Dispatchs from the field

The holiday retail sales numbers are up slightly from last year and the stock market has recovered, but it looks like a full-blown economic recovery is still a long way off. Back in Ohio, the Dunkin’ Donuts employees and the people cleaning the tables and floors at the mall food court all looked like older guys with families to support. These are traditionally entry level, low paying positions that are manned by kids. These guys looked defeated and sullen. Until unemployment reverses itself, they’ll be no recovery.

* * *

I rarely give fashion tips but here’s one that’s money in the bank. Don’t wear a black sweater to indoor glow in the dark miniature golf. The black light will make your dandruff glow and your shoulders will be covered with dozens and dozens of tiny, illuminated blue specs. So embarrassing.

* * *

I taught The Elder Daughter how to pump gas while in Ohio. She did everything from credit card swipe to returning the hose and replacing the cap (righty-tighty). Weird factoid: drivers in New Jersey are NOT PERMITTED to pump their own gas. It’s against the law! The entire state is full serve. Consequently, kids in New Jersey grow up not knowing how to pump gas. It’s a big shock to their systems when they go on their first road trip.

* * *

Best road kill of the long, four hour car ride through the hills and forests of Pennsylvania: A deer leg. Just the leg. I have no idea where the rest of him went. Best road kill of all time: A black bear.

Welcome to Ohio! (Caucasians only, please.)

Living on the East Coast, I tend to forget just how conservative people have become in the middle parts of the country. I’m in the lovely Buckeye State of Ohio for the holiday and some people out here are plenty pissed. This place has gone Red State in my absence. I pulled into the local Dunkin Donuts for a badly-needed coffee infusion and ran into this charming fella:

gop+11 There’s no ambiguity about where his sentiments lie. I think the majestic bald eagle imagery is particularly effective, don’t you? He might have stolen that from Stephen Colbert. F- for originality.

On the other side of his pickup truck was this:


In case you weren’t sure who he’s referring to specifically, that bumper sticker—the one where he calls illegal aliens criminals—those are the colors of the Mexican flag. Got it? Lots of ANGER out here, folks. Lots of anger.

* * *

Only a rank amateur would dive into a Thanksgiving dinner without a proper battle plan. It takes careful preparation that begins a day or two beforehand with limiting the amount of food you eat. You have to get your guts in shape for the big event.

The execution of your strategy on the day of the meal is equally important. I prefer a two-pronged attack. The first wave of attack is always the traditional Thanksgiving food. Your plate is the battlefield.

Once you’ve won that battle and catch your breath, you’re ready for the second wave. Target: the Italian delights.

The Italian portion of the meal is prepared a few days ahead of time. There’s simply not enough time to prepare all that food in one morning. But there’s an added benefit. It’s a scientifically proven truth that if you make homemade marinara sauce, meatballs and neck bones and allow them to sit for a day or two, it actually becomes more flavorful and succulent. It’s a fact!

The danger with that strategy is that having a big bowl of meatballs sitting around the house for two days leaves them vulnerable to early attacks from other armies. You have to draw a line in the sand.

Tonight: Leftover city, bitches.

Hey! Droopy ass! Cheer up!

I’ve been feeling [with apologies to Anthony Burgess] all boo-hoo-hooey recently because I came razor-thin close, but didn’t get, a pretty good position in a big, fat, successful investment bank. I even took it out on the poor, old, feeble Pope in my last post.

I’m about to leave for The Great Buckeye State for the long Thanksgiving holiday and I didn’t want to drag everybody down into my swamp so I took drastic evasive measures to improve my mood. [Note to overseas readers: Thanksgiving = the worst thing that ever happened to Native Americans.]

I like to visit Carnegie Hall two or three times a year. That place is one of the reasons to tolerate the filth, crowds and other sundry horrors that are inherent in New York City living. I sought healing at a piano recital. Evenings like that are a real joy to me in small doses. I always go alone because I don’t know anybody who would tolerate that crap, but I don’t mind one bit. It’s actually cathartic to sit in that cathedral by myself.


I’ll tell you one thing; the audiences at Carnegie Hall sure know how to behave themselves. You don’t hear a chair squeak, a candy wrapper crinkle or, best of all, a cell phone chime during the entire performance. Not like those pigs on Broadway.

A really odd thing happened. The lights dimmed, someone walked out onto stage and announced, “There is a change in the program. The [mumble-mumble] by Bach will not be performed. Instead, the [mumble-mumble] by Handel will be performed. What do you suppose that was all about? He wasn’t channeling Bach that night? I would have liked to hear the conversation in the dressing room. (Head in hands) “I simply kahnt perform that piece tonight.” Artists are so temperamental. The Bach piece is what drew me to the evening in the first place but I, uncharacteristically, got over it right away.

If you close your eyes, and if you can fight off to powerful urge to fall asleep, the music really can transport you somewhere else. Somewhere not inside my head, which is just where I wanted to be. At the end of what was a really moving evening, I stood to leave. The elderly woman sitting next to me was starring off into the air. She suddenly snapped to and said, “Oh! Please forgive me! I was lost in the ecstasy!” They really do talk like that out here, folks.

The Rose Museum is a small room inside Carnegie Hall that contains memorabilia relating to the Hall’s history. There are lots of programs and tickets and news clippings. There’s the golden trowel that Andrew Carnegie used to lay the ceremonial cornerstone in 1890. Did you know that they almost demolished Carnegie Hall in 1962 to make room for a hideous red skyscraper? Probably the same jack-offs who tore down the original Penn Station to build Madison Square Garden

Here’s a program signed by The Beatles on February 12, 1964, just three days after their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. They played two :30 minute concerts that night. Don’t strain yourself, boys.


Take a look at what they did to poor Paul McCartney’s name! Ha!


That Pope is one swell fella

The New York Times reported that the Pope has sanctioned the use of condoms to help stop the spread of AIDS. How about that Pope! What a MODERN GUY. Don’t get him wrong; the Catlick church still condemns condoms (and all other methods of birth control) as SINFUL, but this is a tectonic shift in attitude. Just last year while en route to AIDS-plagued Africa, he said that condom use did not help prevent the spread of AIDS. Only abstinence and fidelity did. Go Pope!

Every time that guy opens his yap I pull further away. 98% of the Catholics I know are Chinese menu Catholics. That is to say, they’ll pick and choose certain dictates to follow but they won’t embrace Vatican laws and regulations as a whole. Even my dear old mother still took communion though as a twice-divorced woman it was against holy doctrine for her to do so.

I think that if every Catlick had to choose between following Vatican dogma to the letter of the law and leaving the church, there would be a stampede to the exits.

I feel kind of guilty picking on the Pope. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

* * *

In my latest column for the UndiePress (Have you read it yet? It’s genius!) I discuss the difference between a signed book, an inscribed book and an association copy. Here’s a perfect example of a great association copy that’s going to be auctioned at Bonhams in New York on December 9th.


FLEMING, IAN. 1908-1964.

The Spy Who Loved Me.
London: Jonathan Cape, [1962].

First edition, signed and inscribed by Fleming to Robert F. Kennedy on the front free endpaper. Provenance: the estate of Paul “Red” Fay [1918-2009], a close family friend of the Kennedy’s and advisor to JFK.

Estimate: $10,000 – 15,000

I get knocked down

While I’ve been gainfully employed all year, it has been as a consultant. The hourly rate is quite generous, but when you factor in the out-of-pocket expense for medical insurance and not getting paid vacation or sick days, it’s not such a great deal. Plus, they can pull the plug on me at any moment.

Early last week, out of the clear blue heavens, within an hour of each other, I received phone calls from two separate headhunters asking if I was still looking for permanent work. Hell, yes, I am. Last Thursday I called in sick (*kak* *kak* I can’t make it in), put on my best suit and went on two interviews. Months of silence and all of a sudden, two in one day.


Here’s the view out of the conference room window of my first interview. That big green patch is Central Park. The offices are on the 57th floor of Rockefeller Center.

Both interviews could not have gone any better. Both are great companies. On Tuesday, company #1 phoned and said that all hirings have been frozen until after the first of the year. Company #2 phoned yesterday and they went with another candidate. I have a colleague who works at Company #2 and he called to say they interviewed “dozens” of people and it was between me and another guy. Cold comfort.

Two years of this shit! I’m sick of it. I’m not interested in a winning lottery ticket. I just want a solid position with benefits. It that so much?

Yesterday, I received this email from one of these stupid, useless job posting sights I registered with:

Afghanistan Jobs – Plumber, HVAC, Carpenter HOT HOT HOT!

Has it come to that?

After the first interview I had some time to kill so I walked across the street to Christie’s. They were in the middle of an auction; Post War and Contemporary Art (morning session). If you ever get a chance to attend one of these I highly recommend it. They’re open to the public and very exciting!

While I was standing there with my resumes, polished dress shoes, portfolio, hopeful intent and mournful look on my face, I watched someone pay $675,000 (est. $300,000 – $500,000) for one of Albers’ Homage to the Square and $480,000 (est. $150,000 – $200,000) for Warhol’s Campbell’s Tomato Juice Box which is, unbelievably, shockingly, a goddamn cardboard box that once held cans of tomato juice. I could support my family for years on $480,000. What happens when you acquire great wealth? Do you take leave of your senses or become mentally incapacitated?

I just got angry all over again while typing this out.