Archive for September, 2004

It’s All Weird

by Pierre, September 16th, 2004

Sometimes, it gets really tiresome to hear people comment on how weird New York is and all that but, frankly, why is there an M14 bus that plays The Star Spangled Banner from its front-left wheel well when the door opens? Surely Bus Stop would have been more appropriate! (I had no idea it was written by Graham Gouldman, by the way. Google and learn!)

In other weird news, the NY Daily News reports that the Columbus Citizens Foundation is appalled at the movie Shark Tale:

The “bad guys” in the film have names like Don Lino, Luca, Giuseppe and Gino, and use Italian-American phrases like “capeesh,” “consigliere,” “maronne” and “agita” … DreamWorks has already bowed to some of the criticism, changing the name of one of the gangster sharks from Don Brizzi to Don Feinberg.

Will the real Don Feinberg get into the fray?

- 33 -

by Linus, September 15th, 2004

2002: September 11th is palpable after a year of grappling with the rage and sorrow pent up in downtown’s root-canal crater. The sky is bright and fine, but our inner dust cloud hasn’t lifted yet, and it feels like it never will.

I am in love, and I take the day off to meet Her in Union Square Park. She is small and brilliant, athletic, gifted and desperate, outgoing and disturbed. She wears brown corduroy bib overalls that make Her look fat in Her head. She is the most beautiful woman I have seen all year. She is 26 and claims 21 to cushion an acting career that will not happen.

We are often in Union Square; her shrink has offices nearby. A month ago we arranged to meet at the Starbucks on the park’s east edge, and we swarmed into each other’s arms, blissful, hungry. Strangers over coffee took paparazzi pictures as we clung together, eyes closed, devouring. Somewhere we must be hung on walls, frozen light in that long chemical moment.

Today on September 11th we miss Minority Report and see One Hour Photo instead. Her favorite flavor is not in stock at the Häagen Dazs, so we buy some chocolate and peanut butter ice cream confection from the market and She devours it on the street. She is tacky and sticky and briefly sweet. She belches, and holds up the empty pint container: “Serving size, one,” She says. Ice cream is everywhere. I want to lick her hands.

There is a kitten’s head tattooed on Her belly, low on the right side, just above Her pelvis. Later, grabbing dinner at Radio Perfecto before Marwood in the East Village, She swaggers at the table, holding up the overall bib with Her thumbs. “Want to see my Pussy?”

2003: This year September 11th is not a giddy day, nor a peaceful one. We don’t need to prove any more that our lives take us around the town — they do that naturally. If anything there’s a sense of dread about the approaching day. No one wants to commemorate it, but on the other hand, how can you not? I go to work. I pretend it is the 10th, the 12th.

At work I do not work. We are all on edge, there are tears barely hidden behind stiff faces. There’s a lot of nervous coffee and a lot of walking around and we’re all a bit too loud, a bit too shrill. A few attorneys were at the office early when the planes hit two years ago, and they remember the glass-walled buildings across the way juddering and rippling with the shock wave. They remember the sound. You can’t describe sound. You can only remember it, and say over and over again, “I remember it.”

I am writing a long post on The Velvet Rope about being in Brooklyn on September 11th, watching the heavy cloud of smoke across the river, and it’s like pulling a splinter of bone out of raw meat. I weep, ice broken inside and water flooding out. Our Pepper partner Seth is a World Trade Center survivor, and he calls from Brooklyn where he’s at The Waterfront Ale House, wanting company. I join him, and we drink.

2004: The clouds finally part early this summer, without fanfare and without notice. Last year you could look at any photo of New Yorkers and know in a moment whether it was taken Before 9/11 or After. No one After 9/11 smiled like they did Before; gay and carefree came with a shadow and a memory of the dead. The endless wet smell of concrete ash and underground fire lingered in our faces like stale smoke in the house after a party. Now at last we smile, when we smile, with all of the heart.

There’s a boat trip today, and I love my boat trips. The Good Ship Ventura leaves from North Cove, just west of Ground Zero. I turn on the radio, figuring a couple of hours for work and errands and then the usual mad dash to get there in the nick of time. On WNYC the World Trade Center memorial is in progress; the families are reading the names, the thousands of names, of the dead. I tune in late in the list — in R? is that where I join? — and an hour later my heart is broken, my cheeks are wet.

That night the columns of light shriek skyward. I hope God will see them.

You Don’t Know Jack

by Linus, September 14th, 2004

Introducing the Sound of Jack Grace - check him out… but you really should know Jack. Jack Grace is one of the fundaments of the New York country music Man-in-Black-and-Blues scene — and yes, there is country in Gotham. You’d be surprised. There’s plenty of it.

New York’s Urban Opry is lean mean underdog stuff, so don’t look for glitz and rhinestones and waily hanky-tonking of the “Achy Breaky Heart” variety. Expect wit and whiskey, rough edges and rough riders, gleeful denim and yoked shirts fine enough to make Joseph tremble. Expect hats. Impeccable, improbable hats. Expect charm, stubborn politesse, and, well, Grace. As in Jack. And remember, Jack Grace is not Johnny Cash. He just sounds like him, sometimes.

As I’ve noted elsewhere in Pepperland, the Jack Grace Band mailing list is a wealth of fun and head-scratching joy. From his “dogs” email sign-offs —

Dogs dreaming about a car made of meat (mmmmmmmmmm),
Jack Grace

- to the heights of everday cocktail anxiety and discovery, Jack’s occasional missives wander down the mailspool innocently, full of weird scenes from the fantasy factory.

Jack on Christmas Songs We’d Like to Hear:

1) Capt. Kirk’s “I’ll Have a Blue Christmas, Without Spock”
2) Mayor Bloomberg’s “All I Want For Christmas Is A Personality”
3) Saddam Hussein’s ” I (gulp) Won’t Be Home For Christmas”
4) Britney Spears’ “Hey I Wrote A Really Crappy Christmas Song”
5) George Bush’s “Even At Christmas, I Suck”

Jack on July 4th:

Burt Reynolds and I had one helluva fourth of July party over at Madonna’s place in the Hamptons (Madonna was away and Burt had the keys). We ordered fifty bushels of oysters, nine cases of steaks and whole buncha booze and just told the store to deliver it to the Madonna residence and to bill us later. We invited a few hundred close friends and a few people we hate but like to pick on and let the fireworks begin. Sly Stallone was the first to throw Britney in the pool (a trend that continued through the night), but once Don Rickles began making out with Connie Chung … we knew the party had truly begun. Maury Povich jumped on Rickles, Reynolds jumped on Povich, Chung jumped Reynolds and Britney … got thrown in the pool. I didn’t know how to break up the fight, it was quickly escalating into a battle, thank god Chuck Norris began lighting all the fireworks he had smuggled up from Mexico. Norris knows how to put on one helluva fireworks display, everyone was engrossed and all was well until the finale exploded on top of the house and set Britney’s hair aflame, I grabbed her and threw her in the pool, the house was another matter it didn’t burn down but it stank of smoke so we left Norris to clean it up and moved the party to Alec Baldwin’s. Burt immediately started viciously picking on Billy Baldwin, so Burt and I got thrown out and headed over to Billy Joel’s place for some Chinese food, we grabbed the keys to one of his boats, collected Rickles and boated over to Nipsey Russell’s place on Fire Island for a nightcap and a chance to sleep it off.

Jack on how it’s More Fun To:

1) eat cheese with Nipsey Russell at the Playboy mansion, than it is to watch Dick Cheney pretend to smile as if he has any morsel of humanity inside his rotted blown out dung for a soul.

2) drink Martinis with Burt Reynolds in the green room with Professor Plum than it is to have a car break down on the GW Bridge at rush hour with a 5 pound bag of cocaine in your trunk.

3) have sex than it is to have a goiter.

4) listen to Neil Young’s “On The Beach” (while on the beach) than it is to have to take an office job under a fluorescent lamp next to a really big Dave Matthews fan.

5) dance to Led Zeppelin’s “Dancing Days” than it is to dance to Donald Rumsfeld’s “The Eagle Will Soar”(or whatever the hell that song he penned is called).

Dogs inventing can openers,

Texas is for Perverts

by Linus, September 9th, 2004

In retrospect, the reasoning behind the year I spent in Dallas is a little fuzzy. But so is most everything else about Dallas, so that’s no news.

While I was there I was cast as Tomazo de Piracquo in a production of Thomas Middleton & William Rowley’s The Changeling at the Deep Ellum Theatre Garage, which is the kind of place a guy goes to pay his theatrical dues. Mostly, this is great fun.

Our Beatrice-Joanna was played by one Melissa S. as a bayou cocktail of lovestruck swooner, brazen hussy, and wanton Belle jar. On stage as in life, Melissa embodied both raging ends of the Madonna/whore spectrum, leaving the safe middle ground for lesser spirits. She was the kind of girl … let’s put it this way. When Melissa needed to move a sofa up the stairs to her apartment she asked around for a day or two, and could have put together a competitive football franchise from the guys who finally showed up. For all I know, maybe she did. Or maybe they already were a football franchise, out on a field trip.

Dress rehearsal night. We know our lines mostly, we have no idea about the blocking, and the set, insofar as there is one, is a crazed razor-edged work-in-progress junkyard. I’m in leather and there’s a Bowie knife strapped to my boot. My buddy Vince and I are hanging by the door backstage, which doubles as Carla and Matt’s apartment when we’re not in it. Melissa approaches, a raptor in crinoline and lace.

Melissa, eyes large and moist, lips pleading: What’s the best thing you ever said in bed?
Linus and Vince: What??
A flounce. You have to be from the South to do this correctly.
Melissa: Come on, boys. What’s the best thing you ever said in bed? You know, sexy. I’ll tell you mine.
Linus and Vince: What are you —
Melissa: Mine was “Fuck me like you own me.”
Linus and Vince:
Melissa: Well HE seemed to like it.

Some weeks later, Vince and I are out getting tattoos. I want a circle on my shoulder blade, a quiet echo of the moon. Vince is getting an A&M longhorn on his butt. In brown. Whatever. The first tattoo place we find is ’round back of Maldonado’s Tire Repair. We pass on that one. The second choice is a biker joint. Guy who runs it is in jail, but his buddy across the way will do the tats for us, if that’s all right; we go for it.

At the end of this day, I have a curious circle on my shoulder blade and Vince has a longhorn on his butt. He already regrets it. We head out to celebrate and bemoan, and after a few rounds Vince waxes nostalgic.

Vince: You know the sexiest thing I ever heard?
Linus: Fuck me like you own me?
Vince: No, no. I was in school, and we had this party. I was talking to this girl, a real petite blonde girl, and she was just so pretty. I sort of knew her and we were talking. I thought I was doing all right, but at the end of the party she was leaving with this football player guy, a friend of my roommate. So she was getting her stuff out of the bedroom and I go up to talk to her before she leaves, you know, and the guy is getting his stuff too, and as I walk up she’s saying to him, “But there’s one thing you should know. I’m … abnormally small.”
Linus: … There is not enough liquor on this table to encompass that story.
Vince: Got that right.

Mutter Mutter, Gnash Gnash

by Linus, September 7th, 2004

Stormy Weather - Hurricane Frances , aka the Wrath of God (NASA photo)I don’t know why it’s the end of summer, but it is, and after a long temperate quiet sunny weekend here in the Yapple we pelted in the new season with fine overnight style. The long outskirts of Hurricane Frances didn’t bring us the tappity-tappity of whispering rain, they say: something about a cold Canadian mass, which sounds like an unfortunate breakfast I had once.

Whoever done done it, though, done kept me up all night. It was too hot or too dry or too sticky or too drippy or too giggly, all rolled up together into the long stretch to dawn. The night buzzed, and hummed, and spattered. Now my eyes feel like they’re squinchy raisins stuck into my face. Tired squinchy raisins. Grrr.

Caller ID

by Linus, September 2nd, 2004

New Scientist magazine has the news that a radio signal from the deep sky between Pisces and Aries might, just might, be something that we don’t know just what it is. And one of those things might be a beacon call from space, a sign of intelligent life, something we’ve been looking for so long we’ve gotten used to its lack.

The weak and intermittent signal is named SHGb02+14a, and it’s on a good frequency for that sort of thing — 1420 MHz, which is one spot where hydrogen emits and absorbs energy. It’s from an odd place, with no clear star systems around. And it could be anything from hacker fraud to the astronomical equivalent of a bit of undigested beef in the system. But still, but still. On a gorgeous workaday Thursday toward the trembling end of a week filled with gibbering political ninnies, a guy can dream.

Update: Per Pierre, it is debunked by the BBC, which quotes Dr. Dan Wertheimer: “It’s all hype and noise.” Thursdays. I never did get the hang of Thursdays.

March o’ the Times

by Linus, September 1st, 2004

Sunday was a fine day for an outpour, and so we did: the United for Peace and Justice march against George Bush was a staggering success. And you’d be staggering too, after all those hours in all that heat.

NYPD takes everyone who ever wore blue, yanks them out of bed, and puts them on the streets with a badge, even commandeering the Fuji blimp for lazy looping air surveillance duty. For their trouble there are a handful of busts early on, mostly part of the police brush-war against bike riders this week. (Mike of Satan’s Laundromat has a harrowing account of his bike arrest, and his pictures of the RNC from the inside are wonderful — so much for the vaunted security of the G.O.P., right? Couldn’t keep Mike out of the Garden once the party started.)

For those of us on feet, the day is hot and sweaty, long and stirring, a tough, slow-moving blend of grit and purpose. I’m on a text-message cell phone bulletin list, so intelligence trickles in.

> [email protected] /Counter-demonstrators marching south on 6th @ 27St, Aprox 200 with PD
> [email protected] /At 34 St, a strong police line blocking people from heading north to the park.

I’m at the staging area in my new Lick Bush shirt around noon, just after the protest starts. At 1:20, when the head of the march has reached 34th Street, turned back downtown, and dispersed in Union Square, we have inched only a few blocks forward; side streets are packed solid, and the 14th Street area has been sealed off for 20 minutes already. I’m at 19th Street or so when the flood of 1,000 coffins, some in black and some draped with flags, comes streaming from the East.

> [email protected] /Aprox 20 to 25 Bike Bloc-ers have been arrested, Bike Bloc is calling on cyclists to regroup at Union Sq South
> [email protected] /Front of UFPJ March has reached the end point, Union Sq: most people haven't left assembly area.

For a while I’m packed in with Glamerica, a bouncy group sporting fur-fringed signs (Fashion Tip: Bush Doesn’t Go with Anything; Fashion Forecast: Bush is Out in 2004; Cancel W, Just Give Me Vogue). A splinter of Code Pink flows past. My friend Nancy, who just finished a great run on the Fringe with her musical Mankynde, waves from behind a rambling drum band, and we walk together for a few blocks. A bubbly breathtaking girl in a Metrocard “Unwelcome” cut-off tee teases her girlfriend, pulling the shirt up over her breasts. “Pull it down,” she breathes, “pull it down, people will see.” I try not to look, really I do.

> [email protected] /There is a 30' dragon float on fire on 7 Ave @ 34. Protesters can only get past on sidewalk.
> [email protected] /Over 1000 protesters have gathered in Central Park, seems calm at this time.

Communists and Naderites and Falan Dafa freaks are everywhere, ignored by all. For a time I’m with the No-Bush bouncy-ball sheet, for a while I pace the pink balloon G.O.P. pig. For several streets I swim a long current of marchers on the far end of 65, and older. They are grim and attentive, helping each other with a touch, a gesture, an arm on an elbow and a sympathetic nod, moving together or not at all in the petulant heat. Singer Richard Julian trucks by, guitar in hand. All along the route people wave and hoot and instigate from roofs and fire escapes; a Make Up Not War sign flutters from a balcony holding what looks like a touring production of The Mikado. From a rooftop a woman waves a sign that reads Go Team, to roars from below.

> [email protected] /Update: police have closed 6 Ave and all streets west of 6ave from 34 St to 59 St to bicycles
> [email protected] /standoff between police and protesters at 46th and Broadway. also many people in central park- things are calm

NYPD, which doesn’t estimate crowd sizes, hisses to the press that there are 100,000 people marching. Don’t believe it. New York Times coverage makes us half a million strong, and they’re about right. I’m passing Madison Square Garden at last, more than four hours after I started just a mile down the road, and there are still throngs surging along behind; the protest heads back downtown from there, but Central Park is on my agenda. In my world, when the Mayor tells me I can’t take my case to the Park, that’s where I’m bound to be found. Mama Gelber didn’t raise no sheep.

Some signs, painted from memory:

  • My Other President Isn’t a Liar
  • My Other President Wasn’t an AWOL Drunk
  • 2004 Diet - No CARB = Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Bush … and definitely no Rice!
  • George, George, Give it Up
  • Separate Church and State: Get SATAN Out of the White House
  • Re-Defeat Bush
  • Maybe Bush Should Try Going Vegan
  • Our City, Not Your Stage
  • Bush/Cheney: Making Enemies Faster Than We Can Kill Them
  • Somewhere in Texas a Village has Lost its Idiot. I Found Him.

In the 30’s, hours into the day, we pass a rhythm rave camped by the side of the road. The drummers dervish-whirl and dance, passing a bullhorn back and forth. “Show them what America looks like!” they chant, in all their shapes and colors and hairstyles and motley. “THIS is what America looks like!” we roar back, white and black and all the rest, straight and gay, old and young, lean and chubby, short and tall, kempt and weedy, and all points between. “THIS is what America looks like!” I find tears on my cheeks, burning as they streak sweaty paths down my face.

> [email protected] /Police are cracking down on bikes west of 6 Ave from 34st to ban in effect

Central Park is peaceful and gently full. The press is out in force, and I’m photographed twice and interviewed once before I find a soft spot to sit. (By request I describe my shirt for WBAI, but I’m too tired to be clever.) No screaming rioters here; the reporters are disappointed, but at least they have Billionaires for Bush to chase — in top hats and tuxes and gowns, waving cigars and mixing martinis, the Billionaires are a funny, photogenic bunch. Three young women are pointedly topless, which is legal in New York, but since no outlet can use the pictures the media mob reluctantly stays clear.

> [email protected] /Police are using a net to detain a group of aprox 50 protesters in Times Sq.

I wake from my nap next to radical rebel comedienne Reno, who is holding forth among friends. Via text message I track the progress of Queer Fist’s Times Square Kiss-In, the theatre actions of Mouse Bloc, and the further uglier skirmishes with the wheeled wings of Bike Bloc as the police chase them into the evening.

> comms_dis[email protected] /46th and broadway netted off, arresets likely.

Word of arrests comes in from Times Square and I head down to observe, but 46th Street is pretty much clear by the time I arrive; one last protestor is hustled into a cruiser, and NYPD looks tired and angry. The police glare me over and I stare back at them. You can spot delegates by their tags and by their clothes; they’re dressed like the last time they saw fashion it was on Jason Robards. Faces flushed, they are excited and nervous. They are not leaders; they are sheep, running among wolves.