Photo Extravaganza! [With commentary]

The Beatles had a bunch of song fragments they didn’t know what to do with. Instead of fleshing out each fragment into a proper song, they strung them together and came up with the medley at the end of Abby Road. Presto! An instant classic! I have some pics that, individually, won’t make a decent post but I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I’ve taken a page from The Beatles. Here’s my photo bomb.


We took the girlies to a dude ranch over their spring break. I’m not a dude ranch kind of guy and, thankfully, this wasn’t a proper dude ranch. We slept in a hotel, not a tent. I don’t like camping and I don’t like tents. I’ve said it before: I work my ass off so that my family DOESN’T HAVE TO sleep in a tent. If we’re ever sleeping in a tent, something went horribly wrong. For me, a two-bar wifi signal is about as close as I like to get to roughing it. I’m a fool for the city.

I’d never stood next to a horse before, much less ridden one. They’re big! It seems to me they can crush you if they’re in a bad mood. But after four days of riding, I understood the bond that can form.

Q: What is the proper way to groom long-hair cattle?



Those leaf blowers are so loud that you’d think the cattle would be spooked, but they didn’t seem to mind. If I were that cattle, when that guy got around back the way he did, I give him a good, swift hoof to his soft spot.

There were bona fied celebrities there. No joke! Here I am, on the left, chatting with the patron saint of single New York women, Sarah Jessica Parker. On the right, I’m in a serious foreign policy discussion with Secretary of State John Kerry. Too camera shy to be included here: mopey singer/songwriter Carly Simon.


I had drinks with Guap and his bride last Friday after school. She’s funny and charming. He is, too. They’re a great couple. Anyway…I walked to the back of the pub to use the restroom and passed these idiots:

phonesThe photo quality is terrible but you get the idea. Mom, dad, sis and bro, away on a holiday in exciting New York City, all starring into their mobile phones and ignoring each other like a bunch of zombies. When I came out of the restroom and passed by them a second time, they were in the exact same position. This is my hot-button issue. This and texting while driving. I wish there was something that could be done. But what? They’ve got us.


I attended a baptism over the weekend. I love statues of saints for their aesthetic strangeness, but I don’t understand them. In Exodus, it says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…etc.” Isaiah says, “I am the Lord…give glory to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” But every church I’ve ever been in is choked with statues. Walk through any church and you’ll see people worshiping all kinds of carved idols. Wouldn’t a strict interpretation of the bible mean NO statues whatsoever? I guess it depends on the statue being praised.

I bumped into an old friend. This is St. Lucy. She was martyred in the Middle Ages. Her eyes were gouged out prior to her execution. She’s always depicted with a pair of eyeballs on a plate.

lucyThese martyrdom stories are astonishingly violent. I’m not sure how they’re suppose to touch me spiritually. They don’t. They never have.

Keen observers will recognize St. Lucy as my blog gravatar. The statue in my gravatar is in a Greenwich Village church. It’s a much finer example than this one. These eyeballs are merely painted plaster but the ones in the Village are actual glass eyes!

Stare at this guy for five minutes right before bedtime. Okay? Sweet dreams.

cataldoHush little baby, don’t say a word
And never mind that noise you heard
It’s just the beasts under your bed
In your closet, in your head

Enter Sandman


6:20 a.m. northbound R Train out of Times Square, Tuesday, April 29


This wasn’t some homeless guy. You see that once in a while and it’s excusable. Almost. This was a regular guy on his way to work. That’s poor subway etiquette! And they want to allow mobile phone reception in the trains?! Please.

86 thoughts on “Photo Extravaganza! [With commentary]

  1. Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed your visit to Aussa Lorens.
    I think that’s a Highland cow, and though they are remarkably benign beasts, i believe that they don’t take kindly to a sudden draft “up the bahookie” as we used to call it, so that bloke had better be careful.
    Totally agree about the “family’ of morons on their mobile devices, and i was going to be very ironic and post this comment from my wireless networked Android tablet whilst sitting on “the throne of ease” when the bloody thing dropped the whole comment and lost it in cyberspace.

    A pox on such machines.

    I would add a little observation.

    When sitting at my proper full-sized keyboard, with my usual mouse as a controller, i am not only much quicker when creating my usual deathless prose, but I find i am actually more literate, using words more appropriately and accurately. It must be the radiation from the devilish machines.

  2. It looks like a beautiful beast but I don’t think I would want to be chased by one. On the other hand that man at the bottom-isn’t that the guy they use in the Burger King commercials? That would cause me nightmares if he ever came to my window. Some people are afraid of clowns, I am afraid of him and of course Laughing Sal……

    • I wonder how those cows taste?

      The guy on the bottom, according the the plaque attached to the statue, is:

      San Cataldo Vescovo Di Taranto
      Protettore Di Gagliano Casteiferrato

      What, in God’s name can that possibly mean?

  3. I’m a bit like you about phones…. although our family are guilty at times I’m afraid. But the texting whilst driving – don’t get me started on that one… I witnessed a near fatal crash with a lorry last year that in the end was down to the driver of that vehicle texting someone. Likely noone died but honestly it was more through total luck that there wasn’t a significant body count – when a 20 ton truck is on it’s side going through the central reservation it is anyones guess what’ll happen

    • We have a no-phone policy at the dinner table. My daughter actually yelled at me once because I broke the law! I was actually quite pleased to be called out. I hope she takes that with her when she leaves home.

      My wife was in a very minor car accident and hit by a girl who was texting. She had her driver’s license for all of 48 hours. Society is doomed.

      • We normally have that policy at home when we eat… sadly my wife is the main culprit to ignore it. I have my phone normally on silent so I don’t reply to the text straight away – hers can be heard down the street! She has to reply for some reason I’ve yet to fathom. “If they’ve text you by definition it is an asynchronous conversation” but she looks at me like I’m speaking gibberish gets the phone and replies… GRRRRR!

      • This is probably playing with fire but I think women are a greater offenders than men. Women are more verbose and articulate than men. They like communicating. Having a device that feeds into the need and NOT be able to use it is torture for them.

        I’m ready for the deluge.

  4. Only Catholic churches are full of statues. Such popish practices led to the reformation in Europe, but that all happened long before the USA existed, so you Americans aren’t bothered about it.

    That bull was so cool while getting blown! I’m not convinced the guy pointed the leaf-blower as his butthole, though!

    • There are some great statues in a Catholic church in Greenwich Village. One guy with an open, festering wound on his leg. Another with a tongue of fire that makes it look like his head is alight. All manner of pain and misery.

      I think if the leaf blower had been pointed there, you’d have seen a look on his face or a reaction. I almost wish it’d happened.

  5. Ha! Love the cow-grooming tips Mark. If you watch closely you can see a puff of steam from the nostrils of the cow as it exhales. When the lad went around the rear, there was a big puff from the cow and I was waiting for the back legs to kick out. Ha!

    Great to see you hanging out with celebrities – definitely ups your social status and makes for great name dropping in conversations or job interviews.

    re: the statues: yeah that has always made me a bit uncomfortable as well. But there are some commonly misunderstood parts of the bible – some of them very important. For instance the Bible does not say you can only have one God. In fact the first Commandments says ” Thou shall have no other Gods before me.” This would make it OK (by my understanding) to worship the saints as representatives of God, not God. Thus, graven images might be OK for they do not picture God. Still you see pictures and statues of “God” in some churches. That, I am sure, is a definite NO, NO.

    Anyway, Mark, great post. Good to see your smilin’ face back in NYC after your quick trip to Aussa-land.

    • I noticed that breath coming from his snout as well! That’s the funny thing…it wasn’t that cold out. I wonder what caused it? Is he dusty inside?

      I love spotting celebs. I was in New York for 20 years and it never got old. I was never one of those people who were too sophisticated to be thrilled by celebrity. After I took that pic, Sarah Jessica bought me a drink in the barn.

      I have a friend at work who is a student of Kabbalah and she’s not even allowed to WRITE the word “God.” She has to type it “G-d.” I’m not sure why. I don’t know what the rational is. There are so many rules. It’s hard to parcel them all out.

      Isn’t Aussa the best? Opening up her real estate like that? Very generous of her. Lots of folks who didn’t know I existed now do. Thanks for your comment, Paul. They’re always thorough and well thought-out.

    • Technically they’re not worshiping or praying to the statues, but are using the statue as a friendly reminder of whom they’re praying too. At least this is the explanation I’ve read. Same for orthodox icons (which people will kiss– next time you’re in an orthodox church note all the lipstick on the saints’ feet).

      But let’s face it, they are essentially worshiped, particularly in folkloric variants like santeria or santa muerte. But it is kind of weird that people look down on statue “worship” when statues have been so integral to religions like hinduism or ancient egyptian cults since time immemorial. I mean, there are worse things in the world than praying to statues, right? Yet somehow it has developed a distasteful connotation.

      • Kissing the feet of a statue just doesn’t sound sanitary to me. But if you’re filled with the spirit, I suppose you don’t give it a second thought.

        Not that I’m a scholar…far from it, in fact…but I think the bible was particularly upset with golden idols, which is, I believe, a metaphor for the worship of material wealth. But statues in churches are a different deal. People need that physical reminder of what it’s all about, I suppose.

  6. “a two-bar wifi signal is about as close as I like to get to roughing it.”—Ha, I hear you on that one. I wouldn’t fare too well at a dude ranch. The smell alone might do me in. As for the family on their phones–agreed. Bothers me to see people do this in restaurants, particularly when it’s one parent with his/her kids, and he/she’s basically ignoring the kids. What kind of example does that set? On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible the family you snapped had just had a long day of touring New York City together, and if they didn’t lose themselves in their phones, they might have wrung each others’ necks from too much togetherness…

    • It WAS smelly there! It was bad, but not bad. The subway in August is bad, BAD. But there was something earthy and okay with this. I was glad for the hotel room. No smells in there.

      Your supposition about the family merely taking a break and checking-in is entirely plausible. I thought of that. But that wouldn’t make for a proper blog rant, so I decided to go dark instead.

    • It bothers me too but I try not to be judgmental. Like you said, you don’t know what they were doing before, and there might even be some legitimate reason for at least one of them to be on the phone. Work? School? I think I use my phone most for playing solitaire and it’s possible to have a conversation while doing that, sort of.

      • I used to carry a cell phone signal jammer on my long train commute. Some of the reactions to being deprived of their cell phone were scary/astonishing. People are addicted. And that’s not a metaphor. They, literally, can’t be without them.

      • True. And those phones do come in handy when you need to settle an issue. Like when my kids insist I’m wrong about something, and I can use Google to prove I’m right. 😉

  7. Enjoyed the photo mashup. I did a similar thing a while ago when I looked through my notebook where I jot down ideas for blog posts, and there were quite a few bits that I wanted to include in some way, but weren’t each enough to build into a whole blog post, so I used them altogether in one.

    I don’t have anything to say about horses, cattle, texting or religious statues, but I do have something to say about camping. I actually LOVE sleeping in a tent, but I don’t like all the other things that go with camping – (mostly the bathroom facilities, yuck, and attempting to prepare any food is also a pain, so a few years ago when we went “camping” we only slept in the tent, but ate in restaurants). I think the reason I like sleeping in a tent is that as a child it was something exciting I did with friends, to sleep in a tent in the back garden, so it’s a kind of nostalgic thing now I guess, but I’ve never learned to fully embrace the whole camping experience!

    • I love these bits-and-bites posts. They’re like short stories. If there’s something that’s not capturing your interest, good news, it’ll be over in a paragraph or two. Simply read on to the next thing.

      I completely understand the attraction to camping. It certainly is popular and has been for centuries! But, in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I’m a big baby. I’m too wrapped-up in creature comforts to fully enjoy camping. I went on a few and never got a decent night’s sleep. During one camping trip when I right after I graduated from high school, we all did LSD. So that was interesting.

  8. My husband says the same thing about camping. Humanity has evolved this far– why devolve intentionally AND pay for it? Some christian denominations have a problem with imagery, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a church without at least some paintings, or stained glass images, somewhere in the building. Muslims are strict about no images which is why mosques are decorated with abstract geometric designs. Synagogues will often have carvings or paintings of animals but (almost) never human images. One exception is the ancient beth alpha synagogue. It’s actually very pretty:

    I’ve read that George Romero (of Night of the LIving Dead fame) originally saw zombies as a metaphor for human materialism. The mobile device association isn’t much of a stretch from there though in current zombie lore there is frequently an HIV/ contagion undercurrent.

    Maybe that guy on the subway was sick? I can’t imagine stretching out like that without an urgent reason behind it. But some people are just inconsiderate.

    • Interesting about the Muslims. I didn’t know that. I was sad to see the Taliban destroy those giant Buddhas of Bamiyan statues. What a bunch of humorless idiots.

      Thanks for the link! That’s really beautiful. Can you imagine what it looks like in person?

      Didn’t one of the Romero films actually take place in a shopping mall. Zombie hordes invade a mall or something like that? There’s your metaphor. All spelled out for you.

      I think the guy on the subway was in desperate need for a nap. It was 6:20 in the morning, after all. He certainly looked healthy enough. Again…when in doubt, it’s always preferable to go dark.

      • A few years ago there was an intifada against a Dutch cartoonist, I think, for depicting Muhammad in one of his cartoons.
        Classical Islamic mosques are decorated with geometric patterns, not figure imagery. They are very against those depictions.

      • I remember that! I can’t imagine what the harm is in drawing Muhammad? As I mention somewhere else in this comment section, I work with someone who will only write “G-d.” Is it disrespectful to write it out? I really do want to understand. Not mock.

  9. Totally agree on the family engrossed in their electronic devices and completely oblivious to each other.
    That said, I will totally confess to taking pictures of my food when it arrives at the table. I’m sorry. I’m that chick. (hangs head in shame)

    • I see it going in the other direction. Soon, people will have them implanted under their skin. Google glasses are a dangerous step, if you ask me. I’ve read that people wearing them in SF are getting their asses kicked good and proper. People are afraid of being filmed. And at $1,500 a pop, they’re not cheap to replace!

      • Concur.
        I have never sent a ‘text’ in my life. My fingers are too fat anyway. It would just come out as gibberish: “eun$oshl#i uy(*” or something like that.
        Google glasses? Yes, the end is nigh.

  10. You did a lovely job with your Beatles picture post! I am happy to hear you had a new experience with the horses that didn’t end with the one you were riding deciding to roll over!

    One reason I like reading your stuff is you always seem to teach me something. I didn’t know about the statues, or that St. Lucy got her eyes gorged out. (or St Lucy for that matter)

    I can’t stand the “family time” photo. Why bother going out together? Just everyone stay in their secluded area and keep your nose on the phone. Drives me crazy and you see it everywhere! The nice young lady in the SUV next to me on the drive into work this morning was very busy on her phone. Why she musta been someone very important that she needed to communicate while commuting. Just not enough time in the day for her!

    • I am a great, deep reservoir of useless information. If you visit here often enough, you, too, will become filled to the brim with useless tidbits. You can win bar bets and stuff.

      I was at one with my horse, Gunsmoke. We bonded as we rode. He obeyed my every command. I sang to him. Happy trails to you. Until we meet again. It was a very pleasant experience.

      I did a blog post two years ago whereby I posted pics of people on their cell phones ignoring one another. More idiots. Actually…one moment.

      Here it is. Never mind the text. Just look at the pics. So funny. So sad.

  11. Jeez, I hate to be the pedant AGAIN, but the two books you mention, Exodus and Isaiah, are from the old testament, which does indeed forbid ” graven Images”.These books, and the rest of the O.T. were written for the instruction of our religious cousins, the Jews. However, post J.C. that particular edict was dropped and you got all the cool images of the Saints and Martyrs having their whatsits’ not-so-surgically removed.

  12. Horses? I couldn’t get out the door to school most mornings for horses in the front garden! ( Ask Hangar Queen!)

    Holy Statues BatMark, are you trying to make my heid explode?? Enough to make JB come out of exile! 😉

    • Well, I’m not used to horses, and when you’re not used to them, they can seem pretty big and scary. Just stating the facts, man. Charging subways: yes. Charging horses: nay. Or, neigh, should I say?

      If you are in communication with JB, please send him my regards. Tell him I haven’t removed his blog from my reader and I never will.

  13. I shall fall asleep tonight thinking of you, bonding with and singing to your horse. ..
    Next time I run away I might give you the combination to my lame ol’ blog and see what magic you can do.

    • My horse and I were one. I think. Or, perhaps I was just another weight on his back. Probably the latter.

      Next time you’re away I won’t have time to post to your blog because you’re going to be back here in New York and I’ll be too busy entertaining you.

  14. This is so funny, Mark! At last I have my answer about your gravatar! I have secretly wondered about it for so long. Strangely, so many religious stories are terribly violent.

    People are way too attached to their phones, but in New York City, too…on an exciting vacation?! That is so dreadful. I actually lost my phone for three days and it turns out I survived without it. The first day was rough, but then I relaxed and I actually thought it was ok! That’s cool you and Guapo finally had your drink….or is this one of many times? How fun!

    • You should have asked about my gravatar. Don’t be shy! I’ll answer any question. Offline, if necessary.

      I had a similar experience. I went swimming with my cell phone and she didn’t want to work anymore. [Placing it in a bag of rice to draw out the moisture does NOT work.] Being without it wasn’t so bad after all.

      Guap and I have gotten together a few times. that wasn’t the first. Unfortunately, I’m starting a new job on Monday so we won’t be in the same building anymore. We’re just several blocks apart, so we’ll still have after-school beers now and then.

  15. WHOA! Happy families on the table there! Restaurants should ban phones.

    I would not be happy going anywhere near that highland cattle – I’d want more than a leaf blower.

    The statue with the eyes on a plate – St Lucy. Put me right off my eggs benedict.

    • Maybe they’re happy because they’re not talking to each other? Maybe that only results in fisticuffs.

      The cattle was actually a really beautiful beast. I’m glad I was on the other side of the fence, though.

      All those martyrs suffered. One grotesque story after another. None of them dies from an ice cream overdose or anything like that. I guess that’s what makes them martyrs.

  16. All right, cool, you wormed your gravatar into this story thread, and I now I get it. Well done, my friend. The SJP comment… booooo…. Pretty cool that you got together with Guap though. Now, back to peering into my device… wait, I’m peering into a device while writing this…

    • I knew someone was going to take me to the woodshed for my SJP/JK digs, but I didn’t imagine it would be you. Unkind? Yes, I suppose. But they’re very powerful people in their respective industries and I think they can take it from lil’ old me.

      Guap is a good dude and his wife is a delight. They have good stories. Though I will no longer work in the same building as he does after Friday, I’m not that far away. So, more to come, I’m sure.

      • What???? I’m a good guy, you know, sticking up for the rights of the downtrodden and the disfigured wherever they might be. Wherever there’s a horse-faced person, you’ll find me there. Wherever there’s a… ah fuck, I can’t do Steinbeck justice.

        Keep em coming dude, you are by far one of my favorite writers in this madhouse. You’re also heavily bent, which is a plus.

      • Well, someone had to say something. I suppose if I had a horse face I wouldn’t have liked it. I don’t think I have a horse face, do I? The fact is that everything on your body FALLS as you get older, so we’ll ALL end up with a horse face sooner or later. When that happens to me, I’ll come back and edit out this post because it’ll no longer be funny.

      • I just thought I’d better mention that “heavily bent” has different meanings around the world.

        In the UK for instance, it can mean “really deviant” or even “Queer as a Three Quid Note”

        I won’t even mention what it means in the UK military.

  17. I have always wondered about your gravatar and the eyeballs… Mystery solved.

    And aren’t there serious health risks involved with lying on subway benches?

    • Sleeping on the subway is a terrible idea, but not as terrible as it used to be. Back in the day, you could get your pocket picked or your throat cut. Now, someone is just as likely to put a blanket over you. As Petula Clark advised:

      Don’t sleep in the subway, darlin’.
      Don’t stand in the pouring rain.

  18. Let’s try this again, seems my comment was eaten: So, am i the only one who has seen your “gravatar” before? I had a Jane’s Addiciton T-shirt with the same picture on it circa 1993, sadly stolen by an ex-girlfriend, lost a lot of quality t-shirts that way.

    • Why are you in my spam folder? What gives? Is that some sort of commentary on your…um…commentary? You’ve posted here before so why the hassle? I apologize on behalf of WordPress.

      I thought using that image of eyeballs-on-a-platter was 100% original and unique. Now you’re telling me it stretched back to 1993. Nothing is original anymore. this proves it.

  19. I’m glad I read your posts in reverse order, because I needed this one to cheer me up from the bleakness of your new job post. (Which is pathetic, because it isn’t even happening to me, and you were so stoic about it. You’re amazing. It just gets me right in the gut to see smart, sensitive people unable to do what makes them happy.) But, this is a different post, about creepy martyr statues, so: story time!

    When I was living in Mexico, my mom came from a visit. We went to Puebla and toured a defunct convent. The creepy thing was, it had been a secret convent, where young girls were sent when they got pregnant out of wedlock or weren’t obedient to their parents. The entire place was enclosed inside a different building which appeared to be a normal Catholic church. The average townsperson had no idea these women were trapped inside.

    In the convent was a room with paintings of the most “popular” martyrs. There was also a crown of thorns and a wooden cross leaning against one wall. The tour guide said the women used to have to don the crown and drag the cross up and down the room once per week, thinking on “how holy are those who suffer for the Lord.” (Are you gagging yet?) It was one of the strangest experiences of my life because my Mom doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, so I had to translate everything. “Well, Mom, he says this guy was broken on the wheel and then drawn and quartered, and this guy was shot with arrows while being burned alive, and this lady had her breasts cut off before being crushed between stones…” It was worse than a haunted house.

    • That’s a fantastic story! Don’t waste it buried here in my comment section. Make sure you work that into a blog post. I’m sure everyone would enjoy it as much as I did. That’s gold, Jennie.

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