Sunday, November 19, 2006

Breaking Up

On this lazy Sunday morning, I've decided to break up with Blogger. Nothing especially wrong with it, but my eye has wandered over to the shinier, sleeker, altogether more stylish look of Wordpress, so I'm going to give that a try. It's sort of the Firefox to Blogger's Internet Explorer. I'll keep this blog up for a good long time so that people can browse the archives and all. But for fresh material, please set your bookmarks and browsers to my new address: htpp:// And I really hope Blogger and I can still be friends.

Monday, November 13, 2006

RIP the Company Dog

Just before I left the office today, the co-owner sent out a company-wide email to let us know that his dog, Bodhi, had died. Almost immediately, I heard cries of dismay throughout the office. Bob would bring Bodhi to work with him most days of the week, so everyone in the office felt a sense of ownership. Bodhi was the most un-doggish dog I'd ever seen. In fact, I never once saw him wag his tail, not when patted on the head, not when it was time for his walk, not even when Bob set a dish of homemade chicken and rice in front of him. He limped arthritically back and forth through the office and spent most of his days drowsing on the battered Persian carpet at the end of the office, occasionally blinking if someone stopped to say hello. In spite of his lack of companionability, though, I think everyone loved him because he represented the homes and coddled pets that all of us are away from for most of our waking hours. I know I'll miss him.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

11|11--or, The Fabric of Kings

While casting about earlier in the week for something different to do with my Saturday night, I received this notice in my email:

Join fellow corduroyficionados and spend an evening waxing poetic on the wide (or narrow!) world of wale. The Corduroy Appreciation Club meets tonight (11.11: the date that most closely resembles corduroy, naturally) to present its annual awards in Exemplary Usage of Corduroy and share the 'roy-inspired art and music of both local amateurs and renowned professionals. Author, storyteller — and apparently, ridged-fabric enthusiast — Jonathan Ames gives the keynote address, and the club provides complimentary libations throughout the evening. All you need: an advance ticket and at least two pieces of corduroy clothing.

I do have an extreme fondness both for corduroy and for the books of Jonathan Ames, plus the Montauk Club is just down the street from Will's house, so I decided that would be our fun of choice for the evening. So last night we strolled down to the grand but slightly threadbare beaux-arts mansion on 8th Avenue to see what sort of people would so publicly declare their love of corduroy. Turns out they were mostly nerdy, shaggy, earnest types in their late 20s to mid-30s; Will theorized that the publishing industry was probably disproportionately represented among the attendees.

The evening got off to an odd start as we were greeted by a camera crew at the front door, part of a documentary film team chronicling the evening. We got our tickets, programs, and name badges and proceeded upstairs to the ballroom for cocktail hour. An older lady was stationed at the door to record--and I'm not kidding here--the type of wale each guest was wearing. Will and I checked in with two items each of medium wale, which was reported as the dominant gauge later in the evening.

At 8:11 (duh) the club speaker reported minutes of the last meeting, held 1|11 (duh again), which were pretty boring. Club founder Miles Rohan then stepped up with his official welcome and State of the Club address, which was pretty amusing, although too long. The membership attempted to vote on the name for their mascot (a whale) and a secret handshake (something vaguely trekkie). The meeting then moved on to Club Rituals, which mainly consisted of talking in silly accents and eating ridged snack foods such as celery sticks and potato chips. Several times, the crowd broke into chants of "Hail the wale!"

We then got a welcome break, at which point I visited the powder room and had a brief chat with guest speaker Emily Gordon of the excellent, and then we reconvened for Jonathan Ames's reading, which for Will and me was the main draw of the evening. He stepped up with the interesting announcement that this was the first reading he had given drunk in several years (his struggles with alcohol are well documented in his books), but he seemed pretty focused. After heckling an inadequately corded girl and a guy wearing his dad's 1970s corduroy wedding suit (pictured below), he launched into his famous essay, "I Shat My Pants in the South of France," in which his favorite green cords met an ignominious end.

After that, there were several other speakers scheduled, but the audience was pretty wound up and the order of the evening was dissolving. We decided we'd had enough, so we stopped briefly to have our portrait taken by Asha Fuller and zip-zipped off to get a late dinner.

Fertile Ground

As I mentioned a few days ago, I found time during my crazy busy week to read Betty Smith's classic, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'd been meaning to read this book for years, but I'm glad that I put it off until after I had lived a year in Williamsburg/Bushwick, where the book is set. What was formerly a teeming slum down on Grand Avenue is now a playground for trust-fund hipsters, and the seedy area where I lived on Bushwick Avenue was decribed thus:

Bushwick Avenue was the high-toned boulevard of Old Brooklyn. It was a wide, tree-shaded avenue and the houses were rich and impressively built. . . . Here lived the big-time politicians, the monied brewery families, the well-to-do immigrants who had been able to come over first-class instead of steerage. They had taken their money, their statuary, and their gloomy oil paintings and had come to America and settled in Brooklyn.

Funny what a difference a hundred years makes. I was struck most strongly by Smith's deep love and pride for her home city, evident even in the descriptions of the poverty, cruelty, and hardship that marked the early years of the 20th century in the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn.

One unfortunate side effect of the book's popularity is how its title has entered our lexicon as a device for lazy journalists. I just did a quick Google search of "...grows in Brooklyn" and learned that quite a few other things can be found growing in our fair city:

A Fish
A Navy Yard
A Jew [this is a play]
A Plague
A Spa
A Crush
A Hotel
A Festival
A Cricket
A Key Lime Pie
A Boy
A Farm
A Corpse Flower
A Scam
A Tomato
A Fig Tree
An Exodus

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Sale at the Stereotype Store!

This is hilarious. Domino's Pizza has added a new product to its lineup: "Brooklyn"-style pizza. An intrepid reporter from the Times took one of these pies out to famed Coney Island pizzeria Totonno's for a taste test. The proprietess tried to chase him out, then offered her opinion on how the rest of the country eats pizza:

“In Utah, they’re going to love it because they use ketchup and American cheese on their pizzas,” she said.

Borough president Marty Markowitz had even harsher things to say about Domino's, their pizza, and their marketing campaign:

The [...] marketing blitz rests on television ads and on a Web site,, which features characters purchased at the Brooklyn Stereotype Store.

An older Italian woman yells out of a brownstone window. A man with the look of an extra from “The Sopranos” pumps iron on the roof. A Rosie O’Donnell lookalike berates a taxi driver for not
folding his slice like a man. And there’s an African-American guy. You can’t hear what he’s saying because the rap music pouring from his car speakers is too loud.

That kind of imagery just grinds at Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president.

“It’s a multinational right-wing company, mass marketing the Brooklyn attitude with obsolete ethnic stereotypes, not to mention flimsy crusts,” he said through a spokesman.

Mr. Markowitz has yet to taste the Domino’s pizza. But that didn’t stop him from offering an opinion: “To our sophisticated palates, Domino’s is about as Brooklyn as Sara Lee Cheesecake is

The Price of Friendship

My girl in Miami just published a funny/sad post about how much the privelege of being her best friend's maid of honor cost her a little over a year ago. Her conservative estimate was an eye-popping $4,600 for travel, gifts, parties, and wildly patterned dress.

This got me to thinking about my own (ill-fated) nuptials, the total cost of which, including dress, catering, photos, etc., came in around $5,000 for a very elegant, private, family-only affair. I had no bridesmaids, did not register anywhere, none of that rigamarole. I will say that we had a surprising number of parties thrown in our honor: two engagement parties, a shower, and a "ladies' luncheon" (in lieu of bridesmaids' lunch), but each of those was spontaneously proposed and organized by our close friends. Likewise, since we had amassed all the necessary household stuff over our 5-year courtship/cohabitation, it was not necessary to register anywhere, so any gifts we received were a result of our friends' unprompted generosity and all the more precious for it. Even when I was planning my own wedding, I was appalled at the crazy expense of these dog-and-pony shows and the stress and hostility that often accompany them. Now that I'm out of that game, I have even less patience for it. In the unlikely event that I ever take the plunge again, the "aisle" I walk down will be the corridor at City Hall and my reception will be dinner for two at a nice restaurant. And maybe my friends will still like me.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Where did the last 10 days go? It's been a whirl, so some brief highlights:

October 28: Split between celebrating a good friend's birthday at Le Pere Pinard on the Lower East Side and then enjoying some pre-Halloween fun at Hank's Saloon with Jon Simmons, Thunderegg's biggest British fan, who was stopping for the weekend on his way to Los Angeles. Can't argue with French food, rockabilly, and men in drag.

October 29 & 30: I have no recollection of these days.

October 31: Halloween; as mentioned below, we dressed as Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. No photos yet, but I'm hoping our kind hostesses will email me some. The costumes were moderately successful, I'd say. Party was fun. We took a whole pumpkin pie home.

November 1: House cleaning.

November 2: Casper & the Cookies, friends of mine from Georgia, arrived to play the CMJ Music Festival. My apartment sort of took on the look of a youth hostel, but it was fun to see everyone. They stayed two nights.

November 3: We visited one of our favorite restaurants, Robin des Bois, a cozy spot in Carroll Gardens that has a lot of chandeliers and gravy-laden food. I fell asleep very early.

November 4: I had my first run with my new running group and made a brisk lap of the park. Then we met up with some friends for dinner at a Japanese place in the East Village, where I had a yummy bowl of soba noodles with vegetable tempura. Then we headed back into Brooklyn to catch the Crevulators at Freddie's Back Room (where Thunderegg played more than a year ago). Will met up with a friend from high school there who was in town to catch a reading by one of his favorite poets. Late night, needless to say.

Today: I fought the marathon crowds on the 6 train to meet a friend for lunch on the Upper East Side, and then we went to the Met to see the exhibition of artists represented by legendary turn-of-the-century art dealer Ambroise Vollard. The scope of this show was staggering, and the wall text offered an amazing amount of anecdotal and historical information about the paintings' provenances. I also learned that Pere Ubu was a character in short, satirical plays that Vollard wrote to blow off steam. I may go back after the holidays to reexamine parts of the show.

During this period, I also read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but that really merits a separate post, perhaps tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Breaking: CBGB *Not* the Only Rock Club in NYC!

I'm going to have to break up with the New York Times if they keep running lame-ass stories that leave out/gloss over/state the obvious like this. Ostensibly, the reason for this one is the closing (finally!) of CBGB a few weeks ago and the upcoming CMJ Music Festival, but really, did anyone doubt that there were many dozens of other perfectly good music venues in the city? There's even a few in Williamsburg--didja hear? There's lots of young hipsters over there. They like the rock-n-roll music.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Few Thoughts on Beauty

As I approach my 33rd birthday, I've been thinking a lot about how one's face and body change over the years and what constitutes healthy and graceful aging. I think I'm doing okay so far; I have a few very small lines around the eyes and some parts of me are less perky than they used to be, but no gray hairs or jowls (yet). Overall, I have nothing to complain about.

For the past few weeks, professional shopper/Stepford Wife Alex Kuczynski has been all over the news shilling for her new book, Beauty Junkies, in which she examines American women's (and her own) obsession with invasive cosmetic procedures. Ms. K had a lid lift and liposuction at 28 and followed up with several more years of collagen, Botox, and other poisonous injections in her face. She claims she hasn't had any cosmetic procedures in 2 years, to which I call bullshit: Her face is so frozen that she can barely move her mouth to talk, let alone express emotion. She has done all this in the pursuit of looking young, but has ended up looking exactly like what she is: a woman nearing 40 and terrified of it.

What really got me in one interview is that, when asked why so many women opt for these procedures, she answered in all seriousness, "I think it's because so few women are truly born 'pretty.'" My mind immediately yelled, By whose standards? By the standards of women who carve up and distort what they were born with so that nobody can recognize or appreciate what's real anymore? I started thinking about the women I know, of all different ages, shapes, and sizes. Probably very few of them would live up to Special K's nipped and tucked standards of "truly pretty," but all of them are beautiful in their own way. A good friend of mine--beautiful, smart, and stylish--is the first of my peers to go down the cosmetic dermatology road. I've been gently scolding her for weeks for attempting to fix what ain't broke. She says she's doing it as "preventive maintenance," which to me is like calling bulimia a diet. What ever happened to eye cream and sunblock? I eventually gave up; she's a big girl, it seems to make her happy, and it's really none of my business. And then I recalled something I recently read on the blog of a man in his early 40s who has been coming to terms with his own aging process: "I like the idea that life etches itself on people's faces...that the body gets frayed--and yet the spirit within continues to shine." I really wish more women could see themselves like that; at the very least, I hope I can see myself like that 10 years hence.

The Listening: John Vanderslice

Among the few GB of new tunes I recently acquired from my coeditor is Life and Death of an American Fourtracker by the improbably named John Vanderslice (can anyone tell me whether that's his real name?). It was released in 2002, I believe, so it's not really new, but it sounds fresh to me, and that's what matters. It's also definitely not a four-track recording, but it's straightforward nonetheless, and again, gentle but with enough oomph to keep me from dismissing him as a precious hipster sissy (I'm looking at you, Sufjan). He's kindly posted mp3s on his website, so I'm linking to "The Mansion," my favorite track of his so far.

mp3: The Mansion

I like how it coaxes you in with nice tinkly piano and acoustic guitars, then whomps you over the head with booming drums and blaring horns. I was bobbing my head to it at work all day (in between periodic breakdowns of my iPod).