Isn’t this how they found Elvis?

It’s been a while since I stripped back a layer of skin so here’s another entry from my journals. In this painful episode, I get sick and then sign the lease that changed my life.

January 5, 1993

I drank half a bottle of white wine by myself and woke up the next morning violently ill with a pounding headache and a terrible stomach cramp. I couldn’t even get out of bed to put the stereo on. Finally, out of necessity, I got dressed, crawled to the bathroom and sat on the commode for a long while. That’s when things got much worse. I was overwhelmed with a fever and BLACKED OUT. I came-to on the floor with my pants and underwear around my ankles and the cats staring at me. (No, guys, not dead yet.) I had pitched forward and fell off the toilet. I’m lucky I didn’t crack my head on the tub.

There was feces everywhere. I peeled off my clothes and took a scolding hot shower. Afterwards, I cleaned the bathroom, carefully placed my clothes in a garbage bag, double-bagged it and set it in the hallway. I looked at myself in the mirror and my skin looked like alabaster.

Kay phoned. I was supposed to go to her place but I told her I was too sick. I left out the pretty details. She said she was sorry and told me to call later if I felt better.

I went back to bed and fell into a deep, deep sleep. Woke up a half day later and still had a pounding headache but the stomach cramp was gone, thank God. I made a medicinal bacon/fried egg/cheese sandwich, phoned Kay and was at her apartment by 7:00. We sat on her sofa, made out and watched the college bowl games. White wine tastes and smells like a headache to me now. [Note: Miraculous recuperative powers are long gone, but I still never touch white wine.]

I’m signing the lease on the Lower East Side apartment tomorrow. Cindy is going to boil two lobsters in celebration, the poor things. What the hell am I DOING?! Am I insane? It’s affordable but Clinton Street is nothing but junkies, whores and gunshots. It’s nighttime, 24-hours a day. The liquor store on the corner has a thick, Plexiglas bullet proof booth that you step into. You tell them what you want, they fetch it and put it on a turntable. That’s AFTER you give them the money, of course. I can’t invite anyone over!

The building was built in 1939 and is in great shape. Many art deco flourishes. The apartment is remarkable. Two bedrooms, 900 square feet with hardwood parquet floors and a step-down living room. And it’s a real two bedroom. They didn’t construct a plywood wall in a bedroom and call it two. There’s an unobstructed view of the sky out the front and you can see the tops of the World Trade Center towers from the bedroom. The rent is $511.20/month and it’s rent stabilized, so it’ll only go up 3-4% annually. Howard said I should take all the money I’m saving and invest in a cemetery plot.

The previous tenant died of AIDS. The refrigerator was stocked-full of medications and concoctions. There was box of hypodermics in the cupboards. I wonder how much I can get for them outside?

Everyone at work is talking about their upcoming vacations. One is going to Colorado skiing. Another is going to Margarita Island. My life is so slow and hopeless. I can’t say I envy those guys because they practically live at the office. Their hours are brutal and their work seems insufferably dull to me. But they make up for it when they’re off. Michele is worried because her career is on an upward trajectory but John is complacent and not professionally motivated. It bothers her. I should warn him that he’s about to be dumped.

Does complacent and not professionally motivated sound uncomfortably familiar? Bonnie said we should sit down and talk about “the career thing” (her words) after my move to Manhattan. I don’t know what to do with myself. I never went to school. I’m ashamed of where I live. Who’ll have me? I’m scared.

Epilogue: On January 22nd of this year, the apartment below mine sold as a condo.

Asking price: $990,000
Sale price: $1,085,000

I couldn’t afford to move back there if I wanted to. It’s an interesting arc; what once was to what now is. For Clinton Street and for me.

Here’s a tease for my next post. It’s time for my semi-annual Christie’s contemporary art auction report. My favorite! Wanna guess whether or not this lot sold?

Robert Gober
Three Urinals
Est.: $3,500,000–4,500,000


Bonus Track

Apartments in the iconic Dakota on 72nd and Central Park West never come on the market. They’re held by families for generation after generation. (Though still referred to as “apartments,” that’s a misnomer. They’re actually co-ops.)

Well, almost never.

Take a look at this fantasy. The description states: “Retained by the original owner since the 1960’s…” That original owner was Lauren Bacall, who passed away in August. This, brothers and sisters, is how I would choose to live, if the choice were mine to make. Apartment 43 in The Dakota.

Desensitizing Children to Violence: NYC Edition

The dictionary defines desensitization as:

“…the diminished emotional responsiveness to a negative or aversive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. To make indifferent, unaware…in feeling.”

Look at this horrific ad that’s currently running on New York City buses:

photo 1 (3)

Every child walking down the avenue—from ‘tweens to infants in strollers—sees this. The Metropolitan Transit Authority reviews the ads posted on buses and subways for appropriateness. Some years ago, they rejected an ad that referred to Israel’s enemies as “savages.” Just this past January, they rejected an ad for an urban art exhibit that featured a subway car covered with graffiti. No need to revisit that, I agree.

But this is acceptable? Have you ever seen anything so vividly grim in a public space? And, OF COURSE, the victim is a woman. The victims in torture porn film ads are always women.

photo 2 (3)

I’m so sick of these graphic depictions of violence against women. I don’t want my 8-year old daughter to see this! This stuff is impressionable. You can’t un-see it. If you repeatedly expose little kids to this kind of appalling imagery, they’re going to grow up void of empathy. I get angry at the morons who take their toddlers to The Dark Knight for the same reason.

Am I making too much of this? You can tell me. Do I need to chill?

My Bride and I walked through Chinatown last weekend. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods. I like it because I can walked down crowded Mott Street and see over everybody’s head. Here are some pics of the open-air produce markets and a paper-folding artisan selling his wares on the sidewalk.

china7Octopuses. Or is it octopi?


A basket ‘o blue claws.


Dragon fruit. Whatever that is.

china5Croc/Gator. Do you like the goose in the foreground? I did that on purpose. Or do you think it’s clutter. Tell me the truth!


Fox and penguins.

china2Four blind mice. And a cat.


Parading peacock.

Here’s a price list. Very reasonable considering the artistry and labor involved.


The weather was perfect so we walked from Chinatown to Little Italy and got a sidewalk table at a café on Mulberry Street. We had pastry and cappuccinos (hers iced, mine hot) and watched the big parade of humanity. Best show in town. Then we walked east on Houston Street to our old apartment on Clinton and Avenue B.

I don’t think my wife had seen Clinton Street since decamping for New Jersey 12 years ago. So much has changed but some things are still the same. We walked past my old Dominican barber. He looked up, his face brightened with recognition, he put his scissors down (he had a customer in the chair!) and came outside to greet us.

We hugged and he insisted that we come inside for a visit. He opened a bottle of red wine and everyone in the shop drank a toast to old friends. I apologized to his customer for the interruption and he said, “He can’t help himself. He’s a social animal.” We talked about the junkies and gypsies who once prowled Clinton Street. That guy was one tough muther. If someone tried to sell heroin in front of his barbershop, he’d chase them away with a straight razor. “Take it down the street!,” he’d yell. He could have been shot. But he’s a survivor. I remember.

Wet Kiss on Second Avenue

My new job has me completely buried in the weeds. It’s a workload I’ve not experienced for a long time. I’m also trying to figure out the politics and personalities. I’m overwhelmed and exhausted. I don’t have time for a proper post so in the meantime, here’s another bon mot from my old journals. As usual, I make no apologies, etc., etc. The usual disclaimers.


August 7, 1992

I took Cindy out. She’s always my last resort when nobody else is around. I wonder if she realizes that? Knowing her, she probably does and doesn’t care. The theater, a couple margaritas at Mary Ann’s and then kissing in the shadows on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 3rd Street. Her kisses are really wet and slippery. Over drinks, she said she’s sad that she’s back in the same boat with Laura that caused them to break up in the first place. She thought it’d be different this time but it isn’t. It never is, is it? Listening to people talk about their relationships makes me glad I’m not in one. They seem like such a burden.

We were out last weekend bar hopping and listening to bands and Laura was following us around on her bike from a half block away. We’d walk into a bar with Laura watching from across the street and when we’d leave, she’d still be there. Then we’d walk up Avenue B to the next bar and she’s peddle slowly from a distance. Cindy was laughing at her but I felt kind of bad. I hope Laura doesn’t stab me or anything.

After we kissed for a while I asked her to come over tomorrow night to watch the Presidential debates. I remember watching the last set of debates four years ago with that girl from Nottingham. The one with the smelly feet. What the hell was her name? Her feet smelled like a litter box but I didn’t care because of that accent. I loved how she said my name. Maahhhk.

Cindy just called. She can’t come over for the debates because she was able to book time in the recording studio. So that’s that. Her stuff is really good. I hope she makes it. [Note: She didn’t.]

September 18, 1992

I was alone tonight and happy for it. I went to Cafe Mogador on St. Mark’s place. I had a bowl of split pea soup and then a cappuccino. I watched the pretty girls come and go. I’m invisible to them.

A few days ago, while walking down 2nd Avenue, some guy asked me for a dime for bus fare. The bus was approaching and all he needed was 10 cents but I didn’t give it to him. I felt terrible afterwards. A lousy dime! What the hell’s the matter with me?! So I made a commitment to be more generous. More humane.

Tonight, a derelict was sitting in the middle of the sidewalk with an empty coffee cup in his hand asking for handouts. I dug into my pocket and threw some change in. At the last second, I saw that my ONLY subway token fell into the cup. I asked him, “Can I have my token back? It’s my ride home.” He said, “Sure!,” dumped the contents into his hand, picked out my token and gave it back to me. He joked that even though he doesn’t have a home, he didn’t want to prevent me from getting to mine. We both laughed about it. So I feel a little more human tonight.


To celebrate my new yob, I had dinner with my lawyer pal, Rob, at The Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. It’s a genuine piece of Olde World New York. A landmark. It opened in 1913 when Grand Central Station opened. The vaulted, Guastavino ceilings made of off-white tiles are a distinctive architectural flourish.

photo 2 (2)Who knew there were so many different types of oysters in the world?! The menu changes all the time, even as the evening progresses.

photo 1 (3)We usually order a dozen from the east coast and a dozen from the west. More if we’re still hungry. In honor of my having recently scaled Mt. Sons and Lovers, I chose the Lady Chatterley’s. They were succulent and delicious. The trick is to not drown them in horseradish, lemon or cocktail sauce. The flavors are subtle and you can lose them if you’re not careful.

Of CBGB’s and the way-back machine

journalsA while back, I unearthed a plastic bin filled with journals I kept when I first moved to New York as a confounded young boy. Thousands of hand-written and typed pages. I had forgotten about them and their reappearance knocked me on my ass. Looking back, it’s astonishing how naïve I was in the ways of love and life. But I suppose that’s a claim we can all make.

Occasionally, I’ll arbitrarily pick a book, crack it open, and post what’s within. It’s surprising how entertaining the seemingly mundane can be. Well…entertaining to ME, anyway. Admittedly, I have a bias. Caveat: I offer these unedited and make no excuses or offer any apologies for the offensive material and coarse language. I wasn’t a fully-formed human being yet and it shows.

*     *     *

August 23, 1992

I’m miserable, bored, lonely and tired of all the rejection. I’m sick of not having any friends. Sometimes, I stare into the mirror for a long time to see if I can see what’s wrong with me. Fuck this town. But moving isn’t the answer, either. I’m better off bored and lonely here than bored and lonely someplace else.

Last Wednesday I walked over to CBGB’s because both Austin and Cindy’s bands were playing on the same night. How convenient is that? I hate walking into that place alone. There’s Cindy’s band clique and there’s Austin’s band clique and I don’t feel particularly welcome by either one, so I sat at the bar alone. I think they all think I’m creepy. And sitting at the bar drinking alone exacerbates my creepiness. I looked like the house leper. I ended up staring at Hilly Kristal all evening and if there’s anyone in that joint who’s creepy it’s THAT GUY, not me. Cindy said he’s a cheap bastard who doesn’t pay the bands, even though he charges a cover. He considers it a privilege to play there. Fuck, Hilly, it might have been a privilege in 1979, but it ain’t no more. Pay the fucking bands, man.

[Note: CBGB closed in 2006. The site is now a John Varvatos boutique, which makes me deeply sad.]

At least Cindy and Austin were happy to see me. Cindy’s kind of ordinary looking, but when she’s on stage playing her bass I want to rip her clothes off and ravage that flat chest of hers. Girls who play bass are HOT. Today, we rode our bikes to the park and sat in the grass. It was nice out and even though she didn’t get back from a gig until early this morning and looked like a corpse, I tried to kiss her anyway. She started to but pushed me off and said to stop because I have a girlfriend, meaning Bonnie, which isn’t really true. We rode to an outdoor cafe and had a couple bottles of beer, which I paid for.

We rode back to Cindy’s apartment and there was a big Puerto Rican street festival in front of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Her bedroom window was right above the stage so we had a perfect view of the bands and beautiful Latina dancers. There was a huge 12-piece orchestra with a big horn section. We sat on her fire escape and drank beers (which, again, I paid for). Even though I made a failed pass as her, there was no tension between us, which can sometimes happen. We enjoy each others company. I was drunk when I left and let me tell you something, riding a bike down Church Street into oncoming traffic with a beer buzz no fun.

Last Friday I was supposed to go to the laundromat but Bonnie called so I took the N train uptown instead. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events but eventually we wound up in bed. I exhibited an almost bizarre degree of control. First fast and then slow. She said slow was driving her crazy. I have no idea how I was able to hold out but I did. I never finished because I didn’t have a rubber. She, on the other hand, had a tremendous orgasm. Afterwards, we walked to the Evergreen Diner and I was laughing because she could barely walk. It’s just a few blocks away and when we were done eating, she told me she had to take a cab home because she still couldn’t walk. I started laughing and she got really mad at me, so now we’re on hiatus. Way to go, Mr. Sensitive.

*     *     *


The Bryant Park Hotel and Empire State with holiday lights.
Wednesday, December 18, 8:45 p.m.


The New York Times with taxi cabs.
Wednesday, December 18, 9:05 p.m.

Krishna on 2nd Avenue

I’m not a big fan of dance. I don’t get it. I’ve attended numerous performances over the years—everything from traditional ballet to modern—and it all looks like a lot of people with 0% body fat imitating dying poultry. But there’s something about Indian dance that shakes me to my core. I meditate (poorly). Perhaps therein lies the connective tissue.

Legendary Lower East Side performance space La Mama is jam-packed this week with performances from Drive East, the Indian music and dance festival. It’s an intimate black box theater that, while lacking in amenities, is ideal for dissolving the space between performer and audience. The caliber and athleticism of the dancers—Kalanidhi Dance—is extraordinary.

This dance, Alokaye Shri Balakrishnan, tells the story of Krishna, who brings his cows to the river to drink. They all die because the water has been poisoned by the serpent Kaaliya. Krishna hunts the bastard down, taunts him and a fierce battle ensues.

Synergy blends elements of traditional and contemporary dance and music. The video is relatively brief because I accidentally touched the off button. Hold your applause.

The biggest surprise is how percussive the performances are. Being in such a small space, you hear the fleet slapping the stage and the bells on their ankles. It’s exhausting to watch. I had to nap on the way home.