Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bloody Curtain

I was sitting in the theater yesterday when I had this stray thought about the outside world.

While I was thoroughly immersed in The Ferryman, Jez Butterworth’s riveting drama about a rural Irish family that gets caught up in The Troubles of sectarian violence, I briefly wondered what was happening in the so-called real world.

The play runs over three hours and I was unable to appease my I-phone addiction and, given the current political climate, I had this strange feeling that something major could be going on.

Well, I found out a short time later over dinner that “something major” was yet another mass shooting in America, this time at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where an anti-Semitic psychopath shouting “All Jews must die!” allegedly shot 11 people to death and wounded six others before the cops shot him and took him into custody.

I almost wish I hadn’t looked at my phone.

I keep saying that it’s pointless to write about these slaughters, that nothing will change thanks to the gutless whores we have in congress and in the White House.

In fact, I was even working on another post for this week, but I can’t ignore this latest horror show, especially given the appalling week my country just endured.

In addition to the Pittsburgh nightmare, we also had a Trump-loving lunatic—which sounds redundant—send pipe bombs to two former U.S. Presidents and several major leaders and supporters of the opposing party, as well as CNN and Robert DeNiro.

Right-wingers were all too eager to suggest or outright say that the attempted bombings were a so-called “false flag” planted by Democrats, but in the end, as Bill Maher noted, the suspect turned out to be “an angry asshole in a red hat.”

We had another crazed white gunman in Kentucky gun down two African-Americans--Vickie Lee Jones, 67, and Maurice E. Stallard, 69—at a Kroger store.

Make America Hate Again

Police said the alleged murderer tried to enter a historically black church minutes before heading to the grocery store.

And during this terrible time, we’re saddled with Donald Trump, a raging narcissist and shameless bigot, who managed to blame the victims of the synagogue slaughter by saying the facility—a house of worship—should’ve had an armed security guard.

The nerve of those pesky Jews getting shot like that. Of course, four of the wounded were armed police officers responding to the incident and guns didn’t seem to do them much good. But don’t tell that to the Trumpanzees. They don’t handle reality very well.

This is the same nationalist president, by the way, who managed to tweet about the World Series just hours after the Pittsburgh massacre, so we know what his priorities are.

He also tweet-bitched that the pipe bomber was taking the attention off the really important things, like the alleged caravan of migrants who are inching their way up from Central America to steal our jobs and commit acts of terror.

However, at the rate they’re moving and the frequency of these mass shootings, there may not be anyone left to terrorize when they finally do get here.

Mike Pence, Trump’s bible-blabbing android, spewed the standard “thoughts and prayers” horseshit, which not only doesn’t help, but actually makes things just a little bit worse.

The Ferryman covers such issues as extremism, corruption, and senseless violence, and during the climax, when things spin completely out of control, one of the characters frantically cries out “what do we do? What do we do?”

The play ended 24 hours ago and I’m still asking that question. What do we do?

Sunday, October 21, 2018

The Time of Our Lives

It seems like it just a minute ago we were all so young.

I met up with some friends from high school earlier this month and I can’t stop doing the math.

Was it really that many years ago that we all first met? Are we really that old?

And, for the love of God, can we get a recount?

The mini-reunion got me thinking about other people I knew back when I was a teenager and I decided to waste some of the time I have left by poking around on Facebook.

I noticed that one of my friends had friended a guy I knew in high school who was nicknamed “Pooch.”

We weren’t close, but we were friendly enough, at least for a while. At some point, though, things soured somewhat between us and I’m not sure why. I am certainly partially to blame for the rift because back then I was quick to take offense and all too eager to hold to it.

This is still a problem, by the way, but at least now I acknowledge it and I’m trying to improve.

I never saw Pooch after high school and I didn’t think about him at all until I ran across him on Facebook. He had become a doctor and was also the father and a grandfather--which spooked the hell out of me.

I started feeling badly about how we had left things off back in the Seventies. I thought it would be a nice if we could talk and clear things up—assuming, of course, he even remembered who I was.

But I made absolutely no effort to turn this thought into reality. I just…thought about it.

And then I clicked on to his page and saw that Pooch had died last year at the age of 59. It felt so strange looking at his photo while recalling the kid in high school. And I feel so badly for his family.

Back to Work

A few months ago, a freelance reporter contacted me about a murder case in the Poconos I had covered in the 1980s.

He was working on a book about the case and wanted to shake up my memory, but honestly, I was of very little help to him, as I had just covered the arrest and very little else.

At some point I mentioned my old editor at the paper and he told me that he had died a few years ago.

Now I was not friends with this editor in any way—in fact, we had some pretty nasty encounters during my time there and I was convinced that he showed extreme favoritism to another reporter whom I absolutely despised.

I was so angry with the management at that place that I had hard time putting them out of my mind even after I moved on to another paper.

But now all the bickering and the hostility that occupied so much of my time back then seem meaningless now.

Yeah, the situation at that newspaper sucked big time, but I know I could’ve handled things better.

And, failing at that, I could have—and should have—gotten out of there a hell of a lot of sooner than I did.

People are always going to butt heads. That’s inevitable. But you have to guard your own health and happiness, so if you’re in a bad spot, get out of it as soon as possible. If you want to patch things up with someone, do it as soon as you can.

Keep the toxic emotions to a minimum and you won’t have to be sorry later on.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Temple of Zoom

If I knew I was going on an adventure I would’ve worn a pith helmet.

I met up with a friend on Saturday to check out an old building and wound up doing some serious time traveling.

We were enjoying the annual Open House New York event, where hundreds of the city’s normally off-limits sites and attractions are open to the public.

My aunt suggested checking out the old Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn on DeKalb Avenue, a building I had spotted a few weeks ago while running an errand downtown.

At the time I snapped a photo of the outside and wondered what the interior looked like. Here was my chance to find out.
So, I contacted my buddy Maria for a little urban exploring.

Now I have to confess that I was a little concerned that I was inviting my friend to view a musty old mausoleum. What a great way to spend a Saturday, right?

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The second we walked into the place I knew we had discovered a real gem.

Designed by Mowbray & Uffinger and built between 1906 and 1908, the Dime Savings bank is a work of art.

The vast building was made to look like Greek temple complete with a rotunda supported by red marble columns that were made from stone imported from ancient Greek quarries. I’ve been in a lot of churches in my life and this place definitely seemed like holy ground.

“I feel like Indiana Jones,” I whispered.

The rotunda was lined with marble benches and several quotes were carved into these benches to give you a lesson as well as a place to rest your caboose. These included little ditties like "Honesty is exact to the penny,” “Sloth is a motor of poverty,” and “From saving comes having.”

Walking around, I imagined men with derbies and canes and women in long dresses with parasols, coming in here to do their business. You could almost feel the souls passing through you.

Everywhere you looked there were fabulous carvings or symbols of some type. The designers were real artists and they wanted to build something that would last.

This neighborhood, like so such much of Brooklyn, is changing rapidly, with old buildings being either renovated or torn down and new structures sprouting up every time you turn around.

The bank is going to survive this onslaught—more or less.

There are plans to build a 73-story mixed-use tower with nearly 500 rental apartments next door to the bank. It will be the tallest building in the borough and the Dime will be used for retail space.

We were having such a good time that Maria checked her phone to see if any other landmarks in the open house were nearby.

“The Wifi here is terrible,” she said, and I had to laugh at the incongruity of mentioning the internet in a such an ancient place like this.

When she finally got a connection, we learned that the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a memorial to more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who died aboard 16 British prison ships during the Revolutionary War, was on the list and just short stroll DeKalb Avenue at Fort Greene Park.

The park is located directly across the street from my alma mater, Brooklyn Technical High School. Now I was a student there back in the Seventies, when the area was a crime-infested hellhole and nobody, I mean nobody, wanted to live there.

I went to Tech for four years but I never even thought about putting one foot in the park back in those dire, dark days.

Saturday was the first time I actually went in there, though I confess it took me a little while to relax because I was half-convince some lingering freak would bum rush us.

But that didn’t happen. The park is beautiful and it was filled with people having fun, not criminals raising hell.

After a brief stop at the Greenlight Bookstore on Fulton Street, we decided to wrap things up.

As we walked down Flatbush building we heard a terrible crash coming across the avenue. We saw a huge cloud of dust and realized one of the crumbling buildings on that block had come tumbling down.

It sounded like a disaster instead of a controlled event, but I did see some kind of construction equipment nearby, so I reckon it was planned. It was scary nonetheless.

But I guess that was the sound of time marching on, rolling over the past and constantly building anew.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Pay What You Wish

Is there an oddsmaker in the house?

I had a chance encounter recently at the Whitney Museum of American Art that I’m still having trouble believing actually happened.

If I had to pick a theme song for this particular Friday night in the Meatpacking District it would unquestionably be OMC’s 1995 hit “How Bizarre” because that’s the only word that fits the situation.

I had gone to the Whitney’s new digs on Gansevoort Street in my half-hearted effort to get the hell away from the DVR and walk amongst human beings.

It was pay-what-you-wish night, which caused a massive but relatively-fast moving line to form outside the museum’s front door. Once I was inside I went to the top floor and worked my way down.

The new Whitney building is a work of art on its own with observation decks on several floors that offer fabulous views of the city. I thought some of the exhibits were a little strange, but I was trying to keep an open mind.

Plus, the Whitney has a number of Edward Hopper paintings that I absolutely love.

After a while I decided it was time to go home and I was riding the elevator down to the lobby when I realized I hadn’t seen the exhibits on the fifth floor.

Oh, screw it, I thought, you’ve seen enough. Go home. The couch and the remote are calling out to you.

It's Making Me Crazy

But I didn’t want to bail. I have a habit of leaving places too soon and going just as the party gets started. I didn’t have any place to be and I wasn’t sure when I’d be coming back, so why not stick around?

I zipped back up to the fifth floor, stepped off the elevator, and locked eyes with my old friend Phil, who I have not seen in years.

It was just so twisted running into him after I had pretty much given up on seeing him ever again.

If Albert Einstein tried to work out the odds of meeting someone in New York in the same museum on the same night his head would explode. I was leaving for God’s sake, and it was just a last-minute decision to go back upstairs.

In many ways this felt like running into an ex-girlfriend, which I’ve also done.

We chatted for a little while and I told him about my accident and that I was looking for work.

There was nothing heavy, as this was neither the time nor the place, and, frankly, I don’t think there will ever be a time and a place for that kind of conversation.

Phil was with some friends, who were preparing to leave, so we parted company and I exited the Whitney—for real this time.

Nothing was resolved, as far as I’m concerned, but I am grateful than I saw him again and I can accept the fact that, for whatever reason, we have gone our separate ways.

But what I’m feeling most of all is shock. I still can’t believe we ran into each other in this city of eight million people.

I have asked God for so much in my lifetime, but even I don’t have the nerve to ask the Almighty to pull an almighty crazy-ass stunt like this. Maybe it’s a case of don’t ask and you shall receive.

As OMC would say, how bizarre.