Category Archives: New York City

The NY Neo-Futurists and Me

I don’t have too many words to share today, and I was reminded today of how tremendous these people are and were to me in NYC, so I’m sharing this video snapshot of one of the best theater companies in NYC. I also consider them my adoptive family.

More about them soon.

Until then, to learn more about the NY Neo-Futurists, please visit www.nynf.org. For info on the original Neo-Futurists based here in Chicago, check out http://www.neofuturists.org/

Have a good show.

2 Comments

Filed under Chicago, New York City, theater

Baseball and Other Personal Stuff

Let’s set the scene.

I just walked home from seeing a preview showing of the new film “Morning Glory.”  It’s a film I have a connection to, as I do many movies and TV shows made in and around NYC for the last five years. I worked for a company that provides camera equipment to the film industry, and it was my job to keep the gear from breaking down. It’s a job I miss sometimes because I enjoyed learning new things. I also enjoyed the variety of personalities one encounters in that business.

But that was in NYC, and I’m in Chicago now.*  I love New York City. LOVE. So what dragged me away from a city I had a very personal relationship with, a city I could see myself living in forever? A woman, of course.  Oh, Teresa’s not any ordinary woman.  She’s a genius with talents that go as deep as the bedrock under Manhattan Island.  I’ll write more about her another time.  Tonight, she’s watching a video I shot of her first full-length play, something she produced here in Chicago this summer. But I said I’d write about her later, and I promise I will.

I’m compelled to write tonight because there’s a baseball game going on out in San Francisco tonight.  Game One of the World Series has the Giants up 10-4 over the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the eighth inning.

I have a history with baseball that goes back as far as I can remember.  My memory these days is more like a system of highways than anything chronological or temporal.  One memory takes me down a deserted road I haven’t traveled on in years, and then all sorts of emotions tumble down on my head like a rock slide.  There should be warning signs: Falling Memories Ahead.

So I’m walking home from the movie and I checked email on my phone.  (I do this because I’ve been freelancing since I arrived in Chicago, and I’ve lost work before by not checking my email regularly.  It’s an annoying aspect of life as a freelancer.)  I read one message from my sister Deena.  She’s a nurse and has done more good in her life than I ever will, but hey, there’s still time for me, and hey, it’s not like I’ve been a complete ass! Caretakers of any breed are heroes.  In her message, she updated me on a cousin who has fallen on hard times with his health, and she also mentioned the baseball game.  I had a sudden rush of bitterness.  I wanted to tweet (yes, I tweet) something along the lines of I hope SF wins the World Series, even though it would have been nice if they’d won it in 2002, when it would have mattered.

Now, I don’t know if that was 140 characters and it doesn’t matter.  I didn’t take my phone out of my pocket.  That little eruption of bile was a surprise.  What follows deserves a more complete description than I’m about to give, but for the sake of moving this story along, here is what sparked my untweeted tweet.

I met a woman in 2000. Her name was Siri Aarons. She was a raven-haired beauty of considerable intellect and charm.  It took me a while to convince her, but eventually she went on a date with me.  I managed to wrangle tickets to the opening game of the SF Giants’ new ballpark.  (Among many other things, she was a Giants fan.)  At the time, their ballpark was called Pacific Bell Park. As is the curse associated with naming rights and corporate takeovers, the park’s name has changed twice since then.  It was a smashing first date, even though the Giants lost to the hated Dodgers 6-5.  (True fans of the game never forget significant games and their final outcomes.)

We moved in together, did the lovey-dovey thing, and then she suffered a recurrence from ovarian cancer. The Giants had been a very helpful distraction from her health woes.  And they would continue to be a grand distraction for her and for me.

In 2002, the Giants got themselves into the World Series.  A close friend of Siri’s made it possible for us to buy tickets to Game Three of that series, the first World Series game to be played in SF.  They went up against the Anaheim Angels (a team I followed when I lived in Southern California) and the Angels pounded the Giants in the game Siri and I attended. The final score was 10-4.  Tonight, the Giants whooped the Rangers by a final tally of 11-7.  They beat a very talented team. Despite tonight’s win, the Giants will be lucky to win the Series.

Back in ’02, it looked like the Giants would win the Series, yet they managed to blow a lead with six outs left in Game Six.  If only they could have held on in that game, they would have won their first World Series since moving to SF.  (They were one of two NY teams to move out west.  For shame.)  I try to imagine what it must have been like to be a baseball fan in NYC in the late 50s.  Whadya mean they’re moving to California?

So the Giants lost what would have been the clinching Game Six and then barely showed up in Game Seven and lost 4-1 (fans never forget scores).  The Angels played their hearts out and beat a talented Giants team. And the San Francisco Giants broke our hearts.  Yes, Siri had more severe sources of heartache, like cancer, yet, a win by the Giants would have made her very happy.

She died the following spring. And it wasn’t long after that I finally said goodbye to baseball.  My heart just wasn’t in it any more.  My heart wasn’t in a lot of things.  I struggled to stay alive and to stay focused on the future; the last thing I was going to do was worry about baseball. I stayed interested in 2003, but by 2004, I was finished with the game.  The eruption of the Steroid scandals helped drive the game out of my mind for good, I think. But really, I just couldn’t get excited about baseball if Siri wasn’t around to talk to about the games.

So the Giants are playing in the World Series again.  Most of my immediate family is very invested in the outcome, and so for them I hope the Giants win.  I really truly want to say something like I hope they win for Siri, but the rotten brat in me wants to kick the dirt and say, She’s dead. She don’t care.

Is that truly how I feel?  Not really.

I don’t imagine she’s paying attention to goings-on here on Earth.  If, somehow, human consciousness manages to escape death and move on to a higher plane of existence, I really doubt that she is caring a damn about baseball.  So yeah, sure, it would be swell if they win.  If she were alive, she would be out of her mind with delight over tonight’s score.  But she’s not alive, and I’ve let her go.

So let’s talk about today.  Remember that genius I mentioned earlier?  Well, I won the World Series of Life when she suggested it might be a good idea for me to move to Chicago.  She’s a remarkable person and the best friend I’ve ever had and ever will have.  Listen, when you reach my age (49) you come to know certain things.  And I know that I’m a lucky man.  Not only did I have the fortune of sharing in the making of an amazing son (from my first marriage to his mother Norma), but also I met Siri and had an amazing time with her for three years and ten days until she died.  And now I have the incredible fortune to be with Teresa.  I know that there are many men (and women) who think their girlfriend or wife is the best since Forever.  I dig it, and I don’t mean to take anything away from you when I say I have the best girlfriend ever, so let’s just leave it at this–

I’m a lucky man.

I also realize I have a lot to write about.

I think this is a good time for me to stop, for now, and practice some Spanish before calling it a night.  I’m learning Spanish now.  It’s good to learn new things.  (My girlfriend is half-Spanish and fluent in the language; it’s a good thing for me to learn Spanish!)

If you’re a baseball fan, may your team play hard all nine innings.  If you’re not, you might not understand the ache of a former baseball fan.  Or maybe you do.

* I love Chicago, too!  God help me if I ever end up rooting for the Cubs.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chicago, journal, New York City

Saying my goodbyes to New York

In six days, I will be in a minivan while I am looking at NYC in the rear view mirror.

800 miles ahead of me, Chicago will be waiting for me and my co-pilot, Teresa. (She’s flying out to make the drive with me.  She’s the reason I am moving.  She’s awesome.)

A rental minivan full of my belongings.   Two people with intersecting lives.  A tale of two cities.

Soon, it will be, “So long, New York.”

Soon, it will be, “Hello, Chicago!”

Leave a comment

Filed under Chicago, journal, New York City

Two-handers

A man seated across from me on a Brooklyn-bound D train was looking at me.  I felt his stare and returned his gaze.  This was when his blank expression changed to a warm and slightly sloppy grin.  His face was a little crooked, like mine.  He was missing teeth, top and bottom, and his nose looked swollen and pulpy, like a boxer’s.  He looked as if he had just chased a parked truck.  His smile unnerved me, and I returned to reading the latest issue of New York magazine. A story about bed bug infestations in the Upper East Side had my interest.

I looked up and he was still looking at me.  Annoyed, I asked him directly, “Can I help you?”  I have a bad habit of talking to crazy people, and this guy gave off a crazy vibe.  I normally don’t confront people who stare, but I was lonesome for a friend who had just left the country so I might have been a little crabby, and I didn’t want this guy watching me.

“You look like Sam Shepard.”  This wasn’t the first time I had heard this from someone in the subway.  It must be the dim and ugly green of the fluorescent lighting that brings out the Shepard in me.

“Yeah, I get that a lot.”  True.  But I would like to state for the record that I resemble a young Sam Shepard.

The fellow started to seem a little less annoying and more clear-headed once he started speaking, and so I asked him the first thing that came to mind.  “Do you like his plays?”

“True West and a couple others.” He looked down then up again, and he blushed a little. “I write, too.”

“You write plays?”

“Yeah. Two-handers mostly.” Well, this guy was clearly an aficionado, because I had never heard that phrase used by anyone who didn’t love theater.

“That’s interesting.”  Sometimes, I say boring things.

“Yeah, I like turning two souls lose, letting them mix it up, and seeing what sort of salad they become.”

I laughed abruptly in a concussive burst. “That’s awesome,” I told him.

“Yeah.”  He opened the soiled baby-blue backpack at his feet and pulled out a school composition book.  He turned his head down to the rumpled pages and took a pen from his back pocket and started writing.  This ended our chat.

I should have introduced myself, asked his name at least.  I have a feeling he was disappointed I wasn’t Sam Shepard.  They would have had something to talk about.

1 Comment

Filed under New York City

stranger on a train

On the train yesterday morning, I was sharing a pole with a woman who was as close to a duplicate of my deceased wife Siri as any one woman could be. Same height, same hair, same eyebrows even. Same taste in winter coats—I swear it was from Costume National—and even the same clear melodic speaking voice that reminds one of Judy Garland.

I’ve seen women who have reminded me of Siri. I’ve seen t-shirts and bridges and cars and cats who’ve reminded me of Siri. This woman on the train wasn’t a reminder; she was a Xerox copy. I looked away many times (because it’s rude to stare at a stranger on a train who’s 18 inches from you) and stole glances occasionally at her while she spoke excitedly to her two friends (a young couple visiting NYC from Ohio was what I gathered from their conversation) to verify that she was not actually Siri come back to live again in New York.

She wasn’t Siri, of course. She was younger by ten years than the Siri I met in 2000. And while it’s not surprising that there should be women roving the planet who look like Siri, it’s still shocking to see her likeness in a stranger on a crowded subway train on my morning commute to work.

Lately I’ve been struck acutely by a sort of clichéd cosmic comic existential loneliness. There are about a dozen reasons for this and none of them hold up under close examination, and so I am left feeling silly, and in turn isolated by my silliness, because I judge myself for feeling what I am feeling.

At what point do I either stop feeling sorry for myself (if that is indeed the conclusion–that I am indulging myself) , or is the question actually at what point do I stop feeling this way (assuming that the feelings are legitimate…and then who decides what are legitimate versus illegitimate feelings?)?

I’m a mixed-up bundle of mix-up, and I am not the person who will unravel the tangled strands of my mind-heart.

This state I am in is a straight jacket I cannot free myself from.

2 Comments

Filed under journal, New York City

The Bridges of Gowanus

Sign over the Carroll Street Bridge

Sign over the Carroll Street Bridge

Gowanus is where I live now. I love bridges and I love industrial, and Gowanus has both. The first thing I remember about my first encounter with Gowanus was my curiosity about the name. This happens a lot in New York. I suppose a fair number of visitors and residents alike simply take the place names of NYC for granted. And then there are those of us who are curious.

Gowanus is a small industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Its most prominent feature is the Gowanus Canal. The canal makes its way up into Brooklyn from Gowanus Bay in Upper New York Bay. Back in the early 1600s, Dutch settlers named the creek (that would later become the Gowanus Canal) after the Lenape sachem Gouwane. He led the local Canarsee tribe that lived in the area. The Gowanes Creek soon became home to gristmills; to this day the area is one of the last manufacturing zones left in NYC.

So I live in a place named after a tribal leader, and I was born in another: Seattle is my birthplace. I suppose it’s to be expected, in some sense, that the names of native leaders adorn so many of our city halls, yet it still puzzles me that this was one of the few things we sought to preserve of the indigenous peoples of North America. Hang on to the names, but raze the rest of it. (Well, that’s a topic for another day.)

Before I drive the bus right off the road into a digressive ditch (or canal), let me get back to why I am writing about Gowanus in the first place. I love bridges. I’m not a fanatic, not someone who can tell you every engineering detail of every kind of bridge. Yet bridges are grand metaphors and symbols as well as being useful as heck. A bridge is a perfect marriage of form and function, of poetry and prose, and as tall as they stand, it is their span that makes them what they are. They wrap around the planet and allow passage over impassable terrain. Yet bridges do not mock what they conquer. A bridge can make a gorge all the more beautiful.

I live on Carroll Street near 3rd Avenue. This is close to the eastern border of Gowanus. The borders are generally considered to be 4th Avenue to the east, Smith Street and Bond Street to the west, Butler Street to the north, and Hamilton Avenue to the south (the Gowanus Expressway passes overhead). There are five bridges that cross the canal; all of the five bridges run from east to west. Going north from the Hamilton Avenue Bridge, the other bridges are at Ninth Street (under the elevated “subway” tracks), Third Street, Carroll Street, and Union Street.

The bridge on Carroll Street (my street, hence my bridge) is the oldest retractable bridge in the US. Built in 1889, when pulled by its cables it slides on tracks perpendicular to the waterway to allow ships to pass. The other four bridges rise above the canal. Going back down to the southernmost bridge, the one at Hamilton Avenue is a bascule type bridge. It opens at the midway point, each section lifted by counterweights. At Ninth Street you’ll find a vertical lift bridge that replaced a deteriorated bascule bridge. Third Street has a double-leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule bridge. Yep, that’s right, a double-leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule. Lastly, north of Carroll Street you’ll find the Union Street Bridge, also a double-leaf Scherzer rolling lift bascule. So my bridge (yep, my bridge) is part of a retractable-on-double-leaf-Scherzer-rolling-lift-bascule sandwich.

At this point in the writing of this essay, I’m about to head out to meet friends for brunch. On my way back home, I’ll stop to photograph each of the five bridges and I’ll put the pictures on Flickr. Here’s a link to the collection: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shitebot/collections/72157614477290429

I was at first struck by what some might take as the emptiness of Gowanus as I walked from bridge to bridge on a Saturday, but surely industry is a sign of a human presence. How often do we ignore the humanity in our machinery! And certainly trucks swarm the area during the week. I’ll have to come back on a weekday to visit.

I was also haunted by one very empty playground; I’ll write about that another day. I’m so accustomed to the strollers one tends to see all over Brooklyn these days that the absence of children was a stark notice that there are still some areas in Brooklyn not yet taken over by the breeder brigades.

Maybe someday when you want to explore a little slice of Brooklyn that doesn’t get much attention, you’ll make some time to visit Gowanus.

Recommended links:

The Wikipedia links have groovy animations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bascule_bridge

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lift_bridges

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retractable_bridge

Google Map of  Gowanus

http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=117242808611643739899.00000111fbeb1c6c82036&gl=us&hl=en&ie=UTF8&z=14

1 Comment

Filed under journal, New York City

Silent / Silence

There have been no new posts for a while now. I’m writing, it’s just that what I am writing is not what I want to be writing. The whole “Death by Installment” thing makes me unhappy; what I’ve written for that I’ll not be posting. And other than that, I have been sick and busy and moving and not checking in. I’ve been writing in my private journal again–this is a good thing–but that’s private. I think my days of declaring myself Human in public forums might be over.

So…where does that leave me? Am I going to use this forum that I created for anything? I think I’ll give myself an assignment. (I’m making this shit up on the fly.) Okay. I’ll write a weekly entry about New York City. It’s a big city with a remarkable history. There ought to be something I can find to write about once a week. And…NYC is something I love. Beats the hell out of trying to write about anything else.

So…silent no more?

Leave a comment

Filed under journal, New York City