Oops!… I Did It Again b/w Money, Honey

b/w [abbreviation]  1. (music) “backed with.” Commonly used with 45 and 78 RPM records, referring to the flip side (also called the “B-side”) of a record.

Oops!… I Did It Again

I had another round of Mohs surgery to have a spot of Basal cell carcinoma removed. This is my third time under the knife. The first two times it was high on my forehead but this time it was right above my eyebrow, so I got a bit of a shiner. I have to go back after the New Year for more of the same.

I wish I could step into the way-back machine and talk to my younger self. I’d say, “Listen, stupid. Put some sunscreen on and reapply it every few hours. Wear a hat. And go to college.” I was trying to think of something positive that came out of this and the only thing I could come up with was that The Daughters are learning a valuable lesson from their vain old man. Let that be a lesson to you, too. Do you want to walk around looking like this? People stare.


Money, Honey

Every so often, a play will open on Broadway that’ll become an event that’s bigger than the play itself. The New York Times and New York magazine will deem it a living miracle and the culture lemmings—many of whom don’t actually give a damn about theater—all line up for tickets, which artificially inflates the price and renders the show unaffordable for the plebeians. It happened with Rent and The Book of Mormon.

Hamilton is such a show. Tickets are being sold into next summer. No joke. It’s an impossible ticket. You simply cannot see it any sooner than that. Unless…

A senior executive from the California office was visiting. I asked if he was doing anything fun while in town. He said he saw Hamilton last night and enjoyed it.

Two weeks prior to that, I was talking to a visiting board member. He said he came in on Friday with his wife to spend the weekend in the city. I asked if he did anything fun. He said he saw Saturday Night Live.

“How did you get tickets to SNL if you just got into town the day before?”

“I have a guy.”

“Ah. A guy. How much, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“$1,250 each.”

That’s how life is for the well-heeled. They click their fingers and things appear. I used to prepare marketing material for the Private Wealth division of a major investment bank. I’d always known about High Net Worth clients, but that assignment introduced me to Ultra High Net Worth clients. It gave me a new benchmark for my own mediocrity.

I didn’t grow up in abject poverty. There was always food on the table and a roof over my head, but not much else. When you grow up quasi-poor, no matter how well you end up doing for yourself and your family, inside your head, you’re still poor. These constant, nagging episodes don’t help matters.

I’ve seen what wealth can do up close. It goes beyond hard-to-obtain show tickets. Ultra High Net Worth clients never go to a hospital emergency room. They have a team of private doctors and specialists on-call. I’ve also seen what it’s like to be broke. It drove my father away. I am a lethal cocktail of envy and resentment.

I’m a bit of a social lefty, so I was shocked (shocked!) at my reaction to the attacks in Paris. My knee-jerk solution was to detonate a thermonuclear device over Syria. I doubt that’d eradicate the problem entirely because filth and roaches can survive being radiated, but I’ll bet that’d slow them down a bit and show them we mean business. My bride and I lived about a mile from the World Trade Center when it came down and it took me back to that week. Vive la France.

Central Park Autumn

cantral park 2

Well here I am Lord, knocking on Your back door
Ain’t it wonderful to be, where I’ve always wanted to be
For the first time I’ll be free here in New York City

Harry Nilsson

central park 1

Art + Commerce = The Fall Auction Report

I look forward to these semi-annual auctions with a near mania. I find this stuff endlessly fascinating. What is art? Every time I go to the autumn and spring auction previews at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, I am forced to reexamine what I think art is and isn’t. It’s good to be nimble in your thinking. It’ll keep you young.

Keep in mind that after the auctions, these pieces pass into private collections never to be seen again. I’ll mix the sublime with the hideous. I welcome your debate and disagreement. You can click on these for detail.

I’ll start off with a genuine treasure. Even though some people find the Impressionists pedestrian, I think we can all agree that their work is important and deserves respect. And, seriously, who wouldn’t want a Monet in their dining room?

Claude Monet
Estimate: $30,000,000 – $50,000,000
Sold for $33,850,000


I was not a fan of Cubism until just a couple of years ago when I had it explained to me via an audio guide at a Cubism exhibit at the Met. Now I enjoy it. Always get the audio guide.

Georges Braque
Le Violon
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Sold for $8,202,000


Do you know what I love about this piece? One of the materials Braque used was sand. It gives the piece a fantastic earthy quality.


Here’s another guy who people pay a lot of cash for but is considered to be marginally talented by others. Margaret Thatcher called him “that horrible man.” That’s good enough for me. I like him.

Francis Bacon
Man With Arm Raised
Estimate: $8,000,000 – $12,000,000
Sold for $10,330,000


This one is my favorite. It’s the perfect case-in-point for just how pretentious art can get. The auction catalog uses flowery language like “a shimmering arrangement of color” and “rivers of shimmering, sparkly color.”


This is part of the artist’s “spilled candy” series. I’ve included the lot description in the estimate.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Untitled (LA)
Green candies individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply. Overall dimensions vary with installation.
Estimate: $5,000,000 – $7,000,000
Sold for $7,669,000


Here’s a double header. I like both of these guys but am surprised at the valuation on the Warhol. Do you know how many of those flower silk screens he did? TONS! And I love Oldenburg’s work. I’ll bet a lot of you young punks have never seen one of those typing erasers. Now we use a delete key. I love how this photo turned out.

Andy Warhol
Late Four-Foot Flowers
Estimate: $8,000,000 – $12,000,000
Did Not Sell

Claes Oldenburg
Typewriter Eraser
Estimate: $500,000 – $700,000
Sold for $1,085,000


They made a big deal out of this piece. It was mounted in a prominent place in the gallery and the estimate wasn’t made public. I have no idea who this is. Do you? I thought I knew quite a lot but it turns out I don’t know SQUAT. It’s big. You’d need a big wall to hang it on.

Lucio Fontana
Concetto Spaziale, La fine di Dio
Estimate on Request
Sold for $29,173,000


Mmmmmm. Bacon. They’re studies for portraits. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you met the subjects and their faces were actually all fucked-up like that?

Francis Bacon
Two Studies for Portrait
Estimate: $12,000,000 – $18,000,000
Did Not Sell

bacon_two studies

Here’s a nice break from all the silliness. I’m not saying it’s worth what it sold for—hell, NONE of these are worth what they sold for—but you can almost understand the point. This was one of the real blockbusters. I took a close-up and am using it as a screen saver on my phone. It’s thick and juicy.

Vincent Van Gogh
Paysage Sous un Ciel Mouvement
Estimate: $50,000,000 – $70,000,000
Sold for $54,010,000

van gogh

Just look at her. Isn’t she spectacular? Her erotic submissive pose knocks me out. This was painted in 1917. Don’t you imagine people back then being reserved and sedate? Not everyone, apparently.

Amedeo Modigliani
Nu Couché
Estimate on Request
Sold for a Whopping $170,405,000

modigliani_nu coche

Like Jeff Koons, my feelings about Lichtenstein have vacillated throughout the years. Today, I like him. Next year? Check back with me. This nurse painting is considered a high point in his career.

Roy Lichtenstein
Estimate on Request
Sold for $95,365,000


Here’s a abject lesson in limitation and availability. Contrast the price realized for Nurse with this one.

Roy Lichtenstein
Crying Girl
Estimate: $7,000,000 – $9,000,000
Sold for $13,381,000

lichtenstein_crying girl

Both works were executed in 1964. The difference is that Crying Girl is the fourth in an edition of five. There’s only one Nurse. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, I’d much rather hang Crying Girl.

Do you know how some people say contemporary art is garbage? From the lot description:

“Accumulation of studio refuse in Plexiglas box with lid.”

Ah! WITH the lid! That explains it. Poubelle is French for trash bin.

Grande Poubelle
Estimate: $100,000 – $150,000
Did Not Sell. Perhaps there’s hope for the art world after all.


There were some pretty decent offerings by Picasso. If he’s your guy, this was your big chance. This is the cliche Picasso style depicted when someone wants to make fun of his work. Years ago, my brother explained what Pablo was up to and that lesson stuck with me. I see it.

Pablo Picasso
Femme Assise sue une Chaise
Estimate: $25,000,000 – $35,000,000
Sold for $20,074,000


This is a harsh little Picasso. It’s awash in the colors and stylings of Picasso’s Spain. He looks like he’s sporting Orthadox Jewish Payot but I don’t think that was Pablo’s intent.

Pablo Picasso
Homme à l’épée
Estimate on Request
Sold for $22,565,000


Some art passes in and out of my favor (Koons, Lichtenstein, etc.). But I’ve never liked Cy Twombly. The auction catalog describes this mess as being “…charged with visceral energy, a deluge of hurried lines hurtles across the canvas…” which is an elegant way of saying scribbling. He used house paint, oil, crayon and pencil on canvas. It sucks.

Cy Twombly
Estimate: $15,000,000 – $20,000,000
Sold for 17,525,000


I think these two Lichtensteins look pretty awesome together so I put in a bid for $400 for the pair. You can imagine how that went over.

Roy Lichtenstein
Interior with Yves Klein Sculpture
Estimate: $7,000,000 – $10,000,000
Sold for $6,661,000

Roy Lichtenstein
Glass V
Estimate: $1,800,000 – $2,500,000
Sold for $2,853,000 (not $400)


I’ve got a couple more—some that’ll either make you laugh very hard, make you very angry, or make you weep—but I’m going to split this into two posts.

Let’s say someone was holding a gun to a puppy and you HAD to display one of these in your home. Which one? I’m going with that Modigliani but that’s probably the last time my mother-in-law would ever visit.

But I’m Not Gay

Another from the journal bin. Here’s what happens when a fella gets a little long in the tooth but hasn’t married yet. Also, here’s what goes on at those fancy benefit dinners.bin3

March 22, 1995

I got uncharacteristically drunk after the theater with Bob last Friday night. Not fun drunk. Drunk enough to be sick the next day. We started bar hopping at 11:00. After 2:30 we couldn’t find any more open bars. City that never sleeps, my ass. We got a bag of McDonald’s cheeseburgers and sat in Times Square and ate them. That’s on top of a belly full of scotch. No wonder I was so sick. I got home at 3:30.

He told me his friends think I’m gay. I’ve noticed that gay people like to do that. They like to say that you (or so-and-so) are gay, but you/they don’t realize it yet. I think they do it to swell their ranks. I’m not the least bit insulted and kind of suspected they thought as much for a while. Believe me…if I were gay, I’d be gay with a mad vengeance. There’s no shame and I wouldn’t hide from it. But it’s not my thing. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to experiment over the years but it’s not something I’m curious about. Kissing someone with whiskers sounds about as erotic as swallowing my own vomit.

I spoke at length about this to Velma [Note: a therapist I was seeing at that time]. I asked what would make someone think that. She suggests I have a chameleon-like tendency to emulate the people around me and that I could subconsciously pick up gay mannerisms in an effort to fit in. Makes sense, I suppose. I do have a lot of gay friends. She said I should make hay with it and take a few acting classes. The only thing I’m upset about is that fact that there might be women out there who think, “Gee…what a great guy. Too bad he’s gay.” Do you think that’s possible?

Ann took me to a benefit dinner for the Institute of Asian Studies. It was formal. I clean up pretty good for trash. It was a seven course banquet with entertainment that cost $200 per plate but we didn’t pay for the tickets. Her boss gave them to her. He’s a curator of Asian art and owns a gallery on the Upper East Side. It was a cash bar but I didn’t mind.

I was the youngest person there by several generations. Think about it. Who goes to these types of benefits? People who have a lot of money and free time. And who, generally, has money to burn and time to kill? Old people. Towards the end of the evening I looked around the room and about half the audience had nodded off. I’m sure that people who saw Ann walk in with me on her arm understood right away what the deal is. She certainly isn’t as old as they are, but she ain’t exactly my contemporary, either.

It was an elegant restaurant next to the United Nations. I met some very, very wealthy Asians. They support their own. They served four courses and broke for entertainment. A beautiful Japanese girl in a kimono performed on a koto. Another girl in a kimono played a bamboo flute. Then the girl playing flute did a beautiful dance while the koto player sang. There’s something about the way their hair catches the light—the color and texture of it—that goes right through me.  It fed my every Asian fantasy. I might insist that Ann dye her hair jet black.

We were assigned to a geriatric table. I quickly eyeballed the guy who looked like he could sustain a conversation and not die before desert and grabbed the seat next to him. His wife looked barely alive. I shouldn’t judge because that’ll be me one day, but since that’s a long way off I’ll have a proper laugh.

He was an interesting dude. He grew up in Williamsburg but bailed out for Long Island decades ago. I waited for, and finally got, the stories about how New York used to be a great town but not anymore. It’s all relative. [Note: I’ll say it is.] He knows all about my neighborhood and told me about the Yiddish theaters that used to be on Houston and up 2nd Avenue.

While I was talking to him about the good old days, Ann slid her hand up my leg under the table and was playing around. What an uninhibited little minx she is. If she had mistakenly done that to the old codger sitting next to her instead of me, she would’ve been brought up on murder charges. At least he’d have died with a smile on his face. By the time we got back to her apartment I was out of my mind. We never made it past the living room. I assaulted her against the baby grand piano. Neither one of us can play a note but we finally found a use for that thing.­­­

I’m worried about [my sister’s] impending visit. What’s going to happen when she sees my street is lined, not with flower pots and bunting, but drug dealers and junkies?

Cockroach Infestation

This is an episode I’d forgotten about. These journals occasionally stir up memories that are best forgotten.bin3

September 6, 1995

More roaches. Not as many as before, but more. I began my death-spray campaign two weeks ago but they’re still here. I saw one crawling up the bedroom wall last night and a few in the silverware drawer this morning. I locked the cats in the bedroom and doubled-up on the insecticide. I’ve got a tremendous, pounding headache. I don’t know if it’s from breathing Black Flag Inner City Strength Formula or from cleaning up cockroach droppings all morning. My index finger hurts from holding the spray button down. I emptied the can.

There was a sick article in The Times about how there’s a plague of asthma in the Bronx. It’s an everyday occurrence to see men and woman stop on the street to catch their breath and reach into their pockets for an atomizer. Do you know what they say is causing this epidemic? An inordinate amount of cockroach feces and body parts, along with the rat and mice urine in the area.

I’m going nuclear tomorrow morning. I’m taking the cats to Cindy’s apartment and setting off a roach bomb. But if the dirty slobs who live around me don’t get their shit together, it’ll all be a big wast of time and money.

This exhibit at the Canada Gallery on Broome St. is an exercise in warped perspective. It’s going to be difficult to describe but I’ll give it my best shot. It might help to click on these and get a magnified look.

A Fall of Corners by Samara Golden starts with a walk up a short flight of stairs onto a long platform.


Along the right-side wall is a formal dining room with full-sized tables and chairs. Tables are set with white linen tablecloths, white chairs and place settings. The linens are stiff and hang as they would if the tables were on the ground. Plates and cutlery are glued to the table, the chairs are secured to the wall.


A spotlight slowly pans the scene which creates fantastic long, shifting shadows.



On the far wall is another dining room. This one, a more casual and festive buffet with blue and red checkered tablecloths and country chairs.



If you stand at the edge of the platform and look down, you’ll see a mirror. It creates an effective illusion of depth and space.


Turn towards the end of the platform and thrown into a heap in the corner is, what appears to be, a pile of rags.


Closer examination reveals the truth: Bodies. Some are ghastly and skeletal. Who are they? The diners? People who wanted to eat but couldn’t?


Running up the left wall is a living room with silver furniture and, in an especially nice touch, a Christmas tree in the corner.



By this time, I was fairly disoriented. I wish I’d know about this warped perceptive in advance. I’d have dug out my bong from the attic and REALLY prepared. Once again, look over the edge and there’s a mirror. A projector plays a movie of moving clouds and sky. You’ve got to look down to look up. See your intrepid reporter there? Hello!


I’ve often wondered what the end game is to these exhibits. I can only presume they’re for sale, since they’re in a gallery. But who is the target audience for these large works? Museums, I suppose. Fun fact: NONE of these galleries ever charge an admission. And, best of all, they don’t care if you take photos. New York is a friendly place!

I had dinner on the Lower East Side last Friday night. We ate at Little Poland on 2nd Avenue and 12th Street. I had the big combo platter: Kielbasa, pierogi, bigos and stuffed cabbage. About four pounds of thick, heavy, gravied, Eastern European delights. Most satisfying! Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I had to run a charity 5K race the very next morning. Oh, no! Well, guess what? I killed it. I ran a personal best. It turns out that Polish food = ROCKET FUEL. Who knew?

Things I liked to do instead of write in 1995

Apparently, I was just as lazy and unmotivated 20 years ago as I am today.


March 23, 1995

Here, in no particular order, is what I usually end up doing when I sit down to write:

  1. Test the refrigerator door to make sure the hinges are still operating properly. I rarely take anything out to eat. I also open the door slowly to see at what point the little lightbulb turns on. Someday, that bulb isn’t going to turn on and it’s going to make it all worthwhile.
  1. Go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror for a long time. Sometimes, I comb my hair in bizarre and funny styles. Sometimes, I experiment with different hair care products, like gels, rinses and conditioners. Sometimes, I cut my nose hairs. Sometimes, I stare at myself and ask, “What’s wrong?”
  1. Turn on the TV and make the rounds. I go through the channels in a specific sequence: 2, 4, 7, 5, 11, 9, 13, 21, 25. I realize that’s out of order but the pattern is ingrained in me. I can manipulate the remote with my thumb without looking at it. I start to feel guilty after two “laps.” Thank God I don’t have cable.
  1. Eat peanut butter by sticking my finger in the jar. I’m sure this practice will come to an end once I’m married. [Note: It hasn’t.] This reminds me that when we were kids we had a schnauzer named Nipper who would bark incessantly. To shut him up, mom would take a finger of peanut butter and stick it on the roof of his mouth. That bought us a few minutes of peace and quiet. Dogs love peanut butter, you know.
  1. Masturbate. I consider this my most healthy distraction and the one that takes the least amount of time.

5a. Take a nap.

  1. Mope. I have a theory that my extra-special, finely-tuned brand of moping is an important part of the creative process, so I’m not sure it’s fair to include it in a list of distractions. It’s like saying breathing is a distraction.
  1. Stare at the phone. The best distractions are the ones not initiated by me. When the phone sings, I drop my laptop like it’s suddenly leaking the Ebola virus and rush to answer by the second ring out of fear that whomever is calling might change their mind. I rarely get back to what I was doing. I have reams and reams of half-finished sentences. Maybe I can mash them all together and make some haiku.
  1. Read someone else’s work. WOW! can some people write! If I’m feeling a little too productive, I’ll walk over to the bookcase and pull out some Dickens or Hemingway and it’s back to distraction #3.