As a jaded and pop culture-scorned non-biodegradable byproduct of the 1980’s, one of those MTV/GenX-ers that, according to New York Magazine, are more attached to our i-technology than the “M” generation, I can’t remember which brain matter I’ve left on which train in which neighborhood, but I can remember the lyrics to 30 year old songs that once were anthems and are now just background fillers in obscure cafes. A gem of 80’s anti-excess is the R.E.M. song “It’s The End of the World As We Know It (and I feel fine),” which is exactly 30 years old this year, and has gone beyond classic status into full-fledged antique. Like, that’s a totally long title for a song, for sure. And why the parentheses? The “and I feel fine” part is symbolic of the end of the eighties (end of the world as we all knew it) and the parentheses are the ultimate nonchalant acquiescence to wasted youth, like, yeah, we’ve had our fun and fucked everything up and snorted away all possibilities of what once passed for the American Dream, so what? Total afterthought. I was never a big R.E.M. fan. If Michael Stipe were to ask me my top five bands of my high school experience they’d be: Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The Cure, The Cult, and Van Halen, because, as David Lee Roth once said, I don’t feel tardy. Yeah, wasted youth, that was the eighties. I know I’m leaving out Siouxsie & The Banshees and the other alt bands (imports) which we in the tweedy clove cigarette Wayfarer club danced the night away to, but Stipe asked me for my top FIVE and as anyone who knows me can attest, I am nothing if not compliant with the demands others put on me.
According to Miss. Webster, the 4th definition of “forgive” is “to cease to feel resentment against.” Whoa, I can move mountains but that seems like a stretch. Just kidding. I’m Irish-American (that’s right, I added the American) so I can forgive but not forget. And what does that mean? I’ll try and explain so I can understand.
Yesterday I had something like a 24-hour stomach virus which kept me in bed all day. Being sick makes me think about gratitude for being well most of the time. I thought a few times about people who live with chronic pain mixed with the haze of meds and no guarantee of freedom from all sides of the spectrum of biological imperfection known as the human body. Sickness and health, bad and good, rich and poor: opposite ends of the see-saw of nature. I won’t go too much further into how ethereal life is; moment to moment vulnerability to elements, but I have lived through the devastating effects that Cancer has on life, and it makes me much more open to forgive others their bad behavior. Life experience, all it takes is life and experience
Slowly I get to where I’m going…
A sick day in bed means binge-watching but there’s nothing I really wanted to see now that I finished the first season of Billions and actually enjoyed it as much as my skyrocket standards eye can enjoy anything anymore. Already caught up on Hulu’s Difficult People and HBO’s The Night Of, so I ended up watching The Last Days of Disco which helped me understand Chloe Sevigny’s deliberate subtlety all the more, and after a few stand-up NC-17 Showtime comedy specials, the 1964 Bette Davis career twilight movie Dead Ringer. I’ve seen this movie before and always thought it was cheesy and should have been made in color rather than its drab grey, at least to see the full effects of the mansion used as a badly needed background prop. Effortlessly drunk Peter Lawford shows up as a too-old-to-be-a-gigolo golf pro and steals the movie in the three or four scenes he’s in; slapping olde Bette to the country club lawn with the kind of method force that only Joan Crawford could have fully appreciated. Bette plays a dual role as twin sisters, one of which (the broke and desperate and angry one) kills the other (the rich and carelessly giving zero-fucks one) and assumes her identity in the backdrop mansion. One of the few good things about this movie is the symbolism of a huge Great Dane with a diamond collar named Duke, who never peacefully coexisted with the rich sister but immediately cozies up to the impostor sister with the kind of basic instinct known only to dogs and geniuses. Yeah, I know who you are and what you did and why you did it and I don’t care, you were justified, just rub my belly and it’ll be our secret. Acceptance! Impostor sister gets busted in the end and heads off the studio lot to the electric chair with a world-weary “everyone gets what they deserve if they aren’t smart enough to cover their tracks properly” look of “so what, I tried.” The reason for it all was over a man, one sister stole the other sister’s man and twenty years later everyone ends up a loser, including Duke. Forgiveness could have saved them all. But forgiveness is like a hidden light switch in a dark and round room, not so easily turned off or on, just gotta get to it in one’s own time.
After walking out on Misters Jack Daniels and Jim Beam years ago I begrudgingly began a magic carpet ride of what I can describe with a straight face as spiritual enlightenment. Like on a high school acid trip, untapped discoveries manifest whether they’re welcomed or thwarted. That only translates to freeing the mind of the roadblocks of resentment and drinking in the endless possibilities of self-actualization through the simple act of letting go. To those who have already heard this little gem, go ahead and roll your eyes, and for those to whom this is news, just be aware that I didn’t come up with it, I’ve just learned to decipher its meaning in daily life, here goes… “Resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other sister to die.” This is really the basis of forgiveness. It can be dressed up by wisenheimers such as me as self-preservation. Don’t take the poison, make sure the sister takes it and you have a solid alibi. It’s in my best interest. It’s all about me. In essence, accept what can’t be changed because it can’t be changed no matter how much you want to change it. Yeah, but…
Unfortunately a high percentage of humanity will continue to marinate in their safe place of resentment against those they feel have wronged them personally or by enjoying a zero-fucks life on Instagram with backdrop colors known only to a select few. It’s a like a drug in itself, a feeling of false power and virtual (unreal) superiority. Forgiveness only lets me off the hook, though. I’ve let go of my end of the tug-o-war rope. What happens to the asshole wrongdoer on the other side is now, literally, out of my hands. Like, totally. The ultimate freedom.
Feeling better today, thanks for asking.
“I’ll go through life in first class or third,” said Noel Coward, “but never in second.”
Since moving back to NYC from my nomadic existence on the liberal coast and down under the shady pines of tropical trashiness I’ve taken several trips over the GW and up the Palisades to Bear Mountain, and more specifically the Bear Mountain Inn, a rustic 100-plus year old lodge built in the Adirondack-style that turn-of-the-century robber barons liked to claim for cool summer escapes when Park Avenue got a little too hot. I have a few snaps of me as a kid playing in the snow in front of the Bear Mountain Inn. We used to visit in the winter and not the summer, where the Caddy headed in the other direction towards East Long Island. The Inn combines my three favorite architectural elements: stone, glass, and wood; all that’s needed for a cozy-with-a-view lifetime of authenticity. Nomadic life can take its toll, constantly surrounded by temporary white and dry walls owned by someone else. This is where I complain that I never built my own cabin on the Hudson to no sympathy. It’s OK. I don’t deserve sympathy for all I haven’t done. We’d be here all day.
As I walked through the no-stick snow falling on 7th Avenue yesterday I saw several homeless people, people I kind of assumed were young men with their faces covered by hoodies sitting motionless on the pavement as the fabulous designer scarfs of Chelsea boys pranced past with precision from coffee date to coffee date, all eyes forward. How do I feel about people who are homeless? I’m kind of homeless myself, meaning I have no real home, but nonetheless the temporary is still the tangible, so I’m not complaing about life not being all I ever wanted, speaking in abstracts, just saying I know what it feels like to be alone in the world with no one to come looking for me if I was the one sitting on the cold sidewalk with a cardboard sign. Boo-hoo, who cares, fuck off, whatever… How do I feel about people who are homeless? I have sympathy yet no way to alleviate the reason why they are in the predicament they are. I have a friend who gets upset when I give people who are homeless $20 bills. “They only have themselves to blame,” he says although I don’t think he really means it, the words are just deflections of guilt, etc. It’s the general feeling of staying in one’s own lane on life’s freeway of tolls and treacherous exits. Although I may appear to ride the right shoulder of anger, hostility, nihilism, and rage mixed with apathy, ridicule, and disgust, I do notice I am one of the few who looks up or down and not forward. I see more than I notice. I practice as much kindness as I possibly can and internalize as much unkindness as my intestinal fortitude allows because, and maybe I’m in the minority on this, but all that’s good or bad with me is only mine to carry, I only have myself to blame. I suppose this realization comes with maturity. Slowly I turned into a new age Buddhist and didn’t even realize it. But I won’t pray for people who are homeless. I don’t believe in prayer for others, it’s rather insulting, “mighty white of you” as some would say. Prayer only works for those who pray for themselves. That sounds selfish but in reality its the least selfish thing one can do; like putting on the falling oxygen mask during a transcontinental free fall before helping others with theirs. To thy own self be true and the rest will follow. I still feel a twinge of sadness for those who have no home, whether figuratively or literally. Is there anything I can do about it?
Right, back to #cabinporn, my word dujour, brought to you by The Bear Mountain Inn and L.L. Bean and Land Rover Defender and whatever color flannel your lumbersexual shirt is this morning. It’s definitely a northeast thing, no shade to Lake Tahoe or anything, but the smell of a New York country fireplace is a blast of bliss I’ve only experienced whilst looking up and down my home state. As much as I love my bohemian status, my native NYC pride, my cosmopolitanism and appreciation of city grit, I do love the country as much as the town. It’s me being the optimist with both boots in both worlds, the LOVER of options, the quintessential stalwart northeastern preservationist of old school substance. Thanks, no need for applause, it’s ingrained, I don’t have to work for it. Simplicity, gotta love it.
When I lived in Florida in the late 90’s I was not quite right, translation… fucked up, fed up, and livin’ on the prayers of desolation, addiction, and sunburned regret for not being all I could be. But somehow, all these Miami moons later, I still swoon over the notion of the sunshine state and its trashy authenticity as I wipe the snow-sludge off my boots and warm my bones from a NYC January day.
South Florida, in particular, is a dichotomy of diversities, the flagrant display of those beautiful and expensive and untouchable trappings of style that manifest themselves in mansions and yachts and exotic cars, the kind of flagrancy that is not the norm in most other places, versus everything that hovers below what would be commonly referred to as middle class financial struggles. These fabulous obscenities of materialism are obviously ill-gotten, the accoutrements of those who practice duplicitous behavior on the other side of legal, moral, and ethical. At least that is what immediately comes to mind when one sees a 20-something driving a Bugatti. Must be drugs… Maybe, maybe not, whose business is it? My Chevy gets me around town with much less chance of getting killed by carjackers. With less to prove to the world. Maybe some of these people actually earned the privilege of being seen in a car that costs four or five times what an average middle class working stiff’s house does. As I’ve gotten older and wiser with less _____’s to give, I’ve come to admire the blind tenacity of those who live a life of luxury without guilt or remorse or even humility. Reminds me of a meme I saw once; a Prius says to a Bugatti: “I get 70 miles to the gallon, what do you get?” to which the Bugatti succinctly says: “laid.” Even better when it’s rented.
Utopia- I’ve traveled this subject before; the ideal if unrealistic expectation of happiness in one’s own little world of fantasy and comfort. Why not, right? To quote Dudley Moore as Arthur Bach: “Not everyone who drinks is a poet, some of us drink because we’re not poets.” Meaning, life is very fleeting, it goes by fast, and shit always happens, and regrets will always be more than few. So to live live live by one’s own compass is the ultimate revenge on mundane inevitability, the meaning of a life with no meaning. No regrets, my way, that’s amore! The notion of utopia is a writer’s best friend. Anything can happen, all I have to do is envision the outlandish and unpredictable and bring it to fruition with words. Words are important, they carry reactionary power, just ask Meryl Streep.
One of my favorite writers is the departed pulp-to-mystery bestseller John D. MacDonald, creator of the fictional Travis McGee, a strong silent type who lived on a boat he’d won in a poker game called The Busted Flush at Bahia Mar in Ft Lauderdale and only went to work when his cash ran low and a damsel or friend in distress came calling on his innate alpha male ability to take care of things the old school way. When I lived in Lauderdale in the late 90’s I read every book in the McGee series, not only for the escapism but for admiration, as MacDonald was truly a good writer, a genius storyteller who created a grey area anti-hero hero that is still a rarity in this century of good versus bad, especially now when EVERYTHING is SO preciously sensitive and black & white and RED all over (meaning everyone’s seeing Red even when they don’t know why). The McGee series ran from 1964-1984 within 21 novels. That twenty year span is as historically significant as it gets in the sweeping scheme of popular culture. I always say I was born too late in ’68. Had I lived as an adult though the Travis McGee period of actual political and social unrest I might be a little less disheartened by the virtual unreality of the world now. I have re-read a few of these books, some of them on the beach across the A1A from the Bahia Mar, one of the last pristine and untarnished condo-free zones left in Ft Lauderdale. The first time I read many of these books I was drunk. Now I go to meetings on the very beach where I used to sit and wonder what life must have been like for Travis McGee whilst killing a 12 pack and considering the best methods for suicide. How have things progressed? They have, just not sure even I know what the secret sauce is. But that’s part of the great mystery of life, the realization that I don’t NEED to know WHY or even HOW.
As I can’t help but fool myself into sometimes thinking about the future I always come back to the ideal of Travis McGee. If I were to model my ambitions after anyone else’s it would be his. So, will I end up back in Florida? Living on a boat? Writing mystery novels and living as my authentic self with someone else’s diagram? Maybe, maybe not. The fantasy of the possibility is the only thing that keeps me going.
“A Cyclopean image is a single mental image of a scene created by the brain by combining two images from the two eyes.” Sounds kinky. Do you mean I can see two different points of view and end up with just one linear vision? Helps when you’re in the center of an Eiffel Tower situation (spit roast?) but not so much with society at large. There’s always more than two forms of visual stimuli assaulting my eyes at any given moment, more things, more choices. How can I narrow down my pathway to the wonders of life when the crossroads keep colliding and obstructing? Sounds like a white guy’s problem. But I like the word cyclopean, it makes me sound like I’m well-rounded, sympathetic to everyone else, one of those sainted types everyone gives a positive quote about after they leave their brain matter all over the F Train. Yeah, I hear you, I feel your challenges.
Dystopia, whilst we’re swimming with big words, came from Utopia, the “ideal,” made up of “topia” meaning “place,” and “u” meaning “no” as translated in Greek, as told to me by some chick named Webster who seems to have all the answers and then some. So, by its very meaning, Utopia is kind of a catch-22, unreal, a figment, a unicorn named Waldo. No one throws around the word Utopia much anymore. It’s not because people of all generations aren’t high as fuck on their own agendas, it’s just that the Utopia of my youth no longer exists in the popular subconscious, it’s a relic of yesteryear, a long-lost dream of excess for its own sake, laughed at by those whose main cause in life is social justice for all, no matter who’s sucking and who’s blowing. Makes me wonder why if so many oppose the incoming president so much (he’s leading me toward the dystopian theme of this passage) why he’s there in the first place. He’s the ultimate gold-plated symbol of 1980’s utopian egoism yet he still has his devotees. Many of those who oppose him are on the more sensitive side of practical sensibility, as carried on and on and on again during the obscenely self-congratulatory pay-to-play Golden Globe Awards last night, where Meryl Streep supposedly tore the president-elect a new asshole without actually mentioning his name. Of course I’m getting this intel from news snippets as I would never actually sit through the Golden Globe Awards unless Pia Zadora was nominated for best newcomer. So the snowflake half-marathon revolution will continue as the country continues to go to shit for anyone who doesn’t have discretionary funds (how is this different from the last hundred years again?) and this dystopian society everyone already lives in just creeps on and on and on. The sky already fell, folks. Stay in your lane and try to achieve some personal best without worrying about how much the government is fucking you over.
Saturday it snowed all day. I took the opportunity to drag a friend through Central Park to take some winter wonderland pics for the Gram. For a few fleeting moments I was in a bit of bliss experiencing the sheer unspoiled landscape of the park. Everyone around us seemed to be feeling the same thing, like one big playground of regression therapy. Took me back to toboggan rides and ice skating in the park when I was a kid. I stuck my tongue out to taste the untarnished snow landing casually into my mouth and felt a sort of momentary kinship with my city, just as I was about to start in on all that’s wrong with it. I enjoyed the snow and we headed back down 7th Avenue in a yellow cab (Uber wanted $50) to the West Village where in Starbucks I got the eye from a handsome stranger and worked a bulky L.L. Bean sweater to the best of my ability. Winter isn’t so bad, my feet are warm and my rosy Irish skin stirs in peaches-n-cream juuuuuust right.
But a weekend in Miami Beach wouldn’t kill me.
I just wrote a whole paragraph about the infestation of russians in NYC and how they alone are responsible for the death of the last bastions of Cosmopolitan American civility left but the wifi in Starbucks crashed and so did my draft. GOD IS SPEAKING TO ME THROUGH GOOGLE STARBUCKS Wifi. Like, OMG. I was hypothesizing about Trump trading a night with Melania for Putin demanding a mass forced exodus back to the Cossak homeland for ALL rUSSIANS ON AMERICAN SOIL. Something tells me vlad would give it some serious thought, if only just to Instagram himself with Melania’s day-after panties around his neck. But I won’t write that, even as I use up as many of my first amendment rewards points while I still can. Might put me on some list of dissidents. Maybe I’ve been watching too much of that anti-scientology show starring the Queen of Queens. But the diabolical types can only hurt me if I believe they can. That brings me back to why I was so annoyed with russians this morning. They’re just EVERYWHERE and they’re LOUD AND OBNOXIOUS AS FUCK. But that’s why GOD invented headphones. I have three pairs of Bose (’cause I’m rich) to tune out the russians. Sounding curmudgeonly and russia-ist am I? YOU’RE FUCKING RIGHT I AM! This is not your playground Svetlana. Sashay-away. Byee.
The other day I took the F train to Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn to visit the brownstone where my departed adoptive Italian grandmother lived her entire life. I hadn’t been since I was about 17, and it looked exactly the same, even the neighborhood, all very old-world; no hipsters, no Starbucks, no signs of any kind of progress into modernism or condo conversion. Used to trek over from Manhattan (via Cadillac) in the 70’s for Sunday dinner, which for Italians lasts from whenever you get home from church until you pass out. I hummed a few Barry White tunes, those my adoptive Italian grandfather used to cook to, and felt nothing along the lines of nostalgia as I puddle-jumped in the rain back to the F Train and got off at 34th Street to find myself feeling sorry for the pathetically small discarded Christmas trees strewn about the streets, used up and thrown away like a russian whore (without the blackmail). So temporary, so sad.
Discontented and underwhelmed from the drive-by of life as a nihilist in the big city and an old guy going to school with people born in the 1990’s. But I’m not quite ready to blow my brains all over the F train (not today anyway) so what to do? How to cope? Go to a happy place? Delusion of past life escapism? Time for a list!
OK, Sunday dinners in Brooklyn were kind of fun, if only for the food and front-row seat for the knock-down drag-out in-fights of generational hostility known as Italian family dinners. FUCK ME? FUCK YOU! Every time I hear the smooth voice of Barry White I’m reminded of visceral antagonism and monetary one-upmanship. My Caddy is bigger than your Caddy. But really, it was the cannoli and gabbagool. Two opposing tastes that taste tasty together. The only real harmony experienced during Sunday dinners in Brooklyn. Still, a positive is a positive.
Limelight on 7th Ave. David Barton is OUT. Out of business anyway. It was fun till he started getting serious. The old church where I spent so many collegiate nights at Area Limelight is now available for lease again. Hmm, I AM looking for a more permamant habitat. But, the memories are long-gone of Warhol and gold cocaine-cutting razor blades and dancing to Vicious Pink and the Cure until all hours in tweed jackets and tiny leather ties. Strangely I remember many nights at Limelight when I was 17, 18, 19 and so-on. Danceteria and Palladium too, but there was something much more intimate about the church of 80’s new wave hair culture on 7th Avenue that causes positive speculation.
I’ll have to end for now, as this draft, like my faith in humanity, is about to be obliterated again. More later on the good olde days of pre-russia NYC.
Sometimes the most mundane of tasks like banking and post office can wear me out with the very nature of their evil necessity in life. I’m a San Francisco-esque proponent of everything in life becoming virtual, never having to leave the house to do anything, just stay tuned to wifi and life is grande. But strolling around the UWS this afternoon doing my banking and post office-ing, I’ll curb my enthusiasm for the ivory tower ideology of the previous sentence because as fate would have it I needed some quiet and cappuccino and low and behold there’s the Algonquin Hotel. Never been inside. So here I am by my lonesome having a cappuccino at the Algonquin watching a lot of preppie guys in red pants check in. For the record I almost wore red pants today but chose green instead for some accentuation in the prosperity realm of possibilities. As we can tell here I like to write, I always call myself a writer when the inevitable question of “what do you do?” comes up. What do you write? Oh, everything. I prefer fiction because it takes me away, but I’ve done everything from my journalistic endeavors to features to editorials to grants. Right, not just vile sexts, but a few more meaningful things I can share with more than just one big Daddy. Part of the reason why I started this blog was to hold myself accountable as a reclaimed New Yorker. I’m always on the iPhone anyway. Might as well account for my time in some kind of artful fashion. Keeps me from overediting which is a flaw I’ve never been able to dismiss from my bag of character defects. There’s plenty to do and time always seems to be slipping away. I suppose it’s called getting older. But someone wise once said that you should always have something to look forward to in life and luckily now I have a few of those. So I’m feeling at home here at the Algonquin Hotel, immune to the tedium of the street and the mundane morbidity of banks and post office lines. When a man finds his place in the world there’s no longer a fear of losing his way. Cheers to Tuesday which means nothing.