Wednesday, August 31, 2005


As I listened in the car today, NPR discussion of rising oil prices pivoted quickly from an insightful discussion of Indonesia's extremely high oil subsidies to a story about how to beat the high cost of oil: live the old-fashioned way. Like some woman in isolated Western Wales, where they learn the old ways of laying hedges, building rock walls, and -- get this -- making yurts. That'll teach them Arabs.

And then back to somewhat interesting discussion of the Manhattan DA race, although all ranging around the question: is it Agism to oppose an 86-year old who's been in office for 30 years? The first instinct is to look for a victim.

And yet, NPR's the only choice, the only place you've got reasonable odds of intelligent discussion of anything. Or maybe that Al Franken channel. Haven't tuned in to that yet.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Approaching storm

No. Not Katrina. After spotting some pencil marks on the wall last night, I asked Natalie where they came from. "Graham" she says. They were just ill-formed enough that it wasn't inconceivable that he could have made them.

Tonight, two big well-articulated drawings. Only she could have made them. Hauled from bed, she admitted guilt, and awaits sentencing tomorrow. The judge is considering the sentence as we speak, loathe though she is to take away the things that let her get through the day.

What's up? Is Natalie freaking out about the onset of kindergarten? Or is her stubborness just reaching new heights?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Needle mark, and then some

I've still got a bruise on my arm from where the guy drew blood weeks ago for cholesterol tests. The doctor already called me back with results (HDL still marginally low, up dosage of Niacin, all else fine). I think this speaks, more than anything, to the momentary robustness of the job market in the area. They'll hire anybody to work in the phleb lab, including the very fat of finger.

In other news, dodged a bullet this week with the old Subaru. It was sounding a bit rough, and then got worse, and it turns out it needed.... oil! Had run pretty low. Not dry, apparently, but low. Guys were laughing at me, telling me it would surely cost me a grand any time oil got low enough to be detectable to the naked ear. I used to check it frequently, I did, but then the aptly-named dipstick kept giving me unreliable readings, so I stopped doing anything between oil changes. I guess I'll have to go back to being a little bit more viligant (as W would have me say).

My luck, the grand's worth of work will become apparent this week, almost on account of this blog.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Falafelteria, 48th St between 5th & 6th, 1:15 pm

At the mouth of the arcade of jewellers which runs through to the real Jewelry Block, where we bought plain gold wedding bands lo those many years ago, stands a Falafel booth, glatt kosher, natch.

Standing in line, a woman comes forward to survey the bill of fare. Tight lime green shirt with lace around the edge. Sailor's capris (or something). Way pointy bright yellow low heels. Outrageous two tone green and purple eye makeup. Could be one (or two) of two things: prostitute or Russian. The Aeroflot glasses-holding string around the neck seals the deal: Russian.

She and a less-atrociously made-up girlfriend natter in Russian about the "salatiki" and the price. "It's real tasty," I tell em, in their own idiom. "Tasty?" says one, by no means surprised to be speaking Russian on the street. That's all they wanted to do with me.

They must have run out of Israeli guys behind the counter, because a friendly hispanic woman made me my falafel. Forgot to put hot sauce on, bummer. But pickles still mighty tasty.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


In Wellesley the other day, I shot around a bit in the driveway with my nephew Daniel. He’s a tall, lean kid, coping with what they’ve diagnosed as Asperger’s, which in my day would have been termed introversion or shyness. Ball is not his #1 sport, but he’s got a good quality goal out there and his instinct is to shoot. So he dribbles a little and shoots, like most kids, concentrating on shots long and flashy. Takes me back.

Sometimes I think PhD in Russian is the best evidence of my contrarianism, but in some ways it’s even odder that I drove myself so hard to become good in basketball, for no good reason, and never quite got there. Sometime in junior high school, back in the days of Worthy-Perkins-and-Jordan (chronologically), I decided that being a skinny white soccer boy just didn’t cut it. It being North Carolina, I needed to get some respect on the basketball court. So time and again and again I forced my way onto the court at lunch, sometimes the only white guy, almost always the worst person on the court. I usually got the ball when I rebounded it or stole it. “Pass the ball over here, soccer boy,” I would hear, but I payed them as little mind as I could, just concentrated on the basics: box out, set picks, play D, slap backboard on layups.

On Friday nights, I often went to the gym and shot free throws, which is ridiculous, because nobody shoots free throws in pick-up and I knew I wasn’t ever gonna play organized ball. I think it was straight purism: I just wanted to shoot them well.

Not that it ever did much good. I was fast, I could jump, but poor fine motor skills made me a bad shot, and not having dribbled for hours a day during childhood left me without a good handle. So why did I do it? Why did I care so much about developing a skill of value to none and gain the validation of a quasi-literate underclass? Most of the soccer team didn’t bother. None of the cross-country team did.

Clearly I was driven by a general insecurity, a need to curry favor far and wide, of which I’ve written elsewhere on the Grouse. But also a general desire to fuck with peoples’ heads, to be the validectorian who could dunk and do bong hits. The latter, at least, I mastered.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Reverse Commute, Stamford Local, 5:30 PM, Pelham

Not surprisingly, when you think of it, the reverse commute train is populated by a substantial plurality of Mexican guys who were landscaping or doing construction out in Westchester. I’ve seen this reverse commute with Caribbean and Latina women coming back from cleaning houses in Bergen County, NJ, back when I was tutoring those Orthodox kids whose dad worked for Edward Safra back in ’97. But you forget about it, this daily shipping of people of color to the suburbs.

At Pelham, two Mexican guys who looked to be shit out of luck broke into a flat out sprint to make the train.

A strikingly expensive new apartment building, for the locale, loomed across the street from the trestle. A candy-assed turn of the century fantasy with minty green trim. But for the latter, would have been cool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Today drove from Wellesley to Larchmont. Didn't see much. Natalie seems focused on messing with Graham's developing little head by singing the ABC song and other classics in disruptive and non-standard ways. Walking around Larchmont later struck by the incredible amount of money and effort people will go to put additions on and re-landscape total frickin mansions. One household literally moved a pool it just put in a couple of years ago. "Honey, you know, I really don't like where the pool is. Could we stick it over there?"

Excited about getting to bed to read in Vanity Fair about some bigwig from Lazard Freres who got capped in Geneva while wearing a skin-colored latex suit.

Monday, August 22, 2005

I-84, Connecticut

Driving from NJ to Boston, the eternal question, take the Merritt or 684 to 84. Despite the fact that I always run into trouble between Danbury and Waterbury due to a long-running construction project, despite the fact that the Merritt has been one of the pretty roads qua road in America since the time of its building (see how Siegfried Gideon sung its praises as a utopian project in his 1941 classic Space, Time, and Architecture), I so often take the 84s because they're a 65 mph road and the Merritt has its own set of issues (all too often traffic slows down because cops have pulled David Letterman over for speeding).

Silly me. There's always trouble between Danbury and Waterbury. For what? We breezed across the GWB, up the West Side Highway, through the Bronx and Westchester -- through New York City, dammit, and then get hung up in the middle of nowhere.

Connecticut is as multi-personality (I hate the mis-overuse of "schizophrenic") a state as you can get. The Danbury rest area is pure upper crust Connecticut. Lots of Mercedeses. It has its own rock wall, for Christ's sake. By one pretty large, very climbable rock is a sign: "No climbing on objects." Clearly it refers to the rock. Presumably the sign-makers thought that by saying "objects" they could dissuade climbers from getting on the water fountains and picnic tables. No luck. Natalie and I climbed up on one of the latter until Mary told us to get down so Graham wouldn't get ideas. And we were having such fun.

Oh yes, Connecticut and MPD. At a gas station near Meriden, lots of Firebirds and big hair. A bathroom like a war zone. Maybe we don't see it in Princeton, but anecdotally I feel like there's more vestigial Springsteen culture in Connecticut than in NJ. In the Garden State, it feels like more of that has been shunted aside by Asian and Hispanic immigrants. Which is fine by me. They bring better food, better attitudes.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mack the Tasty Ham

Tuned into channel 13, and here's this guy who's like a cross between Dean Martin and Andy Kaufman doing a groovy cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" backed by a band on a shiny bandstand. Early 70s, clearly.

It's Bobby Darin, performing for a audience of bouffantes and blue hairs, but he's actually good, if cover-focused. You can see where Kevin Spacey would be into him, with that disdainful look on his face that seems to expect a woman to hand him a drink and give him a blowjob right when he walks off stage.

Half of me wants to get a record, half of me fears it'll suck. But the guy had both pipes and talent.

March of the Penguins

To beat the heat over the weekend, took Natalie for only her 2nd (yes I know we're pathetic) trip to the cinema. Penguins do the craziest things. A lovely movie, powerful visually and thematically.

The craziest things, I tell you. Mating in the same place each year in the middle of nowhere. The dads standing on them eggs through that crazy cold while the moms run off and swim and feast, and then switching roles. Come end of winter, sayonara. So monogamous, so polygamous.

The movie manages to touch on many a great cycle of nature dramatic moments. "How like us they are, while at once so like cartoons," it seems to say. But, of course, they don't bring in the ever avuncular Morgan Freeman to narrate a film about molluscs, now do they.

But do see it. The dudes abide.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Da Vinci Kodak moment

Sony Pictures is apparently concerned that Christians will be offended by the central premise of the Da Vinci Code which it has hired the venerable Ron Howard/Tom Hanks team to bring to life. The novel's plot involved a long-running Catholic conspiracy to conceal the fact the Jesus boned Mary Magdalene and sired a kid by her, who was supposed to inherit his mojo or something. Apparently Sony is attempting to make this premise "more ambiguous" (I always thought pregnancy, if not paternity, was a pretty binary thing).

What are they afraid of? Didn't 36 million copies of the book sell? That shows some marketing potential. Do they fear that the thumpers' widespread preference for a literal interpretation of the Bible means that Christians think all books are literally true? Or that media concerning Jesus that are? The threat to the Bible's literal truth posed by a work of adventure fiction is similar to the threat posed to the sanctimony of marriage by some gay nuptials: it's all about the inherent insecurities of the besieged.

Or perhaps they fear that the mesmerizing artistry of Howard (the erstwhile "little Opie Cunningham") and Hanks, who once conviced many that Darryl Hannah was really a mermaid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The two faces of Michael Milken

Just finished James Marshall's Den of Thieves, which chronicles the insider trading scandals of the 80s that had Michael Milken at their center. As I read the book, which depicted Milken as a voracious, mendacious, controlling paranoiac who one year grossed $550 million for himself but still wasted hours haggling over twenty grand, I thought: this doesn't quite jibe with another Michael Milken I've read about.

So I went back and tracked down Keith Ferrazzi's mega-bestseller Never Eat Alone, in which he gives a fluff job to the man he can scarcely hold himself back from calling "Mikey." (As in "Let Mikey try it, he'll eat anything."). Here's the pearl of wisdom Mikey shares with Keith: "There are three things in the world that engender deep emotional bonds between people. They are health, wealth, and children." I guess that's what Milken had on his mind when he wrote volumes on how to commit new securities frauds back in the eighties.

So which is the true face of Milken? That of the hard-nosed financier ready to rape anybody for a nickel? Or the air-brushed version his legions of flacks would concoct to approximate him to his eternally bemused doppelganger, Ted Danson.

You be the judge. Me, I always figured that capital punishment should be reserved for crimes of capital.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

24 is, like, 16 too many

Alright. Mary and I have dutifully slogged through the first season of 24 over the last month or two. This show -- which has so profited by the release of serial DVDs, is ridiculous. (I've removed a number of plot details upon which I earlier commented so as not to offend people who haven't watched the show. Suffice it to say that the complex plot doesn't hold together internally. Stuff in the first half contradicts stuff in the second half.) I'm sorry, this is a show that seeks to survive purely on plot and surprise as technique, like trompe l'oeil painting. And it's also got some Russ Meyeresque cleavage to balance out skinny chicks.

Still, I'm sure we'll eventually watch season 2 because there aren't enough good movies to rent and Netflix's catalog and search interface suck so bad. You would think Netflix might be good, but it ain't.

Things I saw while out Running

  • Old Lady with small dog, poop in bag, crosses street to pick up styrofoam cup of water, tip it out into street, and leave it there. What, did she think the stagnant water would breed mosquitos? If she lives near there, why not pick up the cup? If she doesn't, why does she care? Surely a bitch.
  • Mint condition ca 1973 Blue and White Ford Maverick. I've been seeing this car around for years. Who would think to preserve such a vehicle? Sumptuous curves. A perverse classic.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Battery dying

Forgot my cord at work before running out to client meeting, and blew all my power on, you guessed it, work. What are you gonna do? Didn't see anything interesting or have any thoughts to speak of today anyway.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Momento McGreevey

So I'm at the doctor this morning for some blood work, and after waiting for 45 minutes for the nominally first drawing of the day, they finally take me back. And I'm pissed.

So I lean back in the grey Naugahyde chair and look up at the wall, and there, amidst insurance notifications and various public health detritus, in a small wood frame, held up by blue thumbtacks, is a picture you don't expect to see in a place of honor.

Governor James McGreevey announces to the world that he is "A gay American," flanked by his well-accessorized Courtney Love-looking wife #2.

What in the world would make someone memorialize this moment? It was a normal moment of shame for New Jersey, a typical revelation of corruption, wrapped up in homo-scandal. Is McGreevey perhaps a cult figure in the gay community for ascending to such a position of power? Is McGreevey the next Barney Frank? He's certainly a good deal cuter, that must be said.

Anyhow. It was wierd.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Bad moments in me -- Fire Island, 1995

A number of earlier posts have focused on events in my life which either aggrandize or dramatize me. As a counterweight, here begins a series of looks back at things I'd love to forget, if only. Perhaps the blog will help me forget.

It was a summer of love. Mary and I got together at the tail end of winter, and quickly it became apparent that what I needed to do was sublet my apartment and stay in her studio in the village so as to generate cash to put towards a house rental share on Fire Island, without working for money (I needed to pass my written exams to progress towards the M.Phil. glimmering on the horizon). It worked just fine. 2 Grand was just what we needed to secure a one of four bedrooms, one week a month, in Fair Harbor.

We took Mary's Collie-Shepherd mix Story with us. Why they let us rent the house with a dog, I don't know. It was prior to the tech stock boom, so rental markets dictated it, I reckon. Why our housemates put up with him, I don't know. In the evenings, story would often slip off the deck and chase deer through the grassy areas between the boardwalks of Fair Harbor. We would throw a tennis ball for him in the water of the sound, and he'd swim out to get it, and pounce on the ball demonstratively at the last minute to let it know who was boss. When other dogs walked by, he barked.

So one day we were out on the beach. We took plastic bags to the beach to pick up Story's poop. He'd get kind of hot and restive on the beach, when we weren't throwing the frisbee for him. One day, he must have gone a couple of times, so I must have been out of plastic bags. Then he must have gotten barky, so I took him for another walk along the shoreline, sans bags. This is a NYC-area beach, probably weekend, July, pretty crowded. Where water meets the shore, right by a woman in a squat chair, Story squats down. As usual, the 3rd dump of the day is not well-formed. A wave was approaching. I couldn't let it float out to sea. I couldn't pick it up. I stomped on it with my bare foot. Into the sand. It was squishy. What else could I do? The squat chair woman said "That's disgusting."

Filled with shame, I jerked Story around and went back to where our towels were. And told everyone. It was disgusting.

Let us never speak of it again.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Young Irony

Getting dressed upstairs I hear Natalie say "Give me my breakfast, please", and then, after ten seconds maybe, "Give me my breakfast, please." So she's showing us she knows when to use the word please, but her tone of voice tells us that she doesn't really know how to use it in earnest. She's saying it because she associates it with certain behaviors on our part, but she's saying it in a special, ironic way. She knows she doesn't really mean it, she just wants what it gets.

How do kids learn irony? From me and Mary carping at each other like siblings all the time? From us spelling out the words "we don't want them to understand," as the song would have it. She knows what's going on when we stumble in French with one another, and doesn't really tolerate it.

What does "please" mean if it's compelled? And when is it not compelled? I'm not sure one really gets the gut meaning of niceties until one is much older, at which point in time they're fully internalized. Which underscores the link Marxist theory has always posited between irony, manners and ideology. Irony and manners are different manifestations of doing something you don't really believe in, and ideology is a systemic instantiation of both. Only after the youth gets beat out of you does culture really feel natural, when it is in fact an overcoming of nature.

Upcoming: Bad Moments in me: concerning dog shit

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Ken Mehlman is gay"

Actual Google results
"Ken Mehlman" 205,000 hits
"Ken Mehlman is gay" 39,200
"Ken Mehlman is not gay" 64, all of them seemingly citing a single utterance

Is the RNC National Chairman gay, or is he just a smug, evil bastard? The results are in, and seem to indicate that he's both. I think the numbers pretty well speak for themselves.

This is obviously not a chamber topic like the preferences of your odd Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman, or the historical predilections for small rodent insertion of Richard Gere, or the genital composition of Jamie Lee Curtis (by the way, her children's books are damned good, if PC). If Mehlman is gay, as he should feel free to be in this great liberty-loving land in which we all live so freely, then he should be pummelled mercilessly for being affiliated with the most nominally homo-averse party in recent memory.

While there's really not a whole lot one can say about this topic save that it's not all that shocking, it's the kind of thing that makes you want to spring out of bed in the morning and blog.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bad blog day

Worked all day today. Worked.

Meetings. Showing people stuff. Nosing through data. Sucks.

Blog suffered. Could be a continuing trend. Must start splitting time between Wall Street and Princeton hedge fund. Then again, as I've said before, the commute is good for the blog, introduces a welcome element of randomness to the day that's good for narrative. And I guess I can write on the train and post later.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hiring frees, oder Arbeit macht frei

My employer, Princeton Consultants, has once more embarked on a bulking up phase. We've got more work than we can shake a stick at, and we're looking for smart youngish people who have either done some IT work or are open to the prospect of doing so. It's management consulting with heavy IT seasoning. Offices in Manhattan and Princeton.

We look for people who are very smart and swing both ways: management or IT. People with high SAT scores (yes, really) and fancy schools on their resumes (not necessarily, but good marketing), but no MBAs. It's a BA-PhD culture. Similar hiring profile to a DE Shaw or a McKinsey, but less arrogant and mellower.

It's a great place to jump from academia or college to the business world.

Know anyone who would be interested? Send them to me at Not directly to the hiring manager. So I get my bonus.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Beignets from Butch

What does the Times bring us this morning but an article about shrimp okra beignets from Charleston, SC. Hams curing in the garage? 1968 Plymouth Barricuda? This could only be one person. The paper of record calls him Robert Stehling, but the cognoscenti will recognize him as Butch, who cut his teeth under Bill Neal at Crook's back in the southern part of heaven, once based operations out of a metallic blue Datsun pick-up, and fled Gotham in the mid-90s when he was running the kitchen at Home on Cornelia St, a place where many of us got our first taste of venison salami and where they were so starved for space that there were big ole heaters in the back garden so they could seat guests outside in winter. Greenpeace was loving that.

And now, Butch is kickin it at his own restaurant, Hominy Grill, down in the low country capital. You know what the grouse will chew if he gets down that way.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

NY Times, A8, "Italians Say London Suspect Lacks Wide Terrorist Ties"

And here I had thought terrorists favored skinny, mod neckware, or perhaps a bolo on weekends. But the Italians, with their flare for haberdashery, would know.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bad day

Almost first thing in the morning, Natalie throws up. Was it because her chicken nuggets were underdone last night? So I'm paranoid. I too had sampled them (to be sure they were done, to be sure, not because they are so organically juicy and succulent). So no swim lesson for her, another summer day at home.

At lunch, I dash through the public library, returning 15 books, checking out 13 plus the Platinum Edition of Snow White, which Natalie has seen only in snippets in the Disney Sing-a-long series. Grab a sandwich to split with Mary, rush home with my bootie. Mary and Graham come in out of the backyard and Mary tells me she's grazed her temple against rusty nails coming out of the shed, but believes Tetanus boosters to be good for 10 years (last one would have been '98, before heading to Russia).

Back at work, where I'm desperately needed cuz there's a release coming up rapidly, Hemant and Cyrus assure me that tetanus shots are good for only five years, and that Mary needs to go to the doctor. Meaning I need to go back home. Argghhhh.

And so I blog. Makes sense, no?