Sunday, August 28, 2011

Economy of Language

I needed only 12 short hours of smoke deprivation to realize that every last noun in my vocabulary could be readily replaced with a particularly unpopular word beginning with the letter "C."

The path to enlightenment is often much shorter than we might imagine it to be.

Down the Rabbit Hole

Brief update... Irene's big ol' backside is still kicking up a mess along the shore, and there has been considerable damage up and down the coast, but it must be said... NYC dodged a bullet. She slammed ashore at Coney Island as a tropical storm at about 8 this morning. It's my not so humble opinion that people who are now griping that there was too much hype really need to count their blessings.

My fears, down here in the bunker, were not entirely unfounded. The water started coming in just before 1 a.m. The blessing was that it was clean (semi-clean) rain water from somewhere above, and not from the Ghostbuster's river of slime that runs under the street. Over the course of a very long night, I filled a five gallon bucket eight times, and got about an hour of sleep sitting up on the sofa. My preparations, putting everything up high, did not go unrewarded. The only damage is to the sheetrock low along the back wall of the apartment. The landlord has already called.

I can think of several dozen things I would have rather done on a Saturday night, but the upside is that once you've wrung out a string mop several hundred times, you can crack coconuts in your hands. I just have to be careful not to hurt myself... uh... THAT'S A JOKE SON! LAUGH! You know, one of those thinly-veiled, off-color things.

Never mind.

It's all good. I'm glad it's mostly over, and we all got to see Mayor Michael Bloomberg BUST OUT HIS SPANISH.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


Light rains all day, and it's just picked up a bit with a low roll of thunder. We'll see how this works out. There have already been fatalities down south, but I've seen no word if it was water, wind, or something collapsing that caused them. It's going to be an interesting night up and down the coast.

Perhaps the most alarming local news so far is that THERE ISN'T NOW AND NEVER HAS BEEN AN EMERGENCY EVACUATION PLAN FOR 12,000 INMATES ON RIKER'S ISLAND. This is a particularly disturbing scenario, as these men and women are locked away on a very vulnerable patch of land right in harm's way. Say what you will, but a large number of these human beings are in there for crimes that many of us have gotten away with repeatedly. The phrase, "there but for the grace of God," applies every which way to this situation. Fatalities as a result of this criminal negligence will be on the hands of Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Corrections.

There have been many other sound preparations. At-risk neighborhoods are divided into three evacuation zones and the most vulnerable have been mandated to pack up and leave. Those who decide to stay are, as the Mayor has stated, on their own.

I am several blocks uphill from Zone C so I'm theoretically safe, unless the drains and sewer are overwhelmed by rain and back up into the houses. There are many advantages to a basement apartment, but they are pretty much nullified in these rare cases. There isn't much that can be done, so we've made basic preparations to fly on a moment's notice. Miss Jane Pitbull has been on edge and growing increasingly squirrelly, but that may have something to do with several feral cats trying to pry their way into the back windows. I feel badly for them, but... We will see how it goes.

There are two schools of thought on the perceived danger of this storm, in regard to the city. One is to prepare for The End of Days. The other is like the grasshopper from the old fable. Dance, fiddle and sing... we're not going any damn place. Few appear to be holding the middle ground.

I headed out to Rockaway Beach early this morning, hoping to catch a bit of a thrill. While it is always awe-inspiring and humbling to sit before the ocean, it was just a bit more so facing the higher-than-average surf and infinite mist. There was simply a greater awareness of the vast forces that dwarf even our imaginations. Or the imaginations of anyone grounded in anything resembling reality. It doesn't take much more than the approach of a huge storm to become right-sized against the world and/or any Higher Power you claim a connection to.

It was mostly just peaceful there in the mist, which would clear just enough every so often to reveal dozens of surfers out just beyond the breakers, waiting for something just a bit bigger than the last one.

And that is the day, thus far. I turn 50 years old tomorrow, and though I couldn't imagine even at 40 that I would be around at 50... and no, I'm not being morbid or ego-stricken as I am just an average man... and yes, anything can happen on the overnight... it is pretty much as inevitable as this rain and whatever is behind it. It's supposed to be one of those benchmark birthdays, just as Irene is supposed to be "THE BIG ONE," but against the greater scheme of things, time and the universe, it's just another day. It doesn't matter how much you talk it up.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Or is this IRENE CHICK simply a manifestation of the last vestiges of my arrested development meeting a new force in my life.

I will let you know when the storm surge subsides.

How long can I sit here watching the news reports before it becomes tiresome? What age marks the onset of Weather Channel Syndrome? You know what I'm talking about. There is an older person in your life whose television is always tuned in to cyclones and tornado strikes in parts of the world that he/she has never even visited. You spend hours wondering what is so damned fascinating that they remember the storm track of hurricanes from 40 years earlier. Then you sit bold-upright on the sofa and realize you've been watching an hour by hour update of a storm in Guam all morning. What age can you expect this?

I don't know, but I can tell you that I just watched Irene News on NY1 for the last two hours. I am frightened. Not of the storm really, but that it's happened to me. Early onset of Weather Channel Syndrome.

I took precautions. I never stopped listening to The Ramones. There are no velcro shoes sticking out from beneath my bed. There are no trousers with an elastic waistband in my bureau. I've never owned a reversible belt.

Yet I can now give you a comprehensive summary of evacuation zones and shelters all over the borough.

This is a cry for help. Maybe I should just go stand on the beach tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The end is nigh...

Or so some people believe...

I broke down a while back and called the cable guy, who in an impressive feat of scaling fences, walls and poles... and operating a drill straight out of that Brian DePalma film the title of which I can't remember... hooked me back into the mainstream media. I've spent the last three months watching mostly highbrow stuff like Comedy Central, Adult Swim, and HGTV, and wondering why I suffered under the delusion that something had been missing in my life.

Of course there are those odd anthropological delights, like Intervention and Hoarders. There are cultural studies like Billy the Exterminator. I have mostly, however, been disappointed with the fare. There are few programs that I make it a point to watch regularly, and none that I can honestly say I look forward to.

That's why I nearly jumped from the sofa in delight when I saw that there will be a documentary addressing one of my pet topics.

The Apocalypse!


It's not that I really believe that it's coming, or even care. In fact...

It's the people, though, that fascinate me. I am simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the seemingly growing number of people who believe that we are, at any moment, going to be facing the fire. That whether by God, or death comet, or nuclear holocaust, it's coming, and we'd best be prepared! They are a special breed and I cannot turn away from any program or article or book that features them. They range from rugged survivalists, to cults, and as evidenced by events earlier this year, otherwise regular folks who are prone to media driven hysteria.

I know, from a personal standpoint, that if things get that rough, I'd rather go in the first wave than to be trapped in a bunker or cave with any of these people. Call it misanthropy but just look at some of the photos in that article, or scroll back a couple months to the Rapture Hype. No, I think I'd rather put on some proper Apocalypse music... maybe Motorhead... kick back, and die. The thought of sitting underground munching Dinty Moore, cleaning my rifle and reading the Bible just doesn't appeal to me.

And I would really miss some of you.

Most of you.

I will, in the meantime, await the premier of Livin' In The Apocalypse impatiently. Thank you, Cable Guy.

Thank you.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


A lifetime at the tiller, piloting my toy sailboat through the swells and surges in the gutter, has left me with callouses. Blisters on top of callouses on top of blisters. A ruined back as well. I wonder sometimes, often now these days, what romantic notion carried me to the decision to go to sea. To spend my life fishing waters that I was duly warned were devoid of any catch that could sustain life. To fish for creatures that I would be better off leaving to their own devices there in the muck at the bottom. To explore waters that no experienced sailor would dare bother with.

But you can't, at the end of any day, even the best of days, tell a young man anything. I ignored the warnings, put my back to the tiller, and didn't look back until I was out there alone. I caught what I caught. I came back from time to time and would, when the opportunity arose, kidnap a reluctant ear, and overfill it with fantastic tales of storms, horrific beasts, and frightful misadventure. Then it was back out to the dirty water.

And now as I am greying at the temples, my back sore, and my hands twisted like tree roots reaching up from shallow sand, I am back on firmament, still looking for my land-legs. I still haunt the piers where my toy sailboat is dry-docked, and daily I am drawn to the mystery. To the notion that there is some treasure out there. The catch of catches that I might, to the amazement of everyone, dump triumphantly on the pier. Where people will shake their heads in wonder and admiration.

I will most likely leave that to younger men who cannot and will not be told that there is nothing out there under the waves. And I will wait down at the docks to see what they bring back, because I'm still not entirely convinced either.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

At 50

I find myself, at 50, or at least approaching the day, far more uncertain of the world around me than before. I am somehow more happy for this. From this. About this. I don't even know how to phrase this and I'm not bothered by not knowing.

I find myself, approaching 50, with fewer opinions and feel more at peace. Every uncertainty is one less fortress to defend with my life.

I find myself, nearing 50, not needing so badly to be right. I will now, sometimes very quiety...


Concede that I am... shhhhhh....


You may see, from the look on my face, that I am not yet altogether comfortable with that. That will take time and effort.

I find myself, inching towards 50, coming to the realization that there is far less time in which to make an effort, any effort really. Lest I be misconstrued, effort I make will not be/is not driven by any cognition of imminent judgment. This isn't about redemption or salvation.

I simply grew weary. It must be said that others certainly must have grown weary also. Maybe we have shared a moment of mutual exasperation with... me.

This isn't a morbid aging and dying bender, merely an observation. It took me a very long time to realize that the heaviness of my step and the weight I felt across my shoulders was perhaps the ripe fertilizer that fed my...

How did Fitzgerald put it in Gatsby?

My "platonic conception" of myself.

Nor is this self-flagellation. I've spent enough time engaged in that. There is a thin line between self-hate and self-love, opposite sides of the same coin perhaps. It is merely an observation that having jettisoned some cargo, forward motion (not in the sense of linear time) has accelerated.

I have found, as I careen towards 50, that I no longer grip the wheel as tightly. It's not like I will be able, at any point, to make a sharp turn away and avoid the mark. Release the wheel and stay true to the path. There is no brake pedal either.

Imagine that.