Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’

Are you ready for another spin in the time machine? Set the controls for Brooklyn, circa early 1990’s. Fasten your seat belts, bitches.

bins


October 4, 1992

I was standing on the subway platform in Times Square waiting for the uptown A train. I was reading Casino Royal. I love these Bond books. They’re preposterous. In Goldfinger, Bond converts a lesbian named Pussy Galore to heterosexuality with his superior lovemaking skills. Fantastic. So real. Anyway, there’s a scene in Casino Royal where Bond is being tortured. SMERSH operative Le Chiffre ties Bond to a seatless cane chair and repeatedly hits him in the nuts with a big knot of rope. It’s shockingly well-written. As I was reading it, I began sweating and felt myself getting dizzy and nauseous. My head was throbbing and I got tunnel vision. In slow motion, I eased myself into a lying position in the middle of the platform and PASSED OUT.

When I came-to there was a circle of people standing around me staring. Two guys helped me onto a bench. Another guy handed me my backpack. A woman, thinking I might be diabetic, gave me a piece of candy. Initially, I thought everyone was just gawking but that wasn’t the case. They were all genuinely concerned. I was astonished at how many people helped me. The train arrived and it was pretty crowded. A giant black guy made someone get up out of his seat so I could sit down. I love this town.

I finally took Margaret out. She’s a piece of work. She made some cheap cracks about gays and Jews. I told her I lived in a predominantly black neighborhood and she said, “Why would you do that!? Oh! I know! Because it’s cheap!” She added that she would never, under any circumstances, visit me. She’s Russian and lives with her granny in a one-bedroom apartment in Brighton Beach, so it’s not like I’ll visit her, either. It’s just as well. We don’t seem to have any chemistry. But, Christ, she’s beautiful. Beautiful but stupid.

I took her to Remembrance. It’s an off-Broadway drama about two families in Northern Ireland. It’s got a good cast. Milo O’Shea, Frances Sternhagen and Mia Dillon. I thought it was fine but Margaret was yawning a lot and said it was too long.

Afterwards, we ate at The Riv. We both had sesame chicken. She was so hungry that she ate the ornamental bed of lettuce. It was kind of gross because it was all soggy and waterlogged from soaking in the sesame sauce. She told me her brother is an overly-protective gorilla and interrogates her about her dates. She said, “He still thinks I’m a virgin!” and barked a laugh that was a little too loud. Everyone stared at us. I paid. It was an uncomfortable parting at the subway, as they always are. I wanted to kiss her but I was mad because she insulted my neighborhood. I asked her when I could see her again.

The Ramones were on the Tonight Show. Last week, Morrissey was on. I think they’re trying for a hipper audience. Good luck. I saw an infomercial for, I kid you not, aerosol spray paint for balding men. These bald dudes were sitting in a row of barber chairs and the treatment involved spraying their bald patch with black paint (or whatever color their hair used to be). Then they were sprayed with a finisher. Initially, I thought it was a comedy sketch but it wasn’t. It was serious. Oswaldo came up and the two of us were laughing our assess off.

Speaking of Oswaldo…he drove Ellis and I to the outlet stores in Secaucus. At Harvey Electronics, I told a salesman I had $200 to spend on speakers. He immediately showed me $300 speakers. Why do they do that!? He then showed me some speakers in my price range and I, naturally, bought the $300 speakers.

I love watching Oswaldo and Ellis shop for clothes because they get all bitchy. Ellis wanted a coat at Anthony Marc but Oswaldo wouldn’t let him buy it because it had a big rip down the front. As we were driving away, Ellis said the rip could’ve easily been repaired started complaining that we prevented him from buying the coat. Oswaldo stopped the car in the middle of the road, did a fast, illegal U-turn and said “We’re going back because I don’t want you holding this over us!” Ellis didn’t buy the coat.

It was sunny and crisp outside and Oswaldo said it’d be a good day to toss a football around. Ellis said, “That’s what you guys can get me for Christmas! A football!” Then they went at it.

“What would you do with a football?”
“Hey, I’m a tight end! Wooo!”
“I’ll bet you are. I hear you’re a fast forward, too.”
“That’s right.”
“I’m a wide receiver.”
“Ewwww! Not me! I’m an ineligible receiver!”

This sort of thing goes on all afternoon. I feel bad for people who don’t have gay friends.

When we got back to Brooklyn we ate at a diner that opened in 1936. Oswaldo said he was going to show me a newer place where I can take my “white friends” when they come to Brooklyn.


Reporting on the death of Leonard Nimoy, The New York Post crammed not one, not two, but THREE Star Trek catchphrases into a single headline. How do they do it?

NYPost


Muffin and Hermes.

windowcats

Legitimate art that makes me UNCOMFORTABLE

Kinokuniya Books is an independent bookstore located on 6th Avenue across from Bryant Park. [Remember independent bookstores? May Jeff Bezos rot in Hades for slaughtering them.] There’s a healthy dose of mainstream literature on the ground floor but the basement and second floor are devoted to Japanese books, Manga and Anime—their specialty.

On the second floor, there’s a glass case that contains delicate porcelain statuettes of characters, mainly female, culled from anime books and films. They’re priced at around $80-$100 each. They are, in my humble opinion, beautiful works of art. But there’s something disconcerting about them.

statue5To my aged eyes, they look to be very young girls who are highly sexualized. The common threads that run through each piece are large, oversized eyes, flowing, windswept hair, young, cherubic faces and robust, mature bodies. With 0% body fat, I might add.

statue4You have to see these in person to appreciate the artistry. These photos don’t do them justice. They don’t capture the soft, almost blurry texture of the skin, the vibrant colors and dramatic flow and movement.

statue1Some of the figures are warriors, but some of them have hints of bondage and girls in peril. I don’t mind admitting that when I’m standing there looking at these (not to mention snapping pictures with my iPhone) I feel a bit like the dirty old office drone looking for a cheap lunchtime thrill.

statue3What’s the appropriate age for a girl to wear knee-highs and garters? Does she seem a bit young to you guys for that? I’m conflicted because I think it’s beautiful.

statue7Does finding artistic merit in these make me a lecherous old fool? Because I feel like one. Is there, in fact, NO artistic merit whatsoever? Am I just using high-minded art and design concepts to rationalize my discomfort away? Can someone please let me off the hook here? Or am I stuck with this thorny crown?

statue2


SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It’s a government program for low-income individuals that focuses on proper eating. Putting healthy food within reach!

SNAP1So what am I to think when the deli on 42nd Street and 9th Avenue displays the ‘we accept SNAP’ tag here?

SNAP2Does this mean you can use your SNAP benefits to buy a York Peppermint Patty? Or are they trying to send a message? That there are healthier choices than this crap? Honestly, I can’t decide what the intent is here.


Bluetooth hands free New York City style, bitches.

hands free

Nobody died

On Saturday, all I wanted to do was take everyone to a show in the city. We almost paid with our lives.

I was darting up the New Jersey Turnpike towards the Lincoln Tunnel. Just before Exit 15, in the heart of the industrial ugliness of Newark, a piece of something—metal or rubber or plastic—catapulted off a dump truck ahead of us in the next lane. It bounced in a high arc once, twice, and then shot under our car. It happened in a matter of seconds but I saw the whole thing unfold in slow motion.

It smacked the bottom of our car hard, like someone punched it. *bang* I looked in my rear view and saw thick smoke billowing out the back of my car. My wife yelled, “What was that?!” I looked at my daughters and their eyes were wide with fear. My oil light clicked on. My hands hurt and I realized it was from gripping the steering wheel.

My mind was racing through scenarios. The object could have gone through the windshield instead of under the car. It could have ruptured my fuel tank and we could’ve been blown to bits. The car could have flipped. There could’ve been someone tailgating and they might have slammed into my back end. We weren’t out of danger yet.

An exit came up. I took it. The car was losing power fast. It finally died, and I mean died, on a street that might see traffic during business hours, but on a late Saturday afternoon with a winter storm and a deep freeze approaching, there was no one. We were across the street from some giant oil tanks. Nothing was open. It was an apocalyptic, industrial wasteland. The temperatures were plummeting, it was getting dark and it started snowing.

I am never going to badmouth cell phones again.

Miracle #1: My wife is a member of AAA but the membership is restricted to her car. It doesn’t include mine. A few days ago, I received an offer in the mail to attach a second driver in the same household to the membership at no additional cost for the length of the current contract. I rarely drive but I thought it couldn’t hurt and since it’s free, I responded to the offer. Guess when I signed up? Right before we left for the city. I was a member for about an hour and I called AAA to come get me.

Miracle #2: We sat for about :15 minutes gathering our senses, calming down, figuring out a plan when a Port Authority police car just happened to pass by. It was one of the few cars we’d seen since we broke down. They set up flares and called for the police. We were only about five miles from the Newark Airport so they drove my Bride and Daughters to a Hertz rental car agency there while I stayed with the car. We called AAA to confirm the tow truck was on its way and everyone left.

Busy night for tow trucks. I waited for three hours. It was dark, scary, lonely, quiet and cold. I froze my ass off but was glad my family was somewhere safe and warm. During that three hours, I had two complete and total strangers pull up and ask if I was okay or needed help. One was a Latino kid in his mid-20’s and the other was a middle-aged Jamaican. Who pulls up to a car with its hood up in a desolate neighborhood during a winter storm and says, “Hey, brother, are you okay?” Angels walk this earth.

A flatbed tow truck took my car to a garage in downtown Newark. They called me this afternoon. The object I hit pinged around and caused severe damage. My oil filter housing was snapped clean off and lodged near my muffler, becoming a second projectile. All the oil drained and that caused irreparable damage to the rods and bearings, whatever the hell those are. The engine is cooked to the tune of $3,200.

But we’re alive.

My wife drove the rental from the airport and picked me up at the garage in Newark. We got home late. The dog was laying on the sofa. The tip of her tail started the thump-thump-thump, happy to see me dance. I sat next to her. Pet. Pet. Pet.

Chomp.

That fucking dog bit me again.

bite1It’s a bad one this time. Probably the worst bite yet.

bite2I didn’t touch her in a weird spot or approach her in an aggressive manner. It came out of nowhere. I wish that dog would drop dead. Dogs suck. They’re dirty, stupid, needy, smelly beasts. I’ve never liked them. Plus, I think my car it totaled.

So…How was your Valentine’s Day?

Introducing: My Way Back Machine

I’ve heard people say that being Fresh Pressed isn’t what it used to be, but it made me happy. People who say they write for their own pleasure and don’t give a damn if anyone reads it are bullshit artists. Everyone craves attention. I suddenly find myself with loads of new followers. But do you know what? I’m not convinced they’re all human.

Dear New People:

A big part of my blog are these:

binsThese are journals from when I first moved to New York. I often crack one open and post an entry. In retrospect, it turns out I was having a pretty interesting life, although I didn’t see it at the time. I was too busy being miserable.


November 2, 1992

The election is tomorrow. Clinton has a slight lead but because of the margin of error it’s a statistical dead heat. It’s very exciting. After work, I’ll go to the gym, stop and get a pizza from Sal’s and watch the returns. I think we’re in for four more years of Bush. Christ, I hope not. If Bush wins, just between you and me, I thank God I’m white, middle class and heterosexual, because minorities, the poor and gays will be in for a rough ride. Mom is throwing her vote away on that clown Ross Perot.

I had Friday off. None of my grand ambitions materialized. I played guitar (I actually think I’m getting worse), read the paper, masturbated, took a nap, drank a pot of coffee and played with the cats. I tried reading The Tin Drum by Günter Grass but the font was so small it was giving me a headache. Plus, I didn’t understand it and it was really boring, so I threw it in the garbage. I went to the laundromat. It was packed. Don’t people have jobs?

Finally left the apartment because I had tickets to see Ali, which I’d already seen but is so good that it’s worth a second look. I love one-man shows. They’re either transformational or a train wreck. I can’t decide which I find more entertaining. Klinger came with me. We stopped for a bowl of chili and, my God!, he paid! If only Klinger had a vagina. Cindy offered to pay for the movie next week. What the hell is going on? Maybe the earth passed through the tail of a comet and scrambled everyone’s DNA. I must’ve been indoors because I feel the same.

The play was great (again). We drank at Boxers after. I remember when I used to hang there in my Coast Guard days and it was Jimmy Day’s. It feels like a bunch of assholes bought my bar and made it happy. Sinatra used to drink at Jimmy Day’s. Now it’s like drinking at Kmart.

He told me Mimi stories and surprisingly, it didn’t upset me. The last time I heard her name it gave me a belly ache for a week. I wrote an apology that will never be sent. Klinger is doing a scene with her in front of an agent. I wonder why she picked him? He’s a good guy but shouldn’t she have found an actual actor? Maybe she thinks she’ll look even better in front of someone without any training. Who knows?

I took a train to Princeton to see Karen. What?! Don’t look at me like that! It wasn’t MY idea! SHE called ME. Two and a half years is a long time.

Got to Penn Station early, sat down to read the paper and was harassed by an obnoxious, aggressive homeless woman. I saw it coming. Penn Station is disgusting. Every train should leave from Grand Central. It’s got its share of homeless, but that place is an architectural marvel. Princeton is so beautiful. Do you think any of those students have the proper depth of appreciation for it? Probably not. I got there and thought she stood me up but she was just late. I was left standing alone on the platform and she zoomed up in her red Trans Am.

Lord, she’s pretty. She ditched the stone-washed jeans, which I was happy to see. The prettiest blue eyes you’ll ever see. You can get lost in them and lose the conversation thread if you’re not careful. I hadn’t shaved and she twiddled the whiskers on my chin. It was a nice flirtation.

We ate where it all started. I ordered a mimosa and she had water. She said she stopped drinking, which probably isn’t such a bad idea. She’s still having man problems, but this time with a new one. She broke up with her fiancé after the abortion. The new one is a Marine and she said terrible things about him. I listened. Then I told her how smart and beautiful she is. I told her how much I suffered after our fling and her eyes lit up and she seemed to get a warm glow about her, as though she enjoyed the idea.

We were there longer than I thought we’d be. We went for a walk in town and while in a leather shop I took her hand but it made her uncomfortable so I knocked it off. I told her I needed to get back to the city for the Village Halloween parade so she took me to the train station. We kissed in the car. I have no intention of calling her again. Once you’ve been burned, the mystique evaporates. The kiss was heartfelt but she tasted like cigarettes.


Commuter parking: The tracks of their tears.

tracks


This is a replica of the toilet in CBGB’s. It was constructed at the entrance to the PUNK: Chaos to Couture fashion exhibit that was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art a couple of years ago. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen in a museum. And I’ve seen PLENTY. As if any of those Couture nitwits would have gone anywhere near CBGB’s in its day.

cbgb bathroom

 

 

How Harper Lee Saved Me

Several people have pinged me about the announcement of Harper Lee’s new novel. It’s based on a recently-discovered manuscript that she wrote in mid-50’s and takes place 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird.

I think just about everyone has already read and commented on this post but I thought I’d rerun it. It’s the reason why people are reaching out to me with this wonderful news. It explains who I am and why I’m typing these words right now. I’d be a hot mess if it weren’t for her.


Today is the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s the single most important book in my life.

I didn’t read a book until I was 20 years old. It’s true! They attempted to force-feed me while attending my below-average schools, but I made it clear that I would only read a book under protest and made every effort to not finish it. I usually succeeded.

Flash to age 20. I’m in the Coast Guard (no University for me, thanks!) and freshly arrived in New York City. I didn’t know a soul. I’d not felt so isolated and all alone before or since. At that time, New York was a dirty, overwhelming, scary mess. But I got sick of sitting around and starring at my shoelaces, so I decided to go exploring.

I took the R train from Whitehall up to Central Park. On the way, I passed a street peddler who was selling books. I gave birth to, what I imagined was, the most original and exciting idea ever conceived. I was going to sit in the park and read a book. I thought that voluntarily reading a book was a courageous act.

I looked over the books spread out on the sidewalk (I can still picture them to this day) and saw a tattered, worn paperback of To Kill a Mockingbird. I remembered that some of my friends in school had to read it, so I thought I’d give it a try. Plus, it was thin and that appealed to me.

I sat down on a Central Park bench, opened the book and began reading. I was a different man when I got up off that bench. It was a defining moment. That book sucked me in and I haven’t stopped reading since. It opened a door for me. I became a reader because of To Kill a Mockingbird. What a gift!

In 2005 I got the notion to write to Harper Lee and tell her how much her book meant to me. I wrote that, because of her book, I’m living a more interesting life than someone without a college degree could have expected to. I wrote that I’m a better father to my daughters and honestly don’t know what would have become of me if her book hadn’t introduced me to reading.

Harper Lee is a recluse who shuns publicity. All I knew was that she lived in Monroeville, Alabama, so I sent the letter to Harper Lee, c/o Monroeville, AL. I never expected it to arrive, much less be read by her, but I had to get that off my chest.

Just a few short days after I sent my letter, I received the following:

lee1lee2The fact that I moved Harper Lee to write such an elegant thank-you note is meaningful to me. The funny coda is that a few days after that, I received ANOTHER note from Ms. Lee. She couldn’t remember whether or not she sent a thank-you note.

“Forgive me if this is a repeat letter; I’m old, my eyesight is failing and I’m FORGETFUL. I may have forgot that I replied to you, but I know one thing: I’ll never forget your letter. In 45 years of receiving fan mail, I never had a letter mean so much to me. Thank you for it.”

Happy birthday, Atticus. Thanks for saving me from a boring life.