Sunday, April 30, 2006

They came by butterfly

It was one of those evenings for which God most likely would have invented New Jersey, had He existed.* 65 and mild in the backyard, flowers a bloom, sandbox. A new visor from Elijah's 5th birthday party. Dinner at the picnic table.

And then, from behind the walnut tree, they came flying on the backs of butterflies, the fearsome aliens.

*And I do mean He, as male is the gender most consonant with absence. If God were a woman, She would exist.

Friday, April 28, 2006

It's pathetic

but typical that it's a fine spring day, and I should be headed home, but I'm stuck in this lame basement fulfilling a contractual obligation to text production. I in fact have nothing to say which fits within the confines of bloggable material, oodles outside of it. But that's another story.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Our nation's capital

Union Station, where 20 years ago, after I had hit a bowl coming off the Amtrak going between New Haven and Chapel Hill, this guy picks me out of a crowd from across the room and says, "Hey, dude, come here, I've got the stickiest, hairiest bud. Here, smell my fingers" I swear that's what he says to me, and like an idiot I do and I give him a twenty for an eighth or something, and he says: "Wait right here, I'll be back." So I wait. And wait. And my train's supposed to leave and where's my dude and my eighth and I run back to the train and barely make it on, swearing and cursing, having somewhat learned my lesson.

A cab in Washington is $6.50 anywhere downtown. In Princeton it's like $16 from the train station to my house. If only this could be arbed.

There are all these well-coiffed prewar and International Style apt buildings, but where do the people buy milk and cheese doodles, I ask you. There are no convenience stores. Don't get it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Much to do

Must bustle to get ready to head out of town. Check train schedule. Pick up suit. Confer with elders.

And in the middle of that write a note to my godfather, who is apparently in, shall we say, rather poor health. He who gave me my guitar. I haven't seen him for years. He didn't make it up to my wedding, though he bankrolled a good little chunk of our honeymoon in Italy. It is an odd chore to dash off a note to someone whom you may never see again, particularly in the middle of making calls to various recalcitrant would-be clients, like the one who said she would call me back in two minutes 3 hours ago. From the sublime to the ridiculous, as the Hegelians would say, is but a shlep.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Hear here

I got a piece of mail on Saturday that looked like junk mail, until I saw a sticker on it that said "From Chad Ludington." That's a diabolical marketing ploy, I thought. In fact, it was no ploy at all. Inside was a brochure and a letter from Chad, in which he courageously writes that he has been losing his hearing for the past 15 years and has set a goal for himself to raise a million dollars to fight hearing loss.

Chad is the only person to have been with me in childhood, at college, and in graduate school. His father, the so-called "Townie", placed me at left-halfback on my first day of soccer back in 1972, a decision from which I've almost recovered. At 15 years, Chad's hearing malady was not long-enough running to account for his scandalous inability to dunk when he returned from Exeter at 6'4" in 1980, but nor did it stop Chad from waxing me 15-0 one-on-one in 1990 (I think I hit the backboard once). This was during a period when I had momentary delusions of ball. Chad cured me of those.

Around 35 million Americans suffer from hearing loss, and that's just Americans. 80% of all hearing loss is sensironeural in nature, which implies that focused research could have a real impact, and indeed real progress has been made in the last few years. To date, the National Organization for Hearing Research Foundation has raised $7.5 million. This modest capitalization means that the marginal impact of every dollar donated is high, and there's a good chance that it can help fund a solution.

So I ask you all today to help Chad work towards his goal of raising a million for a cure by donating by credit card or check to the:

National Organization for Hearing Research Foundation
225 Haverford Avenue
Suite #1
Narbeth, PA 19072-2234
And stick Chad's name in the comment field so he'll know when he's reached his initial goal, on the way to his ultimate goal of a cure.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fresh Air, no Terry Gross

Brow furrowed, work on the lobe, I piled into the car and stuck in the new CD Kevin had handed me last week. Through the funk cuts the unmistakeable, undulcet tones of Stephen Merritt and the Magnetic Fields: All the Umbrellas in London. There's nothing like a good song to reconfigure everything and put you, as they say, in the moment. Though which moment you're in is unclear. Could be a vision of the future, or, with an oldie, or, as the Magnetic Fields are wont to write, a pseudo-oldie, in an alternate time and space. Whatever. Gotta like it.

Whatever it is, it's better than the present of work, if not the the alternate competing futures to which work might lead. A little holiday.

Sometimes I think, rather Bachelardianly, of the car as an extension of my skull.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Wednesday AM The Nassau Club, Princeton
Wednesday PM The Harvard Club, NYC
Thursday AMPM The Princeton-Columbia Club, NYC

At some point in time today I came out of the bathroom and saw a portrait of Princeton prez Shirley Tilghman and I was, like, what's that doing in the Harvard Club? Then I remembered where I was.

In these clubs, people aren't popping ecstasy and drinking Red Bull drinks. No sir. It's all about suits, business cards, hand-waving, and prognosticating. What they share with night clubs is attitude, including ladies with attitude, like the skinny blonde bitch from Pacific Investment Management with a powder blue blackberry and a ridiculous scarf knotted around her neck. I didn't waste breath getting her card, of that you can be sure.

The Harvard Club sports an obscene amount of Crimson. It's like, OK, I get it. Nice book-filled rooms. The Princeton-Columbia Club, on the other hand, is decorated like something out of A Family Affair. Kinda lacks flavor. Food OK in each.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Jobs jobs jobs

In Silver Spring we saw signs on the side of buses: "Cable means 10s of thousands of stable jobs", sure it does. Until a disruptive technology blows it out of the water. Or, alternately, cable becomes a counterproductive legacy with lots of overhead, and a net cost. Could be. Don't get me wrong, I love my cable, even if Mary wants to get rid of it and we really don't watch it, but producing jobs is not a reason to patronize something. Producing value is. Similarly, on the side of 95 coming North into Philly there were pro-dredging signs which cited job production as a rationale. Idiocy. Dredging is good or it isn't. What kind of next jobs would come out of a terminal dredging project? Lots of skilled dredgers? Job creation is not a good rationale for utility selection or public works, particularly when unemployment is 4.7%.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The 1979 Accord

At mom's house over the weekend, going through the tons of crap that's been waiting for me in the attic lo these many years, I found a 1979 copy of Road Test magazine, which reported on all the hottest cars of the year. I did a little research on gas mileage from back in the day, which I remembered as being a lot more impressive than what we get on average these days, which makes no sense, given how much more power we can get with less now. And indeed, I found clunky looking Chryslers getting 37 mpg on the highway, 31 around town. What was striking was how hard I had look for mileage info in those post oil-embargo days. It wasn't featured all that prominently in the ads or in the reviews.

But there was the '79 Accord, its horsepower boosted from 68 to 72. Ready to rock. The 2006 starts at 166, ranges up to 244. Driving Cyrus' felt like being in a frickin Firebird. Impress your friends with your macho Accord. yeah right.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In country

Had coffee with my dad in Hillsboro. Ironically, dad finds himself once again in a Volvo, years after distributing framed quotes from Trevanian disparaging them as not worth driving.

Headed north to Roxboro to meet Mary and Mom in Roxboro. Stopped for a Cheerwine at convenience store. Woman at counter was from the West Bank.

Turned East on 57, into the country. Pine trees, dogwoods, green springing out. Passed taxidermy shops, antique store, general store, hair salons running out of trailers. Country. Oldsmobiles with huge shiny bling wheels, a style feature I associated with the other ghetto. Signs for the county sherriff race, in which a guy named Dempsy faced down another named Duffy.

In Roxboro, stopped at Pete's Sandwich Shop to get burgers "all the way" (i.e. chili, slaw, mustard, onions). It takes 20 minutes, as regulars come in and order around me, and the counter girl gets them hot dog after hot dog as our burgers got overdone. Reminded me of what it's like to be an outsider in an insular small town, as my mother was when she came back to Roxboro after her divorce to perk up the business grandfather had founded in his retirement as an excuse to get out of the house, drink, and play cards in the day time: the trailer parks. But that'll have to wait for another grouse.

Friday, April 14, 2006


4/13 4:04PM Go home, pissed for missing train
4/13 5:15 Undeterred by sane counsel, head off from Princeton into NY Metro rush hour to cross Hudson, into Westchester
4/13 7:30 Arrive Larchmont. Rush hour has added 30 minutes to normal trip
4/13 8:00 Read stories. Graham under blankie between legs during Natalie's
4/14 1:30AM Stupid cat meowing at top of stairs
4/14 8:55 Depart Larchmont for Princeton
4/14 10:30 Arrive Princeton. Pick out outfits for dinner. Get sandwiches from Wild Oats.
4/14 11:30 Depart Princeton for Philly airport
4/14 12:05 Try to eat shitty roast beef sandwich. No mayo.
4/14 12:25 Arrive Philly airport. Get Mayo.
4/14 2:15 Depart Philly. In flight listen to blonde teenagers provide good argument for why America is doomed: "Wouldn't it be totally sweet to, like, have a private plane?" "Like, totally sweet."
4/14 3:55 Arrive RDU
4/14 4:30 Arrive Chapel Hill

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Motherfucking NJ Transit

The train had just got there when I got to the Dinky and started buying my ticket. By the time the ticket was done, the train took off. No "All aboard." No nothing. Jackass.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

70th and 10th, 6:30 pm 4/11/06

So it's Johnny's birthday, and I go and meet him a dive bar that he favors at 73rd and Amsterdam. "I'm gonna have to cut out at 6, he tells me."

5:30 I get there, he's gone around the corner to smoke a joint.
6:15 Wife calls. He needs to got pick up kid at school. I walk with. We pick up Jacob. He needs to feed the kid. Burger King, naturally.

On the street, Johnny's telling me how he's now the man at work, where they've got half a billion dollars to invest in hedge funds and traders.

Behind us, a guy who looks kinda like Huey Lewis is listening. He bustles up to us.
"Excuse me, I couldnt' help overhearing. I used to be trader at Tudor (a big fund), I'm trying to get back into it." Johnny gives card, invites follow up, goes into BK Lounge for Kingnuggets and fries.

Trader man continues to regale me with anecdotes. Was with Tudor. Founded own shop in World Trade Center. Whoops. Got rear-ended and fucked up his back. On and on.

I try to get away. He comes into BK and hits Johnny with more and more qs. Like a pit bull. Nearly psychotic. Maybe you want that in a trader.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Drunks in a bar

Don't spend much time in them, so I forget what it's like, the delusional conviviality, the tragic lameness of it all. A woman sat there at the corner of the bar for some time. Not particularly attractive, as those who sit at bars a lot tend not to be, but it turns out everybody knew her, and recounted meetings at other bars. Then she got a quarter to use the pay phone on the wall. As I watched her, it took a little while to sink in, what she was doing. That's how long it had been since I saw a pay phone.

One guy recounted how he had had a burger, and then two hot dogs, and they were awesome.

And so on. I left.

Blonde lives

They each looked a little bit like Sharon Stone, sitting there on one of the nearly vertical end seats of the NE Corridor 7:01 Express. Like Stone worn down, with brown freckles from too much sun and the haughty disdain for those less blonde and a half disbelief that they were on the train at all. Sporting an odd amalgam of business and club wear. Had they been "working"? Would they drink a buttery Chardonnay when they got home? One had to wonder.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Home alone

Having the house to yourself seems like such a great idea. It's quiet. You're not driven by the same routines. You can watch sports.

But it's sort of barren too, and seems to foreshadow the days of empty nest which lie ahead, the quiet despair that Elivs Costello and John Cheever write about.

Better see what's on Comedy Central.


Boris Mikhailovich Gasparov
Columbia University
*Lecture: “History of a Triplet. Pasternak and Scriabin”

245 East Pyne

Gotta go.

Friday, April 07, 2006


A giant sucking sound, so they say. Huge choo choo train project in Omaha. Unprecedently huge choo choo train project in Chicago. And nobody wants to work on them. What to do? Will there be a place for budding practice areas like mine?

I know this isn't what anybody wants to read about on a blog, but it's to think about anything else. And I gotta post something.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Madison & 44th, 11:57AM

Zip-up suede coat with some funky collar. Herringbone pants. Heels of some sort. Fade-up sleek moderne wraparound shades. Sixty years old if she was a day. Strutting like a member of Fat Albert's crew, pumping up and down I swear to God. You don't see women work it like that but so often, expecially of that vintage.

At least not out here in demure Princeton.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Her'd on the street

On Witherspoon today, under the lovely white blooms of whatever those trees are, passed by the wife of a prominent local poet, a person whom I've met maybe 50 times over 6 years. A woman at one time known for dropping off her kids at my neighbor's house with no prior warning so she could go, for example, shopping. She walked right past, refusing eye contact.

What's up with that?
Are people really that oblivious?
Or do they just work hard to pretend?

In any case, I hope she's gotten over the insane jealousy which beset her when the launch of her passably-reviewed novel was completely overshadowed by the bestselling debut novel of Curtis Sittenfeld. I know that was hard.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Into the belly of the beast

Soccer has begun. A couple of weeks ago we got Natalie her first cleats and shin guards and socks. Which she tried to wear to bed. For a while it looked like soccer might have been nothing but an accessorizing opportunity, but maybe she will actually get into the game.

9AM Saturday. Soccer time. Off to the Y we go. Whoops! It's not at the Y, it's at the park, of course. Off to the park we go. But, this being New Jersey, you cannot park at the park. So we park on the street.

Down on the field, swarming. By the sign-up table, even more. She's on team B-10, which is on field 10, as depicted on the schematic drawing. But out on the field, swarming. Which is field 10? Dunno. There's Lauren on field 6. We'll go there.

Ball put in play. Swarming. Run here, run there. There are girls to whom it comes naturally. Natalie is not one of them. When the ball is thrown at her, she shrieks, she quails, she flashes those pearly whites. Afterwards, a play date...

The scene changes. Sunday. Back yard. For years Natalie has resisted entreaties from dad to play soccer. No longer. It's time to play kick the ball in the goal. Three goals means you get a goal. Goals don't count if the goalie touches it before it goes into the goal. And so on. A little enthusiasm.

From his perch in the sandbox, Graham observes...