Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This One's for You, Dare

I had another blow-out all-night gig last night. The testosterone factor, when guitar players get older, is out of proportion. It’s like all the really huge zoo animals are too close…elephants, lions. The bellowers. I wonder if zoo animals get tinnitus.

On the way home the Palestinian off-license guy started ranting at me about the Israelis. He speaks Hebrew. He has slept with Jewish women…maybe even loved them. But what is going on in Gaza is not comprehensible. The information we receive is excessive, and biased. A ship bringing aid was rammed in the water by Israeli boats. It is always the innocent who suffer, everywhere. The children…those who fail to be evil.

My friend’s boyfriend drank anti-freeze Christmas night. Something anti-poetic about that…but I couldn’t help thinking the guy felt stuck somehow. Frozen. It is an uncomfortable death and fortunately or unfortunately he survived. Another victim of the economic holocaust that is leveling the already-compromised struggling among us. Survival of the richest.

I have done this sort of hidden-camera test lately without the camera. Dressing as badly as I possibly can— noting the unbearable intolerance of the terminally bourgeois for the poor. We are nipping at their skirt-hems, tracking them down like hungry dogs after a lone car on a Mexican dirt road.

Try to return a gift at a department store without a receipt in dirty sweat pants and ripped sneakers. They’ll be on you like a master criminal. I’ll bet Bernie Madoff, just a month ago, got served tea by well-dressed sycophantic salesmen at Tiffany’s. A free side of Nova at Zabar’s. I wonder if he tipped his building staff proportionally as much as I did.

At a Chase bank I wanted to pay my Mastercard bill and they asked for ID. To make a deposit. All those smarmy pathetic fake-MBAs in their blue uniforms…walking around like proctors while the tellers do the only actual ‘work’ if you can call it that. Everything is in their computers… except attitude.

I am reading this new Charlie Smith poetry. The only contemporary poetry I can stand. I’m dressed for it. It is like walking on a lunar landscape—dark, monotonal and sharp. It makes me think that life is kind of the B-side of death. I feel like I know exactly what he means, like we are 2 mangy dogs on parallel dirt paths but I can’t tell him this because I’m just Writerless.

Some people drink anti-freeze and live. Other people, like the guitarist in my band, throw up one time from gastro-intestinal hypochondria and check themselves into the ER. He needed an audience, I guess. He needed some insurance-covered sympathy which was worth the co-pay. Not me. Medical self-indulgence pisses me off, when half a million African women and children were bayonet-raped and have permanently messed-up organs. Unspeakable pain and humiliation. When a Palestinian mother loses 5 precious children--5 times years of diaper-changes and breast-feeding and 24-hour bloody heart-ripping maternal sacrifice--- to senseless bellowing.

I'm not taking sides here; I'm not standing on soapboxes or sending out any pathetic holiday message. I'm not even singing. I’m eating flour-water pancakes, reading my Charlie Smith and toasting the anti-freeze guy. Wondering what the year has in store for those of us who go to sleep at dawn listening for the B-side.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Color Red

I read somewhere that 60% off is the new black. Not true. Red is the new black. Meaning ‘in the red’. The free weekend paper even verified: women who wear red get asked out more, have more sex, have more money spent on them. They didn’t state that they have more debt, but I’ll bet that’s a statistic.

Personally I hate the color. If I were in a famous rock band I’d make them remove the red M & Ms. I hate lipstick. I hate cherry pie. I hate cough syrup and Don’t Walk signs. I like road maps and globes, pictures of the earth from space with the cool shades of blue and green. Fortunately for me, aside from exotic flowers, a few fruits and berries and the butts of baboons, there aren’t a lot of things that are naturally red. That is, except in the current economy. For me, red is the color of anger and hatred. Ask any bull.

But mostly I hate debt. I hate the concept of it-- the trap it is, and the relentless marketing of it which sank the world into the current financial cesspool. I hate the hedge funds and multi-millionaires who bank the profits of it. Their blood runs redder than blue, and their souls are the color and consistency of a baboon’s butt.

To avoid the red of debt I’ve become invisible. I have no profile, no money to speak of, no debt. I get ‘young millionaire’ letters from my alumni association, which is a joke, because I have some meager savings and am apparently on some sucker debt-free list. I also get letters from Medicaid urging me to accept foodstamps, but that’s another story. So who am I? I know about tightening my belt. I’ve cut the fat so completely that there’s scarcely an ounce of meat left on my life’s bones. But I’ll starve before I let the debt epidemic get me. Give me Christmas green and keep the red.

Meanwhile I have one of those common, generic-type last names. I’m listed in the phonebook with an initial. As the crisis goes on, every month I get more and more calls from credit card companies who have been given my number as a reference by some debtor or other. Some of these people try to be smart. There’s an Annette, an Andrea and an Arliss who all have used my credentials at some point. One for the IRS. One for Metropolitan Hospital, uptown. That’s Annette. She’s had abortions, gynecological procedures, emergency room visits. Every single time, she gives my address and telephone. Slipping into my identity like a costume change, when it suits her. At least she’s consistent. She now owes the hospital over $100,000. But they can’t actually find her, so in one sense she’s debt free. She’s also about my age, but not my color—which helps when I need to prove non-responsibility. Which in itself is absurd. I’m on the phone several hours a year talking my way out of charges I know nothing about, while Annette is out partying.

Thursday afternoon I switched trains at 59th Street. On the platform was a girl with dreads, singing into a cheap microphone with karaoke tracks coming out of this tiny Roland cube amp. Singing R & B. She was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, somewhere between street and hiphop. She had this style of bending over and singing to the ground, the way I’ve seen a couple of other street singers do. Like she has soul, and body language, and also a tiny bit of shame about it. It works. She was good, too…had a voice like the old time great singers, and was doing some obscure Motown. I was intrigued. In her open case was a sign asking for donations so she could make a cd. Join the club, girl.

I listened. I was actually sorry to hear my train pulling in. As I got ready to board, I thought about giving her some money. She got me. On the other hand, I’m down to $3 a day, including coffee, which is tough. So I shuffle up close enough to at least check out her name and did a literal double-take. Not Aretha, not Mary Jo….it was none other than my namesake, Annette. Singing her bloody bad- credit ass off. Part of me wanted to punch her in the face for all the grief she caused me, but the doors were opening; time was moving, and Annette was wailing.

I put $1 in her case. Got a little thumb up from my girl.

Whatever.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's Baby

For some reason I think a lot about that film Rosemary’s Baby which I saw at a very impressionable age. I can’t pass Central Park West and 72nd Street without thinking about it, even though I was there the night John Lennon was shot. Even though I had the good fortune to have had friends in the building and had actually seen the inside of the Lennon home. Still, I think about that fictional nymphy girl with the extreme short Sassoon haircut eating raw meat over her sink in what is now a $1600/per square foot kitchen.

I guess it was my first experience with a conspiracy theory, the paranoid concept that the world is evil, and if you try to resist or prove the contrary, you’ll be not only deemed insane but dangerous. Except for that one person whose name is an impossible anagram and lies unconscious in a hospital or fortress somewhere or buried underground.

Of course a major portion of TV series, movies and best-sellers deal with the same scenario. Kind of an Alfred Hitchcock thing. But somehow a poor waify pregnant girl with the baby voice lost in Manhattan represented a loss of innocence for me. At the time, I trusted no one. I spoke to no one. When I could sleep, I had bad dreams. I found myself day after day standing on Central Park West, staring up at the gargoyles and dark walls, as though some kind of rational experience could undo the Rosemary’s Baby spell.

I was up in Harlem today. I had to deposit a check at the bank and pay my Con Ed bill. The bank is kind of a new branch. Maybe a year old. On Lenox/Malcolm X Blvd. So which stop to make first? Con Ed was packed. Lines out the door. 4:30 PM. At the bank there was not a soul. Not a sound. Two nicely dressed investment counselor/bank managers in their brand new spacious cubicles, 3 well-dressed ladies behind the teller windows. All Afro-American. Everyone looked when I came in. Business? Just a small deposit. It was efficient and quick. And quiet. The quietest place I’ve experienced in Manhattan in years. Including my own now-childless apartment. Including the library. Dead quiet.

On to Con Ed. Fortunately there are machines here now…computers which take your checking account and routing number and receipt your payment. Not a soul at these 4 machines. The rest? A slowly snaking line of more than 200 fidgety non-white people waiting to use cash to pay their gas and electric because it costs $5 to use your debit card. And only Mastercard is accepted. With the same $5 fee. The same reason I came in to pay. Save a stamp. Avoid the penalty because like lucky Americans now I’m paying priority bills at the last possible second. It was as noisy as a rush-hour subway station. As packed with stressed-out people. Gone are the days of living a month in advance.

It pisses me off that Verizon bills a month in advance for phone service and if you’re late with the payment, they get $5 extra. Even though the service period has not begun. Even though the service sucks and it’s noisy and overpriced and absurd to pay $100 a month for something which with our technology should be near-free. If you complain, they’ll be happy to cancel service. For which you get another huge bill which if you don’t pay will ruin your credit and the rest of your life if it hasn’t already been ruined by one of the 49,000 Americans who each have more than 500 million of what used to be your money in their personal accounts.

Whatever.

But while you’re waiting on the Con Ed line, and the bread line, and the subway platforms waiting for less frequent trains in a broken system because all the money is in the battered portfolios of the MTA management who feel a little ‘stressed’ this Christmas season--- instead of all that Sudoku and word finding, why don’t people start anagramming Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns and Citibank and coming up with some Ira Levin-worthy solutions? How about that Henry Paulson? How come he’s so hoarse all the time? In fact the whole Federal Reserve stinks of a financial version of tannis-root and coven-meetings.

I just pray, to whatever God or anti-God I can summon here on the corner of 72nd and Central Park West, that my new President has Netflix and a taste for 60’s horror.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dear Andrew

Ahh… poor pathetic AIG has now become the poster-child for corporate greed. They have been ordered to suspend their $600 million bonus fund. Poor Mr. Sullivan. And you know about poster children. The real victims are not even camera-ready. They’re festering, stewing in greed, still lunching in Armani while they consider passing on the private jet for Christmas vacation. Call me, Andrew Cuomo. Call me.

First of all, I’d like to know what kind of accounting principles Henry Paulson is using. The Goldman Sachs kind, apparently. As for me, before I’d lend a friend my last $20, I’d have to be pretty sure he doesn’t have a few Ferraris in the garage. Here’s a hint: you can’t spell Goldman without G-O-L-D. Call me.

I’ve got a notice from HRA in my mailbox. The second one. Apparently someone shared my tax return with them. The one that was so pathetic, I didn’t qualify for an economic stimulus check. I was counting on that, to buy my teenage son a graduation laptop. The IRS assumes anyone in my income bracket is receiving welfare benefits, and no matter what they give me, my thrift-shop buying is not going to stimulate the economy. I am forced to submit my 1040 to receive my Child Health Plus package (thank you Hillary!). This year, as last, I am too poor to be billed. I also have a brain and another commodity which is not only obsolete but worthless in the current atmosphere: a conscience. I have an apartment. I have my guitars and I know how to use them. I am struggling, day by day, week by week, to keep up payments. I had a retirement fund. This has been decimated to the point where I must live to an age of invalidity in order to collect what I’d put in. I don’t have a cellphone, Andrew, but I’ve got Verizon. Call me. It's local. I don’t receive benefits.

And how about this? I owe no one. I have no debt. I have no nice or even acceptable clothing, no heels on my shoes, a near-empty pantry. I do have mice. In my funky old prewar building which is now on the Corcoran list of Luxury Residences…due to endless renovations by the AIG and Bear Stearns unduly rewarded…I have mice, I have leaks, I have holes. Despite the fact that they are manipulating our old co-op like an overpriced Biotech company and demanding millions from shareholders…they cannot seem to find the cash in their pocket to patch the most recent hole they made in my ceiling. One of them even sued the co-op because we complained about his illegal and damaging renovation. Does the Attorney General's office respond? The government does not intervene in the corporation I live in. Not until it's bankrupt and in ruins. If I were being played by Steve McQueen, I’d eat the mice.

Let me say something else. Being hungry makes you cranky. It makes you less generous with sympathy. Especially sympathy for the rich. What about me, Presidential candidates? What about the proud hard-working poor…we who scarcely pay more than self-employment tax, who don’t ‘burden the system’, who share our stale bread with the homeless guys on the corner, who walk for a couple of days each month to postpone the cost of the monthly Metro card into the next billing cycle?

Yesterday I walked 3 miles to hand-deliver a birthday card because it saved me 42 cents. I pay my gas bill every 3 months because the finance charge is less than the stamps I’d have to use. I know about 'cutting the fat'. So how about hiring me to balance the AIG budget? I’m available. I’m smart. I don’t use the word deficit. I work per diem. Cheap. You can be sure I’d have found a good use for the $600 million. You can be sure their customers whose homes have been destroyed by hurricanes and floods would have a little cash.

Every morning I listen to the baffled BBC interviewees on the state of the world markets. The whole economy is tanked, let’s face it. My life is not much different than it was… yes, I’m losing work. I’m still terrified. Next week I must factor in Halloween candy. Do food stamps cover candy? Is that 'kosher'? Certainly not a sound nutritional investment. But soon it will be Christmas. A tree? I’m hungry. Eggs are out of my budget now. Rice is a luxury. I’ve stood outside a café several times this month with my hoodie on, waiting for them to put out leftover bread. Pride? Do I have pride? Why do my neighbors flash cash at the doormen when their Global Equity positions have caused suffering on a global and inequitable scale? Is that pride? Call me, Andrew.

Do they really want to restore CONFIDENCE? If I were getting Jon Stewart’s salary, I’d laugh. Here’s my question: Why are they letting the criminals jury their own trial? Never in all my educational or historical experience, except possibly the most corrupt African nations…was this kind of thing going on. Is this the new version of justice? Let’s face it… if someone kidnaps your child, holds him ransom for everything you own…are you going to let him go when he’s caught in the next heinous act? Are you going to let him keep what he stole? It’s not like I’m asking for anything except simple, Biblical Justice. Human Decency. The Law.

Why are they not rounding up the criminals and corralling them in their own bank vaults? Why is no one staging some large-scale political version of Dog Day Afternoon? I live in a building with these people who essentially spent their co-workers’ pensions on lunches. And they have money. They are all being paid. They are living on huge accounts built with massive bonuses.

Come on Andrew…you can do better. Every single one of these guys needs to put it back. And no, John McCain, this is not SPREADING THE WEALTH AROUND, this is putting back what you stole. It was a long party… and so much of the money has been spent, those bastards. Punishment? Yes, they deserve it. On a global scale. But first? Make them give it back. Every single penny. I’ll do the books. I’m great at it. I’ve don’t even know what a vacation looks like. No expensive junkets for my team. We'll eat stale bread for lunch. Hey...I’m living in a Corcoran-designated Luxury Residence just footsteps from Central Park and putting a kid through college on a poverty-level income. I know how to put extra notches in a belt. Call me.

As for the AIG guys and the other Investment Wizards: Let them eat mice.

P.S.: Does it occur to anyone that if we hadn’t been so obsessed with crucifying Spitzer for personal indiscretion, someone might have had an eye on the true Satans of Wall Street?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Cramer vs. Cramer

My teenage son knows about economics. He has a debit card. He knows who Jim Cramer is. Most adult children can relate to the format which for me is a cross between a sports-talk thing and a kiddie show emceed by a Mr. Rogers on crack. When I watch this, I am reminded that some obscene percentage of serious computer gamers are in their 30’s.

Of course everyone is suddenly trashing Cramer when they secretly watched the guy on their gym screen or at home while they answered email. His viewing audience, despite the fact that he has been exposed as the pathetic duped victim of his own hubris, is even larger. It is truly remarkable how what is essentially a cheap gameshow affected the market. Poor schmucks were Etrading like mad according to Cramer’s recommendations which were about as reliable as sports commentators’ prattle back and forth during a close game. When the score is up, it’s fairly safe to side with the winner.

Cramer always reminded me of that double-headed guy in MIB2. And during recent weeks he’s undoubtedly had to up his daily dose of ADHD medication, not to mention the extra antiperspirant. But this version of economics for dummies—the same version the Republicans stuffed down our throats and the Hedge funds perpetrated and supported with a slick desperation which makes Gordon Gekko look like Mother Theresa-- is no longer working. So why does Cramer still have a job? Why is there not a 24-hour network where the heads of these investment firms get dunked in a tank? Along with Cramer. I can picture both of his heads wearing a shower cap. Is there anyone out there who would volunteer to get behind the Mad Money camera and throw a pie?

Instead, we get this maybe less confident version of Cramer who backtracks within a one-hour show, reverses positions, speaks out of 2 mouths like the market is an Andy Roddick tennis match. Accountability? And why not? No one else tells the truth. Both presidential candidates are guilty of mis-stating facts, underestimating, over-calculating. Half of our news is speculative.

Which brings me to the thing that woke me up this morning. I was dreaming about the girl who gives me my afternoon coffee, that she was explaining to me how she volunteers at Starbucks and how I was admiring her philosophical and peculiar work-ethic while also realizing suddenly why her co-workers treated her with such disdain. I am not used to such prosaic kinds of dreams…usually they involve Andy Warhol among red poppies or finding myself onstage with a band I’ve never seen or collapsing bridges.

So what is real? The stuff we read in the news, most of which is someone’s version of whatever? Even journalists skip research, accept biased sources as reliable, blink.
Where is our money? What does it stand for? What are all these charts and graphs we see every day? The theoretical polls and opinion barometers?

Where is the music? Bits of digital information on a disc? Where is art? What is the meaning of the Nobel prize, or any award in a culture where more information is ignored and suppressed than shared. How many artists come out repeating notes that have been done thousands of times before? If no one calls them on it, they get away with it.

So what’s the solution? Some kind of Big Brother? To insure that people don’t cheat? To watch out when some computer hacker simply deletes the balance of your bank account and the ATM teller doesn’t shrug its shoulders or express any kind of remorse when you try to withdraw something? Does anyone come on the Cramer show, in the flesh, and beat him because they have no retirement fund?

How about simple human honesty and accountability? Realizing that what you dreamed or schemed doesn’t really cut it. How about actually facing your neighbors down? Your shareholders? The candidates go out and shake hands and hold babies. How many do this after the fact?

Suze Orman didn’t shift positions. She is the real uncorrupted Martha Stewart. She is the new American mother figure. If McCain had picked her as running mate instead of the Stepford Barbie, he might actually have had an edge. But she wasn't cheesecakey. She'd definitely support gay marriage. And I have no idea of her politics and of course would never vote Republican. But why doesn’t someone appoint her to the Federal Reserve? She’d have Paulson running like a skinned rabbit. He and Cramer have a fat bank balance. She does too, but I salute her. How bad does Paulson feel? Not. He’s a little hoarse, but that’s just the strain of concealing reality from Americans. He doesn’t have a letter in his mailbox describing the new automated foodstamp system. Which is bound to be abused within days.

The new American dream is reality. The messed up, bankrupt version they’ve served us.
I know life is getting pretty hallucinatory and the media has us all seeing and hearing double. But we can wake up and find the dream. I believe this. At least one of my heads does.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wreck-javik

I used to dream about moving to Iceland. Land of Purity, Sigur Ros, Deserted Farmhouses… endless subarctic vistas. Home of the Sagas, Laxness. Bankrupt. A whole country. Geysers…volcanoes. These bastards. These greedy Wall Street credit-swapping rich bastards. Economic rape. The end of whatever version of innocence was possible in this world— Christmas, birthday wrapping, cake and trick-or-treating. They spoiled it. For what? So they could super-size their second and third homes, put a Tag Heuer on every child’s wrist? A Ferrari in every garage? A golf course in every gated community?

My personal economics haven’t changed much. I refuse foodstamps. I have a brain, I still refuse to pay $2 for a pretzel, even when I’m starving. Waiting for a bus at Grand Central last night, one of the vendors offered me one for $1. It was the best tasting food I’d had all week …hot, fresh, smoky. A food value investment. When I boarded the hourly crosstown at 3 AM, the guy waved to me. Is this a sign of the times? Love, I felt. A certain human camaraderie. The kind most people forget about. The kind these Hedge Fund guys don’t feel at $10,000-a-plate dinners.

I refuse to live on credit, which is a form of rich-man’s charity, with not just strings but chains and handcuffs. For the poor, that is. I choose freedom.

The rich? They not only lived on credit, but banked millions from this. Monopoly money. And the worldwide piggy bank has shaken itself out. So who gets punished? If I see either Bernanke or Henry Paulson one more time I’m going to puke. Unless they are wearing one of those John Doe uniforms and out shoveling. Call me then.

How can we have let these assholes run with our ball? Our country? Because we are a race of ostriches and media-anesthetized morons who don’t complain as long as our cable and cellphones are working?

My old British grandfather once advised me that if he could not die with a million pounds, it was just as well to die owing a million pounds. Apparently his ethic is universal. Personally, I have a moral aversion to slavery. Borrowing for poor people, I reiterate, is not pretending you are a rich person, but a kind of slavery.

Because there are two sets of rules. Two sets of standards. Two sets of consequences. There is the occasional wrist-slap of bad behaviour among the rich, and there are the dismal prisons and brutal beatings for the poor. A wallet-snatcher is beaten mercilessly by local police, handcuffed and denied the right to vote while in prison. But a billion-dollar credit-snatcher gets 10 years of excessive Hampton-weekends, gourmet meals, platinum cards and 7-figure bonuses. And then? A bailout. His buddies are on the Federal Reserve fixing things so he can keep his homes and his children’s ponies will not suffer.

Meanwhile my investment banker neighbors are planning a massive renovation of our lobby. Undoubtedly they still have several million of their last Christmas bonus in some kind of bank, will hire their colleagues, receive the standard 10-20% kickback which will cover their portion of the assessment. The rest of us? We will be billed. Along with our tax increases and excessive oil bills so these neighbors can run their Jacuzzis overtime.

I play in a band with a guy who wears earplugs and blasts his guitar so that my ear-damage is beginning to affect my existence. My passion for music, which has maybe placed me in the undesireable economic category I am in..is going to be destroyed by an individual whose MO is ‘all bout me’. All. He whines, he blasts. He ignores. Accountability? There is a parallel here.

But for others, life seems to go on. There are lines at Starbucks, rush-hour traffic jams. There will be a debate tonight. Neither candidate will be able to keep promises, because there is no money. But people are content with this. Cash comes out of ATM machines. As for me, I have a phobia of plastic. I don’t like it. My bank doesn’t make much from my account. I don’t accrue fees, I don’t borrow. My credit is excellent, even though I live at the national poverty level. In Manhattan. When I get yesterday’s rolls I give a couple to the homeless guy on the corner. I am accountable. Am I accountable for those who are less fortunate? For those who may be helpless victims of their own accountability? I feel this. I really do. I am obsolete, aging, badly dressed, underfed, and losing my hearing along with my religion. But I am accountable.

I used to dream about moving to Iceland. Now I am wondering if deaf people dream with soundtracks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We are not in Kansas anymore

I don’t know about the rest of America, but I’m getting ticked off. New York City’s in a slump. We’ve never had so many babies, so much competition for the few spaces in private schools, so little money for public education, controversial rezoning, a budget deficit the size of a small galaxy, crumbling infrastructure, winter coming on, Brett Favre is maybe injured, the Knicks look like amateurs, and my co-op board, some of whom have caused the largest-scale financial heist ever in the name of Free Capitalism, are flexing their pathetic muscles in the face of their poorer but less guilty neighbors.

What is there to look forward to? Obama’s numbers are shaky, his opponent is avoiding the debate which could boost democratic ratings. Universal digital television? A rebate for the new compulsory digital boxes? Discounts for welfare recipients? It is a fact that in tough economic times people anesthetize themselves with entertainment. So how about my latest TV network pitch? Maverick TV. Or better, Automatic Pilot. A weekly or nightly show which will air a different entertainment or pilot every single night. Reality shows, unreality shows…. drama, comedy, live art, eating contests,whatever.

As I was leaving my building today, I ran into a pissed-off woman in an expensive suit who’d been dropped by a taxi on 96th Street, instead of 69th. She was frantically hailing a vehicle and casting racial aspersions on the driver who’d fleeced her of 27 blocks’ worth of extra fare. Maybe, I suggested to her, she got a driver who read from right to left. Or better yet, a dyslexic driver. Her open-mouthed response inspired me to create the first pilot: Dyslexic Taxi Driver. The possibilities are endless. Spinoffs include Dyslexic Candidates, Money Managers and Cooking Shows. Fun.

Next I read an article about renaming streets in New York as memorials. Now that our city budget is cutting major corners, how about commemorating dead celebrity love affairs--- ex-boyfriends? One Tree Hilton. A sapling for every block.

Forget about Fantasy Sports Leagues…how about Fantasy Diagnosis? We’ll go into the hospitals and raise stakes for the doctors who get the right answers. Improve our medical statistics. Pay for health insurance.

How about NickName that Person? John McCain could be Mickey C. And his reverse-sexist sidekick—Robin. Or America’s Biggest Loser, Republican Version? Deal or No Deal, starring Henry Paulson. Wall Street Poker so we can have a glimpse of the way these guys actually operate. Or Exposed—that MTV show, with the investment bankers hooked up to the lie detectors. Judge Judy— Wall Street Version. That one will have to run 24/7. Stupid Politician Tricks...The Simpsons—starring OJ...and for the women, The Witches of East Hampton featuring the bitch-wife of the Wall Street criminal who sits on my board, the one who presses a little remote in the shape of a cellphone and texts her husband his lines. Sitting next to her last night was like plastic surgery without anesthesia.

Not to mention actual Law and Order which could hypothetically round up these financial criminals and recupe the money they stole in excessive bonuses and spending. Unlock their offshore bank accounts and liquidate vacation homes. Donate. I’ll bet we could find a good part of that $700 billion right here in Manhattan. I want to know why you don't see the Bear Stearns CEOs begging for change? They are still in those oversized apartments in my co-op, leaking onto others' ceilings, finding clever ways to fleece their neighbors and fast-track maintenance contributions into pretentious funds and projects while they line their own accountable pockets. Are there no mirrors? No shadows? These guys need to be held down and have a soul sewn onto their body. And pay the price. Ad nauseam.

TV or no TV, it all comes down to justice. At least some of the honest disgusted shareholders in my building raised their fists last night. Come on, Democrats….these financial wizards are running the American co-op into the ground. They are using your sweat and blood to pay for their luxury vacations and golf club memberships. And they are criminals. We need a Kansas-style tornado to lift the house of Democracy up and drop it on the Wicked Witch of economic corruption. It’s our money; don’t fall for another trick. And don’t wait too long and watch too much fantasy TV or you’ll find Maverick Mickey C behind the curtain at the controls of the Great and Terrible US of A.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Seeing the Last Candidate Standing

I drove upstate to visit my son who is finally at college… to verify that he wasn’t actually calling from downtown Manhattan while he described American Politics seminars and the shockingly cold mornings in the upstate boondocks where he is enrolled.

$200 worth of overpriced gas later, I found he was there. And mentioned in passing that 9 of 20 students in American Politics 42 days from the Election had no idea who Joe Biden was. To be fair, only 6 knew who Todd Palin was. All of them knew John McCain, all of them had seen Jackass the Movie, knew how to pronounce Mariah Carey and Naz. Some of this is just general teenage symptomatic culture syndrome.

But outside the college town, I felt like I was in Middle America. McDonalds, Burger Kings, Shopping Malls, white people. Bad movies in the theatres, no ethnic food besides the Taco Plate at Friendly’s. Maybe I stayed too near the highway, but not much tempted me. McCain signs on too many houses. Mullets. The air was fresh and clean, but the smell was distinctly a little Republican. Americans by default. Ethnicity seemed to make these people nervous. Even imported beer.

And something about these people depressed me. True, they seemed to have roots. They seemed fairly unmoved by scandals on Wall Street and except for prices at the pumps, they didn’t seem too riled up by a movement for change. But they seemed ‘stuck’. Resigned. Not unhappy, not happy. Generally not too bothered about much except the Buffalo Bills. A little overweight, slow-moving, no one jogging or even walking except to and from their vehicle.

At a Freshman parents’ meeting the various school administrators advised us to cut parental umbilical cords…to leave the messy rooms alone, let our kids make mistakes. I know my son. I know he, like most Americans, consumes mass media like too much candy. I also know I have raised him to be able to see who the best players are, and that these people don’t always win on reality shows. There are alliances, conspiracies. And even Brett Favre didn’t win the Superbowl. I am not an enabler or a manipulator of media. I am all for clarity.

So I cleaned his room. He and his nice roommate from a tiny rural town in Pennsylvania. I separated piles of clean and dirty clothes, the garbage and papers, the discarded Gatorade bottles, old food, wrappers…wadded up paper, used Kleenex, dirt. I threw out 3 loads of trash and recycled containers. I swept and discarded. So he could see. We found a wallet. We found a paper he’d written and lost. We found keys. Sometimes it’s necessary to let a little water out so you can find the drowning baby.

A message to all the media: equal time for candidates? For the first time I side with Oprah. She gets that some Americans need a clean room in order to see. Is it fair that the CEO of AIG gets 7 million dollars for tanking a company and bilking millions of people? Is it his fault? I don’t see these CEOs cleaning up. I don’t feel sorry for a single one of them. Nor for many of the employees who collected annually more money than the average whole rural American family will earn in a lifetime. Too many of these Wall Street boys pretended to be teenagers, hid under the piles of garbage and pocketed the cash. The people in small towns are both seeing and not seeing this. They are maybe watching but not seeing much about the Republicans except Sarah Palin’s super-organized hockey-Mom façade and John McCain’s Protect-Your-Family blather like an ad for a massive burglar alarm. They like hockey. They like guns. Their sons get drafted when they finish football season.

Most of all, we need a way to find the Best Candidate Standing. To make sure that this is not a reality show standoff and to make sure the 90% of Americans who need help cleaning the room in their brain are able to see through the constant media garbage dump and can find their wallets and the keys to their house and their sense of what’s right. Of what’s true. This has become tougher than cracking the da Vinci code. Or simply cleaning a room, or the massive mess of Wall Street which has caused nearly as many casualties as our 9/11. And the sick after-effects. Some of these after-effects are imbedded in the Republican platform.

We might not be able to clean our own rooms, or our own homes, or our own psychological mess, but we need to clean the media air enough to see what is real. Not easy. We have the feminist issue to muck up the mix further. This is a trick. The promise you get on your computer screen so you click and let the virus in. Come on America. You’re smarter than you know. You understand the complicated rules of football. The Last Candidate standing. Help clear the crap so we can let the tall man win this time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

HD VP

Post-hiatus… Post DNC and RNC. By very select popular demand and against the cautionary advice of a well-respected Manhattan Psychiatrist’s warning that this kind of scripted writerless babble is not only useless and unhealthy but demeaning.

I will not condescend to allow Sarah Palin center stage. I have read Eve Ensler and listened to Joy Behar rant on CNN about our pin-up-ready VP candidate. Don John and Pretty Betty. Okay—Obama is a little slick and affectedly comfortable, and how can a man with hair transplants and a terrible mouth renovation be second in command? Simply, there is the terrifying and wrong choice, and the reasonably intelligent one.

I have sworn not to be political. A little pathetic that half the male voters in America will not be political and will have pictured the Republican VP candidate in Victoria’s Secret catalogue-wear. Convenient to resemble Tina Fey whom the under-educated TV-addicted public confuse with one of her SNL characters. She, at least, can write and is smart. In an age of ear-microphones and remote prompting, who knows where the Sarah Palin version of mind is at? And that of John McCain, the bobble-headed GI Joe Grandpa-doll who chose to package himself with the dollest possible running mate. Chemistry? Somehow I can’t really imagine John McCain having ‘chemistry’ with a male partner. Next to whom his limited intelligence would have set off alarms-like a grenade at JFK.

What-ever. Miss perfect marriage/great body/not-a-strand out of place. I’d like to know who colors her hair. And what exactly is her prescription and whether she removes these glasses for sex and what position she prefers and why she’s so fetus-friendly but shoots animal mothers. I’d like to ask her what she thinks about that girl on 99th Street who was raped at the age of 11 in the 4th grade and has an IQ of 50 and cut the feet off her doll because its shoes got dirty. I’d like to have her spend a few weeks in East Harlem in a one-bedroom with 5 kids without the $60 per diem and a school where the average reading level in 6th grade is NOT.

Let’s face it… would this woman be newsworthy if she was ugly? Of course not. The religion of default in the good old US, sad as it is, is the culture of face. Not the Japanese kind, but the top-model variety. The fact that celebrity image has so far exceeded substance that one must create a magazine icon in order to penetrate American households without books and brains but plenty of large-screen TVs and ipods. Obama… we all agree, in addition to having a brain and the ability to speak without an ear-prompt, has celebrity points. His wife came off as beautiful. Mrs. McCain, we must allow, doesn’t detract from her husband’s TV presence. And he is rarely on camera without the Barbie factor. After all, America loved the Stepford Wives.. .weren’t there like 3 follow-ups? Isn’t Desperate Housewives just the 21st Century version?

I’d actually like to offer Sarah Palin a role on Desperate Housewives… maybe just a cameo… as a Gynecologist… or a Pole Dancer. To shake America out of this fantasy they all have of McCain as a short James Bond and the Alaskan babe as his sexy smart consort. Or the Terminator fantasy. Ask any average American to free-associate the name Sarah… first thing is the Sarah Connor thing. But the Sarah I am thinking about is the wife of Abraham…the one who bore him children late in life. The one who didn’t run for office as the babe-candidate months after giving birth to a Down’s Syndrome baby who in any normal family would require extra maternal care and patience that might possibly impinge upon the lengthy Jessica-Simpson hair-styling and make-up application time.

Come on, America…is the 2009 coming of HD to every home anticipated with more excitement than the reality that we are confusing Pretty Betty and Desperate Veteran with leadership and American Ingenuity? In the theatre of Politics and elections, there are no balconies. Let’s get real and leave this woman where she belongs—in a magazine spread, on an NRA fashion-show runway—defused, overdressed, returned to sender, being booed at a Moose Rights Convention. After all, she is a self-confessed Hockey Mom. Let her eat reindeer meat and nurse her baby and pay for White Alaskan Christmas cards out of the state pocketbook.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hard Drive

My old computer gave me a little technological warning today… a massive system error and absolute refusal to start. After a few Hail Marys and Nam Myohos, it de-crashed and came back— a resurrection, a small miracle. Reminded me of mortality, of my need to back up the hard drive, make a will, call old friends.

Another guitar player I knew died Friday. This one a massive talent, maybe over-appreciated by some, undervalued by others. News travels quickly; ditto the rumors and the gossip-mongers. He had a small bout with cancer, but the wording of his death-notice left room to assume his old demons had surfaced and played a part in the mix. In a way this is as it should be… we all return to our ‘roots’ at the end, like a dog going off into the woods when it picks up its own scent.

But typical of the pettiness of some musicians… they all get sort of possessive of their memory. Everyone wants to perform at the benefit, everyone wants to claim their musical relic, their little piece. Like those endless Ovation channel documentaries: once the rockstar is dead, the legends begin. No one is there to tell it as it was, and half the time they were too fucked up for accurate recall, so unless a camera was rolling, there is no damage control.

As my past recedes, I can’t always distinguish between friends and ex-lovers either, no offense to those involved…but this guy… well, there was a month or two way back where I sat up with him, when he was trying to stay clean. We’d do laundry (a kind of metaphor)…watch Star Trek and Dick Van Dyke reruns in those innocent pre-cable nights… lie around and talk and laugh, talk and cry. Nothing musical.

So my own possessive claim to memory would like to sucker-punch some of the nasty bloggers who retro-diagnose and wag fingers. They weren’t fit to be on a stage with the guy who was generous and huge-spirited and hungry and maybe had a massive musical heart that many nights kept a lot of people up trying to plug its holes with music, love, pipes and whatever got him through. He bled for us all. Listen to his music. It’s the tip of the iceberg he was. Even when it sucks, it has soul and intelligence and a little genius which blurred color-lines and a sense of humor and maybe never took itself seriously enough, or the guy wouldn’t have made it to 52.

One thing I begin to realize: it’s the pure version of serious talent that kills. You have to dilute it with all that other stuff— politics, roadgigs, other people’s material— life, parties, hangovers and bad choices. Otherwise you’d be dead at 27. No starting back up in safe mode.

I salute you, HB. Rock on. Kiss the sky.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trash Angels

Tuesday nights are the pick of the week for scavengers in my hood. Trash collection night. Townhoused streets are for a few rich hours lined with appliances, furniture, computers, TVs.. most of them not only usable but saleable for those who survive on the proceeds of their sidewalk stores. Sometimes you get libraries… because the new-age interior designers advise their clients to minimalize clutter. Clutter makes you look poor. Dated. Over is the day of glass menageries and china cabinets. These things are now hidden. Television screens are set into walls, lighting recessed, storage built-in to maximize the greatest symbol of status on Manhattan— space.

Ask any agent: really nothing presents as well as an empty loft, fitted only with finely sanded floors, stainless steel built-ins and polished glass. For the right to occupy a few thousand square feet of what is technically air-space, the rich and famous are bidding without reserve. A place to display their massive curious paintings, a place in which to entertain, to parade their fashion-forward suits for friends, to serve expensive wine, perhaps allow their children and expensive pets to run like young colts. A place in which to dream… or not.

In my place, the blank screen is the ceiling. Even there, my clever son has managed to leave his prints in the form of ballmarks. This took work. Anyway, I don’t spend a lot of time on my back these days. And I’ve noticed my neighbors with the huge open spaces feel just as claustrophobic on weekends as I do.

My garbage consists of cereal boxes and cans. A few empty milk containers. I don’t get many packages these days and I haven’t had a delivery in years—not in the budget. I’ve reduced my life to a level of little waste because there’s not much excess consumption. We reuse metrocards. We keep books. I rarely even change guitar strings lately…seems useless and I like the sound of vintage brass…it’s round and predictable. I no longer trust brand new things. I’m careful about my garbage.

What fascinates me is the endless supply of trash.. not just from the poor, which is of course plentiful….look on any ghetto street on a Tuesday night--- Kentucky Fried tubs and takeout containers alone make it look like the sidewalk of a mall. This is the treasure of rats. Not that they discriminate. But in my hood, the rats don’t waste time with private trash… they know the best restaurants. They ignore the nutrition-poor magical volume from these rich people whose enormous spaces betray little sign of life. I think this is what really keeps the homeless in New York City. Like a free perpetual lotto ticket. Sidewalk change and dropped bills have become scarce with the near-universal use of debit-cards. Hence the coveted treasure-chests for these modern street pirates who rip into black bags with the eagerness of children at Christmas wrapping, especially on these warm nights when time can bring unpleasant reactions. And the generosity of these rich people… Apple G-4s, 19-inch Trinitrons—in near-perfect order…because there is always a thinner and flatter version—even for the bedroom, which used to have slightly lower standards. Now even these are magazine-ready. Clutterless.

Do they worry about their identities? Of course their brokers and advisors shred and protect their financial information with the burden of liability. Their doormen and house-servants, as well. But there is a certain insouciance about waste which betrays the true ‘security’ of the rich. Who really gives a shit? Their bathrooms safely flush away anything truly embarrassing, their mistresses and assistants are hopefully paid to be silent about lumps and bumps. Things, however... are a nuisance...and dispensable. Plenty of money to buy new and better… Besides the massive space they occupy, their possessions and appliances are assuming more and more the preferred silhouette of the rich— powerful and thin.

So what fuels this… their insatiable secret consumption? Shopping bulimia? Multi-subscriptions of magazines which could burn and heat a large tenement for a week— and of course the auction catalogues which could fill a small library within months. And gifts, endless gifts—from benefits—thank-you presents, party favors, birthdays…. So many unopened because, really—it would be humiliating to be caught actually returning things. Or using them. It is of course politically correct to give clothing to Housing Works and other thrift shops. And the tax deduction is useful. But there again, one might be judged by one’s donations… so these must be only top quality. Things you actually bought--at retail. It would be-- well, petty-- to receive a deduction from something which was already a deduction...wouldn't it? Some of these people have husbands in public work; their every move is scrutinized. Private discretion is imperative. This of course includes what we discard.

So for us, so many ‘finds’ in the trash. I often eye these busy burrowing guys with a bit of envy. A Henry James novel calls out to me. A set of bentwood chairs —near-perfect. A vacuum. Clean. Expensive. Some things I cannot do, like annoy the local homeless by competing. They know me by my clothing, they know not to ask —that occasionally I give, and they see me carrying my bags of cheap generic groceries after midnight. They let me pass. They silently despise me.

Still, I like to walk, these steamy nights, among the trash-lined posh streets and scan the garbage, interpolate about the inhabitants of the summer-vacant houses that are still managing to produce, produce…like accrued interest. I think of the garbage as a sort of halo of their lives… a shining…something that remains, like a light from some kind of event that might have mattered. A token of unintended charity, maybe the only real charity in their lives, which resonates. So do not raise an eyebrow if a pungent fellow on a park bench is sporting a Rolex. In these days when some of us are struggling to afford eggs, there are slightly-used ipods for those who can disguise their pride on Tuesday nights. As for me, I’ll listen to my old cds, convince myself I pick up dimes and scorned pennies for luck, and fear the day dollar bills are likewise no longer worth retrieving.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hip-hop-cracy

Now that there’s a palpable chance we’ll have a dark-skinned president, apparently CNN is about to present a special on Being Black in America. Something on which I can’t claim personal expertise except by proximity in bands, on the road, in bed, by marriage. And hell, some anthropologists have been claiming we all have a little mixed blood. I’m certainly the family black sheep and anyway, I have a constitutional right to speak out.

We all get the fact that black people are dominating culturally since the 1990’s. Sports— besides skiing and tennis— have long been their domain. The empire of Hip Hop has now eclipsed any musical corporate success for what has been a contemporary dynasty-age. As in the 60’s…fashion, style, comedy— TV, film-- go right along. Every white kid in Manhattan goes through at least a phase of wearing the clothes, blasting the music, adopting the body language and ‘talking the talk’. Even Madonna had to have an NBA notch in her goddess-belt.

And it’s not like color tells the story. Imagine a documentary on being ‘white’ in America… this includes the immigrant children of more nations, more cultures than satellite channels. I hosted some reggae musicians in my home in the late 1970’s in Manhattan. Rockstars. But restaurants refused to serve us. Harlem restaurants. Indian restaurants. Cab drivers passed us by. Only in the 5th Ave. offices of the Geffens and Ertigans were they embraced, served fine wine and steak, although most of them were vegans. The kind of disrespect experienced by the geniuses of jazz—Thelonious, Bird… outside the safe realm of a café or venue… makes our blood boil.

Which brings me to my current gripe. Jay-Z. How this no-talent pretentious thug became the Emperor of Black just pisses me off. My son told me he went to Harvard. Not true— unless Wikipedia is lying. Okay. We all know the Hip Hop music industry used the Gordon Gekko model of corporate protocol. That the Gotti family shenanigans look ‘campy’ when compared to these guys. Not all of them, but most of them. They have done more for the degradation of women— don’t get me started. The gilding of American values… murder, fraud, slander, libel—broad-scale money-laundering-- the shutting-up of the small voice--- the replacement of actual music with computer-generated beats all stolen from real drummers. And words— just words—without art, without ear— misused and forced into rhythmic slots to entice young kids into memorizing bullshit. Then they flash their diamond-studded smile as they emerge from Hummers wearing 6-figured watches and suits to match. They claim to be giving to the community and then charge exorbitant money for their clothing-lines (except you, Marbury!) and concerts. Sure, they give to hurricane relief and Darfur. The equivalent of you or I giving a few bucks. Too busy shopping, acquiring, merging. At least Gordon Gekko had the brains to stay out of music. But these guys? They are the new sheikhs of America.

The biggest King of Bullshit is this Jay-Z. No rhythm, no poetry. Just power. He even threatened to retire… but of course this was just a ruse. My son also told me he owned the Nets. Correction: 4.5 million out of a purchase price of $300,000,000. I own a few shares of Starbucks, I retort. I am not claiming to own. Maybe he owns Beyonce. She seemed like a good girl. I’ve heard rumors they’re both gay. Whatever. She is his temporary Queen. Of the harem. Looks over the golden cesspool of his King Midas life. In fact to me, seems the whitest black man since O.J. Can't dance...no groove. About as much soul as Cher. And about as real as her latest face.

I own an HP computer. Because it was given to me. I get nervous when I see those commercials. Guilt by association. I try to hate the Nets. Thank God I only have to hate 1.5% of them. The thing with sports is… you can’t achieve stardom unless you’ve earned something, you’ve paid a zillion hours of dues and sweat and tears and the hardest work there is. But music? Apparently you can walk out on a stage with nothing but attitude and the approval stamp of Mr. Jay-Z and clean up. Even if you’re lip-synching. Even if you’re deaf. Or def.

When is America going to wake up and realize the biggest BS story of all is this Jay-Zero. Like the reverse of the American Dream. The Milli-Vanilli of capitalist success. King of Balls. As long as his little posse is surrounding him. Because onstage? He comes off like a rhythm-challenged wimp. The sound of his voice is annoying. What were you thinking, Charlie Rose? I give to PBS. Has everyone fallen into this diamond-studded color trap?

I guess what prompted my July wrath is a little tidbit I heard on the news: that he has now claimed ownership of a color. Accumulating several millions from the use of ‘Black’ wasn’t enough. We now have to pay him royalties for the use of ‘Jay-Z blue’. I have an old guitar in precisely that shade—custom. Well, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by and let him demand money for the use of lightwaves. In fact I think this is the biggest laugh of all. The bigger they come… don't get me started.

I wonder what Nelson Mandela thinks. The gigantic athletes of the past, whose rewards were like a drop in the bucket of these no-talent moguls. The countless runners in Africa who break records every day, who sing and play home-made instruments with finesse and grace and beauty… who struggle for food every day. Thelonious and Bird—all the nameless others-- if we could dig them up from their sad graves of tormented genius and under-rewarded lives. And not just the Bo Diddleys and John Lee Hookers… Muddy Waters and Robert Johnsons, Louis Armstrongs. I’ll even give a nod to Grandmaster Flash and some talented visionary rappers here. But I’m really talking about the ones who never made it to a stage. The ones who never will, because all the space is occupied by the gargantuan dark Satanic anti-genius shadow of Jay-Z. How many noble Black Americans are raped every day by the hideous obscene rewards for corporate-fueled musical mediocrity of the Roc-a- fella? I wonder if he pays royalties to the family of John D. and Nelson for this mockery. I am not laughing.

So if CNN gives you a nod in this documentary, shame on them. I despise everything about you and your BS fake larger-than life. Call me racist. I am not. This has nothing to do with your skin color. But the fact that you’ve used color, your bullshit ghetto-origin story to bilk your own people of all these millions and billions you use to build your pretentious empire of pompous empty Hummerdom. Give it back. Every undeserved diamond-studded penny. And especially the color blue which has been here for all universal time before it occurred to some asshole to put a name on it.

Crayola you, Mr. Jay-Zero.


.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Midsummer Pentimento

Teenage hell has me back at the Psych office which requires an early morning start, no sleep. Another UWS apartment-- museum posters on the wall, leather chairs, the kind-faced woman who listens while I weep like it’s Pavlovian….the therapist encouraging me to come, come…she is willing to accept my pittance for the magical challenge of unraveling why a talented person like myself is touring on a luxury unlimited monthly metro-card and traveling across town to celebrate dysfunctional high-school graduation alone in the rain with a $1.25 pretzel which are getting harder to find but worth the trip. This kind of thinking is keeping me in a sort of cage, she explains.

In the elevator down, a kind older woman comments on the Linden trees, obviously noticing my red eyes. They are in bloom— but her words-- from some old poem…resonate, provide comfort in a way the therapy will not. We walk a few blocks. She faces forward so I don’t feel self-conscious…remarks all over the city she sees weeping women every day. My favorite Picasso personification ever—in the Guernica, and out… the Weeping Woman…the one he may have glorified in his painting—as a symbol—but the one men hate in reality.

I acknowledge this woman, agree there are women crying everywhere, with the perfect faces. Reluctantly I leave her-- do not embrace her as I am inclined—do not ask her if she will take my $20 weekly and walk with me-- pretend to be my therapist, my angel, my mother. I need her.

On 79th and Broadway there is a guy with a cart—maybe Hispanic—clean, clean. $1.25 for hotdogs and pretzels. Beneath his khakis on this humid summer afternoon, the guy is lean and hard. His skin looks buffed, his smooth tattoos are approaching middle-aged blur. Facing his cart always with the line, because people in uniforms—the laboring kind—are willing to wait to save a few quarters…will tip the guy the way they never tip the 2-buck vendors. Plus he takes his time. He focuses. He has this routine— 8 shakes exactly of the dogs as he pulls them from the liquid—the perfect slice open, mustard back to front, ketchup same…five shakes of the sauerkraut. Then he asks if you’d like it wrapped…calls you honey—the fresh-mouthed black highschool girls, the John Does, the nurses and Filene’s employees. Doesn’t look you in the eye. His cart is immaculate. I get a pretzel, bagged with the same technique, the same care. I trust this guy. The food feels ritualized-- blessed.

On the bus home savoring my pretzel not just because it’s cheap, but it’s good… I remember last night on the 4 AM crosstown…3 women, like a Chekhovian mini-play—one showing me a yellow jacket she bought for $3, admiring my shoes, $10. The third woman removes one of hers, we name our favorite thriftshops, we laugh and tear up a little—we embrace. Brief sisters, the way my real ones never are these days. Open hearts, no malice. I’d have given my shoes to either of them. So this is my daily therapy— the weeping women of New York— the ones who don’t botox out their life, their sorrow, their joy. Random women on a bus who help me forget, for a moment, the ripping ache of teenage single-motherhood, the missing ex-husbands and estranged lovers, the unpublished manuscripts and unsung songs. Or maybe they help me remember.

Poised we are, midway through the midpoint of the year. Pivotal days that pass, tip the balance of the past into the future. If I got a tattoo it would be the weeping woman, crying tears that spell the name of my cruel son...a tattoo of the hot-dog guy, with the tattooed arms. But I won’t. I’ll spend the required $20 on another useless prescribed therapy session and hope to see the Linden tree lady in the elevator next week.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Smells like Mermaid Spirit

I am going to miss the Mermaid Parade tomorrow. In fact I’ll pass on every single parade this summer. The beach? Maybe I’ll do a few gigs out in Coney Island and smell the water, hear the surf as I arrive after dark. The midway is more my style…the sound of wooden balls knocking, air-rifles exploding, cheap carousel music, badly stuffed souvenirs of something that used to resonate of seediness. 42nd Street is a mall; Coney Island will soon be Trump Walk or something like Atlantic City. Small-time criminals will have to go back to muggings or move on. The nostalgia of boardwalk fear. Now we all know evil comes from the skies or the water supply, our bankers and politicians. We have to watch 70’s dvd re-releases to remember the innocence of neighborhood organized crime. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. He is busy texting Satan while bare-breasted girls are barely getting a look. Compared to his laptop this is nothing.

A few sad Christmasses ago, I dumped my boyfriend. Yeah, I could have waited. But if you do it on a holiday, it’s 50% more miserable. It was 10 degrees and I had to find Absolute Despair by New Year’s.

So a friend loaned me her house in a place called Point Lookout. Not the Hamptons, but not Asbury Park either …somewhere sort of middle class. Deserted. I made it out there on the last train to Long Beach, waited until dawn for a bus, arrived at an old wooden Victorian house—the only 3-story structure in town-- wearing my son’s discarded Gap flannels, an old football hoodie someone left in our laundry bag… with my guitar, ready to write my bleak anti-Yule anthem.

Unfortunately it was so cold in the house my fingers were useless. I piled up all the blankets I could, made a bed in the kitchen, turned on the stove and propped myself against the refrigerator. I could hear the surf not pounding but moving, always moving. So desperate I felt, I couldn’t bear to look out. I alternated between vodka and hot instant coffee. Nothing came. Day 2…no sleep except a few brief nods before the stab of emptiness jolted and the Sears compressor turning on and off. I was starving. I wrapped myself in blankets, still in the stale hoodie and flannels, scuffed up to the main drag in unmatched fleece mules. Never have I seen a more deserted town in daylight. Boxing Day. One lone delicatessen, open 11-3. I made it in time for a coffee and a tuna sandwich to go. The old unshaven manager asking me wordlessly what the fuck I was doing there. I looked like a homeless woman. I felt like one. So I’m chowing down on the sandwich, black coffee 3 sugars, letting the cheap mayonnaise drip down my face, my hair ratted and uncombed…and in walks a guy called Killer Joe. Used to do security for rockstars…a guy with biceps like small sedans and the required Long Island ponytail with the receding hairline. Shit, I think. But I’m invisible. I keep on stuffing my face, getting into the dysfunctional beach hobo head, and he actually spins my soda-fountain stool around… sticks his huge well-cologned wind-burned face in mine, and says…’Heyyyyy….aren’t you…?’
‘No’, I snapped, like an overstretched rubber band…’She’s about 10 years younger. And she’s happy’.
He bought a pack of Marlboros and a black coffee/3 sugars and split.

I’ve seen him a few times since…at gigs, doing security—whatever…and he gives me the roofed left eyebrow thing.

Anyway, I went back to my shed. 'Into the Wild' wasn’t released then, or I would have had an image to commune with. For 3 days I contemplated my cold grave at the shore. I even found a jigsaw puzzle and started it on an old bridge table, but somehow I knew in this well-used summer place, there’d be as many pieces missing as days in the skewed sequence of my life. Needed the cliche, there. I thought about memorizing each one. I thought about the tides. I listened. To the water, the wind, the occasional car, the cold gulls, the dial tone. I explored suicide. Day 4 I looked. I went up on the roofdeck and looked out…looked toward Coney Island, toward downtown Manhattan where the towers once were. Things are never as cool as when they’re gone. I tried not to turn my failed romance into a 9/11 tower. I refused to dramatize. I was unable to write.

When I couldn’t stand my own smell I waited for the bus back. I’d lost track of days but felt the New Year closing in. People avoided my seat on the train. It was cool. I was an outcast. At Penn Station the city rushed in on me like the sea hadn’t. I stood for what seemed like hours in my own shower. I erased messages, accepted a last-minute gig for New Year’s. Heard my voice like a stranger.

When I think about the beach now, I remember Point Lookout. I remember I am terrified of water, especially at night. I feel like I could suffocate with loneliness. Drown. My chest tightens up and my nose twitches.

Tonight my neighbors are packing their SUVs with surfboards and sandtoys. I am dressed in black on the warm sidewalk safely at sundown, having a coffee. Not waving. I can see Killer Joe at the Mermaid Parade, smoke curling out of the side of his thin lip, a girl with Pamela Anderson boobs hanging on his sweaty tattooed arm. The soundtrack is John Lee Hooker. The Veejay Hooker. Smells of women and fried fish. I miss him with my Point Lookout Heart. It’s as close to the beach as I dare. Someone else will write the song, realize in some cheap world, mermaid rhymes with parade.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Human Cocktail

Sex in the City. This year’s Pretty Woman? But that was Cinderella… So what have we got? A glass slipper parallel, at the end, I'll concede...…but not even hunky fantasy/cheap romance sex and cheating like Unfaithful. Murder. What do we get with the girls’ film of the decade… a margarita and an umbrella? Cute little dildo and vibrator references? A little diarrhea. But here’s the thing.. .the fairy-tale stuff is all stirred around— like mud…too many myths, too many designers… too much food, too much crap… too many boring characters…if there were 5 girls and 6 weddings I’d be snoring. No bad girls. How about the real deal? Any film that takes its inspiration from television is not going to cut it, no matter how many 40-episode dvd box sets sell. It’s boring, it’s filtered, it’s fake, it’s a wilted bouquet and stale dollhouse cake.

And what is real? Eating disorders, credit card debt…girls who slice themselves, nailbiting? Bulimia? I wrote a novel about eating disorders and my agent said she felt like throwing up before the end of the first chapter. Come on… you can’t have a love story without puking. We’re all so over it. Maybe the agent would have preferred 300 pages of those pathetic SITC one-liners that made me look stealthily left and right to reassure myself someone else was rolling their eyes or snorting. The ones that made me want to disguise myself on the way out because even the popcorn was sickening and my date thought I had an attitude. I wanted to hear some antidote Sex Pistols. I couldn’t wait to get back to my messy flat with the guitars people actually play and the drilled-out bathroom.

The whole thing was like a cinematic Quaalude. I’m sick of saying botox. I’m sick of listening to my friends need a Xanax or a latte or some other antidepressant or syndrome. Lyme Disease. Chronic fatigue. Zoloft… Paxil. A little Dexedrine. Lovelier thoughts, Michael…isn’t that what Mary Martin said in the film of that decade, 50 years back? The one with flying and fairydust and Pirates and transsexuals? Not to mention songs.

I had to talk to my son’s Psych this morning.. yes he has one, just like a rich person, because he cuts school and doesn’t do homework. A Medicaid Psych who’s put him on ‘meds’, as they abbreviate it, like the ‘babe’ version of drugs. He talked to me for like 3 minutes and commented that I was 'all over the place'. Yes, I own that I’m an unfocused wreck compared to those Sex in the City Girls. I don’t wax and no straight man I've ever known was more interested in the presentation than the meal. Okay, I speak too fast and too much and I quickfire. But the guy actually suggests, after 3 minutes of phone dialogue….has anyone ever told you that you’re the genetic origin of your son’s ADHD? Have you considered Dexedrine? It would make you a more effective mother. I’m sure, I replied, I’d be anorexic and a quicker ironer. Actually, I don’t iron because I like creases and why should my shirt be less wrinkled than my face. What the hell, I mean, there should be some kind of allowable ratio there.. --Definitely ADHD, he remarks. Hostile, too.

So… to my various neuroses and failures and frustrations and the daily abuse I swallow from my son along with Fish oil and calcium so I won’t lose my mind and my skeleton simultaneously, let’s sprinkle in a little Dexedrine to my own Human Cocktail…shake, stir…whatever… just pour it on… and if I get a little shaky and decide to throw in a few Xanax or good old fashioned Valium, I might be able to sit through a screening of Sex in the City without squirming like an ADHD middle-aged woman with a non-medicated brain.

Tell me… does the massive popularity of SITC signify simply fashion-obsession or a new standard for women? Will transsexuals have to abandon their Cher and Judy Garland personae for Sarah Jessica Parker or Kim Catrell? Is there anything iconic or unique? But isn’t that the point? From the sublime to the well-dressed generic? A film, like that Ya Ya one, to celebrate sisterhood, but the New York City everywoman kind? An actual movie theatre experience which mimics..yes, television. Only one step removed.
And... if each of the characters were a cocktail… don’t get me started on this mindgame.

So, Dr. ADHD, here's my recipe: hold the Dexedrine and the vermouth and pass me a mouth-opener. Straight up. Chill and then drink until you puke, like on those other brilliant reality shows that are sure to become a full-length feature at some point in our dim Hollywood future.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

S-Mart

My Godfather occupies one of the oldest seats on the NYSE and for some reason everything he’s ever pronounced still resonates economically in my underpaid brain. One such remark was ‘the stupidity of the American people is beyond anything I could ever have predicted 60 years ago.’ This popped into my head as I accepted a promotional bottle on a corner, two days ago, from a shy-looking girl who was obviously embarrassed at having to accept the humiliating work of what is essentially reverse-panhandling.

So to help her out, I took it, and being more thirsty than stubborn, I drank. The words on the side were: Smart Water. Now I’ve seen this label before, but suddenly all those ‘misplaced modifier’ alerts came into my head along with my Godfather’s comment. So if Americans are stupid, how can water be smart? Phones are smart, bombs are smart, so I’ve heard… and the water somehow managed, despite my Norton anti-virus subscriptions and identity theft insurance, to not only enter my house but pass through my intimate organs. What am I thinking? Did it have something to do with the label? Of course not. But I’ll bet there are a few out there who think by drinking this particular brand, they’ll be improved. The same ones who buy the info-mercial stuff endlessly. When it comes down to it, is it any more absurd that some herbs can make your male organ larger or rubbing your face with some rotary vibrator can erase your wrinkles? Maybe the herbs on your face or the vibrator somewhere else could give you a few chill minutes and reverse the temporary scowl-lines.

Do they still make those Baby Einstein toys? Do people think that this stuff improves their kids' SAT scores? How come Princeton Review and all those other services are making nearly as much as a small investment bank? And how come there are like 4000 times as many autistic babies? Maybe all this Smart-labeling is making us stupid. Certainly paying for water is the 21st century version of the Emperor's New Clothes.

We know water can’t be smart. And if it doesn’t make you smart, maybe it’s the brand for smart people. Like the Everyman library, which pretty much publishes the classics, read primarily by the educated. Another contradiction. Or that whole Whatever-for-Dummies series which is published by smarties who have made a killing selling manuals which mostly sit on the nightstands of people who are too lazy to follow directions and certainly are not going to invest the 20 hours or so required to read these things.

How many people can actually distinguish between Poland Spring, Evian, and Smart Water? And where do these actually come from? Are there standards and regulations the water bottlers must comply with? I once saw a truck driver of Poland Spring gallon containers filling up the glass bottles at a roadside gas stand in Maine with the station hose. Same water they used to wash down the outhouse floor. ‘Where do you think it comes from, lady', he laughed when he noticed me watching. ‘It’s the same goddam spring that fills up your toilet!’

The inanity of paying for water is part of my crankiness. And although San Francisco has outlawed plastic bottles, New Yorkers seem to prefer the pretentious disposability of the designer-clear…not to mention the environmental undesirability and the deposit. I wonder if Midwesterners walk around with these bottles? Somehow I get a vision of coke and beer drinkers. Americans are consumers. Bottling and selling water was genius. But how about bottled air? Maybe I should discuss this with Starbucks who have managed to charge monthly fees for the use of a wireless signal which in most places in Manhattan is ubiquitous. Maybe not secure, but for any of us who think our computers are private, think again.

Getting back to Starbucks: how about that new coffee for Dummies? Pike Place? Tastes suspiciously like MacDonalds. Swill and cheap swill. But for those who take their coffee with foam and sugar and flavors, who cares? For me, $2.28 for a dumbed-down version of coffee is unacceptable. I’ll have a smart coffee with that water, please. Trust me, I could write the Starbucks for Dummies instruction booklet; this is not the way to improve stock prices. When Mercedes has a tough year they don’t start putting Honda parts in their product. For that matter, why not serve Christmas blend every day? It’s better than any other of their coffee and it consistently sells out? Why reserve it for December? That’s marketing for Dummies.

In England M&M’s are called Smarties. They’ve been making blue and purple ones for years. Here it took like half a century to figure out that mostly brown and a few yellow, green, orange and red just wasn’t cutting it. Did it cost more to produce colors? Were they afraid of alienating conservatives who maintained that anything chocolate should be a shade of brown? Was there any difference in taste between the pale and the dark brown? Of course not. But now look at the prime real estate they occupy in Times Square. They must be drinking Smart Water.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Jean-Michel Crude

I had a minor meltdown moment in a ghetto grocery store tonight which promised 2 dozen eggs for $3 and predictably had no stock. When you’re paying with food stamps, this is no tragedy. When you are counting your own end-of-the-week available change, the wasted trek-time takes a toll. A year ago, these undersized eggs were everywhere and cost 99 cents.

For those complaining about the price of gas, the price of eggs is maybe less crucial. At least they have cars, and don’t have the added humiliation of hoisting overstuffed grocery bags onto public buses where the better-dressed and overdrawn move aside as though the symptoms of poverty are contagious.

On the bus someone has left a newspaper which informs us that Hilary has loaned her own campaign 6.5 million dollars, as though this is something to cause shame. What is shameful is a) the obscene sums of money spent on the most high-profile marketing campaign every four years, b) the obscene sums of money spent marketing any and all American products which double and triple their cost to the consumer, and c) how any true grassroots candidate can compete with the fast-lane politically overdressed A-list whose very income and portfolios are a chasm over which 98 percent of voters must step on their way to the polls.

Also in this paper is the report on this week’s impressionist and modern art auctions which are not much more than ‘flat’ but are tarted up as ‘healthy’ despite our impotent dollar value. Armed with $10 worth of this week’s pasta special, I begin to transfer my egg-wrath to the couple who purchased 22 million dollars worth of oil paint and canvas, and how they can live with themselves when they could have treated 10,000 kids at St. Jude’s for like 30 years, or fed the entire African continent. I’ll bet they complain about the price of gas, too. I’ll bet they try to act like anyone else when they pull their whatever-gas-guzzler up to the pump, sipping one of their mandatory 8 bottled water servings. Does anyone else find it strange that people are whining about gas and paying 1-2 dollars a bottle several times a day which amounts to …what…16 to 20 dollars a gallon…for something that is…absolutely free? Not to mention the environmental damage done by the masses of plastic debris which rivals carbon emissions any day and even has been shown to be a fairly effective carcinogen.

But back to the art market. Who sets these prices anyway? Those bow-tied sycophantic well-groomed figures with the catalogues who walk the auction-house floors like maitre-d’s smelling out the monied and aesthetically challenged who cannot confess they barely know the difference between Monet and Manet? The ‘market’? The unbridled, unregulated and highly manipulated art ‘market’? The 'haves' who want to entice the have-nots and will-haves to up the anti and keep desperate pace with ever-grander walls which need to be graced and hung with treasures which guarantee the taste and vintage of the owner?

And who decides what is genuine and what isn’t? The ones who know real Gucci from Canal Street? What about all those paintings with the dicey provenance that fall into a shadowy grey? Like religion, it is a kind of belief system. The Warhol Foundation sacrifies any questionable unsigned Warhol. They crank them out, too…we all know that…long after Andy’s large and over-silkcreened heart stopped beating.

And Basquiat, my old friend, whose work a handful of disreputables could identify without hesitation….what about that committee which documents his work? How many of you out there used to party and drink and drug with Jean-Michel and who of you can remember what you did or who you did it with the night before? Especially when there was a whole bunch of you doing the stuff together. I had a Basquiat--okay, I sold it for near-nothing, but a price I considered at the time to be obscene. And it was real. I watched him paint it, I gave him $100 for it. A bass player got drunk and pissed on it that night...I'll authenticate it anytime. I sold it to pay for an apartment. Unfortunately now I could have bought a townhouse. Or another 'cleaner' Basquiat. Which may or may not be real.

The barrels of oil begin to make more sense. Andy might be serving crude at his parties. At least $123 a barrel gets you something real, something which will power your truck or car or airplane as opposed to 3 million gallons worth you spend on that questionable painting of some mediocre camouflage which isn’t even signed but stamped by a foundation which stands to profit hugely by its sale? Makes the Campbell soupcans look ever more innocent.

And if our economy is ‘fueled’ by Wall Street, why can’t they figure out a way to make our cars go without making Dick Cheney and the Bush family and the Saudi Arabian bank accounts grow more obese every day? Looking at New York City during art week, those barrels of oil look damn cheap compared with all that art. Which in a dire energy crisis would heat your house for about 10 minutes.

How about that Elizabeth Peyton? Did she ever even meet Kurt Cobain? Sleep with him? I seriously doubt it, because that angelic portrait with the red lips looks more like Buster Brown. I’m not bragging, but I met him twice and both times he was stressed out and wrecked and had a wicked stomach ache. Somebody help me here. And while I’m on the unmitigated subject of contemporary art, does anybody remember that the Emperor in the fairy tale was Chinese?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Please don't feed the balloon animals!

Dear Google,

Okay, I admit. I’ve always hated your name. Like Goofy and Giggly and Oogly all at once. When you need some information you have to find yourself mentally summoning a cartoon character. And that logo—more suited for a pitstop in Candyland than a search engine. I don’t like screensavers and emoticons. Okay, I admit some cyber-addicts need to be reminded about Mother’s Day or Easter so they can send an i-card. But the new ‘accessories’ on the page? It looks like a frigging iphone. What the hell is iGoogle anyway?

Please. Don’t answer. That was a rhetorical question, not a search.

But today…I lost an invitation…needed an address….and what comes up? Tulips? Is it some new calendar-calculation of Spring? Dutch Easter? I look closer…my cursor lingers for a second. Oh my God. It’s that Jeff Koons--- the Cat-in-the-Hat bathtub ring we can’t seem to shake especially during Artweek. Like the stench of plastic sewage. And underneath? The words ‘what happens when great art mixes with your homepage’? Aaaaarrrrrggghhh. A cry of anti-aesthetic pain. When great art mixes with my homepage I open to the Metropolitan Museum. But oh Jesus, oh Andy, oh God of truth and art…here, too, the venerated institution of class and culture.. has been crowned with the hideous clown-laureate of Koons. And on their webpage…they actually describe the stuff as ‘meticulously crafted’. By whom? By a factory? Like a wedding cake? They are not even edible, which would at least make some statement about the obscenely distorted worldwide food supply. Which would explain the revolting bloated shapes. Oh my museum…has the world come to this…the ultimate sellout.

Wall Street is policed by their own. The art world, unfortunately, has sunk as well into a pit of Koons. Even Damian Hirst’s boring little pill paintings did not inspire the kind of disgust that everything Koons produces. Where is the Pope when we need him? Where is the gigantic scooper which will pick up this crap and toss it from the roof into the recycling bin where perhaps we could find some future use for this waste of material and machinery. But ‘meticulously crafted’? The institution which displays Rembrandt and Seurat and exquisitely decorated Greek vases? This monstrosity of hideous blimp? Maybe Google is under pressure to sell out, to please their shareholders, to subsidize, advertise and brainwash every user/sucker who relies on their almost suspiciously overefficient monopolizing system. But the Metropolitan? What Board Member/Trustee/Hedge Fund CEO owns multi-stock in Koons? Because now these bastards are taking control of my personal screen.

The Metropolitan Museum roof was one of my sacred places. A view which gives you perspective, where you can take in the city behind a buffer of green—where the sunsets become memory, where on the way to and from you must pass through halls of historic and beautiful objects which predate New York City by centuries, millennia. Where works of art are not necessary because the architecture and cornices are breathtaking against the treeline and the sky. But now we have New York Poop-disneyworld. Not anything classy or trashy as the old Pop Shop. Not even the Oldenburgs and Lichtensteins which tried our concept of ‘taste’. But flat-out monuments to the hot-air filled world of Hedge Fund-fueled Jeff Koons art.

Does anyone know that Jeff Koons hasn’t paid his child-support like ever? That his wife ran off to Rome because the possibility of her son being raised by the likes of JK was worth exile. I salute you, wherever you are, you and young Ludwig. Stay away from this city so desperate to attract tourists they’ll be covering Museum walls with M&Ms. That’s right, they might even call it a Damian Hirst. He seems to have run out of ideas, too. And remember those pathetic balloon-sculpting clowns you could hire for $20 to entertain at your el-cheapo McDonald’s party? They should sue for copyright infringement. Back to the toilet, Jeff Koons. Underneath your fake tan and lasered old face there is a balloon man just waiting to explode. And that’s the good part. As for Google? Try Koons and S—T and press search. Or better yet, just flush.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bless the Children

Ah, April. The dogwoods and cherry trees are in bloom; winds are minimal, air is clear, first real T-shirt day; sunset is archivally perfect, moon is near-full; in New York City this is as good as it gets. Taxes are filed, Wall Street closed on an up-day, Jews are getting ready to think about their history, ask the four questions, cut back on bagels and pasta. Foreclosures are not on the minds of the young families with the $600 strollers in Central Park today. We read earlier in the week about the Hedge Fund masterminds still collecting their billion-dollar paychecks, not worrying about the price of facials, spas, spring-break airfare.

A friend of mine—a psychiatrist, called me with a story. He’s being paid to tour state-run nursing homes. Not the nicer-ones in uptown Manhattan, but the ones in the Southeast Bronx, in the neighborhoods we only read about as backdrop to crime statistics. The neighborhoods where foreclosures are irrelevant. No one here is buying a house or an apartment. They are figuring out a way to get through the weekend.

Despite the population density of New York City and the fact that most of us have rarely if ever seen a truly deserted Manhattan street even at 4 AM, here in early evening some of the streets are near-empty. Buildings are low and burned out and windows are boarded up. Warehouses alternate with residences. Asphalt, concrete, refuse bins line the sidewalks. Meters are damaged and ignored. Some of the parked cars have been here for weeks. They don’t even run. Some are stripped, damaged; gasoline has been siphoned out. Gangs meet in these warehouses, just one block from one of those newly-designated department-store-type high-schools that no one can tell me the name of.

Anyway, for three months the psych has been assigned to report undercover on the state of this residential facility. What he finds? Forget the tragic nursing home tales of abuse, neglect-- the unsanitary, the inhumane, the disempowered voiceless strapped to their cage of a bed like animals in a pound. This is status quo, minus the few and sparsely sprinkled angels who care tenderly and relentlessly for aged infants until death removes their chart from the active files.

But the true horror? There are young people in these nursing homes. Twenty-somethings who have somehow fallen through the system cracks—who have exceeded the age of pediatric benefits and sympathy and are non-functioning— the disabled, the morbidly obese, unable to rise from their beds. Being kept, tended like sheep--- nourished just enough to keep their vitals going—a task of maintenance.

Reading through the charts of these lost children, he finds—in every single young patient—a case-history not just of neglect, of abandonment—but of abuse—sexual, physical, emotional, psychological. Children burned with cigarettes, forced to submit to sex-acts with not just strangers but relatives—neighbors—sometimes to provide money for their parents’ drug-habits—able to cope in no other way than to isolate, feed themselves…twinkie after cupcake, bag after bag of chips, doughnuts, fries--until they are too big to move, too big to sit up. They’re taken in by Pediatrics at city hospitals, turned over at 18 to these nursing homes where they vegetate—diabetic, cardiac-diseased, damaged children.

I met a woman at my gym who campaigns for adorable dogs in shelters abandoned by their owners, victims of foreclosures, too…or just puppies who grew into dogs whose needs were no longer cute and manageable. Huskies, pitbull mixes. Rich people send money, feel sorry for animals, but no one is adopting the nursing-home residents. They are the flip-side of the Dorian Gray portrait that is New York—the city of Fashion Week, Art Week, nightclubs and society events. Endless benefits for the young-of-face and the slim-and-trim well-dressed, while the hidden portrait of the poor and neglected grows more hideous by the day: child-murders, incest, incinerated infants and the clinically obese survivors of horror — like undecorated veterans in a welfare cage.

I hope the Pope prays for these children. I hope he sees beyond the marble and limestone face of Fifth Avenue and the beauty of St. Patrick’s into the eyes of the portrait of the miserable and helpless. Here in the 21st Century, in fabulous New York City. Remember the children.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mondo Manga

So the word is out. The Bear Stearns fixed income managers—the ones that really cooked the books--- are now at J.P. Morgan. I hope old J.P. has plenty of legroom in his coffin because he’ll be spinning like a top. But I suppose the sunken BS ship is in such a mess that only the 3-card-Monty masters can re-construct their burned bridges. Creative arson is the only way to cover your tracks sometimes.

And if you want to find true love in this century, you must have a reality show. My neighbor’s 15-year old daughter-- honor roll, debating champion— is a fan of the Bret Michaels girl-circus. It is hard to imagine how far one must travel to find such a variety of female specimen missing an essential part of their brain. Also, in a show on which the ever-sincere and oh-so-talentless Poison singer claims to be looking for love, the biggest bunch of reality-show rejects and brainless boob-heads should have at least gone through that MTV liar show screening. Not a single one would have made the first cut. But does Bret care that they misrepresent their age, possible marital status, even sexual preference? One of them was recently having sex with the other most repulsive member of his band and an obvious rival. But she definitely has the biggest boobs, so all is forgiven. Even if they are as fake as her collagen-enhanced lips. Apparently rock of love can be a fake painted pet-rock. And there’s always season 3. Apparently America likes liars and fakes.

Which brings me to the art market and our big spring Brooklyn Museum Murikami extravaganza, complete with factory-produced paintings called ‘a la Warhol’. Poor old Andy. Not only has the art world missed the point, but there IS no point. At least Andy’s subject matter was satire—the symbols of our culture—the pop icons, the advertisements, the deification of the mundane. Now it is the cartooning of the cartoon. A store of hideous hijacked designer accessories. Marc Jacobs, you certainly have sold out from the rockin' boy-designer I met way back. And there is a whole Sistine-Chapel-style staff of artisans to blow up the already blown. Balloon creatures and dolls. What next? The new World Trade Center made of lego? Edible Tiffany? Blow-up dolls standing in for Starbucks girls, giving out your money at bank windows? Naked-geisha holograms giving you a lap dance at Teriyaki Boy? When will it end?

I’m having a sugar rush just browsing the Arts section of the NY Times. Is there anyone who is jonesing for good-old-reality? Is there any funk left in New York City? Any square block that hasn’t been face-lifted, whitewashed, commercialized, graffiti-proofed? Help! Andy!

And on the homefront, in my 21st-century version of a Manhattan home, the Bear Stearns bandits have pulled a Bush-style Florida election stunt and gained a majority of my co-op board. Which means they will bankrupt the building until it is ripe for a corporate takeover and conversion into a mini-mall. They have already engineered a forged lawsuit which will compel all honest tenants to pay these overpaid crooked managers’ maintenance for 10 years with 2/3 of our paycheck. Just in case they were going to have to live on last years’ bonus for a while, which is no longer likely. While they had a bit of a small scare, they needed to practice mergers and takeovers on their poor neighbors. They have grown bold, these mama's boys whose greatest challenge has been a college application, Lamaze class before epidurals, and keeping a tough face during Botox injections. Not even a rap on the palm with a stick for what used to warrant a jail sentence. Are you listening, Martha and Sam? And for those of us who can’t afford to move from their home-castle, life is miserable, services are withheld, democracy is miscarried while the corrupt little junta sings and dances and smokes cigars. For those of us who yearn to move, they will reject every buyer until they can take over our cherished homes for half value, just the way they bilked all those American suckers into over-ambitious home-buying. Bigger mortgages, bigger commissions. Isn’t corporate crime fun? They haven’t even missed a paycheck. And they've sued their neighbors for a huge payoff. Clever little emperors.

Where is Eliot Spitzer when we need him? He’s had his vital parts tied…another huge trap he fell into, which stinks to me like corporate behind-the-scenes hocus-pocus in a big way. The biggest stinkers are always the best finger-pointers. Eliot had a big finger, but tiny hands compared to these money managers.

Is there justice? Is there a hell? A real prison? Is there no master of ceremonies to ask ‘Will the real criminals stand up, please, so the rest of us can go back to our homes and go on with the business of rebuilding America, purging the stench of corporate greed, and creating something with our hands and brains?’ Unfortunately the parade-route of the fat naked emperors is lined with worthless flat copies of cartoon characters and devoid of mirrors.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Bear Stearns Crash Diet

So whatever happened to American justice? Are rich people just worth more, the way the heavier populated states have more delegates? What if delegates were allotted according to the proportion of money generated by each state? Hmmm…..

Seems to me the punishment should somehow fit the crime, that being caught selling a joint to your friend for $2 shouldn’t be equated with selling several thousand kilos via a network. Magnitude. Restoration. Seems to me these Bear Stearns bastards should have to pay, maybe do some prison time, be fined and stripped of their goods in direct proportion to the damage they caused. What kind of example is the Fed setting here? Or is this deal, as Rogers commented, ‘welfare for the rich’? How is it that hundreds of employees have lost their jobs, while the true criminal minds have been airlifted to safety?

My teenage son has been guilty of much rule-breaking at school, has not taken seriously the onus of detention, the threat of suspension. But at the same time, the principal at his high-profile school does not want a negative statistic on her record. He knows this, and continues to cross the line, whereas at the high-school across the river, poor kids are tossed for less than this.

Another parable: the overweight kid who, for his own health, must be forced or encouraged to exercise. But he refuses. So, his overpaid nanny bribes him with a cookie. He does a few jumps and hops, returns to the bench. Another cookie. Ups the ante. Until the whole box—every day— just to get him on his feet. By the third month, no way is he giving up the cookie habit. He’s fatter and fatter…blood sugar rising. Doctor orders ‘cold turkey’. But now, the cookie company will see a downturn in daily sales. So do we secretly cut a deal? What now?

Fat people do not like to have their plate taken away. Alcoholics do not like it when the bartender pours coke in their shotglass. And investment bankers are not willing to give up their excessive cookie money, no matter how many employees and American communities they must ruin to keep their bellies padded.

Have any of you seen this film ’Body of War’? The defense department, Dick Cheney, George Bush and John McCain should be strapped into a straightback unpadded chair and forced to screen this repeatedly. For that matter, now that Prince Harry’s been shipped home, how many boys in these wars gave up seven –figure incomes for the privilege of fighting? How many Bear Stearns sons are fighting in uniform? Why doesn't the Fed show them the money?

A protest was held in the Bear Stearns lobby yesterday. A journalist friend of mine described the demonstrators as ‘poor people’. This pissed me off. I think these Bear Stearns guys should be lined up and made to put their money in a pot. All of it. Then their lines of credit, their stock and gold shares, their overpriced condos. They can’t give back the holidays in the Caribbean, the private school tuition, their wives’ plastic surgery expenses. But they should be held responsible to the extent they profited from their bad behaviour. That word again. Accountability. These guys don’t like giving up their million-cookie ration. Instead they like pointing their finger at Eliot Spitzer and tormenting the tenants of my building and taking advantage of the rules and then burdening us with lawsuits so their kids can have more cookies than all the kids in China and Africa put together, in 10 lifetimes.

At least in the UK the judge shamed Heather Mills for her greed and gall. And Paul McCartney didn’t wheel and deal and steal for his billions. He made something. These bankers make nothing. They borrow and lend and squeeze and then legislate and manipulate, eat all the cookies and sit on the bench with the Feds. They con the rest of us out of our own and refuse to give them back.

I smell the smell of American sewage. I smell the smell of BS. This is a rotten state of affairs. The only hotseats here this month are those of our former and current governor whose middle-aged sex lives seem to sell more papers than the biggest scam of the year.
These guys have made off with all the cookies. And in case the cookie-makers are bankrupted, the Fed and JP Morgan will make sure they have plenty of cake. Brownies.

Want to know where to find the money to quell the housing crisis? From the bastards that caused it in the first place. Let’s play the film in reverse and make them give back all the commissions. But first to the wounded vets and their families. Then to the wounded middle class. And just to show them how justice works? Let the Bear Stearns executives earn minimum wage while they clean up the mess. I’ll sleep better. And while they’re figuring out how to pay for the family’s pizza and coke on an average American salary, they might remember how to do real math.