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.

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.

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?

~~~~~~~~~~

The many moods of Oliver.

Melancholy

Wistful

Cheerful

Bittersweet

Romantic

~~~~~~~~~~

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.

A light shines in Brooklyn

I dragged my wife + daughters to Pioneer Works, a warehouse in Brooklyn, for Anthony McCall’s Solid Light Works; four light pieces oriented vertically in a large space and two shining horizontally in smaller spaces. A mist hangs in the air so the beams are visible.

These shapes are not static. They slowly expand and contract, but too slowly, imho. You can barely detect any movement.

Standing in the middle of a horizontally-oriented light cone produces stark, interesting shadows.

These pics aren’t great because iPhones still can’t handle low-light photography. Why don’t I just get a proper camera?

My girls think I’m eccentric. They tolerate these sojourns but are bored by them. No matter. As long as I have something to say about it, they’ll continue to see this stuff.

Light is my favorite medium. My all-time favorite installations are James Turrell at the Guggenheim and Duke Riley’s illuminated pigeons in New York Harbor.

bins

May 25, 1993

The final episode of Cheers was broadcast on Thursday. Apparently, all of America tuned in. Tens of millions of people. But I couldn’t think of anything drearier than sitting in an empty apartment with my broken heart watching TV alone, so Cindy and I walked up to Brownies on Avenue A and 11th to see Pete’s band. I had a few scotch and sodas and felt much better. I forgot to think about Laura for a few hours.

Afterwards, we hung outside and chatted with a big group of people. I made Cindy laugh, which I love. She’s got a beautiful laugh. Pete’s wife wants me to play on their kickball team. Cindy’s obnoxious friend, Ruth, kept trying to talk to me.

I needed to get my head and heart out of Manhattan for a day so I took a train to Philly. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a Pissarro exhibit. It’s a gathering of his French urban paintings. First time this series has been seen together since his death. $8.50 admission! The Met is free!

I called Karen. [Note: An old girlfriend who lived there. She broke my heart, too. They all did.] She seemed genuinely happy to hear from me and said she could meet me for lunch because, “Someone is working all day.” I told Oswaldo I was meeting her and he couldn’t stop laughing. Then he called me a pussy.

She picked me up at the train station and drove to TGI Friday’s. TGI Friday’s. I think she’s getting a little soft around the middle but I liked it. She lives with a man and the gloss is off. All the usual reasons. Boredom. Financial strain. Diminished affections. When she spoke of her horrors, she would look at me dead center. Hard. Unblinking. She has the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. It was hypnotizing and a little unsettling.

I told her the good and bad stuff happening to me. She spoke of mainly bad things. A night of drunken sex resulted in an abortion. Not surprisingly, things haven’t been the same since. She seemed deeply hurt so I told her what she needed to hear; that she’s clever, fun to be with and beautiful (two out of three truths). That her boyfriend is punching above his weight class and is lucky to have her. That he doesn’t deserve her and will be sorry when she’s gone. As I said these things, a sorrowful expression drew across her face like a shadow.

We finished eating and walked back to her car. She was dropping me off at the museum. I was glad she wasn’t joining me. She would’ve been bored and try to rush me through the exhibit. Once in her passenger seat, I pulled her towards me and kissed her. She responded. I still can’t believe that someone so pretty is willing to kiss me. After a bit she pushed me away and said she felt guilty kissing one man while living with another. She said she hasn’t been kissed like that in a long while. That makes two of us. Kissing her is interesting. Her mouth is soft and kind of wide.

I rested my hand on her leg as she drove to the museum. She was wearing shorts. Her legs were incredibly smooth, like she had just shaved them. She accidentally ran a red light and laughed about it. She pulled up in front of the museum and we kissed some more. I told her to keep in touch, let me know how things worked out and wished her well. I jumped out of the car, walked up the stone staircase and didn’t look back.

Blue in New York City

bins

May 16, 1993

I was depressed so I went to the Polish Kitchen on Avenue A and 2nd Street and ate a big plate of pierogi with sour cream and fried onions. Peasant food always cheers me up. Afterwards, I sat at a bar on Ludlow St. and read the paper. Judd Nelson pleaded no contest to kicking Kim Evans in the head.

Went home, sat on the fire escape and read a Mamet book. I brought the phone outside but when it rang I didn’t answer it. I was afraid it was Laura and I didn’t want her to know I was sitting at home with nothing to do on such a beautiful night. Turns out it WAS Laura. She left a sweet message. Thank God for my cunning.

There’s a thick, metal bar that stretches from the fire escape to the building that will support my weight so I’m going to start doing chin-ups every morning.

Got a call to do some freelance work at Lehman Brothers but I declined, despite being dead broke. These are awful days. Bonnie has been very good to me, though. I can talk to her about anything. She might be going to the Berkshires for the weekend. I told her she’s not permitted because I need her here. We laughed but I wasn’t kidding.

I saw Laura four days ago but it feels like a month has passed. I told her I was busy every night this week but the truth is I have no plans. I don’t want her to think she’s running unopposed. I hate playing these idiot games but everyone in Manhattan does it. I’d see her tomorrow if it weren’t for fucking Baby Gap.

This has to end. Enough. I’m going to tell her to stop calling. Between the boyfriend in Nebraska and the ever-present danger of an acting gig that’ll require her to make out with some random guy 8x/week in front of an audience, I simply can’t take it anymore. I shouldn’t date actresses but I can’t help it. I love them so much. I’ll go back to Ann and her coconut oil-slathered nights.

Is that how it is? I can’t be with a woman if I care about her too much? I can only sustain a relationship if I don’t mind losing her? What the hell is wrong with me?

Do you want to hear something funny? I’m depressed, broke and my heart is heavy, but I’m not bored. I can’t recall the last time I was bored. I’ll never break up with New York.

~~~~~~~~~~

This Christmas, vinyl was introduced to a new generation. She ASKED for it. I didn’t impose my old man ways on her. She’s got a romantic notion in her head.

It’s a thrill to read liner notes again. But wait until she finds out what a pain in the ass LPs are. Their delicate nature. You can’t skip a bad song. I predict she’ll run back to digital by spring.

~~~~~~~~~~

Would you indulge me and allow an idle brag? Just this once? A journalist in Dubai was interviewed about how art affects her life.

~~~~~~~~~~

Bryant Park deep freeze. Friday, December 29. 2:00 p.m.