Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Left coast cats

Despite being allergic to them, I'm still a sucker for pair-of-cats-in-a-sink photos like the one here from Emmy's blog, even if they are rascals. In somewhat related news, planning for the official third annual random PSU/Harrisburg connections ski weekend is getting rolling after tonight's phone call with K. This year -- tentatively -- Hunter Mountain!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In no particular order

What a blustery weekend. Didn't let it keep me inside. Getting out, using those free museum admissions. The colors on the trees, the shading of the sky in Brooklyn. Farmer's market at Grand Army Plaza. Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights. The trains forever testing your patience. A great new book: The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. Tip o' the hat to Studio 360, as usual. Moving van: Manhattan Valley to Astoria. The view of the sky from down below the two seats. The wind sacrificing the particle-board bedframe. Watching a gritty scene unfold from the window of Dunkin' Donuts. Back to Rice in Dumbo, not as crowded, just as yummy. "The Richest Chocolate Cupcake in Brooklyn." Ginger lemonade, ginger candy. The chilly, but stunning view from the Fulton Ferry Landing, my first time there at night. A decaf cup o' joe in the Bklyn Ice Cream Factory. The elevator at Clark Street. Hearing about 1921 hallucinations brought on by carbon monoxide poisoning. The forlorn-looking ex-car wash and the question of what the future holds.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Going out of business sale

It was a flashback to early teenage years this evening as I stepped into Tower Records on Broadway and Lincoln Square, partly to get out of the rain, but also in search of bargains. I rode the escalator upstairs and headed for the glassed-off classical section, where classical music fans can listen to their chosen genre in peace. Growing up, it was always a treat to get to go to the Tower classical section. It was one of the more comprehensive out there, and a lot more satisfying than the kind I found at the Wall or Sam Goody, which always seemed to be dominated by the 100-some most famous works, the flashy new slickly marketed CDs, and little much else in terms of depth. Now, I'm not saying I was a fan of the most obscure or avant-garde music, but if you listen regularly to a decent classical music station for long enough, you're bound to hear something that isn't in the dozen or so feet of display space usually allotted to that genre in the smaller stores. So now Tower is liquidating. Even a behemoth with lots of stores nationwide can be brought low by the likes of iTunes and Wal-Mart. Tonight as I browsed, though, there was that unspoken (although perhaps whistled and hummed) cameraderie of hunting around for records to add to your collection, or hard drives, as the case may be, that's missing from the e-tailers, as great and easy as they may be. Now the discounts are decent, but not quite desperate just yet. I walked out with three discs for $25. The cashier claimed Dec. 1 was the rumored final, final day, but who knows if there'll be anything worth buying by then? Stop by now!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

There's another train, there always is

"Peachy" has a pretty spot-on analysis of train anthropology, specifically on the Northeast Corridor line, but probably true in general. Sample observation: "There are friends that you make on the train. And they are only your friends on the train. That's it. You can be commuting for 10 years and be friendly with someone for that long, but your friendship is defined and limited by your train ride."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday night

Once in a while a work day comes along that really reminds me why I like what I do. I'm just noting it here so I can look back and remember on days when I'm not as sure.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wherever they go, there they are

So J. is really truly thinking about starting her post-college life in B.C. Not just for the next nine months, but for the forseeable future. Her telling me this tonight was another one of those moments when you realize that in these highly mobile times, your friends really aren't always going to be nearby. They could be scattered to the four winds, and you will be just as near or far from them as they are from you. Guess this means I'll be planning a trip to Seattle and beyond one of these days. Which, you know, shouldn't really seem that far away now that I've officially made it to the West Coast for the first time.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Building some mystery

Sarah McLachlan -- whom I'll probably always associate with my high school years, but can still appreciate to a slightly lesser degree now -- has a new album out, her first in what seems like way too long. And it's called Wintersong. Now as much as I love Christmas, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed that it's not more of her own stuff or the kind that you can listen to year-round. (Some people can listen to holiday music all the time; I just can't.) And while I'll probably buy a copy or more likely download it off you-know-where at some point, I just can't bring myself to hit the button this many shopping days before Christmas. It's not even Halloween yet! Why does the holiday marketing season have to keep getting longer and longer?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Trivial dilemma of the moment

So I hit up the Whitney today to see the Hopper and Picasso & American Art exhibits (which were great, btw), and I noticed a fellow museumgoer had a little sticker on the back of her sweater. You know, one of those tags the dry cleaners affix with a safety pin to keep track of whose stuff is whose. I know it's only marginally worse than having your tag sticking out, but do you go to the trouble of telling the person? Or do you just ignore it, and the person can go home and likely not even realize that she had it sticking out the whole day?

Inevitably, such moments remind me of my freshman English instructor, who spent almost the entire class with a sticker from the Gap on her shirt (one that said her clothing size over and over again in vertical) until one of my friends quietly pointed it out to her. It's funny what you remember from certain classes. The other thing I remember about her is that she made us read a book by Dr. Laura.

Sunday night ironi-chic

So your Simpsons was pre-empted by some sporting event among Midwesterners. Luckily, there's a new episode of TheBurg.tv up and ready for viewing! (Condor scout to the rescue.) More fun than playing a game of "Greek or Cypriot?" with your doppelgangers up in Queens.

The Wined Up pitch

I remember being reminded recently somewhere that you can get better treatment if you make the effort to remember the names of the staff at places you like to eat and drink. This may seem like some "no, duh" advice, but I find it's easy to forget that in this town of a thousand eateries and countless servers. So tonight -- as H. and I were enjoying some delicious white wine (Viognier for me, Grauer for her), sharing an appetizer of procsciutto, buffalo mozzarella, figs and pine nuts, and finishing it all off with a good old fashioned brownie and ice cream -- I decided to ask the name of our server, whom I've seen on recent visits to Punch at Broadway and 21st St., up the street from Union Square. And as we were chatting, she let us know that the owners are opening a new wine, cheese and fondue bar upstairs called Wined Up. She didn't actually spell it for us, but to spell it any other way would just be wrong. It's supposed to open the second week of November.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Otto says greep grop

For a guy who supposedly likes words and deals with them on a regular basis, I've been feeling pretty inarticulate recently. (Is this nerve issue now affecting my head or my mouth as well?) Attempting to explain how I felt about Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette tonight, I kept coming up empty. The best thing I can say at this point is that I enjoyed the montage where the gambling chips, shoes, cakes and other fantastic embellishments were made to look interchangable, like everything looked good enough to wear and eat and caress. That, and I liked how it all felt like one big arc of a blow-out party. And it was a fun escape with gorgeous views. Easy on the eyes and the brain, I guess.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dispatch from the tube

Having a double MRI done near the end (but not at the end) of a long day of work is kinda like getting to take a nap next to a construction site. It's at once relaxing and jarring, as the noises rotate through their cycles, and you attempt to nod off, while also not moving at all. The last time I had an MRI done, I totally gave in to the lull of the variable but repetitive vibrations, only to be woken up by the microphone voice of the technician telling me to stay awake, thereby staving off those muscle twitches that happen as you're drifting off. This time I got nothing but praise and some friendly reassuring pats on my leg each of the two times they caged my face and neck with foam and plastic and slipped me inside the loud donut. There was even a little periscope-like mirror that allowed me to peek out past my toes at the technicians' window. The noises, if you listen long enough, start to take on the timbre of a computer or a robot speaking: rapper-rapper-rapper-rapper, whammy-whammy-whammy-whammy-whammy, butta-butta-butta-butta-butta, etc. And the strange warp in the space-time continuum, caused by that big magnet no doubt, that makes MRI time seem much longer than it should be. "This next one will be two minutes," I hear from somewhere inside my lit tube. What seems like a good five or six minutes later, she pipes up again, "You're doing great. Just two more of these." Four more later, and they pull me out. All in all, it's not that bad as procedures go, but I still had a slightly woozy, itchy-nose, wet-eyed feeling as I tossed out the ear plugs and reached down to lace up my shoes. At least, I'm told, my insides take a good picture.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The afterlife of a temp

One author at Sunday's Great Read in the Park who made a better impression was Adriana Trigiani. After saying how she didn't feel good enough to share the stage with her fellow panelists inside one of the event tents, she dispensed with any typical reading of her work, and engaged instead in what you might call book-dork sitting-down standup, riffing on her novels, her characters, her readers, her hometowns, etc. Among her fans apparently is actress of stage and screen Mary Testa, whom I saw last year at the Public alongside Idina Menzel, she of the penetrating gaze, in John Michael LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, and then this weekend, three people over in the crowd. But the funnier moment came when a guy standing behind us yelled out to the humble author, "Were you a temp at Merrill Lynch?" Turns out Adriana did indeed handle office duties once upon a time at the investment bank, although she said she had something of a "don't quit that writing side gig" reputation. The guy must've had a good memory from the sound of it.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

PostSecret of the moment

Calamity book readings

A bad live reading by a novelist can kind of sour me on a new book. At the NYTimes' Great Read in the Park (Bryant, that is) this afternoon, we heard Marisha Pessl read from her first book, the amazingly titled Special Topics In Calamity Physics. Problem is, her excerpt was way too long, wasn't funny, and didn't draw us into the story the way two other authors who read before her did. Granted, these were more seasoned authors with many years of writing and promoting under their belts, but still. If you're going to go to the trouble to create such a unique website and cover for the book, would it hurt to coach her a little on how best to do these readings, which are after all smaller scale advertisements for her product? I'm not saying I won't eventually seek out Special Topics, but I certainly didn't return to the sales tent today and fork over the $25. Anyone already read it and can offer a quickie review in the comments?

Brooklyn randomness

I was carried, willingly, across a street in Dumbo earlier today, Superman-style, by some strangers wearing reflective orange vests. I think it was supposed to be art. It looked kind of like this:

Down in Dumbo

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Elixir of Love at NYC Opera

Having grown up listening to classical music, if not full-length operas exactly, I find one of the exciting things about seeing an opera from the common repertoire for the first time is waiting for that moment of recognition when famous arias make their entrance. So it was tonight with Jonathan Miller's production of L'elisir d'amore at City Opera in the State Theater. Except that the famous tune I was waiting for, "Una furtiva lagrima," is sung by a lonely but hopeful guy in a cowboy hat and boots standing outside a roadside diner somewhere in the American Southwest. And the girl he's pining after? She's the Adina from the neon "Adina's Diner" sign that dominates half of the scenes, a great twist on the "wealthy landowner" description in the original setting. The updating of the story from the 19th century to the 1950s doesn't stop with the costumes and sets, however. After just the first few supertitles of this Italian opera, the Fifties-era slang starts to elicit laughs from the audience. I'm a fan of creative re-imaginings of classics, and this one definitely works. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief a bit, but that's really the name of the game even when you're performing operas in their original time periods. The wonderful spinning out of a mood, a theme, an emotion from the usually fairly thin plot is what makes opera such an escape when it's done well. It's melodrama at its most archetypal, and if you can fit beauty and a bit of knowingness into the production, all the better. So bring on the Elvis and Fuller Brush man references, the singing's just fine.

55 Bar

Just down the street from the Duplex, where I recall spending a few, fun showtune-filled evenings, is 55 Bar, a tiny basement jazz club founded in 1919 that I probably wouldn't have noticed if K. hadn't suggested it this evening. Even though tonight's set was not my absolute favorite, the cozy, reasonably priced ambiance of the place is definitely worth a return visit. Its name is its address: 55 Christopher Street.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

British Empire, St. Patrick's

Looking north from 7WTC

Requiem aeternam

Emotional day. Began it with a sad phone call, then a short glass of vodka and orange juice, listening to Faure's Requiem, up there with some of the most beautiful and heartbreaking music ever composed, remembering a great man. Tears on the subway, followed by smiles, and a series of stunning views from atop 7 World Trade Center, the Midtown skyline framed and arrayed so perfectly, the 360-degree feeling of being in the heart of the city, high above the idling swarm of motorcycles below. Coffee and a bagel with cream cheese at Wow. Another call, more stories. Life brought into sharp relief. Trying to see more clearly. Stopping by the office, seeing them putting in the elaborate flower arrangements that change weekly. Retelling some more memories, the things that made him special. Inside crowded St. Patrick's, more flowers, lighting a candle, closing my eyes, kneeling, blocking out the world, hearing it around me, writing names on an envelope. Drinks at the Living Room in the W. Pizza at John's on Bleecker. Cupcakes at Magnolia. Chatting about sports and politics, about the country and its breadth and what it holds. More drinks at Central Bar. Playoff baseball. Another friend, a glass of water, a walk around the park, a look back over nearly a century. Riding uptown, back by midnight. The moon, my key in the side door. The ticking clock, the humming fridge, the tap of keys, the pain in my arm, a sneeze, the remnants of tears, the promise of sleep.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dinner at home

After an especially long but satisfying day at work, free time in the evening becomes that much more valuable. A. and I met up at the Columbus Circle Whole Foods to pick up supplies, then headed uptown for: Cheese fondue with a fresh grain-filled French baguette, broccoli, red peppers, and apples; an effervescent Syrah Rosé brought all the way from the Santa Ynez Valley (yes, I do seek out and drink good Rosés); and a Cabernet chocolate sauce from Napa drizzled on angel food cake and strawberries. Ray LaMontagne on the stereo. Overall, tastier and more soul-filling than Monday night's take-out.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tuesday night lights

While I do enjoy me some Penn State football and used to spend many a cold fall Saturday in the bleachers of high school stadiums, I'm not especially enticed by typical Big Game narratives in movies or TV. But when the Times raves about a TV show the way they did today, I had to check it out. The score? "Friday Night Lights" is great television, gripping stuff, the kind that reminds you of what's possible. There are times when it feels more art than entertainment. The camera work, the music, the way we pull in and out of the action, one moment observing West Texas town life from a distance, the next moment observing tiny, telling character details. I can only hope that the rest of the season, or whenever I catch an episode, will be as good as this one.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday night, part ii

I'm not leaving after all. I don't want to move. I'm going to stay and pay them their money and sign their silly nine-month lease and enjoy the comfort of familiarity and a pretty nice neighborhood and my time-to-decompress commute. I'm going to listen to some Sufjan Stevens now.

Monday night

The cheap, slightly sour smell of Chinese take-out from the "No. 1 Chinese Restaurant" around the corner, one of a dozen or two in the city with that name, no doubt, hangs in the air, silently accusing you, reminding you that you were too lazy to make your own dinner on one of the few weeknights, perhaps multiplying now with the nine-plus-hour days and new, especially taxing iteration of physical ailment, that you didn't eat out, until you can't take it any more and have to go and cinch the bag and take out the trash, flicking on the oscillating fan as you go. Hey, at least you're doing your own laundry.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Monarch in Ft. Tryon


Oct. 3: Beck's new album, The Information, comes out
Oct. 6: Little Children, based on the book by Tom Perrotta, hits theaters
Oct. 7-8: Open House New York weekend
Oct. 10: Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace at the Joyce
Oct. 11: "30 Rock" debuts on NBC
Oct. 13: Man of the Year, starring Robin Williams, opens
Oct. 13: Infamous, the other Truman Capote movie, opens
Oct. 20: Marie Antoinette opens
Oct. 25: "Americans in Paris, 1860-1900" at the Met
Oct. 26: Opening night of the Tharp/Dylan musical
Nov. 10: Fur, starring Nicole Kidman, opens