My Nose Pressed Against the Window

I hate musicals. I find them tedious. This, from someone who averages a play a week. Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lloyd Webber & Nunn, Gilbert & Sullivan. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks. Sucks.

Having said that, Cabaret, with the delightful, hatchet-faced Alan Cumming as the MC, is probably one of the best things I’ve ever seen. In the original stage production and film adaptation, Joel Grey played the MC as a wacky harlequin. Cumming’s MC is a frightening specter of debauchery and lasciviousness. He has bruises all over his body and track marks on his arms. His MC will sleep with anything that’s not dead…and maybe some things that are.

acmcDespite my disdain for musicals, I’ve seen this show a few times. Live performances aren’t like DVDs, mp4 files or Tivo. You can’t enjoy it again later. They’re ephemeral. Once the production wraps and the company disperses, you’ll never see it again—unless they remount the same production, which is exactly what happened here. My Bride and I saw it in 1998 with Natasha Richardson (R.I.P.) as the doomed Sally Bowles. Since then, I’ve seen two other Sally’s in the current revival; Michele Williams, in a valiant but failed effort and, just recently, Emma Stone, who was superb.

stoneAt the opening of Act 2, Cumming is lowered from the rafters on a silver crescent moon. He’s wearing a silver sequined top hat and vest and silver pants. He dismounts the moon, walks into the audience and brings someone up on stage to slow dance with. [As he eyeballs the audience looking for a patsy he says, “I love the smell of fear.”]

He returns the (clearly rattled) audience member back to his/her seat, looks up to the balcony (where I’m always sitting in the back) waves, and says:

“Hello poor people! It must be awful for you. Ah, well. What can you do?”

Money makes the world go around
Of that we can be sure
ppthbbbt on being poor

Laughter. Everyone thinks it’s hilarious, particularly the people in the good seats. But do you know what? It cuts me to the bone every time. It hurts to be laughed at because I can’t afford a decent seat. It makes me feel like I haven’t tried hard enough. Or at all.

A mark, a yen, a buck or a pound
Is all that makes the world go ‘round
That clinking, clanking sound
Can make the world go ‘round

Some of my responsibilities at work shifted a few years ago. Instead of designing marketing material solely for Institutional investors, I started working for Private Wealth advisors. I had always known about a category of investor called High Net Worth. It wasn’t until I entered that rarefied air that I discovered a classification above that called Ultra High Net Worth. $50 million or more in investable assets. You’ll never see an Ultra High Net Worth client in a hospital emergency waiting room. They’re never made to wait. For anything. They and their families are accommodated in ways you can’t imagine.

If you happen to be rich
And alone
And you need a companion
You can ring (ting-a-ling)
For the maid

Last Wednesday I saw the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. I wanted to hear piano virtuoso Emanuel Ax tackle Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite—a couple of real knuckle-busters. I got in for cheap, but my view of the stage was obstructed. I couldn’t see the horn section.

In the ‘become-a-patron’ section of the program I read that if you donate $25,000 annually, you are considered a “VVIP.” I had to look twice because I thought it was a W. That’s a Very, Very Important Person.You get to attend private chamber music concerts in stately apartments on the Upper East Side. First-chair members of the Philharmonic take you to lunch.

In case you thought I was exaggerating.

vvipIf you happen to be rich
And you feel like a
Night’s entertainment
You can pay for a gay escapade

Larry David is about to open in a new comedy on Broadway. It broke the record for advanced sales. $13 million. It achieved this distinction because the better seats cost $425 and they’re selling briskly. That’s $850 for a pair of tickets to the theater. And, apparently, they’re flying off the shelf.

I am SURROUNDED. This town is choking on money to the point where they have to invent new superlatives to describe über-wealth. To me, they’re simply new benchmarks for my own mediocrity. No wonder I feel inadequate.

ppthbbbt on being poor, indeed.

 Tastes Like Chicken

On the way to Lincoln Center I took a shortcut through Central Park. I saw people gathered around what turned out to be a murder scene.

hawk4A hawk was eating a pigeon.

hawk5It was a wonderful example of bird-on-bird violence. People move to New York City to get away from this sort of thing.

hawk1There’s a healthy hawk population in Central Park. There’s an inexhaustible food supply and skyscrapers have lots of nooks and crannies in which to build a nest. They’ve taken to urban life quite well.


What do you need to create?

I don’t like to publish posts this close together. Posts are like bottles of wine. You have to uncork them and give them time to breathe and mature. But I just read this and am as blown away today as I was when I first read it many years ago and I wanted to share it with you guys. Plus, I’m snowed-in and bored.

Stick with this. Ride it out to the end. It’s Bukowski at his best.

air and light and time and space

”– you know, I’ve either had a family, a job, something
has always been in the
but now
I’ve sold my house, I’ve found this
place, a large studio, you should see the space and
the light.
for the first time in my life I’m going to have a place and the time to

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
you’re going to create in a small room with 3 children
while you’re on
you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
you’re going to create blind
you’re going to create with a cat crawling up your
back while
the whole city trembles in earthquake, bombardment,
flood and fire.

baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it
and don’t create anything
except maybe a longer life to find
new excuses

The family dog: Always happy to see me walk into the room.

I haven’t always been this nice. Here’s proof.

Prologue for the uninitiated.

If you go to my basement and look under my workbench, behind the Christmas ornaments, you’ll find this:

bin3 This is a bin filled with journals from my early years in New York. Hundreds of typed, single-spaced pages and about a dozen hand-written books. I occasionally post an extract. I wasn’t always kind to women (or myself, for that matter). Some of it is a bit graphic. But I make no apologies for who I was back then and I ask you to not judge too harshly. I was just a kid. A seeker on a path. The feedback I get on these posts is humbling. People either really enjoy them or they’re being charitable.

February 27, 1993

Somebody put a huge car bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center yesterday. I can’t tear myself away from the TV coverage. It happened at 12:30 in the afternoon. It detonated on the second level of the parking garage and completely demolished three levels. Seven people died and over 650 were injured.

My primary temp agency is in Two World Trade, which is the tower that sustained the most smoke damage. Good thing I wasn’t there! I don’t have hospitalization! The family called to see if I’d been blown to bits. I hadn’t. This time (ha). I’ve got a gig there next week at Lehman Brothers. I wonder if I’ll have a job to go to?

They have no idea who did it but they suspect Yugoslavian nationalists who are mad at us for dropping relief supplies to the Bosnians, who are at war with the Serbs. Fucking Eastern European douchbags. What if that shit had toppled over? Can you imagine?

Sunrise over Queens and the East River.

sunrise I went to a play on the Upper West Side by myself. I didn’t know it, but there was a party for singles after the show. I looked around and everyone seemed to have a friend with them for support. I felt like such a loser for being there alone that I couldn’t concentrate on the performance. The thought of wading through a singles party made me so nauseous that I left during intermission. It’s too bad because this morning the play got a spectacular write-up in The Times and now you can’t get tickets.

Bonnie came over on Valentine’s Day. I made a huge vat of white clam sauce, threw it on linguini and called it dinner. I don’t like white wine but Ellis told me not to serve red. Made out on the couch and Bonnie tasted like white wine. She left around midnight. At 12:30 my phone rang. It was Ann. She called to wish me a happy Valentine’s Day and to congratulate me on my move from Brooklyn to Manhattan. She told me she just met Andre Watts. I have no idea who that is. [Note: I do now.]

Can you imagine that poor old thing still carrying a torch for me after all this time? I think she’s 32 or 35 or something like that. I can’t bring her around to my friends. But she’s a dynamo in bed. She would slather us both with coconut oil and we’d roll around on top of each other like two puppies wrestling. The smell of coconut would permeate the bedroom. Now, I get a hard-on if I eat a macaroon.

She’ll try any position. She’s fearless. Laura told me she’s never had an orgasm but Ann has them ALL THE TIME. Once, while looking out her window and watching the sunset over Central Park, she dropped to her knees and delivered the goods. I didn’t ask for it and wasn’t expecting it.

I didn’t want her to become attached but that’s exactly what happened. I hate it when someone is hurting on account of me. It’s such a waste of their time. I’m not worth it. Calling her would just be an excuse to get back into her Upper East Side king size bed. It would be wrong. [Note: It was wrong, but I did it, anyway.]

Sunset over the Hudson River and New Jersey. Both pics taken from my 50th floor office.

sunset My new apartment is nice but the neighborhood is scary. I hear gunshots almost every night. I was walking down the hall to the elevator and a tiny black mouse ran past me. I could have kicked him into his next life but I let him live. Klinger came for a visit and he was offered works three times before he got to my building. [Note: Works = hypodermic needle and accoutrements for injecting heroin.]

There are more journal entries linked in the Memoir category. But if you want to cut to the chase, this post is my favorite. When I read this, it feels like I’m reading about somebody else’s life. But it’s not. It’s mine.



Juxtapose Your Day

Juxtaposition is when two contrasting items are placed in close proximity to one another for heightened effect. In concert, a band will play a raucous song followed by a quiet one. Springsteen does it a lot. It’s Beethoven’s favorite device. His music is ether bombastic or delicate. Movies, literature, art—it’s everywhere. Juxtaposition is used to tweak your perceptions.

After the humiliation of watching a derelict violently berate two young girls and not lift a finger to help, the rest of my day unfolded in a narcotic euphoria. It was like watching a sped-up film of a flower opening.

I unpacked the guilt I was carrying for calling in sick (when I wasn’t), and the guilt for not helping those girls and left it on the marble steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Forgiveness is a snap under the right conditions. I came out of the subway at 86th Street and a gentle snow was falling. It was purifying.

Curves within curves.


The key to a museum visit is to get there when it opens. You float through the quiet corridors and empty galleries unmolested by crowds and noise.

The empty Met Café with snowstorm outside.


People have their churches and cathedrals. Their synagogues, mosques, ashrams and shrines. I’ve visited a few of those places with an open heart and have never experienced any of the things you’re supposed to—an epiphany, a swelling of the spirit, becoming flush with joy. Mostly, they bore me. There’s only one place that fills my empty cup o’ essence to the brim and that’s an art museum.

Lovers steal a kiss in the Temple of Dendur.


Art museums restore my faith in humanity and fill me with hope and forgiveness. It’s the only evidence I’ve seen that there might be a God. Listening to a sermon has never convinced me. They’re all slick-haired, television evangelists to me. Art museums are filled with kindred damaged souls.

“His fleece was white as snow…”

snowI never understood Cubism but this exhibit was an historical gathering of paintings, so I felt compelled to see it. I did a smart thing. I bought an audio tour. If you stand in front of a jumbled mess and someone carefully explains the artist’s intent, the mess dissolves into a new clarity and a deeper understanding. Its meaning is unearthed and something that, at first glance, you never thought you could like, much less understand, suddenly makes perfect sense. It turns out I love Cubism very much. What a surprise! I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know that an old dog like me can still learn a thing or two. It makes me sad that I didn’t have any teachers in my youth. What else have I missed?

Looking down into Central Park from the 2nd floor of the Met.

Central Park3

I took a walk through Central Park. Walking through a snowy Central Park will make you glad to be alive. It’ll make your heavy heart light and put a big, stupid grin on your face that will make you look disturbed to people walking past you. And that thought will please you.

“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Lewis Carroll
Alice in Wonderland


Beyond those trees, some of the most expensive real estate on the planet.


After the Park, I saw a movie. Bridman, with Michael Keaton. It’s about actors. Then I saw an off-Broadway play. A one-man show presented by a guy who spent 10 years in prison. He performed 18 different and distinct characters he met there, oftentimes in conversational clusters where you had four or five individuals coming out of one mouth.

All that happened within a 15-hour period. A near mugging, an artistic revelation, a stroll through a wintery Central Park, a move and then a play. During that entire span, I was alone. I didn’t talk to a soul and do you know what? I loved it.

I love my wife and daughters. Read the back-posts if you don’t believe me. But I’m content in my own skin. I always have been. I’ve never been lonely a day in my life and I don’t look to anyone to supply my happiness for me. I hang on my cross for lots of things. [Here’s one nail: Though my father lived with us until I was 16, I never had a conversation him.] But I’ve got independence, and that’s an awesome weapon to have in your arsenal.

Darla recently announced that she just obtained her 10,000th follower. A few days later, Elyse said she hit 4,000. Congrats girls! Well done and well deserved. I’d like to announce to the world that my follow meter just clicked to:


Pretty good, right? And I’ve only been doing this for seven years. Just wait until I pick up a head of steam. The sky’s the limit, bitches. [EDIT: I just reread this. Yikes. I’m not directing “bitches” at Darla and Elyse. Do a search. I call my audience bitches. All apologies if it was taken the wrong way.]

All kidding aside, I have a small, but vocal, following and I’ll take that any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Thank you, one and all.

Bonus track

This magnificent window was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany in 1924. NO PAINT was used in its production. Instead, the color comes from tiny bits of colored glass—he called it “glass confetti.” It throws light and is luminescent in a way paint is not. The water’s mist was made by layering thin panes of glass on top of one another. Other textures were created by wrinkling glass in its molten state.


Now do you believe me?

Oh, what a man I was. What a hero. A credit to my gender.

I called in sick the other day to attend the soon-to-close Cubism exhibit at the Met. My priorities are seriously fucked. Risking my employ just to look at some art is mental. But it’s an historic gathering of paintings, never to be repeated. It’s important to me. It’s meaningful.

The Met doesn’t open until 10:00 and I had time to kill. At 6:00 a.m. I walked into the Starbucks on Lexington Avenue across from the Chrysler Building, bought a coffee, took a seat, opened my laptop and crawled inside. It was just me and the two young girls behind the counter.

The door opened with a swoosh and a bang. A disheveled, agitated man stomped up to the counter. He was a giant. I’m 6’ and he was easily a few inches taller than me and broader. His hands were clenched into fists. They look like two softballs. He yelled at the girls, “Gimme a cuppa hot water!”

“Would you like anything else?”

He snapped back, “I just said hot water, didn’t I? Did I ask for anything else?!

We call those guys time bombs. They move through the city in slow motion like they’re anesthetized or walking under water. But at any moment—on the subway, in the middle of 6th Avenue, in a coffee shop—they detonate. And when they do, you wish you were someplace else.

They gave him his hot water, he took a seat and seethed. The air was thick with his anger. You could feel it. I got lost in my work but a few minutes later I snapped-to because he was standing at the counter screaming at the girls, calling them the most foul, hateful things you can call a woman. And what did I do about that, brothers and sisters?

I sat there like the useless lump I am and stared straight ahead into my screen.

He’d have pulverized me. I don’t know how to fight. I imagined my daughter’s tears when I walked in the house with my face smashed in. I was supposed to be home sick. How was I going to explain it at work? But what difference does any of that make? I sat there.

He never laid a hand on them but those poor girls took a proper beating. He finally ran out of gas and left. A minute later, one of them walked over to me and said, “I’m so sorry about the disturbance. Would you like a free refill on your coffee?”

The final humiliation.

“No, thank you,” I said. I stammered an apology for not helping. I might not know how to fight, but I’m awfully good at apologizing. She said it’s no bother. That it happens all the time. As if that made it okay.  I tucked my tail between my vagina and went to the museum.

I struggled with whether or not to include the fact that he was black. Does injecting race into the mix change anything? The girls behind counter were black as well. He attacked them for being women but he also attacked them for being black. So that’s a different post, isn’t it? When race enters the conversation, it changes the temperature in the room.

I have a precedent for being such a coward. New York hasn’t always been so nice to me. It was a mess when I first got here. I’ve been mugged three times. All three times it was by black men. (Men. Plural. Never just one). The second time I was mugged they didn’t even take anything. They just punched me in the face a few times and kept walking down the street, laughing. I had moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Fort Greene is a gentrified artist’s colony now, but back in the early ‘90s it was violent. I was one of only three white guys living on the block. I wasn’t welcome and they let me know.

Have you ever been mugged? It stays with you a long, long time. The revenge fantasies go on forever. So, yeah, giant, angry, insane black men scare the shit out of me.

The rest of the day unfolded like some sort of Bizzaro World miracle. It went from everything you’d hate about New York to the very best this place has to offer. From an ugly fright to this:

Click on this. It’s just beautiful. 

central park snow2How do you hate a place this dynamic? You can’t. You just can’t!