Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Groundhog Eve

My father’s mother, my grandmother, died on Groundhog’s Day in the 1980s. My father is the youngest of eight children so I was one of the younger set. Grandma Cummings had 27 grandchildren (that I know of) and a bunch of great grandchildren (many of whom I’ve recently met) and an easy way about her.

I have always loved Groundhog’s Day. It is so silly, the kind of thing that deserves minor celebration—in the form of a chuckle. I did not love the movie. But I do like the mammal. We had big ones in the woods and fields near where I grew up in the wilds of Suffern, NY. Also known as a woodchuck and in some circles, unkiddingly, as a land beaver, the groundhog is actually a rodent in the marmot family of squirrels. Marmots in the Rockies are cuter. Groundhogs in the east, at least in Suffern, sometimes grew to be the size of a beagle. Good eatin’, I guess, in western Rockland County. (Most of them got their grub in New Jersey? Or perhaps, daringly, in the hollers and creeks of Stag Hill populated by the “Jackson Whites?”)

It is endearing to have a holiday that is centered upon this funny creature. I get a little sad that my grandmother had no choice in the date of her expiration. I do say, though, the mixture of solemn mortal awareness with a light hearted marmot visual happily sums up the condition of living at just about the right place for me. To experience that on February 2, which, if to look at the calendar with a fresh eye as if pretending not to know its meaning, one would shrug off its inauspicious locus. But then in remembering its significance, well, that adds a loop of surprising mirth to the whole thing.

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A Winter Wish for You

Have a doubly great and cool Monday.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011


I had a dream last night that I was trying to hang all groovy with a few twenty-somethings at something.

I mentioned the word tampon, in passing, and the kids asked me, “How old are you? No one says tampon any more.”

There was this incredulity. All I could respond with was, “So I guess you don’t dye your hair, either? You color it?”

They mentioned something about tampons being referred to as string wax. They did not want anyone to be talking about absorbency. They did not want anything to be natural or physical. It offended them that I suggested a word that implied differentiation, that it was somehow uncool to talk about a product that one sex needs that the other one does not.

I just had to leave.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clearly, I've Become A Bird Freak

What is it with these cardinals in Central Park? These are migratory birds. I must learn where they come from. Did they fly down from Canada, the Adirondacks, Nanuet?

Something about the red in the white, of course, that makes you pull out your phone to take a picture and reminds you to bring the good camera next time.

There is a long history of writers who love birds, gay men who go birding, and gay writers who cannot stop talking about birds. I will not become one, exactly. But in the park, there are so many birds all year long, it seems worth the time to give them a look and a mention.

Squirrels and raccoons, too, sure. They are there. But those beasts are not as interesting or as beautiful as the cardinals.

It is a big ol' blizzard out there tonight. People in New York City act like they have never seen snow before. This is unexpected behavior.

More birds.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Path to Pleasure

People rather fight than switch. It's because they do not want to give up their pleasure circuits. Someone tells you that being a strong individual, completely self reliant, competitive, always at your best, clever and above all living life with a winning carriage---well, if it works and it brings you pleasure you are not going to give up anything. And you are not going to share. And you could one day become the Speaker of the House.

But what if someone tells you that sharing, being helpful, listening to others, building consensus, feeling like "you belong" and above all being open to new ideas and experiences and others is the most important bunch-o-traits?---if that works and brings you pleasure you are not going to give that up. Certainly not.

People are righteous as hell about giving up their pleasure.

So Obama was cogent tonight. There was a bit of an all-for-one feeling in the chamber (but really, it was just an I-hate-China-and-fear-it-fest of bonding) but underneath it all, people were holding on tight to their pleasure path. La plus que ca change...

I was in the park today and stood by the chain link of the nature conservancy in the southeast corner near the little lake. There were so many birds. I saw a plump cardinal. You can see him-her in the picture if you look closely. It made me so happy. I would be furious if someone tried to dismantle that sanctuary.

Then, near Columbus Circle, still in the park, was a Muslim man in army fatigues kneeling on a waterproof rug in the snow, finishing up his prayers toward Mecca. I am sure feeling at one with Allah and all other E.S.T. Muslims at the exact same time, well, that must feel pretty good. And I bet he would fight like mad if you tried to stop him.

The plastic primate mind is hilarious. And dangerous. But that's how animals are.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Something About the Cold that Makes Me Hot

For many years I lived in Los Angeles and I was cold all the time. Our house was a sieve. The temperature dropped at least twenty degrees every day. I felt it.

Chilled. Always chilled. Never heated.

I thought back to when I was in college in Boston and I used to run around in January with just a t-shirt and a skimpy leather jacket and I was just fine. Not cold. Fine. Maybe it was a young man’s thing?

But here in New York as an old man, when it is 17 degrees, I go out in a thin shirt and a down coat and I just do not feel the cold.

Something is going on. It must be the enzyme thing.

Okay, so this is how enzymes work, I have read. You have two full body sets. One for warm weather and one for cold weather. I think my cold weather enzymes kick in and I am completely heated up with those enzymes when it is fully cold outside. So I do not get cold. Even my hands stay warm.

I imagine in Los Angeles that it never got truly cold enough for these proteins to kick in. And the warm weather enzymes, well, they were compromised because of the vastly fluctuating temperature.

But whatever it is, it just seems so odd to be running around during the winter and to be truly warm. It is like being a teenager all over again, though now I see that age has nothing to do with it.

And now a few words about my bowel movements and ear wax.

Not really.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Three Important and Oversimplified Reviews

127 Hours
Loved it. You have to see it. Danny Boyle is simply a great director. No one needs to hear that from me. James Franco does it, full on. Wait ‘til you see him snip off his arm nerves.

Black Swan
Unbelievable, well, of course. But then, unwatchable, too? Fuck it.

Brooklyn Flea
Worth a couple of hours. Lots of stuff to buy. Then Walk West on Atlantic Avenue and go through those places.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Another Load, Another Mountaintop

People are not going to stop. I know I am not.

Every time the dishwasher finishes up a load, I think, “Well, there goes another piece of Mountaintop in West Virginia.”

The business predators on earth only rip those mountains up because they know people like me are never going to stop loading in the dishes and then pushing Normal and Start.


Business people are not creative. Creative people need to fix this problem. Come on. You can do it. Then, business people will move on to what you have done. Stand up. Be brave. Clean my dishes with the sun, the wind and the waves.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Fat of the Land Published a Bit

My fun play, The Fat of the Land, was excerpted and published in The Coachella Review, the literary magazine of UC Riverside. Enjoy it! (Especially, all my friends and super friends who worked on it over the years. Hi Mary. Hi Dan.)

And, of course, The Interview.

Enjoy your Thursday. I continue to shop for things to fill my apartment nest. It is not exciting but it is fulfilling.

I hope your day is both.

Two Years Later

Today, a television arrived at our apartment, this forty-two inch Vizio wireless LED thing. It is quite something.

I know I have been behind the TV times. In fact, during the last two years I have not owned a television, watching Hulu and Netflix on my laptop and surviving, easily.

But it was time.

Now we have to get one of those low lying pieces of furniture. Coffin or canoe? You decide.

What a spawned out industry.

In five years, when this hunk of plastic, glass, metal and who-knows-what-else is worth six dollars, I will wonder what we were thinking.

Until then, I guess I will be spending much less time at the movies, much more at home. This is how it goes.

Why not just put in the IV drip, catheterize all openings and plunge in a feeding tube?

Could happen.

As a child, I watched very little television. I do not know why it never caught my fancy. I had “my shows” but really, they were not many.

I did love the HBO and Showtime things that were great and long lasting.

I miss the Bill Clinton days.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Time Adjustment

I have stopped reading the New York Times. I can only explain it this way. It all started to sound the same to me.

A left-of-center stance on most things with reports about Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and North Korea, the never ending Palestine-Israel problem, the recession, the Right-Left split in this country, the very stylish real estate for sale and the book review that reviews books I want to read but never get to.

Is there any way on earth they can shake it up? Something a little more quirky?

Oh how I miss the Los Angeles Times of 1999. It was so irreverent, snide and on my side.

New York Times, do something new. Make me laugh. We agree with you. Can you move it into farce, just a little bit?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Well Wishing

May your MLK weekend be a total riot.



Wednesday, January 12, 2011


You move into Manhattan and you think it is going to be different this time. But it isn't. You end up in a private karaoke room and Annie takes over. Naturally.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We Own Nothing In Queens

The Sports and Transportation borough is in our past.

Today, twenty-four hours sooner than planned because of the impending snow Armageddon that Bloomberg is using to polish his image, we closed on our apartment in the coop’s lawyer’s office on the fifteenth floor overlooking Flushing Meadows in Queens. (One always wonders why they girded that park with highways on either side. The residents of its adjacent neighborhoods can only wonder what is beyond those packed roads.)

The buyers and sellers (us) arrived on time. 2PM. Our lawyer was thirty minutes late but was very prepared and swift. He really is a great guy. His name is Guy. He has a fun office in Astoria. We used him when we bought this little place five years ago and so the closure on this end gave it all a nice symmetry.

The buyers are a long term couple. They seem to be in a “rearrangement” of their relationship which includes the male buyer moving into our former studio. They have been together for thirty years. They are kind and smart and knew a good deal when they saw one. I hate to have to say it, but part of the problem with their relationship is that he is now disabled. There are other things going on, I am sure, but one cannot pry when one is waiting for cashier’s checks.

The realtor, whom I will get back to in a moment, arrived five minutes before our lawyer.

The lawyer for the buyers was the last to arrive. He was old, disheveled, with an amazing head of hair and the look of a former movie star, but shorter. At one point I made a joke about his drinking before noon, then I realized, “Oh, it seems like he really has been drinking since before noon.” He cracked jokes to make up for his lack of knowledge when it comes to real estate law (he has never done this before), but he was kind enough, affable, certainly not a problem. And because our lawyer was so easy going and helpful, we pushed through without issue.

Now back to the realtor. This has been the problem all along. She was on both sides of the equation, representing the buyers and the sellers, taking the full 6% vig. During the past three months, at times she would act like she cared about us and then at times she was very combative, almost threatening, certainly on the verge of hysteria, bulldogging it for the buyers and often accused me of over overemailing when the real count was six from her for my every one.

She arrived today in a long purple coat, the color a king would wear in a cartoon, with a dark fur collar, real or not I do not know, a DG bag, whorish boots, and apparently (I did not notice but was told later) some sort of skimpy outfit that included tights, an ass grabbing skirt and some sort of chemise with a plunging neck line. She smartly never took off her fake Ready-for-Queens-Boulevard fur collared garment. She flirted with our lawyer. But here was the worst part: all she could talk about was how excited she was about going shopping with the money she was about to receive from this transaction. This was not the first time she has said, since mid-December, “I can’t wait to go shopping!” Was this person really meant for a service profession?

Why these narcissists end up in my life, well, it must be all my fault since the theme is recurring. She rode with us on the subway back toward Manhattan. She wants to come see our new apartment. She wants to sell us our next apartment. She wants to stay in touch with us. When we got to Jackson Heights (halfway between Flushing Meadows and Manhattan), it was her stop and she asked, unbelievably since we just closed on the apartment and she knew we have been living in Manhattan since December 23, “Are you getting off here?” We had to say to her, “No. We do not live here any longer. Why would we get off here? Goodbye.”

And as she walked westward on the subway platform in her Halloween outfit and the subway doors closed, we turned to each other, safe on the molded plastic subway bench, and said, “Never darken our doorstep again.”

Something about her turning the closing into a festival for herself in full fake rich woman celebration, well, it was so first generation outer borough trashy that it got my third generation outer borough trashy ire up.

Though I am grateful that she sold the apartment to the first people who looked at it on the first day it was for sale and got us a fair price. I mean, she did her job well.

For three months we have been in super bed with all these people. Now, we are not. It is like a show closing.

I deposited the checks, there were three, in Wachovia Bank (a Wells Fargo entity), went to The Container Store and bought shelving for the new place. And a cute bamboo-press-on-tri-hook for the bathroom door.

Queens map

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Cross Hairs

This gunning down.

I cannot add anything to the conversation but this:

Sarah Palin, though I loathe your venal stupidity, I would never make a poster of you with your image in the cross hairs of a gun. Maybe a clown in the distance throwing a pie. Maybe a sack of manure. But not a gun.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Shrinking World

There is something insanely shrinking about staying home, writing, making sure things are in order.

The antidote might be a spy mission to Belarus. Or maybe get a few apartment chickens.

I used to be able to amuse myself when I was at home. Now, I pad around in my slippers, do edits and look forward to dinner. I amuse myself, too—but I have become very aware of the strangeness of a full grown man banging around alone all day in an apartment.

New York is quite exciting. But in order to function well, it is important to be able to be relaxed, to let your mind wander. This does require staying indoors. Most certainly in winter and summer.

I think writers are weird. How do you write about life when you are basically in a bathrobe sipping tea? It’s quite unnatural to write. It does not make sense to be alone in a room all day, looking at bare walls, kicking up your heels in excitement when you know the mailman has finished loading up the boxes.

But if you have the need to make stuff up---then you do. And if you’re doing it, well, you sort of live a life similar to someone who lives in a hospital, staring out the window, wondering if you’ll ever get out.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

With all the tweeting and Facebook posting, the middle blog form seems to be losing its kick. Is Blogging the Erie Canal of communication? Vital for only a short period of time, quickly replaced by what made more sense: the railroad?

When chat, email, tweeting, posting, texting, blogging and post-tweeting become one, we will be in a situation that is about content and less about form. Why always these forms?

I do not know if the forms arise from a need in the culture or if the culture adheres to the advancing whims of technology. It is probably a mash-up of the two.

I remember my first answering machine. I was cheap. It hardly ever worked right.

'Tis a Quiet News Cycle

I feel like we are retooling. Don’t you?

I went to the Samsung Flat TV store tonight at the Time Warner Mall @ Columbus Circle.

I honestly felt like I had died, come back from the dead and was visiting a future civilization.

If Samsung can do that to some partitioned off mall box at Columbus Circle, I am certain the rest of humanity can do much more.

Because things are quiet I think they must be.

Energy Grid.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Don't Make Me Reach Through the Screen to Do It For You

Friends, this is my friendly reminder, my public service announcement really, to nicely chide: BACK UP YOUR FRIGGING COMPUTER TONIGHT.

You can get a little fancy and rest easy by subscribing to one of the many online backup services--Mozy, Carbonite—in addition to ALWAYS having your files (all of them, docs, pictures, music, vids) backed up onto an external hard drive.

Look, you’re busy. I know. Even if it takes you a couple of hours to figure it out right now, just do it. I meet people all the time who blow out their hard drives and they lose everything. It’s disgusting.

Not to mention---if there is ever going to be nasty warfare, I have a feeling there is going to be some “major pulse” that magnetizes and ruins a lot of your digital stuff. It’s not a bad idea to be backed up in many ways, in many locations. I’m partially paranoid. But also, as someone who is on his computer fifteen hours each day, I have blown through at least five hard drives. They blow.

So back up, friends. Back up. Back up. Back up. Do it. It’s the new year. Start it right.

And make hard paper copies of your most important documents. Put them in a banker’s box. Send them traveling.

It’s time for peace of mind. Back it up.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Go Back to Being Yourself

It’s time. Go back to being yourself.

I walked up to Columbus Circle in unseasonably spring weather and while passing the entrance to the Time Warner Mall, an older woman asked if I was alone, did I live in New York, would I like to come to her place to talk, to work, you know, to chat, to work.

So, she wanted me to come over to her place and she would pay me for something.

I could barely comprehend it. I went up into the park, the initial intention, and then I swung back around. I wanted to see what she was up to. Was she hawking other men?

If she was at 9:00 on Columbus Circle, I climbed back around at 8:30, looking to see if she was hitting up other guys. I didn’t see her.

People do these things for intimacy. I am surprised that it happens right on the pavement.