Sunday, July 25, 2004

NY Journal # 11 & 12


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John Facenda could read a lunch menu and make it sound better than Shakespeare. With this Kipling piece, he almost overwhelms the poem, so listen closely to the lyrics.. err.. poem.
There's a lot of recognizable nuggets of concisely constructed, sagely wisdom. With Facenda reading it, it comes off almost as scripture.

The Republican National Convention .... PROTESTS:
First off - as directed by Marshall Law directive GWB0015, I have avoided the Madison Square Garden area and all subways that pass beneath the area so I cant really comment on what's going on there first hand. What I have witnessed are the dozens of helicopters (and Fuji blimp) circling around, police teams in SWAT and riot gear stationed on seemingly random corners (waiting for protests to come to them?) and the occasional set of three to five police cars, sirens ablaze, racing off to the next donut store fire ... I mean... homeland security emergency. As for what I have seen - Lordy, people do not like this George Bush guy, myself included. This has to be the best politically-related protest turn out (both organized protests and general street presence) that I've witnessed in any city. Protests in SF have a distinct visual advantage in assessing the size of the crowd, being that you can usually pop your head over the crowd and see the continuous mass of people lined up down a linear Market Street. The protest we attended on Sunday snaked through the city in a somewhat confusing pattern that seemed like it was designed to pick up the most people along the way. Only helicopter aerial shots on tv could piece together the relative size of the crowds.

Is this the Chinese calendar Year of the Protest T-Shirt..? Jeeeez Louise. I'm not sure if I'm more impressed by the percentage of protest attendees wearing their hearts on their ... well, shirt fronts or if it's a statement of capitalist consumerism Against capitalist consumerism. Either way, I'm enjoying seeing such a strong presence of liberal visibility amidst the inconspicuous Republican invasion that the news stations swear has taken over our city.

Ohhhh, my kitty boys are getting bigger, their personalities becoming more individual, day by day. They are very much like anyone's cats in two ways: If you walk near their food, they will assume that you are going to feed them. If you look at them, they will assume you are dying to pet them. Aside from that, I'm pretty convinced that they are actually dogs. Flapjack plays fetch. Hambone sits up on his hind legs and paws at the air. They would both sooner be near people than away from them. They bark at passing cars. Ok, they don't bark.

WSPk Characters:
Singing Scotty is still singing away. Has he added any songs to his repertoire? No. Oh, but I did forget to mention that "Ol' Man River" is another of his favorites. Does it make for a ridiculously awkward situation when black people are in the circle? take a wild guess. My favorite Singing Scotty moment of the last few weeks came when two hippie guys with guitars came and sat in the fountain circle area and began strumming out some songs together and then singing along with them. This type of thing Does normally annoy the hell out of me, but it's usually short lived so I just wait for them to move on. This day, Singing Scotty had the floor and I guess he didn't take too nicely to them trying to upstage him so about half way into one of their songs, Scotty began belting out The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow even Louder than I'd ever heard him sing. He sang a few lines and then turned to the two hippie guitarists and said "oh! sorry, sorry guys! didn't know I was messing up your time there, sorry about that". Now, you'd assume that Scotty was giving up the stage and apologizing for stepping on their good time.... or at least, that's what I'd assumed. So the guys start up their song again and five seconds in to it I hear "BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR, THAT TOMORROW....... THERE'LL BE SUNNNNN!!!!!!!!" .... Again, Scotty said "ohhh! sorry, sorry guys!!" like he just realized that he accidentally did it again. A few more times of this and the hippies got up and left. Don't mess with Singing Scotty. He WILL win.

I'm still on the road to reading all of the books I've been meaning to read for years now and/or books from authors I've read everything of except for the ones they've made movies out of. From the first category, I finally read Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy - very entertaining... read it if you haven't. From the books-to-movies category, (not bragging, just explaining) I've previously read all of Vonnegut except for Slaughterhouse 5, all of Chuck Pahluniuk except for Fight Club, all Tom Robbins except for Even Cowgirls Get the Blues (and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates which I'm reading now and highly recommend) so I feel like I'm finally tackling all of the dark horses I'd put off for so long, always telling myself I'd get to them eventually. Fight Club was quite good. Kind of amazing how closely the movie followed the book and how much of the book they actually were able to fit into the movie. Still, if you're going to read any of his books, I cant recommend 'Survivor' strongly enough - no, it has Absolutely Nothing to do with that god-awful reality-tv-show dreck so get that association out of your head and go buy Survivor today. If you aren't thanking me by the time you're done with it, I'll buy it off of you 'cause I seem to have misplaced my copy.

Yoga is one of the more self-confidentially, self-imagely, self-awarenessly rewarding (hey, my journals, I get to make up words if I want) aspects of my life these days. I'm still going thrice a week and am losing weight again, toning musculature and increasing flexibility beyond what I could have hoped I would have reached at this point (I finally crossed the not-at-all-really-important-barrier I'd been trying to reach since I started, I can now get my palms fully on the ground from a standing, straight-legged position).

I've recently explored the tv-show-file-sharing capability of my ReplayTV (replayTV is Tivo's competitor). It has, in a sense, added the functions of Napster to the shows available to me. Oakland Raider games aren't shown on network tv locally out here of course so now, I can put in a request on a replay web page and people out West can send me the game via an internet transfer to my replayTV unit. I'm thinking about getting rid of HBO and just requesting the shows I want to see from people who do have HBO. Cheating? yes. But aside from The Sopranos, Da Ali G Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm (all in extended hiatus), I don't watch any HBO movies so I'm basically paying for the channel for nothing.

With the replayTV, I was able to record only the sports that I wanted to see (court volleyball, table tennis, high jump and women's field hockey (ahem... if you saw the US team, you'd know why)) and then skip through the commercials and interstitial rah-rah human interest stories about individual athletes -and- the award ceremonies. In hindsight, I truly felt like I missed nothing by skipping all of that.

I've added some pictures and descriptions to my camera-phone-pics page:

RNC Poker Party: So, my roommate's... [unauthorized use of the following term] "girlfriend" Karen's sister Kathleen has been a caterer/chef in the city for years and as such, got a job to cater for the Republican National Convention. Stories of catering the convention mostly included ridiculous amounts of secret service security lurking all around, background checks and every caterer secretly giving various republicans the bird, with everyone in the kitchen sharing mutual... let's call it ... dislike for those they were serving. As many large catering jobs end with large amounts of left over food for the taking, Kathleen banked (I'm guessing here) 30 pounds of food. What would you logically do with all that food? Poker party! Yes! dumplings, stinky cheese, seafood tacos/burritos, a ridiculously-good blueberry compote thingy that ..... MmMMmMmmm.... that's all I can say. Amazing, all of it. AS if all that wasn't good enough, I won $14 (Karen won $70 or $80!) and Matt and I were given 6 or 7 pounds of leftovers to take home.

A few Sundays, now, have been spent at pier 24 and 22 - kayaking and playing hearts (card game) to FM radio, cheap BBQ and optional miniature-golf, free ping pong, batting cages and as previously mentioned, unrivaled view of New Jersey. Sitting at a picnic table with friends, table-umbrella casting delicious shade, a nice river breeze, sipping lemonade and playing cards. Seriously, honestly, truly - it does not get much better.

Have I mentioned the fountain itself? How it's used as a sneaky weapon of humor by park employees? At it's highest level (30 feet?), it's a beautiful co-icon of the park (shared by the WashSq Arch) and when ANY sort of wind breezes through the park, bends the fountain stream and breaks off a good portion of it into a spray that somehow, through wind chill factor, reaches a temperature approaching freezing by the time it thickly showers unsuspecting sun-bathers sitting in the circle. It is absolutely amazing to me, how quickly I have gone from thinking "damn it's hot today!" to "Oh-My-God-it-is-So-cold-I-want-to-Die---literally!" How do I know it's a weapon of humor? Because I've seen the employee charged with turning on/off/up/down the fountain try to suppress laughter with that nearly cracking smile that uses all 156 facial muscles, when the shrieks of "AAAAHHH!" ring out from a section of the circle.
Lately, thankfully... possibly due to complaints... they've lowered the height of the fountain by half.
Unfortunately, that had no bearing on -another- crazy man's need to drink the DAMN WATER. again. what the hell?!?! This guy, we'll call him rainbow toe-socks, wore tight black bicycle shorts, no shirt and knee-high rainbow colored socks that had individual toes sewn in. He was a loveable character until he reached for that floating plastic cup and..........
Another character has resurfaced as well.
- Fight-Me-Drunk, I'll call him. About 3 or so months ago, I sat in the circle reading, when up came a slurring, 40 something, dirty drunk guy hell bent on interrupting the reading of a girl in another part of the circle, somewhat near me (a slightly overcast day, there were maybe 5 or 6 people there). Sooo... he starts calling her bitch-this, rich-girl-that, who does she think she is, she's nothing but a ____, etc, etc, etc. When I noticed that he hadn't stopped after 5 minutes of this, I shot him a mean stare that I hoped said "ok arsehole, move on, leave her and everyone alone". Instead, I guess the look said "come do your drunken rant at me and say I look like Hitler". 'cause, yes, that's what happened. I ignored a good five minutes of it myself, hoping he'd tire or move on... no such luck. So I told him to shut the F up. Ohhhh the futility of that demand (does that Ever work?). I sat through another 3 minutes of rant (mostly 'cause it was actually pretty funny, some of the ridiculous stuff coming out of his mouth) and then I got up and left.
So that was 3 months ago, I hadn't seen him since then but about a week ago, he showed up and has been in WSPk every time I pass through or sit. He doesn't recognize or remember me (imagine that) and continues playing out his Fight-Me-Drunk role to great effect. Recent targets have been subjected to being splashed by water, being sprayed by his ranting spittle, regaled with word-changed-songs about their sexual preference and... pretty much anything else offensive he can think of. How long would you have to be forced to spend with this guy before you found a redeeming quality? How long will it be before he pushes the wrong person and invites upon himself an other-worldly ass kicking? Stay tuned.
- Pants Cutter: Pants cutter is back. Now, new and improved! He acquired a set of roller blades and seems to wear them without exception. The past few times I've seen him, he's been sporting roller blades, cut pants, no shirt and a broomstick.
- Singing Scotty: Two twenty-something travelers (American I think) tried to engage Scotty in an interview-like conversation about what he sings and why he sings and why so loud and was that gin on his breath, and so on. Scotty, through body language alone, made these guys cower and back down from their let's-talk-to-the-crazy-guy bravado. How? invaded personal bubble space. He simply stood 6 to 10 inches away from them, never letting them back up without advancing, and gave them big crazy eyes as he, instead of answering their questions, asked them questions.

MUSIC:Nelly's two-album release
Nelly again topped the competition Tuesday by releasing two, yes two, albums. One album of his smooooth-as-silk-to-have-sex-on songs & the other of faster, more rap'ish, dance-able (like "hot in herrre") songs. You either like the Nelly or ... you don't. If you don't because you don't like rap, I recommend resizing the acreage of your musical boundaries to make exception for Nelly. If Nelly doesn't go down as another danny-elfman, david-byrne, vinny-reilly like virtuoso music master of multiple mediums and styles -hall of fame style- I will be sick to my stomach with disgust at whoever determines who's a music god and who's not.

READING: My hero worship of Tom Robbins continues. I finally finished (457 small type pages, jeeesh) Tom Robbin's Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates the other day and, if it were the last book he wrote (which it isn't), I'd have to say he recently underwent some secret transformation or alien intervention that finely tuned his skills to a previously unknown clarity. Good lordy... it's as good if not better than anything else he's written.... And from it, I have to share two gems of uber-Tom-Robbins-ish Tom-Robbins-ness. There would be more than two but it seems that I didn't dog ear all the pages I thought I had. ..... The cross-country migraine was neither milder nor more severe than the short-distance on. In both cases, there was the sense that in the space behind his eyes a porcupine and a lobster were fighting to the death in front of a strobe light.

a quote he included: Given a choice between a folly and a sacrament, one should always choose the folly - because we know a sacrament will not bring us closer to God and there's always a chance that a folly will. - Erasmus

----mostly, I wanted to include this one below, I hope to read it every month or so.
from Harper's Sept 2004 issue
In Defiance of Gravity (and on 'crazy wisdom') - Tom Robbins [he's speaking of contemporary writing, but applies almost -more- to life in general]

When will our literati - in many cases, an erudite, superbly talented lot - evolve to the degree that they accord buoyancy and mirth a dime's worth of the respect they bestow so lavishly on gravity and misfortune?
Norman N Holland asked a similar question in Laughing: A Psychology of Humor, concluding that comedy is deemed inferior to tragedy primarily because of the social prevalence of narcissistic pathology. In other words, people who are too self-important to laugh at their own frequently ridiculous behavior have a vested interest in gravity because it supports their illusions of grandiosity. According to Professor Donald Kuspit, many people are unable to function without such illusions.
"Capitalism," wrote Kuspit, "encourages the pathologically grandiose self because it encourages the conspicuous consumption of possessions, which symbolizes one's grandiosity." I would add that rigid, unquestioning allegiance to a particular religious or political affiliation is in much the same way also symptomatic of disease.
Ironically, it's this same malignant narcissism, revealing itself through arrogance, avarice, pique, anxiety, severity, defensive cynicism, and aggressive ambition, that is keeping the vainglorious out of their paradise. Among our egocentric sad sacks, despair is as addictive as heroin and more popular than sex, for the single reason that when one is unhappy one gets to pay a lot of attention to oneself. Misery becomes a kind of emotional masturbation. Taken out on others, depression becomes a weapon. But for those willing to reduce and permeate their ego, to laugh - or meow - into submission, heaven on earth is a distinct psychological possibility.
.. Freud said that wit is the denial of suffering. As I interpret it, he wasn't implying that the witty among us deny the existence of suffering - all of us suffer to one degree or another - but rather that, armed with a playful attitude, a comic sensibility, we can deny suffering dominion over our lives, we can refrain from buying shares in the company. Funnel that defiant humor onto the page, add a bracing shot of Zen awareness, and hey, pretty soon life has some justification for imitating art. ..........

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

NY Journal # 9 & 10

New York Journal # 9
Ok, a few things more I really meant to mention in the last journal, so hopefully, this will be a short one -SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE TICKETS:I need help getting tickets! Or you need to come to NYC and see SNL! or both! or... please, a humble, favor-request? - This Month ONLY! can you send an email to and ask for tickets? If you cant come to NYC to use them, I'd love to take 'em off your hands if you win. I have a few emails in to them myself but the more (tickets for more shows) the merrier.To enter the ticket lottery for the 2004-2005 season, send one email to in the month of August only.

WASHINGTON SQ PARK update: An infrequently recurring WSPk character resurfaced yesterday to shock me into literal jaw dropping horror at the sight of... well, some:
*Background: 30something black male, hip hop style, facial hair that runs from sideburn to sideburn under his chin, giving him a slightly Cowardly Lion appearance
*Mental state = imbalanced but seemingly harmlessly so.
*Quirks: fascination with things floating in the WSPk fountain and/or throwing objects that lie around IN TO the fountain. - I saw the shocker yesterday out of the corner of my eye, my brain not actually comprehending at first - no, not wanting to BELIEVE - what I had just seen. The guy had found a small, clear plastic cup lying around the fountain or in the fountain and... began to scoop water out of the fountain and as you may have guessed by now, yes... drink it.
*More Background: WSPk's fountain water - while being a historical mainstay and icon of the West Village, being calming and refreshing to sit by on hot summer days and being a requisite photo opportunity for those passing through with cameras - is home to dogs on leashes cooling off by laying in the water, the occasional dog peeing in the water, children, of course playing in and .. of course also peeing in the water, homeless guys cleaning themselves in and of course, probably peeing in the water and naive tourists, sunbathers and locals cooling themselves off in and.. who knows, maybe also peeing in the water. Needless to say, .... REALLY really needless to say - Dont Drink the Damn Water. Jesus. I wasn't the only one in shock of course. I've never seen so many other people around the circle look at each other in horror to confirm they were all seeing the same ghastly site.
FREE KAYAKING: From water you shouldn't drink to water you shouldn't drink - A few weeks ago we kayaked for free on the Hudson through: "is an all-volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing access to the Hudson River for everyone. The Boathouse is located in the Hudson River Park.. [and].. run[s] the following free programs: walk-up public kayaking, kayak trips on the harbor, evening classes, and a youth sailing program. T'was most awesome. Out on the water, paddling about, looking at the NY skyline, watching amateur trapeze enthusiasts learning the ropes (Ha! ha. umm.. ha. get it?) at the trapeze school adjacent to the boathouse. Monstrous carnival cruise ships passing by a few hundred yards away, heck, even New Jersey looks beautiful from the water. Witnessing all of this, I said the phrase I have said on average of once a week since I moved here: "God I love this city".
GOD, I LOVE THIS CITY: This has to be another category I visit from time to time. I really DO say it about once a week, for the various giggle or goosebump inducing cool aspects of the city. Yesterday for example, just before leaving the park after seeing Water Drinker's coup de grace, storm clouds had gathered, thunderstorms had been predicted, but I wanted to believe that the arms of the weater pattern would miss us in some force field twist of good fortune. No such luck. But the beauty of the situation was, whereas in San Francisco, when rain starts, you have from 2 to 7 minutes to get under cover before it goes from sprinkling to raining. Yesterday, it went from sprinkling to cherry-sized plops of rain, thunder and lightning in no more than 3 minutes total. Twenty minutes later, it was sunny with the ground drying. An hour later, it did the same thing. Now, granted, it's never nice to unexpectedly get soaked in the rain (not that we did, we found shelter) - what IS nice is weather. real weather. There's a verse in the Bible that says: you take the good, you take the bad, you take them all and there you have the facts of life. the facts of life. Wait.. whu..? not from the.. ? ok, I'm being told that's not from the Bible. well, wherever that prophetically profound tome originated, it rings true. The facts of life, here, seem to be about extremes and/or excess, and a rapid changing through them. The weather, the number of people, buildings, subway lines, parks, neighborhoods, the plethora of food and entertainment choices. And on and on and on. Not that all other cities aren't as good but... all other cities just aren't as good.
Ok. I'm kidding...
no, I'm not.
HA! ok, really, I'm kidding.
Actually. I'm not.: )

I seem to be on a writing-motivated roll here soo... read this or save it for later or... ask me to take you off of my list. No offense will be taken, no curses will be placed on you and yours.
I have the below program on my laptop, running only when I'm not using the computer and... well, I'll copy & paste their schpiel in a sec. I highly recommend it because, well... how many chances do you get to actually help make a difference in a cure or treatment? unless you're a doctor, not much, sad to say. so here's our chance:

---The United Devices Cancer Research Project is asking you to volunteer your PC to help process molecular research being conducted by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford in England and the National Foundation for Cancer Research. To participate, you simply download a very small, no cost, non-invasive software program that works like a screensaver: it runs when your computer isn't being used, and processes research until you need your machine. Your computer never leaves your desk, and the project never interrupts your usual PC use.
---It's safe and easy
There is no cost to participate and no impact on your computer use. The project software cannot detect or transfer anything on your machine but project-specific information. It just allows your computer to screen molecules that may be developed into drugs to fight cancer. Each individual computer analyzes a few molecules and then sends the results back over the Internet for further research. This project is anticipated to be the largest computational chemistry project ever undertaken and represents a genuine hope to find a better way to fight cancer.
---The computational power to perform research of this scale is only available through the generosity of individuals like you.

All it took was for me to talk about the extreme and excessive weather for it to completely contradict my naive generalization. Yesterday, it sprinkled lightly and consistently, for nearly the entire day. Always just hard enough to almost need an umbrella.

A friend who works in the area couldn't use her tickets to this massive concert on Randall's Island and gave them to me and Matt. - Randall's Island is a smallish island housing a criminal psych center, an open air concert arena and sports facilities (those go together, right?) It's accessible by footbridge at 103rd Street, Harlem but since we'd never been there, we didn't realize it was a good 40 minute walk to the concert area once on the island. Although it's only a couple hundred yards across the East River from Manhattan, crickets are all you hear once you get on the Randall's Island side. We timed our arrival (half by design, half by opportune accident) to coincide perfectly with the only band we wanted to see, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. Have Mercy, that old man puts on one damn fine, energetic concert. Matt aptly said after the show that it's exhausting just watching him perform - with his impossibly-skinny-body-meets-ultra-defined-musculature, leathery skin and 14-year-old-girl-jeans, as a physical specimen, it bordered on the grotesque to watch him except that pretty much everyone at the show was undoubtedly hoping they'll look half that healthy when they're as old as Iggy is now. Looks aside, he sounds just as good as he does on any of his early albums and quite possibly has more concert energy than he did back then.

No seriously, can you email them? : ) Act now and I will even Pay You if you win and cant use your tickets! I'm 100% serious. This month only! - ask for four tickets please! (always ask for 4 tickets for whatever tv show you're trying to see. If you cant use the extras, stand-by's get them, so they're not going to waste)