Of CBGB’s and the way-back machine

journalsA while back, I unearthed a plastic bin filled with journals I kept when I first moved to New York as a confounded young boy. Thousands of hand-written and typed pages. I had forgotten about them and their reappearance knocked me on my ass. Looking back, it’s astonishing how naïve I was in the ways of love and life. But I suppose that’s a claim we can all make.

Occasionally, I’ll arbitrarily pick a book, crack it open, and post what’s within. It’s surprising how entertaining the seemingly mundane can be. Well…entertaining to ME, anyway. Admittedly, I have a bias. Caveat: I offer these unedited and make no excuses or offer any apologies for the offensive material and coarse language. I wasn’t a fully-formed human being yet and it shows.

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August 23, 1992

I’m miserable, bored, lonely and tired of all the rejection. I’m sick of not having any friends. Sometimes, I stare into the mirror for a long time to see if I can see what’s wrong with me. Fuck this town. But moving isn’t the answer, either. I’m better off bored and lonely here than bored and lonely someplace else.

Last Wednesday I walked over to CBGB’s because both Austin and Cindy’s bands were playing on the same night. How convenient is that? I hate walking into that place alone. There’s Cindy’s band clique and there’s Austin’s band clique and I don’t feel particularly welcome by either one, so I sat at the bar alone. I think they all think I’m creepy. And sitting at the bar drinking alone exacerbates my creepiness. I looked like the house leper. I ended up staring at Hilly Kristal all evening and if there’s anyone in that joint who’s creepy it’s THAT GUY, not me. Cindy said he’s a cheap bastard who doesn’t pay the bands, even though he charges a cover. He considers it a privilege to play there. Fuck, Hilly, it might have been a privilege in 1979, but it ain’t no more. Pay the fucking bands, man.

[Note: CBGB closed in 2006. The site is now a John Varvatos boutique, which makes me deeply sad.]

At least Cindy and Austin were happy to see me. Cindy’s kind of ordinary looking, but when she’s on stage playing her bass I want to rip her clothes off and ravage that flat chest of hers. Girls who play bass are HOT. Today, we rode our bikes to the park and sat in the grass. It was nice out and even though she didn’t get back from a gig until early this morning and looked like a corpse, I tried to kiss her anyway. She started to but pushed me off and said to stop because I have a girlfriend, meaning Bonnie, which isn’t really true. We rode to an outdoor cafe and had a couple bottles of beer, which I paid for.

We rode back to Cindy’s apartment and there was a big Puerto Rican street festival in front of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Her bedroom window was right above the stage so we had a perfect view of the bands and beautiful Latina dancers. There was a huge 12-piece orchestra with a big horn section. We sat on her fire escape and drank beers (which, again, I paid for). Even though I made a failed pass as her, there was no tension between us, which can sometimes happen. We enjoy each others company. I was drunk when I left and let me tell you something, riding a bike down Church Street into oncoming traffic with a beer buzz no fun.

Last Friday I was supposed to go to the laundromat but Bonnie called so I took the N train uptown instead. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events but eventually we wound up in bed. I exhibited an almost bizarre degree of control. First fast and then slow. She said slow was driving her crazy. I have no idea how I was able to hold out but I did. I never finished because I didn’t have a rubber. She, on the other hand, had a tremendous orgasm. Afterwards, we walked to the Evergreen Diner and I was laughing because she could barely walk. It’s just a few blocks away and when we were done eating, she told me she had to take a cab home because she still couldn’t walk. I started laughing and she got really mad at me, so now we’re on hiatus. Way to go, Mr. Sensitive.

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The Bryant Park Hotel and Empire State with holiday lights.
Wednesday, December 18, 8:45 p.m.


The New York Times with taxi cabs.
Wednesday, December 18, 9:05 p.m.

Calm > chaos

Each morning, I have one hour to myself, from 7:00 to 8:00. It’s the only time of my day when someone doesn’t require my attention. At work, at home or even walking down the Avenues, it seems like someone is always in my face. During that peaceful morning hour, I sit in the same coffee shop and either read blogs or write or pop my earbuds in, listen to Howard Stern and make loud snorting noises that cause people to stare.

Recently, an elderly derelict has taken up residency in the same coffee shop. He’s always there during my morning caffeine ablution. He’s not homeless or insane–he doesn’t smell bad or babble incoherently–he’s never drunk. But he’s clearly on government assistance and doesn’t have anywhere special to be during the day. He takes the seat near where customers wait to pick up their coffee order. Customers who are, more often than not, tourists, this being midtown Manhattan.

His move it to engage someone in conversation while they wait. But once they have their coffee, they’re not free to go. His stream-of-conscious dialogue doesn’t have a natural braking point and since most tourists are nice people who don’t want to appear rude, they stand there, trapped, nodding their head and sipping their coffee. Perhaps they feel they’re having an authentic New York moment. He tells them about hanging out in Studio 54, a book he wrote, an album he recorded and other sundry events that are entirely plausible. But eventually they start that slow dance towards the exit.

I never engage him. I know he’s lonely and just needs someone to talk to, but my heart hardened years ago. When I first moved to NYC, I used to carry a pocket full of quarters to dole out to the homeless on the subways and streets. If I didn’t have any change, I’d at least make eye contact so they felt like human beings. But it became too much. I was overwhelmed by the tsunami of sadness, so the destitute became invisible to me. It’s a defense mechanism many New Yorkers employ. A coping device to help deal with the grind of the city.

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I’m one of those poor bastards trying to sort out the Affordable Care Act. I’m just a consultant and need healthcare for my family. I won’t go into the details because how boring would that be? But here’s how another in a series of live chat sessions opened yesterday. It tells you everything you need to know about how well the system is working.


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Bergdorf Goodman holiday window display. Monday, December 16, 6:30 p.m.

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I made my annual holiday pilgrimage to the Morgan Library to view the original manuscript for A Christmas Carol. From Dickens’ own hand, a cultural touchstone was born.


Just look at this mess! This stuff is such a thrill for me. How the printer was able to make heads or tails of this is a mystery.


I read A Christmas Carol every December. It puts me in the proper spirit. It’s maudlin and overwritten, but it gets the job done. I have to read those last several pages alone because I always see them through a veil of tears. Scrooge’s transformation washes over me. So embarrassing.

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas…”

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Carnegie Hall, Monday, November 18, 7:45 p.m.

A potpourri of interesting tidbits

I have some bits and pieces lying around that, individually, wouldn’t have make a proper post so I’ve decided to gather them all together and drop them here. That’s how The Beatles recorded the medley at the end of Abbey Road. They merged several half-baked songs together and created a masterpiece.

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Speaking of The Beatles…Carnegie Hall has a wonderful museum with some fun relics and artifacts on permanent display. Here’s a program from February 12th, 1964 when The Beatles played their first U.S. date. This was just three days after their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, a broadcast that was viewed by over 74 million people and one that changed the course of popular culture. It’s signed by all four Beatles! Can you imagine what this would fetch on today’s market?!


Apparently, The Beatles weren’t THAT well known, because there’s a typo. They got McCartney’s name WRONG.


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I bought a new winter coat this season. It’s a good thing because the city has been bitterly cold over the past several days with more on the way. It’s long. Almost to my knees. The other day I ate something that didn’t agree with me and it gave me terrible wind. It was wafting up through the coat and exiting at the neck. I was riding on the subway and almost passed out. Awful.

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When I was a kid, Norman Rockwell was not cool. His flag-waving Americana was viewed as antiseptic and lacking soul. That was then. Today, his stuff sells for millions. Steven Spielberg is a collector, which makes perfect sense, if you think about it. Here’s an atypical and striking work by Rockwell that recently sold at Christie’s.

rockwell1The Thing to Do With Life is Live It! (Outrigger Canoe)
Estimate: $800,000 – $1,200,000. Sold for $1,625,000

This painting was commissioned by Pan Am Airlines in 1955 as a travel poster. Here’s a detail. Note the company logo on the bags and happy, well-fed tourists.

rockwell2I don’t think he captured the water spray. It looks like–I don’t know–paint. But just look at the way the sun is hitting their arms. Nice work, Norman.rockwell3

I’m reluctant to admit this because it sounds idiotic but this image strikes me as the quintessential, mid-1950’s Republican fantasy. Soft, middle-aged, wealthy, white people are served by island savages. Everyone knew their place in this ring-a-ding, rob roy, on the rocks era. They miss it. It’s what they’re trying to turn the clocks back to. It’ll never work.

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Last weekend when I took the daughters gallery-hopping, we were walking up 10th Avenue and 12-Year Old stopped dead in her tracks looked down and said, “Guys! Look at this!”


Someone painted this portrait onto the sidewalk. Don’t you love that!? It looks like it was dribbled off the tip of a paint brush. I think he captured something here and the reason it’s so striking is because it’s on concrete. No artist accreditation anywhere. Created because he had to. Because it would have killed him not to. And I love the impermanence of it. Four months from now it won’t be there anymore. It’ll have been scuffed onto the bottom of shoes or scraped away under the blade of a snow shovel.


My Bride had to spend Saturday conducting Christmas biz-niz so I took the girlies into the city and went gallery hopping in Chelsea. There’s an unusually robust selection of interesting exhibits up right now. This is all a part of my program to brainwash them into loving New York as much as I do. Plus, as any two-bit psychologist will tell you, I’m trying to be a better father than that poor, broken soul who raised me, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult. The bar wasn’t set that high.

The first stop was the Mary Boone Gallery on 24th St. Two fine, new sculptures by KAWS are on display. This is ALONG THE WAY.


They’re 18′ high and made of wood. They look like two, sad Disney characters who lost their franchise, poor things.


I’m not entirely sure what kind of wood he used but it’s polished and smooth with beautiful grain. The wood glows in the light that streams in from the skylights. This is the other sculpture. This is AT THIS TIME. Daughter improvised that pose. I didn’t direct her to do that. I’m a proud papa.


As with many of these pieces, I’m not entirely sure what practical application can be made. They’re enormous.


This is INSIDE OUT by Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery on 21st St. It’s made from his trademark curved steel walls. Here’s a shot from the catalog that gives you a proper overview of the piece.

serraYou can’t really see how expansive it is from the ground. I think they should provide a catwalk or something so you can view it from on high.


We went to a similar Serra exhibit a few years ago at the same gallery. This stuff never gets old for me.


Surprisingly, the girls remembered the last exhibit and even the artist’s name. Mwwhahaha. It’s working.


I have to constantly remind the little one not to run her finger along the edge of the wall. The gallery is paranoid about the oil from your skin somehow degrading the surface. I suppose if enough people did it, it’d have an effect.

The David Zwirner Gallery on 19th St. is hosting I WHO HAVE ARRIVED IN HEAVEN by Yayoi Kusama. It’s a treat!

kusama-2It’s a series of inflatable stalagmites and stalactites that are illuminated from within. The colors slowly change.


You enter a small room, just a few people at a time–it’s a controlled entry– and are given one minute. The walls, ceiling and floor are made of mirrors, so once you’re inside and the door is closed, you get a reflection-within-a-reflection infinity effect. It’s quite disorienting.

“Listen…When you go into these exhibits, whatever you do, don’t touch the artwork, okay? DO NOT TOUCH THE ARTWORK.”


There’s also a brief film of Ms. Kusama reciting a poem. Again, she uses mirrors to effectively convey a infinite depth of view.


You’ll never guess what’s at the Gagosian Gallery on 24st Street? Another new Richard Serra sculpture! This is INTERVALS, a room full of steel plates in varying heights.




Also sharing the same gallery space is 7 PLATES, 4 ANGLES. Plates stand toe-to-toe and are arranged in a “V” shape.


Again, who am I to criticize, but it’d be awesome if they provided a view from on high.

The total cost of admission to all these galleries:

$0.00. Nothing. Nyet. Zilch. Right this way, sir. Null. Gratis. Complimentary.

Is this a great town or what?

We also paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 12-Year Old Daughter is on a Greek mythology kick and she had an insatiable need to see marble Gods and Goddesses. I won’t include photos of those, but I’ll leave you with this magnificent curio.


Ready for this?

PAIR OF EYES. Bronze, marble, frit, quartz and obsidian. Greek. 5th century B.C. or later. Huzzah.

Overture/ Curtain, lights/ This is it/ The night of nights…

I saw tough son-of-a-bitch Ed Harris with his equally powerful real-life wife Amy Madigan in a creepy, funny, contemporary Southern Gothic horror-fest called The Jacksonian. It’s written by Beth Henley, she of the Pulitzer Prize. Also in the cast, Bill Pullman as a demented bartender with a ridiculous Elvis pompadour and Glenne Headly as a waitress looking for love.

Here’s a still from the production with Harris and Madigan. I stared at this thinking I’ve seen it somewhere before.


And then it came to me. This is an Edward Hopper painting.


Hopper painted lonely people trying to make an emotional connection with someone. Such was this case with The Jacksonian.

It’s performed in a small off-Broadway theater. (I don’t think it’d work in a mainstream house. The story is too dark.) Some of it is quite violent and uncomfortable to watch and the nearness of the stage and the actors ratchets-up the tension.

No happy ending here, kids. Harris plays a dentist slipping into a drug and alcohol-fueled meltdown. Headly’s character winds up permanently brain-addled from a nitrous oxide overdose. But it’s got loads of laughs! I don’t know how the actors can put themselves through this meat grinder of a play seven times a week. The show’s literature warns, “May be inappropriate for 14 and younger.” Now, THERE’S truth in advertising.

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I needed a laugh and this still made me laugh so hard that I’ve temporarily turned it into my screen saver.


It’s from the brilliant and hysterical all-male British import of Twelfth Night. Here, Mark Ryalnce’s Olivia is mortified by the unwanted advances of Stephen Fry’s Malvolio. The look on Olivia’s face is priceless. I’ve seen that look many times while out on a date.

It’s a traditional staging and back then, women weren’t permitted to act, so the female roles are played by dudes. Patrons are encouraged to arrive early. Before the play, as in Shakespeare’s day, the cast gets dressed on stage in front of the audience. There’s some seating on stage as well to simulate the groundlings at the original Globe Theater. At the performance I attended, someone in the on-stage gallery fell asleep in full view of the audience. It happens!

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I saw Harold Pintner’s Betrayal with real-life husband/wife team Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz. It’s a husband/wife epidemic! The toughest part of the play was trying to believe the Daniel Craig could be cuckolded. That’s the problem with seeing a named actor in a play. They arrive with a lot of preconceived notions and baggage. I enjoyed it but was confused because the audience was laughing riotously at things that I’m not entirely convinced were supposed to be funny. The run was completely sold out before it even opened, so they’re having the last laugh.

*     *     *

Orlando Bloom made a hell of a stage entrance as Romeo. He came roaring in on a motorcycle and screeched to a halt at the front of the stage. You can see skid marks on the boards from the previous performances. He was wearing a helmet with a faceplate and when he removed it and ran his hand through his curly brown locks, there was an audible swoon in the theater. It was like a slow-motion shampoo commercial.


The guy is good. He can handle Shakespearian dialogue. His co-star? Not so much. Condola Rashad, an otherwise fine actor, recited Juliet’s dialogue with little feeling or heart. Apparently, the ticket-buying public agrees because they’re closing the show in December, earlier than scheduled, on account of unenthusiastic ticket sales.

[Bonus material.]

I learned something new. “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” is NOT, Where are you, Romeo?, as I’d always assumed. Her intent is, it makes no difference if your name is Romeo or Montague, “The name of my enemy…”. I’d still love you. She follows this with:

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

She further extrapolates on the uselessness of names:

“So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title.”

Old dog learns new trick. Woof.