On Drinking (not a sermon)

I had a half-finished post about an unexpected evening of drunkenness, noteworthy because of its rarity. I’m a lousy drinker. Alcohol has an almost poisonous effect on me. Then I read a post from a guy who just celebrated his third year of sobriety. I meditated on the dichotomy between these two conditions.

I met a friend for an after-work drink at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse on Park Avenue. I drank two tumblers of Maker’s Mark on the rocks. When I left I was numb from the waist down and couldn’t feel my feet touch the sidewalk. It was just two lousy drinks but liquor has never been my friend. Girls I dated always drank me under the table. When you’ve got a hot date, all you want to hear is an alcohol-fueled “take me” whispered in your ear. More often than not, what I heard was an incredulous, “Are you drunk already?!” So embarrassing!

I left the restaurant and had to take a bus back to New Jersey. I somehow made it to Port Authority and spent the next 1:15 in armageddon. My guts were twisted in a tight knot. I have a sheath for my umbrella so that if it’s wet, the contents of my travel bag stay dry. I held it in my hand the entire ride home to catch my sick (which, thankfully, never happened). I plugged in my ear buds, closed my eyes and listened to Vaughn Williams’ The Lark Ascending over and over to try and calm down. When I got home I collapsed on the futon in our home office. Awful.

I laid there in a fetal position praying for death’s merciful kiss and wondered how in the world anyone could possibly become addicted to alcohol. As it is, I’m ruined for Maker’s Mark. I’ll probably throw-up if I ever smell it again. I can only surmise that there’s a chemical reaction that occurs when you drink and that that reaction isn’t the same for everyone. I’m thankful that I have been afflicted with the lesser of two evils.

There’s a pretty good chance that my digestive system was torn asunder by this:


Do you know what that is? It’s BACON, bitches! For real. I ordered it off the appetizer menu while sitting at the bar. A gigantic, half inch thick, $5 slice of bacon. Sweet Mother of Baby Jesus it was scrumptious! But I wouldn’t recommend washing it down with a glass (x2) of Maker’s Mark. See that knife? Anytime a waiter puts a knife like that in front of you, you can rest assured that something great is about to happen.

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I wasn’t so inebriated that I couldn’t stop and appreciate a decent Empire State Building/ 34th Street sunset. I was dazzled but I think it might have been the drink.


Big Stink Down in the Subway

Who doesn’t enjoy a rousing No Good Deed Goes Unpunished story? I find them irresistible.

With all good intentions, the city launched a print ad campaign in the subways targeting teens. The ads warn about the hazards of an unplanned pregnancy. The tone of the campaign is a bit harsh and it caused an immediate backlash. The ads feature weeping children hectoring their moms about how miserable their lives are going to be because they had them as a teen.

The mayor’s office said the intention was to send a strong message that teen pregnancy has negative, life-altering consequences. It sure does! Planned Parenthood was furious. They released a statement saying the ads stigmatize teenage parents and their children and reinforced negative stereotypes about teen moms.


(I’ll vouch for the statement above. It’s a fact!) This one is my absolute favorite. Imagine you’re a pregnant teen and just want to take the R train to 34th Street. You board, someone gives you their seat because of your delicate condition, you look up and see this:


 That’s right, girl. He gonna dump yo pregnant ass. And teen dads aren’t spared either, although I’m pretty sure a 17-year old boy with raging hormones is wholly unaffected by this threat.


Further, Planned Parenthood said, “It’s not teen pregnancies that cause poverty, but poverty that causes teen pregnancy.” I’m not so sure I agree with that. The area of Cleveland I grew up in wasn’t poverty stricken by any means, but it certainly wasn’t a wealthy community and teen pregnancy wasn’t a problem. Is it an economic issue or is it a lifestyle/cultural issue? Dare to speak what’s on your mind.

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Bonus pic from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here’s Constantin Brancusi’s beautiful marble sculpture Bird in Space from 1923. It’s framed by two Max Beckman paintings in the background. I’ve developed a real affinity for the German Expressionists. Ernst Kirchner did some pretty interesting things.


The Tale of the Ugly American

Each summer, The Metropolitan Museum of Art sponsors a site-specific instillation on their roof. Most of them have been pretty satisfying affairs. The best of the lot was Doug + Mike Stern’s Big Bambú in 2010. Roxy Paine’s Maelstrom in 2009 worked for me, as well.

I read the description of The Roof Garden Commission: Imran Qureshi, this year’s installation, and my enthusiasm was dampened. I am not a fan of political art. The collision of politics and art rarely works for me. The political message almost always sucks the life out of whatever artistic merit a piece might have. I usually end up feeling harangued.

This year, Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi’s work is said to be an emotional response to the violence in Lahore, where he lives. He’s painted a landscape across the stone floor. The images of red foliage is meant to reflect Central Park. Using red acrylics, detailed, delicate leaves were painstakingly, drawn across a huge span of the floor.

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But when you pull back, what you see is the foliage dissolving into splatters of blood.


What I suddenly realized is that for many people, this degree of horrific violence is an everyday occurrence. I found myself unexpectedly overwhelmed and quite moved. My preconceived notions about pedantic political art, not to mention my lamentations about my daily commute, were turned to dust.


After I left the museum I was pretty rattled. If you have an ounce of compassion for innocents who suffer, you can’t help but to be moved. I was wondering how the piece is being received by the media so while riding the 5th Avenue bus downtown, I looked up the review in the New York Times. Mid-column I read this:

“A curious, illustrative thing happened on the day of my visit to the Met. Across the terrace I saw a large man lying face down on the stained floor pretending to be a bombing victim as his wife and several children laughed and took pictures. Then the kids piled on top of him in a heap of chortling bodies.

I was chatting with Sheena Wagstaff, the Met’s chief curator of modern and contemporary art and the exhibition’s organizer, and we were dumbfounded. Ms. Wagstaff went over to ask the man what he was thinking. She reported back that he said, ‘A sick sense of humor runs in the family.'”

I raged as I re-read these paragraphs over and over again. I’m basically a pencil pusher. I’ve had exactly ONE fight my entire life ONE! I was in sixth grade. I’m so complaisant and prone to run from a fight that sometimes I worry that I have low testosterone. But I kept thinking that if I had see this unfold in front of me I’d have snapped and kicked him right in his sick sense of humor. In front of his family. Then I realized that this piece was inspired by witnessing acts of violence! Are we all monsters inside?

This, my daughters, is how to bet the exacta

I was bored and when I get bored I look for something to do. My idle mind tends to gravitate towards mischief, so instead of conducting unhealthy Google searches I decided to tweak my blog. It’s not dramatically different, really. I’ve always loved the banner so I kept that. I changed the name to this somewhat Bukowski-esque title. Compared to the previous title this is a bit shorter, a better play on words and it rolls off the tongue more easily. Do I need to explain that this is a witty sarcasm? That I’m not really exiled or in pain? (Well…not much.) In the past, I was told that The Unbearable Banishment was an insult to my bride. Further, I was asked that if life is so unbearable, why didn’t I just leave? It’s just a joke, brothers and sisters. Not a cry for help.

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I took the girlies to the horse track and showed them how to bet the ponies. Not the complicated data dump that constitutes real wagering. Just the basics. This is a dangerous game to play. The only attention I ever got from my father—and I mean ever—was on Thursdays during football season when he’d let me fill out a betting chit. It doesn’t take a Freudian scholar to figure out where my love of gambling and casinos was born. That’s something I DON’T want the daughters to inherit so I’m careful.

Horse racing is a dying sport, but it’s still a pretty big deal in New Jersey. You wouldn’t think so, but NJ is horse country. The area where I live is dotted with pretty horse farms. This was by no means our first visit to the track. The track is excellent! It’s not a total dive, but it’s still a bit seedy around the edges. It’s mangy enough to be interesting, but not so much that it’s dangerous or scary. If you look around, you can still find some sharps right out of a Damon Runyon novel.

I taught The Daughters how to read the Racing Form. Just look at that logo. A classic design.


Kids will place a wager based on the jockey’s silk color or the name of the horse. You’d be surprised how far that’ll get you. My father-in-law and I pour over stats—track condition, jockey weight, previous running times, opponents, etc.,—and more often than not throwing a dart at the page is just as effective.

The worst thing that could happen happened. 11-Year Old Daughter won $33 on a $6 across-the-board bet. She bet the number three horse because she’s third in her class. Now she thinks she’s got it all figured out. Very dangerous.


We’ve spent the last few weekends on the boardwalks pumping badly-needed capital into the local storm-damaged communities. Restore the Shore! Hurricane Sandy fucked this place up pretty good but it’s amazing how much progress they’ve made. Some of the amusement park rides are still out of commission but pretty much everything else is up and running.

Daughter and friend stroll through the Jersey scene. I’m glad they’re going to spend their youth near a beach community. What great memories! I grew up near Lake Erie. Why do you think they call it eerie?


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Scary quotes du jour

“You can have privacy or you can have the Internet, but you can’t have both.”

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat on the recently revealed government surveillance programs.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment.”

George Orwell

Human Nature Part II: Nightfall

I walked out of the Laura Pels Theater onto 47th St. It was dark out.

[I had just seen the clunkily titled The Unavoidable Disappearance of Tom Durnin. Primo character actor David Morse is a white collar criminal home from prison to terrorize his family. A compelling story with some forced dialog and a few strained scenes. Morse, terrifying as always. Do you remember him from The Green Mile and The Hurt Locker?]

I crossed 6th Avenue to Rockefeller Center to see what Ugo Rondinone’s Human Nature looks like at night. It was a satisfying enough work during the day. I thought the inky sky and floodlights might cast some interesting shadows. As I suspected, the work is much more nuanced and spooky in the dark. Isn’t everything?

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This guy looks like he’s going shopping at that J. Crew for some overpriced socks.
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The compulsion is to walk up and touch them. I’ve seen people stroke and even hug them.

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The lights spill onto the plaza and give the sculptures more texture and depth.

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A friend sneaks a shot of your humble author hard at work. Waiting for the pedestrians to clear my viewfinder

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Have any of you had Lasik surgery performed on your eyes? Any regrets? Long-term negative side effects? How horrific an experience was it? The procedure looks like medieval torture but I’m so fed up with wearing glasses that I’m considering it. The operation can’t be any worse than having my forehead cut open for basal cell carcinoma surgery and I survived that. Barely.