The Fourth Estate

I’m a paper and ink guy. I’ll always read books and never own an e-reader. I know that e-readers are lightweight and convenient, but they lack tradition. Printed newspapers are dying, too. Luckily, I still have access to a number of different print publications. Most fortuitous of all, we here in New York still have a tabloid. Tabloids are awesome! God bless Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.

Mr. Murdoch doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with journalistic excellence or accuracy. We have other outlets for that. News Corp has an ax to grind against liberals, and grind it does. Additionally, it provides cheap, visceral thrills. Nothing wakes your ass up quicker than a sensational headline or a ghastly photo first thing in the morning. My understanding is that London still has a few tabloids as well. Aren’t they great?!

I came up out of the subway last week, approached a newsstand and was met with this beauty:


Oh, no they didn’t.

Oh, yes they did, my lovelies. I can’t speak for its meaning globally, but here in the U.S., “pussy whipped” refers to a man relentlessly berated by his wife who doesn’t stand up for himself. He’s probably a liberal. And who knew there were still Cossack thugs in the world? I didn’t. Thank you, New York Post! Once the print editions cease, these wonderful, gaudy front pages will be no more. It’s sad.

You meet interesting people in The New York Post. Like Michelle Esquenazi, CEO of a successful bounty hunting operation on Staten Island. When asked the secret to her company’s phenomenal recovery rate, she said she sets “honey traps.”

“We send a hot piece of pussy to his door. Of course he’s going to open up the door for a nice piece of ass. It’s timeless. The thing about defendants is no matter who they are — they can come in white, black, green or purple polka dots. They’re all dumb,” she noted. “Every single last one of them is stupid.”

You’re not going to read about her in The Wall Street Journal. I want to have drinks with Michelle, don’t you? Can you imagine the fantastic stories? Blog posts for a year.

More often than not I find myself reading The New York Times. It’s the paper of record. The Gray Lady. Sometimes, they’re difficult to take seriously, too. Do you know who they profile in The Times? People like 85-year old Betty Halbreich, “Bergdorf Goodman’s renowned personal shopper and the breakout star of the 2013 documentary ‘Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s.’” The profile takes place in Halbreich’s eight-room Park Avenue apartment where…

…every bibelot sparkles and every surface is dust free. “My poor cleaning lady!” she said. “I’ve had her for 20 years, and everything is kept clean under threat of death.”

Is that supposed to be funny? What if that cleaning lady was your mother? What an insane old cow. She’s like a Saturday Night Live sketch about self-absorbed, wealthy dingbats. And The Times likes to represent itself as the voice of the common people. Please.

Bibelot. Give me a break with that stuff.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue—an architectural landmark—is undergoing a major restoration. Here’s a before pic…

st. pats1

…and here’s after. The ceilings were caked with centuries of smoke from those holy smudge pots the priests swing around on a gold chain. They’re gussying-up the exterior as well.

st. pats2

A spiritual lesson written in sand

I visited the Asia Society on my lunch hour where four Tibetan Buddhist monks are creating a mandala. It’s a rare treat. I’ve only seen one other before; created in the lobby of the World Trade Center many years ago.


Do you guys know what a mandala is? That’s all SAND, friends. A mandala is a beautiful, painstaking, time consuming, spiritual work of art.


It’s being created in conjunction with The Asia Society’s current exhibit, Golden Visions of Densatil: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. The monastery was destroyed in the 20th Century and its reliefs and sculptures scattered to the wind. As Holland Cotter of The New York Times wrote in his exhibit review, “You have to hate or fear something a lot to do what China did to Tibetan Buddhism.” The pieces are now being gathered and the Monastery restored. They’re on display until May.


They started the mandala on Thursday and it was scheduled for completion on Sunday. A pattern is designed and draw in pencil. You can still see some of the outlines along the perimeter.


Colored sand in copper bowls is poured into copper funnels tapered to fine point. The monks tap or scrape the funnels with copper rods and the sand slowly pours out in small increments.

The mandala will remain on view through May until the exhibit closes. Do you know what they do with a mandala once it’s completed?

Mandala3They destroy it.

A ceremony is performed and the monks who created it take a broom and sweep it away. After all that hard work! It’s a meditative lesson on life’s impermanence. Everything changes, brothers and sisters. Nothing lasts forever. Trying to hold onto something, be it a shiny bauble, your fading youth or someone in your life, is an exercise in futility that will only lead to an unsettled and agitated mind.

The sooner we learn to LET GO of things, the happier we’ll all be. Reet?

You are permitted to stand along the perimeter and observe. The room is dim and a quiet respect fills the air. The monks talk amongst themselves in low tones and will occasionally chuckle over a private joke. They work seven hours a day.

Mandala10Their philosophy is the closest thing I’ve ever come to being moved spiritually. I sat in Catholic churches and parochial schools all throughout my youth. I was never touched and, more often that not, was just bored. These are not negative judgments I’m espousing. Just my own personal experiences. My mother was saved by the Catholic church. She died peacefully because of her deep faith. She was always sad that I didn’t embrace the church’s teachings, but what am I to do? You can’t manufacture enthusiasm. It’s either there or it isn’t.

7-Year Old Daughter had her first Holy Confession last week. It’s one of the seven sacraments you can receive in the Catlick church. In confession, you sit with a priest, one-on-one, and confess your sins. Afterwards, you are given penance, usually a series of prayers to recite. It’s cathartic for a lot of people. 

Before their confessions began, the pastor stood in front of the congregation and said:

“I’m addressing just the children.

We are all sinners. It says so in the Bible! And if you say you’re not a sinner, then you are calling God a liar.”

What a heavy trip to lay on an innocent 7-year old! Always the beat-down. This is the oldest trick in the book. In the military they do it in boot camp. In fraternities it’s called hazing. It’s at the core of most theologies. You’re torn down, made to feel lowly and unworthy, and then rebuilt. You feel grateful towards your tormentors—the very people who damned you!—for making you feel whole again. I should take her to a monastery and save her from all this wrath.


I’d like to thank the Academy…

versatile-bloggerLet me entertain you
Let me make you smile
Let me do a few tricks
Some old and then some new tricks
I’m very versatile

Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne

The lovely and talented Jennie from Tip of My Tongue gave me a Versatile Blogger award. How nice is that!? Previously, the only accolade I’ve received was the WordPress King of Typos and Misplaced Commas Award, which might sound awful, but it came with an honorarium.

As part of my thanks/acceptance, I’m required to reveal seven random facts about myself. Unfortunately, the REALLY interesting tidbits are not fit for public consumption. You’ll have to be content with these.

1. I saved a life. Actually, I saved several. I was on a Coast Guard search and rescue team. I drove the boat. When you throw a line to a boat that’s taking on water and transfer the passengers over, they look at you like you’re God. We were, literally, the difference between life and death. It’s pretty intoxicating stuff, especially when you’re just a kid. I haven’t done anything as gratifying before or since. The investment banking weasels I worked for after the Coast Guard are paid many multiples more, but they’re not fit to tie the shoes of the men and women in the Coast Guard.

2. I don’t recall having one conversation with my father. Not one! That dude looked right through me like I was a wisp of steam that somehow got into the dining room. He was a tragic figure, but not in the grand Shakespearian tradition of Hamlet or Edward IV. He was a mama’s boy who felt put upon by the world. His favorite song was (not kidding) Burt Bacharach’s Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. Boo-hoo-hoo. Poor me.

3. Many, many years ago, I attended a picnic in Bruce Springsteen’s backyard. It was at his horse farm in the bucolic New Jersey countryside in late September. A beautiful early Autumn day. Blue skies and a cool breeze. There was tons of food and stuff for the kids to do. There was a demonstration of trick horseback riding. Near where a field started, a stage was set up. Not a giant one like in a stadium. It was just four or five feet off the ground. The kind you’d see at an outdoor community theater production. Some members of the E Street Band were there along with other sundry New Jersey musicians. After we all stuffed ourselves silly with bar-b-cue and beer, they climbed on stage and played for about three hours. None of his songs. They were all from the Motown catalog and classics from the 60’s with a few chestnuts from the 50’s and 70’s thrown in. Different musicians would hop on and off the stage but Springsteen never left. Fred Schneider of the B-52’s sang a rousing version of Sam the Sham & Pharaohs’ Woolly Bully. I talked to him afterwards and he said he had no idea what the lyrics were and was just making it up as he went along. As dusk settled, a gigantic, golden, harvest moon came up low on the horizon. Springsteen looked over, saw it, and launched into Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising. It’s one of my top five best days ever. Stuff like this isn’t a part of my life. I’m just regular.

4. When My Bride and I announced our engagement to her parents, her mother wept. And they were not tears of joy.

5. I’m a small-time rare book dealer. I’ll buy a book that I feel is being sold under-value with the intention of reselling it either at an auction or on eBay. The problem is that once I’m holding it in my hands, I can’t bear to part with it. That’s why I can’t do it for a living.

6. I didn’t lose my virginity until just two months shy of my 20th birthday. I had plenty of opportunities but I never wanted to be that close to anyone. Also, I didn’t want to become dependent on something that could be taken away from me as easily as it was given. Pretty smart, right?

7. The most important relationship in my life has been…ready?…New York City! The most heartfelt and gratifying relationship is with My Bride and Daughters. But, let’s face it, if it weren’t for New York City, for better or worse, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. I wouldn’t be typing these words. It molded me. And make no mistake—it was a real relationship with highs and lows and arguments and longing. I got mad once, walked out on her and had an 18-month affair with Phoenix, Arizona, but I came running back begging. She took me in, thank God. What was I thinking?

57th street

57th Street R train station below Carnegie Hall

6th avenue

55th Street and 6th Avenue


Do not read this post. I’m warning you with peace and love. Click on another blog. Go no further. You’ll be sorry.

I need to vent. Some vents can be entertaining but this isn’t one of those. This one is going to be boring. I can’t imagine it being of interest to anyone, but I need to get this shit off my chest or I’m going to explode.

I’m one of those people you’ve read about who’s about to lose his healthcare insurance policy due to the Affordable Care Act. Currently, I have what’s referred to in the insurance industry as an “overload” policy. Normal people call it a “junk” policy. The deductibles are high and there’s no provision for catastrophic illness. It’s better than nothing, but just barely. I’m an extended hospital stay away from being wiped out financially. Because this policy does not meet the minimum requirements mandated by the ACA, it’s being cancelled.

My Bride works part-time. Consequently, we are not eligible for a subsidy or tax abatement. We fall just above the demarcation line. According to the ACA actuary tables, we’re rich and don’t need any help. The least expensive policy available to us under the Affordable Care Act is going to cost $1,025/month with a $4,700 deductible.


WE DON’T HAVE $1,025/month to spend on HEALTHCARE. Do you?

It is entirely possible that I could send $17,000 to AmeriHealth of New Jersey annually and here’s what my family and I will get in return for all that money:


To review: AmeriHealth of New Jersey could potentially get as much as $17,000 annually.

We get: DICKED. How did the medical and insurance industries become so powerful and corrupt?

Thanks a lot, El Presidente. Don’t do my family and I anymore favors, okay? And I voted for that guy! TWICE!

I don’t align myself with any one political party. I think to do so is lazy. When you do that, you surrender your objectivity. I prefer to think for myself, thank you very much. I’ve voted for Republicans in the past (although, it’s been a while) and would gladly do so again in the future if they present a viable candidate. I have liberal leanings, especially on social issues, but I’m not an ideologue. Far from it.

It actually causes me great physical pain to type this sentence, but those howling lunatics over at Fox News, none of whom I have a crumb of respect for, might actually have a valid point. The Affordable Care Act is being financed on the backs of the middle class. Maybe I should have voted for that wealthy robot. What was that dude’s name, again? I’ll bet he’s got pretty good healthcare.


Well, I tried to warn you. You made it this far so I’ll reward you with two amusing pics.

We have a corporate dining room on the 12th floor. They post a new menu every Monday morning. Each week, they create festive dishes and cuisines that celebrate the seasons and holidays. Here’s what’s coming up this week:

Black History Month poster

Now, how tone deaf is that? Someone is going to have to pay a visit to Human Resources and sit through one of those corporate sensitivity videos.


I rolled over in bed and before clicking out the light, I impulsively took a shot of my nightstand.

photo 1

Two half-finished books, one I haven’t started  and two that are read but haven’t migrated their way back to the bookshelves yet. One bottle of eye drops, because my eyes always hurt. The beast that roars at 5:00 a.m. every Monday through Friday. There. You’ve been to bed with me.

What does yours look like?

A forgotten doorway to my past

binLong-time readers know what these are. For the benefit of new readers, [I have new readers! Thank you, WordPress migration.] this is a storage bin  filled with journals from when I first moved to New York as a young, scared, lonely boy. There are hundreds and hundreds of single-spaced typewritten pages and many books filled with shaky, unsure handwriting. I had completely forgotten about them for many years but they resurfaced not long ago. I occasionally crack one open and post an entry. I offer these without edits and with the caveat that I was an emotionally immature, crude and not very nice person. Especially to women. But I’ve since learned a thing or two and I have forgiven my trespasses. I hope you do the same. I am in a constant struggle with whether or not I should destroy these. I don’t want any of the ladies in my life to read them.

When we last saw our hero, he was in the throes of a crisis of his own making (as they almost always were). An extraordinary woman he was seeing, Bonnie, had given him his walking papers. He had spouted off at length about how the work of avant garde artist John Cage was dull, unimportant, lacking structure and, worst of all, pretentious. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Bonnie, an older sophisticated architect, wrote her thesis at Yale on the career of John Cage.


August 30, 1992

In an effort to better educate myself and repair the damage I wrought with Bonnie, I invited her to a concert of John Cage’s work at MoMA. Bonnie asked if I was paying penance and I said, of course I was, so she agreed to go. The concert was just awful. Honestly, it only confirmed my suspicions but I’ll never admit that to Bonnie. I still want to sleep with her.

They had a lot of nerve calling it a concert. It had very little to do with music. The opening and closing numbers used traditional instruments—violin, viola, flute and a few others. They would each take a turn playing a long, sustained note. They’d occasionally overlap for texture but it was little more than a drone. The middle piece was three guys standing in front of a microphone crumbling and then un-crumbling pieces of newspaper and then slowly ripping them into long strips. This was accompanied by a man tapping a plastic plate, a woman pouring water and someone tapping two plastic tubes together. We heard some people in the back laughing, so I know I’m not alone in my mystification. There was a beautiful Steinway grand piano on stage but the only sound that came out of it was some guy occasionally plucking a string or slapping the wood. I listened with all sincerity but all I heard was someone ripping newspaper and beating up some poor piano. It didn’t mean anything to me. At the conclusion, the audience erupted with wild applause. I don’t get it. But I think I might be back in her good graces, so that’s good news. (Note: It didn’t work. Things were never the same again.)

September 1

I just got off the phone with Bonnie. Apparently, it’s not enough that her business is failing and she’s teetering on bankruptcy and might lose that spectacular apartment. She said, “Mark, I had blood coming out of my rectum. I thought it was just a simple hemorrhoid but I went to a doctor and he’s sending me to have tests done.” She’s at Cornell Medical Center as I type this. I told her I’d accompany her back home but I’m being spared that horror, thank heavens. I feel awful for her but it’s disgusting to hear about it in such graphic detail. I’m completely turned off. She said I could stop by later today but I’m wondering if she’ll be too out of it to receive guests.

Bonnie is sick. Joan only wants me to look at an apartment in Chelsea that I can’t afford. Klinger is in Miami. Colleen wants to see me, but I think she’s getting the wrong ideas. Cindy is in Arizona. I haven’t heard from Jennifer. I can only see Laura if I pay for everything and I’m broke. That leaves a city full of strangers. And my cats.

September 2

Bonnie got back from the hospital late last night and sounded awful so I didn’t visit. She’s going to be okay, thank God. Hemorrhoids. What the fuck is a hemorrhoid, anyway? Remind me to look it up later. Her doctor thought it might be colon cancer. They knocked her out with nitrous oxide, lucky duck. I’ll bet they didn’t have go to the Key Foods and empty all the Reddi-wip canisters, like I have to. I’m happy she’s okay but all I can picture is blood flowing out of her ass. I don’t think I can sleep with her again. Maybe if she goes down on me I’ll be okay. We’ll see.


Quite the charmer, wasn’t I? I’ve created a new category for my other journal entries, but THIS ONE is the best of the bunch so far. It’s amazing how you walk around thinking nothing is happening when the truth is you’re having the time of your life.


Another big blankey of snow this week. No surprise there. On Tuesday, I heard Irish author Roddy Doyle read from his new novel (and got a signed first edition, OF COURSE). He said the Irish winter he left behind was typically cold, wet and gray. He’s absolutely thrilled with the snow. Wait until he tries to fly out. See how much he likes it then. Here are some shots of Central Park. See…it ain’t all bad.