My Goal This Summer
After reading all about my new hero, Robert Fulton, I’ve decided that I have a new sartorial goal this summer. To wit, I wish to:
- Find and purchase a new, top-quality pith helmet.
- Find a location/setting/event where I can wear the pith helmet. This event must be such that the pith helmet must not look out of place. In fact, I’d be really happy if I could find a place where I’d look funny if I weren’t wearing the pith helmet.
are welcome. First of all, where does one find pith helmets? The East side somewhere, I bet. And where do potty expatriates hang out? Lepidoptery meetings? Gatherings of the Hash House Harriers
Ad Aspera, Per Astra
Yesterday was a bee-oo-tiful day in Manhattan, and I sent an evite out to lots of people to go have dinner outdoors somewhere. Noone could go except my friend Jovan, who’s a hair and makeup artist with a small poodle named Mac that she carries around in a tote bag. Jovan showed up in full fashion-victim mode, with new Gucci sandals that were cutting her feet to ribbons.
In a reverse of Spring’s upward budding process, we hobbled from the roof patio of the Metro hotel (on the left), which has an incredible view of the Empire State building, to a tiny sake bar buried three stories underground (on the right.) The sake comes in a box; you take a pinch of salt from a dish and place it on the corner of the box before taking a sip. The salt is three bucks.
God’s in His heaven, and all’s right with the world (except for dogs)
I just got back from a fantastic weekend. I totally blew off Small Arms Firing School and rented a red Ford Taurus instead, went down to Philly, picked up Kate on a moment’s notice, drove to the Poconos, got a fireplace/jacuzzi suite at the “Stoudsmoor Country Inne”, stumbled onto Latin night at a local roadhouse and watched some incredible dancing, drove back to Philly, rode my motorcycle in the sunshine*, saw Spy Kids, drove back this morning, visited the dentist for a cleaning before work and got a clean bill of health, and now am back at my desk to plan a big job that I’m interested in with a budget that’s large enough! The sun is out and everyone’s in a good mood. Even the building engineer’s Escalade (see below) isn’t shouting at the bike messengers as they whiz by.
* Every ride in West Chester is like a trip through the Motorcycle Safety School’s “List of Hazards” in the handbook. This time it was a fluffy white dog who ran out from its yard in a frenzy of shrill exclamations. I had to turn around in the cul-de-sac at the end of the street, giving the dog a rematch. I did what the manual says when dealing with dogs — you slow down and let the dog get almost alongside you — and the dog’s barking reached an orgiastic crescendo. “Bark, bark bark! Oh, my GOD, I’m actually going to CATCH THIS THING! BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK!” Then you twist on the throttle and, with a Japanese roar, dash away the sterling cup of victory. The reason, I’m sure, is to make sure that the dog won’t get in front of you — but it’s a cruel, cruel thing to do.
“…Like the fake muscles on Batman’s suit!”
In an age of colossal SUVs, the most colossal of them all is parked in front of my building every morning. It’s a Cadillac Canyonero, er, I mean a Cadillac Escalade, and it looks like two of the Griswold’s station wagons from National Lampoon’s Vacation stacked on top of each other and covered in white plastic.
It’s got blue flashing LEDs in each of its four halogen headlight mounts, a gold-plated trailer hitch, and a Bronx-accented voice that comes from under the hood — “This car is protected by OnStar. Back…Up.” That curt message, combined with the New York State Fraternal Order of Police anti-ticket medallion on the dashboard, gives this ridiculous car an air of mystery. Each morning, the car is surrounded by bike messengers and delivery boys who crouch down to look at the flashing lights and rest a hand on the bumper to hear the voice. I can’t wait to see the owner.
If they’re nekkid, it must be alternative theater
My friend Michelle Stern has a theater company in DUMBO (the area in Brooklyn between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.) The company is called GAle GAtes et al., for the grandmother of Michelle’s partner Michael Counts. They had an opening for their new show entitled So Long Ago I Can’t Remember last night, and I plunked down a donation to go to the gala. This is the fourth or fifth show that I’ve seen Michael Counts direct. In his shows, the audience tends to move through the environment, rather than remaining stationary. Common themes are intricate soundscapes, lots of references to classical literature, things that are illuminated from inside in clever ways, increasing amounts of nudity, and incredibly cool sets that move in unexpected ways. For example, at one point in the show, the back wall of the theater falls towards the audience with a crash and a rush of wind, revealing a space three times the size behind it. Behind that is another space, and another and another. The audience keeps penetrating deeper into the space — sometimes standing in inches of sand, sometimes on a wooden bridge over water. For a play loosely based on Dante’s Inferno, it was really effective.
There’s no doubt in your mind, when you’re watching, that it’s alternative theater (here’s a review of Michael’s last show.) My experience is usually long periods of “huh?” punctuated by moments of “oh, WOW!” At three hours, that’s a lot of alternativity. Quite frankly, though, all the nudity doesn’t hurt a bit.
Park Avenue Cornpone
During all our meetings yesterday, my co-workers and I nociced an odd flashing light coming from the north side of the building. Was it sunlight reflecting from windshields twelve floors below? A broken fire strobe? The white-dwarf implosion of the NASDAQ market, converting ruined value positions into bursts of photon emissions?
When we finally got around to looking out the window, it turned out that the penthouse of the “Hotel Giraffe” across 26th street had been taken over by a photo crew, and they were shooting a pastoral scene on a small scrap of concrete apron. A patch of astroturf was stretched out across the corner of the eleventh-floor balcony, with various potted plants arranged in a semi-circle around it. On the green plastic carpet, an elderly man in a plaid shirt and suspenders mussed the hair of a six-year old in pajamas, over and over. Muss-(flash!) Muss-(flash!) Muss-(flash!)
The Brandywine Valley Association Point-to-Point Race
(click each photo for an alternate one)
This past weekend, Kate’s parents invited me and my parents to come to the Brandywine Valley Association’s Point-to-Point race, a series of three-mile races over open country from, well, point A to point B. The race is observed from a tower, and an announcer calls the horse’s progress to the crowd below, which streams from hedgerow to hedgerow to watch the pack thundering past. It was one hell of a lot of fun, not least of which since I remembered to pack a bow tie, and had a great time wandering around taking slugs from a silver flask and generally trying to act like a toff.
There were Corgis and handlebar mustaches in abundance, and there were engraved silver cups and plates presented as prizes to the winners. Hamburgers and hot dogs were served from under a striped awning. Every twenty minutes, a new post parade would begin, as the horses were led up and down in front of the tower, then ridden slowly off to be shown the first jump. Suddenly, all the spectators would stream towards the start, the announcer would begin his fast-paced droning over the PA system, and two minutes later the horses and riders would burst out of the woods, fly over a fence, and thunder across the finish line. Kate said that it’s like watching crew racing — you only get to see the competition for a few fleeting seconds as the racers pass by you, so you have to know who you’re rooting for well ahead of time.
The competitors were followed by a carefully restored 1954 Jeep CJ40 with a red flag mounted on the back. Three men and a black springer spaniel were on board, staring importantly through binoculars over the folded-down windshield into the middle distance. Each time the riders thundered past, the jeep would roar to life and dash to another spot chosen for maximum visibility. That is, I think it was for maximum visibility of the spotters’ jeep by the spectators — note the way that the race official in the fedora and camel-hair coat clenches the roll bar in a wide, Pattonesque grasp. Of the four on board the jeep, the spaniel was the most dedicated to the jeep’s mission. Fifteen minutes after each race was over and the officials had climbed out, the dog would still be poised on the passenger’s seat, staring straight ahead with an air of deep and noble concentration. “Look at me, I’m an IMPORTANT dog, in an IMPORTANT jeep! Look at the INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT task that I am discharging here!!”
Needless to say, I was incredibly jealous.
For some reason, traveling home on the train — Septa to 30th street, Amtrak to Penn Station, the 1 train to 23rd street, the walk to my office — was filled with a jumble of strange images. I saw a man scuffling with a plainclothes police officer, breaking away and running to crouch, half hidden, behind a turnstile. When the plainclothes officer rounded the corner, he jumped the turnstile and ran off into the crowd in Penn Station, totally silent, with a look of abject fear in his eyes. The officer, trailing handcuffs, was silent too. I saw a homeless man throw half a loaf of bread over the steel barrier that kept him off the subway platform — it was wadded up in two large balls and landed with a muffled “plop.” The man looked right through me, turned around, and climbed up the stairs to 34th street. I saw a woman begging on the train; she said that she had been laid off, that she needed money to support her child, that her husband had fled the country. She was in her early 20s, white, well-fed, and clean with new clothes. I looked through her as she walked past, then realized that Phyllis Trible, my Old Testament professor at Union Theological seminary and a Biblical scholar of note, was sitting on the car as well. Had she given the woman money? It made me very aware that I had chosen not to believe the beggar’s story. I saw a huge conical vat of cement come plummeting hundreds of feet through the air, to slow and stop neatly behind a cement mixer truck, get filled, and hoisted up again at the same dizzying speed. I had a headache by this time, and I stopped at the drugstore to buy aspirin — packets of Bayer were sixty-five cents. I asked for two packets and pulled two dollars from my wallet, but fished for change to see if I had it. The man behind the counter helpfully suggested that I buy three packets for two dollars, which I did, not catching on that I was losing five cents in the bargain.
I’m sitting on the platform at the Bryn Mawr train station on an impossibly beautiful spring afternoon. I came down for the day to attend the burial and memorial service of my step-grandmother, Betty Young. The urn with her ashes was placed in a plot next to her husband, ‘Dizzy’ Macleod, who died in the sixties. I’m very sorry to see her go — she was tremendously tall, extremely intelligent, and always spoke her mind.
I’m in my new Herman Miller pod at [My employer]’ new space. On the whole, it’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, the computer I use to run the webcam hasn’t had its FTP port turned on yet, so the webcam is still showing the view from inside the box it was packed in. You’ll be able to see Park Avenue over my shoulder!