The Unbearable Banishment: February 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Who you callin' plastic?

I'm a big Anglophile. Having been born in Cleveland instead of London is the greatest injustice inflicted against my person. And while my feelings towards the Royal Family can best be described as indifferent, I was put off by author Hiliary Mantel's bizarre attack on the Duchess of Cambridge. Mantel is a brilliant writer, there's no doubt. Her two books on Henry VIII are masterpieces that deserved all those awards. I can't wait for the concluding volume of the trilogy. But calling Kate Middleton a " mannequin with a plastic smile whose only role in life is to breed" is low class. I wonder what's at the heart of Mantel's loathing? Let's explore a theory I have.

Here's the Duchess. Humm. Girl-next-door is my thing.

And here's Mantel.

OH, HOLY SHIT! I think I might be onto something.

"...a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung...with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore."

You wanna play rough cupcake? Who's dressing you? A rep from the Longshoreman's Union?

Methinks Ms. Mantel is consumed with envy. Spend year after year writing about the Royals and eventually you'd probably want to be one. I'd sell my rotting soul for the kind of success she enjoys. She should be happy instead of tense.

*     *     *

Why the Academy didn't ask me to vote: The rest of the lot.

Beasts of the Southern Wild. Didn’t see it. I have no idea what it’s about. Scary poster.

Les Misérables. I am reluctant to say anything negative. Their efforts were so sincere. Poor Anne Hathaway cut all of her beautiful hair off for the cause. She should get an anti-vanity award for that alone. But, I’m sorry. I never saw the musical and was unaware of how relentlessly dreary the plot is. And I couldn’t UNDERSTAND a word they were singing. It's unintelligible. That's been a reoccurring problem for me. I've always found lyrics difficult to decipher. It’s why for many years I thought Jimmy Hendrix was singing “Scuse' me while I kiss this guy.”

Life of Pi. Loved it. I’ve heard some people grumbling about the ending but I completely bought into it. Unfortunately, about midway through, the 3D glasses started to feel like a giant hand clamped onto my face and the discomfort took me out of the story. I have to wear glasses in a theater, which means I had to put the 3D glasses over my regular glasses. What a pain! No more 3D movies for me.

Silver Lining Playbook. I don’t understand the supporting actor nominations for De Niro and Jackie Weaver. They were fine performances but nothing special. It was a little upsetting watching De Niro cry because he wasn’t a good daddy. Travis Bickle crying? Jake LaMotta crying? Bullshit. But Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper are accomplished, great actors with chemistry to spare. They're the new Tracey/Hepburn. The new Bogie/Bacall. They should be forced at gunpoint to make more movies together. Loved it. Best Picture. Cooper is going to do a revival of The Elephant Man on Broadway. I can't wait. Do you suppose they can get Lawrence to play Mrs. Kendal?

*     *     *

10,000 thank-yous to the lovely and eminently readable Madam Weebles for the generous invitation to be her first guest blogger. A much greater honor than she could possibly imagine. And, no, that's not one of my witty sarcasms.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Dreaming is free

Here's another one I found in my recently excavated journals. There was no date on it but I estimate it to be around 1991.

*     *     *

lotto dreams

The New York Lottery was $33 million dollars.
The night shift word processors all chipped in
we hate our lives.

I volunteered to call for the winning numbers
to confirm for all
what we already knew in our hearts:
The continuation of our sorrow.

Prior to dialing
I clandestinely copied the numbers
off of Nancy’s ticket.

After hanging up, I misrepresented to all
the numbers I copied down
as the winning numbers.

Nancy’s face was crimson with joy.
It looked as though she might hemorrhage
so I stopped the masquerade
and revealed
my deception.

Everyone was quite cross with me.
But later that night
Nancy came up and thanked me.
As she explained:
“Now I know how it feels to win millions of dollars.”

*     *     *

 Here's the current installation in the atrium of the Museum of Modern Art.

Some artists work in oils. Some in clay. Some prefer gouache. There's a multitude of mediums to choose from. Can you guess what Wolfgang Laib uses?

This is Pollen from Hazelnut, a site-specific work that's constructed from pollen Laib collected near his home in Germany. It's sifted onto a slab into a fuzzy cube. Mrs. Wife asked how anyone with severe allergies can step into the building without being overwhelmed and I didn't have an answer for her. All I can say is that pollen does not permeate the air.

I love this big, open space. There aren't many like it in Manhattan. I always look forward to seeing what an artist will do when handed the keys to the car, but I was underwhelmed by this. If meh wasn't such a tired, worn out cliché I'd use that, but since I'm above clichés, I won't. It's best to view this from up on high. I had to tamp down an urge to walk through it and leave footprints. Kick up a big yellow cloud. Turn it into a participatory installation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Baby had a bad fall

We had a big-ass snowstorm over the weekend so I took the girlies sledding. It's just a baby hill. No potential for injury or need for a helmet. Or so I thought. Then I ran across this poor little victim of an obviously horrific crash. Awful! Her face and skull looked like they were dragged under the sled for a few hundred feet. And that dislocated shoulder? My God!

Later that evening I had this niggling feeling that I'd seen that kind of injury once before. And it suddenly dawned on me. That's the same injury that poor Ronnie Cox suffered in the movie Deliverance!

*     *     *

Speaking of movies, here's why the Academy didn't ask for my vote.

Amour. What is that? It’s about an elderly couple, right? I didn’t see it. And I probably won’t

Argo. Really good except for the contrived ending. Do you really think the Iranian militia chased a plane down the runway as it was taking off? I believe in giving a director full dramatic license but give me a break. Do you remember when Ben Affleck used to be a joke? Right after the Gigli fiasco and his marriage to Jennifer Lopez imploded, his name became a punch line. During that period, a play called Matt & Ben was a big hit at the Downtown Fringe Festival. The premise was that there’s NO POSSIBLE WAY Affleck and Damon could have written the Oscar-winning script for Good Will Hunting. The play fronted the theory that the script actually fell from the heavens and landed at their feet, which was depicted. A script was dropped from the theater rafters and landed at the feet of the two actors playing Affleck and Damon (who were women, by the way). Now look at Ben! Directing one great film after another!

Django Unchained. Didn’t see it. He’s a great director but I bailed out on Tarantino a long time ago because of his trademark unrelenting blood and violence. Did you see Reservoir Dogs? That scene where the cop's ear was cut off? That sickened me. It’s a shame I’m such a big baby because I'd really like to see Inglorious Bastards.

Zero Dark Thirty. Didn’t see it. Won’t see it. I heard there’s a fairly graphic torture sequence. That stuff gets under my skin and stays with me for a very long time. During my long nights when I’m starring at the ceiling and being tormented by all the black muck inside my head, I start to imagine the people I love in the torture scenes. It’s just awful. I wish I was normal but I’m badly damaged.

Lincoln. Really Fucking Important. Really Fucking Boring. A dream sequence that included Spider-Man would have helped.

More later. Perhaps.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Star Struck c. 1993

More "fascinating" tidbits from my recently-excavated journals. This one from 1993.

*     *     *
star struck

I rode the elevator up with Hedy
the Old Lady from the 6th floor
who has never spoken a word
to me
or anyone else
in the 3+ years I've lived here.

She's a typical NYC octogenarian:
sloppily applied bright, red lipstick
bowed back
The city beat the stuffing out of her.
It'll get me, too.

I was showing Hedy my mail:
an appeal for a contribution
from an association that saves trees.
Robert Redford loaned his name to the cause.
It appeared in the return address.
I said to Hedy, "Look at this!
I got mail from Robert Redford!"

The small, frail mother
suddenly straightened her back.
Her eyes lighted.
She said in a loud voice:
"I MET Robert Redford when I WORKED at the HOTEL."
I asked, "Was he nice to you?"
"Oh my, YES! VERY nice. And very HANDSOME, too."
She was screaming.
OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN took me to his apartment
and showed me his GUN COLLECTION."

The elevator stopped on the 5th floor.
Hedy and I got off.

Nobody reading this has ever had
a personal tour of Oscar Hammerstein's arsenal.
And you never will.

It's encouraging to see that
even at our nadir
we remember our apex.
Our moment of glory.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

...perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub.

My disembodied spirit glided high above the burning Arabian desert sand. The Palm Jumeira passed below me and faded into a mist as I floated out over the cool blue Persian Gulf. The air was perfumed with saffron and deep lavender, the warm desert sun prickled my back.

My wife flopped her arm over and punched my chest. "You're late. Oh...wait. It's Saturday. Sorry."

She fell back to sleep within seconds because that's her superpower. I watched the shadows on the ceiling change shape as dawn broke.

*     *     *

I recently saw a piece of avant-garde theater that was directed by and starred Ethan Hawke. I can't say it was the Worst Play Ever, but the parts that I didn't nap through were pretty bad. Vincent D'Onofrio, another veteran who should have known better, was also in it. There wasn't an intermission, which I believe was by design so that the audience couldn't escape. Me no get.

I can appreciate that actors want to takes risks and shake things up once in a while. I respect that. But my tastes are mostly pedestrian. You can take the boy out of Ohio but, etc. For me, experimental theater always looks like self-indulgent, ak-ting 101, scarf and beret-wearing nonsense. Other actors might understand it, but I zone out. I have the same complicated relationship with jazz. Some of it is very beautiful. I feel it in my heart. But some of it is just a blob of formless noise. Musicians showing off for other musicians. I try to keep an open mind. I love Waiting for Godot and that's a pretty out-there piece of writing. [This fall Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are doing Godot. Professor Xavier is Vladimir. Magneto is Estragon. Or, Captain Picard/Gandalf. Take your pick.]

It didn't help that before the play I ate a pastrami sandwich that tasted like a rubber garden hose AND it was two below zero outside with a biting wind howling off the Hudson River and down 42nd Street. There are so many elements that factor into an actor's performance.

*     *     *

And you thought you were having a bad day.

This is a dance piece. "Dance" is their term for it, not mine. I think it's closer to performance art or theater. The Caravan Project was performed by kooky Japanese artists Eiko and Koma in a trailer parked in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art. Stuffed with what looked like animal hair, debris and guts, the pair moved in super-slow motion climbing in and out of their lair. They wore what looked like mummified fabric and chalky, white make-up.

As usual, I have no clue what it all meant but it made me laugh. The best part was watching the horrified looks of patrons who unknowingly stumbled across it. This would have terrified my 6-year old.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Racist cabbie

Thumbing through my journals has unleashed a torrent of lost and, in some cases, intentionally forgotten memories. But it's been almost 20 years to the day and I didn't need any prompting to remember this cab ride.

*     *     *

March 10, 1993

I had an interesting cab ride home tonight. The driver was French, which was unusual in and of itself. We started chatting and he asked me how I liked living in a slum. This isn't a slum! Is it?

[Note: At that time, the neighborhood was crawling with junkies and their suppliers. There were a few abandoned, boarded-up buildings but it wasn't a slum. The irony is that thanks to gentrification, I couldn't afford to move back into my old apartment even if I wanted to.]

He said he grew up outside of Paris, lived in Morocco for several years and has been in New York for the past 15. He said everywhere he's been it's the same; the slums are filled with blacks and Puerto Ricans. They've always been there and they'll always be there. He said they don't have the wherewithal to pull themselves out.

He said, "People like you and me have The Panic in us. It's The Panic that makes us get out of bed and go to work in the morning. But those people don't have The Panic in them and because of that, they'll always live in ghettos. It's in their blood." I couldn't believe it.

He said the difference between us and them (he actually said "us and them") is that if someone gave him $50,000 and gave me $50,000 and gave someone in "the slum" $50,000, he and I would start a business and invest in our future but the slum person would just blow it. He doesn't know me very well, does he?

I wonder if he was serious about this stuff? He sure sounded sincere. I have a suspicion that he was one of those nutty out-of-work actors doing a Stanislavsky exercise. You know, inhabiting a character for a day. But he was kind of old to be an out-of-work actor. Old, white, French racist. I stiffed him on the tip just in case he was serious and for being a dickhead if he wasn't.

*     *     *

As long as I'm being dreary today, here's a more contemporary example of how humanity is a disappointment.

I had to run a mid-day errand. I always like to walk through Rockefeller Center and stop to watch the tourists on the ice skating rink. They're all on vacation and in a good mood. I like to see people enjoying New York City. It makes me feel strangely vindicated for my choices in life. I know how that sounds. Don't judge me.

I stumbled across a living Currier and Ives print. A mother and her sweet little daughter gracefully gliding around the rink, hand in hand. What a beautiful moment, and one I'm sure the little girl will cherish for years to come.

That lasted for about a half a lap. Mom's cell phone rang and she spent the remainder of their time together on the ice yammering into her phone. It must have been a pretty important call.

The little girl would occasionally slip on the ice and mom would just yank her up onto her feet again. She wouldn't even interrupt her conversation to help her. I wanted to climb down onto the ice and cross check her into the boards. But that would have been crazy, right? Yes dear, mother loves spending time with you, but what's coming out of that phone is far more interesting than what you have to offer.

What a terrible, lost opportunity. Teach your children well, indeed.