Chinatown, My Chinatown

I met J after work. She and I went down to Chinatown for dinner. The food is cheap and the show is free. I met her at Rockefeller Center where she works. I got there early so I could wander around inside and look at the murals. They’re nice. I use to work at Rockefeller Center. That place is an art deco masterpiece, but the cheap bastards at Benevolent Dictators, Inc. didn’t want to spend so much for rent so we moved to a dull nondescript cracker box on 5th Avenue. I miss it, that’s for sure.

I haven’t been in Chinatown for a very long time and I’m happy to report that the economic boom that changed the character of even the most unlikely neighborhoods, like the Lower East Side, didn’t touch Chinatown. It is much the same as I ever remember it being.

We got off the beaten path (meaning Mott St.) and ate at a primo Vietnamese restaurant on Doyers St. Doyers St. is a dark, narrow alley with a bend in it. It looks like a movie set. The restaurant is located across the street from the Toy Apple Beauty Barber Saloon (sic). I gorged myself on fried spring rolls, spring rolls with shrimp and crab meat, chicken satay and some of J’s pork with glass noodles and mint leaves. We each had a bottle of Tsingtao and she had an iced pressed coffee with condensed milk. It was all delicious and the bill was $35.16. Not each. Total. You can’t beat it.

J is also in exile from the city and misses it as much as I do. We like to imagine the city in a flattering light that has no basis in reality. It’s easy to romanticize a place and time and forget the day-to-day grind of it all. After dinner we walked up Mott, over to and up Mulberry, across Broome through Soho to Varick and took the number 1 at Varick and King. We sat on a bench in front of Balthazar in Soho and I showed her my cell phone videos of daughters No. 1 and 2 dancing in my living room. After that, we got out my cell phone jammer and ended the phone calls of passers by who we thought might be assholes. We’re pretty good at sizing people up just based on the way they look. Eurotrash was an automatic ding and, this being Soho in front of Balthazar, there were plenty of them. I ended the call of a girl who looked like she might be having some serious problems and J yelled at me. I get carried away with that thing sometimes.

I got a late train home. Penn Station at that hour makes me sick. I went into the men’s room and saw one bum clearing his nose into the sink and another bum right next to him rinsing off a baloney sandwich. It was depressing. I know “bum” is a derogatory term, but it feels appropriate.

Lust for Carnival Cruise Lines

I just saw another TV spot for Carnival Cruse Lines that uses “Lust for Life” by Iggy Pop as its music/theme. The ad is a series of quick edits that depict Mom and Dad and Sis and Bud having a swell family vacation on a big boat filled with white people. I wonder who at Carnival or their ad agency felt that “Lust for Life” would be an appropriate soundtrack for this happy scene? Let’s look at a sampling of lyrics from Iggy’s catchy tune, shall we?

Here comes Johnny Yen again
With his liquor and drugs
And his flesh machine
He’s gonna do another strip tease

Hey man, where’d ya get that lotion?
Your skin starts itching once you buy the gimmick
Well, that’s like hypnotizing chickens.

Well, I’m just a modern guy
Of course, I’ve had it in my ear before

I’m worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Yeah, I’m through with sleeping on the sidewalk
No more beating my brains
With liquor and drugs

Of course! What wholesome family vacation doesn’t include alcoholism, drug addiction and sexual deviancy? Let’s create a fond family memory that we’ll NEVER forget! Next port of call: psychotherapy. I’ve got a lust for life!

Speed-The-Cast

I just read that Jeremy Piven is doing the lead in a revival of David Mamet’s “Speed-The-Plow” in October. To borrow Mr. Mamet’s syntax; I cannot fucking WAIT! This is a casting stroke of genius. Ari Gold is the bastard evil spawn of Bobby Gould. I saw the original Broadway production in 1988. At that time, I remember that it was fashionable—particularly in the New York media—to pile on Madonna. The consensus was that the role was just too much for her meager acting skills. I tend to view such universal condemnation by the New York theater Nazis with deep suspicion. It usually spews forth from a group of people who could never actually do the thing that they are criticizing, but do you know what? In this case they were right on the money. She stunk! Currently, Kevin Spacy is doing Mamet’s American Buffalo in London. What I wouldn’t give for a reasonably priced round trip ticket to the UK.

* * *

Last night when I walked in the house, 2-year old daughter ran up, wrapped her arms around my leg, looked up at me and gave me a glad-to-see-you look that broke my stupid heart. What am I going to do when she starts to make unreasonable demands? I’m as doomed as doomed could be.

The Thee-a-tah

I saw a show last night at The Public Theater. “How Theater Failed America.” It’s a monologue by Mike Daisey. I liked it a lot but I wouldn’t recommend it to too many people. The scope of the subject matter is very narrow. He tells some pretty compelling stories about how acting and the performing arts saved his depressed, suicidal ass, but the core of the show was about how regional theater in America is deteriorating. Repertory companies are becoming extinct. They are an economic impossibility. You’d enjoy the show if you were an actor, and you’d REALLY enjoy it if you were an actor in a repertory company. (Actually, I’m neither, and I enjoyed it very much. I don’t know what I’m saying half the time. It’s a fact!)

I have a tremendous amount of respect for monologists and, believe it or not, stand up comedians. It’s hard enough to walk out on a stage armed with a script and surrounded by your fellow actors. Imagine the terror of standing alone on a stage with only your words to save you. It’s a crazy notion and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to do it.

I love The Public. It’s a beautiful building in my favorite neighborhood. Plus, they take risks. I’ve see some terrible theater there. Last month, CB and I saw a play by noted British playwright Caryl Chruchill that was so dull, a man in the first row fell asleep and started to snore. The entire show was a measly :45 minutes long but he couldn’t tough it out like the rest of us. He started to snore about :30 minutes in. It was one of the smaller theaters in The Public and since he was in the first row, the stage was only about 15 feet in front of him. Imagine that! Trying to remember your lines with a patron of the arts fast asleep and snoring right in your face! Finally, someone in the second row showed some mercy (for the actors), leaned forward and gave him a good, hard poke in the back of his head.

One evening, many years ago, I was waiting outside The Public for a habitually late friend and a pretty girl walked up to me, took a sandwich out of her purse, asked me if I was hungry and offered it to me. I’m not kidding! This really happened! And I didn’t look homeless. The sandwich was wrapped in a baggie. It wasn’t from a deli—she made it at home. I politely declined the sandwich, but she and I became good friends. Only in New York, folks! Mrs. Wife and I had our first date at The Public. We saw…a monologue, of course! The Public has been very good to me, although not in the way that Joseph Papp intended.

A Great Man, A Great Poem

This is probably against every copywrite law known to man, but I was glancing through some Bukowski poems today and wanted to post this one. It’s so funny, and so good and so true. That guy really knew how to nail it down.

a consistent sort

at the track
the other day
during the
stretch run
the announcer screamed:
“HERE COMES PAIN!”

I had a bet on
Pain and
he finished
2nd,
one half-length
short.

he didn’t win
that time
but he will
win soon
and you can
bet on that
again and
again and
again.

get down
heavy