my last thoughts to be, "I should have burned my journals" and "Am I wearing clean underwear?" I don't want them reading this stuff.

My God, they're fun to read. What a little fool I was. For being free-form and not knowing a damn thing about punctuation, sentence structure or clarity, there are some surprisingly readable passages. How can I throw them away!? I must throw them away! Will one of you hang on to these for me?

Monday, January 21, 2013

R.I.P our dog, Coco

The title of this post is misleading. Our dog is not dead. But if it were up to me, she would be. Look  what that little bitch did to my bride:

When I got home from work I blew my top and insisted we get rid of the dog immediately. I wouldn't spend :10 seconds missing her but 11-Year Old Daughter had a meltdown and tearfully begged me to keep her. My hard, poisonous hart was melted by the oldest antidote known to man—a daughter's tears—and the dog won a reprieve.

The dog's behavior is inexplicable. She's a friendly, pleasant mutt (albeit, an $850 mutt) who thinks that everyone wants to be her best friend. She'll roll over on her back in a submissive position so people can give her a scratch. She'll go weeks and weeks without any sign of canine insanity and then, out of nowhere and without provocation, growl and snap. It's only happened a couple times and it's usually at night when she's at rest, but it's a pretty impressionable event. It stays with you.

We've taken her to training classes and had a trainer come to our home for one-on-one sessions (at no small expense, I might add). The trainer's diagnoses is that she has occasional "resource guarding and body handling issues." He assures us that it's not the result of anything we've done. Well, thank God for that. I'd hate to think we've hurt her feelings. He assured us that if Coco really wanted to hurt someone, she would've taken a finger off with little effort. He's coming back and is having mercy on me by not charging for subsequent visits.

I've never like dogs and this isn't helping the cause. It's as if God gave them the most unattractive aspects of human nature. I am annoyed by their bottomless reservoir of need and their unending demands for attention. I find their inability (or is it an unwillingness?) to keep themselves clean off-putting, and the incessant barking is grating. They're not discriminating with what they eat or are mindful of quantity. It doesn't necessarily have to be food. Even shit is a gourmet treat. (Sorry, Daisyfae. That's just how I feel. Especially this morning.)

If she ever seriously bites one of my little girls or my bride, not only will I not have any compunction or residual guilt about having her euthanized, I will take uncharacteristic dark pleasure in pushing the plunger myself. We have done nothing but give her a loving home and treated her with kindness. She's got a pretty great gig here but if she doesn't mind her manners she's going to meet a bad end. Tears or no tears.

I wanted a cat but was outvoted 3-1. I'm not very good with the written word but do you know who is? Charles Bukowski.

exactly right

the strays keep arriving: now we have 5
cats and they are smart, spontaneous, self-
absorbed, naturally poised and awesomely

one of the finest things about cats is
that when you’re feeling down, very down,
if you just look at the cat at rest,
at the way they sit or lie and wait,
it’s a grand lesson in preserving
if you watch 5 cats at once that’s 5
times better.

no matter the extra demands they make
no matter the heavy sacks of food
no matter the dozens of cans of tuna
from the supermarket: it’s all just fuel for their
amazing dignity and their
affirmation of a vital
we humans can
only envy and
admire from
*     *     *

Friday, January 18, 7:50 p.m. in the old man bar in Red Bank, NJ.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

More bad news for poor Katie Holmes

I know what I wrote. You don't have to remind me. I can scroll down and read my own unenlightened blather. I was sincere at the time. That happens, you know. But as Woody Alan said when confronted with seducing his decades-younger stepdaughter, the heart wants what the heart wants. And my heart wants a new pretend girlfriend.

Mary Louise Parker was my pretend girlfriend for quite a few years. We were happy together. She forgave me when I had a brief flirtation with Marisa Tomei and I forgave her when she let that ass-clown Billy Crudup impregnate her. [What kind of name is Billy for a grown man, anyway? Billy is fine if you're a 8-year old boy. Or a hamster.] Nothing heals a pretend rift like some pretend make-up sex. Then Katie Holmes came into my life. She of the tussled hair and bright twinkling eyes, making a connection with a certain someone in the 16th row of the orchestra section. I was hers. Forever.

Well, guess what? It turns out that forever lasts exactly 21 days. Who knew!? I saw Scarlett Johansson in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and I have officially ended my relationship with Katie Holmes. Just look at this. Look at it.

She spent nearly the entire first act in a silk slip. I was weak. You'd be, too. I'm talking to BOTH genders. I don't care where you think your proclivities lie, you'd have considered it. Once again, I was in back of the house. This time, the second last row of the orchestra, which is an embarrassment, but it's all I can afford. The spidery, silver threads of imaginary love leapt across 26 rows of seats and wrapped my heart in a cocoon of want. Do you know what's great about binoculars? You don't have to be a gentleman and mind your manners.

She ain't no Liz Taylor, but she's not some Hollywood hack, either. She killed last year in Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge, so there was reason to believe she could handle this. Maggie the Cat is a woman who exudes longing, unfulfilled desire and, above all else, lust, lust, lust. She sure as hell looked the part, but she played it kind of shrill and desperate. And desperate is not hot. It's no wonder Brick was trying to drink himself to death and could only muster an indifferent erection. It wasn't a bad production but I expected better. The reviews come out tomorrow morning so I'll know better what I'm supposed to think then.

No matter what the critics say, I'm dedicating myself to Scarlett. I'm sorry Katie. I know you've had a tough year. Hounded by the paparazzi. Your Broadway show closed early due to lack of interest. The father of your child believes in a religion based on events that occurred 75 million years ago in a Galactic Confederacy ruled by the tyrannical overlord Xenu. But you're strong. You'll rise above it. By any chance, would you be up for a threesome? You don't have to answer right away. You can think it over. You know where to find me. I'll be in the dressing room filled with orchids and lilies over at the Richard Rogers Theater.

*     *     *

There are some decorative art nouveau posters hanging where I work. They're authentic pieces, not the poorly framed examples you see in the mall poster shop with washed out colors and inferior paper. Someone went to a poster auction with a serious corporate decorating budget and splurged. This is one of my favorites, but not because of the aesthetics of the artwork. I actually think it's kind of ugly. But you can't beat the content. Look at that poor baby! Is this for real?!

Did they really strap babies to the handlebars like a loaf of bread, restrain their right arms and go out for a ride? Can you imagine if you saw someone do this today? I'll bet she wouldn't have a big smile on her face, as is depicted here. And imagine if the nursemaid hit a big stone took a tumble! I love it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Heartaches Ahoy

This one will date a sensitive singer/songwriter poet.

This one will date a member of Hell's Angels.

I honestly can't decide which fate is more harrowing. My nocturnal mind races and I conjure up all the unavoidable heartaches they're going to experience. I move quickly from Lifetime Network heartbreak-of-the-week sob stories to bloody Tarintino revenge fantasies. I know exactly what guys are after. I used to be a guy before I got married and I'm well acquainted with the agenda. How do I keep my temper in check? My understanding is that the more you point out what a creep someone is, the more they'll gravitate towards said creep. Girls, is that true? If so, it defies logic and gravity. This is going to be an acute problem, especially if she really does end up dating a biker. The poet I'm not worried about.

*     *     *

I plopped my ass in a seat in Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall to hear an all-Bach piano recital, which would be a super-boring evening for pretty much everyone, but it's catnip for me. Bach is my guy. (Well...him and Rush.) I can get pretty lost in his shit and, boy, did I need it. 

Carnegie Hall has these weird, other-worldly acoustics. The silence is thick and heavy. When he plays a quiet passage, he gently caresses the keys and the notes float in the air like tiny snowflakes.When he hammers the keys you can feel it in your chest, especially in the lower registers. When a movement ends, he holds the keys down and you can hear the notes sloooowly fade until they're barely audible. Then he picks his hands up off the keyboard and, I swear to God, you can hear the pads lift off the piano strings and the keys settle into their up position. For real. And the crowd in Carnegie Hall knows how to SHUT UP during the performance. There's nothing like it. Not my typical Thursday night.

All Bach. Check it out:

*     *     *

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A startling revelation: I'm wealthy

I didn't exactly set the world on fire professionally. Not having a degree, I entered the workforce with one hand tied behind my back. I've forged ahead as best I could and am fortunate that I stumbled into something I enjoy doing, but it's not my idea of success.

In his unheralded masterpiece I Ain't Got You, Springsteen sings that he's "Been paid a king's ransom for doin' what comes naturally". That, to me, is the very definition of success. Brothers and sisters, that ain't me. (Chances are that ain't you, either. Most of us never get to sip from that golden chalice.) And everyone who says I should stop my whining, that their college degree was a waste of time (this has been said to me many, many times) should perform the following experiment: remove any mention of college from your resume and try to find a job. Let me know how that goes. I got as far as I did out of a combination of talking a good game and dumb luck.

I was similarly ill-equipped for fatherhood. I was raised by a man who was so overwhelmed with the responsibilities inherent in raising a family that he developed severe bleeding ulcers in his stomach from the stress. My mom had to keep a quart of buttermilk in the fridge at all times for him to guzzle to temporarily relieve his gastric agony.

Evey Sunday there's a full-page ad in the New York Times Magazine for Patek Philippe watches. The theme of the campaign is that you're not buying a watch, you're buying an heirloom. The scene is always of an über successful, über Caucasian father with his über Caucasian son. In one ad, he's teaching him how to read the blueprints for—I don't know what the fuck it is—the new wing, I suppose. In another, they're on a grand sailboat and he's teaching him how to hoist the mizzen mast. I seethe because my memories aren't anything like these bucolic scenes. My memory is that after my father left, our phone service was occasionally shut off for lack of payment. So since I didn't have any usable information to leverage, I was somewhat reluctant to become a father, to say the least.

It would seem that despite my bumbling and cluelessness, I might be doing something right. I might have figured this thing out after all. I went to bed on Saturday and found this on my pillow:

*    *     *

The best New Year's wish I received was from this guy.
Hope your new year is a delight, and that all sorrows, as you pass, politely step aside.
I've never known sorrows to be polite, but I'll take that.

*     *     *

Friday, January 4, 2013

Markie's Choice [w/apologies to Wm. Styron]

Snack time at Casa de Intolerable.What to do?

In my left hand, a ripe, succulent, easy to peel, clementine. Rip its peel and the air is perfumed with the fragrance of citrus and flowers. Separate its wedges, bite into its soft, orange flesh and your mouth comes alive with sunshine and orchards, while sweet, cold juice trickles down your chin. Delicious. Best of all, it's healthy.

In my right hand is a mini cream puff from LaRossa Bakery. Also pretty good, as you can well imagine, but not the healthy choice.

Can you guess which one? 

I ate BOTH of 'em. HA. In fact, I ate TWO of those damn cream puffs. They were mini. I'm a very long ways away from having a problem with my waistline, so I can afford the indulgence. But don't be jealous and don't hate me. I hang on my cross for some awful things that aren't fit for public disclosure. Like you, I didn't escape venomous fate. But I don't have a propensity to gain weight as readily as most. I've got that going for me.

*     *     *

I know a place where you can get a festive holiday, alcohol-spiked hot beverage, sit outdoors under a toasty heat lamp and watch people fall on their asses on the ice. Every winter they install a ice rink and a pop-up restaurant in Bryant Park. It makes for a hell of an evening. I dragged Daisyfae here once! You get a table along the perimeter of the rink, sit under a McDonald's french fry lamp, and watch the show.

My friend steals a bite of my mac-n-cheese. Inside the two glass mugs are a hot chocolate/Kahlua/vanilla Absolute/shaved chocolate/whipped cream concoction. Boy was it sweet! And expensive. [I got my thumb in the photo! What an amateur! I decided to not crop it out. My beautiful flaws.]

The Empire State with her holiday crown through the Bryant Park trees.

Skating under her shadow. They cleared everyone off the ice to run the Zamboni. A Master of Ceremonies skated out to the middle of the rink and announced a Lion King ticket give-a-way. He read a girl's name into the microphone. From the crowd, she skates out to claim her tickets, hand-in-hand with her boyfriend. When they get to the middle of the empty rink, with all of New York City watching, bright, white spotlights beaming down, the boyfriend drops to one knee and asks for her hand in marriage. The ticket give-a-way was a ruse. What a clever boy. She said yes.