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.

Heartache Blvd is paved with successful first dates

bins

April 16, 1993

The actress I met last week is a real tomato. I think I’m smitten. I took her to The Public to see the Irish Rep’s production of ‘Seconds Out,’ which was fantastic. I got choked-up and teary but I don’t think she saw, thank God. The Irish are masters of the written word and I love their music. Just keep them out of the kitchen.

I waited in the lobby and wasn’t exactly sure what to look for. We’d only met once, briefly. All I had was a vague recollection. But I recognized her right away when she arrived. So beautiful! An angelic face nestled inside a cloud of sandy-brown hair. She introduced me to some acting friends who work at The Public.

Afterwards, we walked over to Acme on Lafayette and Great Jones. We sat at the bar and drank. We’d lean forward and touch each other’s arm or hand to make a point and the more we drank, the longer the touch would linger. After we were properly pickled, we saw that, sitting on the last bar stool, was George Wendt, the actor who plays Norm on Cheers. He was drinking a mug of beer, holding it the same way his character does. Art imitates life. Or life imitates art. God we laughed!

She offered to pay for drinks, which was sweet, but I know she’s a broke-assed actor so I paid. It was midnight and I told her to use her money for a cab ride and stay the hell out of the subway. She showed me a can of mace she keeps in her purse. It took her a minute to dig it out. She would’ve been beaten over her head several times by the time she found it.

We walked out to Lafayette and I whistled for a cab. One pulled up. I opened the door and before she got in she kissed me. She reached up, put her hand on the back of my head and gently pulled me towards her. She smelled nice. While we were kissing another cab pulled up next to us for me. So we were kissing between two waiting cabs at midnight on Lafayette Street. A wonderful evening. Seeing her next Thursday.

Lauren and I are leaving for the Bahamas Saturday morning. Her friends at work are making fun of her for going to the Caribbean with ‘just a friend’ but that’s exactly how it is. Them bitches at Donna Karan are a mean bunch. I called her and said I met a delightful girl and would she mind coming down with the flu or tuberculosis so I could take her instead. She laughed.

I called Oscar and told him about the Laura/Lauren dichotomy. He asked me how much Lauren has paid towards the ticket to the Prince concert at Radio City last month. I told him she didn’t have to pay me anything because she’s broke. He said if I was gay there’d be men crawling all over each other to get to me. Too bad for the gay community.

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I had time to kill before the theater and did a couple of quick gallery hops. Kevin Francis Gray has some of the most unusual sculptures I’ve ever seen at Pace’s 24th St. Gallery. An ugly beauty, if there’s such a thing.

These are marble. Until you’re standing just a foot or two away, you’d swear they were clay.

HOW did he accomplish these intricate folds and crevices in marble. I didn’t think it was that malleable a medium.

It looks like it was a soft material that was molded with hands. HOW?

Pace Gallery doing it AGAIN, this time on 25th St. with Yoshitomo Nara’s Thinker exhibit. You might be familiar with Nara’s moody adolescent girl.

The exhibit included sculptures and drawings but its primary focus is this image that he has worked over the course of his career.

I don’t find the work repetitive at all. Maybe it’s because I have a house full of moody adolescent girls.

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After Pace Gallery x2 I saw Laurie Metcalf and Chris Cooper in A Doll’s House, Part 2 on Broadway. It’s a terrible title and a terrible marketing campaign for a hilarious comedy/drama. Metcalf and Cooper are pros who can convincingly pivot from comedic banter to serious drama. Deservingly nominated for Best New Play in 2017, but they should shoot whoever thought up that title. I needed TWO personal recommendations before I even considered going.

I felt bad for such a long time about not attending college. If you’d told me when I was a kid that I’d spend a random Thursday evening gallery-hopping in Chelsea before attending a great Broadway comedy/drama, I’d have felt a lot better about the future. All that wasted time fretting. What a shame.

Smashed urn [Han dynasty]. Smashed heart [mine].

In my last post, all I did was move a rock a few inches. Look what he did.

Contemporary artist and political rabble-rouser Ai Weiwei dropped a Han dynasty urn. The event is memorialized in a sequence of three black and white photos. Last February, at a Sotheby’s auction in London, a set (#3 of 8) was estimated to sell from $200,000-300,000. It sold for $1,091,000.

I saw these in the Pace Gallery. They weren’t photos, though. They were much larger than the original pics.

The pixilation only revealed itself upon close inspection.

These are made from thousands of tiny Lego bricks.

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bins

April 11, 1993

Margret called. She such a racist pig—always making some crack about gays or blacks—but she’s so stunningly beautiful that I get woozy and forget all about it when she pays attention to me. What a body. She was bitching and moaning about men. It’s been an endless parade of mama’s boys who live at home and can’t stand on their own two feet. She called them spineless. I told her I was going to the Bahamas with Lauren and she said she’d miss me, which I know isn’t true.

She asked me if I’d write and layout her brother’s resume. (I knew she was calling for a reason.) I playfully said I’d only do it if she begged me. That I love it when she begs. She played along and said in a breathy, erotic voice, “Oh, Mark, please do it for me. I need it. PLEASE…” We both had a good laugh. Then she called me a bastard, which was also kind of erotic. We’re going to Chinatown tomorrow night for dinner. I love Chinatown. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods.

Worked until 8:00 and brought home a grilled kofta from the Afghani kabab joint on Houston. Superb.

[Note: What follows is my first meeting with a girl who knocked the life out of me. It took a long, long time to recover. It’s interesting to read about a precise moment that had such profound and long-lasting implications, but to not have any idea at the time. My present self wants to reach into the past and scream a warning. In the break-up, I got New York and she got Omaha.]

I was outside The Public Theater on Lafayette waiting for Klinger. We had tickets for an Irish Rep production. That guy is habitually late. He does it to take control. So passive/aggressive. I took a seat on a steam pipe and watched the big parade. A pretty girl standing next to me looked down and said, “Would you like a BLT?” I thought she was kidding but she pulled a sandwich out of her bag and handed it to me. I told her to pull up a steam pipe.

She was waiting on her roommate, who was also late. We cursed them. She was easy to chat-up. Younger than me. Tall with a long mane of willowy brown hair. Pretty eyes. Smoked incessantly. She’s an actress so I think I’m doomed. [Note: You have no idea, youngblood.]

Curtain time approached and there was no sign of Klinger or her roommate so I told her she should join me, to which she agreed straight away. I tried to give her the bum rush into the building, hoping that idiot Klinger wouldn’t show up at the last second but, of course, he did because that’s what he does. I could’ve killed him. Later that evening he told me I should’ve waved him off.

I gave her my phone number and she called. Laura. I told Betsy and she said that because of the unusual circumstances surrounding our meeting, she’s THE ONE.

I’m having Candace over for dinner again on Thursday after her therapy session with her girlfriend, which is never boring.

Did I destroy this work of art?

Here’s an exhibit in a Chelsea art gallery. It’s a pile of stones on a table.

If I move one stone closer to another when no one is looking…

…have I altered the aesthetics in any discernable way?

I’m asking a serious question. Some pieces are made to be interacted with but I don’t think this was one of them. Artists are fastidious about their work, understandably so. Did I wreck this piece?

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bins

April 7, 1993

Last night I was going to stay home and do laundry but Betsy called and treated me to dinner at a French joint on the corner of King St. and 6th Avenue. She was already sitting at the bar when I got there. Our meetings are joyful. We have a nice time together. I ordered a scotch and soda. She had a Campari. The bar munchies were cod balls and octopus. We shared a trout for dinner.

She picked up the tab. $43. It’s an expensive bistro and we drank quite a bit so I don’t understand why the bill was only $43. Betsy’s a regular and knew the bartender so maybe they left the drinks off the check. The bartender said that Betsy and I are a handsome couple and that we should get married. We laughed and said we agree. All the lust I had for her when we first met has mysteriously evaporated, but I’m still quite fond of her.

We ate at the bar, which I love. It’s more communal. She looked past my shoulder and said, “Oh, here comes my old boyfriend.” I turned around and it was Ricky Jay. He introduced himself and I said, “Yes, I know who you are.” I have a book he wrote called Cards as Weapons that teaches you how to throw cards with knife-like accuracy and velocity. In his stage act, he stands at one end of the stage and flings cards into a watermelon that’s on the other end of the stage. It’s an impressive feat. Afterwards, Betsy told me he has a volatile relationship with his mother. One evening, the police were called because he was throwing cards at her.

Betsy said he’s in town because he’s being profiled in the The New Yorker. I was a bit star struck but managed to sound at least marginally intelligent and not say anything stupid. I didn’t want to embarrass Betsy.

We walked to the Film Forum and saw Visions of Light, a documentary on cinematography. Her pick. Her treat. I learn a lot when I spend time with her. She makes me less drab and doesn’t care that I never went to college. Maybe I SHOULD marry her. I asked if she wanted to come over after the movie but she was tired and got a cab home.

And speaking of ex-dancers…I respect all art forms but I don’t understand modern dance. I saw the Feld Ballet at the Joyce on 8th Avenue with Elvin. They’ve got a lot of nerve calling that stuff ballet. Tutus and dancing on point it ain’t. What we got was droning, minimalist music and twisted, contorted limbs. I fell asleep a couple of times. We both had to stifle laughs. Suppressed laughter is the worst.

Beforehand we ordered the prix fixe at the French bistro next to the Joyce. That’s two French dinners in a row and I’m not crazy about French food. I’d have been okay with a plate of beans and weenies. The waitress was ravishing but I could tell she thought Elvin and I were a couple. His mentioning that we had ballet tickets didn’t help matters. We ran out of time and couldn’t order dessert but they let us come back after the show for it. That was nice.

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Daughter at the Guggenheim.

When they’re adults, they’ll either embrace this stuff or never want to walk into an art museum again. For now, I think they’re a bit bored. But if you live this close and don’t expose them, you’re a shitty parent.

Just wait till tomorrow. I guess that’s what they all say.

When I was young I only ever had a murky vision of what success might look like. My vision didn’t include the Port Authority bus terminal on 8th Avenue and 42nd Street 2x a day, five days a week.

Victo Dolore did a post about how much she enjoys her work. I sat down and made a list of all the things I wish I had tried. Things that would’ve been far more gratifying than being an office drone.

Photographer
Playwright
Reporter
Rare book dealer
Novelist
Letterpress publisher
College graduate

I was such a mess for such a long time. A deadly cocktail of paralyzing doubt and crippling self-loathing with a lethal chaser of lethargic indifference. I had no idea how to go about achieving any of those things. I convinced myself that any attempt would result in abject failure, so I never tried. I needed a proper boot in the ass but none were forthcoming. I hope my daughters don’t inherit my neurosis. Just the good bits.

I just noticed that those are all solitary professions. I thought I kind of liked people. I guess not so much.

If you’re <35 years old, for fuck’s sake, don’t just sit there. Get started.

Wake up every day that would be a start
I would not complain of my wounded heart

I was a short fuse
Burning all the time

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July 2, 1992

I ate dinner at Carib last night. I had a tuna steak that was out of this world.  Went with John and Howie, who left their wives at home. We looked like three gay investment bankers. Our waitress was a downtown snob who hated our guts and didn’t bother to mask her contempt but we left her a tip anyway because we’re better than that. Those guys are light years ahead of me in the career game but they don’t make me feel bad about it. I appreciate that.

At the end of the meal, after the plates were cleared, a little black kitten appeared. John picked it up and put it on our table. The waitress was disgusted because we had a kitten on the table. Howie was afraid of it. When it got near him, he would recoil in horror and yell at us to get it away from him. He wasn’t playing around.

I had it doing laps around the table chasing a straw. John held its tail and I would tease it with the straw just out of its reach. It turned out it belonged to the restaurant. His name was Bernie. He stayed with us for quite a while. Then, two little black kids walked in and we handed Bernie to them.

Sitting next to us was a black couple on a date. The girl was very pretty and the guy was a mass of muscle. I saw a second kitten under their table and noticed it was playing with a mouse. I leaned over said to the black guy, “Hey, there’s a kitten under your table playing with a mouse.” He looked down, turned to his date and said, “Honey, there’s a kitten under our table playing with a mouse.” She looked, screamed, got up and ran out of the restaurant. Then we called our nasty waitress over and said the kitten under the table is batting a mouse around and she had the exact same reaction. We were laughing our asses off. Finally, a busboy came over with a broom and dustpan and scooped up the now-dead mouse. The kitten was frantic looking for it. It was funny but it spoiled my appetite for dessert.

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Absurd this is. I can’t think of two things that have less to do with one another than Yoda and SpaghettiOs. And “Healthy Kids Entrée” and “NOW EVEN MORE!” is also wildly incongruous. Who are they trying to impress with that accented é? This label is fraught with contradictions.

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Guggenheim ramp. Frank Lloyd Wright treasure.

+1,100% Return on Investment. You’re welcome.

Six years ago I published a book for Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen. There were 200 softcovers signed by Hornby and 26 hardcovers signed by both. I set the published price for the softcovers at $60 and the hardcovers at $225. A hardcover was sold yesterday at a literature auction in San Francisco. It’s the first time one has been offered on the open market since publication. It sold for $2,700.

In granting permission to reprint the copyrighted material, it was stipulated that all proceeds, labor and material had to be donated to charity. I ended up writing a check for close to $18,000 to Ambitious about Autism, a school for autistic children in London. The materials cost about another grand. The labor is incalculable.

This sale has opened a debate. My wife, mother-in-law and a few others feel the seller should send a donation to the charity. I think that’s baloney. The implication is that every time one of these books changes hands, a donation should be made. A contribution would be nice but I see the charitable donation as a one-time event. I feel no weight of obligation. Would you?

Here’s a post about the book. Scroll to the bottom for nice pics.

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Late commute back to New Jersey. 20-something-or-other shrew sitting next to me yammering to her boyfriend non-stop for forty minutes, spoiling my commuting bliss. Talking about nothing. She never took a breath or gave him a turn to speak. Who is this poor soul on the other end?

Foofy Bear. My Zen was harshed by Foofy Bear.

Guys: If your woman calls you Foofy Bear, run. Run as far and as fast as your feet and wallet will take you.

Girls: Don’t call your man Foofy Bear. It’s emasculating. Do you want an emasculated man?

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A new Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie was on my A-list for the spring season. It has an excellent pedigree. Sally Field plays Amanda Wingfield, the doppelgänger for Tennessee Williams’ demented mother. Directed by Sam Gold, another seasoned pro. I started to hear grumblings and disparaging remarks. I asked a pal the day after he saw it if it was worth my time + money. Here’s his unedited feedback for your amusement.

Glass Menagerie was every bit as awful as everyone says it is. Dreadful. Emotionally void. Modern dress. Virtually no set, except a kitchen table and a modern day phone. No Southern accents. And Laura is played by a disabled actress in a wheelchair whose face is somewhat paralyzed. Makes no sense in terms of the character and watching her get into and out of the chair is horrifying. She gets down on all fours and kind of backs in (with help). I was mortified.

Totally opposite of the beautiful play Williams wrote. Sam Gold, the director, who’s usually wonderful, should be embarrassed. However, the audience liked it and I bet the critics will gush. They wouldn’t dare criticize a disabled actor. Or such a minimal production.

The Gentleman Caller is excellent — what you can see of him, because his big scene with Laura is lit only by candles in a candelabra. And I liked Joe Mantello’s opening and closing monologues.

RT is 2:05 with NO intermission. For no discernible reason.

It’s, quite possibly, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I suggest you go, just to see how a classic play can be pulverized into meaningless trash.

IMHO, of course

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Guggenheim snowfall outside; Calder inside.

This blog is nine years old today.