Photo Dump

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.

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 4.24.34 pm

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.

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 3.49.22 pm

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.

IMG_0929

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.

IMG_0926 IMG_0930 Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 10.08.43 pm Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 3.12.32 pm

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.

2013-12-14_15-07-53_37

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.

2013-12-14_14-07-39_122

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.

2013-12-17_13-39-16_249

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.

2013-12-14_13-52-59_379

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).

2013-12-14_15-01-28_96 2013-12-14_15-01-39_142 2013-12-14_15-01-48_721 2013-12-14_15-02-15_97

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.

2013-12-14_15-03-28_854 2013-12-14_15-03-44_687

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.

Trains, yachts, and automobile shops

People overseas probably don’t understand how big the Americas Cup yacht race was in New Zealand.

I don’t either.

Kiwis viewed the race as some kind of Cinderella story for the nation.

Could our team of Kiwi, Australian, and English yachtsmen, flying the flag of one of the world’s largest airlines, beat the team of Kiwis, Australians and English sailing for one of the biggest software makers in the world?

We didn’t know. We wouldn’t know until it got closer to the end. That’s how time works, dip-shit.

New Zealand astronautscongratulations

Our eyes were glued to our computer screens, throughout the race. Our asses were screwed to our chairs, our fingers frozen on the refresh button.

We had a lot of explaining to do when the paramedics showed up.

Was the self-mutilation worth it? Millions of Kiwis are into yachting. And millions more are into self-mutilation. So pretty much everyone had a good week there.

Not me. I was disappointed. Americas Cup, my ass. If it was the “Americas” cup, why were there no shots fired? Oracle could have demonstrated what makes the US the greatest nation in history: our eternal commitment to wanton gun violence.

2013-09-18_12-16-39_328

Instead, Oracle relied on top equipment, good management, and excellent team work to take the Cup. Well.

That’s not the America I know and love.

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 12.15.26 PM

New Zealand has a lot more interesting things going on than coming in second place in a corporate sea-spectacle.

And by “a lot” I mean, in this instance, they have a nice train station.

2013-09-18_10-35-39_890

That’s the award winning New Lynn intermodal transportation depot, designed by Architectus and Brewer Davidson Architects.

As Architectus writes on its website, “Modal priority in interchanges should follow the principle of having the most efficient and sustainable modes given the most prominent location.”

And how.

And how in the world did I end up passing through there in the first place?

2013-09-18_10-44-51_202

It’s a funny story. Remember a few years ago when I had some prominent, non-speaking cameos in Spartacus: Sand and Blood and Shortland Street? And remember when I promised I’d never do that kind of shit-work again? And remember when I said I’d rather eat raw sewage than to spend any time in New Lynn?

I was working as an extra in New Lynn.

Juxtaposing buildings, one under construction.

Buildings off the  New Lynn memorial plaza.

It was for a TV commercial being filmed on location at a mechanic’s shop near the depot.

At first, the producers wanted me to play a happy customer.

But after a few takes, they realized they would not be able to get my whole nose into the frame without a more expensive lens.

The director saw me smiling and decided the best solution would be to have me play a jack-o-lantern in the background, as long as she only got me head-on.

It was easy work, and it had some perks.

The day before, we were shooting on location at a cafe and we got tons of free coffee.

The mechanic was equally generous and gave us tons of free coffee mugs filled with motor oil.

As I didn’t have my car with me, I felt obligated to drink some of it, so as not to come off as ungrateful.

Then I went home.

2013-09-18_10-44-12_508

Auckland’s historical suburban development does not lend itself to beautiful, or even remarkable public spaces.

The New Lynn station is one of them.

Light imbues warmth to even the most institutional materials necessary to meet the fire code.

2013-09-18_10-44-23_116

The main escalators are sided with clear and opaque glass, allowing light to penetrate to the lower level of the terminal.

The escalator leads to the waiting area, which connects commuters to a major bus terminal outside, to buses and a taxi stand.

2013-09-18_10-50-07_884

The bus stops and taxi stand on the street would not have made sense without the trench, which allows for surface traffic to move unencumbered by passing rail traffic.

2013-09-18_10-52-49_270

Details in the trench walls convey a sense of animation to passengers in trains leaving and entering the station.

But they are also reminiscent of contour maps, a reference to Auckland geography, adeptly contrasting a human relationship with motion and stillness

2013-09-18_10-51-51_257

The contours may also cushion the noise from passing trains, while at same time giving bored passenger who forgot their kindles something to look at that won’t drive them completely insane.

2013-09-18_10-52-42_880

The design is conscious of light throughout, with a pleasant lattice forming between the shelters and cross braces and the platform below.

If you were tripping on LSD, you’d probably think you were standing on a sun-speckled forest floor.

Or you might think you were a nectarine. It all depends.

2013-09-18_10-54-33_180

Anyway, here come choo choo.

2013-09-18_11-00-24_491

Or as the judges of the New Zealand Architecture Awards said:

As a hub for a catchment benefitting from improved transit-oriented catchment for public transport, the hub performs a welcome place-making function in a part of Auckland ill-served by a generation of car-focused planning.

By lowering the rail track beneath road level, the architects have untangled local infrastructural knots and provided ample space for a user-friendly platform. A successor to the noble tradition of railway architecture, this project is a beacon of quality in a sea of indifferent buildings and a benchmark for future development.

Like I said, “Here come choo choo.”

What it feels like to quit smoking

Quitting cigarettes is like hanging out with a casual acquaintance who doesn’t realize how boring she is and not being able to kick her out.

Decades ago, when I sometimes did this sort of thing, I lost 12 hours to such a person.

It was one of those nights that fell prey to the cocaine-and-vodka-cranberry lifestyle of the mid-to-late 90’s Brooklyn, northwest vintage.

Not to speak ill of that lifestyle. It’s just that the extremely boring person who I lost half a day to was the one supplying the cocaine.

What a drag. The only way my friends and I would get some as if we pretended to be interested in her featureless existence.

So we sucked it up.

being awesome

She told us she’d done some modeling on the side. And almost every time she leaves her apartment, she gets stalked by a talent scout.

She wanted to “go pro”. But there was still so much she wanted to accomplish as a certified public accountant.

It wasn’t until years later when she suddenly turned into a Buddhist, that we found out she had worked for Arthur Andersen on the Enron account.

With her conversion, she was doubling down on a boring life.

2013-08-03_03-15-20_829

But back then, she was just a run-of-the-mill coke-head. I can’t say if my friends and I that ever got used to this woman’s droning that night.

But as the 11th hour approached, and the cocaine vanished, we all realized at once that she had been talking the entire time. We didn’t even know she was still in the apartment, to be frank.

Now we were very aware, which meant the cocaine was wearing off, and fast.

And now this chick was going on about how a reverse triangular merger is simpler to accomplish than a direct merger because its subsidiary only has one shareholder, namely the acquiring company.

You try listening to that shit when the drugs just wear off.

2013-08-03_15-34-21_760

And that is exactly what it feels like to go through nicotine withdrawal, in case you haven’t known the pleasure.

It’s that moment when you realize the CPA is still talking. And she uses the term “flow-through entity”, but not in a sexy way.

That’s what this quit has been like. It was worse the first day.

Friday afternoon, I found out that the e-cigarette I was going to use to “mist” my way to cigarette-freedom, didn’t actually work.

So I went to the Hydro website for a list of retailers.

And for reasons that are hazy to me, I ended up in one of the worst places in the world.

A mall.

2013-08-02_17-57-36_663

Shit. It’s Friday night and I’m at the Westfield in Newmarket. How did I let things slip to this state?

This was not an ideal situation. Here I was lost, desperately craving a nicotine mist-fix. Nicotine, the drug that allowed me to spend time around people who like the mall without openly despising them, was losing its potency. I would soon be hating everyone, out loud. And I was in a fucking mall, where human contact was not out of the question.

I was angry. And confused. And somewhat looking forward to screaming obscenities in public.

2013-08-02_17-58-41_420

I knew I was in trouble and out of place. The few times I’ve been to a mall without Jacquie, the same thing always happens.

A concerned-looking mother will come up to me and ask if I were by myself, and if my daddy and mommy were nearby.

I was preparing an answer. Until I realized, I was alone. Nobody in the mall but me.

2013-08-02_17-56-55_716

Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about this anymore, because it took me about an hour to find the exit. Which is kind of embarrassing, when you think about it.

2013-08-02_17-27-45_265

But that’s just what happens when you’re withdrawing. You lose track of time. You have bouts of violent impulses. You eat.

And it’s had an impact on my writing. Until this afternoon, I’ve found it too distracting to focus on writing for very long.

So at least it’s getting better. Now that I’m misting.

Can you see the real me?

I had a disturbing thought.

If you’re reading this, chances are I know you personally.

I wish that wasn’t true.

Not that I wish I didn’t know you personally. For the most part. But that you regulars are people that knew me already. And I need fresh meat.

I categorize all of you in one (or more) of the following cohorts of PEOPLE WHO…

…SAY I REMIND THEM OF WOODY ALLEN

Self Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 1

Give me a break. Friends back in the US have made this comparison. Inevitably, after a few minutes, they realize how horribly wrong they are.

I’m much more of an Adam Sandler.

I haven’t known any Kiwis long enough for them to figure that out yet. Not even Jacquie.

Since I moved here in late 2009, I’ve had a few encounters in which someone I met eight seconds ago says I’m just like Woody Allen.

Why? Because I’m a fucking pedophile who married my own adopted daughter? Or because the smattering of good movies I’ve made floats on a sea of laborious filmic masturbation?

Hey. I’ve got another theory. Maybe, just maybe, it’s because I look like this:

Photo on 21-07-13 at 2.21 PM

I’ll admit it. I have a big, fat, juicy, honking Hebrew-style schnoz. It is the only human feature in the world the same shape and size as the state of Israel.

Granted, not a lot of people in New Zealand know from Jewish. They haven’t had a lot of experience in handling Jews.

So, what do they do when they meet one for the first time? They reach for the most accessible likeness in their minds.

“You remind me of Woody Allen.”

They don’t mean anything by it.

But I hope they’ll consider something for the next time we meet. While it is true that I resemble something from a 1936 Nazi propaganda poster, that misshapen globulous bit at the end there comes from my maternal grandmother. Who happened to be of Swedish descent. And currently missing the tip of his nose.

So next time you see me, do our relationship a favor. Tell me I look like one the guys from ABBA.

The one that doesn’t smoke.

….POLITELY IGNORE MY NOSE

Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 2

Not to put too fine a point on it, but my nose is probably the most prominent feature on my head.

It insults my intelligence when you act like it’s not even there.

I can always spot them. They’re the ones that use the phrase, “cut off your nose to spite your face” in passing.

Then they immediately start to blush.

They should be embarrassed. If I were to cut off my nose, it wouldn’t just spite my face. It would rip that bitch from my skull. It’s so deeply entrenched, it would take part of my brain with it.

So do me a favor next time you see me. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Call a schnoz a schnoz.

And tell me you’re proud I’ve given up smoking.

3….HAVE TRIED TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH ME ABOUT RELIGION OR POLITICS.

Portrait of the writer as a bona fide moron 3

Some of you know me as “that angry, belligerent drunken bastard”. Perhaps you saw me at a party. Or you simply passed me on the street, and relaxed once you realized I’d only been screaming at myself.

No matter how hard you’ve tried to reason with me, there’s nothing you can do to calm me down.

There’s no use even trying. By the time you distract him with a fresh martini, “that angry, belligerent, drunken bastard” has already been replaced by “that angry, sobbing, ex-boyfriend” or “that angry, drunken guy vomiting on the coats piled up in the bedroom”.

So, be vigilant around me. Sensitize yourself to those subtle changes to my personality. And offer me a drink.

But never ever after Friday, August 2, offer me a smoke.

4. …TOLERATE ME FOR PRETENDING TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT SCIENCE, ART OR LITERATURE.

Portrait of the writer as bona fide moron 4

Others have had the pleasure of experiencing my pontification on subjects I know nothing about.

I thank you, especially.  You’re the ones who always stand by my side the whole way. You always wait until I’ve run out of breath, before you start in on whatever tedious subject you want to prattle on about.

A thousand times, thank you.

But the next time I run out of breath, don’t you dare fucking interrupt me like that again.

And if I’m smoking, you can call me an asshole. Because I’m not smoking anymore.

Not after Friday.

5…HAVE TRIED TO ENJOY A MEAL WHILE SITTING ANYWHERE NEAR ME.

Photo on 27-07-13 at 2.21 PM #2

These people face some very conflicted feelings whenever they sit down for a meal with me.

On the one hand, watching me feed myself is a horrific experience. And I’m always shocked at how people can tolerate it.

I eat fast. It comes from growing up in a big family with sometimes limited resources. Family meals could get pretty hairy, growing up. One of my sisters stabbed one of my brothers to death in a fight over an Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookie. That’s the sister that is missing most of her right index finger, from the time she was eating a sandwich so fast, she didn’t notice she’d been biting off her digit until well after the second knuckle.

That’s because the only alternative to fighting was to eat as quickly as possible. To this day, I can’t view a dinner invitation as anything but a hostile gesture. To me, that’s just an invitation to Thunderdome. Two hands in, one hand out.

You don’t ever put that kind of conditioning behind you.

Which is why watching me eat is like watching one of those nature shows about the animals of the Serengeti. It’s the scene where millions of migrating gazelles have to ford this alligator-infested river. The only way to get through is to be quick and outrun. In the TV shows, they always show the few that do get snagged. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a cautionary tale for the other gazelles.

But watching me eat is even worse than the TV show. Because me eating is like there’s one huge Jewish looking alligator waiting for the gazelles. And he eats each one. And they all gladly leap to their death. Because it is delicious. And because they are thrilled to serve such an important role in the ecosystem, they run faster and faster, eager to join their friends that have gone before them.

On the other hand, you can’t smoke when you’re eating.

You may have noticed a pattern emerging in this post: I’m an absolute narcissist.

But I’m also a cigarette smoker. And I don’t want to be anymore. And as of Friday, August 4, I won’t be.

It doesn’t matter how you know me, but you’ve all helped me out before, in one way or another, and now I’m asking for your help, once again.

Help enforce my quit by the potential for shame.

Keep coming back here. Tell people what I’m doing. Leave a comment, or even just to click on the link, and move on.

You don’t have to read, but I will be blogging about my quit as much as possible. Jacquie will enforce transparency, so if I smoke, you will know.

And you’ll have a chance to tell me what you think about it.

I’m doing other things to quit, but I’m hoping the potential for shame will help.

The more people that come here, the more I will feel compelled to stay quit and save face.

Such as it is.

Thanks for your help, once again. I appreciate the support.

[[Fourth draft, it’s 3:36 in the morning]]

The suffering of not suffering

All this talk about a hurricane hitting near New York is getting a little old, don’t you think?

Destructive winds, scores of deaths, a flooded-out subway system. Alright, we get the picture. It’s a disaster. Have a biscuit. Next subject.
But no, not “next subject”. Hurricane Sandy is all anyone could talk about this week.
And that perfectly illustrates the level of depravity I’m dealing with here.
People keep asking: “Did everyone back home make it through the storm ok?”
I kept thinking: What the fuck do you care?
I kept wondering if, perhaps, they would like to send my family a parcel of Wattie’s baked beans. It would come with personal messages of hope and wishes of dryness and an urging for them to “be safe”.  Addresses would be exchanged, greeting cards posted on appropriate occasions. Perhaps a strong personal bond will form between two pen pals. One will write about indoor plumbing, and the other will write something related to New Zealand, in return.

“No they’re not ok,” I tell them. “But what’s that got to do with the storm?”

People back home are fine. School was called off and my sister’s kids spent the first day painting uni-brows and beards on one another’s faces. They wanted to look more like their grandmother. (I won’t say which one). I’m not sure what this face painting phase says about my locality in the human genome. But I do know one thing: I’m damned if I’m going to sit here and have anyone explain it to me. Some things are better left a mystery.
But back to my point. Where the people I cared most about are concerned, it wasn’t bad.
I don’t want to seem callous. The deaths that struck me hardest were the ones where people were killed by trees crashing into their houses or cars. I don’t really know if anyone can truly say one way to die is worse than another. They all seem to be rather dismal options. But this is nature-on-human violence, gruesome, not just too close to home, but in the middle of the living room. Like a large-screen television with a Werner Herzog movie playing.
There will be a huge economic impact, as well. Infrastructure repairs, preparations for what is most likely to be a developing climatic pattern. And there’s the property owners. I can’t wait to see how insurance companies will get out of it this time. The violence is over, at least with the vast majority of New York and New Jersey emerging more or less intact. That’s swell.

But it isn’t news. The suffering of New Yorkers has been duly recorded. Everybody BEEN knowing about it, as we used to say in the Bronx.

So when co-workers asked, in their thoughtless way, how my people in New York were doing, it hurt me. It really, really hurt me. What about how Simon is doing? Did you even once stop to consider what I was going through reading about what other people were going through? Do you know how hard it was for me to look at all of the MTA’s Flickr photographs of the storm’s damage to subway and commuter rail infrastructure? Do you have any idea what that’s like for me? I hate using Flickr.
I had a rough week, too, you know. I had to cancel my Internet Service Provider, Orcon, because Orcon is a piece of shit company whose name reminds me of a piece of shit cartoon from my childhood.
****ALERT*****ALERT*****THIS IS A BORING PART*****PLEASE BE ADVISED
We didn’t have internet service for six weeks, forcing us to use a 3G stick modem purchased from Orcon’s competitor, Telecom. We arranged for a technician to look at our modem. They scheduled repair on a weekday, because as every fucking utility in the world knows, everyone is home on a weekday.
Finally, they did one good thing. They called me a week later because my issue hadn’t cleared their system and arranged for a technician to come on a Saturday. (Boring part continues below the photo)
(Continue boring part)
That’s how, after about five weeks, we got our internet and phone line back. For two days. It went dead again. I put in another service ticket. But Orcon’s policy is to give themselves a comfortable three days to respond to a service call, just in time for one of their employees to get off their bony asses. Of course, all this time without service, we’re still paying for it. Two days went by, and that was it. For $150, I canceled the service, and it will be worth every penny.
Two things may happen.
First, Orcon may surprise us with a charge in addition to what we owe according to the agent who cancelled our service. Supposedly, this is $114 for our last bill, and $150 for breaking our contract. Considering the purpose-built incompetence and opacity that make service providers such a delight, I fully expect to face an additional charge.
Second. Despite paying all bills by direct debit, our final charges will somehow enter Orcon’s system as “delinquent” and without attempting to contact us first to settle the dispute, our account will be turned over to a collection agency.  This has happened to several of my friends dealing with a variety of companies.
***END TEDIOUS JEREMIAD***
On top of that, I had to deal with Jacquie’s new idea for Vince, our kitten. He’s getting bigger, and a little restless inside our small flat. Jacquie wants to try putting him on a leash.
I tried to argue with her. I said, if I saw someone walking toward me with a cat on a leash, I’d think, “What a twat.” (Especially in Parnell). But Jacquie is determined to go through with it, and drag me down with her so we’ll both look like twats. And if that weren’t enough, I left my mobile phone charger at work. So anyone thinking that my people back home deserve more human kindness than me, I ask you, aren’t we the same, in the end? When someone’s a prick, do I not kvetch?
The pathetic truth is, I’m suffering from catastrophe envy. I didn’t give the hurricane much thought until my Tuesday morning.
I was too busy enjoying the best Spring we’ve had since I moved here three years ago. It’s been beeeeeeeautiful. But then I saw all the posts on Facebook, and read the articles and saw the pictures.
What was going on in New York City was difficult to get my head around. There had never been a hurricane like Sandy that I could recall in my 38 or so years in New York. When I was growing up, news casters would breathlessly sensationalize a tropical storm. Hurricane Gloria scared the schools shut, but dissipated and continued up the coast , leaving behind warm, sunny day. My friend from down the street told me we were in the eye, probably about the time Gloria had reached Massachusetts.
That’s the kind of hurricane I knew. We survived tropical storms blown out of proportion by hyperbolic media hungry for ad revenue. And goddamn it, we liked them.
This was when I realized something. New York and I had been through a lot together. There were the two blackouts, two muggings, three minor earthquakes, and a really bad acid trip during which my legs fused together and my only solace was a late-night rerun of Mr. Belvedere. There was that family of rats dying in my basement apartment. There was September 11 and a GWAR/X-Cops show. There were a dozen home-bound commutes when, after waiting on a subway platform for 20 minutes, coming off a night shift at the New York Post, a maintenance worker would say, “You know there ain’t no train coming,” as they went on with their shift.
But I could never add Hurricane Sandy to my CV.  And as self-indulgent, and tone-deaf as this will undoubtedly seem, that’s a real downer. Because as soon as the subways are running again, everyone in there will have graduated in the same class, with a shared, dramatic experience, and I will be one disaster less a New Yorker.