About Exile on Pain Street

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

Old man, look at my life

I just had a birthday. I won’t reveal my age because I’m hung up on it. Don’t laugh. Some people vape. Some follow the Kardashian’s exploits. I’m hung up on my age. None of it makes sense.

There are more years behind me than in front of me. This leads to an inordinate amount of introspection. Too much! I was dealt a weak hand early on but I played it pretty well. Instead of celebrating that, I choose to focus on my missed opportunities and failings. All I’ve ever been is an office drone. My aspirations never went beyond paying the rent. Why didn’t I have a hunger for something greater? And, please, I’m not fishing for compliments. It’s my birthday vent. Indulge me.

I was on my lunch hour walking up Seventh Ave. A pretty girl was walking towards me in the opposite direction. When we passed, she quickly looked away, as if she’d seen a hideous, old sea monster that just crawled out of the East River. When I was a young man and new to the city, girls would occasionally lock eyes for just an extra beat or two. The briefest of moments. Message received both times.

One box I never thought I’d tick was offspring. I didn’t think I had the emotional or financial capacity. But it’s worked out okay so far. I’m tempted to say I’m a better father to my girls that mine was to me, but that’s setting the bar artificially low.

15 years later, my hair is white. She’s taller and doesn’t require a dribble bib.

~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t work for The New York Times but I work in their world headquarters. It’s a lovely building designed by the charmingly-named architect Renzo Piano. He also designed the new Whitney Museum of Art in the meatpacking district and The Shard in London. It’s a pleasure to walk in every morning, but the bathrooms are too small and inconveniently located. The neighborhood, 40th St. and 8th Ave., is gloomy. The first one is his fault. Not the second one.

It’s a high-profile building. There are often protests outside and a police presence. Trump paid a few visits during the presidential campaign. Needless to say, he hasn’t been back since. I’ve seen James Comey and Juliette Binoche in the lobby. The day of the Capital Gazette shootings, the building was surrounded by paramilitary troops.

The building has a cracker jack security apparatus. Nobody can sneak by these proud sentinels.

Unless there’s a good Abbott and Costello movie on.

Look who’s back. Right on schedule. We see them every summer.

I’m on a very high floor. They roost near the top of the building to survey their kingdom.

They come up to teach their young how to hunt. Yesterday, while sitting at my desk, I saw two shadows dart past my window, moving straight down. Attack mode. Note that both legs are banded.

My friend did me one better. He looked out his window and saw a falcon on the fire escape across the way eating a rat that was still fighting for its life. The Circle of Life!

~~~~~~~~~~

The reflection is *not* water. It’s my glass patio table top. I didn’t see it until after I’d taken the pic. Another happy accident.

Are you going to have children?

…it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. That is unacceptable.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand

This, when she was asked whether or not she intended to have children.

It’s the Neanderthal in me but I make no apologies. It’s WOKE to say businesses have no right to ask women if they plan to have children. But here’s the reality of it.

My colleague had a baby last December. She took off from December through April, all while drawing partial salary. She came back in May, waited ten days, collected her annual bonus and promptly quit. She had no intention of ever coming back, just stuffing her pockets with money and running. They held her position and we absorbed all her duties in the interim, which was a big, fat, drag. She screwed the company and her colleagues over pretty thoroughly.

My bride did the same thing. She took three months’ maternity leave and resigned the day it expired. I had a fit. It’s perfectly legal but it shows a moral bankruptcy. I just had dinner with a friend who manages a team of lawyers. He said one of his charges is up front about it. She’s going to get pregnant, take her full maternity leave and then quit to be a full-time mommy.

Spare me any lectures about what’s acceptable to ask unless you’ve been on the receiving end of the new mommy whip.

It’s entirely her business,”
Ex-Prime Minister Bill English

No, it isn’t. Nobody is entitled to extort money from a company and double their colleague’s workload. If you plan on returning, fine. But if you have no intention, do the honorable thing.

~~~~~~~~~

We spent Father’s Day at the racetrack. I taught my 11-year old how to box a trifecta. It’s a useful skill. She already knows to stand on 16 if the dealer is showing a 2-6. Soon it’ll be time to show her the sucker bets on a craps table.

Sports betting is now legal in New Jersey and the track has a sports book. Do you know what a cooler is? A cooler is a mythical figure employed by casinos to throw water on a hot game. Their bad luck is so pervasive that casino management sends them over to sit at a table if the house starts losing too much money. I’m kind of a cooler when it comes to sports betting. I can tank a team’s entire season with one bet.

I put $10 on the Yankees to win the World Series. I hate the Yankees and always have. As of today, they’re one of, if not the, most powerful teams in baseball. But with my Dementor’s kiss, they’ll be lucky if they make the playoffs. Play ball.

~~~~~~~~~~

An unusual perspective of the Flatiron building. The offices in the point have irregular spaces that aren’t very workable. This is my bride’s favorite building from an architectural standpoint. I like it, too.

Chelsea graffiti.

~~~~~~~~~~

Pablo Picasso
Le Repos (Marie-Thérèse)
Oil on canvas, 1932
Est: $10,000,000-15,000,000
Sold for $11,562,500

I post a lot of jokey art so I thought I’d post something I admire for a change. $11.5M can be put to better use but this has a beautiful simplicity and gentle flow to it. The red and green play off of each other nicely. She was Picasso’s secret lover.

~~~~~~~~~~

The boredom of Alice.

I won’t do it and you can’t make me

bins

December 20, 1993

Kris invited me to her Christmas party. Last time we spoke, which was quite a while ago, she called me a dirty, sexist pig. I told her I’d never sublet my flat to a woman because this street is overwrought with junkies and dealers and is dangerous. She blew her stack. Said she’s lived in worse places and my attitudes towards women were prosaic. I think she called me a Neanderthal. I forget if that was her or someone else. After that I tried to kiss her and that REALLY set her off. Like I said, that was a while ago, so I was surprised to hear from her.

I didn’t know anyone at the party but I had fun. Food + booze. It’s a nice apartment but small. It looks directly into someone’s kitchen. That’s the view. A kitchen.

I was sitting on the floor at one end of the room and I saw a girl watching me. Later, I sat on the sofa and she came over and sat next to me. It was a dim party but it was light enough for me to see her outline. It was a nice outline. Pleasant. Laughed at my banalities. Tight, well-worn jeans, a tight black top and a plaid flannel shirt unbuttoned the just right amount. She smoked constantly and her teeth were kind of brown. She’s a 24-year old philosophy student/bartender from West Virginia. She was joking that she’s old enough to be a grandmother. Ha. Gross. We vibed but I didn’t get her number and I can’t ask Kris for it so I’m stuck.

I was supposed to see Ann. She was due back from Dallas at 9:30. I went to the gym and waited. 9:30. 10:00. 10:30. My phone finally rang at 11:00. I wasn’t interested. The Upper West Side is a long slog at that hour of the night so I told her no, thank you. Plus, I like waking up in my own apartment on a Saturday morning.

I didn’t think it’d be a big deal but she got very agitated. On the way back from Dallas she’d conjured a Friday night reunion and I was ruining it for her. She’d gotten her hair done and her legs waxed but I told her, no, I’m not coming up there. She shot back, “Well, then, I’M coming down THERE!” and I said, “No, you’re not!” She changed tactics and started telling me all the things she would do to me if I went up there but the better it sounded, the firmer my resolve to not go. Then she sounded kind of hurt and I (finally) felt bad but I said nope, nope, nope and held my ground.

I watched a Tonight Show rerun with Howard Stern.

~~~~~~~~~~

Governor’s Island is a dollop of land just off the southern tip of Manhattan. It was an Army base for decades and then a Coast Guard base.

I lived there for a few years early in my Coast Guard enlistment. It was a spectacular. My luckiest break. Governor’s Island is where I stopped being one person and became another. Cleveland receded into my past and New York came into view.

The U.S. Department of Defense sold it to NYC for $1 and now it’s a public park. $2 and a short ferry ride and you don’t feel like you’re in New York City anymore.

Some of the original Army housing is still standing, albeit in a dilapidated state.

~~~~~~~~~~

How do you like these apples?

Joseph Kosuth
One and Three Stools, 1965
Mounted photographs and stool
Est: $120,000 – USD 180,000
Sold for $150,000

It’s a picture of a stool, the actual stool itself and the definition of stool. Get it? No? That’ll be $150K, please.

Little Bo Peep lost her sheep and now it’s floating in a tank of formaldehyde

The spring Contemporary and Impressionist auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s just wrapped up and now that they’re over, none of these pieces will ever be seen in public again. In many cases, that’s okay. I saw someone describe this season’s offerings at a solid B+ and I’d have to agree. Aside from a Rothko, nothing really blew my sox off. I’ll keep my pithy remarks to a minimum. As always, feel free to heartily disagree.

Damien Hirst
Away from the Flock
Glass, painted steel, silicone, acrylic, plastic, lamb and formaldehyde
Est: $4,000,000 – 6,000,000
Sold for: $4,412,500

It’s a lamb. Floating in a tank of formaldehyde.

He’s pulled this sort of thing before. He did it with a great white shark and even a cow cut in half. Art as a spectacle. $4.4M. Hirst is currently at his estate laughing his ass off.

Jean-Michel Basquiat
Flesh and Spirit
Oil stick, gesso, acrylic and paper on canvas
Estimate Upon Request
Sold for: $30,711,000

A huge piece. I am slowly coming around to Basquiat. I still hold him in contempt for throwing it all away on an O.D. but am beginning to see some value in his work. It’s the same urban Lower East Side environ I spent so many years in.

David Hammons
Maternity
Wood mask and cotton nightgown
Est: $1,400,000 – 1,800,000
Sold for: $975,000

A nighty tacked to the wall. You can’t see it in the pic but there’s a chunk of painted wood underneath. What does it mean? Can anyone tell me? $975K would put both my daughters through school with enough left over to buy myself a snow cone machine.

David Hockney
Piscine de Medianoche (Paper Pool 30)
Est: $5,000,000 – 7,000,000
Sold for: $11,743,800

A vivid, beautiful piece. Interesting for its construction. Made from colored and pressed paper pulp. Much more tactile in person. I liked the deckle edges of each section.

Arman
Grande Poubelle (Large Rubbish Bin)
Plexiglas box, painted wood, accumulated studio refuse
Est: $60,000 – 80,000
Did not sell

It’s garbage from the artist’s studio. I think I took about $2,000 worth of art to the curb last night. Didn’t sell, which fills me with hope for the human race.

Jackson Pollock
Number 32
Est: $30,000,000 – 40,000,000
Sold for: $34,098,000

Magnificent (to me). Nice and bright. Pollock’s color displacement is better in some works than in others and this is one of the best I’ve seen.

Jeff Koons
Play-Doh
Polychromed aluminum
Estimate on Request
Sold for: $22,812,500

It’s an aluminum mountain of Play-Doh. My sweet Lord. Where would you put something like this? Playful, yet, dumb.

Robert Gober
Untitled
Bronze, wood, brick, beeswax, human hair, recycling pump, water, latex paint
Est: $6,000,000 – 8,000,000
Sold for: $7,287,500

Gober is my bête noire. A fake. A charlatan. What’s with all the drains in his work? This includes a pump that circulates running water. He is also currently at home laughing his ass off.

Mark Rothko
Untitled
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
Est: $7,000,000 – 10,000,000
Sold for: $18,856,500

I like Rothko and my fondness for his work has grown over the years. This was beautifully lit. It glowed. I could live with this. Forever. A shame about the $18M+.

Robert Rauschenberg
Sacred / Universal No. 7/3 Times (Cardboard)
Cardboard and tape on plywood
Est: $250,000 – 350,000
Sold for $225,000

Cardboard boxes affixed to the wall. What’s the appeal? Perhaps it’s the way they’re arranged?

Vincent Van Gogh
Vue de l’asile et de la Chapelle Saint-Paul de Mausole (Saint-Rémy)
Est: $35,000,000 – 55,000,000
Sold for: $39,687,500

Thick and juicy. Mainstream popularity be damned; I’m still enamored with his work. That poor bastard died broke. He’s not at home laughing.

Jeff Koons
Balloon Rabbit (Red), Balloon Monkey (Blue), Balloon Swan (Yellow) [Three Works]
Est: $20,000 – $30,000
Sold for: $81,250

Adorable. Easier to display than his monstrous balloon dog. More affordable, too (relatively speaking).

Mother. Oh, God, Mother. Blood. Blood.

November 13, 1993

Karen took the train up from Philadelphia. I never thought I’d see her again. I picked her up at Penn Station. She is my type. Same as Laura. I’m a sucker for girl-next-door. Those corn-fed thighs wreck me. She wore a blue denim button-up shirt the same color as her eyes.

I took her to the Rivera Café in the Village but neither of us ate. We pushed the food around our plates. I gave her my weepy rundown of being fired and robbed and not having anyone to get me through the night.

Then it was her turn.

I could see she was shaking. Being a raging narcissist, I thought my close proximity set her a-quivering. She talked about her abortion. She doesn’t regret it but she’s haunted by it. She got it the same day I was fired. Her boyfriend is dead broke so she had to pay for it herself. She put it on her credit card. We both found that macabre and dark but not without its humor and laughed.

Then she started crying. Tears fell into her barley soup. The Monday after, she had some residual bleeding that got so bad she thought she was hemorrhaging. She couldn’t go to the hospital because she’s got a new job and her healthcare hasn’t kicked in yet.

He’s not convinced it was his child but she swore through her tears that it was. I asked why she didn’t call me and she said if he saw a 212 area code on the phone bill he’d assume the pregnancy was because of me. Ha. If he only knew. Apparently, he found the letters and read them. She said he hates me and if he ever sees me, etc. [Note: I used to write love letters to all girls I dated.]

I paid the bill and we left. Once outside, we hugged briefly and she was still shaking. Over lunch she said she’d put on 10 pounds and I could feel there was more of her than what I remember. I liked it. Her breasts were bigger, too. She’s just a kid, really. I feel awful for her.

We went to my apartment but, of course, nothing happened. We sat on the sofa and talked. At one point I was in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and she came up from behind, put her arms around me and rested her head on my back. I turned around and we kissed briefly. Her hair was stiff with hairspray and it scratched my face. I asked her what train she needed and she said 3:30. It was 3:00 and I told her we needed to leave immediately. I don’t know why she bothered making such a long trip for such a short period of time.

We stood in the train station and talked a bit. Her demeanor suddenly changed. She told me she likes to be tied up. She said she likes being blindfolded because she can’t see what’s coming next. Then she told me about a client she recently had lunch with and how the girls at work are encouraging her to date him. I was out of my mind with desire and envy. What does she want from me? I spent so much money on lunch and cabs that I can’t go out this weekend. When am I going to learn to steer clear of these unhinged girls?

Fired by Morgan Stanley on a Friday and back to the grind 10 days later at Lehman Brothers. I hate it but I need the money. They have Mac Quadras so the hardware is new but the physical environment is punishing. Office cubes that are intended for one have been retrofitted for two. Slide your chair back six inches and *bang*.

I’ve never hated a group of people so quickly. If anyone leaves at 5:00, someone yells out, “Only working a half day?! Haw-haw!” So unoriginal. It’s a good gig for building skills but I don’t know how much longer I can keep the fake smile plastered on my face.

I saw Mimi at the gym. It looked like she’d never been inside a gym before. She was unsure of how to use the equipment. I mentioned it to Klinger and he said she told him not to speak my name. Good Lord. I wonder what I did to her?

~~~~~~~~~~

Sunrise over Queens.