Kate and I spent the

Hey, the name is LOTTE Hansen, not DUANE Hansen.Kate and I spent the weekend in the city; in fine bridge-and-tunnel fashion, we drove up, parked in Chinatown, and shopped in my old neighborhood. I bought a new Fred Perry shirt, as my collection of boxy, short-sleeved HTMLer shirts was getting threadbare. Also, some soap. Kate bought a purse. We visited the Macintosh store/event that Genevieve wrote about.

On Spring street, in front of Balthazaar, a short Danish woman with a peasant top was taking polaroid photographs with an old bellows camera, then opening the pictures before they were finished and transferring the caustic developer to a piece of cotton rag paper. The images were soft and washed out, with a greenish Seventies tinge. Her folding table was covered with photos, each showing a beautiful NoLita hipster at the side of the frame, traffic passing behind them. Each subject was gazing off to the left; most looked awkward and uncomfortable. Photographer awkward, though: artistic awkward.

We watched her take three photographs of a Korean hipster girl in a bucket hat, looking over one shoulder. While she rolled the negatives onto the wet paper, she asked the girl to translate a blurb she’d gotten in a Japanese style magazine. “Lotte Hansen”, read the subtitle. “New York Street Beautiful.” The photos pictured also had bucket hats, also looked somewhat wistful.

Kate and I had our pictures taken, which (of course), was… well, awkward and embarassing, especially when the crowd outside of Balthazar is watching you intently, trying to whomp up their courage. When I’m not hamming it up in pictures, I suddenly have too many hands and feet. Lotte told me to stop talking, then paused, then took the picture.

The resulting print (at the right, on heavy cotton paper) looks forlorn, but I kind of like that about it. I have enough goofy pictures already, and Kate and I both recognize ourselves in the image. Lotte was very intent and serious about her art, keeping one photo of every three for her collection. “It’s nice”, she said, looking at the picture. “It’s peaceful.”

Kate and I spent the

Admirable Lists of Life Accomplishments:

Admirable Lists of Life Accomplishments:

(or just Life Accomplishments So Far):

Jeremy Fain, Kieran Downes and I are all putting our lists of life accomplishments together to see how they measure up. We’re hoping to crush Rhett Chreighton, and I hope that we can at least hold our own against Hugh Gallagher. Nobody, of course, can top Doctor Ho:

“In China, he is called Wong Tai Sin – the god who fulfills peoples wishes.”

Admirable Lists of Life Accomplishments:

The Ultimate Water Gun

You must pay the rent!  I can't pay the rent!  I'LL pay the rent!
The Ultimate Water Gun is off on another mission

I finally got off my ass today and sent the Ultimate Water Gun off on its latest mission — to Virginia, where mister Jeremy Justice will be recording his exploits to post for all to see.

Well, actually, I convinced my friend and cubicle-partner Kieran Downes to carry the stuff to Mailboxes Etcetera for me, while I took pictures. You can see him gathering admirers on the way.

Iff'n I'm REEEAL good, Maw'll let me lick the tater bowl!
Then, I met my sister Bridget, her husband Tony, and their friend Amy for lunch. As you can see from this picture, my sister had to ride the short bus to school.

The Ultimate Water Gun

What rough beast, its hour

What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards stairway four, track four?

If you live or work in New York for more than a couple of months, you start thinking of it as the center of the universe. It’s understandable — crack open the New Yorker and you get smart, witty writing and Roz Chast cartoons: pick up Philadelphia Magazine and you get trite, chirpy features on “our most eligible singles!” hemmed in on all sides by ads for Botox injections and diamond tennis watches. Manhattan hipsters? The hippest. New York deli operators? The fastest, making counter operators in all other cities seem glacial by comparison. I want to bark like a drill sergeant at the nice lady behind the counter of the Cookie Cafe in Philadelphia’s Thirtieth Street Station, where I have exactly four minutes and thirty seconds to purchase a muffin and coffee each morning.

All of which is slightly discouraging to me, now that I’ve chosen Philadelphia as my home base. I’m trying to cheer myself up by finding the things that Philly is really good at, so I can focus on those things. Cheese steaks are a big plus, of course, and the crew shells on the Schuykill river are a welcome sight every morning.

So I suppose it’s at least partially understandable that I was enormously cheered this morning when I saw, sitting on the bench next to Stairway Four in Thirtieth Street, a crazy homeless man that was at least of national caliber. He might even have been world class.

It started simply enough; I was standing in line at the Cookie Cafe, as usual, biting back my frenzied expostulations to hurry the hell up, already, when I heard the indignant, half-mumbled expostulations that occasion a quick glance: cell phone or no cell phone?

No cell phone. White guy, mid-fifties, beard, medium filthy. But what he was saying was oddly, prophetically riveting:

[inarticulate mumble]

“Established patents…”

“Multiple fiber optics…”

[inarticulate mumbble]

Now, I don’t mean to be too trite about this experience — the man was probably homeless, probably mentally ill, so calling him “world class” is snide, no question. But he was educated, and his mumbling fell squarely into a category that has been labeled “Physics Psycho” by the librarians of Internet arcana at Portal of Evil*. Seriously, if you were going to film a science-fiction/horror thriller about an ancient cybernetic evil about to be unleashed on the world, you’d use this guy to babble about it to Bruce Willis before the opening credits.

Suddenly, he stood up and pointed directly at me.

“That’s the way empires fall!” he yelled in a cracked, hysterical tenor, his piercing blue gaze boring through me. “Wrongness! WRONGNESS!

Okay, well he didn’t leap to his feet, and he didn’t point at me, and he didn’t shout in a cracked, hysterical tenor, but he did say that stuff, and it was still pretty cool. Cooler than any of the dozen or so regulars I recognize on my way to and from [My employer] and Penn Station in New York each day.

So there you have it. Philadelphia: world capital of heartbroken, unbalanced Ph.D. conspiracy theorists!

* My personal favorites: Time Cube, a rant that goes on as long and incomprehensibly as the fine print on a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap. Also (in my own experience), the Marshall McLuhan-meets-Doctor Doolittle-at-Luke-Skywalker’s-house madness of Dr. Peter Beamish , director of Ocean Contact in Trinity, Newfoundland. Plus,

What rough beast, its hour

Kate and I put our

Kate and I put our wedding invitations in the mail on Saturday, pushing them five at a time through the narrow brass slot at the West Chester Post Office (19382.) We received news that the first invitation had been received on Monday. Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of…


Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of Ralph Lauren pillowcases and comforter covers!

Kate and I put our

After learning about the latest-and-greatest

After learning about the latest-and-greatest in cheap and tiny digital cameras from Genevieve, I bought a $40.00 Stylecam, which arrived a couple of days ago. It’s perfect for Blogging, I tell myself, because it’s cheap and fast (faster than the PalmPix cam was; you don’t have to assemble the camera first.)

So I tuck the miniscule camera into a pouch on the strap of my messenger bag and walk out the door, ready to take pictures of all the freaky things I see on the way to Penn station. When I step from the lobby into the heat, a man immediately comes up with a large Rolex watch in a wooden display box: “Hey, it’s stolen”, he says to me. “Look, it’s got the receipt.” I look, it *does* have the receipt. He holds it out in aggresive, dangerous supplication.

I don’t take a picture of him.

On Broadway, a homeless man is dressed in a tufted caftan made of plastic grocery bags. His hair is knotted in bunches on the top of his head, and his face is completely blackened with burned cork. I don’t take a picture of him, either.

On seventh avenue, three girls in a church van are competing to see who can make the rudest face at the passers-by. They look like tiny pigtailed gargoyles, fingers involved in their noses and ears, all three scrunched together to fit their faces into the frame of a single window. Like the One Ring, the camera gets heavier and heavier: I’m itching to take a picture, but it’s really embarassing to become Camera Dork. I wrestle with my embarassment, but miss my window. The van drives away.

Okay, lesson learned: it’s really embarassing to take pictures of people.

I did take a picture of a tent in Madison Square Park. It’s a shiny silver tent, which on closer inspection turns out to be made entirely of cast aluminum, and is there as part of an art installation. But the next time I see some interesting people on the street, I guess I’m gonna have to swallow my embarassment and take the damn picture, already!

After learning about the latest-and-greatest

The 2002 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

The 2002 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Winners have been announced,

recognizing the most wretched writing on the Web (or anywhere else, for that matter.) A sample:

“The bone-chilling scream split the warm summer night in two, the first half being before the scream when it was fairly balmy and calm and pleasant for those who hadn’t heard the scream at all, but not calm or balmy or even very nice for those who did hear the scream, discounting the little period of time during the actual scream itself when your ears might have been hearing it but your brain wasn’t reacting yet to let you know.”

–Patricia E. Presutti, Lewiston, New York (1986 Winner)

If you think you can take it, you can see other Lytton Grand Prize winners here.

The 2002 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest