Monthly Archives: March 2009

Bro Matinée

This is one of the shirts that my sister helped me pick out at the Garment District. Its a Ben Sherman button down, mostly cotton. I used to own purple Ben Sherman sneakers. My sister picked them out for me, as well. She digs the Ben Sherman. My bro’s and I went to a matinée today and saw the Watchmen film. It’s three hours long and Mr. Manhattan is blue and naked; sometimes giant-sized, sometimes not. I am convinced that the Rorschach character is actually played by two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash.

Ben Sherman on bro Saturday

“Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face.
The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown.:
The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save Us!”…:
…and I’ll look down, and whisper, “Shaq Fu.”

The bro’s enjoyed the film, and its certainly worth the matinée price; two dollars an hour for solid film noir. I thought it could have ended 45 minutes before it did. When Mr. Manhattan’s crystal spaceship was pierced by human emotion and smashed into glassy fragments over the red plains of Mars, the wreckage formed a smiley face and I think the projector could have broke right then and no one would have been the wiser. But perhaps I drank too much water by then, and my bladder was of more pressing concern than tying up the loose ends of the story. The horned lynx named Bubastis who plays a supporting role in the ending continues to puzzle me.

The Pain and the Great One

My sister came up to Cambridge for a visit and I got to take her around to all the hot spots. She saw the Grill in full swing and said hello to the owner the night I worked.

The pain and the great one 3rdarm

The next day we went to the Fresh Pond reservoir and walked the two miles around. The plan had been to run it, but Kate forgot her Nike’s, so she did a bit of jogging in her clogs. The dutch word for that is cljogging.

Kates head looks like Falcor in the Neverending Story

Kate said it was very “like-Dad” of me to be in the next picture. To stand beside a tree when its small, and then revisit the scene decades later to stand beside it when its grown. That idea never even crossed my mind; I simply related to the small tree. But its a pretty good idea.

The Dad in me will do almost any task

After Fresh Pond, we ate lunch at the corner market in Huron Village (or I ate lunch at least). I took Kate to Formaggio Kitchen and she had a muffin. We walked around the ‘hood under blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately, we did not plan ahead and were late to the next stop, a yoga class, so we had to skip it… :-) That’s my sad face.

Witchy woman, she got the moon in her eye 3rdarm

Instead we burrowed into the Pound Pile at the Garment District. There were also book stores, grocery stores, TV’s on the internet, and a confrontation with the owner of Sound Bites over soy milk that somehow ended with my sister and the Moroccan as allies. It was a good visit.

A Young Man’s Instrument

This Saturday I did not have to work. It was my grandma Happy’s 90th birthday, and I took the day off to come down to Connecticut to celebrate with her, my aunt, sister and cousins. I wore family-friendly flannel:

Thats no ordinary rabbit

I would like to share a story I read in the New York Times the day after St. Patrick’s Day. A retired court officer named Steven Dunne, 64, had been a drummer in the Police Pipes and Drums of Bergen County for seventeen years. On St. Patrick’s Day, the band had been marching for an hour when they reached 75th Street, and the drum major could no longer see Mr. Dunne. He had collapsed and the band members, experienced rescue workers all, could not revive him. On the sunny avenue, in the stopped city, he died of a heart attack.

Family portrait at my grandmas 90th

Steven Dunne had no wife or children. He lived with his cats in a two-story brick house in the Bronx. And yet, magic creeps into lives big and small. In 1995, the four dozen strong police pipes band played a concert in Cleveland. During one song, the neck straps holding up Steven’s weighty bass drum snapped. The drum bounced off the ground and Steven caught it neatly with one hand, and continued playing with the other, not missing a beat. “For that,” Michael Conway, the drum major said, “he became almost a hero in Cleveland.”

Looking smart in my Uncle Johnnys glasses

In 2005, Steven switched instruments, from the weighty bass drum — “a young man’s instrument,” Mr. Conway said — to the smaller, lighter tenor drum. After the ambulance had brought his body to the hospital, the band picked up Steven’s drum and carried it with them as they played the final eleven blocks of the parade. In Mr. Dunne’s honor, they carried the instrument with them to the local pub, a bagpiper leading the way. The men all ordered Guinness, and raised their pints to the drummer. His sister, who had flown up from Florida for the funeral, got the last word; “It’s upsetting,” she said. “But when you think about it, what a way to go.”

Old Sachem’s Head Loop

Ancient technology shining the path for my run

This afternoon I was frustrated by the stress of domestic duties in Connecticut and needed to go for a run to clear my head. But I did not want to simply run away from the house and toward the town center. I have tried that route before, with my sister (who couldn’t keep up, and thats when I used to smoke… no, sir she’s not gonna ‘preciate me mentioning THAT). But the roads around here are choked with sand and salt; easy to lose one’s footing and unpleasant to run on. I searched the internet.

I did not use the computer pictured above; that was my project yesterday. That is the machine that I used from my senior year of high school all the way to when I moved to Central Square, Massachusetts. Roughly the years 2000 to 2005. The guts of my (even older) high school hard drive are attached to this mainframe as well. All day, its a machine who’s digital record stretches back to 1997. Last night, over the course of four hours, I ripped all the information from these hard drives to portable media, and when I get back up to Cambridge, I will feed this media to the Imac.

Soon I will have the most complete collection of my personal media ever assembled. Yes, I am excited about that; sorting out decrepit machines on top of maintaining my aunt’s house also kicked up a lot of dust and frustration that collected in my dome. I required a long run to clear away the cobwebs. The web search brought me to a really neat website called MapMyRun.com, where users share their favorite local running routes. In the 3 mile range, I picked out a run that traces the outlined head of an Indian chief, called the “Old Sachem’s Head Loop.”

Imagine that the picture above is turned upside down. Can you see the headdress? Sachem is a title of leadership historically given to the head of some Native American tribes. This running path brought me down out of the hills and a pine forest to a peninsula surrounded on three sides by salt water bogs. I crossed over a footbridge that eliminated car traffic, past rich folks and construction teams diligently preparing their exclusive residences for warmer weather. The salt air was refreshing as I loped along the jagged coast.

Arrival of the Carnival

Erics white jeep through the warped glass of the Lava Lounge

“Spring comes in between the 19th to the 23rd of March and at different times. It changes on a yearly basis because the first official day of spring is the (Spring) Vernal EQUINOX. This is when the sun is directly above the equator. It rises due East and sets due West and does not do so on the exact same day every year since the calendar is not exactly 365 precise days every single year. In 2009, spring will arrive on March 20th, as stated above and the sun will be above the equator, crossing to the northern hemisphere at 11:47pm (ish) …”

The image above is of my boss’s white jeep, parked on Cambridge St. on Sunday, warped through the thick glass windowpane of the Lava Lounge. My first customers yesterday took the photo, along with Amilcar’s omelettes, bloody mary’s and coffees. I thought it captured very well how insulating work can be (especially work in the Lava Lounge) to conditions outside. Ironically, I did not find this to be the case whatsoever yesterday. It was a warm, sunny Sunday and I had plenty of time outside in the sun. Even though we served eggs and grits to well over two hundred people, I was still able to enjoy the early spring warmth.

With no coffee or tea (or caffeine of any kind) my body has some extra appreciation for that extra hour of sunshine that daylight savings time has delivered. This week, for example, it meant the difference in energy between getting caught in a nap in my underground den and driving around Somerville with my friend Chad to drop him off at Brenda’s house. We found the house, and he stayed with Brenda, and I thought about pouncing on her very special cat Oreo, who hissed at me in a kind of preemptive strike. Afterwords I took off to the reservoir at Fresh Pond for a solo run around the water. The ratio of labradoodles to people in the city of Cambridge does not seem particularly high, until you get to the off-leash dog park that is Fresh Pond.

The AP reported on the fast rising star Northeasterners could have seen Sunday night… “Space shuttle Discovery and its crew of seven rocketed into orbit Sunday evening, setting off on a space station construction mission cut short by launch delays that dragged on for more than a month. The launch, though late, turned out to be flawless and the prettiest NASA managers had ever seen. Discovery rose from its seaside pad just as the sun was setting, an especially spectacular sight for a space agency anxious to get the flight going. As the shuttle sped away like a brilliant star, the upper part of the launch plume glowed pink, peach and golden…

Launch controllers could see the shuttle for seven minutes, until it reached somewhere off the New York or New Jersey coast. “We were all rewarded with a beautiful, beautiful launch,” said launch director Mike Leinbach… The system remained tight during the countdown, and the only problem was a pressure drop in a helium-purge system that workers quickly resolved. The only other oddity was a fruit bat on the back of Discovery’s fuel tank that posed no debris threat to the shuttle and almost certainly perished. “Well, you had a little bit of a wait but that will just make the payoff that much sweeter,” Leinbach told the astronauts.”

Final thoughts: I feel the “little bit of a wait will just make the payoff” of spring’s slow arrival “that much sweeter”; somewhere in Florida, a fruit bat is telling his family the most amazing tale of fruit bat survival; just in time for our vernal celebrations of the sun’s victory over darkness, Discovery will deliver the final pair of solar-paneled wings to power the International Space Station.

Seal of Disapproval

Look into my eyes deep into my eyes

Had I been in a calmer, gentler place mentally, perhaps I could have found a kinder way to respond to the girl I was training to be a hostess when she TOUCHED ME and said, “I feel like I already know you.” Instead, I yanked my flipper away and said nothing to her at all for the rest of the day. I simply continued to do my job; a water-guzzling, noisy and busy circus seal who performs tricks for the public, like balancing a ball on my nose while perched upon a painted crate. I had the manager send her home. She TOUCHED ME (keep your meat hooks off). “You could have been less of a dick about it,” my boss suggested.

My voodoo doll of the new hostess

She could be an alright hostess elsewhere, and I understand physical contact comes with the territory in many a restaurant. But in this economy its not hard to find a living breathing human being to smile and take coats, and we can do better. There were other troubling signs. Earlier in the day, after we’d eaten together, the staff went once-around with introductions. Each in succession we told her our names, our jobs, and our favorite liquors. She fell right into the trap; a good first impression is not, “Hi my name is so and so, and I love tequila and Jameson.” Liquor? I barely even know her. She feels like she already knows me? No respect.

I am the Saturday mysterion seal host

I am the mysterious Saturday seal who barks on command. My dehydrated eyes have watched thousands of humans like insects stream into the nest, take food and eat it, and then exit out again. I will not be known in a single day, nor in a single week, nor month, nor year. To imply that such knowledge can be attained so quickly is to denigrate not just me, but by association, my trainers, my feeders, the other attractions such as the sharks in the shark tank, the dolphins in the dolphin area, the beluga whale, the rays, and even the hijiki and wakami seaweeds. I could tell within the first five minutes of meeting this girl that she would be an ill fit. She wrinkled her nose and asked if it always smells like fish in here. Of course, I barked at her; it is an aquarium after all. (Thank you Lady C for excellent photography.)

One Cupcake Don’t Stop the Show

Evil cupcakes bum me out

A bad cupcake a the local neighborhood donut shack may or may not have been responsible for a painful bout of food poisoning I suffered this week. The truth is I could have gotten poisoned by so many things, I don’t even want to contemplate the possibilities. The cupcake was a bad one; that is my story, and I’m sticking to it. The proof is that the cupcake was the one item of food, last weekend, that no one else in my life tasted in any part. Only I was tempted by its sweet succulence, overwhelmed by its velvety viscosity, flirted with its frosty vulgarity, etcetera. But before j’accuse and name names, let me be clear. There will be no Crime Scene Investigation; detectives flushed all the evidence.

Now for some news that hasn’t been circling the bowl. My obsessive compulsive disorder, like a ticking time bomb, exploded this week (thought we were beyond this imagery) and I frantically transferred all pictures and videos plus ten gigs of music from my old computer and various other storage media onto the IMac. Its the real deal now. If Joey Daytona had his way, I’d be calling the IMac “Nicky” right about now and saying to it, “Yeah, thanks Nicky, you’re a good kid. Hey Steve, he’s a good kid that kid!” I used the new machine to remake the upcoming Hellnight teeshirts for the Grill. Nothing like a 24 inch screen to crystallize an artistic vision, right Nicky?

Its March Madness baby! My aunt can’t stand Dick Vitale, but I love the way those sportscasters enunciate. Not to jump around too much, but here’s a passage of an essay called “Obamandela,” by Breyten Breytenbach, included in the most recent Harper’s Magazine Readings, that I found particularly inspirational. Yes, I first read it on the throne:

“I’m driving through the dark streets of Dakar after arriving at the chaotic airport on a flight from Paris. Ka’afir, the Senegalese colleague who comes to fetch me, and I do a quick roundup of world news since we last met. He brings me up to speed on the latest disappointments caused by the corrupt and inept Wade government: civil-servant salaries not paid for two months, power outages lasting days in the poorer neighborhoods, schools on strike, the impossible dearness of basic food, the Lions (Senegal’s national football team) not making the cut for the Africa Cup…

We pause to reflect on all of this. Then he suddenly says, ‘But the American people gave a lesson in democracy to the whole world.’

How so, I ask?

‘Obama.’

He says nobody in Africa believed that the Americans could find in their hearts the maturity and the fairness to elect a black man to the highest office. I warn that the proof is still to come, that the man may fail because the challenges are too overwhelming, because the people around him have too powerfully entrenched views and strategies different from his (I mention the Israel conundrum).

‘Even so,’ Ka’afir says, ‘even if he fails, which is likely, the historic fact still remains that the American people grew beyond their fears and prejudices. Their hearts expanded.'”

Ape Plus Cat

This Saturday I had a special guest helping me host at the restaurant; my lovely friend Cat. She requested that the color palette for the evening be black and red, and I obliged, wearing a red tee shirt under a black corduroy button down. She wore all black but has red highlights in her hair. It was all good. We were a fierce combination on the door; a one-two punch that no bully was able to withstand.

Cat and the big cat Buster

Cat has the ability to “focus me,” by yelling at me. I kind of loved it.

The filth is also real

We had the best post-work dinner together. I got the Catch of the Day, which was seared bluefish with yucca and spinach and avocado / hearts of palm salad. She got the tuna taco and the hell wings. Cat cracked me up with a description of how I host: “There can be five people crushed in around the podium wanting to put their name on the waiting list and the bar is three deep and both phones are ringing off the hook and people are pushing past and all you care about is getting a bag for the woman with the small take-a-way container.”

Cat says Get your paws off me you damn dirty ape!

The Strength To Push Like Spring

NASA has created the Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot

February was not a good month for me. My grandma fell and broke her leg. Many gray days were spent in my car on Interstate 395. I smoked too much marijuana. I abused my ADD medication. I put off purchasing my NBA League Pass though its so cheap now that its practically free. But I am turning things around. This week I have given up the ADD medication, the weed, even caffeine. Readers of this blog will recall a February entry where I wrote about caffeine before bed producing vivid dreams; they are nothing compared to the dreams I have had this week. Perhaps it was the pot keeping a lid on my boiling mind, because since giving it up the work nightmares have been nonstop.

Sunday night, El and C and I saw the artist K’naan in concert at Harper’s Ferry. For those of you who have never heard of this man, K’naan is a Somali-Canadian rapper, poet and musician who puts on a hell of show. Despite the venue in Allston, and the alcohol-crazed college contingent who nearly ruined the peaceful vibes by hooting and hollering every time K’naan opened his mouth to talk, including when he was speaking of poverty in Mogadishu, ocean pirates, gun killings, etcetera, it was an amazing show and made an impact to me. After I drove home through the Nor’easter, I watched some of K’naan’s music videos on YouTube, and then I found this interview where he speaks about sobriety:

“This is an interesting fact. I don’t smoke. I NEVER have in my life. I look high, don’t i? I look like a mess, right? Its true I always look like a mess, like I’m very high. And it’s true, I am. Never smoked in my life. Never done any kind of drug in my life. Not saying smoking herb is a drug. Whatever it is, I am not. My people smoke. When we are on tour together, the whole thing is very smoky, like we’re on a cloud. Damien always says how can you stay more high than everybody else? And people can’t believe it when they see photos of me or interviews they’re like, “Hes flying,” and I am, but on life. I have a certain appreciation for life that keeps me like this… I can’t say I’m not depressed sometimes. I don’t do anything outside of music that makes me feel better about my life. I just do music, and that makes me feel good…

I’ve never drank alcohol in my life. Never actually tasted alcohol. The channels, I keep them pure. I don’t want nothing to take away from my natural high. If you ever have felt the way I feel with my natural high… if you do anything to disturb it, intoxicating things, then I don’t think you can ever go back to this. I don’t want to risk it…

I know people say that you can reach other places, if you smoke. I got friends who say to me, they are not trying to get me to smoke cause they know I know who I am, but they say, “Man if you write like this, I wonder what you would write if you smoked?” I always find that kind of funny cause I write like I smoke. There’s no other place to go. Where else is it gonna take me? Does a smoker write better? Can a lyricist overtake me because he smokes? I can’t imagine that. The truth is, I can go to any plane, any field, in my creative world, in this sphere, that you can go if you smoked or did anything. You don’t know where I can go, and I don’t know where you can go. And at the end of the day, I like to keep it that way.”

I found this to be very inspiring, and decided right then I would take at least the week off from all stimulants so as to gain a little perspective on what he is talking about. Well, its been four days and I can say that I am beginning to feel good about my decision. Certainly there have been moments that have tested my patience, especially combining the caffeine deprivation with technical issues on the computer. But I am sweating a great deal less, and I feel less anxious overall. Even the dreams have not been completely nightmarish; in one, I got snuggled by my sweet friend. I definitely feel like I am more hydrated than I’ve been in years (this is the first time in a decade my body has been free and clear of all additives.)

If there is one element everyone and everything needs in this time, its water, to grow…

Charlie Brown and the Football

A bad lemur

This past Saturday I really missed the mark with my seating strategy. I got into an early funk and struggled to dig my way out. Appropriately, at the time I was wearing Peanuts yellow and brown. This is a mustard yellow Land’s End teeshirt (my aunt bought for me) under the same brown sweater vest I wore on Valentine’s Day. This was how I originally wanted to present the sweater vest; because of the lover’s holiday I felt a red tee was more appropriate for that night.

Yellow shirt brown sweater vest

These pictures were taken at the end of the night, which would explain perhaps why I look I’m caught at the crossroads of cracked out and relieved. No matter how much I plan ahead for the Saturday hosting situation, with my mathematical models and whatnot, I find the sands can shift beneath my feet very quickly. It leaves me feeling like Charlie Brown with the football. Charles Schultz character famously said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.”

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