I feel compelled to point out that this is Milon and not Panna II, it's virtually identical neighbor at the top of those stairs at 93 1st Avenue. The two are so alike food, crowding, ambience, hindi pop music, BYOB policy that there would seem to be little point in choosing one or the other. The secret is this, though: if someone at Milon is having a birthday, the music suddenly gets louder, the lights go down, and a light-up spinning wheel in the back turns on while everyone sings. Loud, trashy, surreal, magical.
The dear not only was he made poorly, but he was then discarded at a thrift store. So sadness-making.
I think this scene of a beat-up bus shelter and trash cans proves that anything can look good in the right light.
And while we're on the subject of Coney Island, here's proof that you can ride the Cyclone without dying. The best part of riding the Cyclone, in fact, is that it's so old and creaky that imminent death is enough of a risk to make the ride a heart-racing thrill.
If you're not at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade today, than your life is not as magical as it ought to be. The parade is my favorite New York City event of all time. Sadly, I’m misisng it this year, but at least I have old photos to tide me over. (Pun intended, of course, in the true spirit of the parade.)
Ack! I forgot to post something this morning, all my photo archives are at home, and the weather's too grey to get an interesting picture of the view from my desk. Instead, I offer this detail of one of the walls of my cubicle. This minor collection of keepsakes and curiosities are among the few traces of personality I bother to bring in to the office.
Magical little carousel in Montmarte in a little park next to a Metro station (Abesses?). I’m pretty sure this is the one that showed up in Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain a couple of years after this was taken.
Some of my favorite outdoor signage in the neighborhood adorns the outside of the American Museum of the Moving Image. It's mostly that giant floating eye that I adore so much.
OMG, we had so much fun! Everyone pulled off a dazzling performance, and the audience ate it up. I should apologize to Bob and Kythryne up front, because the pictures I got of them turned out so badly there was no way to even tell what they were. As for everyone else, well...I did what I could: it was a tough shoot from the back row.
And for those of you who are iTunes-enabled, I published an iMix of some of the music I threw together to play before the show. Of course, the Music Store only had about half of what I played, but you can get a bit of the same feeling of being right there in the theater, waiting in gleeful anticipation of heaping helpings of homo!
One day when I was walking through the cafeteria, I heard Mike Malone call me a faggot under his breath as I passed by his table. I handled this, as I always handled slurs like that, by laughing to myself and thinking, "not only is he wrong, but he wouldn't know anyway. He just thinks I’m a fag because I’m different."
Well, Mike Malone may have been a dick and funny-looking but he was also right. I was deeply in denial about the fairy dust I had in me. When I was a little kid, I was basically a big sissy but I had no idea there was anything wrong with the way I went about my business. When I was a teenager, I wasn't as much of an outright sissy, but only because I was a lot more conscious of how I behaved. By then I understood the stigma of not being one of the guys and deep-down, even years before I could admit or even articulate it, I knew that those occasional slurs weren't off-base. In my conscious mind, though, I wasn't a homo, I was New Wave. I was sassy, not sissy.
(A few years later, when I was first runner-up in Sassy's "Sassiest Boy In America" contest, I insisted this was proof that I was right all along. I still had a few epiphanies waiting to happen, clearly.)
When I was a little kid, I didn't worry so much about whether or not little boys were supposed to go swimming in their Aquaman underoos or spin around trying to turn into Wonder Woman. These were just the ways my imagination played itself out. When you're young enough you can be oblivious to what's expected of you, so it never occurred to me that there was anything wrong with my intense desire to be the Bionic Woman. Sure I could run around playing tag, but it was so much more fun to run around pretending to be a super-strong undercover agent with flowing blond hair who, if she wanted to, could beat the crap out of any mean kids that made fun of her. Jaime Summers and Wonder Woman were glamorous and strong, and even they always got to pretend to be other people when they were on a case. Sure, Steve Austin did the same stuff, but he was so squinty and serious all the time!
It wasn't even that I wanted to be a woman I just wanted to be someone more exciting. Spider-Man or Aquaman or the superheroes I made up myself also got to wear cool costumes and do excellent things like fly or breathe underwater or go into outer space. I aspired to stuff with more pizazz and fewer stupid rules than little league or cub scouts or basketball. They were boring, and when I gave in and tried to do them, I knew that (1) I was spastic, and (2) I had a whole lot more fun when I could tune out the dreariness of the real world and act out things the way I wanted them to be.
For instance, I once turned my bookcase into a doll-sized office building for my action figures. I designed rooms out of old shoeboxes jazzed up with crayon-drawn decorations and furniture made out of Legos and styrofoam packing pieces. In this lavishly furnished high-rise I used the various Princess Leia figures as one of my characters a super-powered lady private eye who fought crime and changed her clothes a lot. She had a Fisher-Price boyfriend who was good-looking and spunky, but not quite as spectacular as she was. He had to be rescued a lot, but he loved her for it.
I wanted things to be more exotic and less conventional than the other boys my age generally wanted. They were the ones always harping on what you were supposed to do in this game or that thing, and I thought they were dull. Why did I even play with them in the first place? I guess it was gratifying to go with the flow and not feel like an outcast. Somehow or another, I learned from them that it was definitely not cool to try and be the Bionic Woman, but it was still OK to be Luke Skywalker. Fine, I could work with that a Jedi could be adventurous but still pull off being kind of sensitive.
As I got older, I kept learning those ambiguous rules about how far I could follow my gut instincts. I could obsess over Duran Duran or Francis Ford Coppola's The Outsiders, but I could really only share my enthusiasm with girls that I knew. I could commit the entire soundtrack of Grease to memory, as long as I never let on that I wanted a greaser in a leather jacket to sing me a love song. I could cover the walls of my room with magazine pages like a 14-year-old girl, but as a fourteen-year-old guy I had to make it very clear that it was about the music, not about my fascination with that picture of Billy Idol wearing a rubber bikini brief on the cover of Rolling Stone. I could be a bit of a dandy with my thrift-store wardrobe, my Vans, and my asymmetrical haircut, but I could only attribute it to the music I liked and the crowd I hung out with I could definitely not consider the fact that I wanted to make out with skater boys, not be one. I could be myself, and I could be different from the other guys, but I could only go so far before I drew too much of the wrong kind of attention. It was a point of pride to be ostracized for being quirky, New Wave, and bookish, but in an all-boys Jesuit prep school, you definitely did not want to dazzle too much and cross that line into faggotry.
The worst part of that whole, long process of testing the boundaries of what I could get away with and what I couldn't is that all I really thought about were the boundaries, not where I might really fall outside of them. I cultivated a certain way of being unconventional for years before it dawned on me that I really was gay, and that being gay was the thing I had been trying to avoid all that time. And really, it was the least interesting quirk of them all. Once it dawned on me, it made perfect sense and wasn't such a big deal. Bring on the ass-fucking!
As it turned out, being gay wasn't as big a deal as learning how to do what I wanted without standing out more than I cared to. It's a habit that’s backfired, because now I’m so nonchalant about being queer but so self-conscious about being considered kind of ordinary. I’ve developed a lifelong habit of being a little weird for my environment without standing out too much. A certain degree of eccentricity is very comfortable for me, because I don't have to pass at being something I’m not, nor do I have to deal with the hassles of being all that different. These days, though, I could probably be a whole lot more fun if I fully embraced my inner sissy, but now I don't really feel like it. It'd be too conventional.
A view of the underside of the giant pink bridge connecting the island to Queens.
Surprisingly, not as old a sign as it looks. Sort of a modern plastic recreation of an old hand-painted sign.
As I finish up the piece I'll be reading at the next WYSIWYG Talent SHOW (it's this Tuesday at 7:00 don't miss it!) I’ve been trying to figure out of I have any stage fright waiting to burst forth and ruin the whole thing for me. I’m not feeling particularly nervous about anything except finishing my essay in time to read it, but since I’m a worrier by nature I’m trying to plan ahead. It's been about fifteen years or so since the last gasp of my amateur stage career (I quit a voice class in college because of a scheduling problem and have never performed or even tried to carry a tune in public ever since), but I’ve never been prone to much anxiety about giving presentations or wedding toasts or anything, so I’m assuming I'll be alright.
As I tried to think back to how I dealt with any stage fright in the past, though, I had a shocking realization: I can't remember a damn thing about ever being on stage before.
I never entertained any notions about being an actor or singer, but as a burgeoning young homosexual with an affinity for musicals, I was naturally drawn to opportunities of the school play. I can't imagine that I was any more than adequate, but nevertheless I took the the plunge into a handful of talent shows, a couple of musicals, a couple of musical reviews, and even a dance recital. Every one of them is a blank for me. I can't dredge up any firsthand memories of being on stage or even waiting in the wings. I can look at pictures or video footage of those moments, but they don't inspire any kind of recollection at all. I can recall surrounding circumstances easily enough the time I sang my bit while battling a raging case of strep throat, sneaking up to the lighting booth with Mark to watch a dance number choreographed to a Kraftwerk song, realizing that my body mic was still on as I changed costumes backstage but nothing about the performances themselves is there.
I suppose this is a side effect of the rush of adreneline required for a pretty shy person to put himself on the line and possibly look like a fool in public. I imagine I was so attuned to the moment and getting through it each time that I was totally focused on what I was doing, leaving no part of my mind free to process and preserve what was going on. It's a shame, because I can remember that I enjoyed the overall process of putting on a show a lot. Was I any good? Probably not great, but I don't think I ever messed up or embarrassed myself. Damned if I know, though. Hopefully, I won't be so narrowly focused on Tuesday, and I'll be able to hang on to the experience this time. Take some pictures for me, just in case.
But not this kind just some excellent grafitti on Dominick Street.
The subway system is littered with used-up Metrocards. This one had been picturesquely tucked into the frame holding an iPod ad.
Is that a pretty place? I like to call it "The Soul Crusher," the place where I toil away each day, hating my life more and more all the time and dreaming of the best way to get out of that prison before it destroys my spirit altogether.
Today, luckily, is the first of my summer flex days I get to take every second Friday off in exchange for working an extra hour a day the rest of the time. A fair enough trade-off, considering that every day in my cubicle feels like an eternity already, and the extra weekdays give me a chance to loaf, window shop, run errands, and pretend I have a better life. Delusion! Whee!
One of the nice parts of the whole grad-school plan was that I’d have a concrete way to get the hell out of that place by the end of this summer. Now that the future is a little more vague, I still have to find something better to do with my time and energy. It seems less and less likely that things will ever change for the better at work, so I’m constantly looking for somewhere else to go seeing what's around now, deciding how to adjust my portfolio, and waiting for the time to head over the wall.
Keep an eye out for the guards while I scout the perimeter.
Hand-painted sign on a building at the corner of 36th St. and 35th Ave. in Astoria.
A slightly worn-out Ronald McDonald in a San Francisco antique store.
French fries now classified as fresh vegetables. Soon they will be the major item for sale at farm stands, no doubt. Yes, I would like a healthy salad of fries and ketchup, please! It's a way to support American manufacturing, after all.
Just a Halloween lawn ornament I stumbled across one night.
I just stumbled across this study I did for a poster illustration. I couldn't find a stock image of the statue that worked for what I had in mind, so I bought this statuette at a gift shop across the street from the Empire State Building and photographed it from the angle I needed. I’d forgotten about this study image, which is interesting in its own way.
I sold this off on eBay after finally admitting that I wasn't going to learn how to actually use the press, but I really miss having this groovy boxtop on display.
I love the tile station signs in the New York subways. They're sharp when they're in good shape, and they still manage to have character when they get beat up or defaced by cryptic graffiti.
Another one of those things that transcends language.
Twilight over Moore and Bogart Streets in East Williamsburg.
To: All Staff
Re: The Passing of Former President Ronald Reagan
The nation, and much of the world, has been saddened by the death of Ronald Reagan, our 40th President. A state funeral will be held on Friday, June 11th, in Washington DC.
If you would like to take time off from work to mourn President Reagan in your own way, please speak with your supervisor about taking PTO time. [A vacation day, in other words.]
Supervisors are asked to be understanding in granting requests for PTO time this Friday.
I assured my supervisor that I will be in the office, although I might wear a festive hat.
To be honest, that’s a little harsh. I’ve been feeling much the same about Reagan as about our pesky cat Dudley, who also passed away last week. Although I can't think of anything nice to say about either one, I think those who would mourn them deserve enough consideration for me to keep my mouth shut. I can't make myself wish death or untold suffering upon anyone I’d rather see reparation than retribution. Do I think Reagan was a saint? Certainly not, no more than I think Dudley was a joy to have around the house. Do I think he was evil incarnate? No. (Dudley, maybe.) Celebrating his death only perpetuates the inhumanity for which he might be criticized.
Reagan did things (or neglected to do things) that make me furious to think about, but that fury is for the aspects of our culture that Reagan embodied. He was just another head of the hydra (but not HYDRA itself, as far as I know), and I’d rather focus on dealing with the beast itself than acting like we've won a victory.
Paper coaster from a hotel in Beijing. The illustration and the overall design are so restrained and elegant. Mmmmmm, pretty.
Judging from what could be seen in the darker recesses of the establishment where I found this back in the heyday of the Giuliani administration, I’m pretty sure the place was just trying to cover its ass. So to speak.
Stencil graffiti in Williamsburg, found sometime last Spring on either Kent Ave. or Wythe Ave.
Found in Boston's Back Bay on July 4, 1991. Inspired hours and hours worth of dark, brilliant jokes about the poor little kitty.
These were a fun way to pass the time as a kid, but now I adore looking at the components on their own the great composition of the rub-on sheet and the tranquility of the backgrounds on which they would be placed. Be sure to click on the generic NYC skyline to see it at a larger size.
Comical health-related mishap of the day: I was propped up in bed reading some Barbara Pym with my left arm stretched behind my head. Suddenly I let out a violent sneeze, painfully wrenching my shoulder and entire upper back in one fell swoop. Now every time I sneeze I it feels like my shoulder blades are trying to escape.
I am so hardcore.
"The more you SHAKE it, the thicker you MAKE it." But I suppose that can be said about a lot of things. Thankfully, the milkshake is easier to consume in public. During a long stretch of afternoon sugar cravings while working at Thirteen/WNET, I was buying these shakes almost every day. But, oh, that magic day when I took a moment to closely inspect the packaging. No wonder the Super Shake had become my brand of choice! What other beverage takes the time to alert you that it has "...extra space provided for shaking." Is it a libidinous dance party, or a tasty treat?
It breaks my heart whenever an old song I love is licensed for a commercial. Usually, the new use of the song completely ignores the original spirit of the song, using it as a sort of pop-culture shorthand for former new-wavers who want feel young again. (This happens in car commercials more often than any others, it seems. My powerful aversion to car ownership keeps me from getting sucked into their dastardly scheme.) The latest offender (and a particlarly painful affront to me personally) is a new Mitsubishi commercial that uses Devo's "Uncontrollable Urge." And not a mongoloid in sight so tragic.
If dragging my ass to and from work every day leaves me uninspired, then it should be no surprise that languishing on the couch in a feverish daze leaves me with even less to say. Well, aside from the obvious fact that that the crap:treat ratio on television is heavily skewed toward utter, unwatchable crap. Those occasional Tivo pile-ups had tricked me into thinking otherwise.
Making matters worse, I promised Jessie that I’d be his guest blogger while he was away this week. Maybe I'll just keep up his routine and post a few pictures of Chris and Reese once in a while. If I write anything interesting over there, I'll be sure to link back to this post just so you won't have to miss a single, scintillating word.
There won't be a better way to celebrate Pride this summer than dragging your butts over to P.S. 122 to watch me and some other bloggers who actually have talent reminisce at the WYSIWYG Talent Show. It'll be fun! I'll be confessing to all the sissiest details I can think of, and I'll be upstaged by the likes of Kythryne Aisling, Jimbo, Kiri, Bob (he's Yer Uncle), the Everlasting Blogstalker, Faustus, M.D., and The Hazzards. Come watch my stage-fright meltdown!
This gem of a hand-painted sign is tucked above a nondescript door on West 17th St., I think. I’m actually afraid to go and find out exactly what they sell, because the reality is sure to be more drab than the sign itself.
I’ve been mostly bed-ridden for the last couple of days, wheezing my way through a nasty chest cold that’s thrown me for a loop. Miraculously, though, my giant-sized tonsils haven't gotten in on the act they're usually the first line of defense to crumble in the face of random germs. As a matter of fact, my tonsils enormous, oversensitive, and a lifelong problem aren't the only part of my immune system that have been reinforced by modern medicine during the last few years.
Ironically, the last few years of having an incurable disease have been the healthiest of my life. I’ve always been on the sickly side, plagued by minor ailments and inconveniences as long as I can remember. The frequency and severity of those various bugs really skyrocketed during the years between my infection and my diagnosis. A few years of treatment, though, and I seem to be as hardy as anyone else. (Furiously knocking wood as I type that.) I’m also much less stoic about getting sick.
When you sniffle and shrug off sore throats and stuffy sinuses all the time, you get in the habit of ignoring it all. No big deal, just more of the same ol'-same ol'. When you feel alright most of the time, though, even a little wheezing and wooziness seem like a huge deal. I just hope that if the situation ever demands that old habit of stoicism that I still have it in me. There doesn't seem to be any reason for me to worry about taking a turn for the worse, but who knows? (The not knowing is the best part, after all.)
I'll just keep counting my blessings, and maybe I'll lie down for a nap. I’m feeling a bit dizzy, I’m afraid. But that’s all.
Somewhere in the East Village, someone tossed out the baby with the bathwater. Or the coffee. Whichever.