1-20-04, 3:01 PM -

My first day of work in over a month.

Not a bad gig, really. Typing up instructions for hairdressers. I'm in the "ethnic" hair care division of Fancy Pants Cosmetics, one of the biggies. And of course, by "ethnic" they mean African American. No special Asian haircare products here, nor Arab nor Sikh. "Ethnic" means "black". Just so you know.

It comes as a bit of a jarring realization, after watching a rather inspiring special on Martin Luther King, Jr. last night, that these "ethnic" haircare products are designed to "straighten" and "relax" African American hair. Judging from the stuff I'm typing up, the natural curl of African American hair is "excessive" and "tight". By whose standards, I wonder?

No, I don't wonder. Maybe caucasian hair is "excessively" straight. Maybe we all oughta quit it.


This part of the brochure cracked me up: "There exists within the universe a law of cycles -- a system of checks and balances that governs all occurrences. When this balance is upset, nature has a way of correcting it. It is upon this premise that Honky Transformation Haircare was created."

Wow. Deep stuff. It goes on: "Like the universe, hair requires a balance of elements..." Wowww. My hair is like the UNIVERSE, man. Dude, your mom is hot.

Fancy Pants is an interesting place to work, though. Their cafeteria is like a damn interior design showroom. Very la-de-da. Even though they pretty much sell all the same crap as the bare-bones TV network cafeteria I ate in last month.

It's still cheaper than any of the restaurants in this neighborhood. I'm on the East Side again, land of the diamond-encrusted bichon frises. Good view of some lovely buildings from my 9th floor office.

I'm near the Diamond District, which is entertaining as hell. It's that Old New York, "Hey buddy, look what I gots for ya here in my trenchcoat" vibe. Makes you think you've walked into a Tom Waits song. And every single store along that row is a diamond dealer. It's crazy.

We went to the American Museum of Natural History on Sunday and saw their Hall of Gems, & that's about all the diamond interest I can muster. I don't think I was born with the Precious Items gene. Diamonds, leather, cars, watches, it just doesn't mean a damn thing to me. That kind of thing is such a status symbol around here that I often find myself just staring in bewilderment.

My one area of covetousness might be guitars, but even then I generally deem anything over $2,000 too silly to be of value. And it usually is. What the hell good does Jeff Beck's mother-of-pearl signature do me? Does it keep the damn thing in tune? Not likely.

So there you have it: I'm a self-aggrandizing stuff-shunner. Now bring me a cookie. Made with Splenda.

Actually, it seems as if the diabolical machinations of our daisy-pushing friend Dr. Atkins are making quite the bid for global domination these days. Subway's got a new Atkins-friendly sandwich, & we keep finding ever-larger selections of low-carb dessert treats at the local grocery store.

I jumped back on the diet wagon pretty quickly after my scheduled Christmas excesses, and got to take back that belt notch I temporarily ceded to the marauding horde. A marauding horde of fat cells. Damned if that won't scare you straight as a grizzly's dick.

Now I just have to wait for my kidneys to fall out, or whatever it is that they've determined will happen to us Atkins bastards. Fuck 'em. I don't get winded from pushing down my stomach to take off my shoes anymore, so I'm not as worried as I might be.

Typing, typing, typing. So boring.

Funny thing about working here: Everyone's gorgeous.

I mean everyone. The managers are old and gorgeous, the assistants are young and gorgeous, and yes, the secretaries are even younger and gorgeous. Even the gay men are gorgeous. For gay men.

Everyone's so damned gorgeous that after a while you start feeling like a big troll in the land of the pretty people. Not that I'm the Elephant Man or anything, but still I can't help feeling that I'm not gorgeous enough for this place.

And I know I'm not the only one. They sent this beefy guy with the Howard Dean neck over from the Jersey office. He was showing me how to assemble these special product display boxes, but he seemed distinctly uncomfortable. His pauses coincided with gorgeous girl walk-bys.

"Okay, so youse take dese tabs, an' ya..." Heavy breathing, sweating.

"...you fold them over?"

"...Oh. Yeah, ya fold 'em over until dey..." Pulling at his collar, sweating.


"...Huh? Oh. Yeah, yeah, dey's gonna...yeah, dey's gonna click."

I guess the Jersey office is full of bloated old suburban bats who complain about their corns and smell of cheap fabric softener.

Just a guess.

Found myself alone in an elevator with one of the big security guys after a particularly gorgeous specimen had exited onto the 14th floor. The guy turned slyly to me and said, "You know, you oughta come up with an excuse to deliver something to 14. It ain't even right."

Now there's a guy who loves his job. Though it's probably a bit frustrating. The likelihood of the security guy being high on the Gorgeous Girl Datable List is pretty low.

Just a guess.

1-22-04, 9:15 PM -

Tonight: A classic tale of suspense. A lowly scrivener, ten guppies, a Harlem Jew on vacation in Serbia, and the turtle who connects them all. Can Columbo crack The Mystery On 139th Street?

Yes, it's that kind of day. Feedin' Paul's turtle, making use of his digital cable modem, & occasionally leafing through his recent issues of Maxim. For the political commentary, of course.

Got a letter from him, though, and figured I might as well share it with the class. Here ye go:

"And so, 2 years after being stranded in Belgrade for 5 months, (of which Frodo was quoted in an interview as saying I'd rather carry that damn ring back to that fucking volcano again) I'm back.

And you know what, it feels pretty good.

Granted, this city is still butt ugly, and the grey sky certainly compliments the degraded buildings and murky air, but Im reminded just how much I love getting on planes and flying to far away places.

Hell, the moment I got to the terminal I was overcome with a feeling of travel joy I havent experienced since first arriving in Prague 3 years ago.

Life in NYC has become too much of a life, and my nature shines most being mobile. I am not meant to live my life in some big American city for long periods of time. Need to work on that.

Fucking whistled all through the 7 hour plane ride to Zurich. Would have danced, but if you've seen the size of airline seats these days...

Have to mention, after all these nice, neat, clean airports in NY and Zurich, when you get to Belgrade, the entire airport is literally covered in a haze of cigarette smoke. (same with the police station where i still have to go to declare myself as a foreigner, government offices, hell even doctors offices have a cloud of cigarette smoke as all waiting in the reception area puff away.)

Didnt sleep at all, and barely slept the night before, on top of getting butt assed drunk (thanks matthew) so by the time we got to Belgrade, at what was 8 in the morning NY time, we was pretty frazzled.

Upon arriving at Maja's parents house, they proceeding to PLOW us with Slivovitz. matthew would be one of my only American friends who have actually run across this foul form of serbian rocket liquor, so you know that this shit makes grain alcohol look like wine coolers.

Amazingly, my Serbian not only came right back to me, but is actually BETTER than it was when I left. Seriously. The only way I can explain this is that not only haven't I forgotten the bit I know in the past 2 years, but its had time to settle, so that I can recall it with expert precision. (although it bares mentioning that a pre-schooler here sounds like Dostoyevsky in comparison.)

After getting ripped with the in-laws, napped, ate, and then slept the sleep of the hobo who has found a warm bed. Woke up at 5:30 in the morning.

Those who I've talked to recently know that one of the biggest reasons I came back was to see the family dog Ike again. (although Maja's mom rules) If you've never had a dog, you might not understand, but during those 5 months I BONDED with this gddamn dog. Walking him twice a day, for HOURS was my main pastime, other than rewriting all the piano songs I used to have written in the notebook that got stolen by those fucking gypsy fucks.(back when I used to play piano bars, I had over a hundred songs in that notebook. Granted out of that hundred I probably only did about a third of them really kick-ass, so it allowed me to thin the herd, so to speak. Add a bunch of new ones, too, although as I said, out of every 3 I learn, I probably only do a great job on 1 of them, but what the fuck, if you don't like my rendition, don't buy me shots, which is better anyway, as I can only handle about 2 shots before my abilities become seriously impaired. In real life it improves my conversation [or at least my enthusiasm], and takes more like 6 or 7 to impair my repartee, but playing and singing, I just end up banging and shouting and the concept of finesse takes a vacation entirely.) so I got up and took the dog for a long walk by the Danube river, one of my favorite things from last time.

Still gets me.

And ya know, the dog remembers me! And still loves me! Follows me around the apartment, licks my wrist while I pat his chest, nuzzles his face in my crotch (more than any of you ungrateful bastards can muster) Gd I love this fucking dog (course, crotch nuzzling is always a surefire friend-maker)

It just feels so great to be travelling again.

Just finished a book on how a group of MIT students made millions playing blackjack in vegas with a card counting scheme. GOTTA go back to Atlantic City hell, Maja and I are buying 6 decks of cards and sharpening our skills.

Maja and her mom are out right now dealing with her lost passport (for any of you who may not know, yes, she lost the damn thing AGAIN, although shes got a green card this time, so its not the hell it was last time) and dealing with Serbian beaurocracy (there is no enemy I hate so much as to wish Serbian beaurocracy upon) so I gots the apartment to myself.

Drinking her parents home brewed wine (they made 200 liters of the shit) and blasting a jam band called Moe, a relatively decent band I had about a 3 month affair with in the early days of NYC. Not really into the jam band thing as much these days, (and Moe're a little too guitar oriented) but its working this afternoon.

On the jam band note, my good friend Jeff has got a really stellar jam band called New Monsoon. This is not your watered down Grateful Dead-ish ramblings, they are tight, focused and gripping.

As for me, I love life right now. Jiveli (pronounced SHEE-vuh-lee) my comrades!"

That Paul, he's a caution. I'm told there'll be a follow-up, so I'll post that next time.

1-28-04, 12:10 AM -

When you live here long enough, you occasionally start thinking that New York is just another city. And in many ways, it is. People get up, go to work, complain about the weather, & go home. But sometimes situations arise where you're reminded of how central this city is to the workings of the world.

Such a moment occurred to me a few hours ago. I was working a hastily-scheduled 5-to-midnight shift at our old friends MAC (More Accountant Crap), just dumping their old spreadsheets into new ones, when over the next five minutes, the phone starts ringing off the hook.

Now who the hell would be calling accountants at 10 PM in a snowstorm? But a glance towards the far wall clued me in. There hung an array of clocks, each labeled for a different country. India, it seemed, had just woken up. A query to my supervisor confirmed my suspicion. Damn. I wondered why the hell they had three shifts.

I've said this to the point of both exhaustion and annoyance, but it remains steadfastly interesting to me that so many big decisions are made in such a small place. Really, 59th Street down to South Ferry isn't that much area. I walked most of it during the Blackout of Aught-Three, so I should know.

And a good deal of that area is just residential and touristy crap. You could probably narrow the centers of influence down to a few square blocks in Midtown and the Financial District. Right where I usually work.

Freaks me out.

Went to get "lunch" around 8:30, and got surprised once again by the big hole in the sky. It's still very eerie around the Trade Center site. The sense of spatial emptiness combined with mentally ingrained video footage creates a sense of surreal unease.

People walk around, headed to McDonald's like it's Boston on a Tuesday, but against that big empty backdrop it just feels wrong. Too normal. People unlucky enough to be on this stretch of sidewalk on that day were afraid for their lives.

But then I realize that many of those I'm walking with are the very same people. People who were right here when it happened. I guess if they're okay, I should be, too.



1-29-04, 11:42 AM -

There's something wrong with Jose.

Jose is our building superintendent. He lives in the apartment directly above us. He takes care of the joint so the owner doesn't have to.

And there's something wrong with him.

I first began to dislike Jose during last summer's great Why Can't You Fix The Leak Above Our Toilet Which By The Way Is Coming From Your Apartment Wars. The dislike has grown over the last few months, as various loud, rumbling sports activities have taken place above our heads late at night. (Apartment Bowling? Stomp The Cockroach? Who can tell?)

We heard from our next-door neighbor (yes, the one I frightened into stereo-system silence) that Jose's been seen passed out on the sidewalk more than a few times.

Then, two weeks ago, we awoke at 3 AM to a horrific clamor in the hallway. Heavy boots stomped upstairs, police radios crackled, and muffled screams filtered down through the thin ceiling.

Great, we thought. Jose's a terrorist.

Turns out he's just your garden variety girlfriend-beater, which is bad enough. We heard her crying and telling the cops to take Jose to jail. Good, we thought, maybe we'll get a new super.

But alas, Jose returned from the pokey a couple of days later. All was much quieter upstairs, however.

Until last night.

At midnight sharp, the booming bass came not from next door, but from upstairs. I was at work, but Wifely heard the commotion and went up to give Jose the what-for (a sight you don't want to see, by the way). But upon approaching the super's door, what she heard far more clearly than the music was Jose FUCKING HIS GIRLFRIEND'S BRAINS OUT AGAINST THE DOOR.

Wifely went back downstairs, hoping that once the nocturnal nymphing was over, peace would be restored. It was.

But there's still something wrong with Jose.

1-29-04, 11:47 AM -

Man. I hate to perpetuate stereotypes, but I just passed a Dunkin Donuts housing an entire precinct of cops. Man.

On the 2 train, headed for my last day on Wall Street. Just interviewed for and got a long-term temp gig in Greenwich Village that'll keep my bacon buttered till mid-April (anniversary time!). Hurrah. Gotta pay off those gambling debts.

The job doesn't start till February 9th, but I just received word of a fill-in job I can do next week. It seems that after a month of unemployed woe, everything's coming up matthew.

Still colder than FUCK out there. It warmed up during our big snowstorm, then proceeded back into deep-freeze mode so the shit wouldn't melt. Oy.

Wall Street next. Talk later.

1-31-04, 2:55 PM -


Such a crazy week, I'm trying to remember if I've left anything interesting out.

Oh yeah, I checked badges for jewelry expo patrons at ye olde Javits Center last Sunday. Javits Center gigs are always interesting because Jelly Temps usually breaks out a little-used squadron: AncienTemps. Under 60 need not apply.

And the ones in their 60s are the spring chickens. Some of these people are 80 if they're a day. I suppose I should be happy that they're not just sitting around watching QVC (though it's a popular topic of conversation), but the good grandson in me wants to say, "No, wait, let me help you with that."

But this time, they completely outnumbered me and Tarshia, the only other Under-60 present. This was a HORDE of AncienTemps. And you never heard of such ailments. Slipped discs, achy bones, gall bladders, knee trouble, you name it, they had it. And discussed it at length and in excruciating detail.

And they were all old New Yorkers, too. Old New Yorkers can work up some complaining, man. EVERYTHING'S not like it used to be. They remember bakeries that only the fossil record can show evidence of. Sometimes I think they make the shit up.

"Oh, Froman's down on 6th & Broadway. They had the best knishes."

"But you hadda buy 3 for a dime or Old Man Froman'd hit you in the head with a brick."

"My sista got hit with a Froman brick. Her whole life, she has migraines."

"Forget about it, you remember Harriman's on 16th?"

"Best black & white cookies in Manhattan."

"J. Edgar Hoover shut Old Harriman down 'cause he was hiding Communists in his basement."

"His motha was bedridden upstairs when they hauled him off."

"They didn't find the body till the neighbors complained."

"Poor old Harriman."

What can I say? "You're lying, you crazy old woman!" That'd go over well.

Then there's always the Calcified Casanova. A bit thin & white up top, but what he's got left is styled impeccably. A thin half-smile precedes his smooth introduction.

"Morning, ladies."

A flutter of mascara-clogged eyelashes. "Morning, George."

It reminds me of something my brother said. He was watching some talk show, where an old actress was describing her new dating life. After a pause, he lamented, "Do you think the day will come when I'll find THAT attractive?"

I must admit that I don't know, but if George is any indication, attraction moves on a sliding scale. Sliding, ever sliding.

Jewelry expo people are kind of an odd breed, I find. Mostly Jewish, but there were a fair amount of Latinos and Indians as well. Nattily dressed, middle-aged men with fur-wearing Zsa Zsas on their arms. Sharp old hagglers with fresh-faced apprentices in tow. Rubes in blue jeans trying to score a deal to impress their girlfriends.

But the foreigners impressed me most. After an hour or two, I could spot them before they handed me their badge credentials. Serious as an impending heart attack, you could tell that these guys were not to be fucked with. Some came from Brazil, some from Asia, some from Western Europe. The Russians, however...

Paul's told me some stories about Russians, and every encounter I have with one seems to reinforce the legends. They're a very serious people, are the Russians. They do not fuck around. I got a look from one silver-haired St. Petersburg diamond dealer that chilled me to my nuts. Just as cold and steely as the human eye can get. And I didn't even have anything he wanted. Pete help the poor American schmucks manning the booths inside.

Bloody Russians.

2-1-04, 9:57 PM -

Okay, that's quite enough for this time around. Just a side note to New York readers: If you ever see that a band called The Pink Mistake is performing somewhere in town, YOU MUST SEE THEM. You can't go wrong with two guys in pink ape masks masquerading as genetically-engineered superbeings who play Devo-esque rock on old Casio keyboards. You just can't.

The temperature's supposed to get back up into the 30's this week, so I'll be spending a bit more time in Central Park with my beach towel. It's all what you're used to, it seems.

Happy Leap Year.





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