Wednesday, September 29, 2004

The Restaurant I Ate at Last Night XXXI

Sunday night, Deb and I went to Sal Anthony's at 55 Irving Place. A wonderfully old-school Italian family restaurant, the upstairs section attracted a bevy of patrons, some of whom seemed straight out of a John Waters movie. We had the dramatically faded Hollywood beauty with Jackie O glasses and a bouffant. We had a wicked eyeliner, aging goth wearing a silver cross. We had a little girl wearing a blue sequined dress -- that matched that of the doll in the high chair next to her. And we had the cutest of elderly couples directly within our line of sight. The food was wonderful. Simple breads with butter. Melon and prosciutto and mozzarella with tomato and basil for appetizers. And two fusilli entrees. Go for the prix fixe menu if you get there in time. Even dessert -- spumoni ice cream pour moi, and an enormous cheesecake for Deb -- is worth tasting.

And last night, I explored the Meatpacking District for the first time since I moved here, braving the rain to meet some folks at Pastis for coffee, drinks, and dinner. Eminently trendy, the section also has quite a bit of history, and I'd like to return when the downpour isn't a torrent. Conversation and camaraderie was good with the likes of Jason Calacanis, Tom of the Media Drop, and CJ Hughes, a contributor to the New York Times. I had the omelette with fine herbs and french fries -- arguably the best omelette I've ever had.

Nervy, Pervy XXVII

Porn for Progress is offering a DVD entitled "Porn for Kerry" featuring portrayals of Jenna Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Al Franken, and Lyndie England. Self-described as an "association of adult filmmakers and political activists," the group pledges to donate its proceeds to Kerry-Edwards campaign activity in swing states. Equal parts "political satire" and hardcore porn, the DVD goes for $20. Now that's serving your country!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Rock Shows of Note LXXXVI

Despite not wearing a belt yesterday, I stopped by Trash in Greenpoint on my way home in order to catch a somewhat-early set by the power-pop wunderkinds in the Unlovables. Featuring five people, including Mikey Erg from the Trylons -- who had their first practice yesterday, by the by -- the band plays a high-energy style of melodic power pop (some may say punk), singing scads of songs about boys, girls, love, crushes, and other fun topics.

Additionally, I met several other interesting people, including Bill Florio, a columnist for Maximumrocknroll, and the guy behind Whoa Oh Records, which has released several amazing records. I'm glad I went out... and fun was had by all.

Clothes Whore X

Yesterday, I felt off all day. From the moment I woke up, through Trylons practice, during dinner with Deb, and when I went to bed, I felt at least one beat behind the rest of the world. And you know what I think caused it? I didn't wear my belt yesterday.

Every day, I wear a belt. It's black. It's simple. It's actually getting quite old. But yesterday, I left the house sans belt. And I didn't realize it until about 8:30 p.m. What's up with that?

Today, I wear the belt. And I feel much better.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Wet Nap

I've been dog sitting for my friend Deb this weekend. In the past, such house- and Harpo-sitting stints have been uneventful, but this weekend has been anything but. You see, yesterday morning, after a full night of heavy, heavy rain -- perhaps Ivan-driven -- I woke up to Harpo whining. Now, other times I've sat for Harpo, he's awoken me by whining -- usually on weekends, when I tend to sleep in, rather than on weekdays, when I wake earlier than usual to walk him before heading to work. Usually, it's because he has to go to the bathroom.

Yesterday, things were different. Yesterday morning, I woke to him whining -- thinking he had to go out -- only to realize that it was only 9 a.m. The bathroom break wasn't totally pressing yet. I could hit the proverbial snooze and take him out soon enough. So I rolled over to check on him, pet him if he was within reach -- as if to comfort or assure him -- and go back to bed for a few more minutes. Thing was, I opened my eyes to see him high stepping nervously. Second thing was, I saw what looked like silverfish scurrying across the floor. "Is the heavy rain driving insects inside?" I wondered. Then, Thing No. 3. Those weren't insects (I once got a B+ in biology for calling insects bugs; silverfish are insects); those were dog hairs and other items floating atop standing -- nay, flowing -- water.

Waking more, fueled by adrenalin, I focused my eyes intently enough to realize that the bottom floor of Deb's place -- a basement, for all practical purposes -- was awash in liquid. And steeling for a step off the bed, I soon realized further that it was covered by about an inch and a half -- two inches -- of actively flowing water. Walking gingerly around the bed, I saw water surging from underneath an unused, locked door that led to the basement hallway. My first thought was Harpo: If he was freaking out about the water, he probably needed his morning bathroom walk sooner than later. My second thought was about Deb's stuff -- she's moving to Brooklyn in a week-plus, so much of what she owns is packed in boxes stacked on the basement floor.

Walk over -- we took a speedy roundabout to Stuyvesant Park, our usual stomping grounds -- I returned to find that the water had all but receded. And within minutes, whatever was left was largely gone. Debating whether to call Deb on the West Coast before a godly hour -- and whether to disturb her with this when she was away for a wedding -- I assessed the damage. The floor would have to be cleaned. Harpo's dog bed would have to be replaced. A handful of boxes had been standing in water for who knows how long. And a throw rug was soaked.

Early yesterday afternoon, then -- just about noon on the West Coast -- I dialed Deb. She called her super, whose wife stopped by mere minutes later, to her credit. "The same thing happened to the woman next door," she said. "When no one called, I thought everything was OK." Turns out, a basement drain had slowed given the hard, prolonged rain. It stopped up and overflowed. A woman in the next building experienced the same flooding Deb did. When the rain let up, the drain had opened, and the water had receded. Nothing more could be done. We should call the management company Monday morning. I was nervous about the forthcoming evening's predicted rain, but despite a late-afternoon drizzle, nothing came forth.

Not quite sure why, I took pictures. Pictures of the dog hair gathered by draining water in the northwest corner of the basement. Pictures of the grit and debris that had washed in from the basement hallway door beneath the night table and among the trailing UBS cables. Pictures of Deb's water-damaged moving boxes. I moved the unaffected boxes onto Deb's bed and the stairs. I shifted the guitar, amplifier, and other electronics gear that had been on the floor up the stairs near the first floor. I placed the wet boxes at the foot of the basement stairs to get them off the floor -- and to drain.

And after talking to Deb later that night, I began to unpack those boxes. So the several boxes of records wouldn't be packed so tightly together. So the Archie and Bloom County comic books and albums wouldn't be sandwiched in such tight quarters. And so the photo albums that almost captured a life could fan -- and air -- out.

Deb has yet to come home. She should get here in two hours. And while I'm confident that not too much was lost, I'm dismayed. Had my records been similarly damaged; had my books, regardless of how replaceable, been sodden; I'm sure I'd have been devastated. Floored.

Thank the gods I live on the fourth floor. The water will have to rise high, high before it can reach me. And mine.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Television-Impaired XIX

It wasn't until the debut of Stargate: Atlantis that I started watching the original television series Stargate SG-1 in earnest, but I have become convinced that Stargate is the best TV show ever.

Can I say? Best TV show ever.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Theater Sports

Last weekend, I saw two plays in 48 hours. Friday night, Deb and I went to a 10:30 p.m. staging of John Del Signore's "The Pet Goat Convention" as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. We had some trouble finding the Access Theater, which is located at 380 Broadway -- off-off-Broadway theater... on Broadway! -- because the information we received from our friend in the play indicated that it was at 340 Broadway. It was not.

Similarly, the play began quite a bit late because one of the key cast members -- Larry Weeks -- was also not at that address. When he eventually arrived, he came in with a flourish and started struggling with some chords and a synthesizer on stage. One of the production crew members struggled to persuade him to not worry about them -- and to get backstage so the play could begin. Deb and I were struggling ourselves trying to gauge whether Weeks was intoxicated. Later, we learned that he had been -- and moreso.

Regardless, the play was anything but intoxicating. A mish-mash of assorted progressive -- and occasionally transgressive -- political and cultural ideas and themes, the play fell short because the script -- and staging -- only hinted at the true importance and insight of each concept. Set in a post-apocalyptic future in which people burrow below ground to live and lock their hired help in storage sheds while they're not working, two former friends hash out their differences while a psychedelic holdover (Weeks' character) encourages the down-on-his-luck musician to carpe diem -- and dame, too, in the end.

In this future world, the entertainment media (pop music in particular) seems to control most public discourse, and one of the cleaning team -- the hired help I mentioned above -- played by the extremely young Sophie or Emma Whitfield (twin sisters!), was a pop music icon in her "home country." All of that could have added up to something interesting. I kept hoping that the performance would crescendo to the complete telling of the pet goat convention story -- which is never told in whole form -- but instead, Weeks' neo-Iron John and Jeff Auer's failed musician exchange weaved in and out of Philip Burke's Jay Mohr-like posturing and Neil Butterfield's inscrutable foreign cleaning man.

Of the cast, only Doug Halsey -- our friend, for full disclosure -- surprised with a well-played emotional outburst near the end of the play. Now, the end of the play. While I didn't get the crescendo and loose thread-tying conclusion I was hoping for, I did get a confusing musical performance in which Halsey played guitar and pop diva Sophie or Emma Whitfield sang a frightful number that kept repeating the phrase "American made" or "American maid" while the slur-voiced Weeks banged on a red pail and looked up Emilie Elizabeth Miller's skirt.

Sunday afternoon, then, took my friend Parul and I to the Kirk Theater off Broadway for a free media staging of "John F. Kerry: He's No JFK," a play scheduled to coincide with the Republican National Convention -- and a project that's attracted some attention. Backed by one of Gov. Pataki's top campaign aides, Patrick Donohue, the play -- which portrays Hillary Clinton as a power-hungry lesbian, Kerry as a bungler who faked the injuries that earned him his Purple Hearts and can't get over an obsession with JFK, and Janet Reno as a feisty go-go dancer -- drew the governor's ire and led to Donohue's distancing from the production.

Juicy RNC off-Broadway stuff, no? The question then becomes, does the play deserve such controversy and attention? Yes and no. Yes, because, as spokeswoman Amanda Scarpone has said, the Democrats don't have the lock on humor. It's a noble attempt to upstage Air America-style comedy from folks such as Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken, and I appreciated a conservative play portraying Bush as a cowboy-howdy buffoon (as easy and harmless a joke as it is to make). Yet no, because the play never quite locks onto its parodic stride, either. The performance felt like a series of Saturday Night Live impressions strung together with a rambling roundup of Kerry's foibles.

That said, there were many bright moments and funny bits. Whitney Kirk -- crowned Miss Arkansas in 2003! -- did a fair job as Hillary and Jane Fonda. The scene in which Richard Seth Rose's Howard Stern continuously bleeps out a dismayed Diane Sawyer was quite nice. And Marchand Odette's Al Sharpton impression was absolutely priceless -- a perfect portrayal of a sweat-drenched Baptist preacher and a highlight of the show (which redeemed her extremely irritating bits as Robin Quivers and Downtown Julie Brown). Kevin Kean Murphy neared carrying off Kerry's cliff-like visage and mannerisms. Of the cast, though, I think Rose has the widest range -- including a perhaps unnecessary, manic, last-minute addition of a James McGreevey scene -- and the most actor-like presence.

The play offered a nice balance to our visit to the Tank, which housed the Progressive Tourist Bureau, just before the performance. And it was funny in places. But is it worth $56 funny? Not really. The laughs weren't large enough. The ideas weren't interesting enough. And the criticism wasn't serious enough. I didn't learn anything new, and the barbs -- while there -- weren't overly sharp. I'd save my $56 to tip a pint or more for Kerry.

Event-O-Dex C

Saturday, Sept. 4: The Liars, Shoplifting, Lightning Bolt, the Panthers, and the Sightings rock the lot at 140 Kent Ave. between Grand and North First streets in Brooklyn, 2 p.m.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Murray Hill Moment

Murray Hill is the Manhattan neighborhood bounded by 42nd Street, Fifth Avenue, and 27th Street. The building in which I work is located just inside Murray Hill, at 42nd and Lexington, and I've adopted it as my "work neighborhood" because I'm not the biggest fan of Midtown, which reportedly ranges from 23rd Street to 59th Street or perhaps 40th to 59th. Greedy, greedy Midtown!

This morning, on my way to work, I was stopped at the corner of 42nd and Lex. Police officers had lined both sides of Lexington with barricades in preparation for a presidential motorcade, and they weren't letting anyone cross either street. Pointing at the Socony Mobil building, I asked, "How can I get to that building... right there?" One relatively firm but nice police office told me that I could backtrack to Park Avenue to head further downtown -- but that it'd still be about 20 minutes before they'd let anyone cross Lexington. Another police officer -- not as nice, this one -- lashed out at a frustrated woman, spitting, "Why didn't you take a week's vacation like everyone else?"

Harf. Look around you, Officer Cranky; plenty of people didn't take a vacation. In any event, I stood waiting to cross the street for 20 minutes and think I may have seen the president in one of the cars. I've been wondering how far the RNC brouhaha would spill over from Madison Square Garden.

Mixed Drinks and Mingling VIII

Last night, after bidding a fond adieu to an intern at Margarita Murphy's -- which two female friends said "smelled like feet" -- I headed to Table 50 at Broadway and Bleecker to meet up with Parul for the Topic Magazine issue release party. To celebrate the publication of the Food issue, which features a disturbing pictorial entitled "Frog Meets Mouse," they enlisted one Crazy Legs Conti to eat a sculpture of Dick Cheney made with mashed potatoes.

I was a little underdressed in my Eric Conveys an Emotion T-shirt, but I had a great time. Parul introduced me to her friends Nan Mooney, author of My Racing Heart, and jeweler Stephen Kris I availed myself of a couple of $6 Heinekens and explored the red-lit, mirrored hallway to the bathrooms. I even accidentally made my way into the women's room: "That's strange; the M is hanging upside down."