hooke·y (ho͝okē) noun informal.
1. to stay away from school or work without permission or explanation.

I take very few things in life seriously, least of all my work. I’m conscientious about keeping a job. I have responsibilities. Plus, I need to fund the things that DO interest me. But I’ve never been one of those career-driven success stories. I envy people like that. I wish I could have embraced a white collar profession, but things like medicine, law, management and high finance bore me to tears. Those things require a significant time commitment and a lot of personal sacrifice. I have a slacker’s heart.

I called in sick in order to view the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney Museum. I told them I had food poisoning. How immature is that? Try to imagine someone who owns his own business or a senior executive in an asset management firm calling in sick to visit an art museum. It just wouldn’t happen. It’s irresponsible. It’s bizarre behavior for someone my age. Why am I blogging about this, anyway?

However, that being said, the Koons career retrospective is special. The Whitney is closing to relocate downtown and they’re going out with a bang. They turned the entire museum over to Koons. It’s unprecedented. I certainly don’t like all of his work but I thought the show was interesting enough to do something as childish as faking an illness. Kak-kak.

Back in the 90’s I didn’t have a lot of respect for Koons. I thought he was much better marketer than artist. Since then, I got over my bad ass self and enjoy some of his pieces because they’re fun, which is what I think he intended all along.

This is Balloon Dog (Yellow) from the Celebration series of the exhibit. Koons made five of these, each one a different color.

yellow-dog2Last November, Balloon Dog (Orange) sold at a Christie’s auction for $58.4 million. This one is owned by hedge fund scumbag Steven Cohen of SAC Capital.

This is his latest piece, finished just before the Whitney show opened. It’s a giant, steel sculpture of Play-Doh.

playdohPlay-Doh purportedly took 20 years to complete. He’s a perfectionist and was looking for the exact right color and texture. His poor assistants!

Across the room from Play-Doh is Hanging Heart (Violet/Gold), a 9-foot tall polished steel heart.

heartBalloon Dog, Play-Doh and Hanging Heart are all in the same gallery. It’s like walking into a riot of color and over-sized familiar shapes.

About a month ago I did a post that included Split Rocker, the Koons summer outdoor installation at Rockefeller Center.

split-rocker1The child’s rocker that was used as a model for these giant pieces was included in the Whitney show in the Easyfun series.

split-rocker2Koons has a thing with superheros. Who doesn’t? This is Popeye. It was on display in the courtyard just outside the Whitney cafeteria (where spinach isn’t served).

popeye1A version of this statue was purchased this past May by casino magnate Steve Wynn for $28 million. Is that all?

This is Hulk (Organ). It’s a fully functional pipe organ.

hulkIt couldn’t be played because it only has one volume—very loud. The literature said it’s as loud as a helicopter. What a tease!

Speaking of tease. There was a room full of sculptures from his Banality series that included his most famous piece, Michael Jackson and Bubbles.

banalityBefore I saw the exhibit, I was thinking that it’d be fun to bring the daughters into the city and see Balloon Dog and Play-Doh. Then I saw these.

banality2In 2011, the Pink Panther sold for $16.9 million, which was considered a huge disappointment. The estimate had been $20-30 Million. The front of the sculpture can be seen here. There’s some pornographic imagery as well.

crystal-statueThere are also giant prints of Koons nude with his then wife, Italian porn “actress”-turned politician La Cicciolina. Do you think 8-years old is too young to see Koons’ penis? I do.

You may have thought the previous pieces were preposterous but wait until you see these beauties. Here’s a gallery full of vacuum cleaners in lighted plexiglass cases. It’s from his The New series he did in 1980.

vacuum-cleaners2It defies commentary although I’m certain there’s a high-minded explanation for this.

This is from the Inflatables and Pre-New section. They’re…umm…a toaster and a whistling tea kettle mounted on lights. I was sending pics to my friend and he said, “You took off work for this?!”


“I yam what I yam.”popeye2

Me too, brother.


Just look at this ridiculous distortion. [Side note: I love the background.]

mirrorOver the weekend we were strolling the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. Inside an arcade, I came across a wall of funhouse mirrors. Each one presented a comic, distorted me. I studied each reflection carefully and realized that this is exactly how I present myself to the world. A series of preposterous exaggerations.

The people I work with have no idea who I really am and they never will. I won’t allow it. My daughters certainly haven’t a clue. How could they? They lack perspective. I don’t put my true self out here in blogland. Who does!? Don’t all posts contain a modicum of half-truths and boasts? I moved away from home decades ago so my siblings can’t know who I am anymore. My wife knows me better than anyone but there are still hidden crevices that remain unexplored.

Can we ever know our true selves? The voice in our head only tells us what we want to hear. Perhaps we’re all just a composite of these others selves. Maybe there’s no real true center. Just a series of funhouse mirror reflections.

When I was a kid, we never had a nice car. My dad bought a series of junkers that were ‘great deals.’ They were broken-down wrecks on their last legs. Rolling scrap metal. Time bombs. One car had a rusted-out hole in the floor. You could see the road speeding by underneath. We used to fight over who got to sit over the hole and watch the road. We finally had to get rid of it because we were on a freeway and the carpet caught on fire. The car filled with smoke.

Another time, my mom was driving the four of us kids to grandma’s house. While speeding down Fulton Street, the front axle snapped in half. We saw a tire rolling down the road and thought it was the funniest thing until we realized it came off of our car. We could have been killed.

Over the weekend we bought a brand new car. It’s a mid-sized SUV with only 96 miles on the odometer. A big, suburban snooze-mobile. 12-year old daughter expressed mild disappointment that we didn’t get the limited edition with second row captain’s chairs and leather trim interior. Can you imagine?!

Bullet Holes in the Cross

We made our semi-annual pilgrimage to my hometown of Cleveland and took a ride into the old Tremont section on the near west side where my parents grew up. 75 years ago the neighborhood was populated by poor, but proud, Italians, Polish, Germans and Slovaks. Robust, hearty European-types. Men and women with good, strong backs.

I drove down Buhrer Avenue past my mother’s childhood home. It’s amazing what the mind locks away for another day. I had completely forgotten that my father grew up across the street from her. That’s how far removed my dad is from my consciousness.

Buhrer Avenue is what I picture when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. There are plenty of houses with that Boo Radley vibe. I slowly drove past Grandma Meyo’s old, tiny, doll house and was suddenly hit with a wave of remembrance. Across the street, just a few houses away, was Grandma Polack’s house where dad, Aunt Reggie, and Uncle Marty grew up.

As children, we visited the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins regularly. The streets were paved with red brick. There was a fruit peddler named Tony Ameto who would walk his fruit and vegetable-laden wooden cart through the neighborhood. One time, my cousin Kenny saw him urinating behind a garage. Thereafter, we would hide in the bushes and torment him with a ditty Kenny made-up to the tune of The Mexican Hat Dance:

My name is Tony Ameto
I live in a bowl of spaghett-o
My name is Tony Ameto
I pee behind garages!

And then we’d run. At the end of the block on the corner of Scranton and Buhrer Avenues was the Scranton Road Tavern. Grandpa Meyo had a drinking problem. Each evening, he’d walk the half block with his dog, Brownie, and take a seat at the bar. After a night of too much drink, Brownie would guide him home. As a reward, Grandpa would give him an Eskimo Pie. Brownie died overweight and of diabetes. An Eskimo Pie a day will do that. My mom said that after we were born, Grandpa stopped drinking. I never once saw him with a drink in his hand.

A few blocks down Scranton Road is St. Michael the Archangel; a 140 year-old Catholic citadel. That’s not old by European standards but there’s a lot of family history in that building. It’s where my mother and father went to elementary school and, much later, were married. My sister and brother-in-law were married there as well. See those two crosses on top of the spires?

st. michaelThey’re copper-covered wooden crosses. Each is 9 x 6 feet. They’re a beautiful shade of aged-green. That’s an old photo above. They’re not up there anymore. You can see one just inside the entrance of the church.

cross1They’re riddled with bullet holes. The neighborhood, no longer European, is now Latino and these new residents saw fit to use them as target practice.

cross2There are over 20 bullet holes in them. Rain water got inside and rotted the wood. They were structurally unsound and had to be taken down.

cross3The church is locked during the day because the neighborhood is crime-ridden. The only reason we got inside is because we lucked upon the caretaker and he unlocked the door for us. [My sister insists that mom put him there because we needed him.]

The old Europeans never would have shot holes in that cross. To what do we attribute this change of attitude? Is it a symptom of societal and family derogation? I think we can rule out economics because the neighborhood has ALWAYS been poor. Dare we suggest it’s cultural? Anyone?

Asbury Park, August 18, 2014, 2:30 p.m.


Poor people are repulsive

There’s a new cruelty being foisted upon the middle income denizens of Manhattan. A whole new insult that was dreamed-up by real estate developers. Do you guys know what a ‘poor door’ is?

In a blatant attempt at fairness, New York City passed an ordinance requiring new residential buildings to include a small percentage of units that are to be sold as affordable housing. For example, a new building nearing completion on the Upper West Side has a few units that will be occupied by families earning $35-$55K annually. Don’t weep for the developers. They are given a significant tax abatement for providing these middle-market units.

Apparently, developers are worried that their upper-income tenants will be so unnerved by the sight of poor people that they managed to get an amendment allowing them to create separate entrances and lobbies; one for their wealthy residents and a second one on an opposite wing of the building for modest-income residents. It’s been unofficially christened the ‘poor door.’

In already existing buildings, amenities like rooftop gardens, gyms and playrooms for children are added to lure high net worth individuals. Access is being restricted to just those new tenants who are paying market-rate rents. The existing tenants who pay below-market rents are not permitted to use these new facilities. One developer was quoted as saying the gyms are being installed for new, market-rate paying tenants, not to please the existing ones.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that someone with significant wealth wants to live around like-minded individuals. Fair enough. That being the case, why, in God’s name, would you choose to live in New York City? This place is an economic and racial bouillabaisse. If you’re that put-off by the sight of poor people, go live in Los Angeles or some other economically segregated city. If you can’t live without the East Coast, move to Westchester County or Darien, Connecticut. Those places have laws on the books that make having a modest income a criminal offense.

I want to live on the Upper East Side
And never go down in the street.
Splendid isolation
I don’t need no one

Splendid Isolation
Warren Zevon

Class segregation has been around for a long, long time. Just ask the Brits. But there’s a mean spiritedness at work here. What is this dark, human desire for exclusivity? Is it biological? Something that’s a natural occurrence amongst tribes? Or is it a learned behavior? Isn’t this how horrible things like wars and organized religions start?

With a million neon rainbows burning below me
And a million blazing taxis raising a roar
Here I sit, above the town
In my pet-palliated gown
Down in the depths
On the 90th floor

Down in the Depths (on the 90th Floor)
Cole Porter

Of course, my outrage is because my mother would have been forced to use the poor door. I internalize everything. I’ll own that. I spent some time in therapy and developed a modicum of self-awareness. But aside from that, seeing people treated like second class citizens by a bunch of real estate and hedge fund douche bags irks me a little bit. Plus, they’re scarring this beautiful/hideous city of mine. They’re turning it into Phoenix or Seattle or Tampa or Houston or Omaha or Pittsburgh. All fine places, but each one as vanilla and interchangeable as the next.

Here’s another snappy summer outdoor art installation. I didn’t use to like Jeff Koons’ work but then I got over my bad ass self and now I enjoy it.

koons1His latest is Split Rocker in the plaza of Rockefeller Center, where they put the Christmas tree. It coincides with his career retrospective currently at the Whitney. (A show important enough for me to call in “sick” and attend.)

koons5It’s a flower-covered stature of a child’s rocker split in half. I brought the girls in to see it before they dragged me to Matilda.

koons3One side is modeled after a toy rocking horse that belonged to one of the artist’s sons, and on the other side is the head of a toy dinosaur.

koons4The sculpture is attended to by an army of gardeners. There’s an internal irrigation system that extends to the top of the sculpture. As the summer progresses, it’ll flower becoming fuller and more robust.

koons6I like it. I must be getting soft in my old age.

More Manhattan Memoirs

Here’s another uproarious episode from my journals. There’s lots to cover so I’ll skip the usual ‘lost memoirs’ back story.

August 4, 1992

On Saturday, Cindy and I saw Austin play out. He was supposed to play The Marquee Club but it was closed that afternoon for fire code violations. The band didn’t find out until they arrived to set up. It was an important gig because some A&R guys were supposed to be there.

There was a restaurant a half block away. Ed and Austin offered the owner $100 to let them run a power line outside. They were going to play in the street! But the restaurant was dead so the owner let them play inside. He charged a $5 cover—same as the Marquee. They hung a sign on the door of the Marquee directing Very Pleasant Neighbor fans to the restaurant down the block. It worked! The A&R people showed up and were impressed with the band’s resourcefulness.

Afterwards, Cindy and I went to Milano’s, that dingy bar next to the Knitting Factory. It’s long, narrow and not very clean. Just the way Cindy and I like our women. We pounded McSorley’s cream ales and I got uncharacteristically blitzed. I was hitting on the pretty barmaid (who was having none of my bullshit) and the guy sitting next to Cindy was hitting on her. Ha. If he only knew.

We left around 1:00 a.m. At the corner of Houston and Bowery I told Cindy, in my drunken slur, that I wanted to kiss her. She said, “Okay, but keep it light.” We were kissing and heard someone scream, “CINDY!” It was Laura! She had been following us again! She was standing several paces away. The two of them got into a terrific screaming match. I slowly backed away in case Laura had a gun. Laura called Cindy a homophobe, which I guess is the worst thing you can call a lesbian (or a bi-sexual, as the case may be). Cindy pulled her keys out of her pocket, snapped open the ring, took Laura’s apartment key off, threw it at her and said, “Get the hell out of my life!” The key whizzed in a straight line and bounced off Laura’s forehead and landed on the Bowery. I started laughing my ass off which, as you can imagine, didn’t help matters. It was pretty awesome.

Lincoln Center subwayLook how the two lines on the top and bottom converge. Love it.

On Sunday I went to Bonnie’s to watch the Olympics. It was raining so I hailed a cab. When the cab pulled up, the doorman came out with an umbrella and rode up in the elevator with me, which I find annoying. I can push a fucking button. Bonnie said they’re a nuisance but the old people in the building insist on them. What a bunch of babies.

We were making out on the sofa during the swimming and diving competition and Bonnie said she wanted to go for a walk. By then it had stopped raining so we went to Central Park for a bit, then to the Japanese restaurant down the street. Of course she knew everyone there and everyone knew her. She was talking kind of loud and I was embarrassed. People were staring. We sat at the sushi bar and ordered hot Saki. She introduced me to Fuji, the girl behind the bar, telling us that we’d be perfect together. She had bright eyes and was full of the devil. Get this: Bonnie made me show her my new tattoo. [Note: it’s a Japanese symbol.] Fuji looked at it, gasped, and said, “That’s a man’s name!” Well, it isn’t but I believed her for a moment and thought it was very, very funny. Later, I told Bonnie I wanted to mount Fuji—ha-ha, get it?—and she got really mad and jealous. The bill was $40 but Bonnie was dead broke so I (gladly) paid it.

[Disclaimer: I debated on whether or not to include this next bit. It’s vulgar and crass. I decided to post it with the caveat that it might offend. I’m warning you with peace and love, don’t judge me today for the boy I was then. Pat, if you’re reading, please stop here.]

We went back to her place and went to bed. It always takes me a while to relax but there are great rewards for the lucky woman with patience. Bonnie went down on me. It amazes me how some women have elevated blow jobs to an art form while others won’t have anything to do with them. You can tell when a girl is disgusted. Bonnie is a maestro.

Bonnie is afraid of catching AIDS and insisted I use a condom. I got one out of my backpack but it was from last Christmas when I was with Ann. They were so old that the lubricant dried up and the condoms had shrunk to the size of a dime. I couldn’t even get the damn thing out of the package. By then, Bonnie was drunk with desire + Saki. She pulled me on top of her and put me inside anyway. We would’ve had simultaneous orgasms except I had to pull out, so hers was interrupted. She said, “I need that space filled,” took a few of my fingers and put them inside her. I felt like a gynecologist but it did the trick. Satisfaction all around. Bonnie smells nice. Ann, not so much. I almost passed out from Ann. We were up until 3:30 a.m., woke up the next morning and started all over again. She had to leave for work at 10:00. We were both beat. Not enough sleep.

brooklyn bridge