Cold in more ways than one

I forgot how fun these are (for me). This made me melancholy for an entire afternoon.


January 18, 1994

I met Oswaldo and Ellis at The Public Theater despite it being 10 degrees out with a chill factor of 25 below. The cold gave me a headache so severe it felt like I had a mild concussion. They invited me to pre-show dinner but I said I was too broke join them. I can barely pay my bills. I was embarrassed. It’s humiliating to not have any money.

I had a long chat with Bonnie. She is still broken-hearted. When is she going to stop tormenting herself over that old man? Bonnie’s old boyfriend, Ricky Jay, is in the Times. He’s doing an off-Broadway show and she wants me to join her. I love magicians and that guy is the grandmaster. Somehow, I’ll find the money for a ticket. She introduced me to him in a restaurant once. I was star struck but held it together. I told him I admired his work and didn’t want to know how any of it was done. He said, “That’s good because I wouldn’t tell you.” David Mamet is directing the show. Bonnie hates him. She watched him dump his wife for a younger women. That’s kryptonite for women. She said she could tell it was going to happen because he suddenly started paying close attention to his appearance and clothes. I hope we go backstage. I’d like to see the dynamic between Bonnie and Mamet. [Note: Ricky Jay passed away last week.]

I had a job interview Friday. Afterwards, I didn’t want to go home so I went to the Angelica and saw Mike Leigh’s Naked. I’d heard it was excessively violent but the story was so compelling and the acting so adroit I didn’t notice if that was the case. I felt stupid sitting in the Angelica lobby café in a suit. So obvious. Took a slow walk home in dress shoes that hurt. They look great but feel like two bear traps.

Called [my brother]. That nutty girl I met at his wedding—Jezebel or something like that—was visiting. They handed the phone to her and she got all breathy and wanted to know when I was coming to Cleveland again. I remember trying to kiss her in the Holiday Inn parking lot after the wedding. She gave me her business card and it had her photo on it. When I got back to New York I found it in the folds of my wallet and threw it in the garbage. I didn’t think I’d left any kind of impression at all.

I stopped in a bar where I suspected Peggy, the girl I met at Kris’s Christmas party, worked and I was RIGHT! There she was, behind the bar. I made a fake call at the payphone, talking into it while listening to the dial tone, and then sat at the bar. She said, “I know you,” and I said, “Yes, I met you at Kris’s party.” Her eyes lit up and said, “That’s right! I remember you! You’re Joe!” That hurt. I thought we had a pretty good time at the party but the conversation was just awful. Her teeth are brown and rotten from smoking.

There was a terrible earthquake in Los Angeles yesterday morning. They cancelled regular programming to cover the destruction and I couldn’t tear myself away from the TV. It’s a miracle only 30 people died when you consider the amount of damage it caused. The town is pretty fucked up. The highways are all collapsed. Why would anyone live in Los Angeles? Aside from it not being 10 degrees with a -25 chill factor?


A few more from last month’s auctions. Rothko usually didn’t work with such a dark palate but I love his use of plum here.

Mark Rothko
Untitled (Rust, Blacks on Plum)
Est. $35,000,000 – USD 45,000,000
Sold for $36,312,500

Impractical to display in home. Fun to say 10x fast. They’re just neon lights is all.

Bruce Nauman
Est. $ 400,000 – USD 600,000
Sold for $427,500

Another Warhol/Basquiat mash-up. That Reganesque figure in the back is Basquiat, correct? And the pricing is Warhol? Sold over estimate. That’s a Calder sculpture in the foreground.

Andy Warhol & Jean-Michel Basquiat
Outlays Hisssssssss (Collaboration #22)
Est. $1,000,000 – USD 1,500,000
Sold for $2,052,500


This was a food bodega near my apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. It’s long gone. Wiped off the map for the Barclay’s Center.

39 thoughts on “Cold in more ways than one

  1. I reckon we would have had a snog back in the day if we’d moved in the same circles…. though my teeth were pretty good back then.
    Yep, that’s the thing with notes from the past, they can make you catch your breath for several hours.

  2. If only you’d known how to use what you have / had. There’s also a pattern (which I recognise myself, and probably most other men do) of being found useful for a snog or a flirt on Saturday and forgotten by the following weekend. It’s OK once or twice, just not over and over again.

    Jeez, Basquiat is *shite*!

      • At my advanced age, I just want simplicity. If someone’s not interested more or less straight away, just give it up.

        Of course, I say that as if I follow my own advice 🙂

    • It’s odd that i was the exact opposite, i was always useful for a snog, a flirt, or a shag but then i was on to the next, i’m sure it just points to major character flaws and/or a lack of ethics or moralsj on my part… or maybe i just didn’t care and like the variety that life provided… or maybe i’m just a right bastard!!! lol!!!

      • I’m sure it had everything to do with my psychological make-up but I could never bed hop. It made me sad. I would sleep with someone and thereafter couldn’t imagine another man sleep with who I just slept with. It was madness and it went on for years, I’m sorry to say. I’m not bragging. I hated it.

  3. Now I’m thinking about 1994 and all that was happening to ME out in L.A.! It’s too early, Drill Sargent! (riff on a movie line, 10 bucks if you know which one or a drink in the bar of your choice). Anyway, Bonnie was spot on in her “hatred” and you were absolutely spot on in your observation! What a time that year was on both coasts it seems.

    That Rothko looks electric in the photo. Is it as vibrant in person? I still have one of the neon signs from our jazz club. It used to hang on the stage behind the musicians. I wanted to hang it in the kitchen, but was outvoted. And, yes, BGM’s assessment of Basquiat as “scribble-scrabble” is still spot on.

    I need more coffee and to stop thinking about ’94. xxoo

    • You were in LA for the Northridge quake!? Do tell! I was curious and did a Google search and even though the quake was on 12 seconds long it caused a lot of hell.

      Yeah, women hate it when a guy leaves for a younger model. How do you fight against that?! You can’t. It’s even more humiliating than being broke. Ha. See how I looped it around?

      The Rothko *was* great in person. The colors might look kind of dark on your monitor. What do you mean OUR jazz club??!! Did you guys own a club at one point? How exciting! Have you written about it?

      • I totally remember the Northridge quake! Just thinking about it now made me shiver. I’ll never forget hearing The Doc (son #2) yelling from the front room not to move from our bedrooms because a bookshelf had fallen (or so he thought) and there was glass everywhere. It was a horrible day for everyone.

        Yes, we had a jazz club here in Savannah. It was called “Adagio” and that’s the neon sign I have up in my attic! I don’t know if I’ve ever written about it since it closed before I started blogging. Interesting…


    • You are TOO KIND. A year (or two?) ago I actually assembled a few hundred pages of journal entries and paid an editor to comb through and offer corrections and suggestions. She said they’d only work if I tied the entries together in a story arc. I needed a beginning, middle and end. Being a lazy person, I ignored that advice and sent it out to about a dozen literary agents. The silence was deafening. My big problem in life has always been a lack of ambition. You can be light on talent but if you have an overabundance of ambition, you’ll make it. If you have talent but no ambition, you’re screwed. That’s me. I’ve never been able to light a fire under my ass and nobody has ever done it for me. So the novel idea is a great one but I don’t think it’s going to take flight. Lord. Can you imagine? Being paid to do something you do for free anyway?

      • Completely empathise Exile. So the journals may or may not end up being a novel….. but please tell me you’re joking about the ceremonial burning! I think you might live to seriously regret laying waste to such a vivid account of your formative years… and maybe there will come a time you’re happy for your children to see also.

        And just as pure pieces of writing they are also deserve to be spared the flame. I love for example how right back there in 1994 your closing sentence ’25 degrees below’ whatever…. flashes us right back to the start. Such instinctive appreciation of narrative structure actually cannot be taught!

        All of this does make me think… got a plastic box of letters I sent home to family back in the 80s up in the store room myself. Maybe I should open it up….

      • There’s a lot of stuff in those journals that’s not very nice. It never makes it out here into the ether, that’s for sure. I don’t know if I want my daughters reading that stuff. It could change the way they feel if they see how I treated women when I was a young dope. I’ve got a good thing going with them and don’t want to blow it so, yeah, I might torch these things.

        I’m deeply grateful for your kind words. You don’t have any skin in this game and have nothing to gain by being so kind. So, thanks.

        After you read this comment, I highly recommend you crack open that plastic box o’ letters. You’ll be both gland and sorry that you did.

  4. One of my closest friends in town had a multi-year affair with a married man (she was single). He was a shit, and tried a few times to get me to go into a three way circumstance – with my VERY STRAIGHT BEST FRIEND. When things finally blew up with them, it was because he finally got the balls to divorce his wife – and THEN wandered off with a younger woman. i was willing to wield the knife on that bastard… she was more hurt than angry, but i had enough anger for both of us.

    You met Ricky Jay? He was a damn master! “Genius” is a term tossed around pretty recklessly these days, but he fit the bill…

    • It’s astonishing how some folks will behave for the sake of sex. I’ve always been glad my sex drive seemed to be manageable. It never drove me to extreme behaviors. I’d go a long, long time without it and not think about messing around where I shouldn’t be. And am I the only man who never assaulted a woman?! It sometimes feels that way.

      Yes! Met him. Bonnie and I ended up going to the show and we went backstage afterwards. He was a sweaty, exhausted mess. I think he was happy to say hello to Bonnie but I don’t think he was in the mood to meet new people.

  5. Did you get to see the dynamic between Bonnie and Mamet?
    I love how you were struggling to pay your bills but managed to afford a theatre ticket, them’s my kind of priorities.

    One of the galleries we visited in London in the summer, can’t remember which, had a Rothko room and almost all the paintings were gloomy hued.

    I dreamt of Calder’s mobiles last night, so it was faintly spooky to see him sneak in here too – is the universe trying to tell me something?

    • We actually got backstage after the show but Mamet was not there. Probably a good thing. It might’ve been unpleasant at the time but it’d be a great story now.

      I remember throwing bills in the garbage and then going out for the night. A boy’s gotta live.

      Rothko was a gloomy guy. I’m surprised ALL of his work wasn’t muddy.

      The universe is always trying to tell us something. Or, so I’m convinced.

  6. I hated it when my monthly nut was a few dollars more than my monthly salary. It really made dating hard.
    I always wondered why Steve Martin, Rebecca Pidgeon and Ricky Jay was in David Mamet pictures. She got more attractive with age and styling. I thought Ricky Jay was a good character actor, didn’t know about the magician part. Always learning something new from this blog.
    I see Rothko paintings and think I could do that. Thanks for these pics, keep them coming.
    Since no one asked, how about the cat pics.

    • It’s not comfortable saying money is important but, it is. Those years when I was broke I felt very bad about myself. You shouldn’t measure your worth by the size of your wallet but you need SOMETHING in order to sustain the bare minimum. Plus, a dinner and a show once in a while doesn’t hurt.

      Ricky Jay was one of, if not the, best sleight of hand magician I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen quite a few.

      Yes, but could you do it to the tune of $35M? That’s where the rubber meets the road. Will try to get a cat or two up next time. I don’t like to spoil you guys but I get your message. Less Rothko. More feline.

      • No, I could not get $35M. I remember the first time I saw one, at the old Whitney. It was a bronze shade. How could every one of those same/like paintings go for millions. How many did he do?
        Haven’t seen any Jeff Koons lately.
        Not less ART, just some feline.

  7. Aw man! Here I was thinking we could have a blogger meet-up at the Fu King Shop and we all could impress each other with our collective awesomeness!

    Speaking of which, I never tire of your writing or your photos. You are the master at both.

    • Don’t you think that sign would never happen today? There is an old pre-Internet charm about it.

      Thank you for your kind words about my stuff. You’re very generous with the compliments and you might think they would get old but I can assure you they don’t.

  8. Oswaldo and Ellis? Such funky names!

    Jezebel. Really. How fortuitous…

    I can’t keep up with you and your wimmin!

    OOOh! That is dark for a Rothko! I like it too. Not bothered about the others…

    You can’t beat Fu King Food! Unless you get it on in a threesome with Bonnie and Jezebel.

    • Those are their real names. I usually use an alias but their names are so awesome I couldn’t resist.

      The bulk of these women I mention were failed attempts at romance. I had to try! Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while.

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