Wednesday, November 30, 2005

1:01 PM. Backyard

Watching Graham during Mary's parent-teacher conference.

Mary left hose on. I turned off, narrowly averting massive flooding, garnering for self good-sized "I saved your ass" bragging rights.

Meanwhile, in one of the two soon to be four foundation pits visible across our back fence, some sort of mini-backhoe (yes I know I should know all the names) is squirrelling around, doing its digging duty. Graham must at all costs not catch on to this display of machine prowess, lest he should further drift out past the nap for which he is already late.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Day of Adventure

Hightstown Road, Princeton Junction, 7:31 AM

Racing green Oldsmobile slammed straight into telephone pole across opposing lane. Steam rises from trunk. Man dazed in street. Driver or culprit? Anyone dead? Others stop to watch. Must get to train.

47th & 5th, 12;45 PM
Three cops run across 5th and up to the glass doors of the building closest to the corner. The first of them bends over, pulls out his gun, passes smoothly through the left of three doors. The last of them rushes up to the door, bangs into it, fully upright, and tries unsuccessfully to open the apparently locked middle door. Visibly frustrated, if not afeared for his life, he finds an open door and goes in. You could tell who had watched his cop shows more attentively.

Ah yes, here comes my lunch date.

After lunch, 47th street blocked off from the kosher deli back to 5th, and 5th was blocked off too. As Graham would say: "p'lice car. flashing lights."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Party in a firehouse

It looked dark from the street, the firehouse on Chestnut Street. Surely we were in the wrong place, or in the right place at the wrong time, or -- heaven forbid -- just wrong. But shadows were moving in the driveway off to the side, and it turns out the entrance was around back.

Every firehouse in New Jersey seems to have a bar. News to me. This was a pretty big one, big enough for 50-60 comfortably, which was good, cuz that's how many there were. This being the great Garden State, half of them were kids, and they were swarming around the institutional folding tables and chairs. There was kids food (hooray!) and adult food (the usual suspects), juice boxes, beer, and, eventually, seltzer. And there was Liz from Branford, whom I hadn't seen in almost 20 years.

At some point in time, somebody put on Marvin Gaye, and a bunch of 7-10 year old girls were out there doing the bump, prancing around. It was beautiful. Adults were dancing too, but who cares, except when they were dancing with kids, and it was pretty sweet.

Ahh, the joys of density. I don't remember parties like this from growing up, when kid and adult life were so neatly intertwined. It felt downright, dare I say it, European, like one of those cinematic hoedowns at some imagined Irish community center where they all laugh and sing and a few people get tipsy and every giggles at them for being so silly.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Macy's parade

A disgusting spectacle. A 3-hour long ad for all manner of dreck. Lame kid pop. Various candies and other packaged goods, with Katie Couric and Al Roker reading the ad text like the variety show hosts of yore: "may melt in your mouth, but not in your hands."

Natalie liked it.

The Beach Boys played, looking for all the world like they had multiple feet in each others' graves. It was long felt the Orson Welles couldn't escape the shadow of
Charlie Kane, but that has become the fate of any of these old pop stars, who are prisoners of their old catalog, of their youthful voices played endlessly back at them. Imagine how depressing it must be to be pushing 70, stuck outside freezing on a float evoking a California long since paved over.

To say nothing of Oklahoma. Some generic blonde teen belted out a tune from the musical, a romantic evocation of a cornucopic projection of the plains that never existed, a propaganda vision intended to draw losers who couldn't make it on the East Coast out into a place where agriculture was never sustainable without substantial federal subsidies of one sort or another. The red states.

Happy Holidays to all, from Archer Daniels Midland.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Holiday traffic update 12:13 PM

Actual time of departure: 9:45
Travel Time Princeton-Larchmont 1:38

We escaped the jaws of holiday traffic death, by an as yet indeterminate margin of error.

Drive uneventful, save that Mary is laying claim to the Volvo because it has a shoulder-belt in the middle of the rear seat and is therefore more useful for play dates. So I will be relegated to the old Subaru due to a lap belt and New Jersey law around child safety. Drat. No CD player.

Actually, Graham spotted planes both in take off and landing mode at EWR. Always good.

Holiday traffic update 9:08 am

Graham bit Natalie twice. Had a time out.

Target departure for Larchmont: 9:00 AM. Blown already, but we're still within tolerance. Have promised not to get cranky as out timeline is blown. Expected actual ETD: 9:30 AM. We'll see how volume is on the Turnpike and the George.

Kids music in the car.

Kitchen clean.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vikram Seth novel

I've been reading Vikram Seth's 1999 novel about a string quartet for the last couple of weeks. The fact that I can't remember its title should be a clue.

I love Seth, you must know, I read The Golden Gate twice and I was very sad when the last of A Suitable Boy's 1400-odd pages trailed off into ellipses. So when I remembered to look if he had a new book and found that there was this one, whose name I can't recall and don't feel like looking up, I snapped it up.

And I've read more than 2/3rds of the thing, in excess of 200 pages, I'll have you know, and the novel has many of Seth's strenghts: acuity of characterization, general thoughtfulness, grace, and so on. And a fine theme, pining for the great lost love, and then getting to have sex with her too! Good stuff. But then he piles on all these allegorical resonances: deaf musicians, social disharmony, a little minor psychosis, it just gets precious and stuffy. Those only so much afternoon delight and poignant duets in quaint Eurolocales one can take.

Maybe Richard Linklater can make the movie with Ethan Hawke and frickin Julie Delphy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Washy washy

Mary's car was filthy from sitting beneath the spruce trees in the driveway and from general neglect, so yesterday after Graham and I picked Natalie up a Maddie's house, we headed over to the car wash on 206. The one of the drive thru variety.

I knew it was going to be pretty exciting. What I couldn't have predicted was that, it being snack time, I would have doled out little bags of Tings, a premium dairy and nut free puffed corn snack food that parents like too. So that, as the carwash pulled us slowly through its many attractions, the initial dousing and soaping, the floppy foam tentacle bashers, the flying multicolor wax, the torrential downpour, and lastly the mighty hairdryer thingies, I would look back at the kids who looked exactly like they were at a somewhat scary movie, munching on this very popcorn-like goodie.

It was fun.

And now the car is clean.

At least the exterior.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

NE Corridor Line inbound, Edison, 10:35AM

At Edison station, all the people at the other end of the train car are standing, looking in one direction, silent, somber. Some sort of health emergency, clearly. I can’t see the subject of the commotion, only its reflection in them.

Conductors come. “Get a doctor”. “Call an ambulance.” “It’s bad”.

The announcement goes out. Anybody with medical experience to the 6th car. Some people come. Do they know anything?

I’m 10 feet away from the poor sap, but I can ‘t bear to go take a look. I just infer from the people standing. Something of a Blaire Witch Effect. Is it that I really feel helpless and I want to help? No. Is it that I don't want to look at somebody who might be dying? More at.

They ask for Orange Juice. A diabetic, turns out. Problem with his pump?

By 10:42 an EMT arrives. Big moustache. Jovial, under control. Diabetic, no problem.

10:49. Ambulance spotted from the door of the train.

10:51. EMT cuts out. Ambulance has arrived.

10:54. The guy is standing up, acting better, wants to take stay on the train. A guy with a 1:00 flight out of Newark is getting antsy. Why? Is he carrying explosives? Eventually they let him take the train, don't make him go in the ambulance. A mistake. He needs chocolate and much tending to make it to the city, annoyingly.

I’m late for lunch with Steve. Probably no “nice sole” at the little French place. Just as well.

American History, by Toll Brothers

At the library I picked up A Picture of George Washington for Natalie.
While skipping the cherry tree affair, it gives the young reader an overview of old GW's life from youth till death. Surprisingly, it's all neatly manicured lawns, winding paths, and nice looking stone Cape Cods with lots of window. That is, neatly mowed plots that would take 3-4 hours to mow on a riding mower, fuggetabout with a scythe. Interior scenes look out at neat paths through the green swales. In other words, perfect domesticaton.

Now I know that children's books are entirely idyllic, that's part of the charm, and that much was plowed under back in the day. But should the colonial wilds really be looking like a friggin office park or a subdivision? I guessed that the book was published in 1994, but it was in fact 1989. The good old days indeed.

Natalie then took to bed a Snow White postcard that Elijah from across the street had sent her on his family trip to Disneyworld. She had it in her hand when she woke up this morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Trader Dater

Say no more Trader Daily has a dating page, for traders and the "smoldering community of those who want to meet them." People like Annabelle from London, who asks "Do you have an analytical mind" (and like 6-foot tall blondes?), or Trolling4u (New York) "I never buy a thing for myself."

I can't say that I find it surprising that the trading community has a targeted on-line exchange for its own exclusive purposes (you must be a member to sign in. Literally, though most likely figuratively as well). What better to look for after reading about the biggest trading scams of all time or a shiny speedboat?

I'd like to see the analogous page for the quant community.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lost tooth

Natalie has lost her first tooth. I would have expected it to be a more disruptive and traumatic experience, but she's unequivocally down with it. Nothing but excitement, no complaints about how wierd it feels, just glee at accession to a new stage of bigkidhood. She was thoroughly prepped by reading about Sal's experience in One Morning in Maine, a book which, incidentally, has also formed the basis of her post-nuptial fantasies with her dream boy, Dylan. Apparently their discussions center around a house in Maine where they can see the water from their porch.

Also seen recently: Natalie working hard to memorize songs from her recently received Dan Zanes CD (thanks Beth). Just like me, she sits and listens to songs over and over again (mostly Dan's duet with Debbie Harry of "Waltzing Matilda") and commits them to memory. One of the faster songs has put her in her most dancingest mood for some times, which is rather welcome as the days get shorter and, theoretically, cooler here in NJ. For the first time in a year or so, she cranks up some junior zydeco and we cut the rug in circles, trying not to bang Graham's head against the coffee table all the while.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Fahrenheit 451:1,67.3

I was shocked this Sunday to read in the the Times was about contrasting interpretations of Biblical verses concerning abortion. The secular world shouldn't accord the Biblical text that much stature and privilege. The Bible should nowhere be referenced in debates concerning matters of law, or, rather, it's stature should not exceed that of say, Proust or Sportswatch.

How did the Bible regain such status in legal debate? What can be done about it?

And then I had an idea: lets burn bibles ritually. Like the flag and bra-burnings of yore. To stir things up a little and signal its non-canonical status. After all, you can't burn the bible per se, right? Just paper and print incarnations of it.

And then I thought, just burning bibles is a little narrowminded. Why not invite people to burn all the texts they perceive to be oppressive: Korans, Torahs, little red books, Julia Child, Darwin, Samuelson, Silent Spring, Strunk & White, Dianetics, Marlo Thomas records, you name it? There could be big burn ins where everyone comes together and lets loose, with microphones and cider and donuts.

But who will fund it? Soros?

Friday, November 11, 2005

My guitar

Sometime in the early 80s, a ball bounced into a fenced-in electrical converter or somesuch thing in Durham, NC, and a boy went in there after it. He died. This was Anderson Cole, the sole child of my godparents, my father's first law partner Jim and his wife Mary. Their marriage didn't outlast the accident by too long.

Soon thereafter, Jim (or was it Mary) gave me a guitar. In my mind's eye, it was Anderson's guitar, though I don't know if that was true or just mythology. It's a Gibson C-1 classic, which I always thought was a good thing until I asked a repairman recently and he said that, unlike Gibson electric guitars, this is crap and not worth spending money on fixing.

But it's my guitar, and it's the only one I've ever had. It now has a crack in the body, which drove our dog Story crazy before he too, passed away. Some packing tape on the back dims the vibrations. If it seems that there's much death in this story, it's because I've had it for so long and it, as a sheltered inanimate object, might just outlive us all. I've considered getting another one, but never pull the trigger. I'd say the fretboard was an extension of my body if my relative clumsiness with it didn't undermine the metaphor.

I hadn't been playing much, until the Scorsese documentary on Dylan inspired me. I used to play some for the infant Natalie when Mary was away teaching on Mondays, but she or Story invariably started crying. Graham's a little more into it, thought he fancies himself too much the strummer at his tender age.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Brooklyn Museum, 11/06/05

Mary and I went to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Edward Burtynsky show on Sunday. After the Times had pummeled the show for it's heavy-handed didacticism and stylistic monotony, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Usually I'm not into didactic, monotonous work. Unless, of course, the artist is right. Burtynsky's photos a these drone on and on about mankind despoiling nature, and with great bombast. But the work on China is pretty revelatory, really bringing home the scale and density of China and what it implies for the future. A show worth seeing.

The fountain in front of the museum, however, is flat out fab. 60-odd choreographed jets of water shooting straight up in the air in variable rhythms. The kids love it. The ladies love it. You gotta love it.

Was also digging video footage of ritual African dancers. Wouldn't have expected to. Lone males in spooky masks and full body get-up doing either proto- or post-break dancing stuff on dirt.

Otherwise had no time to plumb depths of the museum's collection. Looked OK.

All told, two thumbs up.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Home by Gaudi

As winter approaches, I've been doing some caulking. How I hate it, the gooey, nasty crap, but at the same time rather it's rather satisfying, even in some metaphysical sense. Keeping the outside outside and the inside inside and all that. And warm.

That said, no two surfaces come out the same. In general, "home improvements" is something of an oxymoron for me. I can't hang a towel rack straight. It's kind of like the apartment in Polanski's Repulsion. As the years go by, the only way to keep my house from just getting worse and worse will probably be for me to make enough money to come in and fix the stuff I messed up.

The other day I tightened a doorknob quite proficiently, I must say.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Downtown PM

I'm never downtown any more, always at MidTown or Wall Street, so it was good to troll through the Village, Soho, and Tribeca after a rather mediocre dinner at Artepasto, for some reason Crabill's dad's favorite place.

The West Village: much the same, though 6th Avenue by the basketball courts is skeevier than ever: tattoos, french fries, and sex toys. Patisserie Claude remains as if frozen in time, which is good.

Soho: Along West Broadway, I see a crowd and a glow in front of some yellow restaurant: Cipriani, it turns out. Where some cosmetic surgery for her and and some Guidoish gel for him are seeming prerequisites. Admittedly, my hair would probably get me in at some points in time.

Tribeca: On Franklin St, a scene straight out of Larry Clark: 50 or so budding, affluent teenagers hanging out on the old loading docks, or dangling from scaffolding, smoking cigarettes, unsure whether to go down on each other or share Ipods.

At Beth's apartment, can't open door. Must wake Larchmont for instructions.

Friday, November 04, 2005

You gotta be Catholic to get into Heaven

So said a pretty scary-looking guy -- like David Soul in a lesser Scorsese movie, all sideburns and thick lenses -- as he offered to sell us rosaries on the plaza in front of the public library today. I couldn't help but to think that I might be able to help him get there, in my own way.


I haven't written about my compost pile much, I don't think. I can't imagine why. It is in fact exciting. Very exciting. We throw all manner of moist kitchen matter there, mix it with leaves and yard matter, and in the fullness of time it all comes together and turns into soil sweet soil. By that point in time I could care less.

I'm in it for the game, the frisson. To head out into the back yard Saturday morning to flip that bad boy while the kids are inside the house screaming. To see the steam coming out of it's innards. To watch the worms and maggots squirm around, doing what they do bestest. It's my little science project. And lord knows I don't like science.

Fall and, even more so, winter, challenge the composter. You know you're doing the right thing, but the gratification is so so so deferred. Nothing rots. No heat. Just moisture and piling up. But you're laying the groundwork for future decay and decomposition, and that's just grand.

It's all so much like life. A grand and stinky allegory, mostly of my own.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Coats, hats, and scarves

It's incredible how quickly they burst onto the scene, emerging from their attic slumber and leaping onto the rack. All of a sudden heading outside acquires the character of an archaeological dig. The coat stand fairly groans with finely targeted outerwear: this one's good for 30 minutes of raking, this one for a long stint at the playground, this one for casual rain, this one for business rain. It's like a whole new family come to play. Or, rather, to nap.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wigstock '05, we hardly knew ya

Ah yes. The peoples they did gather once more for Wigstock, down at the old Masonic moose lodge, and they did dance to tunes that 20 years ago were not oldies, but have become so,
and they did, some of them, drink more alcohol than is typical for their vintage,
and they did pay the price for staying out past their bedtimes the night of the time change (which we forgot to really explain to the toddlers).

And I, eternally sober, had to drive the babysitter back to Plainsboro, where a cop tailed me at 1:00 AM and I had the rare pleasure of knowing that there was nothing he could have on me.

So lets heave out a shout out for Stacy and Eldar (who assures me she did all the work) for giving us all a moment to simultaneously deny and revel in our stage of life, which shall remain nameless.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What a ride

Check out hedge fund hot shot Jim Rogers with his one of a kind Mercedes built to travel "around the world." Is it just me, or is it pretty ridiculous that the billionaire moron just had to juice up a claustrophobic little coupe and tack on a trailer, instead of, say, buying an SUV and tricking that out a little. In some parts of the world, clearly, ego has utterly no bounds.