What are you doing this weekend?

I hate Friday. Friday is when people ask you questions to which they don’t want answers. “Got any plans for the weekend?” They don’t give a shit.

This is, of course, not an original observation. But, sometimes we forget the important things about life, like why Fridays are shit.

We forget that when anyone asks us on a Friday for our next 48-hour itinerary, they don’t give a fuck. They’re just waiting for you to finish, so it won’t seem like bragging when they brag about going  to Cirque Du Soleil, or their grandmother’s 100th birthday party, or some other stupid shit.

cousin on ostritch

It’s annoying to answer that question, so my suggestion is a life-hack. And it’s free. When someone  corners you at the cooler, in the kitchen, in the middle of taking a shit and you’re like, “aw, fuck, it’s Friday”, YOU ASK THEM FIRST. Then, as they start going on about how their grandmother is turning 100, just walk away.

I tell you it works for me. Even after I lost my job, nobody has ever asked me what my weekend plans are. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m in business for myself now, and I work alone, in my home-office, and I haven’t had plans for the weekend since 1998. These days, an exciting weekend for me is “Liking” other people’s weekend plans as they get posted on Facebook.

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It’s fun, low-risk, weekend activity. Today, in fact, several members of my family are tentatively planning to get together. And it all happened in the comments of a Facebook post. I totally Liked that. And I would probably think of going for a few minutes if I lived in their city, and we were still on speaking terms. In any event, we can all learn something from me. You don’t have to have plans to enjoy your weekend. And you don’t have to work in an office to hate people. That’s what Facebook is for.



Some injured people are very rude

I didn’t see the Grafton Residents Association newsletter in the mail slot until it was too late.

The single-sheet circular announced a General Meeting on April 13th, which had already passed.

Jacquie and I weren’t too disappointed to miss out on the fun.

Me and the old-lady just moved to the neighborhood, so we had yet to accumulate a list of grievances of sufficient length to warrant the meandering, slobbering public harangue we’d always looked forward to making as proud homeowners.


You can bet your life the GRA will get an earful from me next meeting, when I excoriate their tardy communications, no matter how indifferent I am to checking my letterbox.

Who the hell wants to check their mailbox? It’s either a bill, an advertisement, or a letter from your grandma without a check inside. It’s all bad news.

I’ll probably lead with that in my remarks to the GRA at the next meeting. I’ve got 20 minutes of material already. I haven’t even gotten past complaining about my grandmother yet.

In retrospect, I started looking forward to addressing one of the agenda items a week too late, after all. Bummer. Item 4: Local Issues was right up my alley. It read, I mean It still reads (ie, I haven’t twinked it yet):

A number of local issues have been taken up with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and others. For example, we have received complaints about some helicopters going to and coming from the hospital, taking short cuts across the residential area. This has caused noise problems, especially at night.

Having mistaken myself for a journalist in the past, I instinctively put out some feelers. Communicating with the inside sources was very deep throat, very cloak and dagger, very click-here-for-more-information. They helped me to clarify to myself, in time for the next GRA meeting, in what direction I will publicly spew my bilious indignation.

They confirmed that Westpac Rescue Helicopter had received complaints, Westpac apologized, and their pilots are once-again faithfully adhering to flight paths designed to mitigate noise in residential areas. So, no darms. Another bummer.

Speaking strictly for myself, I thought,

Man, it takes a bit of cheek to complain about a rescue helicopter making noise. Aren’t people in rescue helicopters literally at death’s door? Isn’t that, like, their main qualification for being in the helicopter in the first place? Doesn’t bad shit happen all the time? Isn’t it better to land a patient as quick as possible so that they don’t die, or end up a vegetable that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funding to maintain its oh so special existence? Did I amend my will to make sure Jacquie DOES or DOESN’T unplug me if I end up in a coma? I really should get that will sorted out. Maybe I’ll bring this up at the next GRA meeting.

Then my thoughts trailed off to something else entirely.

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The point is, at first, I thought the complainers were being assholes.

But then I remembered what a light sleeper I am, and how cranky I can be without at least a solid seven. What if a helicopter rushed over my house at three in the morning because someone in Dargaville let their kid stay up all night drinking Jack Daniels and riding their bicycle into telephone polls. Is that any reason for me to be irritable and tired the next day?

You may think that’s a really mean thing to write. I used to be as naive as you. Look at all the benefits to society that delaying medical treatment to a head trauma from Dargaville—or any place. I’m just picking names out of hat, really. Do we really want that drunken kid mixing his (demonstrably undesirable) DNA with the old national gene pool? No, because he’ll grow up to sire kids that will get drunk and ride their bicycles into telephone poles. You see what I mean?

That’s how I started coming around to the other way of thinking. I live across the road from the hospital, and though the helicopters don’t fly overhead any more, these hospital people and me, we don’t see eye-to-eye all the time, as you can see from Episode 3 of my webseries Let’s Get Fixed.


And really, at heart, I’m all about being a good neighbor. I look forward to fighting with all of them.

Grafton’s despicable hordes

I never wanted to be a parent.

Kids just didn’t seem like anyone I’d want to spend time with. Don’t know why.

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It’s not that I despise children, with their exasperating need for constant attention, their volatile emotional states, their ‘live and let live’ approach to hygiene, their nonexistent social skills, and their psychotic conversations.

It’s just that, I despise children. How irritating, then, that I now live upstairs from a kindergarten.



I know I’m coming across as a babbling old fart shouting tired clichés about kids playing on someone’s lawn, but there’s a very good reason for it, which I’ve now forgotten.

Oh, right: I like children as individual people. In fact, some of my best friends have children, as far as I’m aware. And all my nephews and nieces are cool beans.

It’s when kids form hordes, clamoring like armies of Orcs disguised as ugly children, that they become instantly despicable. Kids in groups are the people my parents instructed me to avoid when I was growing up. While other kids were outside doing sports or stealing shit from the deli, I was sitting quietly in my bedroom, hands folded on my desk, waiting to turn 18.



It has taken me since that time to become an actual adult. I haven’t wet myself  in years, I rarely simper in public. And now Jacquie and I bought this flat.

My personal equity until last month had never matured so much as rocked back and forth in the fetal position. Owning a home has foisted great responsibility on my shoulders to convince other people that I’m mature. It’s a duty I take quite seriously.


Our apartment is a funky walk-up, a short walk to Karangahape Road, in one direction, and the Auckland Domain in the other. And as one reader pointed out, it’s a very convenient place to be hit by a bus, because Auckland hospital is right across the road. (I’ve already taken the time to introduce myself to the emergency room staff).

Our home would be perfect, if not for the horde of Orc-children downstairs.



The other day, one of the them was shrieking and sobbing in the playground. For about six hours. I got so pissed off, I finally went to the window and screamed, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” Then I told her how much money was in my checking account. One of the teachers heard what I’d said and scolded me for scaring the children, who had all run inside. Mission accomplished.

After that, the teachers would shoot cold leers of indignation in my direction, whenever I happened to pass the window. They didn’t like my attitude toward the children, and they were furious last Monday, when I got a little drunker than usual for a work day at noon. A terrible commotion downstairs drew me to the window. One boy was beating up another, and that made me angry. So I lit a cigarette, topped up my Jack Daniels and marched right to the window and screamed at the bully.

“Leave that kid alone, you little bastard,” I said. Then I pointed to myself and said “This is you in 39 years.”

Then I tossed the Jack Daniels out the window, and it splashed all over the kid’s Spider Man costume.

Then I flicked my cigarette at him, hitting him in the eye. It was a lot of fun watching him try to explain to his teachers why he reeked of alcohol, to say nothing of the cigarette butt still smoldering at his feet.

Those teachers need to relax about the whole incident, because I was simply trying to illustrate that in New Zealand, anyone can grow up to be the kind of person who smokes cigarettes and drinks heavily in the middle of a work day.

So, not only did I stop the bully from beating his victim, I also put the fear of god in him, using my life as an example.

They should be paying me.

The Parnell version of nice

In my experience, it takes almost no effort to get Kiwis to love an American, particularly a New Yorker.

All you have to do is comment on whatever small change you’ve noticed in someone’s appearance, circumstance, or demeanor since the last time you saw them. That’s what makes me so popular in the shops on Parnell Road.

I’ll go to a cafe and say to the barista, “I see you’ve changed your hair color from Sky Blue to Traffic Cone Orange. It suits you.”

Bang, free coffee.

And at Subway, I make it a point to tell the cashier, “What a great suggestion: I will add cookies and a large soda to my order.”

Bang, extra napkins.

Downtown, Saturday afternoon

You could chalk this special treatment up to my Bronx accent. Aucklanders think it is mesmerizing and exotic (voted “Most Beautiful Accent of the English Speaking World” in several polls). More than that, Kiwis understand that, as a New Yorker, my life is more important and interesting than theirs.

They count themselves lucky simply to be in the same room, handing me extra napkins. I don’t blame them. I’d be the same way if they were interesting.

Being sweet to folk doesn’t just yield high returns in Social cache, at no risk. It is actually necessary for any society to function smoothly. That’s why I am a believer in the old saying, “you attract more flies with honey.”

Then again, you can probably attract just as many flies with a small pile of shit, or the carcass of a Toy Poodle.

So, on second though, fuck being nice to people. All this time I’m pouring honey all over the place when I could have just taken a much more satisfying dump.

Ferry Terminal, weekday afternoon

I have been too nice, too long. all I’ve gotten in return for it lately is grief from neighbors, plus a lot of napkins.

First, it was the sweaty, low-functioning, obese (ie, British) couple upstairs who didn’t appreciate me.

In fact, they wouldn’t to speak to me again after I said they resembled two partially melted, human sized Gummy Bears. That sounds like a bad thing, out of context, but it was just a harmless observation.

Instead of taking it as such, the low-functioning British couple returned to England the next day, for which I received this commendation from the Auckland City Council:

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It’s easy to say goodbye to obviously contemptible people like the British. But what about the nice couple across the road?

They live in the nice house across the road, a long-married, long-retired, elderly but not immobile Kiwi couple.

You can see their house with its red roofing in this animation:

The husband is a little frail, but he still gets around on his own two feet, while his energetic wife is a veritable fusion reactor. Together, they spend their sunset years writing angry letters to the editor about the need for public art, signing petitions against pollution in rivers. That’s how they give back to the community: by the wife sitting on a committee made up of other property owners, who all win commendations for their outstanding community service from other committees made up of other superannuated property owners who are in turn recognized for their public-mindedness in a never ending loop of mutual masturbation.

The image my neighbors project, and thus my impression of them until lately, has been one of, “We’re nice.”

Downtown, cruise ship, tourists

To a degree. For the past three months, contractors have been working on their house.

And for most of that time, the couple have been using traffic cones to reserve public parking spaces for their private contractors.

Despite their car port and driveway, they take up spaces at the curb in front of their manse, reserving it for days on end. They often need two spaces, and because Kiwis never question the authority invested in orange traffic cones, other frustrated neighbors have left the nice people alone.

Even the traffic wardens who ticketed me and Jacquie twice since December for our lack of a residency permit (one that Auckland Transport had told us didn’t exist), ignored what to me was a blatant arrogation of traffic laws.

And all the while that I cursed this couple under my breath, I kept my mouth shut, too. Because you’re not supposed to be assertive with nice, elderly people, even when they’re selfish pricks.

Civic Theatre, early Saturday evening

A few weeks back, after spending 15 minutes looking for a free space, I asked the wife how long they would continue reserving spaces for their contractors.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “A few weeks.”

“Because, you know, it has been kind of difficult to park here.”

“Oh, that’s terrible,” she said. She was very concerned.

I told her about the truck smashing the side of our car, causing $2,000 in damages. I told her about the time I had to spend filing the insurance claims. I told her about the time wasted looking for a space.

“Oh, you poor thing,” the woman said. She clucked her tongue and shook her head. I wondered if we were sharing the same conversation.

“Did you know about the contractor smashing our car?” I said.

“Oh, no, I didn’t,” she said. “You poor darling.”

I told her the name of the contractor. She said she’d never heard of it. Flustered by her apparent obliviousness to all the inconvenience she has caused her neighbors, I kind of got pissed off.

She wasn’t nice and sweet. She was an asshole.

“You realize that not everyone has parking around here,” I said, “and that not all of us own our houses or have driveways. I’m happy and proud and everything that you’re pouring a lot of value into your home equity, but I don’t think that justifies—”

“We are not  ‘pouring value’ into our equity,” she said. She leaped into defense, and her frail husband, who had been silently listening, scurried into the house.

You can't lose with a picture of Vince.

You can’t lose with a picture of Vince.

The woman was mad.

“I’ll have you know I’ve been very good to the renters on this block,” she said.

She explained how in 2009, she was the one who went to Auckland Transport to issue parking permits. When I told her AT no longer issued those permits, as far as I knew, she said to call over there and use her name. “They know me,” she said.

Which was about when I walked away. I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her. Her idea of nice wasn’t to be courteous about parking, or thoughtful about the troubles she’s caused. Nice, to her, is pimping out favors that only a white privileged, property-owning, self-righteous person believes is theirs to dole.

In other words, she’s really, really nice. In Parnell. And I hope that Jacquie and I never get that nice when we own property one day.

Accountant flies plane into Bronx, files taxes

Michael Schwartz must have been in deep shit if the Jewish hero pilot and Jewish accountant thought his best option was to land his Jewish plane in the Bronx.

Schwartz took a big risk setting down on that strip of highway. Bad move, man. Believe me. I grew up in the Bronx. I know what it’s like there.

Number 6 Local, 1980

A low-angle perspective familiar to me when this picture was taken in 1980. Photo by Joseph A Grimm, found on The Real Boogie Down Bronx! Facebook page.

I wouldn’t land in the Bronx unless my engine was on fire and gremlins were ripping apart the wings and my two passengers were turning sickly green.

In short, it would have to be particularly strong acid.

Earle and Bath, Friday, noon, II

You learn growing up in the Bronx that there are a lot of neighborhoods where a white kid just does not land his airplane.

A white kid tooling around some streets in a shiny new airplane was just asking to be jacked. At least back then.

And the parks, such as around Schwartz’s crash site, were worse. Even in the day.

Earle Street, Saturday afternoon

One day, when I was 17, I borrowed my mom’s Piper Cub and landed in Pelham Bay Park.

It was about 11 in the morning, and this weird-looking guy started taxiing behind me.

Everywhere I taxied, he taxied.

I say he was weird-looking because he wore a 1930s style, wool-lined leather aviator’s cap with the goggles pulled down. And no underwear.
Vincent, Sunday

He finally caught up to me, taxied alongside for a moment, looked around furtively, and whispered, “Ground crew services for $5.”

I was so freaked out, I didn’t say anything.

I literally took off.
Britomart, Saturday afternoon

Things may be better these days.

Even so, it took chutzpah—as a pilot, an accountant, and a Jew—for Schwartz to do what he did and come out without so much as a scratch or a solicitation.

Freemans Bay, Wednesday afternoon Freemans Bay, Wednesday afternoon 2

Watch below, for a related story.

Old people are ruining social media

Conventional wisdom has it that teenagers don’t use Facebook because their parents are watching online.

Preliminary findings of a study of social media, for example, suggest young people can’t “be free” if they know their parents may learn of “every indiscretion”.

Do we really need research to tell us that?

Teenagers obviously don’t want their parents to know they partied and smoked pot instead of studying. They could get in trouble.

Or worse, be forced to share their drug connection.

Teed Street, Newmarket

If I were a father, my adolescent children need not worry.

There isn’t anything a teenager could post on Facebook that I would find remotely interesting.

I wouldn’t say that, not in so many words. This is a kind of birds and bees conversation requiring wisdom and finesse.

So, I’d simply tell my children that I would sooner down a bottle of bleach than to follow the ignorant, hormone-soaked brain farts of your everyday, zit-faced bobby soxer.

It isn’t personal. I love puppies. But you don’t see me patting them on the head when they hump my leg.

And that is far less disgusting than teenagers.

I will not allow updates regarding alcohol binging or unwanted pregnancies to ruin my newsfeed.

Especially not from my own children.

Newmarket Station concourse, Monday afternoon

Very few people under age 35 have anything worth sharing on Facebook.

And the numbers don’t get much better at 35 and up.

So, to little Shlomo Junior, and my dear Jacquette, I would say this: your Facebook feed will be blocked until you develop a personality.

Whitcoulls Building with Santa

Sadly, that is one conversation I will never have, I’m afraid.

Not now, after Jacquie and I received news about our fertility.

A specialist recently told us in no uncertain terms that we cannot have children.

She said we have too much cool, expensive shit in our home, and we can’t have children around fucking it all up.

Parnell, Monday afternoon

I can imaging many teenagers have secrets they can’t afford to reveal.

But that’s not the main reason they’re leaving Facebook.

It’s because they don’t want to be seen in that sphere with their grandmother.

The grandmother doesn’t know what the fuck is going on in Facebook.

She has spent most of her life in the real world, and now she has arrived in this virtual reality, and her interaction with it is indistinguishable from her smashing her face into the keyboard and pressing ‘Enter’.

She means well. But she is just not accustomed to the mores and nuances of social media etiquette.

Earle Street

Somebody I know has a nonagenarian relative who recently started using the Internet.

It didn’t take long for the old fella’s curiosity to lead to the web’s many splendored “Red Light District”.

This would not have come to the friend’s attention if not for the elder’s obliviousness to the long, dirty trail of popup window ads that are the bane of the pornography-consuming public.

Which seems to me the same as leafing through the Penthouse magazine you’re waiting to buy at a busy corner store. That is not the level of sharing anyone wants. Even stupid teenagers know that.

The 17 reasons you will like and share this post

This is difficult to write, so I’ll just get to the point.

The links that you all post to Facebook have grown tiresome.

Therefore, as of 2014, I will no longer be clicking anything you post there.

Nor will I comment on or “like” your blathering status updates.

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Don’t take it personally. I’m just tired.

Tired of following every bit of online nonsense your palsied mouse-clicking finger shares, either from sheer meme-reflex, or worse, from a preposterous notion that I give a shit.

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Don’t blame me. It’s not my fault that I have to say these things. I suffer from a real syndrome in which your links, status updates, political causes, pictures of meals (bought, made, or pooped), essentially everything that you draw my attention to on Facebook makes me violently ill.

Medical authorities call it Acute Facebook Fatigue, regardless of what WINZ says about it every time they reject my disability application.

Believe me. It’s the sickness talking, not me, when I say I’d rather drill a hole in my own teeth than pay a lick of attention to your Facebook feed.


When I see a link posted on Facebook with a caption like, “you won’t believe what happens next” or “these seven pictures of plumber’s crack will restore your faith in humanity,” I feel used.

Stop manipulating me. Maybe I don’t want to have a happy birthday. Maybe I don’t want to know how many of the 100 best novels ever I’ve read.

I used to follow all those links, and I liked a lot of them, and made hilarious comments that, in retrospect, your link never deserved.

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Unfortunately, my particular syndrome attacks the part of the brain responsible for bullshit-tolerance.

The Fatigue forces me to ignore all your links, regardless of how I might actually feel about the content of those links.

Downtown Saturday

What makes me sickest of all are these stupid, self-promoting posts from bloggers, photo-mosaic “artists”, cat fanciers, atheists, and spreaders of Fukushima Godzilla scenarios.

These fucking people make me sick most of all. Who cares if you like to take photographs with your shitty android phone of places most people don’t really care about to look at?

It doesn’t get much more vain and desperate than an adult sharing badly taken photographs. If it were me, I’d only take photographs of my most recent bowel movement, describing the food that it once was, and what that food tasted like.

This would eliminate 33 percent of all facebook posts, while illustrating the ramifications of eating an entire Christmas cake, by yourself, with the refrigerator door open.

But, I have far too much dignity to stoop to such public self-absorption.

Make no mistake, if you post a picture of your leavings, you will be ignored most of all.

So, let’s start the New Year right, ok? Consider yourself ‘Liked’ until next December 31.

And don’t forget to Like and Share on Facebook.

Happy 2014.

[[First draft, no proofing, photos were taken in Parnell, Britomart, and Tairua, assembled in mosaic form.]]

Slip, slop, slap and snow

A storm dropped six inches of snow on New York, plunging the temperature to 24 degrees.

It’s going to be a Currier & Ives Christmas for all you romantics and children at heart.

For you homeless, it’s going to be a special trip to the emergency room, to have your frostbitten toes snipped off.


I don’t mean to seem callous. I speak from experience. I have personally felt the pain of homelessness.

I don’t mean that I was ever homeless, though my childhood house would make you wonder. We never got frostbite, at least.

I did suffer an amputation when I was young. It traumatized me. I can’t stop wondering how much bigger my penis would be if I hadn’t lost my foreskin.


My true connection to the homeless, however, goes many winters back to a mid-December New York.

I was traipsing to work the morning after a ferocious ice storm. Waiting for a light to change, I looked down at my feet and screamed in horror.

My shoes had been totally ruined by rock salt stains.

Thank god Kenneth Cole was nearby. I bought a new pair, and went off looking for a homeless man to shod with my now useless ones.

Call it Kismet, call it Christmas, but as it turned out, three clerks were homeless. None of us could believe our luck.


Unfortunately, the shoes were too small for the one guy in the trio. He said it didn’t matter; a few more frostbite emergencies, and they would fit perfectly.

Until then, he agreed to share the pair with the two homeless saleswomen, one shoe to each.

What a quintessential New York Christmas story, if I do say so myself as a half-Jew.


You don’t catch wind of heart-warming Christmas stories like that in Auckland. Partly because the slack-jawed yokels that live here never wear shoes.

But mostly because, fuck snow. What’s that? It’s 24 degrees here too, New Yorkers. But in Centigrade, dumbasses. If America had switched to the metric system, New York wouldn’t be a frozen, piss encrusted slush pile right now.

You see, Christmas in Auckland isn’t about snowstorms.

It’s about a perpetually gobsmacked five-story Santa looking down on the perpetually gobsmacked Aucklanders as they waddle past the decorated windows at Smith & Caughey’s.

That’s what Christmas in Auckland is all about. That, and a UV Index through the roof. (Jafas: don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, especially around your slackjawed faces).

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I was out enjoying the weather recently, myself.

As I strolled through the city, meditating on what Christmas means to me, I had an epiphany.

I didn’t know what a hymen was.

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I used to think a hymen was the last obstacle–after dinner and a movie–to clear before you could unlock your achievement, and poke into the next level, a woman’s No No Zone.

I had to double check, though, and according to WebMD, the hymen is a thin membrane of tissue that surrounds and narrows the vaginal opening, which may be torn or ruptured by sexual activity or by exercise.

So, I was right.

Anyway, what do I know? Every No No Zone I’ve entered had been visited before. Sometimes after a long queue.

But what really bothered me was, this being Christmas and all, how it was that Jesus could escape the birth canal if Mary was a virgin with her hymen still intact? Here are some suggestions:

1. Jesus gouged out the hymen with his Jew horn, from within the birth canal. Which is how I’d do it from the outside, if given the chance.

2. Mary had a Super Vagina, with a retractable hymen that worked sort of like an automatic garage door opener.

3. Celestial c-section. Even in Roman times, they were forcing healthy young women to undergo unnecessary c-sections, so as to free up the manger for the next Virgin. Hail Caesarean.

4. More prosaically, one of the three Magi could have turned out to be a doctor. With a name like “Wiseman”, it’s a good chance at least one of them was at least a dentist, while the other two were probably CPAs.

Who knows. The possibilities are endless. The important thing is everyone has a good time, whether you’re shoveling snow out of your driveway, or heading out to enjoy a beer in the 75˚ sun.

Which reminds me, I’m running late.

Hey, you’se, d’ere givin’ out cult-cha ovah d’ere

Boy, I sure have changed my mind about culture.

It’s fantastic.

I didn’t get much culture in the neighborhood where I grew up in the Bronx.

There was one time. My neighbor had bitten my forearm.

It was my fault, really. I’d moved my hand too suddenly and too close to his mouth.

Anyway, he broke the skin and my mom had to drive me to Montefiore Medical Center, with my hand dangling off my forearm by a single tendon.

The ER nurse injected me with a bacterial toxoid to prevent tetanus, then scooted me on home.

Technically speaking, then, it is possible to benefit from culture in the Bronx.

The overwhelming memory I have of the Bronx, however, is not so optimistic. The Bronx was a giant, graffiti-covered subway train grinding along the elevated tracks above houses made of burned-out cars held together by dried dog shit.

And that was hoity-toity Riverdale.

People around Castle Hill generally couldn’t afford dog shit.

People in such circumstances have inspired people like the Rockerfellars, Carnegies, and Michael Ovitz to subscribe to Noblesse Oblige: the bestowing of the fruits of private wealth upon the commonwealth to enrich and enlighten the public, by rubbing our faces in it.

Thanks to Noblesse Oblige, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan offered free drawing classes to city high school students.

We sketched works in the collection. Culture was never so fun. The occasional tourist got a thrill from poking our foreheads, to see if we were animatronic.

It was mostly free. Once a month, the students were asked to wash various stains out of Michael Ovitz’s tighty whities, to our edification. We learned how to scrub that underwear down from a Hans Hoffman to an Agnes Martin.

Not many people can make that claim.

My high school art teacher liked to help fill gaps in his pupil’s cultural appreciation.

He even invited me downtown to see Billy Budd for my 18th birthday.

It would be my first opera, but the experience kind of dashed my expectations. The atmosphere was lively, but I couldn’t understand what everyone was doing on stage. Opera turned out to be very confusing, and it made me think culture might be too complicated for me to acquire.

A few months later, I figured out that my teacher hadn’t taken me to Lincoln Center at all, but a place called Uncle Charley’s for a drag queen cabaret, which included my teacher’s friend, who went by Billy-Jean Budd.

True, there really isn’t much of a difference between drag queen cabaret and opera. But the experience put me off western orchestral composition completely.

Until Thursday, when Jacquie and I got to watch the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra perform.

We were strolling along Queen Street Thursday evening, looking for something to do.

As we passed the crowd heading into Town Hall for the APO’s final performance of the season, a well-dressed matron of the arts collapsed right there in front of us.

Jacquie, being a nurse, started to walk faster.

But I noticed that while everyone was giving this lady mouth-to-mouth, or whatever, nobody spotted the ticket that had slipped out of her hand.

“But what about me?” Jacquie said, as I headed in to find the lady’s seat.

As there was still 15 minutes before the concert, chances were we’d find another ticket.

Sure enough, right at that moment, another well-dressed matron of the arts collapsed.

Coincidentally, the two matrons must have known each other, because their seats were together.

As they EMTs wheeled them into the ambulance, we waved goodbye as a show of our gratitude.

And we still had enough time to get plastered before the show.


The show really blew us away, especially the APO’s rendition of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

It was, and I’m not kidding, a thrill. When you hear something like that performed live, you realize what is missing from the recording you have heard is the physicality of the performance.

It’s a jagged, forceful, peripatetic work. It has been ripped off by every Hollywood composer ever tasked with building suspense into a score.

They also played Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, which I happened to be listening to in the car earlier that day.

And Night in the Gardens of Spain, an orchestral piece featuring Steven Osborne on Piano, by a Spanish composer I didn’t know, De Falla.

De Falla provided an interesting juxtaposition to Stravinsky, whose Rite of Spring made its infamous debut in Paris in 1913. If Stravinsky’s jagged edges anticipated the war that everyone knew was coming, De Falla was already pining for the old days when he finished the sentimental Night in the Gardens… in 1915, a year after the slaughter had begun.

I never would have thought about this stuff if those two elderly matrons of the arts hadn’t suffered cardiac events.

They didn’t get to see the show, but at least they got to spend time together in the ambulance.

Right after Night in the Gardens, the audience gave Steven Osborne a long and well-deserved round of applause.

Then, somewhat unexpectedly, a well dressed matron of the arts entered the stage to present Osborne with a huge bouquet.

It was fun to watch him being rewarded for a good job. The woman gave Osborne a kiss on the cheek and he accepted the bouquet and she walked off stage.

At this point, I’m kind of ready to stop clapping and get on with my life.

But everybody else kept going, as a new woman came out to deliver another bouquet with a kiss on the cheek.

The second woman left and we clapped some more and then two woman came out wheeling a service cart with a large covered platter on top of it.

They rolled the cart right in front of Osborne and lifted the cover to reveal a roast boar, which made Osborne laugh as he started to eat it.

So they kissed Osborne on the mouth, and left, and we clapped some more until we heard this very loud car engine from the back of the house.

We all turned to look as this monster truck came roaring down the center aisle, driven by an albino man in a leopard skin costume with a trained tiger riding shotgun.

Osborne, elbow deep in boar, was delighted, and laughed heartily as the albino drove the monster truck over the piano back and forth a dozen times until the instrument was completely flat.

Then the albino leaped out of the truck, along with the tiger, and they both proceeded to lick Osborne’s face, to the delight of some of the younger people in the audience.

The albino gave the pianist a set of keys, then trotted with his tiger back up the center aisle and out into a waiting taxi we could all see through a monster truck shaped hole where the doors used to be.

And on and on.

So, yeah, despite that little awkwardness, Jacquie and I are thinking we might subscribe to APO’s 2014 season.

Which I think would make my art teacher proud.

If nothing else, I can at least incorporate my rekindled love of culture in some kind of writing project.

Maybe I’ll start a blog.