Why so glum, Old Chum?

I’ve been getting awfully angry over the dumbest things lately. Why?


I don’t know why I read the Style section of the Sunday New York Times. It just irritates me. That section is ground zero for the vapid, shallow aspects of society. [Although I find it tremendously gratifying to see same-sex marriage announcements alongside the blue blood pedigree announcements.]

Yesterday, there was an article about a woman who received a 3.9-carat platinum engagement ring. The ring was magnificent but she was concerned about how her hand would look in her Facebook and Instagram SELFIES, so she got a “handlift.” It’s like a facelift except it’s for your hand. Apparently, lots of women are getting them. Women are worried about their hands showing age spots, veins or looking bony or chubby while showing off their engagements rings in SELFIES, so they’re paying upwards of $3,000 for plastic surgeons to make their hands perfect. For their SELFIES. Christ, I hate that word. It’s infantile. It’s the blankey and ba-ba for millennials.

The woman in the story is only 30-years old. How bad can her skin be? The article treated the subject matter with all seriousness, without a hint of tongue-in-cheek or irony. To her credit, the beauty director at Brides magazine was quoted as saying the money could be better spent elsewhere, like building a nest egg. I was so angry I had to read it twice and then blog about it.


My 7-Year Old received her first holy communion a couple of weeks ago. A beautiful ceremony, to be sure. Lots of family present, some from out of town. We entered the church, found our reserved pew and I sat to read the program. This is the quote they chose for the cover:

photo(8)Always with the threats of damnation. Why couldn’t they have chosen a passage from the bible that was uplifting and poetic? One of the Psalms, perhaps? Something that affirmed the positive spirit of community my daughter was about to join? Yet another decree by velvet fist. How did the church stay in business all these years?


Last week, a woman in North Carolina died in a car wreck. She was posting SELFIES to her Facebook page while driving and crashed. Seconds before the crash, she updated her status to: “The Happy song makes me HAPPY.”  Then she drove off the road and died. This is also known as “thinning the herd.” People are so afraid of being alone. They’re terrified of silence. I stayed good and angry all day over that one.


There’s a movement in left-leaning universities to post “trigger warnings” to material that containes potentially offensive subject matter. Books like The Great Gatsby, The Merchant of Venice, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and many others would carry warnings for students who might be riled by the content. Trigger warning guidelines call for professors to:

“Be aware of racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression.”

I’m not even sure what half of those words mean. Good luck with that, professors. Good luck writing your class syllabus with that hanging over your head. Good luck coddling those frail, fainthearted, über-sensitive princes and princesses of higher learning. Hope you’re not worried about tenure.

*     *     *

I’m not marrying that idiot who got a handlift. [Good God. Can you imagine being married to that?] That woman didn’t drive off the road and crash into my family. The communion ceremony was mostly lovely. I don’t have a kid in college. Why did this stuff rile me up? Why do I get so angry?

Back in my 20’s, I saw a therapist. The most valuable lesson I learned was, when you’re angry, you’re not angry about the thing you THINK you’re angry about. There’s something else going on. Look for it. [The other valuable lesson was: You can’t solve all your problems, but you can learn to make peace with them.]

Not long before this, I was listening to Howard Stern interview comedian George Lopez. They were discussing Lopez’s horrific childhood. Lopez said he doesn’t have any photos of him as a child. Not one! Stern said, “That’s awful. When a parent doesn’t bother taking a picture of their kid, that means they don’t care. Their own kid doesn’t count for anything.”

Do you want to see something?

photo(9)There it is, folks. That is, literally, the ONLY photo of me as a child. There are some pics of me in high school but from ages 0-16, nothing. I’d always given my parents a pass, saying they were too broke to own a camera but do you know what? That’s bullshit. We weren’t THAT broke. The truth is they couldn’t be bothered. Stern was right. I didn’t count. I still don’t think I count.

How’s THAT for a trigger? Now that I’ve figured it out, I’ll set about making peace with it straight away.

Wall Decor for the 1%

It’s time for my semi-annual Modern and Impressionist art auction review. In the spring and fall I visit Christie’s gallery at Rockefeller Center to view the beautiful/horrible art up for auction. Thank Fog for pre-auction public viewings. These pieces are passing from one private collection to another. Once the auction is over, they’ll be squirreled away above a mantle in Beijing or Moscow or Dubai, never to be seen in public again. So you’ve got to look when you have the chance. Lets get right to it. I’ll start with the stuff I like and finish with the junk. As always, feel free to agree or disagree (if you must).

I dig Modigliani. I never tire of his hollow, empty eyes. If I could have anyone paint my portrait, I’d choose him. Jeune homme roux assis (1919).

modiglianiEst: $8,000,000-12,000,000. Sold for $17,637,000. Not bad.

This was one of the big-ticket paintings. Nymphéas by Monet (1907). One of his rare water lily paintings, it hung in the dining room of a reclusive heiress, unseen, for EIGHTY YEARS.

monet1Est: $25,000,000-35,000,000. Sold for $27,045,000

I dragged Daughter with me. We visited Christie’s before seeing a play starring her heartthrob, Daniel Radcliffe. That was the bait. She wanted to see Harry Potter on stage, I wanted to expose her to Martin McDonagh, my favorite contemporary Irish playwright, and show her some art. It was a fair exchange.


This is Jim Beam—J.B. Turner Train by Jeff Koons (1986). He’s nutty. In the good way. This is the same guy who made those giant balloon dog sculptures. This is made from stainless steel. It was mounted on a pedestal in the middle of a room with black walls. Bright lights beamed down on it. It was very shiny.

koonsEst: On Request. Oh, really?! Sold for $33,765,000

Portrait de femme (Dora Maar) by Picasso (1942). I tried to explain to Daughter how these are different views of the same woman. A composite. I don’t think she was buying my art-speak bullshit but you’ve got to try. The auction catalog said this was painted in one day. August 5, 1942.


Est: $25,000,000-35,000,000. Sold for $22,565,000

Tangotee by Ernst Kirchner (1919-21). I like this guy a lot. A good German expressionist painter. Kirchner is a recent discovery. I attended a Kirchner exhibit at the Guggenheim a couple of years ago and have been smitten ever since.

kirchnerEst: $1,000,000-1,500,000. Sold for $2,045,000

I’ve started to pay more attention to sculpture. This startling figure is Main crispee gauche avec figure implorante by Rodin (1907). Seems this woman is in peril. I wonder who the hand is supposed to be?


Est: $50,000-70,000. Sold for $50,000

Every auction has at least one fetching Rothko painting. Untitled (1952). I’d like this hanging on my wall at home. A lot of this stuff is nice to look at, but I couldn’t live with it. This piece would calm my ass down.

rothkoEst: On request. Egads! Not again!? Sold for $66,245,000

Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards by Francis Bacon (1984). Bacon is hot. [Ha. I did that on purpose.] Last fall, his triptych of Lucian Freud sold for $142,400,000, so now everyone who owns a Bacon thinks it’s a good time to sell. This is one of those pieces I love to look at but couldn’t live with.


Here’s a detail of the third painting.

Est: On Request. It’s an epidemic! Sold for $80,805,000. That’s a lot.

There’s always a healthy representation of Warhol. This is Race Riot (1964). It’s considered one of his more important works because of its serious subject matter. No celebrity glitz or transsexual fun here. Just a group of Birmingham cops setting the dogs lose on a lone black man. Red, white and blue. Same as old glory.


Est: On Request. All these ‘estimate on request’ pieces are giving me an inferiority complex. I can’t even ask what it costs?! The last thing I need is a new benchmark for my own mediocrity. Sold for $62,885,000.

From the left, Chagall’s La Fenêtre ($3,133,000), Miró’s L’étoile insaisissable ($3,637,000) and Léger’s Grande nature morte ($2,165,000). Daughter in the middle: priceless.

sam2Are you guys ready for some crap? Or, perhaps you feel you’ve already seen some. No matter. Onward. This is the stuff that makes me laugh. Once again, here’s proof positive that wealth is a lousy barometer for good taste. Hang in there for the shocking conclusion.

I’m going to try—like I do at every auction, year after year—to appreciate Jean-Michael Basquiat’s work. I’m going to wipe the slate clean reject all my preconceived notions, take a step back and study this. I’ll give it serious consideration. Untitled (1981).

basquiat2Est: $20,000,000-30,000,000. Sold for $34,885,000. Nope. Didn’t work. It’s still CRAP.

Untitled (1964) by Cy Twombly. Signed and dated ‘Cy Twombly 64’ lower center. WHERE?! I don’t see it.Oh…wait…I think I see a ‘4’. It’s crap.

twomblyEst: $5,000,000-7,000,000. Sold for $7,445,000

Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (712) (1990). Oh, how I hate Richter’s work. The very first time I laid eyes one of his paintings I hated it. And I don’t like this one, either. It’s lazy slop without any rhythm or emotion. I don’t understand it. I don’t want to understand it.

richterEst: $22,000,000-28,000,000. Sold for $29,285,000

Here it is, brothers and sisters. The one you’ve been waiting for. The worst of the worst. And that’s saying something. This is The Silent Sink (1984) by Robert Gober. The medium is plaster, wire, wood and semi-gloss enamel paint. It’s a sink. A fucking sink.

sinkEst: $2,000,000-3,000,000. Sold for $4,197,000. I have no witticisms for this. It makes me kind of sad, actually. It seems you can get to a point where you have so much money that you lose touch with reality. Four million. Give me a break. Thank God they didn’t give any of that money to poor people. They’d have just wasted it on stupid stuff, like food or housing.

Wet Kiss on Second Avenue

My new job has me completely buried in the weeds. It’s a workload I’ve not experienced for a long time. I’m also trying to figure out the politics and personalities. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. I don’t have time for a proper post so in the meantime, here’s another bon mot from my old journals. As usual, I make no apologies, etc., etc. The usual disclaimers.


August 7, 1992

I took Cindy out. She’s always my last resort when nobody else is around. I wonder if she realizes that? Knowing her, she probably does and doesn’t care. The theater, a couple margaritas at Mary Ann’s and then kissing in the shadows on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 3rd Street. Her kisses are really wet and slippery. Over drinks, she said she’s sad that she’s back in the same boat with Laura that caused them to break up in the first place. She thought it’d be different this time but it isn’t. It never is, is it? Listening to people talk about their relationships makes me glad I’m not in one. They seem like such a burden.

We were out last weekend bar hopping and listening to bands and Laura was following us around on her bike from a half block away. We’d walk into a bar with Laura watching from across the street and when we’d leave, she’d still be there. Then we’d walk up Avenue B to the next bar and she’s peddle slowly from a distance. Cindy was laughing at her but I felt kind of bad. I hope Laura doesn’t stab me or anything.

After we kissed for a while I asked her to come over tomorrow night to watch the Presidential debates. I remember watching the last set of debates four years ago with that girl from Nottingham. The one with the smelly feet. What the hell was her name? Her feet smelled like a litter box but I didn’t care because of that accent. I loved how she said my name. Maahhhk.

Cindy just called. She can’t come over for the debates because she was able to book time in the recording studio. So that’s that. Her stuff is really good. I hope she makes it. [Note: She didn’t.]

September 18, 1992

I was alone tonight and happy for it. I went to Cafe Mogador on St. Mark’s place. I had a bowl of split pea soup and then a cappuccino. I watched the pretty girls come and go. I’m invisible to them.

A few days ago, while walking down 2nd Avenue, some guy asked me for a dime for bus fare. The bus was approaching and all he needed was 10 cents but I didn’t give it to him. I felt terrible afterwards. A lousy dime! What the hell’s the matter with me?! So I made a commitment to be more generous. More humane.

Tonight, a derelict was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with an empty coffee cup in his hand asking for handouts. I dug into my pocket and threw some change in. At the last second, I saw that my ONLY subway token fell into the cup. I asked him, “Can I have my token back? It’s my ride home.” He said, “Sure!,” dumped the contents into his hand, picked out my token and gave it back to me. He joked that even though he doesn’t have a home, he didn’t want to prevent me from getting to mine. We both laughed about it. So I feel a little more human tonight.


To celebrate my new yob, I had dinner with my lawyer pal, Rob, at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. It’s a genuine piece of Olde World New York. A landmark. It opened in 1913 when Grand Central Station opened. The vaulted, Guastavino ceilings made of off-white tiles are a distinctive architectural flourish.

photo 2 (2)Who knew there were so many different types of oysters in the world?! The menu changes all the time, even as the evening progresses.

photo 1 (3)We usually order a dozen from the east coast and a dozen from the west. More if we’re still hungry. In honor of my having recently scaled Mt. Sons and Lovers, I chose the Lady Chatterley’s. They were succulent and delicious. The trick is to not drown them in horseradish, lemon or cocktail sauce. The flavors are subtle and you can lose them if you’re not careful.

It was a beautiful day

My blog reading and commenting will have to take a back seat for a short while. I start a new job tomorrow and I need to devote my undevided attention to acclimating myself to my new environment. I love the honeymoon phase. You’re forgiven for your trespasses and everyone is nice to you. The (presumably ugly) truth will be revealed around mid-July to both me AND my new employer. I no longer work in the same building as Guap, but we’re still dating.

Finding a company willing to hire my old ass was miraculous. I’m in the terrible spot that so many in my generation find themselves in; too young to retire but too old to hire. My current inadequate healthcare policy doesn’t meet the minimum requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act, so my insurer is cancelling it on June 15th. The market-rate monthly premium would have cost $1,200/month (without dental coverage). My new job is on staff with full benefits, so that’s one less worry I have. I get 15 paid vacation days, to boot. That’s up from ZERO for the past four + years.

The work itself won’t be as eclectic as the job I just left (which I loved, by the way). Also, my new taskmasters seem to be wound a bit tighter than the kind, benevolent souls I left behind. But I am no longer in a position to take into consideration such things as how interesting the work might or might not be, or whether or not it’s a pleasant working environment. Those are luxuries I can’t afford. Those considerations are for the young or people without children. I can’t provide for my two beautiful daughters as a benefits-free consultant, so I had to take it. Good Lord. How many of us end up like this? Thoreau was right.

The competition for the position was fierce. Navigating the multiple interviews was complicated and exhausting. It went on for nearly two months. I think they finally decided on experience over vigor.

As a pseudo-reward to myself, I took Friday off, got in the car and drove down to Atlantic City for a meditative walk on the beach and to prowl the casinos. It’s a repulsive place but I love it. The boardwalk is choked with the flotsam and jetsam of humanity. An unending parade of the broken and destitute. Inside the casinos it’s even worse, especially during the weekdays. My bride never goes with me. It makes her sad. She doesn’t mind if I go once in a while, as long as I don’t make it a lifestyle or insist she go with me. [Although she came down once to attend a Tom Jones concert at Caesars Palace. It was great, cheesy fun. A memorable night.]

photo(3)Yes, there is surfing in New Jersey. Don’t these guys have jobs?

I lost many hours to the craps tables. It’s always like that. I go into a trance and when I snap out of it, I can’t believe how much time has passed. Rolling dice has a warm, narcotic quality to it. I love when it’s my turn.

photo(6)They don’t like it one bit when you take pictures in the casino.

I love the aesthetics of the game. The way the dice feel in my hand. The smoothness of the felt. (I rub it for good luck.) The clickety-clack sound the chips make when you rifle  them in your palm. The calls of the stick man and the sharp proficiency of the box men. It’s a delicious game.

You meet interesting people, too. A community forms. You all live and die by the roll. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. Just look at these two beautiful, old geezers. They’ll clear out by 6:00 Friday evening to make room for the girls in tight, black dresses and New Jersey Guidos with overly-manicured eyebrows and gold chains who’ll come roaring into town in their Camaros. You’ll find these same two dudes back at the same table come Monday morning.

atlantic cityWhy can’t THIS be my new job?