Sunday, December 30, 2007

Scraps that fell off the table in 2007

While cleaning up this Mac’s “ desktop” (an annual chore), I find fragments of things I had intended to work into presentable posts but never did. A curious mind stumbles about like a fat bee among ample flowers at the height of summer. In winter, he remembers.

I had thought to write about all the hand-painted t shirts C has produced this year.

In a rare moment of political fuming, I had begun a list called “Threats to democracy”: I like lists to contain ten items. I got through six on this one before something less sour distracted me.

Threats to democracy

a) Fat – people grow lazy. They do not tend to the work that needs to be done to maintain a democracy. Like a second or third generation living off the company their father or grandfather started without becoming active in it.

b) Making nice – the rest of the world contains some pretty vicious people and cultures. We should not treat them all politely. They would kill us if they could. We need to learn that it is not ignoble to make war effectively, to flex muscle in defense of ourselves and to win war even when that means the destruction of another group of people.

c) God. God has nothing to do with democracy. In fact, God is probably the polar opposite.

d) Tiring of diversity. It’s so much easier to have rules that segregate us. Opting for the convenience of little segregations and daily minor bigotries that never make headlines but cause a slow slick coating on the tongue that eventually results in a loss of taste and savoring of diversity.

e) Politicians who want to be re-elected. Confusing sports and politics. Put down your plow and go to Washington if your neighbors ask you to. Represent them and then come home and take up your plow and let someone else put in their time. Let people look at your one-shot record and decide if you were useful or not, but not in terms of “Can you make a career out of this gig?” Even if you’re good at it, the process of returning popular politicians to office has not guaranteed us great results. There really is no justification for the amount of time a politician spends getting re-elected. There should be no campaigning, let alone campaign financing which ought to be illegal.

f) Bloated Federal government. Let the Federal government shrink before it sinks. The Federal government ought to protect our national borders with its military, maintain interstate transportation and print money, safeguard health whenever an issue is beyond the boundaries of a particular state, and facilitate the congregation of senators and congressmen, and decide arguments among states.

I had written effusively about this orchid, the only phaleonopsis we have ever had that actually produced a second little plant at the end of a stalk of blossoms. I spent an outrageous $75 for this plant. Bought it from an Asian lady who sold them in the window of her dry cleaning business on Amsterdam. She wouldn’t bargain. Unlike many of its kind, this one seems to bloom all year with no months of vacation. Now that it has produced a baby, its cost is more reasonable. Besides, how do you price something when it is beautiful?

There were some parties we attended that went unreviewed. Here am I with recovering bloggers Vasco and Eric on Eric's 24th birthday:

There was the process of stripping years of paint off a metal door. I documented it in pics but the memory of the chemical fumes seems to have kept me from outlining this business.

I attended this vernissage at the Consulate General of Argentina. I had just left the gym, and after two glasses of Argentine red wine, and seriously dehydrated, I almost passed out and stumbled out into the cold air and into a Duane Reid for water without saying goodbye to Raul(whose work was terrific) or John. (Raul and his partner John bookend Ken who sings in Mystery Date, and two of their friends)

In testament to the frivolous usage of post-retirement free time, I made repeated videos of the inside of our kitchen waste paper basket lined with a plastic bag. Here’s a still from that nonsense:

I really should have written about the “Channel gardens” at Rockefeller Center so called because they lie in the space between La Maison Francaise and the British Empire Building, and, about its benches installed at the recommendation of “Project for Public Spaces” after the management of the Center asked them to recommend ways to discourage the public from sitting on the stonework of the fountain. Their reply: ”Are you guys nuts? That is exactly what a plaza is supposed to make people do: linger. Don’t discourage this. Add benches!”.

This was a year of fun with Photoshop. Among the things I didn’t post is this before/after shot of Lynette who had coveted my eyebrows and received them for Christmas with some additional bling and extentions.

I’ve kept this odd picture of something I saw in a men’s room in Central Park.

In Savannah, C and I sat in a café on Ogilvie Square. En route to and from the restroom, I overheard two gay men conversing about a pit bull and the terms of probabtion. I reported the conversation to C who said he hadn’t known that pitbulls got probation. The record of their conversation and ours illustrated how men quickly go crazy in places like Savannah and why we could like living there. I can’t find my record of that.

After having received a Rufus Wainwright DVD entitled “Rufus! Rufus! Rufus! Does Judy! Judy! Judy! Live from the London Palladium”, I wrote a review wondering how anyone could possibly admire Mr. Wainright who is largely tone-deaf and who treated the infinitely more talented Lorna Luft with what looked like contempt while she was on stage with him. He can’t sing. He can’t perform. He doesn’t understand any of the songs in this concert. I just. Don’t. Get. It. In disgust, I trashed the review.

I also ditched a record of a conversation over dinner with C, P and B at Seasons 52 in which I claimed to have reached a new level of maturity by not insisting on sex with only handsome men, claiming that once a person has been repeatedly “to the mountain”, sex is more about sensation only and is not contingent upon the look of the chosen participant. I was immediately set upon by all three who tore this argument to shreds despite my heroic attempt to save my own flag.

I had also thought to post more frequently about the sale of our Sol Lewitt painting that Christie’s will auction in New York on January 15th. Buzz must be generated. This was encouraging.

I had often thought to post that which first came through the finger tips when presented with the freundlich daily keyboard over the last 365:
a) about sex: its availability, its meaning, its drudgeries, its exhilarations and its curiosities
b) about age: its relentlessness, its cruelty, its prattling arguments and its vanquishing.
c) About money: its annoyance, its limitations, its evaluations and my divorce from its future
d) About work: but I’ve rather forgotten what it was like.
e) About God: who often dies and is reborn in my head depending on the traffic and what I may have eaten.
f) About love: but this I did wrestle into word once or twice.

But for a nicer conclusion to the year, I’ll simply post us in Fort Lauderdale on Christmas. Let all this lay where I can find it under the dust of the years to come.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I wanted Cha Cha Heels

Every year, BJ posts this, and every year I wait for it.

PS: Tonight we are relaxing in Daytona Beach and if this doesn't become the next gay mecca well I just don't know what will. Wonderfully quirky downtown-by-the-sea with dozens of leather shops and lots of affordable "old-style" Florida homes and not a single McMansion.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Governors Island

What would you have proposed if given the opportunity to develop a 172 acre island a half mile off the tip of Manhattan?

Don’t give that too much thought because the selection of a plan has been this week announced, with Diller Scofidio hitting another New York City homer (if they continue this streak, surely other architects will claim they are using performance enhancing drugs and are spraying their proposals with HGH.

Their plan is admirable while not what I would have proposed, but, as is the case with their plans for the Highline and the Railyards, these guys know their customer: not the end user but the elected and appointed public sector officials who make the decisions about the usage of land like this. They do their best to suggest features that will appear indisputably as beneficial to the constituency. Their solutions are never radical but always contain one or two “daring” elements. In this case, I really like the idea that debris from the military buildings to be demolished will be used to build “mountains” on the otherwise flat surface of the island that will allow for the viewing of the nearby Statue of Liberty. I also like the idea that there will be a fleet of free bicycles available to all visitors.

What would I have proposed? An all-season pleasure dome. A red-light district safely removed from the tiresome NIMBY issues of Manhattan. A place of exotic and wild preservation that would serve up the replenishment of weary bodies. I looked to Shakespeare’s The Tempest as my inspiration:

The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place, and fertile…Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not…Let me live here ever…this place paradise…you sun-burn.d sicklemen of August weary, Come hither from the furrow, and be merry: Make holiday: your rye-straw hats put on, and these fresh nymphs encounter everyone…Where the bee sucks, there suck I: In a cowslip’s bell I lie: There I couch when owls do cry. On the bat’s back I do fly, after summer merrily…this is as strange a maze as e’er men trod…

Oh well, if we are always to be denied a place where guilty pleasures are allowed, bicycles are the next best thing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The early birds don't catch the worm.

Maybe we did leave this party too early. Looks like the director/star eventually showed up and rewarded the guests for their patience.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Check it out.

A very pleasant gentleman named Scott Miller (who was at this party last Saturday) offered me a peek at this. It's a preview of next month's InTheLife, and it contains a very fine section about entrapment. Check it out.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The perfect Christmas party

There are mountains of books about how to give a great party, none of which can guarantee you much success, but when it works, the results are indelible. And so it is that we annually and covetously await our invitation to Bob and Ray’s tree trimming party. (Once on their list, the only way to be dropped is to leave this world, and even those who have made that transition are remembered by ornaments on the gigantic tree at the center of the dream-sized Chelsea penthouse loft that is their home.) This is proof that the do-it-yourself approach is still best. No bartender. No caterer. Vats of savory beans. Thick slabs of ham. Brownies that elicit a cheer when they are brought forth. And, if there was music playing, I didn’t hear it above the happy din of the crowd. (Don't squint. Click it, and you may have to look twice at the startling Santa-with-elf ornament in the upper right corner.)

This year, we brought with us Joe and Jean-Louis ( an eligible Jewish MD! And doesn’t that phrase stir the heart of a yenta like me!)

There are some people we see only at this party, such as Ethan (on the left) whom we’ve known for many years, and who had with him a new boyfriend. That, the hosts will tell you, is why they do it: time speeds by so swiftly that whole years pass while we all wonder what has become of friends whom we haven’t kept up with. This party helps rectify that craziness.

There was much catching-up to be done, the work of which is doubled by the fact that the singular aspect of this party is its Provincetown/New York connection. Most of the guests have roots in one or both communities. Then there is the business of meeting new folks, such as this fellow, whose resume includes a role in a certain prison film. He found and greeted the ornament (near the industrial-size Viagra one!) he had once given Bob and Ray, and, stepped out onto the roof with Joe where the two commiserated about the rigors of cinematic performance and compared talents.

Here with Joe are a massage therapist and his partner who is a Wall Street banker, and two unidentified blondes.

The dear and wonderful Bob and Ray.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Old and Cold

I don’t feel compelled to trash an event that did not live up to expectations, so Friday’s “film debut” in Hell’s Kitchen with its ludicrous 5’X7’ VIP area full of undulating, under-aged and deranged underlings will go unidentified. Do we look bored? We were.

Why can’t anything start early? We held out for two hours till 1AM and the director and cast had still not shown up, nor had the screening begun. The youngsters (many dragging umbilical cords still wet and clamped) seemed happy to wait in the long coat-check line and to pay three dollars for said service and then to swill odd vodka. We must be getting old. No patience for this. No ear for its braying music. We talked about other stuff, and when it became clear that I had no recollection of several experiences I had shared with C and Joe, and when the woofy Max Scott spoke to me and I had no memory of the other times I had met him, I protested that I simply had no room left for new memories and that I hadn’t retained much of the last few years. Joe observed, “No room left on the hard drive?” I nodded. “That means that C is your external hard drive.” I brightened at the convenience of this.

We walk several freezing blocks to the Eagle. The icy wind is so adept at claiming even a fracture of an exposed inch between scarf and collar. I am desperate to go south. Earlier in the week I watched a snowfall. It seemed to euthanize the street, but it will not get me.

C unwrapped a fresh sponge and tossed it into the sink. The sight of it startled me. It seemed so Mediterranean. With paperclip-and-post-it-note sail, and us stowed away.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Subelite, for break-fast or any-time.

From the other room and muffled by a section of New York Times, C sends me a question.

“What does this word mean? ‘Subelite’.”

“Subelite? It’s a type of sound-deadening insulation used in new construction.”

“Be serious. What does it mean?”

“Hmmm. Subelite. Oh yes, I’ve seen the ads. Valerie Bertinelli drank it for one month and she lost thirty pounds. Mostly gas.”

The paper is lowered as I enter the room to receive a glare.

“Check the on-line dictionary”, I suggest.

“I did. There is no such word in English.”

“How are they using it?”

“In the paper, it is used to describe some runners.”

“Oh of course. Subelite runners. They are the ones from sub-Saharan Subelia. Their bones are hollow. They circle the globe, winning marathons and medallions that they mail home to their kinfolk who melt them down and recast them into practical farm implements.”

Again the glare.

We google, and suddenly I realize the problem.

“Oh! It’s ‘sub-elite’. It’s a type of athletic designation. Somewhere below ‘elite’. They just didn’t bother with the hyphen. Lazy New York Times writer.”

“Maybe it doesn’t need a hyphen.”

“According to the dictionary, it doesn’t exist without a hyphen.”

“You know, I was reading a while ago about the hyphen and how it is falling out of usage. Also, about how it is often confused with the ‘dash’.”

“Subelite runners do love their fifty-yard dash.”

Third glare, but I continue.

“I think the hyphen is our friend. Not our best friend, which is the comma, but a very close friend. If anything, like the Germans, I use it all too often. It’s just so helpful when you can’t find the right word but have two or three before you which, when linked, get the idea across.”

C, again behind the wall of paper, wonders, “How long before ‘subelite’ shows up in the dictionary, do you think?”.

“Usus quam penes arbitium est, et ius et norma loquendi.”*

I can’t see it, but I know I have received a fourth glare. C has now used up his effective daily glare-quota.

*Usage trumps rules, in the governance of speech.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Die Mommie Die!

Have you ever cheated on a diet? Eaten ice cream late at night while counting down the weeks to the beach? If so, the feeling you go to bed with is exactly the way I always feel when I attend a Charles Busch play. Guilty. Shouldn’t I be at something more classical? More serious?

Sorry. I’m over this guilt and I’m quite willing to say that I’ll go to anything Charles Busch offers up. He’s so terrifically reliable when it comes to laughs, and, so capable of clawing his way (in heels and wig, no less) up and out of that otherwise dreadful heap of drag and camp that continues to pass as entertainment.

Maybe it’s his wit or maybe it’s his timing. Even that speculation makes me again feel a bit guilty in my admiration. Shouldn’t a good play be more than a collection of clever lines and facial manipulations? Shouldn’t a well-designed room be more than its carefully chosen furnishings? Sure. There’s got to be some edible glue to it all, and that is really what separates Charles Busch from other men in dresses. I don’t feel guilty about being swept up into the human machinery of his stories. I don’t feel guilty about trailing his characters with fascination as they prowl the stage, and I doubt I’ll ever stop moving to the left or right in my seat to dodge the head in front of me so as not to miss the sight of his face as he delivers the next line.

Little David, Aaron, Joe and I saw his “Die Mommie Die!” last night and I found it thoroughly satisfying. I felt equally satisfied a few years back seeing his “Shanghai Moon”. I don’t think that either of these plays is as good as “You Should Be So Lucky” which remains my favorite, despite the fact that I think the entire “talk show” section will need to be rewritten if and when this play is revived (and I have more than once begged Michael, the director of the Hartford Stage Company, to do just that – revive it, I mean).

And that brings me to one final guilt about liking a Charles Busch play. Can any of them be staged successfully without Mr. Busch himself playing those parts he so perfectly originates and inhabits? Maybe, but wouldn’t another actor have to mimic Mr. Busch’s movements and expressions and intonations in order to make the characters work as well, if not better? If so, isn’t this a weakness? I don’t have an answer to that question, and, I never saw “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife”, which would have let me see how well his work sustains itself when out of his nightly reach.

If you’re in town, forget the diet and go see “Die Mommie Die!”. You won’t regret it.

PS: If you go to his website, linked above, and read the NY Times interview/tour of his home, you come to one of his best lines. When discussing his never-used kitchen, Charles Busch says “I don’t cook. I eat like an old chorus girl. I’ll open a can of Le Sueur peas and add some mayonnaise.” I bet he instantly switched from his natural speaking voice into a sort of wistful Eve Arden when he said this. (Funny on many levels. Wretched canned peas we all grew up with, wondering about the name on the can. Plus, Lucille LeSeuer, Joan Crawford's real name.) I wonder if his interviewer noticed or understood this. I'm guessing he probably just asked "Can you spell that for me?"

Sin Will Find You Out

After leaving the theater this evening with Little David, and Aaron, Joe was singled out with a message from on high. Alas, while momentarily irritated, he remained unconverted.

PS: We saw the Charles Busch play, "Die Mommie Die!". More on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Walrus

If you would like to understand John Lennon, but have only five minutes to do so, I suggest you go here for some good insight into the man who was killed twenty-seven years and three days ago a few steps from where I am writing this.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Holding On.

The way I see it, we are, each of us, dumped from the Titanic of our births into icy waters. We survive instinctively by clinging to what is nearby, some luckier than others by circumstance, some by strength, and still others by cold-blooded gumption.

I am among those who, while awaiting rescue, trade up to better debris. In childhood, I was supported by careless teachers, unhappy parents, and the lonely respite of the public library. As a young adult, I enjoyed the comfortable floatation of the Church, pulling at my oar half-heartedly while snickering quietly at the drama of my voice. When the dark and starless skies let me know that I was making circles, I took a dive into the passing ship of State, making myself useful dispensing the sterilities of mapless government.

In my early days of safety, I saw many people drown, and secretly I wished to know the foam of the waves that overcame them.

I watch others tread water for the length of their lives, using curious tools to stay above its surface. The morphine of religion. The aquarium of wealth. The fanning gills of sex. The antifreeze of drink. Their sharks never seemed much to care for me, though I would have been easy prey.

Imagine my surprise twenty-four years ago when someone passing took hold of me and pulled himself up and into the listing vessel of my life. Turned about in winter, I felt warmth for the first time. Good and playful work. An ease of course through dire straits. Laughter in the clearing of the drain.

To him I make these words. Happy anniversary, you with your charts and signs and sense of direction. Do not argue with me when I set love between the stem and stern of us and say now we will go this way or that. Hold fast, and sing with me when there is music in the wind. I feel good currents beneath us. Portage to those sunny islands. Soon.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Pornography of Christmas

The entire city is now ablaze with the happy collision of those who crave things and those who sell them, while on the sidelines, the market analysts, like ancient priests examining the daily entrails of beasts, auger the success or failure of this annual battle. Will there be satisfaction by Christmas? Will it be shared by both groups? Are we off to a healthy gallop or has there been some stumbling at the gate?

As I walked through the crowds on the street, I found myself thinking about sexual pornography and my ever-growing immunity to it. Might there be some parallel between that circumstance and my ever-increasing lack of participation in this retail frenzy?

I am not a man without desires. I long for high-ceilinged rooms of classic proportion. The exfoliating rush of white sand underfoot as I run along a beach. Lilac, iris and peony to greet me if and when I am granted another spring. But those fulfillments do not constitute pornography, which addresses a man in his torment and offers respite from an annoying itch. When I brush the last of the snow off the branches of my lilac and inspect its buds for some swelling, I do not itch. I hope.

Pornography provides an amplification of what we see in those dreams that make us restless. The color saturation of its images is ratcheted beyond the natural. The music, the ornaments and the lights of this season certainly fit that portion of the definition.

Pornography also involves speed and the provision of an adequate route to relief. It is always a means to an end. It is volcanic by nature and has no back burner for the simmering. I apply this fact to the racing of the shoppers knocking shoulders while counting the days and I am satisfied with the strength of my comparison.

Red is the official color of sexual pornography and it is also the prevailing color of Christmas. To “see red” is to lose control in either case.

Out of the crowd and waiting for the elevator in the silence of my lobby, I remind myself that pornography is probably inevitable. Until a man has consumed all he can contain, until he has tasted the fruit of each and every tree and until those trees should all be barren, there will be pornography. Its grasp is weakened with the dimming of eyesight, the creaking of joints or the privileges and lessons of a picaresque life. I suppose then that I am the ghost of your Christmas Future, an old man parked under the glittering tree at the center of the mall, telling you that you really do not want that.

Don't go here

if you have promised yourself that you would not add any more blogs to those you already don't have time enough to read.
Here's a guy who simply doesn't dumb it down, and still manages to engage and entertain and enlighten. I don't know anything about him, but got to him through RJ. I wonder if our word "grim" comes from "grimoire" coming, as he says, from grammar. I really didn't want to learn anything new for the rest of the year (in prep for going south to Braindeadlia), but that is now entirely spoiled by the linked post, and also by what he writes about Rome and the Borghese galleries. Pick any category on his sidebar. Awesome, dude. (Although, in this post, I do wish he had linked this kind of Mannerism to Pornography.)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Highline/Railyards/Josh David

Had an absolutely delightful evening with Randy and recovering-blogger Vasco at the Highline/Railyards reception. Got to meet Josh David one of the two guys who started the Highline Project.

I asked Josh for a photo. Vasco took the camera. When I told Josh that this would be for my partner who is a big fan of his, he said, “Oh well in that case we’ll have to spice it up a bit.”

When I got home and looked at the results, I was eerily borne back to that night at El Morocco with Marilyn and Truman.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Any Wednesday Night

On Wednesday evening, I arrived awfully late to hear those reading at Rapture Café. Late but confident that they’d save Edmund White for last, and that was indeed the case, so my trip south on the W and east on the L was justified.

I also heard the entire delivery of the handsome, intense, and probably slightly-deranged-in-that-good-way SeanBateman9 whose face, body, voice and carriage are etched with the highly charged circuitry of the sexual energy of his past, present and future.

I liked his story, and found him to be more of a gifted performer than others who have held that microphone, but my own relentless inclination to edit led me to telling him (after compliments) that he could have skipped the entire introduction and framery that he had been inclined to supply. Actually, I was not alone in that opinion, having heard someone seated in the dark rows to the left of me shout out “Read!” while SB9 was still working his way through that intro. Goodness, I thought, are we at the Apollo?

One note about this man before I recommend your seeking out his blog and his television program. When he announced that he is into metaphysics, sex and death, I felt apprehension, having done a bit of research into all three and having learned that those three sisters are best approached not in their direct naming but through the following of those mazes that will lead you to them accidentally. But, I am giving him his props: the skewer-de-force story that followed, told almost in gruesome real time, leads the listener to a satisfying destination between its lines. Also, I feel kinship with men who do this kind of "KirkTV" , having had my own local access TV show for a few years in the Wretched Little City.

Oh, and a note to all you Craigslister Misters, if SeanBateman9 shows up at your door, and if you’ve subtracted even one pound from your real weight or one year from your real age, run for cover.

One final thing about this guy urges me to seek him out. He says he has gone through several “deaths”, and that as a consequence of each, has invented a persona that seemed to surface like a mask from the lake of each demise. I, who have gone through four deaths, each made almost painless by the self-administered novocaine of adequate pre-planning, can appreciate this and am always curious about the deaths and resurrections of others.

Back to Edmund White. He has, as is well-known, become quite stout, but what one can learn by seeing him in the flesh and by hearing his voice is that he has made peace with his size in exactly the same leonine way that Rosemary Clooney or Aretha Franklin seem(ed) to have. Dressed in the flattering black sweater that is always a friend to men of some girth, and with polished silver hair, I’d have sworn if I had passed him on an escalator that he was any of a number of benevolent Monsignori from my past. He is unexpectedly and disarmingly attractive.

He was at ease with the room, and he chose to read that passage from My Lives that I was hoping for. The one that he probably wouldn’t read at Barnes and Noble, from the chapter entitled “My Master”. His delivery was matter of fact, but he owned the room during every second of it, reminding me that excellent writing stands up to the variety of ears or eyes receiving it. In theater, it’s called producing a script that is actor-proof. When a story is structured correctly, line-for-line, the funny parts get laughter from every corner of the room, and we are spun in exactly the direction established by their author. That is, of course, the problem with blogging rather than writing: it’s like putting not-enough-quarters into the washing machine of your building. Your clothes look up at you, waiting, unagitated, disappointed.


I'm quite sure the fact that I really like Cazwell was "all over my face" when I found him spinning at Posh on Wednesday night. No hesitation when asked to pose for a blog photo. I like that in a man. (Click the pic to read what is inscribed on his arm. I believe he has it, certainly more than all the others of that school of rumpled wall-eyed children swimming away their youth in the east village. He looks good on the west side, and when he played Please Mister Postman - the original -, the kids at Posh were delirious.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Again at the gym.

Back on the treadmill in the morbid air of my subterranean gym, I look up at the monitor and receive a news update about our sad little monkey president’s “peace summit”. I am sure that no one in the world suspects that this is something the monkey thought up himself. No, this is obviously the work of his legion of payrolled advisors, the Monkey-Flunkies. They want legacy and photo-ops for their monkey wearing his dazed Anna-Nicole face seated among swarthy fat men who will vigorously shake each other’s hands while baring their teeth. I can’t imagine that any Middle Eastern leader worth his Dead Seasalt would want to sit down at such a table unless of course, some of the monkey’s men have been dispatched to their embassies to make promises of financial assistance to those countries that play along, and financial retribution to those that ignore the invitation. I wonder how much this silly legacy is going to cost us. Cheaper it would be to pay for the carving of a giant granite statue of the monkey holding an olive branch.

I look to my right at the very fit lady who is power-walking on the machine next to mine, rhythmically throwing elbows with her little fists balled up. She is dressed in snug jet black Danskins, and highly reflective silver New Balance shoes (because you never know when the driver of a car might come speeding into the gym and need to see her glowing feet in the headlights in order to avoid a collision). Her hair, a buffet of bottled blonde brilliance is pulled back into a prancing ponytail yanked up and over the back strap of a wide-brimmed teal visor (because we all know how damaging to our skin the rays of light from those long fluorescent tubes can be).

I bet Miss Fit would make a better president than the monkey, despite the fact that I know nothing about her beyond her appearance and her purposeful and disciplined approach to exercise. Maybe she is an extreme right-winger. Maybe she’d fill Washington with her own army of energetic conservatives. What would we call them?

The “Stride-Rights”, of course. Too easy.

Do mothers still buy that brand of shoe for their children? Mine did, and now look at me run. Why, I could run for president with feet that grew in an American-made shoe. I dreamed I ran for president in my Maidenform bra.

I also would not be so bad as president, I think, as I watch the monkey nervously say things with the monitors on “mute”. I’d have to work fast to effect some changes before the inevitable nut-case-with-a-gun got to me. Making this list is easy:
a) Anybody can marry anybody. In fact, you could even marry an eggplant if you want. Why stop people from being stupid, if stupid is what they are and what they will be tomorrow?
b) Gay people may serve openly in the military. And while on the subject of the military, let’s put the balls back into the GI bill and guarantee that returning vets really have our gratitude.
c) More money for national defense. A lot more. That is, afterall, one of the basic reasons to have a federal government: the protection of our assembled states against common enemies. Where would we get this money? I’m getting to that.
d) Discontinue the income tax. It is loathsome, and the successful and accurate filing of one’s return is very close to impossible. Institute a national sales tax. So much easier to manage, and fair, I think. What about the black market? What about the underground economy? I’m getting to that next.
e) End the war on drugs immediately. It’s a costly and colossal failure. Let farmers who would do so grow pot and bring it to market. Let the poppy planters plow their plains plentifully. Let’s tax recreational drugs just like we do cigarettes and booze. Seeing some new revenue yet, my fellow Americans? And, at the same time, let there be strong criminal penalties and jail time for anyone who is irresponsible and antisocial in their drug usage.
f) While on the subject of jail time, all prisoners shall be expected to work an eight-hour day while incarcerated. They will work uncompensated, but their sentences may be shortened or lengthened depending on their performances as workers. If those who run the penal system in this country cannot within ten minutes come up with a list of two hundred items that prisoners could manufacture cheaper and better than do the Chinese, well, shame on them and let them be replaced with more thoughtful leaders.
g) Let there be an end to the daily wearing of garments that require dry cleaning. This is wasteful and disgusting. Fleece made of recycled soda bottles is comfortable and sensible.
h) Let there be windmill farms, and geo-thermal plants galore. Let coastal cities convert to the use of seawater in their toilets and sewage systems.
i) Let the government get its nose out of the bedroom of its citizens. Consenting adults should be free to “Do It” as they wish.
j) Let there be an end to censorship in all its nefarious forms.
k) Let the entire country be Wi-Fi accessible and let the internet be unrestricted.
l) Let there be an end to tax exemptions for organized religions.
m) Let spending for the improvement of our public libraries be increased dramatically.
n) Let vehicles powered by fossil fuels be turned away when they attempt to enter our cities. Let cities develop fleets of small efficient silent vehicles that are available for rental within their borders.
o) Let healthcare be…um…let it…uh. And what about those undocumented illegal aliens? And what about Cuba?

I look down at the display on my treadmill. I’ve run beyond my goal. No need to solve everything today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

At the Gym

At the gym, I mount one of two dozen treadmills lined up like the weaponry of an ancient army about to lay siege to a walled city. Opposing us are one dozen overhead mounted television ramparts all tuned to CNN. I press “start”. Let the daily battle begin.

I need some distraction. Like the sun, the flashy teeth of the enemy anchors of CNN must never be looked at directly. I glance to the right and catch my full reflection in the floor to ceiling mirrors. I practice a better stride. I increase the incline of the machine and try to imagine an uphill aspiration. Jacob’s Ladder. Look! Paradise, just one mile up and beyond those clouds. Look again. You’re on those steep and narrow stairs with the ratty carpet runner at that bath house, Man’s Country, in Chicago, following a bevy of toweled butts up to a different heaven. Look again, and it’s that fantastic helix of a staircase up into the vertiginous tower of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Look again, and it’s the curved glass fan of a staircase inside the transparent crystal box entrance of the Mac store at 59th Street. Look again and you are on the damp wooden stairs of the dark cellar in the house in which you grew up, being pursued in your worst dreams by a man with no face. He never caught you. Maybe you should have let him, just to see what he had in mind.

I glance to the left at the young Hispanic guy two mills over. Where did he get those dazzling green eyes? That fledgling’s goatee in which you might easily count the follicles and they’d barely equal his age. The gold around his neck. That can’t be real. Must weigh at least a pound. How much does an ounce of gold cost these days? No idea. How many ounces in a pound? No idea. How did he make that money? Musn’t judge. Musn’t judge. Musn’t judge. Mantra for the stepping. Like the song of windshield wipers or the metronome on the piano of your childhood. You played “Moon River” incessantly. Holly Golightly. Holly Golightly. Hector Golightly. Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Curious liaison. I look down at the screen. I have used up 13 calories and traveled less than ten percent of a mile. It’s going to be a dreadfully long session.

I look up at the monitors and find that a string of commercials has mercifully replaced our saber rattling CNNemies. They are probably off boiling some pitch to pour on our heads. What’s this ad about? Scouting? Mormons? The camera swoops down some lushly green forested mountains and into a pristine valley, and dives below the surface of a clear lake where a large rainbow trout swims into view and snaps at some bit of food. Suddenly the trout is struggling. He’s been hooked. The camera closes in on his distress and follows him up and out of the water as he is reeled in. A fisherman and his young son are ecstatic with the catch. The father scoops up the trout in his net and then reaches in to grab the wildly flopping fish. He and his son are bent over it, and they examine it, as the horrified trout gasps for oxygen, its gills flaring. The son looks up into his father’s eyes for guidance. The father smiles with benevolence and wisdom as he wrenches the hook out of the trout’s mouth and releases his prey back into the lake. The camera, again under water, catches the last iridescent flash of the trout as it swims away.

Some script then appeared on screen, but I was altogether too frightened to read or recall it. I could not help but wonder what was going through the mind of the terrorized trout. “Never again gonna eat anything in this part of the lake, that’s for damn sure.” Or, “Madge will never believe me when I tell her I was momentarily abducted by aliens. Look, Madge, look at this gash in my lip. Same thing happened to Fred just last year. I’m telling you they were huge. And ugly.”

Do trout remember? Do they learn to avoid the hook? I picture a warm sunny day at home in Manhattan with the windows open. C has just finished the making of one of his perfect omelets, and I sit down at table as he puts the plate before me. Joni Mitchell sings as we sip coffee and thumb the paper a bit before I raise a forkful to my mouth. I swallow, and there is a sudden searing pain in the back of my throat. The heretofore hidden and unnoticed line leading from my mouth , over the table and out the window, grows taut. I am gagging as I try to free myself. My struggling lets the hunters know that they have caught something, and they start to reel me in. Every time I pull back, the pain is unbearable. Within seconds, I am dragged halfway through the window, with C holding onto my ankles and trying to pull me back inside. “It’s no use”, I cry, “You’ve got to let me go. The pain is killing me. Goodbye, baby. Be sure to remember to water the orchids weekly.”

I am yanked outside and swung up and over the rooftops of the Upper West Side. I am dumped into a net and find myself looking up into the eyes of a giant sized Ward Cleaver and Wally, that cute older brother of The Beaver. Ward takes me into his warm huge hands, and I mean, really huge hands. He gently removes the hook, and I shout “Take me home! Keep me in your bedroom, Wally. I’d be much more fun than The Beaver. I could live in your underwear drawer. Tee hee.” They cannot hear my small and alien voice. Reaching down from where they are standing, three hundred feet tall in Central Park, they dump me back into our window where C, who had been dialing 911, picks me up off the floor and together we check my vitals.

I look down at the screen. 210 calories. 1.6 miles. More than I had planned. Thank God that’s over for another day.

Getting off at Dyckman Street

Not all Manhattan subway stops are maintained equally.

Here is the sign that lets you know you have reached the Dyckman Street station. (It is in one of the last "affordable" neighborhoods on the island.)

At least the MTA (Manhattan Transit Authority) has graciously provided a double blanket of rusted chain link to keep the adjacent mountain of debris from spilling onto the walkway.

And, here is the helpful sign providing route and directional information.

I can't understand how the residents who get on and off at this station everyday, while also getting on and off the tidier and showier downtown stations, tolerate this.

Station aside, within walking distance is one fantastic park, "Inwood". Its hilly and forested terrain is the last remaining "natural" land in Manhattan. More, and pics, to follow.

Taking Marriage Private

C called my attention to this startling article in yesterday's Times in which Stephanie Coontz takes us on a worldwhirlwind tour of marriage. Here's support for my thinking that the only reason for that license is the facilitation of rights and the distribution of assets and that government ought to grant it to whomever wants it, or, ought to get out of the business entirely. There is one thing she doesn't mention for which I was looking, and therefore about which I remain curious: the amount of public revenue generated by the issuance of marriage licenses. These days, it can't be significant, and newer "records retention" rules add to the cost of maintenance. Next up for battering: that other institution that hasn't been around for very long: the income tax.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

More on the railyard proposals

Nicolai Ouroussoff, who appears to have become the Times' new Herbert Muschamp may not be up to the task, as is disclosed in his review of the five proposals for the railyard in today's paper. He wants to use words like urbanism and density in his evaluation of the five proposals, but he wields them simplistically, like a little girl spinning out romantic dialogue for her dolls. He's studied the concepts, but seems never to have really experienced them. He petulantly longs for originality in the proposals but does not suggest what form that might take.

Yesterday, C and I walked down to Grand Central to view the models of the five proposals and had our initial feelings confirmed: Brookfield Properties has made the best of the lot. Here is their articulate and intelligent Director of Development, Kate Collignon, fielding our questions.

While discussing the dismissable Ourossoff review with C, I ridiculed the way he (Ourossoff) wishes that the proposals related more strongly and imaginatively to the railyards that will continue to operate below the surface. I said, "What, does he want the grass replaced with glass?" C looked up from his coffee and said, "That might be nice." Anyway, we both love architectural models which have really evolved in recent years. So much more than balsa, these, lit-from-below models glowed and shimmered like quartz. If not for the fact that I have seen enough such elegant models translated into actual dreary buildings, I would be more easily taken in by their promise.

I suspect Mr. Ourossoff hasn't seen much of this type of development. Has probably never pushed a project through the development process, has probably never built anything of this scale (may have never even replaced a toilet in his apartment). I fear he is an academic, and is to urban architecture what a coffee table book of prints is to painting. Oh well. And for the record, yes, all five of these proposals could have been more imaginative, but the firms that comprised the assembled teams who made these pitches know full well that governments and entities with authority to permit or deny cannot stand too much imagination and originality. If you want the green light for a public project of this size, you need to dumb it down a bit. Here are some shots of the display models, including one that proposes a large outdoor movie screen on which is shown Julie Andrews as Maria (on perpetual loop?).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bergdorf Goodman window No.5

The lighting in this window is particularly masterful, making that which is not gold shine like it, and making what are probably poured resin creatures glow like crystal statuary.

susana said...
did you notice the small windows with Duquettes stuff? did you watch Princess Mononoke, the Japanese animation? i am almost sure those characteres were taken from there: Mononoke and the wolf, the woman in charge of the iron melting factory and the horns of the deer (which was the forest god).

Please tell me if i am inventing all this?


Susana, I did look briefly at the small windows but they were cryptic to me. You may have the key to the whole display, and I will be checking on it and will report, as is my duty as Conveyor of the Shallow Shine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The stars are out @ The TimeWarner

For a third year, I would judge this to be the best holiday decoration in Manhattan. My vid doesn't do it justice, not capturing the color saturation, the richness of the music, the dramatic height of the space or the enormity of the stars, so you'll get your holiday butts into the City and see it for yourself.

The stars are scarily huge over your head as you enter the four story glass-walled atrium of the TimeWarner Center at Columbus Circle (Central Park South) where an escalator also brings you down into the WholeFoods market in the basement. The stars change color in time with the Christmas music and occasionally they burst into a crescendo of white shimmers. When you turn to look through the soaring glass out onto the circle around the statue of Columbus with its corona of fountains and tree lights, you see those reflected stars suspended in the night sky over the passing traffic. I am usually immune to this kind of thing, but this I love and wish they would keep it up all year.

Bergdorf Goodman window No.4

This one has lots of typically Tony Duquette whimsy: sea shells, sunbursts and musical monkeys. Her dancing partner is a "dinosaur" in a tux. I bet he paid for that dress, but she'll be paying for it before the night is over.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bergdorf Goodman window No.3

In tune with the Duquette vibe, the window dressers have used what I suspect are metallic bisazza mosaic tiles to frame these windows.They are primarily used in bathrooms and kitchens (where they are now almost as passe as avocado appliances or blue pearl granite), and therefore it's Duquettish to weave them into this kind of arrangement. Bad pic, but that's a vintage boxing-ring microphone hanging in front of the mannequin's face. Boxing ring/Boxing Day/Buy it. Am I over-reaching, or do good window dressers really think it through that far?

It's taken me a while to figure out the object-of-sale in these windows, but I think they are highlighting their beaded dresses and accessories. Here's a detail of the dress shown above. I bet it's heavy, and I wonder how many 110 lb Upper East Side "social x-rays" (thnx Tom Wolfe) could walk to their limos in it without breaking a sweat.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bergdorf Goodman - next window

Much Better than a Football Stadium

The competition is on for the development rights to 26 acres of priceless midtown Manhattan over the railyards that ride 11th Avenue between 30th and 33rd Streets. Any of these five proposals is preferable to the Mayor's failed efforts to place a football stadium/convention center on this site.

Although I have not yet seen the models on display next to Grand Central (open for public comment through Dec 3rd), at first glance, I like this one because of its "Jetsons" landscaping while feeling uneasy about how closely clustered the towers seem to be.

But this is my favorite for a few reasons. I like the way the greenspace approaches the water. I like the idea of the running-track-in-the-sky. I like the fact that they propose the restoration of the street grid. And, I trust Diller Scofidio to do right by the last section of the High Line that is part of this plot.

Sorry, Robert Stern. I hate to say it, but your proposal is the least appealing.

We raced.

More than 5,000 completed the course with registered times. Many thousands more attended this event, some cheering and some walking. Once we were engulfed by the crowd, we barely noticed the cold wet weather. At the start of the race, we took our place in the section marked for those who anticipate running nine-to-ten minute miles. Up until that moment, this had been a bit of a lark for a worthy cause. Suddenly, I was among some serious runners doing their stretches and warm-ups. These are the very focused faces of the runners lined up behind us:

Here are those ahead of us who had anticipated a faster pace for themselves (including the race winners who were doing five-to-six minute miles!):

When we got up to the starting line, the high spirited Joan "Can we walk?" Rivers was there to greet us, turning the race into great fun. She ran some of the course herself and then welcomed everyone at the finish line.

Running with camera. C who is fleet of foot could have gone much faster but kept with me, playing paparazzo.

Paul at the Finish Line:

Afterwards, we adjourned to brunch at Cassis with David and Stash and Paul who is working his way up to doing a marathon. My thanks again to all who made donations. Next year. Again.