2-26-03, 6:00 PM -

Here I sit in a Starbucks, with Brooklyn's stately Borough Hall looming outside the window. A crazy man is holding a rather involved conversation with himself over a tea of some description. It's possible he's got an earpiece cellphone that I just can't see, but I like to think that I can tell crazy when I see it.

I'm giving the Wifely some peace & quiet to work on her book tonight, so I've decided to do some club wandering in the East Village a little later. Still haven't heard definitive word from the shop on whether I'm mixing the easy way or the almost-easy way. I'm only giving them till Friday, then I'll just go with almost-easy & damn the depth charges.

Oops, made the mistake of looking at the crazy guy. He took the opportunity to inform me that "it's the Peter Principle," for which I thanked him. Oh yeah, he's nuts.

About as screwy as some of these mortgage applications I processed today. Riddle me this: Who is the more foolishly optimistic, the 70-year-old woman who signs a 30-year note, or the bank who gives her the money? There's probably some legal anti-discrimination reason why such transactions are allowed, but it does make one giggle a bit.

What also tickles the ol' giggler is when people have $180.00 library fines. Seriously, they put stuff like that on your credit report for these mortgages. I mean, if you can't return your library book, what chance do you have of paying your mortgage? I see the logic. The $180.00 is probably a mistake, but I like to imagine a Seinfeldian scenario where someone checked out Ulysses in college, got frustrated with its preposterousness, & threw it away in disgust.

I must confess at this point that I've never read Ulysses. Actually, that's not true. I've read the first page. Several times. While working at Bigass Books, I kept thinking that James Joyce's most celebrated squeench should be part of my effort to tackle the many literary classics I managed to escape in college, and I shamefully admit my repeated spinelessness and subsequent retreat upon completing Page 1. Label me a troglodyte if you will, but I believe history will vindicate me. Though they still make you read Byron...

Where was I? Ah, work. They've now stationed me in an adjacent cube with Confrontatia, an ex-Navy mother of two who is rapidly making bitter enemies throughout the tri-state area via her confirmation-of-employment calls:

"Hello, this is Confrontatia with Bigass Bank..."

A pause.


They recover, and apparently call her an evil ho-bitch.

"You know, I'm just trying to do my job, mister, so you'd best just back off and tell me if this guy work here or not. You deaf or something?"

One phone call like this, I could understand. Sometimes people suck. But ALL DAY? And then she wants to talk to me. Apparently her husband's a nincompoop (I could've guessed) and her children don't know their asses from a ditchdigger. Thanks, Confrontatia. Thanks for breeding. And for wearing Eau de Ammonia. Dang.

8:12 PM -

I now perch upon a barstool at the Galapagos Art Space in good ol' Williamsburg. Williamsburg's got such a Deep Ellum thing happening that I feel both familiar with and repulsed by it. And so I keep coming back.

Poked my head into a few East Village haunts, and nothing terribly compelling drew me into any doorways. I did stop at the Raven in the mistaken belief that the open mic was still being held there. Wow. I've now been in NYC long enough to remember something the way it used to be. Don't I feel like chompin' a ceegar.

Oh, God, these two guys next to me are trashing Atlas Shrugged. My friend deanpence would plotz. Though admittedly I have the same relationship with Ayn Rand as I do with Joyce: Distant but insistent terror. Terror, I say.

Speaking of...

Nick Cave's on the overhead, if I'm not mistaken. Butchering The Long Black Veil, of all things. Christ. I've hated that guy since I saw him sing some piece of dried turd called I Had A Dream, Joe on Letterman about 100 years ago. Then plenty more exposure during my music retail days cemented the hatred. And then just the other day I saw him in some Wim Wenders flick on IFC. What a sweaty dewflap.

Speaking of sweaty, flappy things, hostilities have broken out with our Jon-Secada-n-pan-flute-crankin' neighbor Jake over the Morning Shower Schedule. One of the disadvantages of living in a squat is that we share a bathroom, which has a rather finite supply of hot water, it turns out.

Nearly a year we've been living here, & the Morning Shower Schedule has worked out somehow without a summit meeting. We generally take a joint marital water-saving shower (don't wince, it's just the facts), then relinquish the spigot to Jake, who leaves for work after we do. But the last few mornings, we have awakened to the sound of Jake's scrubbing (eww...), and been left with a mere dribble of hot water with which to wash off the Night Stink.

My solution to the crisis is to wake up earlier. Wifely, however, wants to have a sit-down with our water-thievin' neighbor to sort out the schedule. I don't know why I fear that. I somehow picture a soul-baring exchange in which Jake turns a beety & rashy red, and reveals that we've kept him awake with our late-night Law & Order viewings for the past year, and he's going to start calling the cops on us.

I dunno, I just prefer to beat him to the bathroom door in the morning, though I guess that could escalate and we could all find ourselves waking up at 5:00 AM and Indian Wrestling in the hall.

Yes, I am the master of overcomplication.

Spent an interesting day in Manhattan on Saturday, reasoning that the only way I would do any lengthy Middle East history reading was if I separated myself from both the television and the computer, which proved to be an accurate assessment.

I woke early, got a haircut at old reliable Norbert's, ate a Double Rocket Burger at Johnny Rocket's in Greenwich Village (Richie Cunningham would feel right at home), and spent a couple of hours reading in a nearby Starbucks window booth as the rain did its best to make a dent in the huge piles of snow left over from Blizzard '03. Damned good try, that. They're down to a foot or so now.

Eventually I felt guilty for remaining without refilling my Tall Hot Chocolate (what's the timetable on wearing out coffeeshop welcomes, anyway?), so I adjourned to the one place in the city that'll let you sit on your ass all day, uninterrupted. That's right, the Rose Reading Room at the main New York Public Library.

I mean, what a room. Gigantic marble walls, covered with about the most breathtaking carved/painted ceiling you ever studied under, plus elegant wooden tables and chairs to make you feel like Stephen Ambrose, or at least Tom Clancy.

And there I sat, researching my little 5th grade Six Day War book. Never felt so important, I'll tell you what. Until the guy with the metal briefcase sat down next to me. I need to get me one of those. Outshine me, will you?

Back at the Galapagos, this bluegrass band onstage keeps threatening to start up, and I'm cautiously curious. What I've seen so far of the NYC country music scene has been just shy of wrist-slitting, but I'm willing to believe there are exceptions. Maybe. I'd prefer it to this Nick Cave business, anyway.

I'm no rockstar. I'm no rockstar at all.

Hey, these bluegrass guys aren't half bad (they're called Citigrass, by the way). Hell, I've heard worse in Tejas. Betcha they're transplants. This guy next to me's a Yankee supreme, though. He doesn't get it. He's waiting for the Springsteen cover. I hate people.

Sigh. It's a school night, it occurs to me, so I suspect I'll be heading south to Sunset Park soon. The subway routes are such that it's damn near easier to go from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to Sunset Park, Brooklyn via Midtown Manhattan. But I'm feeling dangerous tonight, & I may just try the fearsome G train, the ONLY train that doesn't pass through Manhattan at all. Pray for me.

Ah, the Midnight Special. Seems a good note to leave on. Time to get a gun and shoot my old lady. Or is that the right song?

9:56 PM -

Rat bastards. I was stopped at the door by a rather raucous bluegrass rendition of Wish You Were Here. I've played that song at gigs innumerable and never thought of that. Well, snatch me baldheaded.



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