+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.

~~~~~~~~~~

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?

~~~~~~~~~~

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

~~~~~~~~~~

Guggenheim snowfall outside; Calder inside.

This blog is nine years old today.

I control your mobile phone

I used to carry a cell phone jamming device in my commuting bag. It was necessary for my train ride. Asking someone to kindly lower their voice was always met with a stream of obscenities, no matter how respectful and polite I was. I decided to go nuclear and ordered a cell phone jammer from Hong Kong. It arrived in a plain brown box and it was a dream come true. I stopped using it when it broke. Also, when I came across this:

Illegal to operate, manufacture, import, or offer for sale, (including advertising), with fines of up to $11,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.

At first, I allowed brief, necessary conversations. Announcing a train’s arrival time. Pick up a loaf of bread. Meet at a restaurant. But, as we all know, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I began to employ it simply as a means to entertain myself on my insufferable commute. People are genuinely addicted to cell phones and depriving them of their use is not unlike taking a blankee or a ba ba away from an infant.

I began playing a cat and mouse game. They’d connect and start yammering, I’d jam their signal, then allow them to reconnect and start the process all over again. So fun! It really made my commute fly by.

Here are some snippets from posts I wrote years ago about zapping mobile phone service. Don’t judge me. They were all assholes who were making the people around them miserable. They deserved it. All dialogue is verbatim.

 *     *     *

[Screaming] Stop tellin’ me how to live my life ma! I’m 37 years old!…zap…No, I ain’t hangin’ up on ya, ma! It’s the recep–…zap…I SWEAR I ain’t hangin’ up on ya! Quit yellin’. Don‘t talk to me like tha–…zap…It ain’t ME MA. No, YOU shaddup! It’s this gaddamn CELL PHONE!…zap

Happiness is a warm cell phone jammer.

Bang, bang. Shoot, shoot.

*     *     *

No, I’m on the train right now. Did you see the weather report for the pageant? I need to be careful! I don’t want to be a sunburned beauty queen!

zap

Hello? I don’t know it just went dead. I’LL JUST DIE if I can’t use my ph…

zap

Hello? HELLO?!

It doesn’t take much to push a beauty queen over the edge. It’s like tripping an old lady who’s using a walker.

 *     *     *

Gordon Gekko was sitting behind me on the train. He called his bookie and wanted to place bets on tonight’s baseball games. Loud and clear for all to hear. $200 on the Red Sox. $150 on the White Sox. That’s as far as he got.

zap

I’ve seen people get angry over the inability to make a call but this guy exhibited a deep, primal rage you don’t see in public very often. He was desperate to get his bets in. It was 6:55 and the games start at 7:05. But—son of a gun—try as he might he couldn’t get through. I pictured one of Tony Soprano’s Jersey goombahs on the other end.

He was furious. It was the first time I was worried about retribution. Guys with that kind of commitment to gambling usually have a low threshold for anger + violence.

 *     *     *

A woman became so frustrated with the number of dropped calls on the train that she got her Verizon bill out of her purse, called customer service and started screaming at them. I let that call through.

I was hitting doubles. With one flick of a switch I zapped a yappy 19-ish girl with a hip, urban sendibility sitting directly behind me AND the sideways baseball cap-wearing thug sitting behind her. They were both cursing up a blue streak. Such dirty mouths for such young children. I, on the other hand, was feeling much better about the train ride.

They suddenly realized they were having the same problem. They compared devices and cursed their providers (his: Verizon, hers: AT&T) for having such wretched service so close to the city. They were drawn together by a common enemy (technology). By the time we pulled into Newark, they had exchanged phone numbers.

See that? Put your phone down and love might find you. For all I know they’re in the process of becoming under-aged parents as I type.

 *     *     *

Overheard by a passenger who was staring out the window, wide-eyed, slack jawed, in utter disbelief:

Look at that! There’s a goddamn cell tower RIGHT THERE! Why can’t I get a decent signal?!

~~~~~~~~~~

A foggy morning.

chrysler-sm

I like how the sunlight plays off the tops of the buildings in foreground.

Oops!… I Did It Again b/w Money, Honey

b/w [abbreviation]  1. (music) “backed with.” Commonly used with 45 and 78 RPM records, referring to the flip side (also called the “B-side”) of a record.

Oops!… I Did It Again

I had another round of Mohs surgery to have a spot of Basal cell carcinoma removed. This is my third time under the knife. The first two times it was high on my forehead but this time it was right above my eyebrow, so I got a bit of a shiner. I have to go back after the New Year for more of the same.

I wish I could step into the way-back machine and talk to my younger self. I’d say, “Listen, stupid. Put some sunscreen on and reapply it every few hours. Wear a hat. And go to college.” I was trying to think of something positive that came out of this and the only thing I could come up with was that The Daughters are learning a valuable lesson from their vain old man. Let that be a lesson to you, too. Do you want to walk around looking like this? People stare.

bruise

Money, Honey

Every so often, a play will open on Broadway that’ll become an event that’s bigger than the play itself. The New York Times and New York magazine will deem it a living miracle and the culture lemmings—many of whom don’t actually give a damn about theater—all line up for tickets, which artificially inflates the price and renders the show unaffordable for the plebeians. It happened with Rent and The Book of Mormon.

Hamilton is such a show. Tickets are being sold into next summer. No joke. It’s an impossible ticket. You simply cannot see it any sooner than that. Unless…

A senior executive from the California office was visiting. I asked if he was doing anything fun while in town. He said he saw Hamilton last night and enjoyed it.

Two weeks prior to that, I was talking to a visiting board member. He said he came in on Friday with his wife to spend the weekend in the city. I asked if he did anything fun. He said he saw Saturday Night Live.

“How did you get tickets to SNL if you just got into town the day before?”

“I have a guy.”

“Ah. A guy. How much, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“$1,250 each.”

That’s how life is for the well-heeled. They click their fingers and things appear. I used to prepare marketing material for the Private Wealth division of a major investment bank. I’d always known about High Net Worth clients, but that assignment introduced me to Ultra High Net Worth clients. It gave me a new benchmark for my own mediocrity.

I didn’t grow up in abject poverty. There was always food on the table and a roof over my head, but not much else. When you grow up quasi-poor, no matter how well you end up doing for yourself and your family, inside your head, you’re still poor. These constant, nagging episodes don’t help matters.

I’ve seen what wealth can do up close. It goes beyond hard-to-obtain show tickets. Ultra High Net Worth clients never go to a hospital emergency room. They have a team of private doctors and specialists on-call. I’ve also seen what it’s like to be broke. It drove my father away. I am a lethal cocktail of envy and resentment.


I’m a bit of a social lefty, so I was shocked (shocked!) at my reaction to the attacks in Paris. My knee-jerk solution was to detonate a thermonuclear device over Syria. I doubt that’d eradicate the problem entirely because filth and roaches can survive being radiated, but I’ll bet that’d slow them down a bit and show them we mean business. My bride and I lived about a mile from the World Trade Center when it came down and it took me back to that week. Vive la France.


Central Park Autumn

cantral park 2

Well here I am Lord, knocking on Your back door
Ain’t it wonderful to be, where I’ve always wanted to be
For the first time I’ll be free here in New York City

Harry Nilsson

central park 1

Blog Post Tapas

I did a post like this not long ago. I’ve got a bunch of interesting bits and pieces floating around that, hopefully, make for a worthwhile post.


A Lot of Plot for One Statue

This is the Hindu goddess Durga. I met her at The Rubin Museum of Art last week. Here, she defeats the wicked demigod Mahisah. Nepal. 13th Century.

durga1

Durga decapitates a buffalo and pulls Mahisah out by his hair (ouch). Before he can draw his sword, she stabs him in the chest with her varja (OUCH).

durga2

The Goddess’s 18 arms fan out showing her arsenal of weapons. All this violence is balanced by her calm expression. She’s pretty bad-ass.

durga3

This antagonized my feelings towards religion. Catholicism places women on a pedestal and then imprisons them a gilded cage. Their virginity is obsessed over. They’re not fit for the priesthood and are only offered servitude roles. Don’t get me started on how Muslims treat women.

Hindus make their women into WARRIOR GODDESSES who can kick a man’s ass when he’s being a wicked demigod.


Blue Sky + Gray Hair > Gray Sky + Blue Hair

hammock

I was lying in my hammock daydreaming about The Partridge Family. I remembered that in the Mad Magazine parody, Danny stole Laurie’s training bra, cut eye holes in it and used it as a bandit mask. I recalled the illustration of Danny wearing the bra on his head while Laurie complained to mom. I had a good retro laugh.

Earlier that morning, I was picking up a prescription for my daughter and when the pharmacist asked what her date of birth is, my mind went white.

C’mon, get happy.


With Apologies to Bob Dylan

Dear younger self:

The lyric in the second verse of the Top 40 chestnut Go All the Way by Cleveland pop sensation The Raspberries is not

Oh, I love her
screwing me

as you and your young school chums once believed. Rather, it’s

Before her love
I was cruel and mean

Glad I finally got that sorted out. Took long enough.

A recent post by Samara about Lay, Lady, Lay reminded me that, for many years, I thought Bob Dylan’s most romantic ballad was actually written and performed by 70’s Lite FM staple Mac Davis, he of Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me fame. That means I thought the lyrics

Whatever colors you have
in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll
see them shine

and

Girl, you’re a hot-blooded woman-child
And it’s warm where you’re touchin’ me

CAME FROM THE SAME PEN.


The Sound of One Hand Clapping

“Imagine you are alone in a room. The lights are down low, you’ve got some scented candles going. Soothing New Age tunes, nothing too druid-chanty, seep out of the hi-fi to gently massage your cerebral cortex. Feel good? Are you the best, most special person in the room right now? Yes. That’s the gift of being alone.”

Colson Whitehead
The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death


Graphique Fantastique

Look at these two magnificent posters for Broadway productions. Graphic design is a pretty great art form, even if it is primarily a vehicle for commerce.

This first one is by Paul Jeffery. It’s for the new David Mamet play starring Al Pacino. It reminds me of those cool travel posters from the 1950’s. Nice, dignified color palate. It says noting whatsoever about the play itself, but it conveys all the information needed to make you want to buy a ticket, namely,

AL
PACINO

and

DAVID
MAMET

ChinaDollIt worked on me. I got a ticket. But those two old rattlesnakes, Mamet and Pacino, aren’t the sure bet they once were. They’re not exactly at the top of their game anymore. The evening can go either way.

This one is for a musical you can’t get a ticket to unless you’re extraordinarily wealthy. I don’t know who did the poster but the logo is genius. It has movement and beautiful stark contrasts. The top point of the star is implied. His buttons are a nice, subtle accent.

hamilton


XVI

One rose for each year. A happy anniversary to my Bride. 16 years this past 9/11. Thanks, terrorists, for fucking up my anniversary. AND my town.

roses

We didn’t celebrate for a few years after the attack. It didn’t feel right. But we decided to reclaim the day. We mean no disrespect to people who lost someone but it’s ours and we choose to celebrate it. 16 years now. 18, unofficially. The score is:

Annus Mirabilis: 18
Annus Horribilis: 0

First the knife, then sweet perfume

I was enjoying my morning coffee in Bryant Park. It’s the best part of my day. I sit and read a book or the newspaper. Sometimes, I stare off into space or watch the leaves flashing in the sun. I watch the city awake from its slumber. It slowly, quietly, unfolds itself like a beautiful flower. After that, it’s one unpleasant episode after another until 5:00. It’s my daily dose of Zen.

Usually.

The other morning, unbeknownst to me, I sat near an outlet. A thoughtless prig decided he needed to charge his cell phone. Instead of sitting quietly in my meditative bliss, I was treated to this:

No ‘excuse me, do you mind if I sit here?’ Not a word. I was treated to his theories on the merits of feeding his cat dry food vs. wet food. I wanted to pick up my chair and bash him over his head with it but the thought of explaining why I was in jail to my daughters (not to mention my mother-in-law) stayed my hand. I seethed with a mad hatred that was disproportionate to the offense. Zen Archer fail.

I walked to my office, sat at my desk and soon thereafter, the baby gorilla with the insatiable appetite who torments me arrived with this:

iced coffee

Why have just one iced coffee when you can have as many as you’re able to pour down your gullet in an 8-hour day? They’re free. He makes two at a time because he doesn’t want to have to get out of his chair and walk to the kitchen when he finishes the first one. The morning feeding consisted of:

1 smelly omelet
1 large oatmeal
3 apples
1 peach
1 pear
1 banana
1 raspberry yogurt

This was me by 9:30.

~~~~~~~~

My Bride and Daughters saw Taylor Swift at Giants Stadium. I paid $460 for three tickets plus $91 for two Taylor Nation gift bags that contained TS logo t-shirts and tchotchkes. That “S” in the logo should be “$”. That’s an extraordinary sum of money for me to spend. I’m just regular. I was steamed because you’d think that for $460, you’d be sitting in decent seats. The decent seats are $460 EACH. Why, Taylor? Why? Most of the men’s lavatories were converted to women’s restrooms. [Clever.]

Then I got the concert report from My Bride.

The stadium was packed with every 10-17 year-old girl in New Jersey. Girls in that demographic are constantly bombarded with negative body-type images that stick for life. That stage is hard enough to navigate without social media and the entertainment industry pointing out all your faults and inadequacies.

My Bride said that Ms. Swift made all those young girls feel better about themselves. It was an old fashioned tent revival for their souls. The songs were affirmations of girl empowerment. Her message is: Don’t take crap from anyone–ESPECIALLY men. At one point, she spoke to each young girl, telling them to [I’m paraphrasing] go home tonight, look in the mirror and say, “I’m beautiful,” because THAT’S WHAT YOU ARE. 60,000 smiling, laughing faces.

Low self-esteem and self-loathing didn’t stand a chance. Shake it off, indeed. I love Taylor Swift.

Everyone who entered the stadium was given a rubber wrist band that had an LED light inside. Kids played with them but when the concert started they took on a life of their own. They obeyed the music.

[Caveat: My Bride is a Cracker Jack wife and mother, but her photography and videography skills need improvement. Hang in there for all :27 seconds.]

This went on all night. Complicated sequences mirrored the beats. At one point, every bracelet glowed the same shade of red. The stadium was a sea of bright roses. If I’d know about this I would’ve gone. [And snuck off to smoke a big fatty.]

There you have it, bitches. The best and worst of humanity, all within 48 hours.