Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Stupid Shit Sarah Lawrence Kids Say, Part 3...

Shakespeare Edition 
This one is only one line long, but for the sake of explanation, I frame it with Lewis Black's bit about the line, "If weren't for my horse, I wouldn't have spent that year in college." Or, as he calls it, "the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life, until Dan Quayle was elected Vice President."

If you haven't heard it, you can find it here...

 I felt exactly the same way Lewis Black felt, and if I tried to explain it, well, blood probably would shoot out my nose...

So I walk into the coffee shop after really weird day. I just want to sip something warm and meditate. I sit at the only open table in the place, which happens to be a few feet from where three Sarah Lawrence girls sit, working on homework. They talk about various things, some boy that they think is cool, and they get on the topic of Shakespeare. Apparently one of them has issues with William Shakespeare. She says, and I quote

"I can understand why some people don't like Shakespeare. I mean, he's so, mainstream..."

 I'm going to repeat that, because it bears repeating...

"I can understand why some people don't like Shakespeare. I mean, he's so mainstream..."

Don't. Don't think about that sentence for more than three minutes, or blood will shoot out your nose. The American medical profession does not know why we get an aneurysm. An aneurysm is when a blood vessel bursts in your head for no apparent reason. There's a reason...

For my part, I had to get up and leave the coffee shop immediately. But those words are now in by brain forever.

Thank you, Sarah Lawrence, for validating stereotypes.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Paul Kemp vs. Raoul Duke: A Review of The Rum Diary

Last week I went and saw The Rum Diary, on opening night, of course. I buffered my low expectations with several sangrias at happy hour, a bottle of white wine on the Metro into the city, and a bagful of 24-ounce beer cans procured from a newly discovered Rite-Aid in Grand Central Terminal. I didn’t know what to expect, standing there in the check-out line in front of a drunken commuter who was shouting that they were out of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I figured it important to see the film in the city, as the core of the novel surrounds a writer who despises the city and in turn flees to a place he assumes would be a tropical paradise. I could see what Thompson was getting at, because in the few unsteady blocks between the station and the theater I saw a man almost run down by a bus, a rickshaw equipped with JBL speakers glide past 42nd street, and that horrible abortion of color that is Times Square. I got caught up conversing with a street preacher and almost missed the previews, but I just had to ask her if she thought New York was Sodom.
She thought it over for a second, then said, “Well, it’s a modern-day Sodom, yes,” as if that made the news any easier to take. I laughed and after a brief conversation about whether or not I had been drinking, I told her I had to go.
The theater had peacocks painted on its ceiling, which I hoped was a good sign, but as the lights faded out I became unsettled by distinct distaste in my mouth left by the trailer for the new Twilight film. That and I could not seem to get over the couple sitting next to me. They seemed more interested with opening soy sauce packets to put on the sushi they had smuggled into the theater than they were with the film itself.
I went in to that first viewing with low expectations, and what I came out with was a weird vibe that it was better than I expected. Yet underneath that veneer, I was left with an uneasy feeling. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Stupid Shit Sarah Lawrence Kids Say, Part 2...

Thomas Jefferson: Hipster Friendly

It’s a classic Sarah Lawrence paradox: You go to the most expensive private school in America, and yet you’re a hipster. How do you simultaneously brag about how much money you have while demonstrating how unique you are? This is how…

A group of Sarah Lawrence students sit at a table in a coffee shop, doing whatever. There are three of them, perhaps all girls, perhaps not. One line that comes out is, “I used to do that when I was a girl, and now that I’m not a girl, I still do that.” Whatever, that's a digression in itself...

A fourth student comes in, definitely male -- pink knit sweater, purple polo shirt underneath. Completely unique. He pulls from his pocket a stack of fresh, crisp bills an inch thick, bound together with a blue hair tie.

“Check this out,” he says, flipping through the greenbacks like playing cards. Then he pulls one from the pile and hands it to one of the girls.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Stupid Shit Sarah Lawrence Kids Say, Part 1...

Study of an SLC boy/Cheetah Farmer’s Vainglorious Attempt to Get Laid, As Seen Through the Eyes of a Drunk Fly on the Bar…

(I copied the following virtually verbatim from my notebook. I sat on a barstool with a notebook, next two three Sarah Lawrence undergrads at the Station House on a Friday night. This is what I heard. I could have cleaned it up more, but I felt it more important to leave it as is…)

Isn’t it cute how the SLC boys try and talk about sports like they have a clue? Some attempt to display masculinity in front of his female companion. And it looked like he almost had a chance. Until her friend showed up. He tried to compensate by ordering the same drink as this perceived interloper. I was the only one who noticed, a different kind of interloper in this humorous exchange.

Too bad for him, the source of his efforts is a worthless pursuit, a typical Sarah Lawrence girl -- too preoccupied with talking to the older, wiser bartender about the cider that she is drinking, comparing the Magners to the Bulmers of Europe, her subtle way of displaying how she is a world traveler, or, in reality, a teenager who spent a year abroad. Everything is done so subtly. You’d hardly even notice if you weren’t paying attention.

Seeing his chances fading with her interest, the SLC guy walks away, to put a dollar in the juke box. Very clever.

A minute later, “oh, this is my song,” to get the attention back, and after a few notes, that canned hipster follow-up, “you probably don’t know this song.” Neither girl does. Score one point for the Sarah Lawrence boy.

“It’s New Order,” he says. I guess they’re too young to know who New Order is, but he obviously is not. It’s almost as bad a smokescreen as talking about cider with the bartender. So subtle.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ressurection at Woodlawn Cemetery...

Last winter, I took this photo of a mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx..

I happened to be walking around the same area yesterday and photographed the same masoleum, but from the opposite side. This is what I ended up with. Click on the photo to take a closer look...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Views From the Back Porch...

Not to be outdone, the sunsets at the house were pretty good too...

Cape Cod Sunsets...

 As I spent my morning with the birds, so too did I spend the evenings with friends, watching the sun disappear over the water... 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Native Birds of Cape Cod

Every day of that week I spent in Cape Cod began the same: sitting on the back deck of the house, sometimes with a coffee, sometimes a beer, once a glass of Jameson 12 year, staring out at the lake, waiting for the various wildlife to come out of hiding. Particularly the birds.

 Ruby-throated hummingbird - Female (females lack red throat patch)

Northern Blue Jay

 American Goldfinch - Male 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Going Home.

The plane was full of promise. It carried men from ten different nations, joined together to celebrate the opening game of a new season. For some, it was a fresh start. There was one of the first Russians to have his name etched on the Stanley Cup, almost 20 years ago, sitting with a Czech whose name was added twelve years later. For others, it was a last stop. A three-time NHL all-star who thought this would be his final pro season before retirement. There was a Swede who took home Olympic Gold in 2006, sitting with players from the Russian and Czech National squads, now all one team. A 1,000 game NHL veteran, now a coach, joined with teenage prospects whose careers had yet to begin.

In one fell swoop, three generations of hockey were lost, leaving a void that will remain in the sport indefinitely. While the tragedy struck on the far side of the world, the painful reach of such an event is long and stinging. It’s been a long and rough summer for hockey, and now, the day after the unofficial end of summer, it has been hit with the darkest day in the history of the sport.

Along with all of the upstarts and veterans there was 23 year-old Alexander Vasyunov, who spent the bulk of last season playing in my hometown for the Albany Devils of the AHL. In 50 games this season, his third in the Devils organization, he amassed a respectable 25 points. More importantly though, he was called up to play with the New Jersey Devils as a replacement for injured players on several occasions, scoring a goal and tallying four assists in his 18 games with the parent club.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sleepy Hollow Cemetery

"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal - every other affliction to forget: but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open - this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude."
-- Washington Irving

I can't believe I have lived in Yonkers for three years and am just now getting around to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I guess no one is perfect...

"The idol of today pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection; and will, in turn, be supplanted by his successor of tomorrow. "
 "He is the true enchanter, whose spell operates, not upon the senses, but upon the imagination and the heart."


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dreams of Dalkey at the Witching Hour...

Out of the blue, I had a conversation with an old friend from high school, someone that I've rarely spoken to in the past decade. Part of it went like this:

Her: It's funny how life works...
...and how previous encounters prove themselves useful in the future…

Me: Well then, I look forward to our future encounters...

Her: Same here... who knows, maybe we will meet in Ireland on someone's grave… by chance...


I don't really know where that comment came from, since I don't think she knows about my predilection for graves, but it got me thinking about an old grave I had seen in Ireland, how mystical of a place it is for me, and how it seemed perfect for such an encounter. Odd too that it comes up just a week before the day when I left Ireland seven years ago (May5), which would put it no more than a few days away from when I actually made the trip to this grave.

I scanned the photos onto my computer from old film, which is why they are scratched and oddly saturated. It oddly fits my memory too, imperfectly captured and over saturated to try and make it feel as good as it looks in real life…

On a hill aching to be a mountain in Dalkey, on the outer edge of Dublin Bay, back in 2004 when I was a boy a long way from home. From the summit, near an obelisk erected in memory of Queen Victoria, I had a special spot all picked out to sit and think, and from there, several times a week for four months, I would do just that. From that perch, barely visible down the side of the hill, is what looks like a grave.

The only trouble was that there was no way to get to it; whatever it was appeared to be surrounded on all sides by the thorny shrubs that give Dalkey its name (from the Gaelic – Deilginis – Thorn Island).  

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is Dick Nixon Dead?

April 22 is a weird triumvirate of events. It’s Earth Day. It 's also the anniversary of the death of Richard Milhous Nixon. On this day 17 years ago, he finally kicked it and the world let out a sigh of relief. Needless to say, it is a day for great celebration (along with August 9, the day of his resignation).

But this year seems especially important, because April 22 is also Good Friday, the death of Jesus Christ. Is there a connection? I’m too busy drinking to write something new, but while I consider the Jesus/Nixon-Satan connection, I just cut-and-pasted below parts of an essay I submitted for a literary contest last month. It was originally 4,000 words and I cut it down to the best 1,700 or so. Each passage is broken up by photo evidence of the story.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I plan on spending the rest of the night drinking malt liquor and watching some Nixon related films and drunkenly adding savage Nixon quotes to my Facebook page.  Fun times…


            “People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook...”
I struggled to focus on the words written in front of me, lost in the haze of drink and sweating profusely from the midday heat that had overtaken the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Southern California. Suddenly, I sensed movement in the back of the large hall, a replica of the East Room of the White House, but I was too busy reading into the podium’s microphone to do anything.
The Junior Republican, a young white male in a light blue oxford shirt, had slithered in quietly. He interrupted me just as I was reaching the speech’s climax, his voice quavering in such a way that I stopped mid-sentence, half-shocked at the realization that we were not alone.
I can only imagine the jolt the scene must have given him, the familiar sounding voice echoing eerily from the PA system throughout the room, the hallowed sounds of his master in actuality coming from some freak in a latex Richard Nixon Halloween mask.
“Are you guys… here… for the memorial service?”
            I leaned away from the microphone, but made certain not to remove the mask or the sunglasses. I could tell it was a conscious effort for him not to make any sudden movement. Guenther, the self-described documentarian of the trip, stopped snapping photos and turned around to see what had caused me to stop reading.
And then his words hit me.
Memorial service?
            It was only then that I noticed the multitude of flowered wreaths spread out behind the podium. I had wondered why the microphones were on, but I had been far too drunk and way too eager to jump behind the podium to follow that thought through to the logical conclusion: that they were on because the room was about to be used.
I leaned into the microphone again, to add volume and authority, but continued to mimic Nixon’s voice. We had obviously rattled the bastard’s cage, why stop now?
“Speech is almost over sonny, we’ll be done in a few minutes.”
            He explained that the service was going to start in about ten minutes, politely asked if we could be done by then, and then quickly made his exit. Guenther and I exchanged glances and then burst into laughter. He had us dead to rights – we were the one’s trespassing – and yet he was the one who had scrambled out in fear.
I didn’t even bother to ask who had died. A failure of reporting, I know, but at that point in the day I was so far gone that conventional reporting skills had gone by the wayside.  Besides, I hadn’t come some 3,200 miles for some long forgotten aide; I came for the Head Dick himself.
And I was certain he was dead.
Or was I?

...What the fuck am I doing here at the Richard Nixon Theme Park? What does it all mean?
            We turned a corner near a glass display of Pat Nixon’s necklaces and came upon a reconstruction of the Lincoln Sitting Room, which was watched over by an old guard with an unassumingly Christian and probably false name. He seemed to be easy going, but I could see what he was doing: describing the contents of the room, “accidentally” mixing up names and calling it the “Nixon Sitting Room,” and very gently asking us our business at the museum.
            But what he hadn’t counted on was that we were ready for it; we had already been asked that question a few minutes earlier by a pair museum attendants, two innocent old women who sat watch over a room of bronze statutes depicting various world leaders from Nixon’s era. Except they weren’t bronze at all – they were plaster painted to look metal.
That’s the key, look beyond the surface bullshit, you’ll see the real Richard Nixon.
Making every effort to keep a straight face, I had told the women, “This is my Graceland.” Guenther and I had then launched into what can only be described as a homosexual exchange about Coney Island after dark and some playful banter about who was the better photographer. The old women laughed, but their amusement was suspect.
I tried a similar approach with “John,” who, by the cut of his hair and the impeccable condition of his uniform suit coat, was obviously ex-military, probably Marines (I later explained to Guenther that he must have felt an obligation to work there on account of Nixon putting an end to that horrible war in Vietnam and for bringing him home safely to mother).
I preserved our exchange verbatim in my notebook:
“So you guys are here…for fun?
“Oh yes sir, I’m loving this.”
(Still in disbelief, he asks) “So you’re a Nixon fan?”
“Oh, you bet sir.”
“Well, you’re in the right place.”
Knowing the thin rapport would be short lived, I tested “John”, asking him where the exhibit on Watergate was. I was anxious to see his answer because I already knew that there was no Watergate exhibit. He pointed the way, adding as an afterthought that there was nothing there. It was being “remodeled.” His response opened the door for my next question, delivered with both a childish tone and a calculated intent.
“What was there before?”
He shrugged. “You know, I wasn’t here back then… but I was told that the new exhibit will be….a little more balanced.”

            ...I asked Guenther, “Did you ever have one of those moments where you ask yourself, What the fuck am I doing?
            Guenther quickly got my mind back to the job at hand.
            “Quit stalling,” he said simply from the identical bench next to me. He was waiting anxiously to see what I would do.
            As if on cue, an old woman walked by, her handler keeping an arm on her elbow to keep her steady, and in passing, as if meant only for her companion, she looked down at the grave and said, “He did so much for our country.”
I then looked down myself and focused on Nixon’s epitaph. It dug into my soul like the chisel that had carved it:
 “The Greatest Honor History Can Bestow is the Title of Peacemaker.”
            This, coming from the man who dropped 110,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia, a nation America was never at war with. But who cares if he bombed a bunch of yellow people into oblivion, he opened talks with China! Who cares that a “third-rate burglary” had led to a court case called The United States v. Richard Nixon and claims by his attorneys that the president was a monarch on the level of Louis XIV and thus above the Constitution – he ended the war in Vietnam!
And there you have it. That’s what it’s about, I thought as a maniacal grin spread across my face.
Nixon needs his reckoning…

…As the Nixon mask came out my jacket pocket, I sprawled out in the lush grass on top of his mortal remains, borderline blacked out and unfurling the American Flag to use as a burial shroud. Then, pulling the mask over my face, I downed the last of the rum from my flask.
Small victories, I thought, trying to contain myself. Don’t let the bad karma of the place get to you.
It all made sense, at least for the moment, to simply lie down and stare up at the same blue skies of Yorba Linda that a young Dick Nixon once played under, using his black headstone as a headrest. The grave is the final legacy, and what better place to demonstrate that the spirit of Dick Nixon is still with us.
It wasn’t much, I know, but it was a necessary step. Or, to use Guenther’s positive spin, “Can you say you’ve ever defiled the grave of a U.S. President?”

...Before I left, I made sure to get a grave rubbing, sans epitaph. I needed proof.
I eventually hung it near the front door of my apartment, sandwiched between photocopied headlines proclaiming the end of Nixon’s reign. It is a crucial part of my existence, to look on that tombstone every day before venturing out into the world. Brother Dick has been dead for 17 years now, yet I still find it difficult coming to grips with the fact that he is truly gone. Every few years some snippet of White House tapes will be uncovered where Nixon makes a comment like, “There are too many Jews in Washington,” and it will exhume old wounds and remind me of the scourge that Richard Nixon still is on this country.
But, for now, I am taking it one day at a time. Small victories.
In the days and months following my visit to that Unholy Land, the specter of Richard Nixon would reappear often, but always in a highly disturbing fashion: his shaking jowls urinating on a subway platform in underground Manhattan, drinking whiskey from a flask early on a Saturday morning on the D.C. metro, sitting mockingly on a park bench full of Asian tourists, making lewd gestures to motorists stalled on Interstate 101, vomiting malt liquor into the Pacific Ocean in the middle night, howling at the moon in the hills of Topanga above Malibu, brooding sullenly in a seedy Virginia hotel room, a chair propped against the door to replace the deadbolt that had been angrily ripped from the frame.

…Last spring, Nixon even showed up on the steps of Federal Hall in Manhattan, waving around a Gadsden Flag and swilling scotch in front of the statue of George Washington.
Taking notice of a trio of uniformed police officers, he jumped off the base of the statue and approached the armed men. Like so many other tourists, he asked if they would pose for a photo with him.
One of the policemen instructed, “You have to take the mask off.”
Nixon only scowled and asked why.
“We don’t know who you are. You could be wanted.”
Nixon bellowed out a laugh and explained that he was never convicted, not even impeached. But the humor was lost on the policemen, and the former president soon disappeared into the swirling humanity of Downtown Manhattan, waiting for the right moment to reappear, to continue the scourge on the American public that is Dick Nixon.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

John Gunther Jr. - People Who Are Famous For Having Died (Part 2)

John Gunther Jr. 
1929- 1947
Ferncliff Mausoleum
Hartsdale, New York
John Gunther Jr. was just a boy when a brain tumor ended his hopes of doing some good in this world. His father's account of his sickness and death went on to become a seminal memoir of grieving and loss. That's all I really have to say about Johnny. The book at first seems too cold and straight-forward, but it is one of the first of its kind and is memorable for the way Gunther conveys his son's optimistic character throughout the ordeal.

When he uttered that childish wish – “to do some good for the world” – he was reflecting all the gifts that had been given him, of goodness, gentleness, and warmth of spirit; he was one of those who thought earnestly that he owed the world a living, not vice versa. But he never got a chance, and the world is much the poorer for it.
                -- John Gunther, “Death Be Not Proud” 


Sunday, April 17, 2011


Newark, New Jersey 
Gomel Chesed Cemetery

I've been trying to write about Allen Ginsberg for two weeks now, with little success. Instead of waiting for the words to come, I've decided to just go ahead and put up some photos. Perhaps some future inspiration will allow me to finish what I've started. Enjoy.

 Despite the fact that it was raining for most of the time, I think the rubbings came out alright...

Nice view of the truck park in the background:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011



JUNE 3, 1926 - APRIL 5, 1997 

I wanted to post something today, since it's the anniversary of his death. I went a little crazy with the HDR, but he's out there somewhere, beyond the ruined temple but before the tractor trailer truck park. More photos to come soon...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jeffrey Miller - People Who Are Famous For Having Died

MARCH 28, 1950 - MAY 4, 1970
Ferncliff Mausoleum --  Ardsley, New York

As a  fifteen-year old, Jeffrey Miller had written an anti-war poem that ended:

In the pastures converted into battlefields
        the small metal pellets speed through the air,
                pausing occasionally to claim another victim.
        A teenager from a small Ohio farm clutches his side
        in pain and as he feels his life ebbing away, he too
                asks why-
        why is he dying here, thousands of miles from home,
        giving his life for those who did not even ask his help?
        The War Without a Purpose marches on relentlessly,
                not stopping to mourn for its dead,
                content to wait for its end.
        But all the frightened parents who still have their sons
                fear that
        the end is not in sight. 

He had gone to Michigan State University with his brother, but when Russ graduated, Jeffrey felt alone, so he transferred to a different college, this one in Ohio.

Five weeks after his twentieth birthday, Jeffrey had took part in a campus demonstration; he even picked up a stray canister of tear gas and hurled it at the National Guard keeping watch over the University. Like many people who had voted for Richard Nixon because he a platform of peace, Jeffrey was upset when Nixon announced plans to expand the Vietnam War by sending troops into Cambodia. 

Later it would be discovered that Jeffrey was 265 feet away from the armed Guardsmen  – almost the length of a football field. The coroner’s report showed that he was shot once – through the mouth – through a mouth opened to scream in horror or gasp that America had turned to such tyranny or awe at the fact he was a transfer, a student of Kent State for barely six months. Before he could finish his thought, a shell from one of the 29 M-1 rifles being fired at him and his fellow students tore through the back of his throat. He was dead before he hit the ground, before a horrified fourteen year old girl could begin to scream over his corpse, before the shutter on the photographer's camera snapped. 

The Guardsmen claimed they were in fear for their lives as they turned and opened fire on the unarmed crowd, most of whom were standing in a parking lot 300 feet away.

Jeffrey's body was joined by Sandra Scheuer, an honor student who was walking across campus with a friend to her speech therapy class – her major. She was shot through the throat – from 400 feet away — and bled out in five minutes.

They were joined by Allison Krause, who earlier in the week had fatefully told friends, “flowers are better than bullets.” Her bullet came in sideways, tearing through her left arm and destroying the inside of her torso.  She survived a few hours.

They were joined by William Schroeder, another honor student, an Eagle Scout who was at Kent State on an ROTC scholarship. He too was walking to class, 400 feet away, when he was shot in the back. He made it to the hospital before dying on the slab.

They were joined by nine surviors, some shot in limbs, others in the torso, one in the spine – paralyzed forever.

For his part, Nixon said that "bums" were destroying American campuses. Allison's father, while being interviewed on television, said, "My daughter was not a bum."

The turning point in my life can be pinpointed to a specific second. One second out of a thirteen second fusillade when the Ohio National Guard spun in their tracks at the crest of a hill on a lovely, warm May day and, unbelievably, shot at random into a crowd of protesting students. The rifle bullet that entered Jeff's mouth and exited at the base of his skull changed my life as surely as it ended his. 
–  Jeffrey Miller’s mother

Monday, March 7, 2011


A lot of people don't know who Paul Robeson was, which has a lot to do with the fact he was blacklisted in the 1950's for supporting the Communist Party and the freedom of political choice that came with it. A thespian famous for both his roles in Eugene O'Neil plays as well as for being one of the first African Americans to portray Othello on American stage, he was an all around Renaissance man. He was one of the greatest athletes of the 1920's (lettering 15 times at Rutgers University), and had a distinguished career in film before his stand against the political tyranny of HUAC and constant surveillance from the FBI wiped his name from the written record. He virtually disappeared from history, and only now is getting the recognition he deserves. If you have never heard the commanding presence of his baritone voice, look him up on YouTube, and prepare to be amazed. He was one of the first and one of the greatest African-American activists, but fought not just for the rights of blacks (he started a petition to charge the U.S. government with genocide for its complicity in not preventing lynchings), but for all the oppressed people of the world. 

                                                           His epitaph says it all:


Sunday, March 6, 2011


I haven't done a model shoot in three and a half years, so when my friend Corrine said she wanted a new profile picture for Facebook, I decided to give it a shot. For being so out of practice, I think they came out alright.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


This is a post tailored specifically for a friend up in Albany. 
You know who you are...

Judy Garland

Joan Crawford

 Katherine Hepburn