About Exile on Pain Street

It's Mrs. Wife (who has requested complete anonymity), two daughters and myself. And two smart cats.

10. X. Ten. Dix. Diez.

Last month this blog celebrated its 10th anniversary. 10 years! The totality of my 11-year old’s life. Most of my 16-year old’s. Half my marriage. I didn’t notice the blessed event. It passed by like a rainy Tuesday. I can only surmise that it didn’t matter to me. If it had, I’d have seen it coming and made a big deal out of it.

10 years ago I suppose I had some vague notions of minor fame and financial gain but they were crushed pretty quickly. At one point, I gathered my journal entries into a “book.” 75,000 words! I paid to have it professionally edited. The editor said the good news is that I might have some raw talent. The bad news is that there’s no narrative. She said I needed a plot thread to tie all the entries together. I’ve always been cursed with a fatal lack of ambition and an anemic work ethic, so I made her grammatical edits and sent the thing out to a dozen agents. The response was a deafening silence. Glad I got that out of my system.

Once I started posting I couldn’t stop. I’ve tried to quit several times, fearful that my daughters would stumble upon the dark and embarrassing secrets in my journals, but I can’t. It’s the only creative outlet I have. And I use the term ‘creative’ in its most broad sense. I crawl the theaters, galleries and museums as an audience member. That’s all I’ve ever been. The audience. But this idiot blog allows me to be a participant.

I guess this is a genuine addiction. It could be worse. It could be whiskey and whores. And gambling. Some guys go that route. But anniversaries? They don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that swing. Doo wah. Doo wah.

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Taken from my office, Friday, April 20, 7:30 a.m. The Lincoln Tunnel bus conga line.

Only the rush hour hell to face
Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes
Contestants in a suicidal race

That tiny hole in the upper left corner of the pic is the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. It spits out into New Jersey. These are Thoreau’s men (and women) who lead lives of quiet desperation.

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There are some agonizingly long plays this season on Broadway. Where is the line that separates artistic vision from overindulgence? For instance, Andrew Garfield and Nathan Lane headline in a revival of Angels in America. It’s one story, but two plays. Part 1: Millennium Approaches is 3:30. Part 2: Perestroika is 4:00 From entry, through intermissions, to the end you’re in the theater for eight solid hours.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opened last night and it, too, is one play in two parts. Part 1 is 2:40. Part 2 is 2:35. I took my daughter and we were there for six hours. It was super but, honestly, it didn’t need to be that long.

You can see Angels and Potter on consecutive evenings or see both parts in one day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can’t see Part 1 of either and not see Part 2. Part 1 of both ends with a cracker of a cliffhanger. In this way, they charge you DOUBLE because you have to buy a separate ticket to each part. Clever. Insidious.

Denzel Washington is starring in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. 4:00. Four hours! At least it’s one shot. You don’t have to purchase two tickets. In a NY Times fluff piece, they asked Washington about the grueling demands of a four hour play.

“Listen, this is what I love: acting on stage. And I don’t have to do anything else. Just be in this play. So, don’t feel sorry for me compared to most workers in America.”

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Feline pin-ups of the week. I make no apologies for posting cat photos. I’m going to continue to insist they have genuine artistic merit. Like reality TV. Or overstuffed theater.

Robbed. Fired. Dumped.

binsOctober 30, 1993

The junkies next door were finally evicted. On their way out they broke into my apartment and robbed me. They took my stereo, all my CDs and the laptop. They left the speakers. They took Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding bands. Those rings weren’t valuable but they were important. They bought them in Italy long ago. I’ll go to my grave and never mention it to anyone. I was entrusted with an important family heirloom and failed. Thank God they’re both dead. They’ll never know.

The laptop contained my journal entries from June through October. I didn’t back anything up onto floppy disks or print anything out. It’s all gone. The entire summer and autumn of ’93. I’ll never remember it all.

The coppers dusted for fingerprints. One of them was complaining the whole time saying, “This is stupid. It never works.” The other cop said I had the worst lock on the market. He said it’s easy to pick. I had to shell out $140 for a new one. I told him about the wedding bands. He said the same thing happened to him years ago and he’s still not over it. Great. It’ll take me forever to replace all the CDs.

I replaced the laptop with a Mac PowerBook 145. 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Ridiculous! When will I ever need 40MB of space?!

I got fired from Morgan Stanley. One of the executives, someone powerful and irritable, complained about me and they let me go. He said I had a bad attitude. I don’t know. Maybe he’s right. It was a fantastic job. I loved it. The week before I was canned Cabrina said, “Mark, how did we ever get along without you? You can stay here as long as you want.” Several days later I was standing in her office getting sacked. I can’t write another word about it. It’s so painful.

While at Morgan Stanley I struck up a healthy flirtation with Debbie, who’s Norwegian. A hell of a designer and so pretty. A blonde nordic goddess. I got a condolence call from her immediately after I was fired. That day, we walked from 42nd St. down to 18th St. I didn’t get home until after 2:00 a.m. She took me out for drinks a couple of times. I was a complete wreck but she built me up. She’d ply me with Dewar’s and tell me I was good at what I did and would find work easily enough. She’d lean in and rest her hand on my arm so, naturally, it didn’t take long for me to become attached. It never does. I was certain what I felt was reciprocated.

She called and made plans to see me again but before that happened I went to a Bryan Ferry concert at the Beacon Theater. I went by myself because I couldn’t find anyone to go with. While sitting there, Debbie walked by with some dude. She was hanging all over him. It was obvious they were a couple. I scrunched down in my seat, praying not to be noticed. I was too humiliated for being there alone to say hello. It turns out I was just a charity case to her.

I started therapy. It’s going well enough, I suppose. It’s dark. For years I thought complaining about a difficult childhood was just a sad cliché. Fashionable yuppie angst. Move on. But I’m beginning to believe that things have a way of implanting themselves early on that aren’t so easy to dismiss. She called Laura a myth. I disagree. Laura meant a lot to me.

I stopped at Barnes & Nobel after therapy last Wednesday and bought two software manuals and a copy of Dante’s Inferno. I wonder if I’ll be able to tell the difference between the three?

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The many moods of Oliver.

Melancholy

Wistful

Cheerful

Bittersweet

Romantic

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Daughter the Second and I visited the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, just down the boardwalk from Madame Marie’s. Hundreds of working pinball and video games, a few dating back to the 1930’s. It’s paradise. I saw these two old grannies jamming on these machines. They were really kicking the hell out of them, taking their play seriously. God willing, that’ll be me when I’m that age.

Everyone’s a little bit racist. Apparently, even me.

Everyone’s a little bit
Racist, sometimes.
Look around and
You will find,
No one’s really
Color-blind.

My bride and I were having a discussion and to an opinion I expressed she said, “You’d better keep that to yourself. It’s racist.” I thought I had progressive attitudes about race but she might have a point.

So, naturally, I need to tell everyone.

I took my daughter to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. I found a discount for the first preview and it’s good thing I did. I couldn’t afford to take her otherwise. She’s crazy about those books and when she asked to see it I had to say no, which broke my heart. It worked out in the end but my inability to afford tickets makes me feel wholly inadequate as a father. But that’s for another post.

It’s an extraordinary piece of theater but it helps if you’re a die-hard Potter enthusiast (my daughter) or interested in the mechanics of theater and acting (me). Your ass is in a chair for about six hours. Plus, the aforementioned cost.

You can look elsewhere for reviews. They’re all glowing. My problem—the one that landed the accusation—lies with their decision to employ color-blind casting.

The principle actors playing Harry, Ron, Draco and Ginny all look very much like adult versions of their movie selves. It’s easy to imagine these fictional characters transitioned into adulthood. Hermione Granger is played by a black actor. She’s more than capable and an extraordinary actor. I’ve been attending theater for 25+ years and know talent when I see it. She can command the stage and has a genuine presence. I just never saw her as Hermione. Throughout the play I had to occasionally stop and remind myself, “Oh, that’s Hermione.” My brain simply refused to make that leap. It proved to be a distraction. I respect their intentions but the plot flow was interrupted for want of a progressive agenda.

Perhaps it’s the indelible image of Hermione Granger as a young white girl. Or perhaps I have dormant racist attitudes that were inflamed. The wrong kind of woke.

I can’t tell you how alarming this is. It’s heartbreaking. I thought I was more evolved than that. I hope this doesn’t rub off on my daughters.

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Prior to the play I took her on a gallery hop in Chelsea. At Dia: Chelsea is Rita McBride’s Particulates, a fetching and photogenic industrial laser installation.

The gates keep you at bay because you can really hurt yourself if you try to break the beam, which I desperately wanted to do.

The room is kept cool and clammy. The air is misted so the beams are visible. It might be fun after a few bong hits. I imagine. I wouldn’t know.

There’s a low hum and the beams reflect off the wet floor. Best of all, free admission! Thank you, Dia Chelsea.

I liked this one as well although it was more stark. Dan Flavin’s in daylight or cool white at the David Zwirner gallery.

Flavin construct geometric shapes with neon tubes. Neon on a ceiling reminds me of cold, dreary office lighting. I find it a wholly acceptable medium for art, though.

Unfortunately with these gallery hops, you have to take the sublime with the ridiculous. These were fruits and vegetables nailed to a wall.

I thought they were plaster sculptures but, no, it’s real food. I chatted with the gallery rep and he is charged with replacing the food when it starts to rot. This is why some people laugh at contemporary art.

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Sorry, everyone, but there are going to be cat pics. There just are.

Animal magnetism

My bride came into the city and we saw a play. We took our seats and chatted-up the two pretty, young girls sitting next to us. At one point, the girl sitting next to me and I locked eyes. That thing happened.

That thing.

The play started. Sitting just inches apart, I could feel the bright filaments.

At the play’s penultimate plot reveal, the audience gasped. She discreetly reached over and rested her hand on my arm. I don’t think it was premeditated. It was a genuine reaction to what was happening on stage. And that thing. I got woozy.

After the show, I gathered my stuff and *ran* out of the theater. I didn’t say goodnight. Things are going well for my bride and me. I don’t need that kind of noise in my life. And of all the noises that can haunt your waking hours, that’s a particularly loud one.

It never ends, does it? It can lie dormant for a long time but it’s never completely dead. It’s always there, waiting. Biology.

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The family dog—the one that has bit, snarled and lashed out at me for the past six years—has gone to that big dog pound in the sky. Or hell. Who knows? She was sitting on the sofa, rolled off onto the floor and couldn’t stand up. We rushed her to the vet. The doctor said it was likely a brain tumor, which might account for her aggression.

That was about a month ago. We recently got two cats. I’ve gone from being attacked and bloodied for no good reason to this:

They’re not bonded yet. Oliver wants to be best pals in the worse way but Alice isn’t having any of it. There’s some hissing and snarling, but she’s coming around.

He snuck up onto the chair while she was asleep just to be near her.

Not surprisingly, this little indiscretion work her up.

Boy, was she angry. You can’t just go up to a sleeping girl and sniff her lady parts and not expect to get smashed in the face when she wakes up. His clumsy attempts to connect remind me of your humble narrator in his formative years. Same suave elegance. Same success rate.

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The Chinese had a method of execution called Death by a Thousand Cuts that was banned in 1905. One cut won’t kill you. But 1,000 will, eventually. Bukowski has a great poem about how it’s not an atom bomb or a heart attack that kills a man, it’s a broken shoelace with no time left. The accumulation of small indignities until you finally crumble. Even Nietzsche spoke of slow death. The little things are starting to grind me to a pulp. Like this fool:

Or the woman on the rowing machine at the gym, rowing slowly with her left hand while texting feverishly with her right. Or an unwanted pheromone attack in a theater. I should ignore it all. I didn’t need that parking space or the rowing machine. I hate the rowing machine! Why do I give all the little nothings so much power over me?

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They are superior, photogenic animals.The light loves them.