A dark walk home from a long time ago

binWhile rummaging around in the basement, I found a plastic storage box containing my journals from when I first moved to New York City as a young buck [mumble-mumble] years ago. 1,000+ single-spaced type-written pages and a bunch of hand-written books. There’s stuff in there I don’t want My Bride or Daughters to read so I am of a mind to destroy them. But every time I try, I start reading and get sucked in.

Here’s an excerpt. It’s interesting from an historical standpoint, both mine and in regards to the city. We’re both much different people now. I dedicate this post to all the New Yorkers who bitch and moan about gentrification. Forget your misty watercolored memories. This is the way it was.

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March 10, 1993

I saw some horrific things on the way home this evening. If anyone in my family saw even ONE of these, they’d hog tie me, throw me in the trunk and drag my ass back to Ohio.

I got off the F train at Second Avenue and walked east on Houston. I passed Orchard Street and saw two black guys standing uncomfortably near a parked car. I got closer and saw a white guy sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the passenger door. He had a hypodermic needle in one hand and was trying to remove the cap with his other hand. His hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t grip it. How does he expect to inject himself?! Maybe that’s what the two dudes were there for. As I walked by, I heard him tell the black guys, “I’m from Amsterdam, you know.” It was 4:00 in the afternoon in broad daylight! There were people everywhere! I walked on.

I was waiting at the light to cross Essex and I saw a homeless guy on the other side of the street sitting on the ground, completely hidden under a filthy blanket. It was cold and wet out and the blanket looked heavy and damp. I felt awful for him. The light changed and as I crossed the street and got closer, I could see he was shaking. As I walked past him, I looked down at the heap and could tell that the shaking wasn’t from the cold. He was masturbating. In an instant, my sympathy dissolved into disgust.

Then I was waiting for the light to change at Suffolk Street and the guy in the car in front of me was getting a blow job! A girl was in the passenger seat bent over the shift console. The light turned and he drove away with a big stupid grin on his face. Guess what I felt that time? Envy.

The bums were kind of staggering around as usual. I passed the pay phone a half block from Clinton Street and out of the corner of my eye I could see  there was a little kid using it. She was a little girl, about eight or nine years old. She was wearing a dirty pink winter coat that had a hood with a fake fur lining. She had the phone off the hook and was holding it up against the ear of her Barbie doll. In this sea of ugly humanity, this poor child was playing with her doll. She doesn’t stand a chance. She’ll be eaten alive.

Why, in God’s name, did I leave Fort Greene? Brooklyn was great! South Portland is a beautiful street. Even though I was the only white guy on the block I felt, at best, welcomed  and if not that, at least tolerated. I’ll never feel close to the idiots who live in this shithole neighborhood. What was I thinking?

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The modern day irony is that today, that same apartment, those same streets, are well outside my range of affordability. I couldn’t move back there even if I wanted to. Other, less dreary, posts pilfered from my journals can be seen here, here, here and here.

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My semi-annual visits to Cleveland to see my family have taken on a whole new and fabulous dimension since a casino opened in the heart of downtown. They took a once-elegant department store and filled it with liquor and gambling. Huzzah! I took this clandestine photo of the dealer relieving me of $20, simply because there was an unfavorable roll of the dice. What nerve! Good-bye money. Now, that’s entertainment.


Krishna on 2nd Avenue

I’m not a big fan of dance. I don’t get it. I’ve attended numerous performances over the years—everything from traditional ballet to modern—and it all looks like a lot of people with 0% body fat imitating dying poultry. But there’s something about Indian dance that shakes me to my core. I meditate (poorly). Perhaps therein lies the connective tissue.

Legendary Lower East Side performance space La Mama is jam-packed this week with performances from Drive East, the Indian music and dance festival. It’s an intimate black box theater that, while lacking in amenities, is ideal for dissolving the space between performer and audience. The caliber and athleticism of the dancers—Kalanidhi Dance—is extraordinary.

This dance, Alokaye Shri Balakrishnan, tells the story of Krishna, who brings his cows to the river to drink. They all die because the water has been poisoned by the serpent Kaaliya. Krishna hunts the bastard down, taunts him and a fierce battle ensues.

Synergy blends elements of traditional and contemporary dance and music. The video is relatively brief because I accidentally touched the off button. Hold your applause.

The biggest surprise is how percussive the performances are. Being in such a small space, you hear the fleet slapping the stage and the bells on their ankles. It’s exhausting to watch. I had to nap on the way home.


Complementary, not opposing, forces.

Last week while visiting my family in Cleveland, I treated the girlies to two diametrically opposing forms of entertainment. As I’ve stated previously, it’s important to expand their tiny little minds by exposing them to high art, but it’s just as important to keep them grounded by sampling the more visceral forms of fun.

The Cleveland Museum of Art has a kick ass, world class collection. Their special exhibits will also whoop yo’ ass. The museum recently had a major structural revamping. The results are spectacular. Currently on display in the new, humongous, light-filled atrium is Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. Twelve bronze sculptures represent the Chinese zodiac.


I saw this exhibit last year when it was mounted around the fountains outside the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan and am happy to make their acquaintance again. They’re playful and a little bit nightmarish. The detail is extraordinary.


Do you know your Chinese zodiac symbol? I’m a bore. Oh…excuse me…I mean a boar. Daughter the First is a snake.

art3Currently on a five-year loan is Damien Hirst’s Bringing Forth the Fruits of Righteousness from Darkness. These beautiful cathedral windows are made of…wait for it…

art4Butterfly wings. For real. He bred the butterflies specifically for these works. A lot of people think Hirst is a joke and I agree, he can irritate. His Spot paintings are idiotic. But I also think this guy can really turn out a spectacle. I still think his great white shark in formaldehyde was a scream.


My bride explaining to Daughter #2 that Degas was laughed at for painting dancers tying their shoes instead of dancing.

art6Here’s another special exhibit to die for. Damián Ortega’s The Blast and Other Embers. It’s a suspended sculpture of found objects and tools. Every object emanates from the center outward. Its shape looks globular from a few paces back. Beautiful.

art7They only allow ten people at a time into the “glass box” space. Any more would spoil the effect. The sculpture has an opening in the center that allows you to walk through it.


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A few evenings later, I dragged their now-cultured asses to the premier event of the Cuyahoga County Fair: the demolition derby. Do you guys know what a demolition derby is? Have you ever been to one?


For the uninitiated, some wildly spray-painted, beat-up cars with their windows knocked out drive into a ring and then repeatedly smash into one another until only one is still running. It’s awesome. There are a half dozen races, all segmented by car size, my favorite being suburban minivans. Here’s a clip of the compact car division.

If you’re having a hard time viewing the video, it’s a lot of this:


Of course, something went horribly wrong.

The girlies were actually pretty freaked out about the fire. At the :16 second mark Daughter #1 says:

“Daddy! I want to leave now!”

“It’s okay.”

“No it’s not! It’s going to blow up!”

“No, it won’t.”

Then, of course, a giant flare-up at :27 seconds. Probably the gas tank.

Again, for those without video:demo3

My brother, brother-in-law, and I, along with the rest of the toothless clods in the grandstand, couldn’t stop laughing. Fathers of the year. It probably wouldn’t have been quite so funny if one of the drivers had crawled out of the wreckage engulfed in flames.

Generation Landslide

The summer intern season is winding down and it has left me melancholy, as usual. Only the best, brightest and well-connected are granted internships at the investment banks in Manhattan. They’re the fortunate sons and daughters of well-heeled parents. Many of them, through no fault of their own, are blissfully unaware that they were found under a golden cabbage leaf. This is not to imply they’re lazy. They are not. They’re hard working and dedicated. In order to land an internship, they have to prove their mettle. But since they’re selected from the best schools, that’s a foregone conclusion.

Because I work in an open-architecture environment, I am privy to their phone conversations and chats with fellow interns. Academia and success is all they’ve ever known. They’re too young to have lost a job or suffer a serious setback. It sounds like many of them haven’t even enjoyed a proper heartbreak yet. An intern assigned to our group is an NYU student (tuition is +/- $60,000/year). He spends his weekends in the Hamptons summer rental his father arranged for him—a reward for landing the internship. He’s not boastful or smug about it. He’s a good-looking kid (kid!) and seems to have an endless parade of pretty young things with flat stomachs visiting his desk trying to curry his favor.

The yellow brick road is stretched out before him. I’ve carved out a pretty decent life with the tools that were available, but the types of opportunities they take for granted are unimaginable to me. My future no longer carries an air of mystery or boundless possibility. They make me feel old and lacking in accomplishment.

He hath a certain beauty in his life
That makes mine ugly.

Wm. Shakespeare

Spent some time feeling inferior
Standing in front of my mirror

Every Picture Tells a Story
Rod Stewart

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I’ll tell you one thing I don’t envy—their pathetic addiction to mobile phones. It’s the adult version of a sippy cup. While visiting the county fair in Ohio last week, I was watching The Daughters on the bumper cars. A kid was reading text messages while in the middle of his bumper car ride. Sounds ridiculous but here’s photographic proof:


He can’t disengage from his phone long enough to enjoy a proper bashing on the bumper cars. Do you know what’s even sadder? ANOTHER kid on the SAME ride who placed a phone call while driving the car!


They’ve always said that cell phones and driving are a hazardous mix but I suppose it’s irrelevant here. Last Sunday, my bride was in a minor fender bender. She was waiting for the light to change and in her rear view mirror, she saw the car behind her slowly creeping up. Its driver, a young girl, was yapping away on her phone. Bump. They got out of the car and she denied being on the phone. My bride gave her the old “don’t lie to me” and she immediately buckled and admitted fault. She got her driver’s license on Friday. It took her less than 48 hours to get in an accident because she was on the phone.

* * *

A boy und his mutt. Voof.


Step into the light. All are welcome!

I’ve heard architect snobs snidly refer to the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum as a parking ramp. It features a floor that gradually winds up six stories. Exhibits are mounted along the length of the walk (in the case below, a Kandinsky retrospective).


The same idiots who call the rotunda a parking ramp have referred to the exterior as a giant toilet bowl. I think the building is beautiful, inside and out.


James Turrell uses the rotunda as his canvas. He has worked since the late 1960’s with light as his primary medium. His installation, Aten Reign, is a brilliant example of how environmental art can envelope you. A white fabric scrim was installed in the rotunda and colored lights are projected onto it. Viewers are seated on the ground floor in seats that are angled up towards the rotunda, or they lay down on a huge futon in the center of the room.


One of its designers describes the work as a stack of five giant lampshades as seen from the inside.


The colors slowly move across the spectrum, the full cycle taking about 60 minutes. Each level is a different hue of the base color.


Lying down and starring into the slowly changing light is a meditative experience. The ground floor and visitors fade away. You’re pulled into the work and lose your sense of time and place.


None of these photos have been retouched in any way. It really does look this bizarre.


There are four other light pieces by Turrell in this exhibit, which I will post photos of later. They’re interesting, but they don’t have the breadth or impact of this main showcase piece. How could they?


There’s no limit to the amount of time you can spend in the rotunda. People wait patiently for a spot to open and when someone finally gets up to leave, they pounce. The exhibit is a huge hit, as you can imagine. If you’re a museum member, you can attend private “quiet hour” sessions after the museum closes. If you’ve always been curious about psilocybin mushrooms, this might be a good place to experiment.


I am highly susceptible to this sort of spectacle. I willingly give myself over to the artist’s vision. It took several minutes but I lost myself in the piece/peace. I forgot my troubles and floated up into the slowly-changing colors. To enhance the experience, I did what anyone who grew up in my generation would do:


Peek-a-boo, bitches. The exhibit runs through September 25th. Come to town and I’ll get you in for free. Don’t ask me how I can do it. Just be glad I can do it.