Potpourri!

Here’s a gaggle of thoughts rattling around inside my head. Instead of using a straight line to separate each subject, I’m using pics from Moveable Type, a sound and vision permanent installation in the lobby of The New York Times building. Two walls of digital screens pars the Times archive and randomly display sentences.

Moveable Typescreen5If mobile phones detonated every time someone sent a text while driving, NOBODY IN NEW JERSEY WOULD HAVE HANDS. Glove sales would plummet.

screen9One-stop shopping, New York City-style. Hell, yeah!

signs

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Recently, an acquaintance told her boss she had an appointment and would be a few hours late for work. He assumed it was related to the new baby, but it wasn’t. She attended a Fashion Week event in Midtown. Her boss saw the selfie she posted to Facebook and promptly fired her. Social media fail.

Either keep that shit off Facebook or DON’T FRIEND YOUR BOSS

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The dog and I don’t like each other very much. To me, dogs are needy, dirty and expensive to maintain. They’re like having a bad boyfriend/ girlfriend. Plus, they’re mentally dull. They eat poop.

But last Saturday morning I walked downstairs and saw Coco curled up on the sofa. She looked all fluffy and sweet. I got a warm pang in my chest that felt like genuine affection. I approached to give her a scratch and make friends. Here’s how I was greeted:

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My Bride was a little tired so Daughter and I volunteered to do the weekly grocery shopping. Can someone tell me what the hell this is?

spotted

Is there a big demand in the New Jersey suburbs for this? It could be scrumptious for all I know but I won’t eat it because it’s got the word “dick” in it. To each his (or her) own.

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Daughter-the-Eldest is attending her first boy/girl party at her friend’s house tomorrow night. I am almost catatonic with anxiety. All I can think about are the many suburban bacchanals I attended. I know what goes on in those wood-paneled basements. My two sisters have successfully talked me down off a window ledge. Told me to trust her. It has helped but that doesn’t change the fact that men are scum. I’m still praying that both daughters are GAY.

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I work with a hypochondriac. By all appearances she seems fine, but every conversation revolves around what’s currently ailing her. What aches. What’s robbing her of her sleep. Why she needs to leave early to see another doctor. It’s endless.

Our company nurtures its employees. To that end, she’s convinced them to install a “standing” desk (at a cost to the firm of $500). The keyboard and monitor are on a platform that can be raised and lowered, allowing her to stand and work. But oftentimes, after standing for a spell, she’ll sit down but not lower the platform because she’s LAZY. It results in this:

desk

Well, that can’t be good for her perpetually achy back.

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I saw this at the local fall festival. It’s exactly what my quiet, lily white, middle class New Jersey hamlet needs: a military grade, armor plated attack vehicle with a cannon-mount turret.

policeYou never know. ISIS might be paddling up the Passaic River as I type this. Thank you, Department of Defense overstock program! Feeding the egos of pencil-pushing weekend warriors and chubby suburban cops since Operation Desert Storm.

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CRAB
RARE
ARTS
BEST

Hating Contemporary Art (Thanks for Nothing, MoMA)

Sitting through a boring movie doesn’t mean you’ll never watch another movie again. Hearing a tedious piece of music won’t ruin music for you. A dull comedian won’t prevent you from laughing next week. But one insufferable play can keep you from ever wanting to go to the theater again. Likewise, one banal art exhibit can scar you for life. Do you find that to be so?

I had a big laugh last May when this sink by “artist” Robert Gober sold at a Christie’s contemporary art auction for $4,197,000.

sinkI’d never heard of this guy and thought the piece suffered from naked-emperor syndrome. This is the type of junk that alienates people from contemporary art. It’s a $4.2M joke played on the buyer. I’d forgotten all about the damn thing until I walked into the Museum of Modern Art and saw a career retrospective of Gober’s work.

I did a quick breath meditation and cleared my mind of all preconceived notions and previous judgments. I went in fresh. A white, blank slate.

I found the work so pretentious and uninspiring that I’m angry that my time was wasted. I’m getting all worked up again typing this. I want to take the MoMA curators and shake them. What do they see in this crap? C’mon down to the famous art museum and pay $25 to see a leg sticking out of a wall.

gorberleg2Or a leg sticking out of the wall with an anchor hanging from it.

gorberleg1Or a realistic, anatomically detailed, paraffin torso…

gorberleg3…with a music score written across his ass. What is this? It’s NOTHING.

gorberleg4I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. I don’t want to be one of those precious deep thinkers who find metaphorical mystery in bundles of newspapers stacked in a corner. I guffawed at this because I’ve got the exact same installation in my garage.

gorbernewsRemember the $4 million sink? You want more? We got more! We got sinks with running water.

gorbersink2 Sinks filling a room. (With bundles of newspaper. Fancy. Introspective.)

gorbersink3Giant sinks. Sinks within sinks.

gorbersink1Apparently, he went through a wallpaper phase. Here, we have a room covered with images of penises and vaginas. Aren’t you shocked?! Tee-hee. I guess I can’t bring the kiddies to this one.

gorberwall3The next room was covered with wallpaper containing images of a lynching while whitey-white man sleeps peacefully. Ooh. I feel so guilty.

gorberwallpaperThe perimeter of the room is ringed with bags of cat litter for NO APPARENT REASON.

gorberwall1This was the one piece I liked. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. A suitcase sits on the gallery floor.

gorbercase1Look inside and you’ll find a sewer grate.

gorbercase2Below the grate you’ll see that they’ve actually cut a hole in the gallery floor. A tabloid scene is below. The feet of a man standing in a pond holding a child. It’s a big surprise and the only thing I saw that showed a modicum of imagination.

gober suitcase 2I don’t need pretty pictures. Heaven knows those Francis Bacon smears are fairly horrific but I enjoy them. And I like pop art. It’s simple but fun. This stuff has no admirable qualities that I can detect. I am astonished at its popularity. MoMA owes me one free admission, those bastards.

Suppose someone is new to the art world and wants to expand their horizons. They walk into MoMA and see this crap. What are the odds that person will ever bother with art again? Especially contemporary art? On the other hand, they laughed at Degas for painting dancers who were tying their shoes and reading newspapers instead of dancing. What do I know?

Step aside, junior, and let some contemporary artists with vision and a fertile imagination

show you

how it’s done.

As always, feel free to disagree.

Saved by lit·er·uh·choor

I have a chip on my shoulder because I didn’t go to college. Always have. I got knocked around quite a bit when I first got to New York. People would find out I didn’t have a degree and put me in a tiny box. [People? Who am I kidding. Girls.] I took my meager design skills and somehow managed a career in asset management which, ironically, is an industry that covets employees who have degrees from the most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The pretty girls all wanted budding Managing Directors. That was never going to be me and they smelled it. The stench lines wafted off my resume and into their upturned noses.

To compensate for my deficiencies, I buckled down and started reading. I crammed the classics. The titles you were all obliged to read in college. Now, all these years later, I’m able to talk a pretty good game. To meet me, you wouldn’t think I barely made it through high school and was rejected by a local community college. (Although, admittedly, I still can’t punctuate properly and don’t know a damn thing about the rules of verse).

You can’t go wrong with the classics. To this day, I’ll still read a book out of a sense of obligation. Because it should be read. That’s why they’re called classics! Except in some cases.

I love short story collections. If what you’re reading stinks, just hang in there. It’ll be over in a couple of pages and something new and, hopefully, more compelling will start. To that end, I picked up The Stories of John Cheever. It’s purported to be the penultimate collection by one of the giants of the genre. They’re masterfully written stories but I can’t relate to any of them. Every conflict revolves around the denizens of the Upper East Side or a wealthy suburban hell called Shady Hill. They’re all of the “mother drinks too much at the summer home” variety. Mr. Marston is having an affair with his secretary. They can’t afford the maid anymore. The nanny has misplaced the child. Mrs. Mackenzie was thrown from her horse. And everyone DRINKS to excess. It’s bloody tedious.

Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor
O City of Broken Dreams
The Sorrows of Gin
The Season of Divorce

Don’t those sound like fun? They’re not. Do you know what? John Cheever sucks. Sometimes the experts get it wrong. Stick with Raymond Carver. He’s just as tragic but more earthy.

I recently reread Lolita. The first time I read it, I was in my 20’s. I remember it being an astonishingly well written, humorous, romp across America. A hoot! Well…I have a 12-year old daughter now and I didn’t think it was so goddamn funny this time. Mostly, I’m aghast that I once laughed at it. Plus, I didn’t remember it being so graphic. That being said, it’s still one of my favorite books.

Have you ever reread a book many years later and had a change of heart? I asked Zadie Smith that same question at one of her appearances and she said that while she admired her when she was young, she now finds George Eliot’s Dorothea kind of annoying.

P.S. Kubrick’s Lolita sucks, Peter Sellers and Shelly Winters notwithstanding. Sue Lyon is too old and hot for the role. Lolita was a child.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t have a photo for this post but I always like to include a visual, so here’s an oldie but a goodie.

I was taking pics of our neighbor’s photogenic white cat, Smudge, when, for NO REASON WHATSOEVER, their other cat, Skippy, walked into the frame and BIT HER IN THE EYE! It was an hilarious unprovoked attack. I couldn’t stop laughing. Cats are the best.

smudgeThis pic always makes me wince.

Dog day at the dog track

Since my past seems far more interesting than my present (for the time being, anyway) here’s another journal entry. This time, a holiday adventure in Phoenix, Arizona, to visit an old flame.


September 7, 1992

Cathy picked me up at Sky Harbor three days ago. She had to fire another nanny. This one was even crazier than the last one. This one dyed Amy’s hair blond. [Note: Amy was Cathy’s five-year old daughter. Her father was Mexican. She had a dark complexion and jet-black hair. A beautiful child.] It turns out the nanny’s daughter died a decade ago when she was just five. She had—you guessed it—blond hair. Cathy was pretty rattled. She probably dodged a kidnapping by a few days. Amy looks bizarre.

We went to the dog races with three of Cathy’s friends; Jeff and Brian, who I think are gay, [Note: Were they ever!] and Barkley. Beforehand, Cathy told me that Barkley was [theater director] Peter Sellars’ father and I didn’t believe her, but he looks just like him so it must be true. It was 50¢ night at the track. The parking, admission, hot dogs and tacos were all 50¢. Do you know how many tacos you can slam at 50¢ a pop? Quite a few. Jeff has a deep knowledge of dog racing (due to his gambling addiction), so I followed his lead in betting. We lost every race. He ran out of money and asked me, someone he barely knows, for $2 to bet the last race. Pathetic.

Dog racing is a tragic comedy. There’s a TV monitor in the clubhouse so you can watch the dogs being loaded into the starting gate. It ain’t pretty. They’re shoved into tiny, dark boxes by Mexican kids. The handlers grab them by the collar and rear ends and throw them in. It looks like an uncooperative cannonball being coaxed into the mouth of a cannon. A metal door slams shut behind them.

I always thought the dogs chased a stuffed bunny but Jeff said the Humane Society put an end to that so now they chase a bone with white streamers. It travels on a rail that circles the track. The race starts and the dogs shoot out of the starting box like the devil’s twisting their tails. They look gaunt and emaciated, but they are fast, fast, fast. They chase after it like they’re crazed or starving. They sprint at top speed. Then the bone suddenly takes a sharp left around the first turn and that’s when all hell breaks loose.

The track is loose dirt and you’d think that’d provide enough traction, but in every race a few dogs lost their footing on that first turn. Greyhounds run about 40-45 miles per hour (I looked it up) and when they fall, it looks like a giant ball of dirt rolling at a high rate of speed with legs and a tail sticking out of it. Like a Warner Brothers cartoon. In a few spills, the dogs became projectiles and took out a few other dogs with them. It’s a canine freeway crack-up. It’s so sad and so funny. The crowd would let out a collective “ooooohhhh.” I think they liked it the same way a NASCAR crowd likes a car crash or a hockey crowd a good fistfight. The spills are so violent that you’d think the dogs would be all busted-up with broken bones and a fucked-up sense of direction but they’re troopers. They pick themselves right up and take off after that damn bone.

The race ends and the bone is suspended just above their reach. They yelp and leap wildly trying to get at it and their trainers run out onto the track and harness their dog. I watched every race from the rail because I didn’t want to miss any good crack-ups. Plus, the clubhouse was like a fucking gas chamber with all the cigar and cigarette smoke. By the end of the evening I think there was a film of smoke on my eyeballs because they were burning. What’d I expect?


I thought this was an interesting juxtaposition. The olde world streetlamp. The Empire State distorted in the background reflection.

empire-state1

I saw this after the fact.

empire-state2

I’m not sure how I feel. This place is a target, there’s no doubt about that, but I don’t like being watched.

The weekend I pretended to be her boyfriend

Here’s another ALL-TRUE story from my distant past. More sordid tales under the Memoir category.


December 8, 1993

Diane asked me to come up to Boston and be her beard for her office Christmas party. She said she’d fly me up, provide my tux and put me up at the Copley Square Hotel.

[Note: beard [beerd]: slang. Any opposite sex escort taken to an event in an effort to give a gay person the appearance of being out on a date with a person of the opposite sex.]

I got a cab from Logan Airport and the driver was a Rastafarian blasting reggae so loud I had to repeat my destination three times. When we got to the hotel, I realized I only had $6.50 on me. I forgot to go to the bank. I told the driver I was broke. He laughed and said I was a true New Yorker, which I think is an insult. I called Diane and, fortunately, she had an account with the cab company, so everything worked out.

I checked into our suite and first thing I noticed was that there were separate beds. I guess the ruse is over once we’re behind closed doors. The party was in the Copley Square ballroom, so that was convenient. I could anesthetize myself against all those corporate stuffed shirts and not have to worry about wrapping the car around a tree while driving home.

My tux was waiting for me. I had sent my measurements earlier in the week and those idiots sent the wrong shirt. I have a 16½ collar and the shirt they sent had a 15½ collar. I made jokes all night about how I couldn’t swallow my food because my esophagus was squeezed shut. The shirt had studs, not buttons. After putting them in, Diane chuckled and said they were in backwards, so I had to take them all out and start over again. What a fucking rube. The cummerbund was easy enough, thank God. You should see me in black tie. For a peasant, I clean up pretty good.

Diane arrived and got dressed. She was wearing a sequined gown. She looked so beautiful! What a shame. She asked me to zip up the back of her dress, so I grasped the zipper with my thumb and middle finger and ran my index finger up her bare spine. It gave her a chill, which was very sexy. We went down to the packed ballroom at 7:00 where the festivities were well underway.

I was mesmerized by the ostentatious show of wealth. I haven’t seen that many jewels since I visited the Tower of London. These are people who made it and aren’t ashamed to show it. I drank Chivas and soda and Diane drank Johnny Walker Black—all night, all for free. Not only did I not embarrass myself by saying something stupid, people seemed genuinely amused by my well-rehearsed bon mots. Food was everywhere. All you had to do was stick your arm out and you could grab shrimp or lamb or chicken or crab or beef. I tried steak tartare and didn’t like it very much, but it was the first time I tried black caviar and that was lovely.

The room was thick with New England, blue blood accents. I think some of the women were flirting with me but, Jesus, what could I do?! I was with Diane and THEY were there with their husbands/ boyfriends! I strayed away from Diane when she discussed business because I found it so insufferably dull. One time, she asked me to excuse myself from the conversation and later that night she told me they had to discuss firing someone the following Monday. Right before Christmas! How heartless. I chatted with the Head of Marketing and his charming wife for a long while. I told them I was a writer and only working in graphic design until I’m published. That was one of the MANY lies I told that night.

I walked outside onto a grand balcony for a cigarette and met the sons of the owners of the [redacted] and [redacted] football teams. I mostly observed. They were saying terrible things, asking each other if their wives still “sucked their cocks” and saying, “Hell no, are you kidding?!” Then they were bragging about the “great fucks” they’ve had in the owner’s box at the stadium “where [team owner] takes a shit.” THEN they were complaining about the blacks who were admitted to their country club! At first I thought they were kidding around but they were serious. It was like an evil Saturday Night Live skit. One by one, a wife would come out to fetch a husband and when they were out of earshot, they would comment on what a battle axe he was stuck with. It was just awful.

We finally rolled up to the suite about 12:30. I took my jacket off and threw it across the room, sat on the sofa, untied my bow tie, threw it in the opposite direction, undid my shirt collar and exhaled. Diane walked over and sat next to me on the sofa. We gossiped a bit about stuff we overheard and then she lay down with her head in my lap, reached up and pulled my mouth on top of hers. It was a lovely surprise. She tasted like red wine. We kissed for a long time and I started to get frisky so she said that was enough. How do women do that!? How do they just come to a dead STOP?!  Karen does that to me, too.


Before

cbgbAfter

varvatosGentrification has always been with us and it always will be. Complaining about it is so boring. CBGB’s was over when I was going there but those were some of my best years. And walking past there the other week gave me the blue blues. It made me so sad. I guess I’m just a sentimental fool.