About Exile on Pain Street

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

Water everywhere but not a drop to drink


May 16, 1991

Laura’s sister visited from Cleveland. The two of them are fresh, Midwest, corn-fed beauties. I’d like to take both of them and…never mind. Laura has never had a cavity. Sometimes, after we’ve had a few drinks, I make her open her mouth and show me her pearly perfection.

Blue Man Group opened a show last month in some dingy space across from The Public. I saw them open for Annie Sprinkle’s Post Porn Modernist at the Cleveland Performance Art Festival last year. I thought the girlies would have fun but they hated it, thought it was strange and said the show won’t last through the summer.

Beforehand we had dinner at Lucky Strike. The waitress clearly thought Laura and I were a couple and Laura played like we were. She was wearing a low-cut, skin-tight top and bent over low when reciting the specials. Then she gave me a secret wink. The two of them thought it was hilarious but I wasn’t amused. This shit only happens to me when I’m with a girl. Girls like to steal boyfriends. It’s a fact! If Klinger had been with me she’d have looked right through me. She was delightful. A little chicken lost in New York.

Over appetizers, Laura said Lynn had to see a doctor because of a bladder infection from too much sex. In the same conversation she complained of not having enough sex. Lynn is the beautiful cheerleader in high school that everyone wanted but no one could have. Her perfect, soft face belongs on the bow of a ship. This oversexed work of art, complaining about being undersexed.

One evening the three of us went to El Teddy’s. Lynn took my arm while crossing West Broadway and I felt a sudden surge of lust. She likes me well enough, as does Laura, but they have expensive needs. You have to know your lane. Jessica was asked out by a junior investment banker at work. Her boyfriend is a personal trainer and Chippendales dancer. A massive brick wall of a man who could take that banker’s head in the crook of his arm and crack it like a walnut. The sight of that white shirt and tie trying to stir desire in Jessica was kind of sweet and sad.

I entered a contest to win a trip to The Mirage in Las Vegas. It’s a tie-in for some dumb Billy Crystal movie. City Slickers. I have no idea what it’s about nor do I care. I do, however, want to stay at the Mirage for free. It’s only two years old and I love new hotels.


I took my daughter and her pal to see Richard Serra’s big oxidized walls at the Gagosian Gallery last October. Happier times.


My poor city. I don’t want to get all Oprah on you guys but my heart is broken.

Come into the light. All are welcome.

Chelsea Gallery hop with my daughter. Doug Wheeler’s light installation at David Zwirner. I might go back by myself but this time smoke a big fatty beforehand.

Roy Colmer’s Doors at Lisson Gallery. Black and white images of Manhattan taken from November of 1975 to September of 1976. Thousands of them.



November 1, 1994

Cindy wanted to smoke some weed and go the Village Halloween parade. Sounds like fun but I’ve got the flu and can barely move.

Ellis, Oswaldo and I had tickets to see Simpatico at The Public. Written and directed by Sam Shepard. Great cast. Ed Harris, Beverly D’Angelo, Fred Ward, Marcia Gay Harden. We met at Acme on Lafayette and lollygagged around. Got there right at 8:00 and it turns out curtains on Saturdays are 7:30 and 10:00. They wouldn’t let us in. The run is sold out (of course it is) so that’s that. We walked over to 2nd Avenue to see Interview with a Vampire but it’s opening weekend so THAT was sold out, too. So we went to Pizzeria Uno. We had a lot of laughs. The three of us sat there and laughed for hours.

Cindy and I went to Sweet Basil’s last Friday. I don’t see a lot of live jazz and didn’t think I’d like it but we had a great time. We sat right under the musician’s noses. I like being so close I can see their fingers move across their instruments. We were on the Blue Note guest list. The cover charge and drinks were paid for. I felt important. When the checks arrived everyone around us started fumbling for their wallets but I just signed it and handed it back. People stopped for a beat and looked at us. Lots of Japanese tourists. The Eurotrash maître d treated us like shit.

My phone rang and when I picked it up and said hello they hung up. Sometimes I’ll call Laura’s number just to hear her answering machine greeting.

Went to the Met with Ann. She’s irritating in regular life but she’s a different person in a museum. It’s her element. She’s brilliant. We went to the Asian galleries and she told me about the Buddha statues. She explained what the hand positions mean and about the dance they’re frozen in. She was equally knowledgeable in the Egyptian galleries. I wanted to throw her to the floor in front of Kharushere’s mummy and have my dirty way with her. Smart is sexy. We sat in Central Park and watched the leaves float down. We saw a terrible sci-fi movie. Stargate. I didn’t want to see it but I’m a bad negotiator. Whenever I see a movie with someone I always defer to them. If there’s something I really want to see, I go alone.

I’m on a temp assignment. I sit in a cubicle and do my boring work and nobody talks to me. I’m lonely. A bunch of them went out after work Friday but I wasn’t invited. The women are all sad Catholic virgins who listen to Barry Manilow albums.

Broken Pieces all Around Town

This is a clever conceit but I remember reading that some of the broken pieces started falling off the board not long after he sold these. A quarter mil. Hope it holds together.

Julian Schnabel
Portrait of Robert Wilson
Oil, found ceramic plates and Bondo on panel
Est: 150,000 – USD 200,000
Sold for $250,000


September 23, 1994

I went out with Amy Peng. She’s just back from Ireland. Golly, she’s pretty. I hope she sleeps with me. [Note: she didn’t.] Her British accent plays to the Anglophile in me. Her family is a bunch of multi-degreed super Brainiacs. She just got her Masters and is in a panic. For the first time her life, there’s no class to attend and she finds herself with an overabundance of free time. The paradox of the overly-educated. She drove us out to the Nassau Coliseum to see Depeche Mode in that little Jeep. She’s a terrible, dangerous driver.

She said she feels trapped because she bought a co-op. I told her she needs to get a grip. Trapped is living in Bayonne and working a job you hate but can’t leave because you’ve got four kids and being married for 15 years, the last five of which have been sheer hell, but you’re psychologically and economically unable to make a move. Owning a co-op in Manhattan with a framed MBA isn’t a trap. I asked her what she’s reading and she showed me some stupid yuppie self-help book. How to cope with the tragedy of success. She asked what I was reading and I told her I’m in the middle of “Babbit.” She’d never heard of Sinclair Lewis. How do you get through graduate school and never hear of Sinclair Lewis?

Oswaldo called and told me I shouldn’t smoke pot because I can’t handle it. Do you know what? He’s right. He said my problem is I smoke everything I have all at once. He said to just take a puff or two. I’ll try that right now and see how it feels.

There. I had exactly two puffs. I’m stoned, but not so stoned that I can’t answer the phone, like last night. My phone rang and I didn’t pick it up. I listened to the answering machine and it was Hedy offering me some homemade soup but I was too high to pick it up so I missed out. I’m sure she thinks I’m weird because we had just spoken an hour before, so she knew I was home.

I called [my niece] to wish her a happy birthday. She’s 8. She asked why I’m not married yet. Everyone back in Ohio is married. I’m certain they all think I’m gay. I wish. That’d be preferable to a catatonic fear of abandonment so severe it causes occasional sexual dysfunction. Being gay sounds pretty sweet compared to that.

Went to the New York Theater Workshop with Cindy, Hedy and Hedy’s sister (also gay). I got comps to see Secretaries by the Five Lesbian Brothers. Everyone on stage and in the audience was gay. It was lesbo-rama! It’s entirely possible I was the lone hetro in the house. The show was hysterical. Lisa Kron is the best.

Ann invited me to some contemporary dance mess at the Joyce. I said I’d go but I can’t stand modern dance. Right after that, Maria Herrera invited me to sit at the Blue Note table at Sweet Basil’s on the same night. I immediately called Ann and canceled. I counter-offered to spend Sunday afternoon at the Met with her to see the big Annenberg Impressionist and Post-Impressionist exhibit and she seemed happy with that. Another paradox.




March 9, 1994

Had an interview at an agency. I made an immediate, intense connection with Jeanette, the interviewer. By the end of the interview we were practically crawling across her desk to claw at each other’s clothing. I don’t know what came over me (us). She called my references preparatory to the meeting and I got good press. She said, “Mark, everybody loves you.” I said, “Do you mean all around the world?” She was flirtatious. It wasn’t my imagination. This time.

She said without a college degree there’d always be a glass ceiling at any company I worked for, which is the truth I resent the most. At the conclusion we shook hands but wouldn’t uncouple. We just stood there looking at each other. Blue eyes and nice teeth. I said, “I don’t know if I should cultivate a professional relationship with you or seduce you.” She smiled. The next day she called to give me the specifics of an interview she’s arranged and kept calling me “honey,” in a soft tone, which has always been my kryptonite. Laura used to do it and I think that’s why I fell so hard, so fast, so irrevocably.

I went to opening night of Merce Cunningham’s “Sounddance” at City Center with Ann and an uber-wealthy family who are clients of hers. It was absolute torture. I’m so ill at ease around wealth. The kids, 16 and 18, have never wanted for anything. They were perfectly charming and polite. They weren’t precocious, snotty rich kids, although at intermission the dad whispered to me that they were both spoiled rotten.

The son goes to Dalton. The daughter is on her way to an Ivy League but will first spend the summer with her friends at their Hamptons home (which, Ann later told me, is palatial). She said she got valuable lesson on how unfair life can be when she saw how many of her friends got into Ivy’s. Apparently, intellectual capital doesn’t count for everything when applying to top colleges. She said if you not well-heeled with connections or a minority you’re “screwed.” Then the two of them told me all about last year’s trip to Cambodia. It was agonizing to listen to. They were nice kids but I was so consumed with envy and self-loathing that I just hated them, which is to say, I hated myself. The performance, a revival from 1977 was very good. Very energetic.

Read a Joyce Carol Oates interview in Playboy. She said she uses every single waking moment to take notes and jot down ideas. Said sleeping is a waste of human existence. That’s what it takes. Everyone knows it but few are willing to pay the bill, present company included. Bukowski died today. He had leukemia. It gives me the dirty low-down blue blues.

Time Machine

I had a birthday recently. I’m too much of a narcissist to reveal my age but let’s just say if I were a piece of fruit or a loaf of bread I’d be well past my fresh-until date and I’d be in some bin or landfill. It’s a round number and I’m taking it hard. I don’t like it. I’ve been young and now I’m old. Young is so much better.

Here’s 12 years flashing before my eyes. The Warhols are the same and she recreated the daft look on her face but everything else has changed. I seem to stand upright in the older pic. I’ve developed a slump. It’s the weight of years.



March 2, 1994

I called Margaret to arrange a time and place to meet. Some dude with a deep voice answered and said, “She’s in shower.” Not in *the* shower. She’s in shower. I assumed it was her overprotective brother. She said he’s in the Russian mob but I’m pretty sure she’s joking. I said, “Okay, have her call me back.” I waited a couple of hours. No call. So I called back. Deep voice answered and handed her the phone.

“Hi, Margaret.”
“Yes? What do you want?” Mind you, SHE asked ME to call HER.
“Ummm…do you still want to get together tomorrow?”
“You and your brother are charming.”
“Is that all you wanted?” And hung up.

Cindy and Hedy came over to borrow my table for a dinner party. I was kind of rude to them but they invited me anyway. When I got home that night there was a message from Margaret. “That wasn’t my brother. That was my ex-boyfriend. I didn’t want him overhearing our conversation.” She called the next morning. I listened to her fumfer an apology, didn’t say a word and hung up. She called again tonight. I picked up the phone and heard, “Don’t hang up!” I said, “Who is this?” “Margaret!” I hung up. Oswaldo said I shouldn’t act like that but I don’t want to hear from her again.

Someone tagged the front of our building. People who think graffiti is an art form don’t live with it. They live on quiet, well-lit streets. 95% of graffiti is garbage. It’s vandalism. The small percentage that’s valid gets covered up almost immediately.

I shouldn’t have moved here. There are junkies everywhere. Some homeless bum takes a crap in the vestibule almost every night and Peter has to clean it up in the morning. Last weekend someone spit a gigantic gob of mucus on the elevator wall. It looked like it came from a species other than human.

Jack Nicholson just got an award. He’s on TV blubbering. He’s saying his work is dangerous because he gives his life to it. Jesus Christ, Jack, you make a lot of money to play pretend. Get a grip.

I just heard four or five gunshots. Now, sirens. I hate this dump. It’s turning me into a racist.

[Note: In January of 2018 two apartments on the same floor I lived on were combined, gutted and restored. The buyer paid $2,200,000 plus design and construction costs. Things change.]


Taken Friday, July 12th, 9:30 p.m. in Hell’s Kitchen. Of course.