Defying death as your job description

Have you ever been to the circus? There were three adults and four children, ages 8, 8, 5 and 3. Guess who had the most fun? ME. Maybe I’m a cheap audience (which is what I’ve always suspected) but I was in awe. I don’t think the kids get it. Kids are too young for the circus. They don’t realize how difficult these feats are and, more importantly, that the performers could die at any moment. They just assume everything will work out and it does.

The staging is a show-within-a-show. While one set of performers are in the spotlight trying not to die, a crack team of stagehands are setting up the next act where someone might die. There’s no pause in the action. It’s rapid-fire, one performance right after the other.

I felt somewhat vindicated when The New York Times ran a glowing review of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus a few days after we attended. That the circus started in the late 1800’s and is still up and running today is pretty surprising, if you think about it.

The circus doesn’t do “funny” very well—I don’t recall laughing at any of the clown’s antics—but the acts whereby performers put their lives at risk are truly amazing. I was shocked that none of the acrobats hit the ground the wrong way and split their heads open or that two trapeze artists didn’t collide in mid air and break a few limbs.

The tiger tamer didn’t have his face slashed to ribbons by an unpredictable tiger. Remember Siegfried & Roy? It happens!


Three Chinese gymnasts inside a small (small) plexiglas cube. What. The. Fuck. Just imagine the four-way possibilities.


The Bionic Brothers. Astonishing feats of strength and balance. Zero body fat.


The biggest lunatics have to be the family of motocross stunt riders. At one point, all seven ride inside a giant steel sphere, crossing each other’s path. It’s madness. How do you rehearse something like this?


A parade of elephants. Peta distributed some literature on the train pointing out that the circus is guilty of animal cruelty. Trying to spoil our fun. I’ve never seen an organization do more to alienate people from their cause than the dolts at Peta.



Meet me for a drink or two

Not all of Manhattan has been gentrified. Yet. Some of it, especially some stretches of 8th Avenue, are still Original Recipe. For instance, we have this primo establishment on 8th Avenue and 30th Street:


Deno’s Party House and Bikini Bar??!! On a dicey part of 8th Av.? Are you kidding me?! No good could come from that. But admit it. You want to meet me there for a few drinks, don’t you? Any bar with an illuminated sign that includes tilted champagne glasses and balloons is the place for me! Above Deno’s is an aromatherapy supply company. How great is that?

But time has a way of steamrolling over your memories. Does anybody out there remember Billy’s Topless on 24th and 6th Avenue? It’s long gone and is now a bagel shop. It wasn’t so much a strip club as it was a neighborhood bar. Fun fact: When the zoning laws were toughened under Mayor Giuliani to try and rid Manhattan of the sex/strip trade, Billy’s, in an effort to avoid closure by the new puritanism, took the apostrophe from its name and became Billy Stopless and the dancers donned bikinis. It didn’t work.


Billy’s without the apostrophe
I am happy to report that the old man bar around the corner from where Mrs. Wife and I lived on the Lower East Side is still going strong. The Parkside Lounge is located at Houston and Attorney St. (And it’s “house-ton.” Not “hyoo-stun.”) Long live the Parkside.



The buzzards of suburban New Jersey

Driving along on a misty gray early New Jersey morning, down winding roads, over smooth hills and banked turns, the telephone poles blur by. It’s quiet. Nobody is out yet. This bucolic scene is broken by a pair of turkey buzzards having their morning road kill breakfast. Yum-yum. Eat-’em-up.


I spent the remainder of my drive trying to think of a proper metaphor. One never materialized. Perhaps that’s a good thing.

* * *

I got the news that I was awarded a four-week contract for a project that I interviewed for at a financial institution (see below). I wish it were for a longer period of time but the pay is quite good, so I took it. That’s the upside of working for an investment bank. They tend to pay well and have top-notch equipment. Don’t laugh. There’s nothing more depressing than sitting down to do a project only to find that they’ve stuck you with a beat-to-shit computer that’s running Mac OS 6.

Before I can start I need to submit the following:

  • A criminal background check
  • A drug test
  • A set of fingerprints
  • A residential history going back five years
  • An employment history going back 10 years

Keep in mind that this is for a four week contract position. Who do they think they are!? I guess investment banks are tired of being burned by rogue employees and CEOs. They need to be cautious. I could be a brilliant criminal mastermind in sheep’s clothing for all they know. The next Bernie Madoff. Yeah, that’s me.

Job hunting follies

I received a call from Moody’s Investor Service. They wanted to know if I would be interested in interviewing for a position working from 4:00 p.m. to 12:00 midnight.

No, I would not.

Aside from the fact that I would never (NEVER) see the girls, I wouldn’t feel good about working for Moody’s. They had a hand in the economic collapse. They’re the shitheads who rated toxic investments as AAA because it was lucrative for them to do so. I feel less ashamed collecting unemployment than I would being a part of their machine.

* * *

I interviewed at an investment bank this afternoon. I had to meet with three different people. All you do sit there and talk but it’s amazing how draining it is. When I left, I needed a nap. Three interviews just for a lousy 4-week project. It was overkill. Employers can afford to be choosy. But I’ll take it if they’ll have me.

* * *

I’ve mentioned before that I’m going through this transition without the benefit of a college degree on my resume. That I made it at far as I have without one has always been a wonder to me. I talk a pretty good game in the interview room. That’s how I got into bastions of snobbery like JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.

When I was in my 20s, I was reluctant to reveal that I didn’t have a degree. You get judged real fast and rising above a stereotype is a lot of work. It’s probably what motivated me to develop a good rap.

[For the record, while all my friends disappeared into various universities, I spent six years in the Coast Guard, which was a fantastic experience. I had a hand in saving more than a few lives, thank you very much.]

After revealing my secret shame, some people would carry on about how their degree never did them any good and how they ended up working in a field that’s wholly unrelated to their area of expertise. Some even went so far to say that college a waste of their time. I think some of them sensed my unease and were being supportive. Others sincerely felt their degree was meaningless.

I received an email from a headhunter with the “perfect” position for my skill set. (They all say that.) He noted that I left my educational background off my resume. I wrote back that it was not an error and that I am, in fact, self-taught.

Unfortunately, this client has no flexibility at all re educational requirements. Will certainly hold your resume for future opportunities. Sorry!

The next person who tells me they wasted their money going to college (and means it) is going to get a swift, accurate kick in the nuts/ovaries.

Tennessee’s unholy mother from hell

main_img2The Roundabout Theater’s production of The Glass Menagerie is about to open and I dare anyone to say anything negative about Judith Ivey’s performance. I’ve been going back and forth with a friend over the quality of the performances by the actors playing the daughter and son, but we both agree that Ms. Ivey’s Amanda Wingfield was pitch perfect as the ex-Southern Belle smothering shrew of a mother. At the interval I wanted to jump up on stage and strangle her. Isn’t that about as convincing as you can get? Her long (loooong) streams of dialog seemed like natural conversation, as though the words were being spoken for the first time. That’s hard to do.

I thought the performance of the actor playing the son, Tom, (Tennessee Williams’ doppelganger) was labored and unconvincing. It felt like a script reading to me. Mr. D. thought he was fine but that the actor playing the daughter, Laura, played her as someone who was mentally retarded. “The character is supposed to have emotional flaws. Not a learning disability,” he reasoned. I thought she played it from the heart and did a fantastic job. Same show, but different evenings. That could factor into it.

* * *

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of this blog. It has replaced chasing rare books as my hobby of choice (although I still do that, too). Kudos, once again, to Bob, who got me started on this venture without ever realizing it.

Since the very start I have been far too concerned with uncontrollable, idiotic things like stats, traffic and comments. I’ve resolved to be more keenly aware of the quality of the posts and less concerned with whether or not anyone is reading them. What an ego!