Cold in more ways than one

I forgot how fun these are (for me). This made me melancholy for an entire afternoon.

bins

January 18, 1994

I met Oswaldo and Ellis at The Public Theater despite it being 10 degrees out with a chill factor of 25 below. The cold gave me a headache so severe it felt like I had a mild concussion. They invited me to pre-show dinner but I said I was too broke join them. I can barely pay my bills. I was embarrassed. It’s humiliating to not have any money.

I had a long chat with Bonnie. She is still broken-hearted. When is she going to stop tormenting herself over that old man? Bonnie’s old boyfriend, Ricky Jay, is in the Times. He’s doing an off-Broadway show and she wants me to join her. I love magicians and that guy is the grandmaster. Somehow, I’ll find the money for a ticket. She introduced me to him in a restaurant once. I was star struck but held it together. I told him I admired his work and didn’t want to know how any of it was done. He said, “That’s good because I wouldn’t tell you.” David Mamet is directing the show. Bonnie hates him. She watched him dump his wife for a younger women. That’s kryptonite for women. She said she could tell it was going to happen because he suddenly started paying close attention to his appearance and clothes. I hope we go backstage. I’d like to see the dynamic between Bonnie and Mamet. [Note: Ricky Jay passed away last week.]

I had a job interview Friday. Afterwards, I didn’t want to go home so I went to the Angelica and saw Mike Leigh’s Naked. I’d heard it was excessively violent but the story was so compelling and the acting so adroit I didn’t notice if that was the case. I felt stupid sitting in the Angelica lobby café in a suit. So obvious. Took a slow walk home in dress shoes that hurt. They look great but feel like two bear traps.

Called [my brother]. That nutty girl I met at his wedding—Jezebel or something like that—was visiting. They handed the phone to her and she got all breathy and wanted to know when I was coming to Cleveland again. I remember trying to kiss her in the Holiday Inn parking lot after the wedding. She gave me her business card and it had her photo on it. When I got back to New York I found it in the folds of my wallet and threw it in the garbage. I didn’t think I’d left any kind of impression at all.

I stopped in a bar where I suspected Peggy, the girl I met at Kris’s Christmas party, worked and I was RIGHT! There she was, behind the bar. I made a fake call at the payphone, talking into it while listening to the dial tone, and then sat at the bar. She said, “I know you,” and I said, “Yes, I met you at Kris’s party.” Her eyes lit up and said, “That’s right! I remember you! You’re Joe!” That hurt. I thought we had a pretty good time at the party but the conversation was just awful. Her teeth are brown and rotten from smoking.

There was a terrible earthquake in Los Angeles yesterday morning. They cancelled regular programming to cover the destruction and I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV. It’s a miracle only 30 people died when you consider the amount of damage it caused. The town is pretty fucked up. The highways are all collapsed. Why would anyone live in Los Angeles? Aside from it not being 10 degrees with a -25 chill factor?

~~~~~~~~~~

A few more from last month’s auctions. Rothko usually didn’t work with such a dark palate but I love his use of plum here.

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum)
Est. $35,000,000 – USD 45,000,000
Sold for $36,312,500

Impractical to display in home. Fun to say 10x fast. They’re just neon lights is all.

Bruce Nauman
RUN FROM FEAR FUN FROM REAR
Est. $ 400,000 – USD 600,000
Sold for $427,500

Another Warhol/Basquiat mash-up. That Reganesque figure in the back is Basquiat, correct? And the pricing is Warhol? Sold over estimate. That’s a Calder sculpture in the foreground.

Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat
Outlays Hisssssssss (Collaboration #22)
Est. $1,000,000 – USD 1,500,000
Sold for $2,052,500

~~~~~~~~~~

This was a food bodega near my apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s long gone. Wiped off the map for the Barclay’s Center.

Art Amok: Fall Auction Sampler

My fascination with these semi-annual big-ticket art auctions continues unabated. It’s where commerce collides with integrity. The appreciation of art is so subjective. How are they able to convince wealthy folks to spend these astronomical sums? I know from collecting books that values are ephemeral. A book I paid $950 for three years ago, same variance and issue, just sold at auction for $550. Imagine that happening on a grand monetary scale. I hope they like what they buy. They could be stuck with it.

Here are a few early results to whet your appetite. Some big, interesting pieces are being sold tonight. I’ll lump those results in next time.

This is the one that’s causing palpitations in the dealer/collector community. Previously, the high watermark for a Hopper was $40.5 million. What made them think to double that in the estimate?

Edward Hopper
Chop Suey
Oil on canvas
Est. $70,000,000–100,000,000
Sold for $91,875000

Hopper is the master of sunlight. Just look at her. Beautiful. But $91M? Can you imagine the good that could’ve been done with that?

Here’s the obligatory Monet. There’s always a Monet. This is a big, important one. I mistyped “Monet” and it came out “Money.” Ha.

Claude Monet
Le bassin aux nymphéas
Oil on canvas
Est. $30,000,000–50,000,000
Sold for $31,812,500

Poor Jackson Pollock. Only did one thing. Dripped paint onto canvases that were spread across his studio floor. They’re beautiful (esp. this one) but after that, no one was much interested in his output. I think it’s what drove him into that tree. I wish I’d have done just one thing. Harper Lee only wrote one book. I’d be content with that.

Jackson Pollock
Composition with Red Strokes
Oil, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas
Est. $50,000,000–70,000,000
Sold for $55,437,500

So many Picassos. There are always so many Picassos. How many pieces did he create? Unlike Pollock, who did just one thing, Picasso changed and morphed his work over the decades. Constantly reinventing his output resulted in his dying of old age instead of plowing his car into a tree. This, from his multiple-perspective phase.

Pablo Picasso
Femme au beret orange et au col de fourrure
Oil on canvas
Est. $15,000,000–20,000,000
Did not sell

Here’s an ugly gray owl.

Pablo Picasso
Le hibou gris
Painted earthenware
Est. $1,500,000–2,500,000
Sold for $2,412,500

~~~~~~~~~~

I am home convalescing from a successful back procedure. I made the mistake of reading my surgeon’s detail Operative Report. I found it both fascinating and revolting. Here are some highlights. I don’t understand most of it but it sounds horrific. To think these things were done to me and I walked out of the hospital THE SAME DAY is a miracle to me.

This isn’t for the squeamish. I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this. Is anyone else fascinated? Now I know how the frogs in biology class felt.

The incision was made with the spinous processes of L4, L5 with the incision being carried down to level of thoracodorsal fascia. Then, a right-sided subperiosteal dissection was completed, exposing the bottom half of the L4 lamina top of the L5 lamina. Deep retractors were placed. 

The bone piece was removed en bloc exposing the ligamentum flavum. Ligament flavum was opened bluntly and then resected using Kerrison rongeur. There was a large focal disk herniation compressing the L5 nerve root. The L5 nerve root was gently mobilized off of the disk herniation and a nerve root retractor was used to hold it in place.

Using a 15 blade, a cruciate incision was made in the annulus. Then, very soft fragments of disk were easily removed.  The sac where the disk herniation was, was probed with a nerve hook.  A few small fragments were removed.

The patient tolerated procedure well, was brought to recovery room in stable condition with plans for discharge.

Presto. Nothing to it.

Secrets of the Wealthy

I used to work in the Private Wealth division of JP Morgan. I designed marketing material that enticed the well-heeled to park their net worth at JP Morgan. Prior to my employment there, I was aware of High Net Worth investors. But what was revealed to me was a second, more exclusive and enigmatic category; Ultra High Net Worth investors. That’s a real thing. It’s old family money. I used it as a new benchmark and a club to beat myself up over my mediocrity.

JP Morgan doesn’t just sell banking services. It sells lifestyle services. There’s a secretive world that exists beyond the bounds of your weak, middle class imagination. Ultra High Net Worth investors don’t wait to board planes. They’ve never seen a baggage carousel. Everything is done for them. Their lives are scrubbed and sanitized. And why not? Who doesn’t want to avoid conflict?

There’s one thing that galls me. Not only have Ultra High Net Worth investors never seen a baggage carousel, they’ve also never seen the inside of a hospital waiting room. There are underground teams of doctors who work on-call exclusively for wealthy families. They don’t treat the unwashed hoi polloi. If there’s a medical need, it’s attended to post haste. If you’re regular, you’ll have to wait your turn. In the meantime, please fill out these forms.

I sought treatment for a disk extrusion to my lower spine. Each night, each morning, anytime I’m awake, there’s a knife plunged into my leg. I have been tormented since the first week of August. It has robbed me of my sleep and appetite. My weight has gone from a robust 178 pounds to a sniveling 161. It’s not a good look. I’m so sleep deprived that on more than one occasion I’ve hallucinated at my desk.

After a panoply of failed treatments I decided to go nuclear and do the thing I swore I’d never do; get surgery.  Back surgery sounds scary, dangerous and painful. But I’m told microdiscectomy is a small incision and then an extraction. 80-90% success rate. Outpatient.

Prior to setting a date for surgery I told my pain management MD I was worried they’d make me wait until December to slot me in for the procedure. I had to wait two weeks just to see the surgeon. I’m cracking up in a very real way and am genuinely worried. Dr. Pain Mgmt said, kind of sheepishly, “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. You’re a big number for him. You’ll get in right away.” What does that MEAN? I’m a big number? Does that mean I have proper healthcare and the bill will be paid promptly so I’ll get favorable scheduling? If that’s true, then the economically disadvantaged are made to wait (i.e., suffer) longer for treatment. Not Ultra High Net Worth but sill advantaged.

Surgery is Tuesday. That’s Election Day. If the returns are not what I’d hoped, I’m leaving instructions to keep me under for two years.

~~~~~~~~~~

I understand this is repetitive but I’m getting great shots of the Chrysler Building. It’s the time of year when the sun is coming up just as I get to work. As added texture, the Chrysler Building is getting a new neighbor. 1 Vanderbilt.

Think about this for a minute: They dismantled an entire skyscraper, carted away the iron and debris and are building a new skyscraper on its footprint. It’s RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Grand Central Station, one of the densest, busiest pockets of Manhattan. I’ve driven through that neighborhood dozens of times. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to navigate. How are they able to do all that construction? Project Management Superninja skills.

I remember after 9/11 walking up to the remains of the World Trade Center. It was a gigantic mountain of twisted metal. I thought it’d be YEARS until they were able to clear it all out. Not so.

~~~~~~~~~~

Asleep.

Lana Turner portrait.

~~~~~~~~~~

My previous post touched on some concrete barricades that ring my building. They sprung up suddenly. I was told they were in anticipation of the election, which seemed odd, since the election was 2+ weeks away. Several days later, a bomb was sent to CNN, which is just up the street. Election, my ass. They knew something was about to go down.

Blockade

I don’t work for The New York Times but I do work in Times headquarters. It was designed by the charmingly-named Italian architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the Whitney Museum of Art and The Shard in London.

The Times HQ is a high-prolife address. We get protesters out front on a semi-regular basis. Various fringe groups hang banners on the building adjacent to the main entrance demanding The Times pay more attention to their special obsession.

Occasionally, like, for instance, yesterday, an NYPD flatbed semi will roll up 8th Avenue with a load of concrete barriers. The kind that’ll prevent a truck ladened with explosives from driving through the main entrance.

They’ll set up a ring around the perimeter.

It’s a little unnerving to wonder what prompts this. Who are they trying to keep out? Later in the day a company-wide email was circulated stating the barricades were being installed in advance of Election Day. Are they worried about violence and destruction of property after the results are announced? What have we become? A third-world banana republic?

~~~~~~~~~~

I bought a lottery ticket, which is something I never do. It’s humiliating. I fancy myself a sophisticated student of the odds. I like casinos and craps tables. Even slot machines, the bastion of blue-haired old ladies, have more dignity than lotto. Barely.

I took this shot when no one was looking. They don’t like you taking photos inside the casino. They’ll throw you out if they catch you.

What I didn’t realize until later was that I inadvertently caught, in a blur on the left mid-photo, the dice flying through the air. A six and a five. That’s yo-11.

The state lottery is a tax on the desperate. But if you’re going to jack that pot up to $970,000,000 then deal me in. An incomprehensible amount of money. I could finally buy a Rothko!

If I win I’ll get rid of the few friends I have and surround myself with sycophants and boot lickers. I’ll get a girlfriend half my age. Japanese. Barely understands English. Named Yum-Yum.

I hope I don’t win. I couldn’t handle it.

~~~~~~~~~~

I was down at Astor Place in the East Village last week. Long time gone. It was different and the same. I wasn’t bothered by the changes. It’s a waste of time to complain about gentrification. It’s the oldest bitch in the book.

“In twenty years, or thirty at farthest, we shall see here nothing more romantic than shipping, warehouses, and wharves. Every noble cliff will be a pier, and the whole island will be densely desecrated by buildings of brick, with portentous of brown-stone, as the Gothamites have it.”

Edgar Allan Poe in a letter from 1844

I had a shawarma pita at Mamoun’s. Still cheap and good. Saw a play at The Public. Glenn Close plays Joan of Arc’s mother. My two friends loved it, as did the reviewers, but I thought it was simply okay. It was disjointed. The dialogue toggled between contemporary and period language. It was either funny or they were describing how Joan was burned. The cast was strong but the actor playing Joan was a weak link. And if your play is about Joan of Arc, that’s a problem.

I should’ve waiting until after the reviews were out to see it. Then I would’ve known how to react. I’d still take a night of middling theater over a night of epic TV.

~~~~~~~~~~

We are moving to the part of the year when the sun is rising just as I arrive at work. I’m hoping the new construction to the left of the Chrysler Building won’t obstruct my view when it’s completed.

Hallucinate

I’m enjoying my first genuine health crisis. That I made it this far in life without one is my luckiest break. I, literally, haven’t slept through the night since mid-August. I wake up two or three hours after I go to bed with stabbing pains. I move to the floor next to the bed so as not to disturb my bride. I curl up like the family dog and try to go back to sleep. The floor is hard so I’ve set a couple sleeping bags and blankets down and that helps. I usually fall back to sleep around 3:30.

I wake up shortly after that with terrible dreams. In one, the cure to my ailment could be found if I gathered one million gallons of water. I called everyone I know to help me gather water but nobody had the time to pitch-in. Another was a work-nightmare (of course). An excel spreadsheet with indecipherable numbers, endless tabs and an impossible deadline. One morning, the pain was worse than usual. I was scared and dreamt I’d better call someone in case I was dying but there was no one to call. I didn’t know my doctor’s number and knew he wouldn’t pick up at that hour anyway. Who else could help me? Who had the knowledge to alleviate the pain? No one. That’s who.

These other-worldly dreams would be interesting if they weren’t accompanied by the very real pain. I think it might be the meds. None of the pills I take do a damn thing for me but I keep swallowing them anyway. They’re about as effective as eating M&Ms for medicinal purposes.

The fall theater season is underway. I’ve had to eat two previously-purchased play tickets because the thought of sitting for 2+ hours in one of Broadway’s Marquis de Sade seats is unbearable. I couldn’t do it. This Friday I have a ticket to a production starring Glenn Close down at The Public Theater in the village. It’s a tough ticket to get so I’m going to try and suffer through. I can always bail out at the interval.

I used to have remarkable recuperative powers. I can’t imagine what’s happened to compromise them.

~~~~~~~~~~

The Alberto Giacometti exhibit at the Guggenheim surprised me in the bad way. I’m a fan of his work but seeing the rotunda filled with it was numbing.

I’ve always loved seeing one of his slender man pieces at an auction or museum. I love that they sell for tens of millions. That shouldn’t have anything to do with the aesthetics of the piece but it all factors in.

It was too much. Half as many pieces would’ve been fine.

~~~~~~~~~~

I’m genuinely sad to see summer end. I like the longer days, the life in my backyard, the beach. But I won’t miss the overly-air conditioned venues. My office and bus are like meat lockers. My bride keeps the thermostat set to Pluto. Plus, I look forward the the aforementioned theater season. And football.

~~~~~~~~~~