Apocalypse Soon

It’s been the longest stretch without a post since I’ve started this blog. October was going to be a huge month, I had so many ideas, but it all just fizzled away. What happened?

Like Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, or a very fat Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic war movie, I went up river and I’ve gone native. What started out as mere observation turned into infiltration and participation. No longer am I amazed at things I see on a daily basis. Life continues to be exciting, but maybe I don’t have as many novel things to report on as I once did. Of course there may be other factors, such as a lazy approach to daily writing which was due to the many distractions that have occurred in the last month, and possibly a bit of self censorship because I can’t tell you about every little detail that happens. Here’s what I will tell you:

I met a Swiss traveler who is touring the U.S. and we hit it off. She managed to stick around New York for a while and we had lots of fun around the city at various bars, restaurants, and occasional tourist sites. At one point we were at a deli in SoHo at 4am with Lindsay Lohan, who I didn’t pay attention to enough to recognize, but my Swiss friend and the guy working the counter swear that it was her.

Another night we went to a concert at Webster Hall sponsored by Jameson that was called Pettyfest. It was musicians playing covers of Tom Petty songs. While I didn’t recognize everyone that played, they were all from established bands, and it was a reminder that Tom Petty has written lots of great songs. The best part was that we had been listening to the Strokes a lot together and I had introduced her to Portlandia to show what my hometown is like from a comical viewpoint. So when Fred Armison of SNL and Portlandia fame got up to play drums and then Fabrizio Moretti of the Strokes did the same, we were very excited. In fact, she admitted she and her friends had all had a crush on Fabrizio and made sure to get pictures to send to them.

All in all not bad for a free concert and free Jameson.

But now, I’m waiting for the storm of the century, or some such disaster to strike. My Swiss friend went to DC and she’s there with friends, waiting for the same. The subways were closed yesterday evening, so I missed what is generally a very profitable night of work at my restaurant, and today I’m not working again. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed, I prefer to take off from work when it’s planned. I’m trying to occupy my time with some movies and finally writing another post for the blog. The wind is howling outside, but the real storm is still somewhere offshore. I have food, beer, Jameson, movies, and a book for when the power goes out, which in all likelihood will happen at night when reading will be impossible, so I hope I’m drunk enough to just sleep through all of it.

My Portland friends and I had a running list of things you need for the Apocalypse, since the whole Mayan thing has been gaining steam. Sure there’s always those emergency preparedness kits they tell you about in the media, but our list was things you don’t think you need until they’re gone. The problem is, people usually think things will come back to normal right away, and generally they do. But when you look at what happened with hurricane Katrina, or when ice storms take down all the power lines, or ridiculous amounts of snow fall in a region like the Pacific Northwest as it did in 2008 and transportation ground to a halt and store shelves were empty for weeks, that’s when things start to get weird.

It’s good to have a network of people to rely on, who can help you out when you run out of supplies, or help you raid and loot other groups of people that have lots of supplies. Think of the Road Warrior and that crazy gang that Mel Gibson took on. Dressing in leather, wearing modified football pads and having a mohawk also looks cool and helps with the intimidation factor. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have much of a gang out here.

So here’s my impromptu list and remember, this is speaking in case of a purely hypothetical emergency, post law and order scenario.

1. Guns and ammo.

I’m not talking about the magazine, I’m talking the real thing. I know what you’re saying. Guns are bad. Guns hurt people. Yes they do. Just remember what Clint Eastwood said before he started talking to empty chairs: “There are two kinds of people in this world my friend, those with guns, and those who dig. You my friend, dig.”

It’s part of my American heritage, the wild west, if it’s me or you, well I’m choosing me. So don’t come busting down my door to rob me.

2. Drugs.

Legal, illegal, I don’t care. Drugs can be considered medicine, therapy, a way to pass the time. Even if you don’t use them, someone else may want them so it’s a good item for trade.

3. Booze.

Once again something to pass the time. Remember all the people looting cases of beer during Katrina? That’s why you better be able to protect your stash from the needy and the greedy. And whiskey is helpful if you need to remove a bullet or an arrowhead with a dull rusty knife blade. Just like in those old Western movies, sterilize the blade, give a drink to the patient, pour some on the wound, a little for the doctor…

4. Lipstick and Makeup.

This suggestion came from my friend Jenn, who pointed out that women still will want to look good. And guys, just like drugs, just because you may not use them doesn’t mean that someone else won’t covet them enough to trade for something you value.

5. Tampons.

Once again, I have to give credit to Jenn on this too. I don’t think I need to elaborate on the value of having happy women.

6. Candy.

One more from Jenn, who pointed out that living on ramen, insects, and forest berries will get old pretty fast. Good to have something for your sweet tooth.

7. Wet wipes.

Hygiene is important, and if clean water becomes scarce and hot showers become a luxury, these could come in pretty handy.

8. Condoms.

When your iPhone no longer works and the internet’s down and Netflix stops delivering, there’s still that old fashioned form of entertainment that never goes out of style. There’s always baby booms 9 months after disasters, but if you’re not ready to repopulate the earth Post Apocalypse and want to stay STD free while fleeing across the country to a safe zone away from the zombies, make Trojan Man your right hand man. Or use your right hand, man.

This list is not all inclusive and can always be tailored to suit your own personal tastes, but feel free to use it as your guide for survival, because not only is your physical health important, but your mental health is too.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting here for the worst and I’ll post some pictures if anything exciting happens in the ‘hood.

 

Double Feature

I’ve been slacking since the 9/11 post. I’m living between two places, staying out until 5am every other night and of course going to work. A lot feels like it’s happened in the last week. I’m not sure how much I can remember or I’m allowed to talk about. I went out last Tuesday with my new friend Gigi. She was about to leave town for some traveling and teaching some drumming classes. We met through my roommate and managed to have one cool jam session at a place in Bushwick called the Sweatshop. It has drum sets, big guitar and bass amps, microphones and PA systems. You rent it by the hour, bring your band, or your friends, along with your guitar and you make some noise.

Gigi grew up in the Bronx and Queens and was hanging with her old friends the night before she was leaving town. I met up and it was a group of real New Yorkers, accents and all, plus most of them were drummers too. Metal drummers. So we did a lot of drinking at a bar under the train stop, way North in Queens. When the night was over, everyone went their separate ways and I had a long, late night train ride back to way east Bushwick.

The rest of the week was somewhere along those lines, so last night I finally got around to watching some Netflix DVDs I’ve had, just to have a relaxing night. Oddly enough they were both movies involving New York. On top of that, Anna Paquin was in both, each time playing the role of jailbait or barely legal temptress.

First off, I watched the Squid and the Whale (2005), a depressing movie about divorce in a family that lived in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn. Park Slope is a nice neighborhood full of beautiful brownstones and yuppies. This is true today as it was in 1986 when the movie takes place. Jeff Daniels is a college professor/has been writer and Laura Linney is his up and coming writer/soon to be ex-wife. Did I mention that Park Slope and the surrounding zip codes are home to the most published writers per capita in America? It’s something like that, I just read it in a book that I’m not going to footnote. But Norman Mailer and lots of important writers of the 20th century kind of established that and it continues to this day.

Someday when I become the Widely Read and Well Paid Blogger, I will move there too and become pretentious and douchy. In the meantime, you all can say you kinda knew me when I was kinda down to earth and only kinda douchy.

Here’s the deal with the Squid and the Whale:

The Dad – Tweed jackets, hipster/Charles Darwin beard, drives a volvo, talks down to everyone, is a really arrogant prick.

The Mom – Too busy trying to jump on anyone with a dick to care about her soon to be ex-husband or that her kids are looking towards a lifetime of therapy.

Son #1 – Plays “Hey You” from Pink Floyd at the school talent show, claims it to be original, wins $100. Excuse me but The Wall was released in 1979, and no one at his whole friggin’ school knew he was playing a cover tune? Highly improbable. And he gets found out. Duh! Not cool kid. So not cool.

Son #2 – Goes from crybaby to drunkard in about two weeks. I actually kind of liked him. By the way, he’s 11 or something. He’ll eventually be sending some therapist’s kid to college.

Anna Paquin plays the hypersexualized college student that needs a place to stay and ends up moving in with dad when he has to get the second home across the park. Which by the way, is not as cool as being in Park Slope.

Overall, I didn’t like the characters, it was one of those make you feel bad indie movies, and I don’t recommend it.

Moving on, I then watched the 25th Hour (2002), a Spike Lee Joint starring Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Let me just say that for me, you can’t go wrong with Ed Norton and PSH.

The other odd coincidence was the movie’s tie in to 9/11. Being released in 2002 it has the influence of those events, even though the novel was released in 2001 before they occurred. It’s the little things like looking out of a Wall Street apartment onto the empty pit of ground zero, and referring to lost firefighters.

Funny thing is, most of these characters are flawed. Ed Norton is a drug dealer about to go away for 7 years. Barry Pepper is his oldest friend who grew up to be a douchy Wall Street Gordon Gekko wannabe. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the awkward high school English teacher who can’t resist the flirtatiousness of his student played by, you got it, Anna Paquin. And Rosario Dawson is the beautiful girlfriend living off her drug dealer boyfriend.

Somehow, you find sympathy for these characters, and feel moved by what they suffer, even though they are not role models. Part of it is the way Spike Lee turns it into a reflection on the loss suffered by the city of New York and how everyone was in it together and would fight to keep the city alive together. In Do the Right Thing, Spike had the moment where everyone gets all racist on each other before the big riot and calls each other all kinds of derogatory names. In the 25th Hour, Spike brings it back when Ed Norton is talking to himself in a mirror and hurls the insults at everyone: Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Koreans, corrupt cops, gay Chelsea boys, rich upper east side white women, black guys on the basketball court, baseball bat wielding Italian Tony Soprano wannabes, terrorist Muslim cab drivers, and a few more I can’t remember. It’s funny and revealing of our society at the same time and all the more relevant living in New York and recognizing the neighborhoods and the stereotypes.

If you haven’t watched the 25th Hour, I highly recommend it.

And just for fun, because I typed douchy so many times today.

Hipster Hatin’

Why does everybody seem to hate hipsters?

Who exactly are these hipsters and what defines them?

I’m not really sure I can answer either of these questions, but I will make an attempt.

First of all, what is a hipster?

Back in the jazz era of the early 20th century, “hip” became a part of the lingo surrounding jazz music and its scene. There was lots of jive talk and cool lingo to show you were with it. “It” being the cutting edge of fashion, music, and pop culture.

Styles have changed, but the need to stand out as different from the mainstream has remained. In fact maybe it became mainstream. Now a Hipster might wear skinny jeans, thrift store shirts, and have odd facial hair like a handle bar mustache or big bushy beard.

Brooklyn is widely regarded as a Hipster destination. Or is it the origin of Hipsters? Once again, the chicken or the egg conundrum.

Portland has always seemed to have a large population of Hipsters.

When I lived in Eugene two hours to the South, there was a bar my friends and I liked to hang out at called Doc’s Pad. It was one half sports bar with peanut shells on the floor and a dart board connected to a Chinese restaurant, with the classic red booths and gold decor. When the restaurant stopped serving food around 10, it became an extension of the bar and everyone would hang out in the booths drinking. Anyway, lots of Hipsters hung out there. I can’t remember what we actually called them, but the big defining thing about them was that they all wore the thick black framed Buddy Holly glasses, were mostly art students, and acted like they were super cool.

So I was reading the Rants and Raves section of Craigslist because I was looking for a new place to rent and I got bored of combing through overpriced rentals and was messing around and I came across this little piece I would like to share titled:

Thank You Hipsters!!!
Thank You, you up and coming “artists” from all over! You come to Brooklyn, and the landlords see part of or all of the rent checks come in from Mommy and Daddy and they raise the rent. A person like me born and bred in New York is rent-hiked out of my own stomping grounds. You all either make amazingly dull indie films about relationships (“OH, Living and Loving In New York…”) or post Kickstarter campaigns for your cliched hipster bands (For $500 I will send you a picture of me and my band in wool caps standing around a tombstone!, for $1000 we will fly our band to anywhere in America to perform for you and your friends- never mind airfare, equipment shipping rental cars and hotel rooms run this $1000 venture to at least $2000) Trying to find a Brooklyn apartment but you amish-bearded clowns dressed like Nosferatu with sneakers turned $900 apartments to $2000 can’t-touch-’ems.

Classic. And that is why everybody hates Hipsters.

Subway Crazy Pt. 2 Overheard on the Subway Pt. 4

It keeps happening. Crazy people on the subway. I feel like I’m getting more than my fair share. Is it bad luck? Is it the heat? In Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, a neighborhood in Brooklyn is in the middle of a summer heat wave and things keep getting more and more tense among everybody, from personal issues to race oriented, to economic inspired and eventually there’s a riot and Sal’s Pizza gets burned down. I sure hope it doesn’t come to that, but some New Yorkers are just way too tense. I want to go all West coast in my best impression of “Ted” Theodore Logan and say, “Chill out bro, you people need to be more excellent to each other.”

I’m leaving work today and this lady gets on the subway carrying a roll of carpet and a fan. I guess that’s clue number one that she could be suffering from the heat. No one offered her a seat, and I had the privilege of standing next to her. At first she seemed all right. A few stops later she was talking. To whom I’m not sure, but it involved frequent repetition of the words “bitch” and “whore” with “you think you’re all that” thrown in for a little punctuation. I think she was mad at no one giving her a seat, but it seemed like she might be singling out someone in particular. We were crossing the long stretch over the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I was plotting my escape, but she left at the very next stop and there was no incident.

I stopped by the gym and got a workout then got back on the train home, and there’s this guy in a construction shirt and jeans with slicked back hair. I’m riding along thinking about what I need to eat for dinner and this guy answers his phone and starts speaking Russian. His side of the conversation sounded something like this: “Gorbachev stolichnaya trotsky lenin putin das vedanya rasputin SO WHAT?! Leningrad stalingrad kalishnakov rachmaninov babushka balalaka glasnost NO!!!!!”

Once again I’m standing near the offending party, and with this guy, the English words were so loud and pronounced, the whole subway turned to stare.

“Whoah dude, settle down. Your tone is most bogus.”

Scary people. But sometimes its not what you say but what you do. Or don’t do. Or doo doo.

I was on my way home a few nights ago and looking forward to the air conditioned relief of the subway car. As I stepped in my first thought was wet dog, but the smell grew much, much worse as the AC cycled it throughout the car. At the far end was a homeless man slumped in a pile. For all I know he was dead. His smell was a piss brine mixed with a shit sandwich and a side of puke, well fermented from a fine vintage, possibly a 2007. Half the passengers were sneaking past him to get through to the next subway car. I waited at the back with a couple others as we held our noses and waited for the next stop. As soon as the doors opened, we rushed out and jumped in the car behind us. I shouted “Don’t do it!” to the people entering the contaminated car and they must have momentarily thought I was the crazy one.

The safety zone was packed, and half the people already knew the story. We looked at each other and laughed, and one guy asked what’s up as we all stood crowded together.  I said, “There’s plenty of seats available on the next car.” And half the subway car laughed. The next three stops to Canal Street were a continuous exodus from the stinky car as more and more victims attempted to breathe again, and the former victims laughed knowing all too well what they had suffered. I love public transportation.

And yeah I couldn’t resist. The late, great Randy Rhoads on guitar:

Subway Crazy/Train Insane

Are you Subway Crazy? Am I Train Insane? If you’re reading this, then probably not. I’m not trying to brown nose you, I’m just thinking Subway Crazy doesn’t spend the time to read. Train Insane don’t care.

I got out of work the other night and was on the Q train to Canal street, making my connection to the J. The thing with Canal Street is, it’s a busy hub, but it doesn’t seem to have been planned very well. Union Square and Times Square are busier hubs, with more train lines, but they also have more clear cut divisions between those lines. At Canal street, when you exit the Q, you keep walking to the end of the tunnel for the J, and the 4/5/6 line is right before that. When you come from the J to the Q during morning rush hour, you have to battle everyone exiting the Q and coming up the narrow stairs as you try to go down the stairs and inevitably watch the doors close and the Q train pull away. Around midnight, it’s not as crowded, but there are plenty of people around. As I was making my way to the J train home a week ago, this couple was wandering back and forth on the platform, in search of the right way to go. He was wasted, beyond drunk, I’m not sure what he had been up to that night, but he was stumbling around while she yelled at him and they tried to figure out where to go. I walked by as they looked at the stairs to the 4/5/6 and made my way 20 feet further for the stairs to the J.

In their defense, it is pretty confusing, and I was mystified by it a few times sober when I first got to the city. The trains travel a little slower at night, and after waiting about ten minutes I heard the couple making their way up the stairs. She was still berating him as he reminded himself how to put one foot in front of the other and eventually get to the top of the stairs.

It’s fun to watch peoples’ reactions to other people in the subway, because there’s such a variety of human life forms thrown together in this city that sometimes people get wrapped up in themselves at look at everyone else thinking “What a bunch of weirdos.”

In this case, the couple was turning heads and making the commuters readjust their locations on the platforms. Their relationship reminded me of the chicken and the egg conundrum. Was he a drunk because she was a bitch? Or was she a bitch because he was a drunk? Either way they traveled like a hurricane and kicked out a big wake. That’s subway crazy.

A night or two later I was leaving home to head out for the evening. I was starving and grabbed a sandwich at the deli and was at my stop eating while waiting for the train. The other guy at my bench was reeling forward trying to fight gravity with a couple of prescription bottles that kept falling out of his hands. He was a mess of opiate proportions, but he somehow managed to get on the train. I was too hungry to care that I had jumped on the same car, and as I ate I watched him deteriorate even further.

Then this beggar was making his rounds through the train. You see many of these guys, some seem pretty bad off, others you wonder if that’s just how they like to get money; anyway, this guy comes up and asks me for money or food. Not quite done with the first half of my sandwich, I offered him the other half. It was untouched and unwrapped. He takes it, but instead of thanking me, or leaving, or both, he proceeds to ask me what’s on it.

“Chicken parmesan. Chicken. Tomato sauce.”

“Does it have mustard on it?”

“I don’t think they put mustard on chicken parmesan.”

Now he’s thumbing through the sandwich like he’s about to shuffle a deck of cards.

“What is it?”

“Chicken parmesan. Chicken. Tomato sauce. Mozzarella.”

“Does it have mustard?”

“What’s wrong? You don’t like mustard?”

“No.”

“There’s no mustard on it.”

“I don’t want it.”

He tries to hand it back to me.

I wave him off.

“Are you serious? You ask me for food. I offer you food. And now you don’t want it? Get outta my face!”

“Um, do you have a bag?”

Beggar man wanders off and the Pill Popper is on all fours looking under the seats. He thinks he’s dropped his pills, but he can’t find anything and he’s scouring the ground as people recoil in fear and disgust and he gets near them. The young couple across from me is giggling at him and as he stands up and bends over to the ground he flashes hairy ass crack our direction and we all make the AAAAWWWWWW! face of horror and laugh.

That is Train Insane.

Then a few days later, I’m leaving work and its a really hot night. The tunnels under Times Square are steaming, but the Q train shows up quick and I’m happy to get into somewhere with some AC. The seats are pretty full, but the corner two seater has just one person, a 20 something kid with a lot of luggage with him and he’s semi lying down. So I stand nearby and after a few minutes it appears his hand is working its way towards the front of his waistband. Then he seems to be making a repetitive motion back and forth and back and WTF?! The older couple across got up and moved when seats opened up at the next stop, and I was wondering if they had seen something that I thought I was seeing. I wasn’t sure what you do at that point. Tell him to stop? Then I realized he wasn’t spanking the monkey, but he was scratching himself. On the sides, in the front, in the back. I can’t say it was a relief, because then I wondered what kind of crazy skin fungus was going on with this guy. Maybe I should have called a Hazmat team. Once he left at his stop, I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit there.

And finally, today I’m on my way home after a lunch shift, it’s about 3:30. Usually more respectable people during these daytime hours. Well, generally. There’s a big cluster of people, because it’s Times Square and all the tourists stand around at the bottom of the stairs instead of continuing down the platform, and since I just got there as the train did, that’s where I’m stuck. Among the crowd a man is hurriedly entering the front of the train while yelling back to his companion.

“Elaine, this goes to Bridge Street. This goes to Bridge Street! Get on this train!”

And the crowd is entering the train, and I get on the back of the car, while that same excited man is yelling to the dismay of the whole car.

“Elaine! Elaine, did you make it on the train! This goes to Bridge Street!”

I’m not sure what happened to Elaine, and how long ago she ditched the excited man. She certainly wasn’t standing near me. He made his way through the car searching for her, but she was nowhere to be found. The man wore a backpack with an umbrella sticking out of it, had thick glasses that emphasized the fact that his eyes didn’t quite focus in stereo, and had a Bluetooth earpiece. He could have just been your average goofy, dorky, touristy guy, but talking to the Korean lady’s baby before he exited at the next stop didn’t help. Those of us in the know gave each other the look.

“Yep. Subway Crazy.”

I’ve also never heard of this Bridge Street, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a stop on the Q, although I may have misunderstood. But when you’re Subway Crazy, nobody really listens much anyway.

There’s a saying in poker that if you look around the table and you don’t know who’s the mark, then it’s you.

Think about that the next time you ride a New York Subway.

Renegade Craft Fair

Last Sunday I made my way down to the waterfront in Brooklyn and checked out the Renegade Craft Fair. I was directed there by the friend of a friend. It’s a collection of many vendors selling lots of hand crafted items, clothing, t-shirts, photography, posters. There was cool stuff, and I couldn’t help but think of the Portlandia episode Put a Bird On It.

Many items were created from recycled materials, like guitar straps and camera straps made from car seat belts. They even had a picture of their #1 endorser, Carrie Brownstein of Wild Flag…and of Portlandia fame. So it wasn’t helping define the lines between art imitating life and comedy making fun of it all. I spent many years in Portland. I wasn’t born there but in many ways I consider it home. The Portland Saturday Market is a downtown weekend institution that has been around for years and years, I first went there when I was jr. high aged. Some of the vendors have probably been there that long. The Renegade Craft Fair is more of a new generation of artist/vendors and it comes to the cool cities of San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, Austin, Brooklyn, and London. What! No Portland? Of course many of the vendors were from Portland, including the friend of a friend, Misha Ashton, who does photography: http://www.mishaashton.com/ and had some great pictures of Portland and L.A. among her collection. This really made me miss the West Coast, L.A. being home to my families and many childhood and adult memories from throughout my life. I saw a book seller with journals made from recycled hardcover books. I picked up one book on Nepal and the first thing I saw, it was an old library book from Multnomah County Library system, which is Portland. Just doing a check, different books were from different libraries. These books sold for $13 which seemed like a great money maker for the vendor. Get books from libraries that are no longer being used, take out most of the pages, leave some pages with cool pictures, put blank paper in between and give it a new binding. They were cool journals and if I still wrote on paper, I would have considered a little more, but I didn’t buy anything. I was also on my way to work and didn’t have room to carry anything. If you have a chance and the Renegade Craft Fair comes to your city, check it out. And if you ever go to Portland, check out the Saturday Market.