NYC’s Newest Summer Scam

New York City is a buzzing hive of scoundrels. They have no intention of putting in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wages. That’s for suckers like you and I. They live to surgically separate people from their money as quickly and stealthily as possible. And they’re always coming up with novel ways to do it. [Come to think of it, that sounds like the dictionary definition of the advertising industry.]

Currently, there are some Buddhist monks strolling around midtown Manhattan with big smiles on their faces. They bow slightly to tourists, give them some prayer beads and hold their hand out. OF COURSE people give them money. They’re Buddhist monks!

Well, folks, they’re not. They’re a bunch of Chinese dudes who live in Queens impersonating monks. They bought some ceremonial robes and cheap prayer beads and—PRESTO!—instant monk. Apparently, word has gotten out that it’s an easy way to make a buck because I’m seeing more and more of them, especially since summer arrived. It’s been reported in all the papers but, as far as I can tell, nothing’s being done about it. I caught one of the holy Lamas taking a cigarette break on the steps of the stage door at the Nederlander Theater on 41st Street.


Hey! Those guys aren’t supposed to smoke! Aren’t their bodies supposed to be temples? Ah, well. Maybe they’re not a bunch of benevolent pacifists after all. For instance, I saw this headline in New York Daily News yesterday:


I remember (now, fondly) the three-card Monte grifters of my early NYC years. I was played for a fool once or twice but quickly learned you can’t beat them. It was intoxicating. There was always a shill so folks could see how easy it was. They’d let you win a few times to suck you in. You’d stand there with a fist full of cash and a big, dumb grin on your face, impressed with your brilliance and thinking you knew how to beat these bastards at their own game. The end result was always the same. You’d be liberated of that cash you’d just won and then some. You had to admire their ability to use your greed against you.

It made for great, free, theater. I spent many afternoons in Central Park during my broke-ass years watching them reel in fish after fish. Those guys never paid out. The scam was, if someone accidentally won and selected the right card (which, believe me, rarely happened), they’d kick their boxes over, yell, “Cops!” and scatter in different directions with their pockets full of cash. Your cash. It was beautiful. Nobody got physically hurt. People just felt stupid. A friend came to visit and I BEGGED him not to get involved but you know how that ended, right?

If you’re planning a visit this summer, stay away from the monks. I warned you.

My Bride made a rare trip into the city for work yesterday and took this spectacular pic of The Flatiron. It’s her favorite building in all of NYC. When it opened, one architectural critic glowingly referred to it as a great battleship steaming up Broadway. Hell, yeah, it is.


Here’s another architectural marvel on Amsterdam and 71st St. This is The Dorilton. It’s a beautiful Beau Arts co-op (originally apartments) constructed in 1902.


It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and featured in many architectural guidebooks. It’s one of the most flamboyant buildings in the city. Criminy. I wish I had a pied-à-terre there. If I did, my life would be perfect and I’d have to stop complaining. The Dorilton sits on the northeast corner. On the southwest corner, diagonally across the street is this abortion:


I don’t know or care what the name of this fugly mess is. This is the product of greedy real estate development turds. Why spend all that delicious money on design flourishes? That would just cut into profits.

I took these early yesterday morning. Bryant Park, 6:30 a.m. Nobody is around at that hour. It’s just me and a cup of coffee cart coffee.



Asbury Park, 2009. That was then.


Asbury Park, 2015. This is now.


*Sigh* Why does this makes my chest hurt?

Potpourri! [Bitchin’ Edition]

A meandering group of morsels whereby I judge myself and others.

Baby’s first Coke.

cokeActually, I’m betting that’s not her first. Do you know how you’re not supposed to think your better than anyone? Or talk bad about how other people raise their kids? Sometimes it’s hard not to do that.

“Don’t hate all rich people. They’re not ALL awful. Believe me, I know some evil poor people, too. We need SOME rich people: Who else is going to back our movies or buy our art?”

John Waters
Rhode Island School of Design commencement address

Thanks, Mr. Waters. I needed to hear that. I’m so consumed with envy and self-loathing that I’ve developed a nasty predisposition for disliking someone simply because they have a lot of money. The first step is acknowledging the problem. Then you can attack it, reet?

I saw my pretend girlfriend Mary-Louise Parker in Heisenberg. It’s a fantastic male fantasy about a scrumptious, troubled, young woman who finds comfort and salvation in the arms of a much, much, MUCH older man. It’s enough to fill you with false hope.

heisenbergI’ve seen my Mary-Louise in a few plays and she really knows how to work a stage. She knows how to play crazy and emotional, too. Real tears when required. It’s in a small, black box theater where the actors perform just steps away from you. It can heighten the drama, but it can also be disconcerting. They get into your personal space. Thankfully, I controlled my almost overwhelming desire to stand up and introduce myself to my Mary-Louise and try to charm her.

Here’s my favorite news story of the day.

newsfeedWhen I first heard about LastPass, I wondered about the wisdom of keeping all your passwords in one central location on the cloud. The Black Hats will always be a step ahead of the White Hats. Sorry.

Currently at the Schoenfeld is Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in The Audience. It imagines a series of meetings between the Queen and her various Prime Ministers over the years. Mirren won a Best Actress Tony and deserved it. Opening this fall, right across the street at the Music Box, is King Charles III.

marqueesIt’s transferring from London. It’s a fantasy in which QE2 dies and Charles becomes king. Once enthroned, he becomes a paranoid monarch and dissolves Parliament. He rings Buckingham Palace with tanks. A palace coup is orchestrated by Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. I. can’t. WAIT. The play is written in iambic pentameter. I hope to figure out what that is in time for its October opening.

Between these two plays and Wolf Hall, the five-hour drama about Henry VIII, you’d think my Anglophilia would be placated. Well, it’s not. I’d get a cab to JFK and hop on the next London-bound flight if I could.

“My point is, fear of failure forces you to push yourself.”

Cody Keenan
White House Director of Speechwriting
NYU commencement address

Fear of failure can also send you under a rock for a few years. Take my word for it.

Here’s the new consultant we just hired. He sits about four feet away from me. He likes to rest his gigantic belly on his desk while he eats (which is constantly). He’s like a baby gorilla who requires a feeding every :60 to :90 minutes. That bottom shirt button is begging for mercy.

fatPlease spare me any lectures about fat-shaming or how I should be more sympathetic. That son-of-a-bitch is making my workday a living hell. All day long I hear a symphony of chewing, burping, lip-smacking, slurping and crunching. The air is permeated with a noxious stench. Every morning he eats an omelet that smells like dirty underwear. Who can eat an omelet every day?  Its foul essence lingers in my sinuses until noon, when the next odor offensive is launched. He seems blissfully unaware that he works in an open-architecture environment and that his behavior effects everyone. Or, he’s aware and doesn’t give a damn.

campIsn’t that nice? It’s summer sports camp season here in the quiet, safe, lily-white, middle class suburbs, and violence is the metaphor. Proud papas send their little boys off to learn the meaning of WAR or to DO DAMAGE (presumably to other little boys). Do you know who shows up to these games? The same guys who scream at the coaches until the veins in their necks burst.

It’s a damn good thing I didn’t have sons. I am ill-equipped to raise a boy. I don’t hunt or fish or camp. Can’t fix a car. Never played a sport. And I believe teaching this kind of aggression to a little kid is immoral. But I don’t dare voice that opinion to anyone. Christ. What am I doing out here, anyway? I’m a complete misfit.

Live! Nude! Girls!

Let’s dip our silver ladle into the big rain barrel of memories and take another cool drink.


August 31, 1993

Last Saturday was a blur of sex, money and booze. Howard invited me on a bachelor party crawl with 10 of his pals. They said I was the token Gentile. I didn’t know any of them but they made me feel welcomed. A few of them live in Israel and told some interesting stories. We ate at Khyber Pass on St. Marks. The groom, Sparky, just had a major blow-out with his betrothed so he was mopey all night.

I hate strip clubs. Always have. I’m strung too tight to enjoy them. They sell an illusion to bored, lonely men. I certainly qualify but I can’t dismiss the reality. Those girls don’t want me! They want the contents of my wallet. As soon as they find out I’m broke, I’m persona non grata. It’s like dating in Manhattan without the occasional loveless sex to break up the monotony. Other guys seem to be able to see past the lie and enjoy themselves. What’s wrong with me?

We went to Honey Buns on 47th and Lexington. What a dump. We thought we’d get away cheap because there wasn’t a cover. We were mistaken. We were pounced on the moment we walked in. I was surprised (and pleased) at how touchy the girls were. It was okay to reciprocate if you didn’t cross a line. They’d whisper flattering things in your ear. Guys walked in looking like the crosstown M42 just squished their puppy but when a girl sat in their lap they cheered right up. It was a room full of dudes who are crushed by life. Bald, overweight, lousy jobs, lousy wives, too many responsibilities, too little fun, old, sad sacks. But those girls made them feel like winners. There’s something sweet about it.

There was a $10 “entertainment” charge but that includes three beers, which I thought was a bargain. Later that evening, a bartender at the Blarney Stone told me those places serve non-alcoholic beer. I’ve never been able to hold my liquor and it dawned on me that after a three beers, all I had was a foul taste in my mouth.

I paid my $10 and tipped the girl $1. She said she usually gets $2 for a beer so I gave her another $1. A shockingly beautiful Japanese girl sat next to me. I was wearing shorts and she started twiddling the hair on my leg. She asked if I would buy her a drink and I said, “SURE!” A waitress brought the drink, set it down and said, “$20.” I started laughing because I thought she was kidding but she wasn’t. It was the most expensive drink I’ve ever bought. I told my companion that I was dirt poor and to enjoy her dink because there wouldn’t be another one. I was angry.

As an icebreaker, I showed her my tattoo. [Note: It’s a Japanese symbol. How horribly cliché.] I said I was tired of dating and wanted to see just one girl. I don’t recall asking any questions about herself. What could I ask?! She was sitting in a dank, second-rate strip joint with hardly any clothes on and her big Japanese breasts spilling into my lap. I know this sounds idiotic but I think she liked me. It was obvious she wasn’t going to make any money off me but she didn’t leave. She sat there for quite some time and we chatted. She said she didn’t meet very many “nice guys” and that it was refreshing to just talk. I was so flattered that I almost ordered her a glass of water.

A waitress came by, picked up her unfinished drink and that was her signal to move on. I was pretty bored after that. Later, I saw her sitting with a TOTAL STRANGER stroking his leg. It broke my heart. I thought I was special.

A stunningly beautiful girl sat next to Howard. Howard is happily married and a self-professed cheap bastard. The girl sat there just long enough to learn those truths: about :30 seconds. A man at the next table was sitting with his back to me. A girl was sitting in his lap facing me. He was kissing her neck and caressing her back. The girl had a blank, distant look on her face. Like she was composing her grocery list. She’s got a boring job, too. Howard said he saw them walk to the back of the club and up a staircase. It was depressing. I wanted to leave.

We walked to the Blarney Stone and got properly soused. One of Howard’s friends is from Cleveland and I tried to chat him up about my old town but all he did was complain. He bitched about everything. The walking (people outside the city drive everywhere), the money, the girls, the “weird food,” the city—everything. I ignored him. Someone bought rounds of shots. A girl walked passed and bumped into me. I asked her if I owed her $20 for that.

We went the Paradise. There was a $10 cover. The Paradise has a VIP Lounge. A private dance in the VIP Lounge costs $10. I got angry because for the price of ONE dink at Honey Buns I could have had TWO VIP dances. For the extraordinarily well heeled, you can ride around Manhattan in the back of a limo with the girl of your choice. That costs $300. I wonder if one of the gorillas working there goes with you or do you get to be alone with the girl?

The girls immediately pegged us all as a bunch of cheap bastards and never approached us. There were TV monitors around the perimeter of the stage playing hardcore porno. Everywhere you looked there was fucking and sucking. Sex, sex, sex. Vaginas as far as the eye could see. You couldn’t get away from them. It was a room filled with drunken, horny, desperate, lonely guys who were being driven mad with desire but wouldn’t have anything to show for it at the end of the evening except an empty wallet and blue balls.

While hailing a cab at the corner of Broadway and 33rd I saw some guy pissing in the doorway of a bank. Not a bum. Some white kid from the suburbs. I hate when people piss on my city, so imagine my utter delight when a patrol car pulled up and arrested him. The cops stood him spread-eagle on the hood of the cruiser while they called in his ID. Now, THAT’S what I call a happy ending. Home at 3:30.

Last Saturday I took 13-Year Old to the Whitney. They have a brand new building in the meatpacking district. The building is spectacular and the exhibit, culled from their permanent collection, is beautiful. Too crowded, though. Here, my daughter and I argue the merits of Rothko. My artist pal, Sharon, took this. Always bring an artist to a museum with you. They explain stuff. That’s the same little girl in my banner up top. Time’s insatiable appetite.



I got tagged by my Polish Pal to do the 10/10 list. 10 things I love. 10 things I hate. It goes without saying that I love my family and health. So I won’t say it.

I love little baby ducks, old pickup trucks, slow movin’ trains and rain.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I love that. I find it strangely comforting.

I love when I reveal my age and someone says, “Oh, you don’t look that old” and they mean it.

I love the nightlife. I got to boogie on the disco ‘round.

Good God in heaven, sweet Mother of Jesus, I love New York City. I was walking down 54th Street on a sunny day, in a good mood, looked down and saw this Haiku written in chalk on a sidewalk:


I love coffee. It’s the affordable addiction. The one that won’t cost you your family or job.

Love is all around no need to waste it. You can have the town, why don’t you take it?

We disciplined the 8-Year Old and she went to bed upset. I love that the next morning My Bride found this under her pillow from her older sister. It makes me feel like I’m finally doing something right.


I love paper and ink. I like how they smell when married together. I like how it blackens my fingertips.

I love this Bukowski poem. From top to bottom it is, for me, the truest and most perfect poem I’ve ever read. I own a letterpressed broadside of it and go back to it all the time. It fortifies me.

a consistent sort

at the track
the other day
during the
stretch run
the announcer screamed:

I had a bet on
Pain and
he finished
one half-length

he didn’t win
that time
but he will
win soon
and you can
bet on that
again and
again and

get down

I hate myself for loving you. Can’t break free from the things that you do. I wanna walk but I run back to you. That’s why I hate myself for loving you. (Ow! Uh!)

I hate when that happens.

I hate Jeff Bezos and his Amazon shitsite. He single-handedly slaughtered bookstores. He took something away that was important and vital and meaningful in my life.

I hate that something’s bothering you right now. I wish I could help you solve that problem. Is there anything I can do?

I hate mobile phones. I hate what they’ve turned us into. I wish I could put the genie back in the bottle. I’d do it. I’D TOTALLY DO IT.

I hate my vanity. Who fucking cares how old I look? What difference does THAT make?

I hate that I’m not over it yet. My God. How many years ago was that? Enough already. That’s enough.

I hate rap. It’s ugly, corrosive and anti-life. It’s the new slavery.

I hate the CEO’s of giant investment banks. If I was sitting at a bar and Jamie Dimon was on one side of me and Lloyd Blankfein was sitting on the other side and I got up to put money in the jukebox, those two clowns would have a fistfight over who was going to steal my change off the top of the bar as soon as my back was turned. They’re nothing a bunch of cheap pickpockets and thieves.

I hate 9/11. Who fucked up my town? And my wedding anniversary, to boot?