8 From Limerick

My pal, Mapstew, threw these questions over the pond some time ago but life got in the way and I haven’t had an opportunity to answer them until just now. Sorry for the delay, sir.

1. Why did you start blogging?

For the money. And the chicks.

2. If you could travel anywhere in the world, with no restrictions on cost, where would it be, and why?

My gut answer was London because I love that town. But Mrs. Wife and I could use a friggin’ break so I’m going to say one of the Caribbean islands. Have you ever been down there? It’s other-worldly. The color palate is like nothing you’ve ever seen before in nature.

3. Did you have a teacher in school that had a great influence on your life? If so, what?

No. Not one. I floated through high school like a wisp of steam. That was the extent of my formal education. There was a Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard named Kent Mathews who was the only person who ever showed what can be considered a fatherly interest in me. Not even my own Da could be bothered.

4. If you could spend the day with a famous person, who would it be, and what would you do?

I’d like to go to Central Park on a balmy summer afternoon and sit on one of the big rocks by the 59th Street entrance and have a chat with Jesus Christ. I’d ask him, “Are you really the son of God?” I’d ask if he really did rise from the dead and if so, why didn’t he show himself to the masses? It would have made things a hell of a lot easier for a lot of people. Then I’d ask him to perform one miracle; get someone to pay me to write so I can stop this goddamn daily commuting. Oops. Sorry, JC.

5. Toilet paperover or under?

Over. And, yes, it matters to me. So much so that I change it when it’s under.

6. Name one thing in your life that you would do over if possible.

I think I’d relive the six years I spent in the Coast Guard. It was, pound-for-pound, the most satisfying job I‘ve ever had. It was a blast! I couldn’t believe they were paying me! I was on a search and rescue team for a bit and had a hand in saving some lives. More than once! You can’t imagine the god-like feeling you get when you pull someone out of the ocean who would have died if you hadn‘t showed up. The look of gratitude on their face can’t be described.

7. Tell us about your pets, if any.

We have a fish named Dennis. Mrs. Wife and I pray nightly for his longevity because The Daughters have gotten it into their heads that once Dennis dies, we’re getting a cat. I think they want to work their way up the evolutionary ladder.

8. Do you live in a small town or a large town?

C’mon. Are you kidding? I’m in THE large town.

* * *

If Oprah Winfrey married Deepak Chopra, she’d be Oprah Chopra.



Have you ever noticed that after you’ve survived a bit of a crisis, food tastes better, colors are more vibrant and the air is more fragrant?

After a recent bout of unpleasantness, I blew off some steam on Friday night at the very masculine Hudson Bar and Books. It’s a scotch/cigar bar in the West Village. The wood is dark, the top of the bar is gold tin and the books are stained with cigar smoke. There’s always a James Bond movie playing on the TV in the corner. [This evening’s selection: Dr. No. Dynamite fashions. Ursula Andress emerges from the Caribbean. ]

If you fight and hang in there long enough, eventually you’ll get a bit of a repose and, if you’re lucky, someone will bring you a nice tumbler of 15-year old Balvenie on a silver tray with a little ice on the side. This is the moment you exhale and realize that the world has not, as expected, collapsed. And take it from me, pallies, the second round goes down even smoother.


My friend just returned from Spain and smuggled a few illegal Cuban cigars into the country. [The U.S. still has a trade embargo with Cuba, believe it or not.] I’m not a big cigar smoker—a few a year perhaps—but smoking a COHIBA from Habana felt dangerous and fit in with the evening theme of unwinding. The smoke was kind of harsh and my voice was several octaves deeper the next morning.


Afterwards, I took my somewhat tipsy ass for a walk. I walked from Hudson and Horatio, up 8th Avenue, all the way to Port Authority to catch my transport back to New Jersey—a distance of about 42 blocks. It was a glorious night. Just a tinge cool. Everyone was out and about. New York did what it always does for me—provided its own rolling sideshow. The big parade of humanity. When I got to 8th and 14th, I plugged my iPod in and listened to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. I know that’s kind of square but it worked so well that I listened to it twice.

I passed young couples who were arguing in the middle of the sidewalk right next to couples on first dates who clearly wanted to dispense with the formalities and get to main event. I walked over subway sidewalk grates that blew hot air up at me as A trains whizzed passed underneath. I’ve always heard that you shouldn’t walk on a subway grate because it could collapse under your weight. Not only has it never happened to me in 20+ years, I’ve never seen it happen to anyone else.

Is everyone aware that Manhattan is having a bedbug problem? It’s true! They’re everywhere. There are special trained beagles who can sniff out the little devils. Bed bug beagles! What a smart business opportunity.


I passed the Tello steakhouse on 8th and 20th Street. Its clever neon sign out front has a blinking “M” that implores you to “EAT” “MEAT.”


At 27th Street I passed a man in a wheelchair walking his three-legged dog. He (the dog) was missing his right front leg. Two tough sons-of-bitches.


At the other end of my trip home were two beautiful daughters safely snug in their beds and a wife who, once again, didn’t bail out on me when things went sour for a while. Between the three of them and New York City, I can’t see that I have much to complain about.

An Elephant Stepped on my Guitar

That’s my all-time favorite metaphor for something really bad happened. An elephant stepped on my guitar. Isn’t that just beautifully descriptive? Well, an elephant stepped on my guitar and it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill-I-dropped-my-phone-in-the-pool-again thing. I didn’t feel much like writing. Or reading blogs. Or sleeping. Or eating.

But in the midst of the strum und drang, a couple of really nice things happened. First, I received a few “are you okay?” emails from some of you. Others posted a “where the fuck are you” comment. (Not those exact words, perhaps, but that’s the spirit of the messages.) Thank you all for your concern. It’s meaningful to me and I’ll never forget it.

Here’s another really nice thing that happened to me over the last two weeks while the walls were on fire. Last June, I was contacted by the editor of an online literary publication in Chicago. He is a regular reader here. His site has been around for a few years and it was due for a retooling. As part of the relaunch, he asked me if I was interested in writing a monthly column on rare books. First I said yes and then I went through the “I’m not smart enough, good enough, etc., etc.” guilt trip that I usually lay on myself. Then I grew some hair on my sack, sat down and banged out a column. It was easy! The damn thing practically wrote itself! The site just relaunched. It’s the world famous Undie Press and my column is called Books You Cannot Read.

I’m from Ohio. We frown on any type of self-congratulatory behavior. We consider it undignified and déclassé. We believe in modesty. But I’m going to go out on a dangerous limb and say that I’m really pleased with my first attempt. I invite to you hop over and have a look. It’s a quick read and it’s a pretty good show, if you don’t mind my saying so. Plus, you’ll get to see my real name. How‘s that for incentive, bitches? No stalking, please.

I’m WAY behind on my theater posts. The season is well underway. Thank you all, again. I wish I could find the right words.

The Bar That Time Forgot

I’ve written about this dump before. When I visit my family in Cleveland, I always make a point to stop in for a few beers at The Suburban Inn on Bagley Road. It’s a cinder block building in a parking lot right next to a Shell gas station. “Bar” is too nice a name for it. “Bar” implies warmth and hospitality. Like on Cheers. If you’re in an establishment that only serves the kind of vodka that will give you a pounding headache and the floor is sticky and the air smells like stale beer, what would you call that? Purgatory? I like it.

When you open the door you’re hit with a massive billow of cigarette smoke—it’s like walking into a gas chamber—and a warning. The State of Ohio has outlawed smoking in bars but the proprietors of the Suburban Inn don’t give a damn what the State of Ohio says. A hand lettered sign cautions:

The Suburban Inn neither condones nor encourages smoking in this bar. It is your decision. You may be cited and fined by the State of Ohio.


I always thought the sign was a joke amongst the employees. The Law couldn’t possibly give a shit about a dive like The Suburban Inn? Could they? On the contrary. I read in an Ohio newspaper that the The Suburban Inn has amassed a whopping $49,000 in fines for smoking violations that they steadfastly refuse to pay. The most in Ohio! You go girl!

The law doesn’t know the half of it. Do you guys know what these are? They’re called pull tabs. This is the front.

This is the back, with tabs opened.
It’s (brace yourself) gambling. The Suburban Inn keeps a big plastic jug full of these things under the bar. They cost $1 each. You rip the three tabs open and you might win a little money. Take it from me, you usually don’t. Gambling is illegal in Ohio; even more illegal than smoking in a bar. They’d REALLY be fucked if they were caught with these things. When you lose, you put it on the bar and they’re swept up almost immediately. They don’t want the bar littered with pull tabs in case The Man walks in. There’s a special garbage pail they’re thrown into that’s emptied quite frequently.

Good thing The Man doesn’t read my blog, eh?