Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Possibly the two best (and scariest) works of satire of the Bush Years have been Stephen Colbert's bravura performance at the Washington Correspondent's Dinner and this piece from the The Onion in 2001, which is so difficult to read simply because you want to laugh, but you are struck with horror as nearly every one of its tongue-in-cheek predictions for a Bush administration have come to pass.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Devil is in the Details

I saw Connor McPherson’s (The Weir, The Shining City) newest play The Seafarer on Tuesday night, in its third performance after the strike ended last week. The play is mostly good, though it ends with a too-neat narrative trick. The story centers around Sharky (David Morse), who has returned just a few days ago to this rundown Dublin suburb to care for his brother, Richard (Jim Norton, having the time of his life), recently blinded after a drunken fall into a dumpster. Also featuring prominently is Ivan (Conleth Hill, in a brilliant turn), Richard’s longtime friend and drinking buddy. It is Christmas Eve, and the gentlemen make a run for supplies (whiskey and beer, and as an afterthought, some mincemeat pies). While they’re out, we learn, Richard invites Nicky (Sean Mahon) to stop by for a game of cards, which annoys Sharky as Nicky is now serious with Eileen, his former flame. And Nicky shows up as promised with a guest, Mr. Lockhart (Ciaran Hinds, dark as ever). Long story short, without any spoilers: they drink heavily, secrets are revealed and they play a game of high (ultimate) stakes poker, wrapping up with the weak ending mentioned above.

Love (and the memory of love), even from afar, can be redemptive; the devil is bitter and lonely and hates to lose; the past is lurking just behind the veneer of the present; family is paramount, even though they can be a pain in the ass—these ideas live in this play, and all have treaded the boards in similar forms before. The true delight was watching Jim Norton—even if a bit too broad at times—and especially Conleth Hill’s performances as old friends. There is a touch of Waiting for Godot in their characters, playing sad clowns with wonderfully developed physicality, there is a whole history of the Irish dramatic tradition in them.

UPDATE: A superb review from the New York Times. Why trust my word when you can read the superlative Ben Brantley?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cui bono?

An interesting op-ed in today’s New York Times advocates for the (re)introduction of Latin courses in American high schools and universities, coming fairly close on the heels of Pope Benedict XVI’s easing of guidelines for the use of the Tridentine Mass, which further raises the point that a traditional Roman Catholic Church is one of the few places in the world where you can hear spoken Latin for a sustained period of time.

I don’t think it’s such a bad idea for kids to study Latin today, especially as it is the basis for many European languages, as well as a large proportion of English. Furthermore, I agree with the author of the op-ed that Latin offers an excellent foundation, inter alia, in rhetoric, a skill sorely lacking in today’s political realm (not to mention academia). Latin is concise, precise, and does not lend itself to verbosity (though students of Cicero may disagree). This post might have been three words in Latin.

Plus, what better way for kids to communicate on the sly and dupe the parents than with a dead language that no one knows?

Friday, November 30, 2007

Not So Real Estate

Apartment hunting in New York City and environs can be overwhelming. Vacancy rates in Manhattan are close to the lowest in a decade, and that is pushing up rents, even in the outer boroughs, with the cheapest (least gouging, I should say) rents being on higher floors (in walkups at least) and situated furthest from the subway.

About 32% of the housing stock is rent-controlled, so you can imagine how much competition there is for those places (including a willingness to pay brokers 12%-16% of the annual rent, depending on the neighborhood). And many of those people are already paying an agent to hunt for them (at 10% of annual rent). After paying first & last month’s rent and a security deposit, you can end up looking at $5500 to $7000 just to MOVE IN. Factor in moving costs and furnishing, and you can easily reach $10,000.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Going Down Slow

A man fainted in front of me on the crowded subway this morning. It had a swooning sense of the surreal, one of those moments where time seems to slow, as he almost floated downward, his legs appearing to gently buckle under him, still holding the stainless steel pole at the center of the car. He didn’t lose consciousness for more than a few seconds and was standing again almost faster than we could call the train’s conductor over the intercom. We tried to help: someone stood so that he could sit, someone offered a bottle of water, but he waved us off saying he had the flu and a cold. We continued to talk to him, trying to make sure he was alright—did he have medicine, could we help in any way—but ten seconds later, we arrived at 14th Street/Union Square and he was rushing off the train. Those of us in that section of the car exchanged worried glances before resuming the requisite reading, staring-into-space, or iPod characteristic of a packed train.

It was an odd experience, to say the least…hope he’s okay.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hombre de Negocios

It seems the businessman has won: Alvaro Colom de los Caballeros is the victor in Guatemala's presidential election! Though much remains to be seen, this seems like a step in the right direction. Colom made clear that he remembers the atrocities of the civil war, acknowledges the challenges that lie before him, and has hope for a Guatemala that is moving toward a better life for all its citizens. A good day for peace in Central America.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Stage Management

Though I have little experience as a stage manager, and what experience I do have came more than five years ago, I’ll be stage managing an upcoming production of Eugene Ionesco’s The Lesson (let’s not tell the lovely people in the show of my lack of experience, eh?).

The play is being produced by a new theatre company, The Collective, formed by a group of young actors who have been studying together at the William Esper Studio. The three performers in the show are sharp, perceptive actors and the director seems to be working seamlessly with them. The play is iconic Theatre of the Absurd, a comedy with a dark streak a mile wide.

I’d rather be on the other side of the proscenium, but this will do for now.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Elección Guatemalteca

As a destination for frequent trips over the past several years, Guatemala holds a special place in my heart. With great interest, I have been following Guatemala's presidential campaign and it's wake of violence and political fallout. Just 10 years removed from the peace accords that ended a 36-year-long civil war, this small country is in the midst of the deadliest presidential campaign since that war ended. Leading up to the presidential primary in September, 59 murders and 89 attacks on political leaders and their families were recorded (and those are just the reported attacks in a country notorious for unreported violence).

The winners of the primary, Otto Pérez Molina and Alvaro Colom, will face each other in the November 9th final election, and along with 12 other candidates from various parties, they spent nearly $100 Million US leading up to the primary. This is an alarming number for such a small (13 million) and poor country, leading many in the international community to criticize Guatemala's fractious and inefficient multi-party system. Among the candidates was the first indigenous female presidential candidate, internationally know Rigoberta Menchú. In a country with 22 different ethnic Mayan populations, her indigenous status did not seem help; part of the reason stems from the fact that machismo is still rampant in Guatemala, but more even, I think, because of those ethnic divisions.

Now that Colom and Molina are set to face off on November 9, the number one issue of the campaign has resurfaced: violence. With organized crime on the rise in the capital city and other urban areas, and the murder rate increasing at an alarming pace, Guatemalans seemed to be leaning toward the former-military authoritarian Molina, who has promised to be tough on crime and whose Patriot Party's logo is a clenched fist. During the civil war, Molina led troops in an area of Guatemala that saw some of the most brutal treatment of indigenous peoples, though as is often mentioned, he also played a key role in the 1996 Peace Accords. Colom is a bit more of a mystery, and I've seen several articles refer to him as "gentler" and seeking to reduce crime by reducing poverty and improving the quality of life for all Guatemalans (ie, more free trade and allowing more foreign business investment). Both candidates are from Guatemala's rich, isolated ruling elite.

In the end, I will always be skeptical of progress in a Guatemala that allows Effrain Rios Montt, former dictator and perpetrator of some of the worst war crimes in the Western Hemisphere, to continue serving in the legislature. This is a man who does not dare leave Guatemala for fear of being detained and charged by Spanish Courts, which have brought several indictments against him. This is a man who learned how to oppress the lowly at the School of the Americas. Wasn't Ronald Reagan prescient when he said of Rios Montt in 1982: "President Rios-Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment. I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice." Some of the worst years of the civil war happened under Reagan's watch. And as if we needed any further proof that Rios Montt still has ties to US conservatives, his daughter, Zury, is married to Jerry Weller (R-IL), he of the House of Representatives who was recently called as a witness in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandals and is being investigated for shady Central American land deals. Birds of a feather.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Weekend in DC

Spent this past weekend in Washington, D.C. visiting with an old friend and his fiance, who were likewise in town to visit his brother. Paul (said friend) and Teresa were recently engaged, and seem as happy as can be. His brother, John, and his wife Jaimie have two great kids--Crister (4) and Annika (somewhere between 1 and 2)--and seem to be doing very well. And they were so generous as to allow me to stay with them, providing a level of hospitality I do not often experience--thank you, John and Jaimie!

I took an early morning Saturday train, and this was really my first time out of the city since arriving 6 months ago. The train ride was not generally spectacular, though there were some amazing scenes as the sun was coming up. Arriving in Washington's Union Station, I then took the Metro out toward Alexandria Virgina, where John and Jamie live. Let me just say that the DC Metro is really quite ingeniously designed, incredibly clean, and even had padded seats. Though it doesn't have the character and bustle of the NY subway and is a bit more expensive, it seems comfortable and convenient.

In a stroke of luck, Brother Paul, a former teacher at my high school (Bellarmine Prep) now lives on the East Coast and visits John occasionally; and this Saturday morning he'd decided to come down from Baltimore for a visit. It was great to see him, reminisce a bit, talk politics (he's not a fan of the current crop), and get another taste of his great facility with language. I think the first time I really began to appreciate language and how words can be used was in his World Cultures history class. He now runs the library at a Catholic middle school an hour outside of Baltimore and does not miss teaching one bit!

We eventually headed into DC, since it was my first time in the area, and made it to the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, which would have been so cool to visit as a kid, and was just as amazing (in a different way) as an adult. After a very nice meal at a lovely Indian restaurant, we walked the Mall and saw many of the monuments at night, which is the best way to see them according to some. I most enjoyed the Lincoln Memorial--it's huge doric columns, subtly wonderful murals, and well-chosen excerpts from Lincoln's many speeches. Of course, the Gettysburg Address, but also his Second Inaugural Address, given mere weeks before his assassination. It is a mastery of American statesmanship, acknowledging the hard-fought ravages of the Civil War to both sides, bearing the burden of such sacrifice and uncertainty on his shoulders, and longing for the peace that would only come after his death. I was struck by my experience of it for the rest of the weekend!

Sunday was spent in almost total leisure (besides a woeful game of tennis), which was actually very nice. A trip to mass, a quick jaunt around Alexandria, a fresh Thai meal, and a frenzied trip back to Union Station rounded out the weekend. Just one hiccup: on the way home, we were delayed on the tracks for almost an hour in the middle of nowhere in Delware; when we resumed, we were slowed due to a signal problem, and I arrived home just after 2am. Thanks, Amtrak!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Missing You Already

Stephanie (Paige to some) was here from Tuesday to Saturday last week, and shortly after the last wave at the airport, I was missing her all over again--it had been four months since I'd seen her and it'll be another four before she moves out here.

I had to work all week (the job at which I do next to nothing and where the motto seems to be "go with the flow") so we had only the evenings and Saturday to hang out and have fun in the city. Steph spent some time shopping (ahem, NYC must be shoe shopping heaven) and was able to see her friends who are living out this way--Mikey (a student at a graphic arts school here in the city) and Allison (an aspiring Veterinarian who lives in New Brunswick, NJ). She and Allison have been friends for many years, so I know it was a highpoint to hang out with her.

I was absolutely dismal at planning our short time together, so I've promised myself to redouble the efforts for her arrival in January. Lots of warm surprises and sights of New York are in store.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I Read Good

The Strand Bookstore, a famous New York City purveyor of all things printed, has a service called "Books-by-the-Foot," which will provide your movie set, living room, study, or personal library with a veneer of well-read elitism, studious dedication to your field, quirky intellectualism, or whatever image you might be hoping to effect by shelves of books you've never read. After all, why choose and read the books you want when you can pay someone to help you, without uttering a word, scream "don't even try to debate the merits of the Industrial Revolution until you've read each and every book you see on that shelf" or "yes, I'm pretentious, but that's because I read Aristotle in the original Greek!" or "yes, I own every book ever written by Ann Coulter, and all books written by liberals should be burned!"

While these may provide convenient clues to your guests as to which topics should be avoided over dinner, it also seems dangerous should a guest be intimately familiar with a particular volume and begin asking your thoughts on, say, why Louis XIV is simultaneously the most celebrated and reviled of the French kings. That's when you thank God for wine and pour generously, I suppose.

What's on your shelf these days? Have you read those books? Is it your fantasy to have a leather-bound library? (snicker)

I'm now reading: West of Rome by John Fante
I finished not too long ago: 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Been trying to get though: Harry Potter y la Piedra Filosofal (1st Harry Potter, in Spanish)
Up next: Re-reading a favorite, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Cat

While running this evening near City Hall in lower Manhattan, I saw a man idling down the sidewalk with a beautiful Calico cat perched perfectly atop the ball cap on his head. It made me smile for the pure beauty and ridiculousness of it, and because it brought back instant memories of one of our first family cats: Steffie. She was a beautiful Calico and a fierce, loving mother of many--not so unlike our own.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cannot. Wait.

And this past weekend, I got the wonderful news that my beautiful girlfriend is coming to visit near the end of September. The title of this post says it all. See you soon, babe!

Old Friend

It was a weekend of New York visitors! Before Emily arrived, I was able to meet Erik Hanberg and his lovely girlfriend Mary for lunch at a great Mexican place called Palapa in the East Village. They were in town to catch a show (Spring Awakening) and walk the streets.

It was great to catch up with them and hear all about their interesting side-jobs that they are hoping turn into full-time gigs. The creative class, taking over: Mary in graphic design and Erik in video production/podcasting for a Tacoma blog(it's cool, check it out: Best of luck to them!

24 Hours in Gotham

Was just about what Emily (my sister) was able to enjoy this weekend. We had a great time, and I was absolutely ecstatic to have a visitor. She arrived Saturday evening, and we braved the sultry evening for our first adventure in Soho and a favorite pastime of Em's: shopping. First stop, H&M for a look at their fall fashions (Em left the store with just a couple of items, so it's probably a thumbs down for fall 2007). She then found a "hot" pair of shoes at the Steve Madden store (where we discussed moving the store to her house, or her moving into the store). After shopping, it was time for sustenance, and we took a leisurely stroll down to Little Italy. In the summer, the 5-block-long strip is closed to traffic as the myriad restaurants spill out onto the sidewalk and gelato, kitsch, and cookie vendors hock their wares in the street. It's a lively, crowded place reminiscent of a palazzo, though I don't speak from experience. Dinner was lovely, Em's was decidedly superior. She chose the sea bass, and it was perfection: delicately cooked, the fish melted in your mouth, and the sweetness of sun dried tomatoes and artichokes added a complexity of flavor and texture. Yum. I had orrechiette (ear-shaped pasta) with broccoli rabe and sausage. It was quite good, though no comparison to the sea bass. We picked up a few Italian cookies (called lemon drops, they have a sugar glaze and are very similar to cookies that grandma makes around Easter and Christmas) before heading north to the ultimate tourist attraction: Times Square.

New Yorkers, as a rule, avoid Times Square on Friday and Saturday nights, especially in August. We found out why. The sidewalks were packed with people and walking one block was like trying to wade through quicksand. On the other hand, there's nothing quite like Times Square at night, so we joined the throngs and craned our necks for the 6 blocks of flashing lights and jumbotrons. After that we needed a drink, so we headed off to Blockheads nearby for margaritas. We ambled home, full and happy, to sweat out a miserable night in my windowless room.

The morning brought beautiful weather (slightly cooler and much less humid) for our full day of planned activities. We started off on Smith St. in my neighborhood, for a wonderful brunch at a little Cuban place. We shared an omelet and fruit salad, and Em had a magnificent coco latte (a latte made with a hint of coconut milk). They also had thin-sliced fried plantains instead of the ubiquitous tortilla chips. Those were good, but the real star of the meal was the mix of salsa and fresh herbs for dipping. We asked the waitress what was in it and told us it was their special mix of cilantro, parsley, jalapeños, tomatoes, and lime juice. We called it delicious, and asked for more to slather over the omelet.

With full bellies we hopped a train headed for Queens. There were two more things on the schedule today: a quick stop at the US Open and then on to see the family. The US Open starts today, but yesterday was a free open practice, and just happened to be one stop on the subway before Flushing (our destination to see the family). So, we stopped for about an hour to check out the grounds and see some players in practice with their coaches and other players. It was fun to see the stadiums and some tennis up close. Then it was off to Flushing.

Tom, Maria and Uncle Tony met us at the train station, and we hopped in the car to head out toward Whitestone, NY and Frank & Emma's house. We met Emma's daughter and her husband and kids. We also met her daughter-in-law and one of her grandsons, though Emma's son couldn't make it down from Rhode Island for the weekend. Turns out it was Frank's birthday, and perhaps that was the reason that the bounty that was set out before us seemed even more extravagant this time. We started, as always, with pasta (rigatoni with tomato sauce, ricotta and mozzarella), but then came the barrage. Dishes kept coming and coming faster than we could dish things out and the table was literally overflowing. Green salad, cucumber salad, broccoli rabe, fried cauliflower, green snap peas, eggplant & peppers, chicken, steak, sausage, hot dogs. We stuffed ourselves while Emma goaded us to take more and chided us for not eating enough. All that was cleared, and then came two fruit plates, bread dough biscotti, a huge plate of cookies, watermelon, cantaloupe, and plates of peaches and plums. We figured this was dessert. Oh no, mi amici. It being Frank's birthday, there was a gigantic tiramisu cake, several other assorted pastries, and the ubiquitous espresso and sambuca. It was a feast of epicurean proportions.

Unfortunately, I played it a bit too cool-as-a-cucumber about getting Em back for her train to Jersey, and that made for a mad dash to Penn Station. Though I'm sure I contributed to her already too high stress level, we made it to the train with a minute to spare. That was the only bittersweet moment of Em's time here, a harried goodbye on the train platform. On the upside, she got just enough of a taste of New York to want to come back.

Friday, August 17, 2007

When I see an elephant fly...

I recently found great chocolate in DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Brooklyn Overpass) at Jacques Torres Chocolates. It’s a beautiful shop in this neighborhood renowned for its spacious lofts among warehouse and industry, with an often stunning view of the lower Manhattan skyline. Check out the chocolate covered Cheerios and huge ice cream sandwiches. The stars, of course, are the little truffles in surprising and tasty flavors like: key lime, pistachio marzipan, and peanut butter mocha. My mouth is watering again. If I walk there from home (about 1 mile round trip) I can have 5 chocolates a day, right? Right?

The other thing DUMBO is renowned for is two giant buildings that say Watchtower. So you might get asked if you'd like to join the Jehovah's Witnesses if you hang out for too long. Of course, you can always say: "These chocolates are heavenly enough for me, thanks."

Who reads this blog?

I'm betting no one, since I rarely post!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

9 to 5

Searching for a job that not only pays the bills but also the mind and the soul, is beginning to wear me down. I’ve had interviews for development/fundraising positions with Teach for America and New Yorkers for Parks. On Monday, I interviewed at UNICEF (for a temporary position) as an admin. I've signed up with a staffing agency that specifically serves nonprofits. And after two months of being here, bupkis.

Now wait a minute, you might be thinking, isn't he forgetting why he came to New York? Shouldn't he be worried about feeding his soul with preparing for auditions, reading plays, and going to see the world-class theatre on offer? Yes, yes and yes. But after five years of putting heart and soul into my previous job, I'm finding it's not so easy to get a mindless job and try to focus elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Martellis

I had a wonderful experience this past weekend: meeting my grandmother's cousins, Tom and Emma (and their delightful spouses and children) and her uncle (Uncle Tony of family lore), a 94-year-old first-generation Italian immigrant as sharp now as ever. He remembers a staggering amount of information about our family and it's trials and tribulations. My great-grandfather Patrick (Pasquale) Martelli and his brother Alex scrimped and saved during the war years and after to send for Uncle Tony and his family. In 1955, and I think somewhat reluctantly, Uncle Tony and his family (his wife, daughters Dorothy and Emma, and son Tom) arrived by boat through New York. From there, they took what Tom described as a 4-day journey by train to the terminus of the Northern Pacific Line (Tacoma, WA). It was rough going for a time, especially to arrive in Tacoma knowing very little English an where few if any spoke Italian. Eventually, Uncle Tony's family migrated eastward (except for Dorothy who married and stayed in Tacoma) to Long Island, New York, where they still reside today. They live in Flushing, an old Italian neighborhood that more recently has become a haven for new immigrants from even further East, mainly Chinese and Thai.

So Saturday night was my first home-cooked meal since arriving in New York (I, of course, have been cooking, but cooking for one sucks). Antipasti (sharp provolone, hard salami, and another cured meat); rigatoni with a delightful tomato sauce; sauteed green beans with olive oil and vinegar; amazing grilled zucchini, eggplant and peppers dripping with olive oil; a light and fresh cucumber and tomato salad; grilled steak, lamb, sausage, and chicken; dessert of fruit with delightful cookies and pastries; and finally capped off with espresso and choice of sambuca or anisette. I was stuffed, and Tom's wife Connie (the masterful cook behind most of what made it to the table) made sure I went home with a goody bag. And all I had brought was a bottle of Washington wine! And even that was quickly forgotten when I learned that Emma's husband, Frank, makes his own wine and he'd of course brought a large bottle. His wine was definitely young, much different from commercial wine, very very strong, and I think an acquired taste. I really liked it, but I'm not sure most people would.

As lively as the food was the conversation, nearly 50% of which it seemed was in Italian. I caught a few words here and there, and Tom was so good about keeping me involved. He even told me at one point that Emma and Connie's mother, Maria, were speaking in a dialect that isn't even used or taught anymore! This was fascinating and definitely a different experience for me. Tom filled me in on much of what happened in the intervening years. Emma had gone back to Italy at some point and married Frank there. She returned to the US and found herself in New York, which she liked (there were many more Italians there than in Tacoma!) and decided to stay. Frank soon joined her, and not too much later, Tom moved out to go to Queen's College. Not long after that, Tony and his wife moved out to New York. Each of them lived with Emma and Frank in their small home in Corona (a neighborhood of Queens) for some time, with Tom sleeping on a cot in the dining room. There was even an amusing storing of Frank getting caught in the cot one night (it was one that folded up in the middle).

Tom also was able to tell me exactly where Cantalupo (the home-town of of the Martellis) is located. It is in the region of Italy called Molise and in the province of Isernia (the other provice of Molise is Campobasso). Today, Cantalupo is a country getaway spot for the urban dwellers of nearby Naples, some 150 km to the southwest. Cantalupo (the supposed origin the sweet melon "cantaloupe") means "wolf song" or "song of the wolf" in Italian. The full name of the town is Cantalupo nel Sannio and you'll see here that the population today is just 736 people. Check out this page for more information . And check out this page for the 10 most common surnames of the town--Di Re and Crivellone appear on the list (two prominent names in our family). If you search for "Martelli" at the bottom of that page, it turns up a result of 4.98, which means that 5 people in town probably have the surname Martelli. Perhaps the Martelli family does still have a few hearty souls there!

Needless to say, I was fascinated by the visit, and so grateful for a chance to glimpse our family roots. There were so many questions I wished that I'd asked my great-grandparents when they were alive, and this visit brought me closer to some answers. To Tom and Connie, Emma and Frank, and of course, the last surviving Martelli of his generation, Uncle Tony I offer grazie mille!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What's that smell?

It’s difficult to describe the smells of New York City. The sweet bread smell of a bakery often mixes with the smell of fresh (or aging?) garbage on the sidewalk, or the mysterious steam that wafts up from grates in the sidewalk. And what do you call the resulting mix of smells? Sweet sewage? Delicious decay?

And when you’re packed on the subway like sardines, and everyone around you has to lift their arm to grab a bar and prevent themselves from being slammed into the wall by the lurching train operator, and all these people have just come from the subway station that is a good 10 degrees hotter than the 90-degree-100-percent-humidty of the street level, and you’re trying to keep your hands in a place that is not touching other people and wondering what that thing is that feels like a hand rubbing against your butt and you can’t turn and look because you can’t move, and the train stops in the middle of a tunnel, and the train operator crackles over the intercom and says something completely unintelligible, and you’re hoping you won’t be stuck here for long, and you’re breathing through your mouth and thinking that if you’re here for more than 5 minutes you will claw your way to the doors, pry them open with your bare hands, and brave the unknown of the subway tunnel rather than spend one millisecond more breathing in the body odor of the guy next to you, with his arm up exposing to everyone in the car (and, you think, perhaps the cars in front and behind you, it’s so bad) the glaring fact that this dude needs a shower. Stat. Ol-factory indeed. I never thought I would regret having a sense of smell. Welcome to New York.

For fun, check out Gawker’s New York City Subway Smell Map. Readers of the Gawker blog write in with what smells they’ve experienced recently at all the major subway stops. At the stop I normally use, Borough Hall in Brooklyn, the smells recorded recently were body odor, chemicals, and urine. All in a day’s commute.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gin Rummy

I'm not inherently a political person, but who can avoid it in the hyper-information age? This should be required reading for every citizen of the United States: Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker article detailing yet one more instance of how this administration has abdicated responsibility for anything and everything that went wrong and systematically undermined anyone who had the courage to stand up to them. To ostracize and cut short the career of a decorated and devoted Army General for doing his job and telling the truth is appalling. Far more appalling that we most likely continue to treat our fellow human beings in the most inhumane of ways.

PC Load Letter

I'll be starting a new job on Monday at Pace University in the Education Department as an Administrative Assistant. It's a temporary position, but could last as long as six months (we'll see if they want to keep me around and vice versa!).

My sister Anna kindly sent me some Office Space paraphernalia, so the Jump to Conclusions Mat and Innotech mug are definitely coming with me. And I'm putting the little red stapler on a neck lanyard. That's right, Lumberg, you're going to have to kill me to get it.

What as super impression this will make on my new employer! I see a raise coming before I've even started...

Talk Radio

I saw Talk Radio on Broadway last week, with Liev Schreiber in the role of Barry Champlain, a fictional talk radio pioneer in the late 80s. The show was good, especially Schreiber, who deteriorates throughout the play, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol as he contemplates the sheer banality of his life's work and destroying every tenuous relationship he as with real human beings (as opposed to disembodied voices, with whom he seems to deal much easier). Talk radio is an ego-driven enterprise. Here, that ego is having a hell of a time justifying itself. Eric Bogosian's 1987 scrip is a bit dated, but you don't notice that at all once Schreiber sits down in that chair. It's fascinating to watch Schreiber take us on his trip through hell in one two-hour radio show.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I could honestly say / things can only get better...

Alright, out of context, but you can find a quote for every stage of life in the canon of Elton John (thanks especially to my lovely Paige, who is Sir Elton's biggest fan).

I've been having a great time exploring my neighborhood and Manhattan, especially the parks and public spaces. I haven't gotten to Queens or the Bronx yet, but I can't ignore them for too much longer.

Brooklyn is a fascinating area, reminiscent of Seattle in ways (though it's bigger and has rapid transit). The neighborhoods each have a certain character and there are small parks and community gardens in those rare open spaces. I think Prospect Park especially reminds me of the Northwest, with a huge sprawling lawn that extends down the middle of the park, and trails on which you can (almost) forget you're in the city. The parks in New York are in densely populated urban areas, which I think is a major difference. You look at the big parks in the Northwest, with the notable exception of Portland's Washington Park, and they are invariably in the less dense neighborhoods that require driving to them. Here they are within walking distance or a short train ride away. Central Park sprawls out for a staggering 52 city blocks, making it within walking distance for a huge swath of Manhattanites.

Of course, New York does not seem to have, or perhaps has disguised through development, the stunning natural beauty that seems to be around every corner in the Northwest. The iconic sights here are the Empire State Building and Times Square rather than Mt. Rainier, the Cascades and the Olympics. Oh how I miss them all already...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big City Blues

I've been here for more than two weeks now, and literally have nothing to show for it. I haven't worked on my monologues as much as I promised myself I would. I've applied for too many jobs to remember and have received no calls or emails back. I'm sitting in my room in the middle of the day typing a blog post. Big city blues indeed.

I have been checking out the city though. Last Thursday, I made my way out to Coney Island, which is much less of an attraction to me than the HUGE boardwalk and beach. Though the wind made for a very cool afternoon, it was really a beautiful day. I walked up and down the Boardwalk, taking in the sights of seagulls and waves. If not for the thousands of people, it would be an oasis just outside the urban jungle.

Friday evening, I visited the Museum of Modern Art ( in Midtown Manhattan (it's free on Fridays from 4pm to 8pm). Right now, they are featuring a 40-year retrospective of the artist (sculpter) Richard Serra. Seattle has it's own piece of Mr. Serra in the Olympic Sculpture park (his is the giant hulking wavy steel plates fused together). Truly, his art is not meant to be admired from a distance, but to be experienced, to walk around his sculptures and feel how they transform the space in which they are placed. There is a real energy coming off of his works, sometimes that feels like electricity or some kind of magnetism. His work all looks very similar, but each piece has it's own, very distinct, presence. I also saw some very famous works by Picasso, Leger, Monet, and countless other artists of the modern era. I'll definitely be going back for more.

I haven't been to any theatre yet (sacrelige!), but it can be expensive, so I'm taking my time to weigh what i really want to see. I did see my dear friend Victoria in a showcase last night (a small collection of scenes by 10 or so actors). It was quite good, and Vic was great! They're having another run for "industry" folks tonight. Break a leg, guys!

Back to the job hunt...

Richard Serra's Torqued Elipse IV in the Scupture Garden at MOMA

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A New Day

It was hot in New York City yesterday. Unseasonably hot, unbearably hot, hotter than hell. Today is a new, and thankfully cooler, day. (Of course, everyone tells me that this is only a little preview of the summer to come, a sweltering string of unending heat and humidity that lasts well into September.)

It's also a new day, in a different way, for me. This is the first time I've lived out of my home state. I'm going to feel like a tourist here for a long time, even after I find a job and "settle in" as everyone seems so fond of saying. There will be no settling. This move has been unsettling, but in the best of ways--this city is teeming with people, many of whom are here for the same reason as I, and they're all working toward a similar goal. That's incredibly intimidating...but it's also heartening to know that others are surviving the struggle. I think it's okay if I'm unsettled for awhile.

I was so lucky to be able to ease into things here, staying with my friends (who really are more like family), Sam and Vic, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They have a lovely one-bedroom apartment in a walkup (4 flights of stairs multiple times a day for them) that is just a block or two away from Central Park, subways, and many other amenities. It's a great neighborhood. They were just married in November, but they've been here three long years--I'm so proud of them!

The room I'm renting now is in a 4-bedroom apartment in the Cobble Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. It's a beautiful little neighborhood, with shops and movie theatres and restaurants just a short walk away. I live with three other guys, all of whom seem to be a bit younger than I am, a bit more fresh-out-of-college, and seem to be having a great time living in the big city. And all 3 are actors at varying stages of trying to find a career (from no auditions to three-in-one-day auditions).

I was missing home today, so I found the one NYC Trader Joe's near Union Square in lower Manhattan. They had my favorite item, Just Mango (no sugar added, no preservatives or color enhancers, just dried mango slices) and all the delights of Trader Joe's back home. Of course, in true Manhattan style, the line for the checkout wound nearly around the entire store, and that was with nearly 20 checkstands. Fun as that was, it'll be awhile before I return for another 45-minute wait in line there. They have an entirely separate wine shop next door. I didn't go in this time, but when I have a hankering for some Lambrusco, I know where to go!