About Exile on Pain Street

It's Mrs. Wife (who has requested complete anonymity), two daughters and myself. And a dog. I'd rather it were a cat but the dog won a landslide electoral victory.

Animal Planet: New York / New Jersey Edition

I was sitting on a bench in Central Park reading a book and these two shady-looking dudes walked out of the bushes.

It was 6:00 p.m. Raccoons are nocturnal animals. Typically, I only see one when it’s splattered across the roadway. NYC wildlife is so accustomed to handouts that they come out at all manner of the day and night.

That woman was lucky she didn’t have anything to give them. If you feed them, they follow you. And if you stop feeding them, they can get a little crusty.

City animals are conditioned to rely on the kindness of strangers. You can hand-feed sparrows. Try hand-feeding a sparrow in your neighborhood.

These horses were at Christie’s.

Deborah Butterfield
Maliʻu
Est: $300,000-500,000
Sold for $367,500

Ahona
Est: $300,000-500,000
Sold for $307,500

I stood next to them and could’ve sworn they were made of wood but the lot descriptions said they’re bronze. I wanted to wrap them with my knuckles but there was a security guard posted nearby.

As long as we’re on animals, I’ll rerun these from last year. Manhattan has a few peregrine falcon families. There’s sufficient shelter and an unlimited food supply. I’m up on the 50th floor and they occasionally survey the city outside my window.

No other bird flies up this high. We never see pigeons or sparrows up here. I do love these shots. The urban backgrounds stand in stark contrast to the wild predator.

Back in New Jersey, guess what we have in our back yard? Bunnies!

Coco, the evil canine, found this nest. She had one in her mouth but dropped it when it squeaked. I think she mistook it for one of her toys. The previous day, the lawn service guys ran over the nest. Good thing the bunnies are dug into the ground deep enough. What a mess that would’ve been.

This is Corn. We’re cat sitting her. Isn’t she beautiful? Cats are elegant. Dogs are needy.

The daughters were walking through the woods with some friends and found this skull. It’s a deer. Well, we presume it’s a deer. What else could it be? I set it on this stump in an attempt to Create Art and two of its teeth fell out.

This is some genuine Circle of Life shizzle. A good lesson for the kids.

Speaking of the woods…see this giant pile of pulp?

Until last month, it was some woods down the street from me. Unfortunately, they were in the way of nine custom built luxury homes, so they had to GO. Coming soon: Hiddenwell Estates. First they decimate the landscape, then they give it a bucolic-sounding name and complain about the deer eating their flowers. I despise the real estate developers out here. They’re dirty, stinking, parasites.

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

May 11, 1993

Margaret set me up on a blind date. She said this girl was blonde with great legs and came into a lot of money, but didn’t elaborate on how much or where she got it. Margaret cares about that stuff but I don’t. I told her as long as she has a sense of humor we’ll get along. I wondered if she’s a psychotic racist, like Margaret.

I called this girl, Sam. She sounded pleasant enough but wounded. She said something about men being rotten and, in particular, men who get caught fucking their ex-girlfriends. We arranged a date and she told me to look for someone wearing jeans and red boots. I told her to look for the whitest white man she’s ever seen. She said, “What do you mean? Are you a vampire?” I said, yes, I am.

We met at the Garden and saw the Knicks get their asses kicked. She wore a lot of makeup and ostentatious jewelry. Diamond bracelet. Diamond rings. Diamond pendant. The game ended, I put her in a cab and went home.

All I could think about was Laura.

This feels like when I almost drown in Mayport. I was swimming alone and got caught in an undertow. I could feel myself being dragged out to sea. The beach was deserted. There was no one to yell to. It would’ve been a particularly humiliating death since I was in the Coast Guard at the time. I remembered to swim parallel to the shore and then in. I almost didn’t make it. When my feet touched sand I cried.

How do I swim out of this undertow? I can’t even type a complete sentence without stopping midway to think about her. I’m drowning. This girl is too young, talented, pretty and smart for a fraud like me.

The night I died a little

bins

May 4, 1993

Laura came over and molested me.

She had lunch with some guy to discuss her acting career. For my lunch, I ate a big insecurity sandwich and a washed it down with tall glass of low self-esteem. She came over about 5:30 and said he was creepy. That’s all that was said.

We sat on the sofa and talked for a long time. You could feel the bright filament pulling us together. Finally, we surrendered to it. She straddled me. She gently took my face in her hands and lowered her mouth onto mine. We kissed. She unbuttoned her shirt but didn’t take it off—a move I love. She was wearing a black bra. She slowly moved her hips while kissing me. I reached behind her and unclasped her bra. She has a soft, smoky voice, like a melody, and she’d moan gently and whisper my name, which is another move I love.

Then her eyes started to water and her nose started to run. She had a severe allergic reaction to the cats. We had to get out of the apartment or she’d suffocate.

We ate dinner on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street and took the subway to her place on the Upper East Side. She’s got a tiny apartment and a roommate so we bought some beers and went up to her roof. It was clear and cool out. We huddled close and talked and kissed. The skyline was the backdrop. It was a beautiful night that I’ll never forget. At one point, I asked if she had a boyfriend and she said, “You don’t want to talk about that now, do you?” My heart sank. I said no, I never want to talk about it, but now I do. I want to know.

It was almost morning. She walked me to the subway at 59th Street. We kissed in a vestibule at Bloomingdale’s. When she kisses me she wraps her body around me and I have to hold us both up. We broke, she looked up at me and told me I was fantastic.

I don’t know. I think I might love this girl. This actress. An actress. So predictable.

I called an allergist this morning. The initial injection would be $150, the second $90 and $30 per week thereafter. I can’t afford that. What am I going to do?

~~~~~~~~~~

Ye Olde Me

I treated my sister to a movie while visiting Cleveland last week. I bought the tickets and thought, gee, it sure is CHEAP to see a movie here. Once inside, we discovered the young punk selling tickets gave us the senior discount without asking if we’re eligible. (We are not.) My sister thought it was a riot but I took it pretty hard.

I just had a birthday. I’ve got aches and pains after I run. I used to engage in innocent, harmless flirtations that, more often than not, were well-received. Now, women look right through me like I’m a wisp of steam that somehow got into the room. I was complaining to a friend and she said, “Welcome to being a woman over 40.” I am no longer mistaken for being younger than my actual age. That was my superpower but now it’s gone. I’ve got the deep blue blues over it.

My astrological sign is cancer. I met this fellow while walking the beach on my birthday.

~~~~~~~~~~

The summer installation at Rockefeller Center is this 45′ high inflatable nylon ballerina by Jeff Koons.

I’ve heard some complaining about how Koons misappropriated Degas’ dancers but I’m so tired of the haters.

When the weather is bad they deflate her and take her inside.

Koons said the project is tied to a charity, The International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. I fail to see what the connection is.

It’s based on his steel ‘Seated Ballerina’ from his antiquity series.

Move to Beautiful Soho

Look at this gorgeous condo for sale on Sullivan Street in the heart of Soho. You enter your shower through the living room.

And how about this cozy bedroom?

Yours for only:

My favorite feature is the rotting wood in front of the shower. Didn’t the previous tenant put a bath mat down?

6’6 x 13’2 is the size of a roomy coffin. This listing blew my mind and I wanted to share it with you. I try not to be judgmental but only a fool would spend almost a half million on this dump.

~~~~~~~~~~

I hurt my Achilles tendon running. It’s my own fault. My shoes were old. A physical therapist poked and prodded and gave me a series of stretches and exercises to perform. One of them involved a leg press machine at my gym. I did it wrong and wrenched a muscle in my back.

My Achilles is okay but I’m back at a physical therapist for my back. I went to a different PT because I’m too embarrassed to visit the same guy who fixed my Achilles. The pain has migrated from my lower back down into my gluteus maximus. Not so great if you sit your ass all day, as I do.

This all happened because I was trying to stay healthy. I know people who never move a muscle. Their Achilles and assess are fine. I’m a bit of a dope.

~~~~~~~~~~

This piece was mesmerizing. I must’ve walked a dozen laps around that pedestal, taking in every angle.

Constantin Brancusi
La muse endormie
Painted bronze with gold leaf
Est: $25,000,000-35,000,000
Sold for $57,367,500

I said goodbye knowing I’d never see her again.

~~~~~~~~~~

bins

April 30, 1993

I have $8.98 in my savings account. I poured what little money I had into that stupid medical mutual fund and it’s tanking. I was inspired by an article in The Economist titled, “Hide From Risk and you Hide From Reward.” What little fool I am.

I took Laura to a dance performance at the Joyce Theater. I am falling hard. She’s a natural beauty. She wore a lacy, black top and caught me starring at her breasts. I was embarrassed. But should I be? Don’t girls expect that sort of thing when they dress provocatively? She has taken to calling me pet names like ‘hon’ and ‘dear.’ They go right through my heart like a blazing hot ice pick.

Man, I love dating actresses. They talk a good game. Typically, I have to do all the heavy lifting. The extent of Margaret’s scintillating conversation is limited to, ‘So, what’s up.’ I don’t think she ever gets an original thought in that pretty, racist, red head of hers. If she does, she’s incapable of articulating it. Laura can talk the talk.

We had a few drinks after the show. I was looking forward to a drunken backseat taxi make-out session but the driver had such powerful and overwhelming B.O. that it killed the mood. When she got out of the cab she held her nose and pointed to the driver. I said out loud, “Oh. I thought it was you.” She laughed. Boy, can that girl smoke. One after another. It’s worrisome.

I was on the M15 stopped at a traffic light next to a white delivery van that was caked with black soot. It was the filthiest car I’ve ever seen. Someone had written in the filth, “SCIENTIFIC TEST DIRT. DO NOT REMOVE” and “LICK MY BALLS.” I laughed and everyone on the bus turned to look at me.

~~~~~~~~~~

My daughter took these. She’s just a kid. I can’t tell you how proud I am.

Felt Good

bo·de·ga (bōˈdāɡə) noun. A small grocery store, especially in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood.

Bodegas are 7-Elevens with character. They were once an essential part of New York life but their numbers are dwindling. British artist Lucy Sparrow not only has a charming name, she also has recreated an old fashioned bodega except that it’s stocked with goods and produce made of felt. Her medium is felt. Here is Ms. Sparrow in her Fauxdega in a pic I cribbed from the New York Times.

The individual pieces are for sale. All are painstakingly assembled by hand.

The idea was to open the exhibit until June 30th but the pieces are selling so quickly that they estimate the store will be stripped bare by next week. They occasionally have to close the store to restock the shelves.

They carry a nice selection of personal hygiene products.

There’s a variety of soft drinks and liquor.

If you buy a Corona, you get a lime with it.

And speaking of lime…there’s a fruit and vegetable section.

Mmmmmm. Bacon.

In the back is a room with larger pieces mounted in Plexiglas cases for sale.

Totally Custard
Edition of 1
$9,000

Spamalot
Edition of 10
$3,500

Top: Clean Me Up Scotty
Edition of 20
$2,500

Bottom: Cereal Killer
Edition of 20
$2,500

I Want Candy
Edition of 20
$3,250

Under the checkout counter is a selection of gum and candy.

Lucy Sparrow is the checkout girl. Is that part of the exhibit?

~~~~~~~~~

I left my wallet in Starbucks. Have you ever lost your wallet? Your whole world is upended. Among the usual horrors, it was June 1st—only one day into my $400/month commuting pass. I raced back from my office, down 40th Street, overwhelmed with hopelessness and self-loathing.

A customer—a girl—turned it in. A Starbucks employee went to the back room, brought it out and handed it to me. Nothing was missing. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t.

I mentioned this episode to a few friends and more than one said I’m lucky Starbucks attracts an honest, worldly clientele. Is that true? Would I have been less likely to recover my wallet if I’d dropped it in a White Castle or a Burger King? This opens up uncomfortable questions about economic class. Perhaps the customers at McDonald’s are just as honest, but in more dire circumstances? Or perhaps my well-meaning friends were reducing them all to a stereotype?

I’ve returned to the same Starbucks several times hoping the girl who returned my wallet could be identified but to date, she has not been. I’m haunted by this. Someone did an incredible kindness for me and I never thanked her.

My First Class Face

I drained my frequent flyer account for a first class upgrade on a flight to Las Vegas. It’s only the third or fourth time I sat in first. It’s not a subtle difference. It’s a significant improvement. It’s like the scene from The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to color.

I was praying my seatmate would be a wealthy boor. Someone who’s accustomed to luxury and whose standards are so impossibly high that nothing is ever good enough. Hypersensitive, unaware of their good fortune and not afraid to point out the inferior. I love having my prejudices and preconceived notions validated. Well, I got what I wanted. That’s only happened three or four times as well.

I boarded right away. Group 1. Other passengers started their slow Bataan Death March past me to coach. I imagined them looking down at me and thinking I must be a person of substance. Someone with gravitas instead of just regular, which is what I am. I put on my best blasé face. Like I’ve been there so many times before.

A beautiful, stately older gentleman sat next to me. Late 60s. A plume of white, expensively cut hair. A mahogany tan with alabaster teeth. An easy smile. Effortlessly dressed in a casual jacket, crisp, white, open collar shirt, linen trousers and woven loafers without socks. He was going to Vegas to give a talk at a conference. That’s what he does for a living. He travels the world and gives talks.

Soon after takeoff our steward set two small, white porcelain bowls of nuts on our ample armrest. He popped one in his mouth. “They’re not warm.” This led to a discussion on the deteriorating quality of first class air travel. He said it’s lost its élan. “It sure has,” I said.

He asked if I was going to Vegas for wine and women half my age. I told him I’m past all that and just want to shoot craps a bit, see some magic shows and sleep. He winked and said he understood. Said that, in his experience, the men who talk about it the most are the ones who get it the least.

I think he thought I was being coy but, good Lord, I don’t have game anymore. If a woman half my age threw herself at me I doubt I’d realize her intention until after she stormed off insulted. I really did just want to get some sleep.

*     *     *

“Where are you staying?”
“The Palazzo.”
“That’s a nice place. *sniff* I’m staying at The Wynn. I’ll only stay at The Wynn. It’s written into my contract.”

*     *     *

He refuses to eat airline food. For lunch, I ordered the chicken and he said, with 100% certainty, that I was going to regret it. He pulled a zip lock bag out of his soft, leather carry on. It was filled with high-fiber granola cereal. It looked like a bag of stuff he scraped out of his backyard. He told (told, not asked) our steward to bring him a bowl and some milk.

The chicken *was* pretty awful. Even by my low standards.

*     *     *

We finished our meals and he said, “At least the warm cookies are still good. They haven’t ruined those yet.”

When they weren’t forthcoming fast enough, he beckoned our steward over and asked for his cookies. “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t serve those anymore.” He gave me a conspiratorial sideways glance and said, “See what I mean?” I nodded, knowingly.

I was reading the new David Sedaris book. He said he’s published two books and likes to keep up with contemporary literary trends but never heard of Sedaris, which I found hard to believe. I told him that Sedaris has a worldwide audience and has sales in the millions.

“Let me see that a minute.”

I handed it over. He opened it in the middle of the book, read a page and handed it back.

“That stuff’s not for me. I stick with biographies of the greats. Margaret Thatcher. Benjamin Netanyahu. Ronald Reagan.”

*     *     *

There were two children sitting in first class. They were about five and 10. How will they ever acclimate themselves to hardship and suffering?

~~~~~~~~~

The next time you go to your favorite seafood restaurant and order the mussel appetizer and go to throw the shells away, DON’T.

Marcel Broodthaers
Poêle de moules
Mussel shells, frying pan and resin on painted wooden base
Est: $350,000 – 450,000
Sold for $439,500

I have a stack of newspapers in the corner of my garage that look exactly like these.

Robert Gober
Newspaper
Est: $20,000 – 30,000
Sold for $56,250

Almost double the high estimate. So worth it.