Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Two Quotes

“Just as in the music of harps and flutes or in the voices of singers a certain harmony of the different tones must be maintained . . . So also a state is made harmonious by agreement among dissimilar elements. This is brought about by a fair and reasonable blending of the upper, middle and lower classes, just as if they were musical tones. What musicians call harmony in song is concord in state.”

“Order is the dream of man while chaos is the reality of nature.”
- Henry Brooks Adams

Monday, March 30, 2009

It Can Happen to Us

As winter starts to retreat back into the northern provinces of Canada, allowing blue skies to become more commonplace and parkas less so, the inevitability of a new baseball season invades my dreams.

The Cleveland Indians are wrapping up a mediocre preseason at their new Goodyear, Arizona spring training digs but I am not discouraged. Not one bit. With names like Sizemore, DeRosa, Wood, Peralta and Lee making their way towards the corner of East 9th and Carnegie Streets and a strong second half of 2008 in the books, there is reason to believe that this is the year that they find their way back to the Fall Classic (and this time get that third out in the 9th inning of the 7th game.)

Before the first pitch is thrown, when the standings are even at 0-0 . . . this is the best time of year for Cleveland sports fans. The days leading up to the opener, where optimism abounds, allowing us to build a collective cocoon of confidence around ourselves and really believe that it can happen. We forget about Jordan floating in the Richfield air, waiting for Craig Ehlo to start his early descent to the Coliseum hardwood, before delivering that famous and fatal blow. We cease to talk in hushed tones about Jeremiah Castille jarring the ball loose from Earnest Byner at the Mile High goal line. There is no mention of Rocky Colovito, John Elway, or Jose Mesa.

We believe that Cleveland is a championship city and, you know what, it feels good.

So I will unveil my prediction(s) here, so when they come to fruition this fall, nobody can doubt the veracity of my words . . .

The Tribe, on the strength of an MVP season from Grady Sizemore, will win the AL Central with somewhere around 90 games before dispatching of the wildcard Athletics in the ALDS and then the despicable Red Sox (and their fans, reminiscent of a pack of neandratals in heat) in the ALCS.

The World Series, pitting the Chicago Cubs against the Tribe, will be one of the most widely watched as two long suffering clubs battle. When it is all over, Cleveland win their first World’s Championship since 1948.

And I will drop to my knees and cry.

Hallelujah . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Excuse me, Do You Like Stand Up Comedy?

Most annoying thing heard while walking in Times Square:

“Excuse me, do you like stand up comedy?”

This question is posed by fashionably scruffy kids milling about on 7th Ave near 42nd Street (usually guys who, judging from their nascent dirt locks and hemp necklaces, likely own a vault of Widespread Panic bootlegs somewhere near Boulder) paid by various clubs to sell discount tickets to comedy shows. In most cases, they gravitate towards the obvious tourists (slightly overweight to morbidly obese, ill fitting tight jeans, white tennis shoes, Oakley Blades, a hat with the insignia of the football team of the state they hail from and matching sweatshirt) who think of the interaction as being such a quintessentially New York moment.

Luckily, for the most part, office squid such as myself are left alone as we rush to overpriced delis like Café Eurpoa to strap our feedbags on.

However, in less than two blocks today (starting in front of the ESPN Zone and ending in front of the Swatch store) I was set upon by no less than three of these street urchins as I walked to grab lunch. After parrying their advances, saying loudly that “I HAVE TO GET BACK TO WORK,” and then rounding the corner onto 45th St. I suddenly froze in horror. Why would they try to talk to me? What mistake had a made when getting dressed this morning? Quickly I appraised the outfit I was wearing: Brown suede Camper boots, dark 501’s, dark purple gingham check button down shirt and a beige Macintosh jacket. Confused and unhappy, I walked on in a stale mood wishing I had eaten at my desk.

Next time: the savagely idealistic “Save the Childen/Greenpeace” attackers who line 42nd Street in front of Bryant Park . . .

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

Tonight I am going to the church of Morrissey at Webster Hall. I cannot deny that this particular venue is a terrible place to see a show, but when it comes to The Moz I would pay $75 to see him in a Bikram Yoga studio—which says a lot as I hate feet and yoga gives me the creeps. Often, my friends and co-workers will wonder aloud why I—a sports addled guy from the Rust Belt—would be so enamored with an asexual guy from Manchester who preens himself with gloom. How can somebody who screams at the television during Browns games harbor such an affinity for a guy who sings “I wear black on the outside/ ‘cuz black is how I feel on the inside”?

Why not address that here?

It all started when I was in high school outside of Akron, Ohio in the early 90’s. I discovered rap in the late 80’s and even though I lived in a white washed city of 40,000 I decided to emulate Flavor Flav, going so far as to wear a clock around my neck and speak in mode of affectation borne on the waves of urban radio. Feel my pain here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ltgXtrR_A4

This was before hip hop crossed over and was deemed cool by suburban white kids . . .Prior the moment in time (that continues today) when ebonics became the lingua fraca in towns like mine and guys named “Blaine” used words like “fo’ shizzle.” The result was daily verbal, and occasionally physical, evisceration from my classmates. Yet somehow, I found solace in the fact that I was not simply following the pack like a drunken lemming, wearing acid wash jeans and White Snake T-Shirts and looking at my reflection in the windshield of my red Camaro. I was special because I could withstand it and recall all of the lyrics to Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw.”

How does this relate to Morrissey? In about my sophomore year, just as rap was being accepted by the mainstream and kids at my high school were asking me if the could borrow the latest Eric B & Rakim or Jungle Brothers tape, I started to get bored with the whole gangster mentality that overtook the scene. NWA, with their gratuitous violent imagery and disdain for white folk like me, killed rap for me. Of course I know that Chuck D. also was not very fond of ol’ whitey but Public Enemy had an intellectual agenda that sent impressionable kids like me to the library asking for books about Malcolm X, Joanne Chesimard (Assata Shakur, if you like) and Marcus Garvey. NWA just had kids racing to their local black market in search of an AK-47 . . .

This was about the time that I first heard The Smiths “How Soon is Now?”. I was (am) a goofy, pasty red haired kid and was invisible to girls (at least the ones that I dreamt about) and when Morrissey sang about loneliness and despair I was there to empathize with him. It was like black laced manna from heaven as I knew what it was like to go to a dance in the high school gymnasium and watch my friends make out with girls while I stood in the corner. Let’s face it, red headed men are the antithesis of the “dark handsome stranger” that women long for and nowhere is that more certain that in the cruel minds of high school girls.

While I didn’t instantly go out and buy the entire Smiths catalogue (they had broken up by 1987 and my family was less than affluent) I started to chat with the kid in the Depeche Mode t-shirt in study hall and ask him about this Morrissey guy. I heard the witty, side of The Pope of Mope in tracks like “Girlfriend in a Coma,” “Hairdresser on Fire” and “Some Girls are Bigger Than Others.”

And because of songs like “Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before,” where he croons:

“And the pain was enough to make/ a short bald Buddhist reflect/ a plan a mass murder/ who said I lied to her?”

Or, in “This World is Full of Crashing Bores”:

“It's just more lock jawed pop stars/ Thicker than pig shit/ Nothing to convey/ They're so scared to show intelligence /It might smear their lovely career”

I slowly became yet another acolyte, unable to dismiss Morrissey as just a pop star.

Now, as I am much more secure in who I am (not really), I can say that Morrissey’s appeal to me is derived from his dark gravitas as much as his poetry. He represents the amalgamation of Dylan Thomas, Oscar Wilde, Elvis Presley and David Johansen of the New York Dolls and carries himself as such. As evidenced by his latest album “Years of Refusal” his skill as a song writer has remained strong and I am eagerly anticipating this evening’s show as a chance to see eye to eye with the my musical hero . . .

I just hope that he does not rip his shirt off at any point during the performance.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"A True Friend Stabs You in the Front" -Oscar Wilde

This morning, circa 8am, I found a seat on the F train. This usually is reason for celebration but today this wasn't the case for the moment I sat down, I realized that while three-quarters of the train was jam packed the end of the train that I entered was oddly deserted. Please remember that this was pre-caffeine . . .

Bergen Street

There is nothing at all unique about a homeless man sleeping on a subway train as it moves from Brooklyn into Manhattan--the young urban adventurers that populate Thomas Pynchon's debut novel "V" call it "yo-yoing" through the boroughs-- and after a few years of living here in Gotham, it becomes commonplace to see homeless, or inebriated people doubled over in subterranean repose. You just leave them be.

Indeed, the patina of grime that covered this particular bum's hand and wrist, the only parts of his body discernible from beneath the vastly over sized hooded sweatshirt that rendered his form imperceptible, even the hospital bracelet he wore, gave me no reason for pause yet there was something oddly magnetic about him. I should mention that it wasn't his cologne of sweat, urine and Thunderbird either. It was, I believe now, a leaden sense of foreboding that pinned me down.

Jay St/Borough Hall

As is the case every morning, about a quarter of the train jumped off at Jay St. in order to transfer to the A/C line, leaving a few seats open further away from the nearby derelict. Yet I didn't move. Not because I was so attached to sitting in that particular seat but I had begun reading the latest issue of The New Yorker (James Woods' review of the new John Wray novel about paranoid schizophrenia,"Lowboy") and was just about to find my happy place behind my Ray Ban Wayfarers that delivers me to 42nd St unbothered. But as soon as every available seat had been occupied, the cold sensation of being gazed upon came over me.

York St.--last stop in Brooklyn

This man, who with his hood up over his head reminded me of a Jawa, had shifted and had lifted his head just enough to show me his alcohol rouged eyes. There was a confidence in this action that unnerved me. Under normal circumstances, homeless people do not look one straight in the eye unless they want something (even then rarely). Yet he just kept his eyes on me and I feigned reading as we burrowed beneath the East River. Unable to take it any longer, I looked up from my magazine and asked firmly but without barb, "Can I help you?"

"Nobody can, man. Nobody."

East Broadway

This is the stop that sees the majority of the Asian people who had been on the train in Brooklyn detrain while a new contingent jumps on. As these two rivers of people flowed in opposite directions, a pair high school kids, white boys with massive backpacks, fashionable shaggy hair and skinny jeans, spoke in a hushed, polite tone about biology class and I started reading Atwul Gawande's piece on solitary confinement. Gawande posits that extended periods of solitary confinement is tantamount to the most extreme forms of torture, but on this packed train, heading for my job hawking ad pages, having a homeless guy siphon away any joy that may have been latent within me, I had to agree with Sartre's famous line--"Hell is other people."

Delancey Street

Here come the Hasids and the hipsters. The Lower East Side. There was a rush and a push accompanied by the sharp crack of metal on metal as an art school drop out dropped his laptop and proceeded to softly sob. His effeminate shoulders heaved as he simultaneously dealt with the uncaring crowd and the jagged pieces of his Macbook Pro. I felt bad for him but worse for the two lobsters in Woody Allen's Shouts and Murmurs column. That Woody Allen is a funny guy . . .

2nd Ave.

Where was the homeless man who piqued my interest about 15 minutes earlier? While I couldn't see him his scent remained in the air like gnats under bright lights. Or did he leave it behind, a gift to protect the art school kid, and slink off towards the few remaining nooks of the Bowery left ungentrified?

The remainder of the commute- Broadway/Lafayette, West 4th, 14th, 23rd, 34th Sts- was spent scanning the rest of the New Yorker and thinking about my disdain for advertising. As we left the 34th St station I spotted him again. He was sprawled out face down on the floor of the train as we hit 42nd St., arms akimbo and stains on the seat of his weathered camouflage pants.

Nobody seemed to think much of it so I went off to work . . .

Sunday, March 22, 2009

In the Beginning . . .

I am waiting for something, or someone, to arrive but I don't know what or who. This weary feeling occasional lifts and I become a man of action, but for the most part I just observe and keep an internal running tally of things with a wan smile on my ruddy face . . . until now.

My reasons for penning this blog are simple: to chronicle the abominable, the strange and the occasionally awe inspiring events that I experience. However, most importantly, I see this blog as an opportunity to laugh at just how sublimely absurd this life truly is.

Whether it be frustration from the subway as I schlep to and from my office in Times Square, the sense of injustice that being a Cleveland Browns/Indians fan inspires or the masochistic joy that follows an ear splitting Mogwai show, I am giving you a front row seat to the cinemaplex in my head.

Make sure you boo or applaud as you see fit . . .