Our Young Hero Weeps Salty Tears

In this episode, the Emperor of Tender Hearts and Self-Pity rides in on his sad, gray horse. Hi ho.


April 27, 1995

A fun New York-y thing happened to me. I was on my way to work and because I’m working these crazy hours, it was midday and there weren’t many people on the subway platform. Near the center stairwell, waiting for the train, was a group of about 15 children with three or four teachers. They were around 6 years old, mixed races and genders. When I walked by, their conversations mashed together into a high-pitched buzz. Like tiny bees. I was annoyed because I wanted to read my paper so I started to walk off in a huff towards the end of the platform.

There was a sudden silence. They all turned to one of the teachers. She said something inaudible and they began singing Yellow Submarine in absolute perfect harmony. Their voices were sweet and angelic. It sounded like a choir but they were just children. No one voice was singing louder than the others. The acoustics in the subway were perfect. Their singing had a rich, full, echoy sound. Everyone standing around looked up from their reading material and stared. It was surreal. All those beautiful voices in that filthy setting.

They finished Yellow Submarine and began a song they were taught to sign. It was about how being here with their friends and singing makes them happy. There was a beautiful choreography of tiny hands, all moving in graceful unison. I started thinking of all those little children who were blown up in Oklahoma City last week. They’ll never see their friends or sing again. I started crying right in the middle of the subway platform. I had a suit and tie on and looked ridiculous. I was so embarrassed, but it made me happy that I live in New York, where crazy shit like this happens on a fairly regular basis.

May 1, 1995

The evening shift is killing me. I can’t sleep during the day. You can’t imagine how clean this apartment is. I’m a very clean person, you know? This morning, I ironed four shirts (medium starch) and scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors. You can’t use a sponge mop. Do you know who uses sponge mops? Lazy, wussy-pussy losers. You’ve got to get down on your hands and knees with a scrub brush and scrub that motherfucker until your knuckles and back hurt. I seriously think I’m losing my mind.

Ellis and Oswaldo are meeting a friend from college tonight for dinner. He became a teacher, taught all over the world but also had a secret life as “Miss Terry.” Get it? He’s HIV positive and can’t teach anymore. It’s only a matter of time.

Laura gave me a homework assignment. In one column, I’m supposed to list the things I like about the work I do and in another column I’m supposed to list the stuff I don’t like. I stared at a blank sheet of paper and couldn’t come up with any positives. I haven’t accomplished a damn thing. I’m going to spend rest of my life as an office drone. I want to seduce her, so I’d better make up some positive stuff. What is a good thing?

I remember sitting at that crappy presswood and tube steel table in that crappy apartment in Phoenix and writing a letter to Peggy about my Arizona adventures. The next morning, before dropping it in the mail, I reread it and was surprised at how good it was. A magic elf could’ve snuck in overnight and wrote it, but that didn’t happen. I wrote it. I thought it was my imagination but Peggy called the day she got it and said she passed it around the office and it made everyone laugh. She said, “You do know that you’re a writer, don’t you?” I got choked-up but she never knew, thank god. [Caveat: I’m not fishing for compliments or encouragement, all appearances to the contrary. I’m just regurgitating what’s in the binders.]

I accidentally/on purpose came across the studio shot of Karen. I couldn’t stand it anymore so I called the travel agency and they said she left four months ago. It made me wretch. I’ll never find her. To insure that never happens again, I took the photo outside and burned it. It was supposed to be cathartic but my memory didn’t go up in flames, like the metaphor promised it would. I still think about her.

There was an ad in the Village Voice personals by a girl who’s trapped in a corporate environment and looking for a writing partner. You have to call her voicemail and leave a message. I thought I’d fumfer if I spoke off the cuff so I typed-out a response:


The voicemail message (which cost me $2.50 to listen to) said she’s looking for a “very smart, very sexy man who can write who’s not intimidated by a very smart, very sexy woman who can write.” I hung up. I couldn’t do it. She’d see right through me. I think what I’m looking for is a wilted violet.

I forgot to wear a belt to work the other day so I went to H&M at lunch to buy one. Have you ever been to H&M? My first and last visit. Their target audience is 15-year old girls tweaked out on meth. It’s like being in da club at 2:30 a.m. All mirrors and loud, thumping, headache-inducing “music.” I was standing in the checkout queue having a brain aneurysm, looked up and across 42nd St. was a Gap. A nice, quiet, gentle Gap.

The view from my office. The days are getting shorter. Autumn is here.


Blog Post Tapas

I did a post like this not long ago. I’ve got a bunch of interesting bits and pieces floating around that, hopefully, make for a worthwhile post.

A Lot of Plot for One Statue

This is the Hindu goddess Durga. I met her at The Rubin Museum of Art last week. Here, she defeats the wicked demigod Mahisah. Nepal. 13th Century.


Durga decapitates a buffalo and pulls Mahisah out by his hair (ouch). Before he can draw his sword, she stabs him in the chest with her varja (OUCH).


The Goddess’s 18 arms fan out showing her arsenal of weapons. All this violence is balanced by her calm expression. She’s pretty bad-ass.


This antagonized my feelings towards religion. Catholicism places women on a pedestal and then imprisons them a gilded cage. Their virginity is obsessed over. They’re not fit for the priesthood and are only offered servitude roles. Don’t get me started on how Muslims treat women.

Hindus make their women into WARRIOR GODDESSES who can kick a man’s ass when he’s being a wicked demigod.

Blue Sky + Gray Hair > Gray Sky + Blue Hair


I was lying in my hammock daydreaming about The Partridge Family. I remembered that in the Mad Magazine parody, Danny stole Laurie’s training bra, cut eye holes in it and used it as a bandit mask. I recalled the illustration of Danny wearing the bra on his head while Laurie complained to mom. I had a good retro laugh.

Earlier that morning, I was picking up a prescription for my daughter and when the pharmacist asked what her date of birth is, my mind went white.

C’mon, get happy.

With Apologies to Bob Dylan

Dear younger self:

The lyric in the second verse of the Top 40 chestnut Go All the Way by Cleveland pop sensation The Raspberries is not

Oh, I love her
screwing me

as you and your young school chums once believed. Rather, it’s

Before her love
I was cruel and mean

Glad I finally got that sorted out. Took long enough.

A recent post by Samara about Lay, Lady, Lay reminded me that, for many years, I thought Bob Dylan’s most romantic ballad was actually written and performed by 70’s Lite FM staple Mac Davis, he of Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me fame. That means I thought the lyrics

Whatever colors you have
in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll
see them shine


Girl, you’re a hot-blooded woman-child
And it’s warm where you’re touchin’ me


The Sound of One Hand Clapping

“Imagine you are alone in a room. The lights are down low, you’ve got some scented candles going. Soothing New Age tunes, nothing too druid-chanty, seep out of the hi-fi to gently massage your cerebral cortex. Feel good? Are you the best, most special person in the room right now? Yes. That’s the gift of being alone.”

Colson Whitehead
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death

Graphique Fantastique

Look at these two magnificent posters for Broadway productions. Graphic design is a pretty great art form, even if it is primarily a vehicle for commerce.

This first one is by Paul Jeffery. It’s for the new David Mamet play starring Al Pacino. It reminds me of those cool travel posters from the 1950’s. Nice, dignified color palate. It says noting whatsoever about the play itself, but it conveys all the information needed to make you want to buy a ticket, namely,




ChinaDollIt worked on me. I got a ticket. But those two old rattlesnakes, Mamet and Pacino, aren’t the sure bet they once were. They’re not exactly at the top of their game anymore. The evening can go either way.

This one is for a musical you can’t get a ticket to unless you’re extraordinarily wealthy. I don’t know who did the poster but the logo is genius. It has movement and beautiful stark contrasts. The top point of the star is implied. His buttons are a nice, subtle accent.



One rose for each year. A happy anniversary to my Bride. 16 years this past 9/11. Thanks, terrorists, for fucking up my anniversary. AND my town.


We didn’t celebrate for a few years after the attack. It didn’t feel right. But we decided to reclaim the day. We mean no disrespect to people who lost someone but it’s ours and we choose to celebrate it. 16 years now. 18, unofficially. The score is:

Annus Mirabilis: 18
Annus Horribilis: 0

Would you autograph your book for me?

I was perusing the fall author appearance schedule at the 5th Avenue and Union Square Barnes & Nobel. I like getting signed first editions. I have shelves full of them. Sara Bareilles is coming in October and I had absolutely no idea who she was so I clicked on the More Information link. To wit:

Special Instructions

  • Wristband event
  • No memorabilia
  • No posed photography
  • Two books per person limit
  • Purchases starting 9:00AM the day of the event and join the signing line outside the front of the store.

Sara Bareilles will only be signing her new title Sounds Like Me. Event guidelines are subject to change. Please follow instructions given by the events team. In advance, the courtesy of your cooperation is appreciated.

Please follow instructions. In other words, to borrow a famous New York Daily News headline:

Sara Bareilles To Fans: DROP DEAD

Carrie Brownstein will also hit the road this fall to shill her memoir. I’ll bet it’s thrilling. A New York Times fluff piece said:

…she’s relieved that book tours are generally not as extensive as music tours. “As much as I wanted to have a stop in Indianapolis.”

Carrie Brownstein To Indianapolis: DROP DEAD

Are book tours really so arduous? Is meeting your readers such sublime torture? Don’t these frail, delicate, l’artistes realize they’ve won the lottery? I can’t stand it when people turn unimaginable success into a crushing burden.

I’ve been to PLENTY of author meet-and-greets and, for the most part, they’ve been satisfying experiences. Michael Chabon is always engaging. Sherman Alexie is the best reader out there. At one reading, I asked Nick Hornby if I could publish one of his essays in a chapbook and without blinking, he said yes. Most authors seem genuinely appreciative of their audience. But some are tormented by us.

I went to a David Foster Wallace reading. I brought three older titles with me that I wanted him to sign. When I got to the table, he sat there with his arms crossed, looking straight ahead. Not at me. The Barnes & Nobel rep said, “Mr. Wallace will only sign one old book for every new book purchased.” He looked mortified saying it.

I felt stupid and small. I tucked my tail between my legs, got out of line, bought three more new books and went to the back of the line. He then, grudgingly, signed the old titles. In hindsight, what I should have done, was chuck the new book at his stupid bandanna and told him to jam it up his ass. Christ. He’s lucky to HAVE old titles.

Look, I know getting a book autographed is trite. I’ve meditated on it and I can’t figure out its appeal. But it’s something I like to do. It’s an innocent hobby and Dear Dead David made me feel ashamed for it. He took that small joy away from me. It would’ve cost him NOTHING to just sign the fucking books and send me on my merry way.

If I’m ever lucky enough to be published and I’m sent on an author tour, here’s what you can expect from me:

  • A detailed, passionate inscription thanking you for reading my book.
  • A vigorous handshake. I might yank your arm out of its socket.
  • Two books per person limit? Feh. How many can you carry?
  • An invitation. Can I buy you a drink? Are you hungry?
  • Do your feet hurt? Can I give you a foot rub?

To all the tortured souls with impending book tours this fall, especially Carrie Brownstein and Sara Bareilles (I’m still not sure who she is), that’s how it’s done, you ingrates.

I’m on a roll. What’s my other favorite red button issue? Oh, yeah.


Awwwww…C’MON PEOPLE! SERIOUSLY?! Is this what we’ve come to? Are we, as a society, so addicted to mobile phones that we can’t even put the damn things down long enough to take a piss? Man, are we soft. China is going to dink our milkshake. The phone did not, despite my pleadings and offerings to the various Gods and Goddesses, slip out of his hand, drop onto the urinal cake and get pissed on.

Oh, yes I did, take that picture.

Summer is over and these two are none too happy about it.


It was a good season. Lots of sun and beach time. If this is global warming, I’ll have some more, please.


Summer is over for my little translucent, black-eyed friend, too.



We Like New York City

I was invited to participate in the Big Birthday Playlist Tsunami for Samara. The idea was to post a song that represents her persona out here in the ether but I can do one better. We have a song that’s ours.

Samara and I are seekers on the same path. We’ve never bumped into (or stepped over) one another along the way, but we’re on the same path. We lived in the East Village for many years before it got tidied-up and became a playground for the wealthy. When we were there, the wealthy only visited when they wanted to go slumming.

What was once this:

cbgbIs now this:

varvatosThose city years left an impression on us. You can call it a scar but I like to think of it as a beauty mark. We both fled to the New Jersey suburbs for the same reason; to make a better life for our kids. The East Village is no place to raise a child. She lives just a few towns over.

Joey Ramone sent us a post card from our past. This song fills us with blue melancholy. In addition to having a great hook, the video for his New York City is a stop-motion masterpiece. It winds through some of the same streets where we lived. Our streets. That guitar solo over the Brooklyn Bridge feels like going home. It’s like a home movie with a kick ass soundtrack. Reet, doll?

Happy birthday.

Here are the other participants and their tracks.

Before Gentrification

I don’t approve of gentrification. But the people who complain about it the most tend to have a romanticized notion of what pre-gentrified NYC was like. It was a hellhole. Their dark, poetic remembrances are just a fancy notion.


September 10, 1994

I have got to get out of this neighborhood. It’s a great apartment but if I stay here much longer I’ll get caught in crossfire. Last night I heard a lot of yelling and commotion in the alley. Someone yelled, “Get your fucking hands up!” I turned all the lights off and ran to the window. Four cops climbed over the barbed wire top of the fence and ran down the alley with their guns drawn.

There’s been a rash of ODs over the past few days because of some tainted heroin. The Times said the police traced the sales to Clinton and Rivington, a half block away. What a lovely distinction. They published a photo of my street and it looks like one of Dante’s more sinister levels of hell. The one reserved for child molesters or politicians.

They described Clinton as “A scruffy street on the Lower East Side. The area is lined with a hodgepodge of stores, ranging from a corner bodega to an abandoned matzoh factory. Men apparently down on their luck walked around with blank expressions.” Did the reporter see me walking home from work? Last night there was a seller yelling at the top of his lungs, “POISON! POISON! I GOT POISON” That’s probably the brand that’s killing junkies. Cindy and I were talking about it this morning. She’s amazed I was able to hear him in the back of the building. She’s in the front and said it goes on all night, every night.

I called a real estate agent and told her I have to find someplace else to live. By the end of the call she had me convinced that I’m lucky to be here. She told me horror stories about trying to find an apartment that’s both affordable and humane. I told her my apartment was rent controlled, 900 sq ft and less than $600/mo. She said that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES should I let it go, so I guess I won’t. But I hate it. It makes me hate me.

I was interviewed at an agency by a beautiful Greek girl. Maria Stolopoloplolopos or something like that. A dark, smoldering, hairy beauty. It’s for a project at Citibank. If they don’t place me I’m going ask her out. I was tested on some graphic software. It was hard but I think I did okay. The gig is in the Citicorp building about two levels below ground. A subbasement with no natural light or windows. It looks like a Kafkaesque hell. The money is good. Still, I kind of hope I failed the test.

[Note: I passed the test and got the assignment. It was as dreary as it sounds. You could hear the subways rumble by on the other side of the wall. I don’t remember if I dated the Greek girl.]

I’m halfway through Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick. He’s such a compelling writer. I wish I could write half as well. I read stuff like this and I know there’s no hope for a poseur like me.

I saw Klinger perform at LaMaMa on Saturday night. He was okay. He’s such a generic white guy that I don’t understand why he hasn’t been picked up by a soap. He’s good looking in that clean, Midwestern, heterosexual sort of way. Afterwards, I went out for drinks with the cast and crew and had a very nice time. I like hanging around actors and actresses right after they get off the stage. Depending on how the audience responded, they’re either on fire with euphoria or they’re suicidal. Klinger tells everyone I write, which bothers me because it isn’t true.

The actress that Klinger is trying to set me up with was there—Lauren. He made sure we sat next to each other. She’s pretty. Blonde, blue eyes and a nice mouth. I think she might be pushing 40, though. In addition to acting, she also “coaches people,” whatever the hell that is. Afterwards, I asked Klinger what that meant and he couldn’t provide a clear explanation. I was the only person at a table of nine not smoking. The bar was like a gas chamber that served vodka tonics. My clothes stank when I got home.

Lauren spent a lot of time telling me that I should CONFRONT the FEARS that are HOLDING ME BACK and make it impossible for me to achieve SUCCESS and find true and long-lasting HAPPINESS. So that was WEIRD. I wanted to shut her up by kissing her pretty mouth. Actresses are wonderful and flakey. I just love them. I’ll bet she’s a pistol in bed. She asked for my number and said she would call to further discuss my BLOCKS. I gave it to her but doubt I’ll ever hear from her.

While typing that last sentence she called. We’re having brunch on Wednesday. How about that? Brunch. Christ.

theboysThat’s me on the right. I met those two yokels right around the time of this entry, 20+ years ago. I remember they were reluctant to visit my apartment on Clinton St. (with good reason). This pic was taken just last week. Even after a long absence from seeing each other, we can sit in a rooftop bar in Manhattan and pick up the conversation thread that started in 1994 as if there hadn’t been a break at all. Christopher Hitchens is right:

“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realization that you can’t make old friends.”