Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The Year in Death

Of all the deaths that happened in 2016—and it seemed like there were more deaths in 2016 than in any year since the Plague—the one that hit me the hardest may have been the one that happened today, when I opened the New York Times and discovered that my local supermarket of the last 25 years—the Met Food on Mulberry Street in Nolita—was going out of business.
That was the final blow.
I know that may sound trivial, coming on top of all the other deaths and myriad other disasters we’ve witnessed this year, but this one, coming on the last day of the year and by complete surprise, was a bridge too far. I guess I should have known something was up this week when they stopped restocking their shelves, but still I soldiered on, my reputation as The Queen of Denial undiminished.
In the last few years, every amenity in my neighborhood has either completely gone out of business or had to relocate. The newsstand where I bought my beloved Times every day: relocated around the corner. The laundromat: relocated a few blocks south. Where once there were two delis on the same corner, there are now none. (Indeed, there are almost no delis left in my neighborhood, whatsoever.)
Last week, my gym of the last seven years, David Barton, announced to their members that they were closing all their New York locations in an email sent out at 1:30am. Surprise!
Our democracy has also, arguably, died. What else can you say when someone wins the popular vote and, because of some farkakte system called the Electoral College, fails to win the presidency?
And this is coming on top of a year that has seen a seemingly unending stream of celebrity deaths: David Bowie, Prince, and, in just the last week, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.
So forgive me if I’m feeling a little less than festive this New Year’s Eve. Excuse me if my sentiments are more along the lines of John Oliver’s season-ending “Fuck You, 2016” episode.
I have a feeling that a lot of people will be joining me tonight when, as the clock strikes midnight, I’ll be saying this to 2016:
“Drop dead!”

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Penny Arcade Is My Spirit Animal

I just came from seeing Penny Arcade’s new show, Longing Lasts Longer, at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. If you’re a fan of this blog, Jeremiah Moss’s blog “Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York” or, needless to say, Penny Arcade, you must see this show tomorrow before it closes!
Longing Lasts Longer is what you would get if you took the spirit of stand-up comedy, mixed it with theater and rock and roll and allowed it to delve more deeply into subjects like gentrification, political correctness and the spiritual vacuum in which we find ourselves in 2016.
For Penny Arcade, a cupcake is not just a cupcake. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual emptiness of today’s generation of twentysomethings, who are so afraid of reality, they’re trying to lull themselves into a sugar-based coma.
Penny takes common pet peeves like tourists walking four-people-across á la Sex and the City and turns it into a statement about the death of New York City. People who move to the city now, she says, aren’t looking for adventure, to lose themselves in the city’s anonymity; they’re trying to recreate the suburbs.
Today’s political correctness on college campuses is creating a generation of defenseless, life-long adolescents who don’t know how to adapt to life’s inevitable disappointments.
Arcade paints a vivid picture of a generation that’s strapped into a tank-sized stroller at birth and, by the time they’re released at the age of 14, they have so much pent-up energy, they shoot up their schools!
Not only does she skewer the younger generation, but she creates space for those of us not born yesterday to take ownership of our lives.
She does this with the help of a pop music soundtrack ably deejayed by her co-author, Steve Zehentner. The lighting design by Justin Townsend creates an otherworldly atmosphere and the theater itself is stunningly beautiful.
Ms. Arcade moves in time to the music throughout her monologue and occasionally breaks the fourth wall to engage in small, improvised observations about the audience or her performance. (Before the show, she mingles with the audience to give them a sense of “the real Penny Arcade” so they don’t “hate her” after they’ve seen “the work.”)
All I can say is, if you’ve never seen her before, or even if you have, go see this show tomorrow before it closes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hate Wins

I’m beyond depressed.
I’m depressed, I’m angry, I’m afraid.
I haven’t felt this way since 9/11. And, if you think I’m being melodramatic, world markets are bearing me out. The Dow fell 600 points at the mere possibility that Trump might be the next president and world markets are following suit.
Maybe it’s hard for a straight, white, able-bodied man from middle America to understand how Donald Trump poses a threat to other people’s very existence. After all, he’s openly disrespected women, gays, Mexicans, Muslims, and disabled people. But, hey, tough luck for them, right?
Eight years of progress are about to be rolled back. Everything we progressives fought so hard for: gay marriage, reproductive rights, immigration reform, single payer/public option, gun control. Not just for our own benefit, but for the entire country’s benefit.
Kiss them goodbye.
And the sad thing is that Trump is reaping the zeitgeist that Bernie tapped into.
Believe me, I should know. Demographically speaking, I should be a Donald Trump supporter.
I’m a middle-aged white man without a college degree (I had to drop out—even though I had a full academic scholarship—because I used up the maximum I could borrow in student loans). I’ve been unemployed or underemployed for over a year and am in danger of losing my apartment. I only (barely) have health insurance because of Obamacare, and now that’s about to be taken away from me, too.
But if you’re poor or working class, Trump is not the man who’s going to save you. Trump has never had a thought for anyone except himself his entire life. We’re talking about a man who inherited $14 million, stiffed his employees, declared bankruptcy four times and used his charitable foundation to pay his debts!
And you think this is the man who’s going to help you?
I don’t understand how people can be so willfully stupid. I don’t understand how people can overlook his racism, homophobia, misogyny and religious intolerance just to “make a point.”
But don’t demonize Trump voters, I’m being told.
OK. There’s lots of blame to go around.
The media, who built Trump up for ratings, didn’t hold him accountable for his lies, treated him as a joke, and then so completely misread the electorate that his victory caught them by surprise.
The Democratic Party, which had Hillary as their anointed choice from the get-go and never gave Bernie a fighting chance, even though it’s now abundantly clear that he would have been the better candidate.
People who thought voting for a third-party candidate would be a good idea in such a critical and close election.
People who didn’t show up to vote at all.
I really don’t know where we, as a country, go from here.
I don’t know how people can have such hatred in their hearts.
I’m not a religious person, but right now I’m praying for our country’s future.
And my own.

Friday, October 28, 2016

This Ain’t No Disco

My life as a club kid was relatively short. It basically coincided with the year I attended NYU (1981), which allowed me to stay out late, and carried over into my first job at The Village Voice, which allowed me to go to New Wave nights at The Anvil on Tuesdays since I had Wednesdays off.
Similarly, the amount of time I lived in the East Village was relatively brief (the summer of 1980, plus 1981-1987). But, at one point, I was living next to the Fun Gallery (in Steve Buscemi’s old apartment), across the street from Jeff Weiss’s storefront theater, around the corner from PS122, and I was surrounded by dozens of art galleries and clubs.
Both these things were critically important in shaping the person I am today.
So when news of Tim Lawrence’s book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor: 1980-1983, popped up in my Facebook news feed, I couldn’t wait to read it.
The book does not disappoint.
I’m not alone in saying that Lawrence has written one of the most comprehensive and exhaustively researched books about this vitally important period in New York’s history.
The premise of the book is that this was a unique period for two reasons.
First, artists felt free to work in different mediums: everyone was an artist, musician, filmmaker and actor.
Second, and perhaps more important, is that this was a period when downtown met uptown, which is to say that downtown’s art/punk scene met uptown’s hip hop scene.
This resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of artistic creation.
And the place where a lot of that creation happened or was initiated was the city’s dance clubs.
I was more of a Mudd Club/Berlin person, but this book exposed me to a whole world I was barely aware of: clubs like The Loft, Better Days and Paradise Garage, that were more racially mixed, as opposed to the predominantly white punk/new wave clubs I went to or the almost exclusively white Saint.
One of the great things about this book is the inclusion of actual DJ discographies from this period. Now I like to think of myself as something of an ’80s music expert, but I usually only recognized about half the songs in these discographies (mainly the punk/new waves ones), and found myself scratching my head at some of the others.
I guess I led a sheltered existence!
But the reason why this book is so important is because it soon becomes abundantly clear that this period of New York’s history was a unique time that will never happen again (although Lawrence tries to paint a more hopeful picture).
In the early ’80s, it seemed like new clubs were opening up every week and that was just normal.
And, before the Internet destroyed everything, the only way to find about these places was by word of mouth, so they had time to grow and flourish before being ruined by yuppies. (I kid the yuppies!)
Ultimately, it was a combination of gentrification and AIDS, among other things, that drove most of these clubs out of business.
Nowadways, I’m ashamed to admit, I’ve become very middle-class, and I can’t be bothered dragging my ass to Brooklyn to go dancing.
And that’s the other thing that was great about the early ’80s in New York: all the clubs were in downtown Manhattan and downtown Manhattan was still cheap enough that you could afford to live there and walk to them.
There’s a passage near the end of the book where Lawrence describes what’s become of some club locations (the Mudd Club is now a luxury apartment, the Loft is now a J. Crew, etc.). It’s hard not to feel nostalgic.
As Lawrence says, “The contrast between the version of the city that used to attract moneyless people who wanted to build a life and the one where the best those without capital can hope for is to commute to its center to carry out jobs that will never enable them to establish a home in its increasingly exclusive landscape is dramatic and continually charges the fascination with this bygone era.”
Only someone who was there will recognize names like Roxy promoter Ruza Blue, Man Parrish’s band Shox Lumania or performer Kestutis Nakas.
Everyone else will have to read this book.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Born at the Wrong Time

I just saw Danny Says, the new documentary about Ramones manager Danny Fields, and, while I enjoyed it immensely, I came away with the distinct impression that I was born at the wrong time.
Fields, for those who don’t know, is one of those people always who seemed to be at the right place and the right time for everything. (It also helped, of course, that he was extremely intelligent.)
As someone who likes to read biographies and see biographical films, there are at least two other people I can think of who seem to possess the same quality (coincidentally, they’re also music managers who were the subject of their own documentaries): David Geffen and Alice Cooper’s manager, Shep Gordon.
In the first chapter of his new autobiography, Supermensch, Gordon describes how, on his first trip to Los Angeles, he pulls into a hotel where Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin just happen to be staying. He eventually goes on to manage Alice Cooper (among others), and that, in turn, leads to a bunch of other careers.
In a similar fashion, David Geffen, after starting in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency in New York (after lying on his resume that he finished his degree), moves to Los Angeles and seems to fall ass-backwards into managing all the most influential southern California musicians of the seventies (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Jackson Brown; Joni Mitchell), before going on to even greater success as a record label owner and movie producer.
As for Fields, he starts out as an editor for various publications (including teenybopper magazine, 16) while hanging out with the Warhol crowd, then becomes a publicist at Elektra Records (where he’s responsible for them signing Iggy Pop and MC5 in the same day) and later, after seeing them perform at CBGB, becomes the manager of the Ramones. He just seems to be at the center of everything that was happening in New York and Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s.
Why was Fields so successful, often in spite of his own self-acknowledged shortcomings?
Part of it is because, as the new book Love and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983 says in its introduction, the real estate crash of the ’70s allowed artists to live in Manhattan cheaply. Furthermore, they were all clustered together in a few downtown neighborhoods (mainly Greenwich Village and Soho), and everyone, it seems, knew everyone else. New York was a smaller city back then. (The same thing, I suppose, could be said of Los Angeles in the ’70s, with its large musical community centered around Laurel Canyon and the open mic “hootenanny” nights at the Troubadour club, where many of them got their start.)
Part of it was because of the music industry itself, which has changed beyond recognition.
Nowadays, there’s essentially no music press (like everything else, a lot has migrated online) and record companies don’t exert nearly as much influence as they used to. Hell, people don’t even buy records anymore (or CDs, or mp3s).
I feel like I missed out on a golden age, just by virtue of being born too late.
Now, it seems, I spend most of my time grumbling about the good old days and how those days will never return.
Sure, maybe Danny Fields is old now, but at least he has something to show for his life (as do David Geffen and Shep Gordon).
There’s a line in the movie that I think sums up Fields’ philosophy pretty well. It’s when he says, referring to his job as a publicist: “It wasn’t a job. It was a role. Jobs can be replaced.”
Fields created his own career path.
And that may be the secret to surviving in these lean and boring times.
If, indeed, that’s even still possible.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Guilty Pleasure of “Spring Breakers”

The other night while I was channel surfing, I came across Harmony Korine’s cautionary film about four young women on that annual rite of passage known as spring break. I’d seen the movie before and knew of its reputation before I’d even seen it the first time. Korine wrote the screenplay for the similarly controversial Kids, directed by Larry Clark (another man who’s turned “youthsploitation” into a genre). He’s also known for his visual virtuosity, which Spring Break has in spades. In fact, there’s not much dialogue in Spring Break, but what’s there is “cherce,” as the joke says.
But let’s get back to the story, such as it is.
Four young women (including former Disney child stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens) venture to St. Petersburg, Florida for spring break and, along the way, get mixed up with a charismatic drug dealer, played by James Franco. Right there, you have a recipe for controversy.
As I said, there’s not much dialogue in the film and the visuals mostly consist of shots of various nubile young men and women partying and cavorting on the beach and in hotel rooms in skimpy clothes, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and doing large amounts of drugs, all without much consequence (in the beginning, at least). If any parents were watching this film, these scenes alone would give them a heart attack.
It’s kind of interesting to watch these scenes from the perspective of a middle-aged gay man, as well. While I was hoping for more shots of scantily clad young men  (and you do get a glimpse of some young men in jock straps), I found myself mildly aroused even by the shots of scantily clad young women. The fact that I’m middle-aged adds an extra level of creepiness to the proceedings.
But that’s just it. It’s not so much young male or female bodies on display, so much as youth itself, and therein lies the movie’s appeal with older viewers such as yours truly.
There are a couple of scenes that really encapsulate the movie for me.
One is a scene of James Franco playing Britney Spears’ “Everytime” on a white piano near the ocean at sunset while the three young women dance around him wearing nothing but bikinis and ski caps, holding their guns aloft. This scene epitomizes the guilty pleasure/have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too nature of the movie. It’s beautifully shot and perversely reminded me of “The Three Graces.” The Spears song seems to have been chosen as an obvious target for derision by intellectual elites, but it’s an undeniably beautiful song, as well. (Spears’ music seems to play a key role in the movie. In another scene, the girls sing and dance to “Hit Me Baby, One More Time.”)
The other scene that launches this movie into Scarface levels of reverence/self-parody, is a scene of James Franco standing on his bed, displaying his guns and various consumer possessions and saying “Look at my shit!” in a thick Florida accent. (I still think I might make a YouTube parody of this if I can put the right outfit together.)
This role is really a tour de force for Franco and is notable for another reason as well. For all the gay roles that Franco has played, there’s nothing more homoerotic than the scene where the girls make him suck on the end of a gun. (Again, have your cake and eat it too.)
There is some sort of justice at the end of this violent film, but it’s a mixed bag. Mostly, you’re left with memories of the panoramic sunsets, the guilt-free consumption of drugs, alcohol and sex; and the vision of James Franco jumping up and down on his bed and saying “Look at my shit!”

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Not Proud

New York City's Gay Pride Parade 2016
I just got back from New York City’s Gay Pride Parade and, I’m sorry to report, it was the worst thing you could possibly say about a gay event.
It was boring.
Maybe I’m just jaded, or maybe my feelings are being colored by my current financial/job situation or the recent mass shooting at a gay disco in Orlando, but I feel like I’ve reached a tipping point this year.
At first, I thought the reason I didn’t see any floats or hear any music for the first hour after I arrived was because it was a deliberate security measure. After all, there had just been the aforementioned mass shooting and, for the first time, police were patrolling the parade armed with machine guns.
Then, when the first float with music arrived shortly afterward, I realized it was because the parade’s organizers had just decided to front-load the parade with all the most boring groups first. I mean, I was happy to see Gays Against Guns (at least that’s political) and I love gay cops and firemen as much as the next guy, but—boring!
Maybe they figured that, since the floats are bigger and more cumbersome to move, they should place them at the end.
Note to Heritage of Pride (the parade’s organizers): this makes for a very boring parade.
This year’s parade was about as exciting as watching traffic try to pile into the Holland Tunnel (and it moved just as slowly).
Now, mind you, I have a very long history with New York’s Pride Parade. I attended my first parade in 1981, back when it used to start at Columbus Circle. I used to join in at the end of the parade—the place reserved for those unaffiliated with any official group—and march until the end of the parade route.
In the years since then (as the parade route got shorter and shorter), I was there every year (except for one year when I went to Los Angeles and missed both LA’s and New York’s parade), watching from the sidelines and lending my support.
I would be there (usually by myself), cheering people on and occasionally tearing up at the thought of all my friends and lovers who were no longer alive to witness this event.
In fact, I had gotten Gay Pride Day down to a science. I would watch the parade from the southeastern-most point at Fifth Avenue and Eighth Street, run home to take a disco nap and then go to the Dance on the Pier (which I can no longer afford), thereby avoiding the entire West Village.
Speaking of the Dance on the Pier: It took me years to build up the courage to go to this event (because it’s so crowded and I’m claustrophobic) and I only went because, when it began, it was a relative bargain.
But after years of price increases and not knowing who was performing until they went onstage (and then finding out it was some D-list disco diva from the ’90s), I stopped going. (OK, I went back a few years ago when Cher performed, but it was Cher!)
Now, the Christopher Street Pier (where the dance started) has been transformed into a yuppified park and the 14th Street Pier (where it moved) has been torn down to make way for an even more yuppified park, (ironically) financed by gay show business mogul Barry Diller.
But back to the parade.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, I feel like the parade’s production values have gone down in the last few years.
I can remember when every gay bar in New York—back when gay bars were still a central part of gay life—had their own float in the parade. I particularly remember Splash’s float one year, when they had a bunch of hot guys holding cardboard cutouts of palm trees. I don’t even remember what the rest of the float consisted of, the guys were so hot.
I also remember how gay designer David Spada (who died of AIDS) would have a float every year featuring his “freedom ring” costumes of rainbow-colored metal rings and how one year his float was preceded by an elaborate paper dragon. For years, I had a Stanley Stellar photograph (that appeared on the cover of the New York Native) on my refrigerator of some cute guy in one of his outfits.
Another thing that’s changed about the parade is its demographics.
While it’s always been the case that a lot of the most “fabulous” (i.e., wealthy and predominantly white) gays leave town for Fire Island or the Hamptons on Gay Pride Weekend (as they do on most summer weekends), there would usually be at least a smattering of fabulous gays left in town to both participate in and watch the parade.
Now the parade has become the province of predominantly young minority gays. I realize that sounds incredibly racist (and ageist) but it also makes sense, because these are the people for whom it’s still most necessary to march in a gay pride parade. White gays (and, primarily, white gay men) have gotten to the point where they can “pass” in straight society, whereas for a lot of minority gays, that’s still not possible. (It’s worth noting that a majority of the victims in Orlando’s mass shooting were Hispanic.)
Also, the parade has been almost entirely taken over by corporate sponsors. Their floats tend to feature a bland assortment of people dressed in T-shits bearing their company’s logo.
Is this a deliberate attempt to make the parade more “family-friendly” (like the Brooklyn Pride event I recently performed at where my material was deemed too “vulgar”)?
It makes one long for the days when you’d see some leather man sprawled across the hood of a car being whipped by another leather man.
Or that old guy who’d dye his poodle in rainbow colors and prance around with it.
Or, God help me, the Dykes on Bikes, with that old woman whose droopy bare breasts wouldn’t even appeal to a lesbian.
Surely, that would be preferable to floats dedicated to Diet Coke, Delta Airlines and Wells Fargo Bank.
But maybe that’s just me.
Maybe these are just the ravings of an over-the-hill gay white guy, and the young minority gays who are marching in the parade now think it’s great because they don’t know any better.
Yeah, and I won’t come in your mouth.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Welcome to My Midlife Crisis, Part 3: The Clock Is Ticking

Video of Ethyl Eichelberger in "Leer"
 Yesterday I had another one of those days (which I’ve been having a lot of recently): a culture-filled day that turned into yet another reminder of that existential reality: the clock is ticking.
It started out at Howl! Happening, an East Village gallery that opened up in one of those newly constructed luxury buildings that have been popping up all over the East Village lately. The gallery was created by Arturo Vega, the former art director for The Ramones (he created their famous logo, among other things), someone I knew from the years I used to hang out at The Bar on East 4th Street. The gallery itself is a reminder that Manhattan has turned into a museum, a memorial to all the great things that used to happen here. But the places where those things used to happen have been bulldozed to make way for the yuppie hordes who now live here and are trying to recreate their suburban childhoods.
But I digress.
Anyway, the current show is called “When Jackie Met Ethyl” and it features videos and artifacts from performances by two legendary drag queens/actors, Jackie Curtis and Ethyl Eichelberger. Jackie was, of course, one of Andy Warhol’s “superstars” and Ethyl was an accomplished actor, playwright and wigmaker whom I think I first saw perform at the Pyramid, but who eventually appeared on Broadway and HBO. I was lucky enough to catch one of Ethyl’s last performances at PS122. I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember what it was. I think it must have been Leer, his interpretation of Shakespeare’s King Lear, but I remember that it featured him playing the accordion. (That was one of his trademarks.) He eventually committed suicide after being diagnosed with AIDS.
Holly Woodlawn memorial at LaMama
While I was at the gallery, one of the people working there mentioned that they were going to be streaming a memorial service for Holly Woodlawn (another of Warhol’s superstars) that was taking place at the LaMama theater a few blocks away.
Without even thinking (or having an invitation), I ran out of the gallery to LaMama and insinuated myself into the line of mourners for Miss Woodlawn. (I’d like to think she would have approved.)
The memorial service was a Who’s Who of downtown New York and off-off-Broadway: Penny Arcade, Michael Musto and others. Some of them I knew personally or from their work, others I had only read about (including at the gallery show I had just seen).
Memorials like these are a sort of uncomfortable mix of stargazing, legacy-building and genuine emotion. The memorial service was being streamed all over the world and there were people taking pictures and filming both officially and unofficially (i.e., on their cell phones, for future Facebook postings, no doubt). I must confess that I myself took one photo before the ceremony started, but I wanted to be respectful.
Even though I didn’t know Woodlawn personally (as many of the people in attendance did), I found myself very moved. In fact, there was one point when the Lavender Light Gospel Choir started singing that I began crying uncontrollably (much to my own embarrassment). I think this was because they were singing a religious song (after an amusing rendition of “Walk on the Wild Side”) and, in contrast to all the light-hearted remembrances that had come before, it brought home the reality and enormity of the fact that someone had actually died.
Martin Belk at BGSQD
The final stop on my cultural tour was a book reading and signing by a writer, Martin Belk, who happens to be a Facebook friend of mine and also happens to be one of the few people I know who’s read my book. While we’ve corresponded and I’ve followed his Facebook posts for many years, this was the first time we had actually met. (He lives in London.)
I was very impressed by both the quality of what he read and the mere fact that he had written this book, gotten it published and was now having a reading and book signing in New York City.
Reading his biography in the program afterwards, it seemed to me that he had really gotten his life together and figured out what he wanted to do with it. He’d completed his B.A. at night while still living in New York City, had moved to Scotland to get his master’s degree and was currently working on his PhD.
As my job search slogs into its ninth month, I’ve been having serious questions about my own life choices. I thought that at this point in my life, I’d be doing something much more meaningful and exciting than just struggling to find a job to pay my rent.
And I’m starting to question my artistic choices, as well. I’m not even sure of the best way to express myself anymore.
In addition to writing this blog, I’ve been writing and performing stand-up comedy for the last 15 years. But in the last two months, with all the stress of my job search, I’ve completely lost my sense of humor. (The shitty spring weather we’ve been having hasn’t helped, either!)
My experiences yesterday reminded me once again that we’re all on this planet for a very short amount of time. As my writer friend quoted one of his teachers saying: “You have the rest of eternity after you’re dead to do nothing. But right now, you better get on with it!”

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Welcome to My Midlife Crisis, Part 2: The Nostalgia Continues

I took a walk down memory lane today. In fact, every day I talk a walk down memory lane. There are entire neighborhoods in Manhattan that I can’t walk through without a profound sense of sadness and loss.
Today I went to a gallery in Chinatown to see a show by the actor and artist Duncan Hannah, who was in Jim Jarmusch’s first film, Permanent Vacation. The woman running the gallery (who seemed to be about 25) was wearing a T-shirt that said “I’m OK, You’re OK.” I told her that this was the name of a self-help book in the ’70s that I actually read. She was not aware that she was wearing the name of a best-selling book, even though her shirt had the same typeface and logo as the book’s cover.
But this should have been no surprise.
Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to walk by the former site of the Mudd Club, which now has a plaque to commemorate its place in music history. How many weekends did I walk from my apartment on East Fourth Street to that building down on White Street? Too many to remember. (At a certain point, however, even the Mudd Club wasn’t cool enough for me, so I used to bide my time at my apartment until the after-hours club Berlin—at 622 Broadway—would open.)
Walking north from White Street, I passed another landmark from my life, the former site of the Rock Lounge at 285 West Broadway, the first “new wave” club I ever went to. I was tempted to take a picture of that, as well as of the former site of Sohozat, the book and zine store that used to be on West Broadway across from the empty lot that is now the Soho Grand Hotel, but once you start going down that path, where does it stop?
I passed some newly constructed luxury buildings on West Broadway and spoke briefly to a man who was trying to attract customers to his clothing store. I told him that I live a few blocks away, but that I hardly walk down West Broadway anymore because it’s nothing but Eurotrash. He laughed. (Who among these arrivistes would remember that the Eileen Fisher store was once a Chinese restaurant called Oh Ho So? Who can even imagine a Chinese restaurant in Soho now?)
Continuing on to the West Village, I walked down Bleecker Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. I can remember when there used to be a used clothing store near the corner of Bleecker and Leroy Streets (where I used to buy many of my clothes in the early ’80s) and Bleecker Street Records was across the street. It was like a miniature universe peopled by nothing but musicians and music fans! Where are those people now? Do people still wear metal buttons with the names of their favorite bands on their vintage overcoats? If they did, they would look ridiculous on the streets of today’s designer-dressed Manhattan.
Last night, I saw a movie called A Bigger Splash, which features a scene of Ralph Fiennes dancing wildly to the Rolling Stones song “Emotional Rescue.” It’s one of the most thrilling film moments I’ve seen in a long time, and not just because of the wild abandon with which Fiennes dances, but because I distinctly remember buying that album the first summer I lived in New York City and hearing that song brought me right back to that first carefree summer of 1980.
When I look at my life now, I’m reminded of that line from the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime”: How did I get here?
How is it that I had more fun in New York City 30 years ago when I had less money, than I’m having now?
Maybe it’s because 30 years of deficit spending has finally caught up with me at the same time that the jobs I used to have are disappearing.
Or maybe it’s because New York is just a less fun city.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Welcome to My Midlife Crisis

These are dark days.
I’m currently working as a doorman for one-third my normal salary, because that’s the only job I could get (and I’m probably lucky to have that). I’ve spent the last eight months being stymied by a hiring system that ironically seems designed to keep people like me who “think outside the box” out and to reward cookie-cutter mediocrity (with appropriately mediocre wages).
And every time I open the newspaper or look at the Internet, it seems to be bad news.
Neal Gabler, who was once a TV movie critic (in addition to being a published author), just penned an article in The Atlantic about his financial struggles as a writer and the larger plight of most middle-class Americans today, living from paycheck to paycheck. And this is from someone who’s famous!1
Another article talks about how the suicide rate in America is at a 30-year high. Because of economic forces (among other things), predominantly white middle-aged men like myself have been killing themselves in increasing numbers (mainly with drugs and alcohol, but also with more efficient methods).2
And at the same time that there seems to be an ’80s revival going on3, many icons of that era—Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and now Prince—are dead.
Meanwhile, in the science fiction-like world of New York real estate, gentrification continues at a blazing speed. The most recent example of this is longtime icon of the Lower East Side, Katz’s Deli, selling their air rights to create a co-op featuring million-dollar studios, while simultaneously destroying every other mom-and-pop store on its block.
And yet, when I walk the streets and look around me, everyone seems to be doing great. Restaurants are full to overflowing (especially now that it’s spring), everyone looks like a supermodel and is wearing the latest designer clothes, my local supermarket is filled with assorted Europeans buying groceries.
“What’s the problem?” you might say.
The problem is that I (and many others like myself) seem to have missed out on this great economy that everyone is talking about.
Sometimes I ask myself, Is this it? Have I just worked my last “normal” job? Am I going to have to content myself with being a service worker from now on? Am I going to have to move into some studio in the Bronx with ten other people?
And what happened to the things that I actually love doing, such as writing and performing? (I can’t perform right now because I’m working nights.) Why am I killing myself just to survive?
And, once again, where’s the outrage? (I’m still getting over Bernie Sanders’s loss in New York’s Democratic primary, despite the fact that Independents weren’t allowed to vote and that 120,000 voters mysteriously disappeared in Brooklyn.)
Maybe people are just in denial, because when something like this happens (i.e., unemployment or underemployment), people seem to think that it’s your fault. As in, what’s wrong with you that you can’t find a decent job, not what’s wrong with the economy or what’s wrong with the hiring system. (Also: It couldn’t possibly happen to me!)
It seems like if you want to get a decent job these days, you have to create it yourself (or, at least, find it before it’s advertised).
Maybe I just need to do a better job of monetizing my “brand,” the way Jimmy Buffet has.4 Jimmy Buffet, whom you may recall as the one-hit wonder who sang “Margaritaville,” has turned that song into a chain of resorts and restaurants. Maybe I need to do the same thing with my brand! (Somehow, though, “The Gay Curmudgeon” doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that would encourage people to relax and spend money.)
Because right now all I have is a spectacular sounding career.
And I can’t use that to pay the rent.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why I’m Voting for Bernie Sanders

Because my landlord just threatened me with eviction. How’s that for starters?
Because I’ve been engaged in a grueling, white-knuckle job search for the last eight months. Because I’m currently working as a doorman for $10 an hour because my unemployment ran out. Because I’m using credit cards to buy groceries and pay for my utilities, so that I can use all my cash for rent.
That’s how bad things have gotten.
So forgive me if I seem a little impatient for with all these limousine liberals who have the luxury of voting for the pragmatist, the woman who wants everyone to be happy with incremental change, because everything is going great for them.
I’m fucking happy for you.
If you could just step outside your sheltered existence for a few seconds, you might see the reason why 50,000 people gathered in New York City’s Washington Square Park last night, while only 1,300 gathered for Hillary’s dismal event in the Bronx.
Forgive me if I’m not going to just settle for the same old bullshit anymore.
Especially while corporations are sitting on record profits, while most people’s wages have been stagnant for the last 15 years (or gone down). Especially when they’re moving their corporate headquarters to other countries so they don’t have to pay taxes like us little people do.
I’m sorry, but I’ve fucking had enough.
While we’re on the subject of declining wages and disappearing jobs (despite all media coverage to the contrary), lets talk about the sorry state of our so-called “safety net” that’s supposed to help people like me.
While I was still collecting unemployment (which Congress saw fit to cut down to six months because the economy is doing “so well”), I applied for food stamps and was turned down because I made too much money.
I even asked about applying for what’s euphemistically known as “cash assistance” (i.e., welfare), because of the very real possibility that I was going to have no income whatsoever when my unemployment ran out, and was told that—even if I was approved—it would take at least 30 days to process my application.
Gee, what am I supposed to do about eating in the mean time? (Thank God the doorman job came through!)
Which brings me to another subject.
I had been planning to write a whole different post about my actual job search (and I was hoping to have a more triumphant ending by now), but it basically boils down to this:
It’s impossible to find a job these days without a referral. Period.
And if you happen to have the bad fortune to work in an industry, like mine, that has fallen off a cliff in the last few years, too bad for you—because all your contacts are probably going to be in the same boat as—if not worse off than—you are.
If the government really cared about finding people jobs, they would have programs to retrain people. They would spend money on things like fixing our crumbling infrastructure to actually create jobs.
Hmmm… whose platform does that sound like?
Bernie Fucking Sanders—that’s who!
So, on Tuesday, I hope you’ll join me, and millions of other New Yorkers like myself, in voting for Bernie Sanders in New York’s Democratic primary.
I’m hoping my financial situation will improve in the very near future. But I’m not willing to wait another four years to say that about the United States.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Déjà Vu All Over Again

 I’m having a déjà vu moment.
About two years ago, I was going through the first of my three bouts of unemployment in the last three years (due to the project-based nature of my industry) and I embarked on a series of media appearances on behalf of extending unemployment insurance. I appeared on CNN, The CBS Evening News, and WNYC (among other places) pleading my case and, by extension, the case of millions of Americans like myself. I wrote to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell (twice) and called their offices, and I tweeted about 5,000 tweets in support of extending unemployment insurance. Despite my best efforts (and those of others), Congress voted against extending unemployment insurance five times.
Now I feel like I’m going through the same thing with the Bernie Sanders campaign.
I produced two benefits for his campaign, I’ve blogged about his candidacy and have tweeted every supportive article about Sanders I’ve read.
Now I’m watching as Democrats fail to show up to vote in primaries, and as so-called progressives like Bill Maher and the media in general refer to Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee.
What happened to our outrage?
Meanwhile, over on the Republican side, the three-ring circus that is Trump, Cruz and Rubio attack each other like rabid dogs. The bully governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, has endorsed that other bully from New York, Donald Trump. And Trump continues to insult every demographic in America while the media sits back and salivates at their ratings.
I’ve basically resigned myself to either the current status quo if Clinton wins (incremental change at best, Republican obstruction at worst) or complete Armageddon if Trump wins (war with Syria and/or Russia, climate catastrophe, complete deregulation of corporations).
It’s hard to feel sorry for the establishment Republicans who created this mess. It’s just the end result of 35 years of trickle-down economics, starting with Reagan, so that now we have a situation where the top 1% is doing tremendously well and everyone else is at each others’ throats and blaming whichever scapegoat is most convenient (Muslims, Mexicans—take your pick).
This is what happens when wealth and power become so concentrated in the hands of a few: the rest of us have to just sit back and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, the latest news is that the death rate among white people is going up, particularly those without a college degree.1 They’re literally killing themselves with drugs and alcohol because they can’t find a job. (Of course, blacks and Hispanics are doing even worse than white people economically, but that’s been going on for so long it barely raises an eyebrow anymore.)
I give up.
Even Bill Maher said he was “speechless” after the last Republican debate. Donald Trump isn't funny anymore. It’s worse than America being the world’s laughing stock. America is about to become an even more dangerous place than it already is. We’re already a threat to ourselves (we have the highest rate of gun violence in the civilized world and we’re the only civilized country without universal health care). Now we’re about to become an even bigger threat to the rest of the world, as well.
So keep watching the Kardashians, America, and don’t forget to watch the Oscars tomorrow night.
Because if Donald Trump gets elected president of the United States, it’s going to be lights out for all of us.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shameless Billions

I have a feeling Billions is going to be my new “love to hate.”
Between the unintelligible financial jargon, the shameless displays of wealth, the profanity-laced dick-measuring contests, and the heavy-handed symbolism, there’s a lot to hate.
The first two episodes introduced the primary characters and conflict. Damian Lewis (late of Homeland) stars as Bobby Axelrod, one of those people with an embarrassment of riches—looks, money, an all-neutral wardrobe—that you just love to hate. Malin Akerman, who was so good in HBO’s sorely-missed The Comeback, plays Axelrod’s wife, the requisite piece of arm-candy who unconvincingly keeps alluding to her hard-scrabble upbringing on the mean streets of Inwood.
Paul Giamatti is U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhodes, a man given to overblown prophecies of doom for Axelrod, unwieldy metaphors alluding to same, and whose biggest accomplishment so far seems to be the amount of scenery he’s able to chew. Maggie Siff plays his wife, Wendy, who works as some kind of psychotherapist at Axelrod’s firm and who, for some unknown reason, has a sadomasochistic relationship with her husband. (The opening scene of the first episode features Wendy extinguishing a cigarette on her husband’s chest and then peeing on the wound. The show goes downhill from there.)
OK, so maybe that’s how high-powered douchebags really talk and behave in real life. It still pains me to hear the stilted dialogue coming out of these actors’ mouths, especially since I know they’ve all had better material.
It’s embarrassing.
Which brings me to Shameless, Showtime’s other Sunday night offering.
Shameless is what you might call the flip side to Billions’ excess. Shameless deals with the Gallagher family, an unwieldy brood living on the south side of Chicago in white-trash squalor.
To say that the Gallaghers are dysfunctional would be like saying Hitler wasn’t very nice to Jews. The amount of dysfunction on this show can make it painful to watch at times. I mean, I’ve heard of schadenfreude, but this is ridiculous!
Let’s see, where do I begin?
The patriarch, Frank Gallagher (William H. Macy), is an alcoholic on his second liver, who just ended an affair with a woman who had cancer and committed suicide at the end of last season. His ex-wife, Monica (Chloe Webb), was a manic-depressive. His oldest daughter, Fiona (Emmy Rossum), is sleeping with two men at the same time—Sean (Dermot Mulroney) and Gus (Steve Kazee, from Broadway’s Once), whom she’s married to—and is now pregnant but doesn’t know who the father is. His 15-year-old daughter, Debbie (Emma Kenney), is also pregnant, but is determined to keep the child despite the overwhelming evidence around her that she should not. His youngest son, Carl (Ethan Kutkosky), just got out of jail and is now selling guns in school and sporting cornrows and an 18-year-old black friend he met in juvie. His next youngest son, Ian (Cameron Monaghan), is also manic-depressive (like his mother), as well as gay, and has been reduced to working as a janitor at his brother’s college after getting fired as a waiter at his sister’s restaurant.
All of which makes Lip (Jeremy Allen White), the oldest son who’s attending college and is sleeping with one of his married professors, seem like a model of success.
(Another daughter, Sammi, is no longer on the show. I guess the house—and script—got too crowded!)
There’s also an interracial couple—Veronica and Kevin Ball (Shanola Hampton and the hunky Steve Howey) —who are the Gallaghers’ neighbors and are raising two small children of their own; and a lesbian couple who are supposed to symbolize the gentrification of the Gallaghers’ neighborhood and have lately gotten into an ongoing battle with another neighbor.
The only thing that’s a slight consolation is that there’s a lot of male (and female) nudity. A lot!
In just the last two seasons, we’ve gotten to see the asses of Mulroney (who will forever be fixed in my mind as the best-looking AIDS victim ever in Longtime Companion), Kazee (thank you!), Howey (thanks again!), and Macy (no thank you).
Another one of the highlights of last season—for me, at least—was the relationship between Ian and Mickey Milkovich (Noel Fisher). It gloriously destroyed any stereotypes one might have of all gay men being effeminate.
I’m not sure where all this is going but, if nothing else, after watching this show, you’re bound to feel that your own life—no matter how shitty it is—is somewhat less shitty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In Defense of the Eagles

 Just barely over a week after the death of David Bowie, we lost another rock god of the ’70s, Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
Last night I re-watched the excellent documentary, History of the Eagles, and was struck by a number of things: that geography is destiny, that the ’70s music scene in southern California was a unique convergence of people that will probably never be duplicated, and that the Eagles were fucking talented.
I don’t care about fame. I don’t care about money. I don’t care about physical beauty. But I worship talent. I bow at the feet of musicianship. And that’s something the Eagles had in spades and something that’s sorely missing from today’s studio-created pop princesses and knob-twiddling producers.
Just watch the first few seconds of History, where the five original members of the band engage a capella in five-part harmony. That’s the same sound that blew away British producer Glyn Johns, who produced their first two albums and had already worked with The Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Try asking one of today’s auto-tuned divas (or divos) to do that.
While it may not seem necessary to defend a band that has the best-selling album of the 20th century (Their Greatest Hits, 1971-1975), there’s a comment by music critic Robert Christgau that I read on CNN’s website that sticks in my craw: “Another thing that interests me about the Eagles is that I hate them.”1
There’s also the good-natured ribbing of the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski, where Jeff Bridges’s character, The Dude, asks his cabdriver not to play the Eagles on his car radio. (The cab driver then asks him to get out of the cab.)
But that’s the thing about popular bands (or anything that’s popular). At some point they become a cliché. At some point there’s a backlash and, suddenly, they’re not “cool” anymore.
The thing about the Eagles is that they were so popular, you just took it for granted that they would always be around. And, now that they’re not, I’m kicking myself that I never saw them live.
Granted, the Eagles were not known for the highly choreographed, special effects-laden spectacles that are demanded of today’s touring bands. (In History, one critic accuses them of “loitering onstage.”) Eagles concerts were all about the music.
And that’s the thing.
The Eagles came out of the southern California music scene of the ’70s and combined the influences of rock and country into something that hadn’t been heard before. No matter where you were, when you were heard one of their songs, you were magically transported to that southern California paradise of palm trees, cars, and sunshine (and, by the time of Hotel California, its hedonistic underbelly of sex and drugs).
You can imagine how this would appeal to someone living in the cold suburban hell of Long Island.
The band split in 1980 and reunited for a tour and album in 1994 (Hell Freezes Over) and later released another album, Long Road Out of Eden. While these last two albums may not dig as deep as a Hotel California, their pre-breakup output alone (to say nothing of the solo careers of Don Henley and Glenn Frey) would make them untouchable.
And that reminds me.
There’s one thing I’ve been waiting over 30 years to say.
Fuck you, Robert Christgau.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

David Bowie and Me

In the week since David Bowie’s death, there has been an outpouring of grief from people all over the world, as well as an avalanche of essays (including this one) from people vainly attempting to attach themselves to his greatness. All of this is understandable. Bowie was a musician, actor, artist and fashion icon. Whenever anyone dies, there is a sense of lost opportunities. The greater the person, the greater the sense of loss.I never considered myself a Bowie fan, in particular, but I did have a great deal of admiration for both the man and his work.
I’ve also had this bizarre (and perhaps undeserved) feeling of closeness and propriety toward him because I live two blocks from his New York apartment.
On the day after his death, I passed his apartment and there were news vans and a crowd of people outside. I was filled with a sense of both loss and disgust. I was tempted to take a picture, but I decided that that would make me as intrusive as the news vans and crowds, so I didn’t.
As the days passed, I found myself mentally going over his music and my experience of it.
Since I was only an adolescent in the ’70s, I feel like I missed out on a good deal of Bowie’s output. Bowie may have had his avant-garde side, but he was also a hit-maker, capable of creating hits on AM radio. I distinctly recall the first time I heard “Space Oddity,” which was released around the time of the Apollo moon landing. I immediately liked it.
 “Changes,” “Fame” and “Young Americans” also made it onto AM radio. In fact, he had enough hit records to release a greatest hits album, ChangesOneBowie, in 1976.
But I missed his whole Ziggy Stardust period and, listening to songs from that period now, I can’t understand why those songs weren’t also hit records. To my ears, “Life on Mars” and “Starman” are every bit as commercial-sounding as “Space Oddity,” “Changes” or “Fame.”
But you have to remember the era in which those songs were created.
It’s hard to imagine now how revolutionary Bowie was when he first came onto the music scene. (There’s an excellent documentary called David Bowie: Five Years which makes it abundantly clear.)
America was emerging from the singer-songwriter period of James Taylor, Carol King and Elton John (whose later songs/image were undoubtedly influenced by Bowie) and entering the era of California rock.
That’s what was so great about the ’70s: disco and punk were happening at the same time. (Take note, Vinyl writers!) CBGB and Studio 54 existed at the same time (and Bowie probably went to both). The American airwaves were filled with the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, while in England the glam-rock of Bowie and T-Rex were segueing into the punk of the Sex Pistols.
This is the era in which Bowie created Ziggy Stardust and the later albums of his Berlin period.
It wasn’t until I got into college that my tastes and Bowie’s musical output merged with the release of Scary Monsters. This was also, to my ears, a very commercial-sounding album. “Ashes to Ashes” picked up the story and otherworldly sound of “Space Oddity.” “Fashion” had a funky bass line like “Fame.” What was not to like?
But the album that sent Bowie into the stratosphere was Let’s Dance. This album also coincided with the birth of MTV and Bowie’s videos from this album were in constant rotation. One of the biggest regrets of my life was not seeing the “Serious Moonlight” tour (which was featured in the video for “Modern Love”).
Bowie then entered a period where, as he himself has said, he was writing more for the audience than himself. Tonight and Never Let Me Down continued his commercial trajectory (and I did catch his “Glass Spider” tour, but it was anti-climactic).
But then, the following year, after playing large arenas, he played a small club in the East Village called The World with a band named Tin Machine!
Several more albums followed, but Bowie stopped touring in 2004 and maintained a low profile thereafter.
So, it was a kind of a shock to have, in the space of a few days, Bowie release a well-reviewed new album on his birthday and then die seemingly all of a sudden.
In truth, Bowie had already narrowly escaped death at least once or twice before.
In the ’70s, during his heavy drug period, Bowie actually looked worse than he did shortly before his actual death. There’s a widely circulating photograph of Bowie with John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Grammy Awards where he looks like a skeleton.
But his death still feels sudden, partly because he didn’t seem to be fully present even when he was alive.
There’s an excellent article in The New York Times1 which talks about the way Bowie was able to walk the streets of New York City unnoticed. I think this is because everyone in New York thinks they’re a celebrity—and they’re all too busy looking at their cell phones.
I only saw Bowie once, although I’ve seen his wife, Iman, several times.
It’s kind of a funny story, actually.
I was walking down Lafayette Street when I saw two white men (who I assumed to be gay), one of them wearing sunglasses, walking with a young black girl and I thought, “How nice! Those two gay white men adopted a little black girl!” It wasn’t until after I had passed them that I realized that the white man wearing sunglasses was David Bowie and the little black girl was probably his daughter.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Mayor of Hudson River Park

 I’ve often considered myself the mayor of Hudson River Park, just because I go there so frequently and, consequently, feel very proprietary about it.
On this 15-degree day in the depths of winter, I’m thinking fondly of the summers I spent reading in my usual spot near West 11th Street. Since I usually can’t afford to take a summer vacation, reading in Hudson River Park is my summer vacation.
I’ve also met my fair share of celebrities while reading in the park.
Now, when it comes to approaching celebrities, I’m always torn between my fanatical worship of talent and my genuine desire not to intrude on anyone’s privacy. I don’t want to appear like a stalker but, on the other hand, I’m also loath to appear like some blasé New Yorker. As Rupert Everett once said, “Jesus could walk down Eighth Avenue and no one would notice.” (He was referring to Chelsea muscle queens and said this when Chelsea was still the preeminent gay neighborhood in Manhattan.)
Speaking of Rupert Everett, I can still remember the many times I’d see him and his dog on the Christopher Street pier. (This was in the pre-renovation days, when the piers were the exclusive province of gay men.) In fact, I’d see him so often that I grew to recognize his black Labrador and knew that, if I saw the Lab, Everett must be nearby. (The dog even made a cameo appearance in Everett’s film The Next Best Thing.)
Just this past summer, I met the actor and drag performer John (“Lypsinka”) Epperson. I mentioned that I had just posted a photo of a film clip of him that was used in a Morrissey concert on Twitter and that we also had a friend in common. He regaled me with his own tales of celebrities that he had met (Madonna, Bette Midler) and told me about his upcoming appearances at Feinstein’s/54 Below and off-Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress. (I saw Mattress recently and he was wonderful!)
Another time I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch creator John Cameron Mitchell sitting quietly by himself, typing on his laptop. Actually, I had seen him several times and didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to bother him. Finally, I decided to tell him how much I had enjoyed his show when I saw it at the Jane Street Theater back in the ’90s. (This was before the Broadway revival was announced.) He was very gracious and I let him get back to work.
A few months later, I saw Mitchell in the park again on the day of the Tony Awards (for which Hedwig was nominated for the Best Revival and Best Actor Tonys, among others) and wished him good luck. He modestly deflected his nominations and, again, I left him to his own devices. A few hours later, I saw him on TV accepting the Tony for Best Revival.
Not every celebrity is so gracious.
A few years ago I saw the actor and playwright Sam Shepard eating an ice cream bar in the park. Theater snob that I am, I told him how much I enjoyed his play True West. (I deliberately didn’t mention any of his movie acting.) He ran away like I was a psycho.
It’s also true that not everyone I meet in the park is famous.
One person I see quite often is a vaguely homeless-looking man who’s always carrying a backpack and going through a pile of handwritten papers. He must be working on his memoirs! (I eventually saw him coming out of a building on West 11th Street, so I don’t think he’s homeless, either.)
Nowadays, my biggest concern regarding Hudson River Park (and the West Village in general) is overdevelopment. I was disturbed to read about the recent sale of air rights to pay for the renovation of Pier 401, as that will undoubtedly create yet more high-rises along the West Side Highway. (One of the biggest mistakes in zoning history has to be the fact that the West Village Historic District didn’t extend all the way to the Hudson River.) As it is, the behemoth-like 150 Charles Street looms over the charming townhouse on West Street that was featured in the Bravo TV series 9 By Design.
When I die, I’d like my ashes to be scattered over my favorite reading spot in Hudson River Park, so I can continue to enjoy its peaceful surroundings and future generations will be able to feel my presence.
It’s also likely to be the only way I’m ever going to have a Hudson River view.