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October 29, 2007

Today I am wrapping up a semi-long vacation from the office-- seven business days or eleven real days long.
I went nowhere beyond the boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and--ugh--my newish home locale of Queens. This was not a touring vacation, rather the second lunge in my depserate attempt to use up the 31 vacation days I have in my possession before losing them at year's end (used to be that the company I work for would let you carry over an unlimited number of days -- no more. Now only five can make it across).

So in September I used five days, but that was like working, because we had just moved and I was busy painting and unpacking and the like. And now I've used up seven more. Beginning with the second week of November, I will be taking nearly every Thursday and Friday off through the first week of December. And then I take another strip of seven business days in a row, and New Year's Eve. That's the plan.

In this past bit of time away from the job, I found that I didn't think about the place once (except for the first day off because I got a phone call from the office). This seemed like a very long time away, and I must say that I got used to not having to deal. Of course, in order to entertain myself while I was off, I spent money, and let's face it, as much as I have always hoped some mysterious stranger would set up a never-depleting trust for me to live off of, I need to have a job to make a living.

How did I entertain myself? Mostly by buying clothes and shoes, and then checking out bars on nights that I long ago stopped checking out bars on. I also went to the MoMA with friend.

Here are the things that I learned on my time off:

*The reason I don't own more brown shoes is because there are fewer attractive brown shoes than black or red. Seems to me me all shoes should at the very least come in a choice of black and brown. They don't. Worry not, I managed to find a terrific pair of brown plaid pumps that have a lot of 1940's character.

*I am, apparently, three pants-sizes smaller than I was the last time I bought pants.

*I have not lost my portrait painting abilities. After painting a series of shadowy buildings, I successfully created a human portrait this week. Hoo-rah!

*I need to explore more of the work of Anselm Kiefer. His was the only piece in the MoMA caught my attention. Now, you must remember that I have been to that museum a hundred times and I have studied art history, so right off the bat I eliminate the things that I am familiar with and which I always take time to take in -- the Duchamps', the Rousseau's, the Warhol's, etc. Anyway, Kiefer is a contemporary German artist (figures he's German--I'm also terribly impressed by German fiction, too). His "Grane" I liked very much. It's a large woodcut of a mythical horse from a Wagner opera.

*Motor City was rocking its ass off on last Monday night. Of course, Monday's are usually dismal bar nights, but it was the darling Francesca's birthday party (and Francesca now owns Motor City) so the joint was packed to the gills, the music loud, and the drinks flowing a plenty.

*Union Pool draws a remarkable crowd on a Tuesday night. The woeful Monday night bar patronage is usually fairly matched on a Tuesday, but Union Pool got the job done. I got there at 9 to meet a friend (who didn't have to work in the morning because he had to wait around for the cable guy to visit his new apartment) and the place was dead, but within two hours, it was a hopping good time.

*When the heat in my new apartment comes up it smells like there is one of those nut vendors from the street corner selling his wares in the bedroom.

*This is a silly, juvenile funny thing I found online: David's New Snail


Grane by Anselm Kiefer

The Best Damn Thing in the MoMa This Time Around

October 21, 2007

Men are weird. Last night I went out with a friend to a hole-in-the-wall bar called King's County, which is in Bushwick or Far East Williamsburg (depending on who you ask). There I enjoyed the attentions of men who were on the prowl. Every now and then, it's interesting to go out without my husband just to see if I still "got it." I can safely say that I do, and that does wonders for the ego.

Two guys sitting at the bar started chatting me up, I thought they were friends. They were not. One, a wild-eyed lanky fellow told me I was "very pretty" and "beautiful." He smelled of desperation. Meanwhile, the other guy was a Brit--who for some reason tried to bill himself as from Ireland--with a shaved head. He was much more at ease with himself. Mush less aggressive. I could carry on a conversation with him. Old wild eyes was more awkward as far as talking went, it was too much a mack session.

Now, I had on my wedding ring and the bartender made mention of my husband, so I find it amusing that men will still hit on a woman who wears her married status comfortably. I guess they figure that if the husband isn't there with the wife, then it must not be so strong a marriage.

Anyway, right from the start old wild eyes took it upon himself to try and trip up the Brit's flirting. They had been talking before I sat next to them (which is why I thought they were friends) and old wild eyes decided to use the information he had picked up from that chat against the Brit. He bullied him, "Go ahead, tell her, tell her why you lived in Colorado" and then he looks at me and pointed to his ring finger. "He was married! He's divorced!" The Brit made no bones about it, he readily admitted to having been married. Big deal, I thought. I am in my 30s. These guys were in their 30s. It is very naive to think that there aren't some people my age who are divorced already. Is being divorced supposed to be a turn off?

So, old wild eyes took off at one point. I think he said he was going to a friend's for a party and he left the bar. He asked if I wanted to go. I didn't. I stayed happily at the bar. I kept talking with the Brit, among others.

Some time later the other guy came back and was he jealous! Ha! He was stunned that I was still talking with the Brit, he delivered doozies like the derogatory "You're going to sleep with Jimmy Mick aren't you?" and the obvious logic of "If you go home with him, I'm off the table" and my personal favorite "I'm boyfriend material, but I guess you don't want that."

This amazed me. Forget the fact that I'm not single, but here is some idiot I just met, and he's besides himself with jealousy (prolly, the whisky wasn't helping his thinking, either). Absolutely absurd to me was the fact that he believed he was boyfriend material. As I told my husband while relaying this story, any guy who would be boyfriend material in my book would have to be exceptionally tolerant of other men talking to me. My closest friends are men -- many of them are men whom I have dated.

I feel a little sorry for men on the prowl. Women are taught to try and smother any desire they might have for a one night stand. Casual sex is fraught with danger for a woman--both of physical violence and the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. It behooves a woman to cross her legs when the penised-ones start buying the drinks and serving up the compliments. And women tend to travel in packs, in order to protect one another. The bevy arrives together and leaves together. There is safety in numbers. And so men are met with frustration.

Of course, when a woman wants to get laid, it's pretty much a complete opposite situation. All a gal needs to do is go to a bar and casually flirt. A guy will respond. It might not always be the best looking or smartest guy, but a guy will ultimately respond. I'd say a woman--even an ugly woman--who goes to a bar in order to hook up has a 90% chance of succeeding. A guy--even a really hot guy--not so much, maybe 20%.

So I do understand, somewhat, the place old wild eyes was. However, he didn't seem to recognize that he had not a chance. And his tactics in trying to make the Brit look like a lesser man, only made himself uglier to me (uglier on the inside that is).

Poor guy. I know not what power I hold over the hormone-addled masculine sex. Well, that's not alltogether true. I've been hit on enough to accept that I'm on the attractive side of the spectrum (something that, surprisingly seems to intensify as I age), but getting a reaction like I did last night is startling.

So, the moral to this story goes to all the guys out there: Desperation and inappropriate fits of jealousy will not make women desire you.


October 12, 2007

Wednesday night found me out on the town. This is not a common occurrence—my going out after work. I feel so guilty about skipping the gym in order to go out. The gym is an evil and unforgiving master.

Anyway, so my friend Ben is in a new band and the band was playing its first gig. For as long as I have known this guy—about seven years, I’d say--he has been in one band or another. The latest group is called Stray Volts. So I headed to R Bar on Bowery to check out the show—it helped that there was an open bar – limited, but open – for an hour.

R Bar is decked out to apparently look like what a New York punk bar would look like if it was in Los Angeles. Of course, it is in New York, so I guess it’s more like what a Los Angeles designer imagines a New York punk bar is supposed to look like. The walls are covered in crushed red velvet with black leather accents. The front room has giant, nearly wall-encompassing black and white photos of scantily clad girls. The back room sports giant framed photos of punk legends—The Clash, Joey Ramone, Debra Harry, The Pistols, etc. There was also a pair of dancing poles at both ends of the room (two on the stage and two shooting up out of cocktail tables in the rear.) My one friend deemed the interior decoration “stripper chic,” adding that he was so over that look. I just thought it was trying too hard.

The thing about being there, though, wasn’t so much the bar itself, but the faces in the bar. It was flashing back to 2000 or thereabouts. Back then, I was on staff at a music magazine, I lived in Alphabet City, and I was staying out til the early morning several times a week. And on Wednesday night the bar was filled with many of the same faces that I used to see back then on a regular basis. The same crowd that used to populate the dearly departed Barmacy and the-not-yet-departed-but-my-ass-certainly-hasn’t-been-there-in-a-while Mars Bar.

We all greeted and chatted like those days were still ongoing. Maybe they are for some of the people who were there. The guys in the bands, probably still live a little like that. Of course, most of them have moved into their 30s by now, and they’re certainly starting to look it. Though the rock n’ roll hipster clothes are still wrapped around them, there’s less fire in their eyes, more responsibility in their faces. We all grow up. We all get old. Your mind can fight it, but your body will betray you.

It was a weird feeling. There I was, feeling comfortable and at home with these people. I talked my ass off. This was how I had spent so many previous nights, but back then, it was more carefree. Now I could feel the years gone by just pounding into me. It was like standing on the shore, seeing the tsunami coming, and doing nothing to prevent it from slamming me down. Realize, this isn’t a sense of regret that I was feeling. Just age. And no matter what you accomplish, no matter how you live your life, there ain’t no way of stopping your age from creeping higher and higher.

Back bar at R Bar
R Bar:
Cookie Cutter Punk Decor

7 October, 2007

I have been so busy doing almost nothing that I’ve had nothing to write about.

Last weekend – not this one – a huge pack of my friends went to see The Darjeeling Limited. I am happy to say that Wes Anderson has recovered from the misstep that was The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. My friend Jon will argue that …Zissou was a triumph—a veritable fairy tale on screen. I disagree. It was bloated, the characters dull and one dimensional, and the use of claymation was something so out of place that it frightened me.

Every other Wes Anderson movie has made me very happy. Bottle Rocket is a joy. I have to have seen that movie 50 times—when I was laid off from my job at a magazine a while back, I spent afternoon after afternoon watching that movie and consequently, becoming charmed by Owen Wilson.

Rushmore was another work of genius. It is the film that really starts many of the Anderson trademarks – the titles on screen, that font, the soul touching use of slow-motion. I remember seeing Rushmore in the theatre on a double date with my now husband and his brother and a woman he used to live with.

Then came The Royal Tenenbaums. I saw that one opening day at 11:30 in the morning. A tremendous tale of redemption and rebirth, that film has become the closest thing to a religious tradition that my husband and I have. Every Easter Sunday since its DVD release, we view it. We aren’t in the least bit godly people, but we nod at Easter from an atheist/agnostic stance, treating it as the symbolic opening of spring and we dust out our psyches by taking it in. Of course, this was also the first movie Anderson made that had big-time names clamoring to be in it. And so we got hit with a heavyweight lineup that included Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, and Danny Glover. I have to admit, those names made me nervous, but in the end it worked out. Hackman and Huston were perfect, and Stiller managed to turn it down a notch. The story was good enough to surpass the glitter of the cast.

All that leads to …Zissou. It just didn’t work for me. But now we have The Darjeeling Ltd. and all is well. Here is a sublime comedy that is as bittersweet as it is ridiculous. Among my favorite moments: Owen Wilson’s character ordering for all three brothers on the train while Adrien Brody tries to rebel, the smashing of the perfume bottle, the auto body shop, the dropping of the baggage, the second attempt at the peacock feather ritual.

The movie is in my mind a return to form. However, it was overshadowed by the news that Owen Wilson, who not only has a role in most Anderson movies but who has also cowritten several of them, attempted suicide in the weeks leading up to its release. Not much, it occurs to me, has been made public about the blonde Wilson’s brush with self-imposed death. And believe me, I read a lot about pop culture and celebrity. I have been able to deduce that it had something to do with illegal drugs. It may or may not have had something to do with his failed relationship with Kate Hudson (whom, you might recall, he stole away from her lanky rock n roll husband, Chris Robinson).

Anyway, the point is that if we look at the films that Owen Wilson has made with Wes Anderson, there is a similarity. He has always played infinitely damaged people in need of love and attention. As Dignan in Bottle Rocket he was a man who refused to leave boyhood behind. The character lived in a fantasy world of cops and robbers. He had a 75-year life plan set up that relied on his relationship with his best friend and him never hitting the skids. They of course do (but reconcile). Meanwhile, while Dignan continues searching for attention, he rejoins with a father figure (Mr. Henry) only to be betrayed and hung out to dry, and the film ends with him in prison.

He sat out of Rushmore (but cowrote it) and that movie is a whole big bag of self-loathing.

In The Royal Tenenbaums, Wilson is the boy next door to the affluent family. He forces himself into their lives, wishing every step of the way that he were one of them. As an adult, he becomes drug and sex-addled. He nearly kills himself by crashing his car while high on peyote and/or cocaine. Let’s not forget that the movie—cowritten by Wilson—includes the very graphic suicide attempt of “Bammer” Tenenbaum. Seriously, it sticks with me how Luke Wilson goes into the bathroom, shaves his head and declares that he would kill himself the next day, but instead proceeds to slash his wrists right then and there. The shots are amazing.

With …Zissou, Owen Wilson is a bastard child who finds his father only to end up dying a horrific death after tracking him down and sharing a sea adventure together.

Finally, there is the just opened The Darjeeling Ltd. This time around, Wilson is the oldest of three brothers who drifted apart after the death of their father. He tries to bring them back together only after he himself has a near-death experience on a motorcycle—one, that at nearly the last possible point in the story does the audience discover, that was absolutely intentional. A suicide attempt.

Sure, Owen Wilson has made plenty of films that don’t suggest a deeper mental anguish—his collaborations with Jackie Chan, and Zoolander, for example—but the art he has created with Wes Anderson seems to me to be his most personal. And, I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist for that matter, but still, I can’t help think that maybe all along there was something missing in his life. Maybe it wasn’t celebrity, public scrutiny, and Kate Hudson that injected despair into his world. Maybe it was there all along.

I think we can all agree that Owen Wilson is not the world's greatest actor, but his collaborations with Wes Anderson have been great. Five times out of six, there have been sheer successes—with several of those five landing on my all-time favorite films list. So I’m glad Mr. Wilson survived his attempt at death. I’m glad Darjeeling is a good movie. And I’m happy to learn that Wes Anderson seems to be a good friend. At the L.A. premiere of Darjeeling he made a short speech and gave a nod to Wilson, who was making his first public appearance since his suicide attempt. And Anderson said simply that he had never made a film without Owen Wilson and hoped he would never have to–sorta sounds like Dignan’s 75-year-plan.  

Darjeeling Limited poster
Huzzah--A Return to Form
For This Guy Below!

Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson, You Rock
Once Again.


Owen Wilson
Owen Wilson... I Think I Like
Him More Knowing
He's a Sensitive, Artsy,
Sucidical Type.