Diary, Late 2000

DIARY 2000

OCT 28  Saturday. Went to corp gym on Wed or Thurs so am not impossibly logy but slightly constipated fr too much codeine-taking it every nt-finally it boomeranged + left me w/ massive headache early this am.

Going to get cold, v. cold + windy this wknd. Warmish + windy now.

Moki v depressed. Regina. He can’t borrow her car when he goes up to see Dr Nicholai. Going to rent car. And he broke his bedroom phone. I’m going to bring him his 2-line old Panasonic phone back. Maybe.

Tate membership card finally arrives this wk. I signed up in April but apparently they never put charge thru till Sept. Patti Smith on tate mag cover. Makes me think of Connecticut Eagle. I write DRC, we exchange emails. My longer 2nd or 3rd one gets no reply. She tires of me quickly. Her brother works for the Mets.

Mets lost World Series in Game 5. I saw nearly every game, at least part, beg. Last Sat. at rr on Franklin St. (Film Forum: Brit New Wave this wknd.)

CAT Scan on Tuesday. A pleasant and thrilling experience except for the 2 days of diarrhea afterward from all the magical elixirs. RA has not returned my £90. CG Review still be revised by Carol W + K T Gallo. CitiFX Econ back in gear, due for completion by Wed.

I revived my cellphone w/ VoiceStream (which took over Omnipoint). New number bks they sold my old one to a noggie. I called it once.

Found a most surprising sudden phone msg on my Manhattan phone, dating from the Sat I was in Oxford (2 wks ago). Barat—out on the street (“with Claire”—Claire 18 now, still offstage like a papoose having a nap—somehow distasteful to me how my sister has treated her daughter, maybe distasteful because of the remoteness of my own parents—or maybe I dimly recognize that my sister, in keeping this ‘familiar’ abt her, is just doing what she often did w/ me. It wasn’t a good thing for me, how can it be for Claire?), didn’t leave a phone number. Like calling a business contact at lunchtime, you don’t really wish to visit with the person.

NOV 8  Wed. Stopped at Tristan on 6th last nt to buy a charcoal grey skirt bks I’d worn the same charcoal grey trousers (bought at Brooks on Sun nt) for 2 days running. Dark festive election night. Went to the old Jewish lady’s liquor store on 55th to buy wine-2 bottles of what turned out to be slightly bitter Shiraz from Californra. Watched ‘The Conversation’ w/ Moki. Harrison Ford in early bit role. Self-indulgent technothriller that wears on one. But very ambition, says Moki. Elections inconclusive , to M’s irritation. “What kind of country are we living in” (where so many people vote for Gore). FL to Gore, then to Bush, then withdrawn, w/ B slightly ahead. No one talks of anything else today.

Stock markets “all but paralyzed” says the BBC about the unfinished election. Results not due till Thursday.

“Don’t get snippy with me!” Line from Fargo, supposedly used by Gore on phone to Bush at 3 am when Gore phoned to retract his concession.

Gym today. They had the sound up on the TVs bks everyone wanted to hear the election reports.

Afterwards me & Chas G. to Due South for rum & cokes, then another round and a dinner. I bought Vanity Fair, Dec. issue, at WTC bfr Path, thinking I needed change, and inspiration for those cosmetics cartoons too…

Disco notice from “verizon” (Bell Atlantic) for Hoboken. $200+ due by Nov. 13. Send tomorrow (9th) to reach them 10th or 11th.

Someone named Mike, whom I gave my phone no. to on the CTCL list, phoned up last nt as we were tuning into the election. Much to Moki’s annoyance. Who are you talking to? What sort of person calls up at this time on election night? Mike is having 3rd biopsy today. Has a particularly nasty variant of CTCL, w/ swollen lymph nodes.

Gave J Woodley 4 Solpadeine tonight, in case he needs it for his tooth discomfort.

Bit of a scare 8 days ago when I got here (Hoboken) w/ my big garment bag + trash bag full of clothes-M had driven me over after coming back from Boston in the rental car (which he is nw preferring to taking thr train or bus). An IRS letter lay on the mailbox in the doorway. I ripped it open, sick to my stomach. They just want me to identify the $326 I paid in April. A delightful relief.

 Remember to get new SS #.

Nov 18. Moki is 60. Still no president-elect. A sunny Saturday. We watch a rented Rules of Engagement w/ Samuel L. Jackson. Tomorrow to the cancer luncheon on Coney Island w/ Sonnekson. He knows the restaurant. Gargiulo’s. I’ve been in Hob most evenings the […]

Last Sunday afternoon to Tap Room. Doug Cooper showed. I ate lots of roast beef. Doug drew a map of the lower 48. (Page opposite.) M in bad mood bks I had not bought the paper earlier. I did buy it after 8 pm Mass however. Monday I felt sleepless + tired, thought of running right home to Hob at 5 but was tempted by Merlin Holland’s appearance at the Donnell Lib. I thought perhaps 50 people wd show. But the event had received wide publicity, it seems. A line of 400 or more stretched down 53rd St. yet I nearly made it. 260 seats and some standees, and if I’d been there 10 min earlier…  To Hob where I ate a cup of chili and garden salad at Lady Jane’s. The large round-faced Bill (Holmberg) was at his usual corner table. Bought me a wine + Grand Marnier wh we dunked into coffee. The coffee later kept me awake longer than I’d like. Bill is a Gore man, has nothing but contempt for Bush He is a ‘human rights’ attorney for a private firm that establishes clearance policies for American companies doing business abroad. I like him but I had his number early on. A lib Dem (right, of course), a nonbeliever, no regard or concern for the afterlife of the “after” generations. “After all-they [his descendants] won’t care about me.”

Back at 928 I found another msg from the Egregious Nicki. Jacked up on booze + coffee I phoned ***. Jolly conversation abt my cancer, abt Diane Lask, and whatever else I forget.

Tuesday I saw Colbert, who sprayed my rear end w/ liquid nitrogen. It felt like powerful medicine when it sprayed but had no result. I got C to write me a script for Renova, though, so it wasn’t a total loss. Back to work at noon, off to Silhan at 2. No cavities, it seems. But my teeth felt artificial for the net day after the cleaning. He’s still a clumsy, rough, scraper, when it comes to cleaning. Took radio taxi home to Hob that night – quite tired, and I went straight home to bed Another taxi on Wed night – one cig and one beer toward midnight at Maxwell’s Back to Maxwell’s Thursday nt at 830, sat at table w/ the pretty blond waitress from South Africa serving me. She was astonished, really truly, to learn I favored Bush. Wanted to know more abt my claim that Gore’s party had been jiggering the votes all along. (An idea had recently occurred to me, wh is that the ostensibly irregular vote for Buchanan had a fudge factor of phony ballots—not at all a matter of old Jews misvoting en masse on the confusing ‘bufferfly ballot’ in Boca Raton. )
Nov 25  Saturday in Starbuck’s. Icy cold + overcast outside. There is an art supp shop in Wmsburg I mean to try. ‘Big Genius,’ 540 Metrop. Ave., 10-11 718 302 4002. Fierce headache this am. Sinus headache, didn’t yield to 4 ibus + 2 codeine tabs. Came here and one big cuppa killed it-mostly. On my 3rd ± it is still throbbing there remotedly in the b.g. Last nt at riverrun 2 big beers, one ‘Bay Breeze’ (free from Daniel, reward for fixing the cable TV connection wh he’d dislodged from the box), also dinner of blackened swordfish 2/ some sort of salso on top, a huge clumb of broccoli, two identical boiled or roasted pertaters. I was feeling ill by Bay Breeze time. In the frosty night to WTC, home to 928 via the Academy bus after 10 pm.

Excellent review of 2 food concordances, one from Oxford, one from Cambridge, in the New Yorker. One of the most thrilling reviews I’ve ever read. Humorous + intelligent, bound to send me looking not only for these new books but for the old ones mentioned as landmark histories. Hunter-gatherers ate better. The trade-off for the agro-society is oppression + malnutrition.


We ate Thanksgiving dinner at 3 pm at the Greek diner on 57th st near 8th. Sad and funny. Dry, leathery turkey. I told people abt this as a comic incident-until I told Marian heller last night, and she did the same thing, w/ a friend, in the Village, Thanksgiving afternoon. But she had a real T-giving dinner later on.

Must do a half-dozen drawings for old Ashley… (later, late Sat nt.) Bill Bergstrom buys me a third wine at Lady Jane’s Looks at my drawings. Is impressed. How pleasing it it. Doesn’t understand why I am tracing one of my own drawings.

Still wound up from those 60 oz of Starbuck’s coffee-yikes.

Moki’s family has tradition of phoning around on Thanksgiving Day. Late morn on Thurs, as I was going in an out, I sensed he was talking to to AT and indeed he was. Very friendly call. She’d just sent him $1500 for his birthday so he had that reason among others. (Note this is paid out of the bequest from late brother, Bob, not out of AT’s piggy bank.) later on Moki told me that AT had asked after me. She thought I was ‘troubled.’ Moki brushed this off, but when relating it to me made it out to be an allusion to my being weird. Weird-eccentric and perhaps weird-the-other-thing too. Here Moki was probably missing the context entirely. Because AT had also asked how Moki was getting on with Carol. I told Michael, ‘Well in regards to me, Alice Therese was obviously asking about the cancer.”

“About the what?”

“About my health problems, which she’s undoubtedly heard of through Carol. She had heard I had a health problem and she was askig you about it.”

“Carol? No. How would Carol know?”

“Because I told her. Obviously she told AT. What else could AT be referring to?” I spun the analysis out a little further-AT not only keeps this back-channel open to the Blakes, without specifically referring to its, she’s understood from Carol that Michael has been difficult when drinking, and-perhaps for this reason?-has been p.n.g. w/ the Blakes since spring. “So Michael, did she say Carol had mentioned you?” As a matter of fact she had.

How like Michael not to put 2 and 2 together.  So blindered + wrongheaded where his family’s approval is concerned. Esp. when it’s AT speaking. Last Christmas he was near-psychotically fretful and angry w/ me, thinking I had got AT’s nose out of joint at the Dallas parties and that’s why AT failed to send him a Christmas check-then when the check turned up a day later, and Michael got drunk courtesy of me (I bought him 6 or 7 martinis on Christmas Eve) and raved at me that it was time for us to break up-he went and hid that red envelope so I wouldn’t rip it up when he went to the bathroom. Next day, and the day after that, he couldn’t find it. Asked if I’d seen it. I told him he’d hid it. He did not remember.

Bitter cold that Christmas, and a bitter time for me. It was the height of Michael’s nastiness toward me, though it flared up again in late January and wasn’t ever completely gone. Still, relations in 2000-after January-were far better than in 1999.

December 10-evening on Sunday   Back at Maxwell’s. Moki practically screamed at me on the phone for a full ten minutes-I put the handset down during most of his ran who seemed to be abt his family, who didn’t understand that it wasn’t impossible for him to make a living because he had ADHD, and Dr. Nicholai doesn’t understand it either, and I don’t understand the stress and torment he goes through when it is noon on Sunday and I am there (as I was today) and he has to go through the compilation of his bills to send off to Lefty Thomas, the family executor. It wasn’t too bad. I had spent early afternoon at the little dining table to trying to write the St. Chad piece for Chris Buckley while he fretted at his desk. I ran out at noon for buns and beer and an extension cord for the old PowerBook I keep at Moki’s. I bought one at Radio Shack for $5 after trying 4 other stores. The proper cord finally showed up in a pouch in the PB bad. So it was an errand wasted. I couldn’t even find a UK-US 3-prong adapter for the English cord I had on a bookshelf. Most frustrating, though at long last I did buy a cord, plugged it in and got some writing in before Moki’s fuming crescendoed.

The St. Chad piece is a doggie dinner. References at the start to the Boys in the Band, Chad + Jeremy, and Peter and Gordon, before I get into the meat of the piece.

I work at this, doggedly, for reasons of obligation that go back over 20 years. In early 1979 Christopher told me that John Berendt, editor of New York Magazine, was looking for an executive secretary. Not an attractive position in other circumstances, perhaps, but it would finally get me out of New Haven. *** Ever since that time I’ve kept away from Chris, burdened with guilt. Gladly I sought out whatever obscure life I could find. Once, when living in the Chelsea-fall of ’79, not long after the Berendt episode-I phoned him at his place on East 20th St, loking from some juicy connections. He gave me the name of Paul Slansky, editing a movie throwaway, but I never followed up. Upon returning to NYC in ’98 I contacted Chris at Forbes FYI and tried to sell him on a harebrained story abt Ed Cuffe. Finally he relented-give it the old college try, he said-but by that time I was off on the May  trip w/ Moki in Hillsborough and had to say I couldn’t meet the June 5 deadline. End of Chris Buckley, for a while. ***

Chris was ill Thurs morning and we nearly didn’t meet for that reason. I rang him up at Forbes. He was dodging his calls, answering as “Chris Buckley’s line.” “It’s Miss Sheehan.” He was overjoyed to find it was me. We met at King Cole Room. Too crowded. Led me to the upstairs bar at the Peninsula Hotel where I had 3 Jack Daniels to his 3 vodka martinis. I told him Michael was great fan of Michi’s. Chris says, alas, he and Michiko haven’t spoken in 20 years. “After a point she drew a curtain between herself and me and anyone she’d known before, off the Times.” She had an affair w/ Carl Bernstein, and this somehow embarrassed her. ***

“Do you remember who it was I got you the job interview with? At New York Magazine. Remember who it was?” Oh of course I remembered, through having him remind me of it hit me like a stone. “He later wrote ‘Midnight in the Garden of-‘”

“Fucking closet queen. I haven’t forgotten,” I said.

We traded outre references. Hilaire Belloc. C recited part of the ‘unpublished’ doggerel-“At the end of Piccadilly stands a”-wh Chris’s father WFB Jr had once taught him. I riposted that indeed the thing had been published, in A. N. Wilson’s 1984 bio of HB. (Must send him a copy.) Revilo Oliver-the man w/ the palindrome name. He committed suicide in 1994, which Christopher didn’t know. He was mildly surprised to learn I had known him slightly. Peter Cook: I said he was fabulously wealthy w/ a big house in Hampstead, from his share in Private Eye, Christopher pretty sure he’d read an Alan Bennett eulogy telling how he’d bring poor Peter sandwiches and coffee.***

Friday night: met Sonnekson again, outside Two Lives on Waverly, just after 7. We went to a tiny Italian place on Greenwich-Sapore, I think. I stuffed myself on spaghetti + meatballs, w/ a share in the fried calamari appetizer. Corner table. Tiny bright place, very hot on a very cold night. A blind mulatto w/ a white-tipped cane was at the vestibule door as we passed out. “I see a white cane.” “Thank you,” he said. We went to Raffaela’s. R showed me his notes on Breeder Bullies, wh we are now conceiving as a comic treatise w/ lots of drawings. I lay awake much of the night w/ intestinal cramps. The Donnager I bought in Stamfor is alsomot gone, so tonight in Port Authoritiy’s Duane Reade I picked up a bottle of Kaopectate.

Have had a pain in my left shoulder and back last two days. Oncoming heart attack? Elevated pulse more than usual-72 to 78 when resting. Very unusual.

Off to London Thurs. Unprepared as usual.

Ashley phoned mid-week when back from Rio. We shall meet on Tuesday? Bring him cartoons.

Did 3 more for Colin on new topics-sent him 2. Got $500 ck for recent work, deposited it. Owes me maybe $1500 more.

Dec. 13  Have been BM-ing like nobody’s business. Terribly swollen around the middle for last week. Now we get over constipation? Made a point of eating salad last few days. Don’t forget. Have to go again now.

Ashley phones again. I tell him I spoke to Susy Goei in Paris yesterday after our lunch. He tells me she had a high old time w/film people in LA when she was living there after her arranged mariage broke up. Ashley to messenger down the CD art for ‘Diamonds’ wh I am supp to wk on.

No word from D Stead. Send Chad to Toby Young.

May have to go by air to Paree on Sat. Pick up pic in Islington at 11 am.

Ooh. Hemorrhoids beginning.  Have had a week of shits since 8 am….and we’re down to the soft caramel stage now.
Moki a good man. Loving, funny last nt. Phoned me up again today to tell me that Brian’s Christmas card this yr is B in a grip ‘n’ grin w/ Pres. of Ireland.

Bush Prevails” hed in NYT today. Late Supreme Ct ruling last nt. Barring Florida from jiggering the vote for Gore. This could be the fifth false alarm in as many wks.

Bright blonde girl named Petrie has turned up on the web. She’d made a website and domain for AA. P is nearly *** inscrutable, went to Andover + Babson. Lives in Manhattan. She’s the diametrical opposite of the last mirror-image who fascinated me (RD)…  I sent a note to AA via Petrie’s site but no reply.

12/15 3:55 GMT on BA flt 188
Whatever was I thinking? This Chris Buckley mtg a wek ago-I was putting myself on display for him. Nothing may come of this. Nothing. Fucking nothing.

From now on instead of going into depress, blotting things out through black thoughts, drink, whatever, I’m going to go pick fights and get back at those sleazoid jerks who need to be rubbed out…or just yell + scream and make myself heard.

This fucking Egregious-how dare he? And he is a he.

Yeah my thoughts were rushing on + scattered back in Dec. 72. And what did those incompetent fools at DUH do? They crippled me for life w/ that Trilafon.

Contagion of Michael’s LAZINESS. He has no drive. No drive. Which is the desideratum of Eastern religiions. No struggle. How demented and oppressed you must be-how tired of struggle you must be-to conceive of this as attractive. But where did Michael get it? Utter hell in his own childhood-fear of being negatively criticised, mocked, hit, punished. (Here Margot starts projecting her own hell on everyone-but that’s as sensible as any other apercu.) There is none. Keep to your knitting.

Grotesque fat blond creature w/ tattooed shields on his cheks + chin, distended ear lobes like some fucking savage. Crazy. Saw at Donnell Library on Sunday. This during time when M was being nasty on and off.


Christopher had this way of punctuating questions-when I was ready to respond-by flopping himself backward. Disconcerting to me.


Last nt (13th) worked till 8:30, then 2 win‘s + bowl of soup at Due South. Gore on at 9-conceding. Smiling like a cretin throughout. Began w/ one nice joke-he told Bush he wouldn’t call him back this time. Later, when I was in Hoboken + had tuned in WNYC, Bush was giving a longer, clichŽ-ridden speech. A panel of jews then commented that it was a lame speech-a warmed-over campaign speech. Wh it was- but surely it was okay speech for the person giving it.

I have rehearsed in my head what I sill say to the Brits when they ask me abt the election. “I wouldn’t have shed any tears one way or the other—but tell me what you’d be inclined to think.”

12/16 15:20 Paris time. We are somewhere in the Channel Tunnel. I booked for a table seat in the smoking car, surprised even to be asked if I wanted a “table seat” when I diffidently bought the ticket yesterday afternoon at Waterloo. Smking car, yes, because it seemed more European. The car is almost empty. Some continentals speaching French (why? Indians in Paris? What do they do? Run bad cheap hotels in the Marais? Popularize Doner Kebab?) are beside me on the other side of the car.

Ah! Out of the tunnel. First time in France, more or less. It looks just like England.

Rang up the Cottrells, spoke to Stefan + Steve, just before w e took off. Almost knows abt the Sonnet upgrade card-good-he was keeping this a secret

diary late 2000 gallerynews gallerynews


Wracking My Brain for Rosie E.

Wracked my brain for most of the past day trying to remember when we met Rosie-in-the-green-cape for lunch, and what the weird eatery was. I was sure it was between 2008 and 2010, but it turns out to have been mid-February 2005, a few weeks before I was in Paris and right after I went with K and S to see The Gates in Central Park.

How fleeting memory is.

Rosie was very fond of the Chelsea Market (here in NYC) where I’d never been. We ate a few blocks away at a place calling itself the Bright Food Shop. Exactly the sort of place where a rare overseas visitor might wish to meet you; she fancied it a bit of local color, I suppose. She was apparently a friend of Michael’s London acquaintances with the odd clock shop. We haven’t heard from them, or Rosie, ever since.


In the Age of Abu Gharib: Unfinished Drafts

Looking at a predecessor blog from 2005-2006, I find a clutch of limp but still edible ideas sketched out in the Drafts bin, some no more than a sentence long. Laying them side-by-side makes an interesting autobiographical collage, A View from Pompous Head.

RIP Sausage Lady

The Sausage Lady died of colon cancer last year and I missed it. While I don’t want to be too harsh (after all, I expect to die of the same thing myself) I am presently giggling myself nearly to death.

I described her earlier as a “vile, mean-streaked harridan.” That is putting it gently. Her real name was Judith Moore, and she was the author of a thin, self-indulgent memoir called Fat Girl, published the year before she died. Prior to that her literary output consisted mostly of navel-gazing book reviews and essays that got printed in freebie weeklies in California.

Initially her publication was the East Bay Other (or something like that), in the vicinity of Berkeley, California. In the mid-80s she collected a stack of her essays and had them printed up under a vanity imprint called the SoHo Press. For most kitchen-table scribblers, the story would end there. But Judith was an idler with modem, and she subscribed to

Dago Death Trip

Many years ago, say fifteen if you like, I was recruited as a contributing writer for an obscure but wealthy weekly newspaper in Southern California. Let us call it the San Diego Bystander. My stint as contributing writer lasted only a few days, as I was soon inveigled into becoming a contributing editor, then associate editor, and finally managing editor. This all happened in the course of about three months. It was a magical time.

No, wait! I was never managing editor. But there was a plot to make me managing editor. By the time I got wind of the plot, I’d figured I wanted no part of it. But I’m jumping ahead…

A Vision of Hell

About twenty years ago I dreamt about hell and the devil. Repeatedly. I made the mistake of repeating my fast-fleeting memories of these dreams to a few people. It appears I upset them greatly, because then they had nightmares about the devil and being areligious people (like most of the folks I knew), they just couldn’t handle it. They were like people who don’t have bookshelves, so when you give them a pretty new book they stand around holding it and worrying about it, because they have no place suitable to set it down.

In particular I recall Elke, a German woman named Elke was particularly upset by my description of the Bad Guy. He may have had horns in my telling (I honestly don’t remember) but his most striking characteristic was his deformed, bifurcated face, like a pair of buttocks.

Oh how Elke fretted. You’d think no one had ever dreamt of the devil before. She decided to calm herself down by Seeking a Rational Explanation, as though a nightmare needed one. She told herself, and me, that my vision of Old Nick was just something I’d picked up from Hieronymus Bosch. A clear case of begging the question, but Maybe this helped her get over it. I don’t know.

Old arse-face was not my only nocturnal encounter with the in a filthy underground tunnel into which I’d been led by a Negro practicing voodoo. The worst thing about this cramped tunnel wasn’t its darkness or its filth but the certainty I had that it was inescapable. Miraculously, it seemed, I awoke, with the thought that there wasn’t anything strange at all about worshipping the devil: belief in magic and the supernatural is part of our nature, so if you don’t believe in God you still have the devil to reckon with. So you pay homage to him in one form or another, believing in things like the Earthly Paradise and the Perfectibility of Man (if you’re a sophisticated Westerner) or his ability to bring disaster to your enemies (if you’re a savage). Your notion of evil takes on a pragmatic, self-centered aspect. Anything that keeps you from getting what you want at the moment is evil; the face of your enemy is by definition evil (at least while your enemy is still your enemy; tomorrow he may be your friend and together you can form a league against some other solipsistic idea of evil). Furthermore, anyone who talks in highfalutin abstractions and long-range terms that mean nothing to you and have no benefit to you, at least none that you can immediately see, is probably evil as well. That’s the way we are wired, back in our little ape-brains. Maybe this is why hatred of Christianity, or God-worship in general, is such an obsession among

Miniskirts: The Current Thing? Uh-huh. Sure.

Two years ago I happened upon an image of the original poster for the New York Mini roadrace, a 10k that happens every June. Originally conceived as a 6-mile ‘mini-distance event’ the Mini began life as something called the Crazylegs Marathon. It was named after a leg-shave product briefly marketed by Johnson’s Wax.

Do you remember Edge shave gel? ‘Give your face the Edge’? Well, that was Crazylegs. Same stuff, same can, different label.

Crazylegs Marathon. The name and sponsor sound bizarre enough, but for creep-out factor they have nothing on

How to Deal with a Troublesome Individual…

…or a crazy. I am not sure there is a hard distinction.

While I was writing the last frippery something else was eating at me and it had nothing to do with Consumer Reports. It was something that happened at one of my gyms. A case of bad personal interaction. One of those odd encounters I get every year or two, usually with a highstrung or unstable person, someone whose behavior is so unexpected it sets my teeth on edge for weeks afterwards and makes me wonder–maybe I’m the one who’s crazy here.

On this occasion, though, it wasn’t me, it was the other person. I know because I’ve had trouble with her before. I’ve known her for about a year and a half. Skinny, pale, about 50, with a short crop of spiky black hair and red-red lipstick. Let us call her Maureen Kabuki. She is not Japanese, however.

I first met Maureen Kabuki when I joined this upscale health club on the West Side of Manhattan. She’d been a member for years. We both used lockers at the west end of the locker room and sometimes took the same classes, so we chatted occasionally. She was chatty and bubbly, and when I’m with a bubbly person I go bubbly too. I riff. Laffs all around.

We were friendly, though never friends. There wasn’t much to connect with. She often seemed a little dim, but only (or so I told myself) in the way that hicks and nurses often seem dim. They’re not really stupid, you know, they’re just not used to understanding any kind of nuanced conversational idiom. That was it, sure. She was unsophisticated.

We’d be in a class together, and I’d make some bland remark on the level of, “I’ve never done this, but I’ll try,” and Maureen would immediately apologize for it, as though it were the height of outrageousness. Had I really said something odd, or was Maureen funny in the head? It wasn’t a big deal, so I put it aside.

Then I was away for a while and when I saw Maureen again I found she was very cold and snotty to me. Quite theatrical about it, you know. Melodramatic, in case I might miss the point. I’d say, “Hi Maureen,” (or whatever her name really is), and she’d go–unnh–literally lifting her nose in the air as though I were a bad smell she was trying to avoid. I’d try to be friendly, strike up a conversation, but she always led me down

The Uses of Idiocy, or Is This a Good Thing?

Let’s recall the early days of webmania (1995-2000, roughly) and the commonplace observations you’d hear about its effect upon our national, or meganational, culture. “We are becoming two nations,” the favorite cliche went, “the computer-literate and the others.” What this almost always meant was, those who were daily Internet addicts vs. those who had not yet hopped on the bandwagon. Sometimes this was phrased in a way that suggested socioeconomic deprivation (“only ten percent of African-Americans have used the World Wide Web” and that sort of thing.)

When I Got Back to New York Everyone Was Dead

Maxwell Vos, Ben Bagley. But there was always Carley Cunniffe. Now I find Carley Cunniffe, the stunning head of her family’s investment boutique, is also dead. Damn.

And Where Shall Mister Buckley Sit?

It’s been some weeks since Bill Buckley died and I haven’t figured out where he stands in the Great Scheme of Things. Was he Good or Bad for Civilization? Surely, in his younger days, he was a guided missile for the Christian West, with all the force and singlemindedness that a

(Ah, but that’s just how our Chris is. Superficially smooth but incredibly inept socially, always eager for the cheap filthy laugh at your expense. He had a similar falling-out with old friend and onetime housemate Michiko Kakutani around 1983. They haven’t spoken si



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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Mush

Belatedly I come across Peter Hitchens’s 2011 takedown on the then-new movie version of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and it is a digressive, sometimes hilarious joy to read. Link here.

I’ve seen this film version many times—nearly as many times as I’ve watched the 1979 BBC series—and was always perplexed by the glorious miscasting of most characters, not to mention the complete reconceiving of such figures as Jerry Westerby, Peter Guillam (the film makes him a homosexual who wears a fringe and is played by an embarrassed-looking Benedict Cumberbatch), and of course George Smiley himself (Gary Oldman, who swims in ponds with his heavy eyeglasses on, which the relentlessly sedentary book Smiley and Alec Guinness portrayal would never do).

It didn’t occur to me till now that I was wasn’t the only one confused. There was outrage all over when the film came out.

And a lot of high-dudgeon humor. My favorite bit in the Hitchens review is where he tells you what Percy Alleline should be like, and is like in the book and TV series—versus the mutant-alien version we get in the film version:

This, THIS is Percy Alleline??

This, THIS is Percy Alleline??

Percy Alleline, the smooth and pompous Secret Service Chief, cruises his way through Whitehall, associating with ‘golfers and Conservatives’,  speaking orotundly of ‘My brother in Christ, the Chief of Naval Intelligence’ (to give a sample of his speech).

He simply has to be tall, pin-striped and slightly well-padded, with the trace of an Edinburgh accent. Instead he is a short ginger baldie who sounds and looks as if he has recently given up being a Glasgow bus conductor.

Hitchens also tells us that Roger Lewis in the Times had just done a similar excoriation (though a much shorter one).  I see the paywall will defeat most people, so I’ll do the Christian thing here and reproduce the 2011 Lewis review in its entirety. Nyaah nyaah.

Am I the stupidest man in Britain ? I ask this because every critic has been lavishing high praise on the new film adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. No one I’ve seen has given it less than five stars. The word “masterpiece” has been bandied about.

I thought it was absolutely terrible. As adapted, the story was something I couldn’t follow at all, and I’ve read John le Carré’s suspenseful novel of 1974 three times with intense enjoyment. Shot as if by candlelight, it was hard to make out the characters in the gloom. The plot was impenetrable, and given a vaguely gay slant — chaps smiling ruefully at other chaps is what it now seemed to come down to. The mood was boring in the extreme — the climax was Gary Oldman eating a Trebor mint.

The chief problem, for me at any rate, is that I am a besotted fan of the original Alec Guinness version for the BBC thirty years ago. I watch the DVD all the time. I even corresponded with David Cornwell — John le Carré to you — who told me that Bill Haydon was in part based on Anthony Blunt, hence the significance of the Corot painting he gives to Lady Anne. Blunt, however, with his immunity from prosecution deal, didn’t die until 1983; so back in the Seventies, to avoid legal entanglements, Haydon was instead said to have been inspired by Kim Philby.

Towering above everyone was the enigmatic Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley. It was perhaps the best performance he ever gave, because it was a distillation of his technique as an actor. Ian Richardson told me that Guinness spent ages rehearsing how best to take off his glasses and give them a polish, how to tie up his shoelaces or tug at his earlobe. The more banal the gesture, the more riveting Guinness became — his apparent blankness suffused with regret, disappointment, rage and forbearance.

Oldman conveys none of this. I always have trouble with him as an actor because he looks as if he wants to bite people in the neck. His Smiley is sepulchral, a dead spot on the screen. His face is creased and lined and covered in chalk. His hair is a streaky grey. He is jerky and wiry, where Guinness sort of undulated. His voice, however, is an impersonation of Guinness’s.

No doubt the producers of the new version are cock-a-hoop and are busily planning the sequel, Smiley’s People. The only way they’d get me to see it is if they cast Hale and Pace. I’m not joking. I saw Hale and Pace in a thriller recently in Eastbourne and they were brilliant.





Stoned at SeaTac

I went out to Seattle for a shitlord conference, and learned they have pot stores there. Now, I’ve never liked cannabis, really, but the idea of THC edibles appealed to me. On the flight out I’d read a piece in the New Yorker about a Jewish lady who’s some kind of gourmet cook and entrepreneur in that field. There is mention of Maureen Dowd’s unfortunate experience with a marijuana chocolate bar in Denver. She ate a bit, didn’t feel anything, so gobbled the whole thing. And spent the next two days in intense discomfort, flat on her back.

Thus apprised, and warned, I went over to the little shop in Belltown a few blocks from my hotel, and bought some 10mg THC milk chocolate for about five bucks. Nibbled a little, felt tired and woozy, lay down, got up, felt hungry. The munchies? Maybe. Went down to dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Two vodka martinis drowned out any of the drug’s effects.

bhang-chocolateI’d planned to bring most of the candy back to my husband. But when I got to the airport I had qualms. I gobbled the remainder of the chocolate and tossed the wrapper. After entering the security queue, I realized I’d thrown away my boarding pass as well. Back to the trash bin.

I’d nibbled at a little of the candy earlier in the day and could feel its effects. My mind wandered more than usual. My gate seemed miles off, but I had two hours, so stopped for a martini at the Alaska Lounge. When I got to the boarding gate listed on my pass, I settled in, and reached for my laptop. It wasn’t there, in my rolling backpack. I’d left it in the plastic x-ray bin at security.

Now the panic started. I realized I was pretty well blitzed from the candy, and had been all evening. I double-checked the departure time on the electronic board, since my flight wasn’t yet listed at the gate. The board said my flight was at N3; my boarding pass said C18. I checked it again. The flight was due to leave in a half-hour. I wouldn’t have time to retrieve my laptop. I hurried over to the N gates.

The N gates were in a different terminal. I had to walk a half-mile, then board a jitney. In the distant sub-terminal I saw my flight was scheduled at its new gate, but was slightly delayed. I had almost enough time to run back to security and find my laptop, but didn’t trust myself in my condition.

Finally arriving home next morning, I hunted through my bag to make doubly sure the laptop really wasn’t there. I lay in bed most of the next two days, exhausted from the trip and intoxications. It occurred to me the airport might have a lost-and-found department, and I found it online and registered my loss. After a few days I got a nice chirrupy voice phoning me. I identified the item easily enough (a Mickey Mouse bandaid over the camera, among other things). For $75 UPS will ship it to me in a few days.


Jokes from an Abandoned Journal

My diary-keeping seems to have reached its zenith during 2008, that annus mirabilis, when just about everything worked terribly well for except work itself. I lost a long-time job and was seemingly unemployable afterwards. Early in the year, when I had been laid off but still had weeks and weeks of gardening-leave pay and benefits until the actual termination date, I didn’t do any job-hunting at all. I worked out daily and went to track meets, in Boston, New York, and Clermont-Ferrand. I archived all the graphic work I had done over the years, arranged several online portfolios, rewrote my resume several times, started many new blogs, tried to give my mess of a novel its final heave into organization, and otherwise tried to get my life sorted. I did not succeed but my efforts, as demonstrated in Diary 66D (January to July 2008), were brilliant. Well I’m impressed anyway, and that’s unusual for me.

One very useful project in the archive-and-organize venture was my cartoon-gag concordance. Over the years I’d roughed out cartoons, or written ideas for cartoons, or ideas for ideas for cartoons. Mostly these were in earlier volumes of my journals. On or about 11 February 2008 I “harvested” the most promising ones under the title Master Captions. Usually noted is a location for the original rough, a diary or scrap folder. Some of the descriptions are so skeletal they suggest neither humor nor sensicality, and I have to go back to the original notes to find what is supposed to be happening…

“We don’t actually believe in Santa Claus, but we regard him as a great prophet.” — Mother with child at Santa Claus queue.

“So who’s been telling you life is supposed to be interesting?”
“I see you’ve got those new slippery chairs.”
early ’04 – 59

“I never write on spec.” — Bum on park bench.
Amateur prizefighter. Book 49A
Willy the Worm. Book 49A, p. 29.
(See p. 20 – 40A for forced incongruities)

“to me, all women are either moppets or strumpets.” 49A

James Earl Jones. 49A p. 4

Fashion designer, harridan 49A

Judges — “Shake the hand that shook the hand that shook the hand of Learned Hand.” p. 93 62B, p. 22 62

“Devil I know” (bar) 62B
“Fresh fish” Tattoos 62B

“I work in IT so i don’t have to care how I look.” SCRAP (bums on p b)
“You look kinda old for a ‘Josh.’ – SCRAP
“You have a skill set? You mean you can buy a whole set?” SCRAP


Give me six vodka gimlets and I care not who makes the laws (barfly an E H Shepard king) – SCRAP

Hi Honey I’m Elwied (???) SCRAP

You must be Aladdin. You have such swell legs. SCRAP

BULLFROG’S MONOPOLY – scrap – just an idea

Unsex Toilet 37, book 53

L’esprit d’escalator (Rego, 2000)

And for dessert may I suggest a cognac, served up w/ nicotine gum? p. 60 Book 65

(buffalo gals) Book 62 p 22

“There’s a gentleman here to see you.” (slattern secretary, schlump boss, Knut w/ cane)

Two cats at restaurant table: ‘Basicaly I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian, but I also eat mice.’ p. 59 Book 62

Naturopath store. “This one doesn’t do anything either but it’s three dollars cheaper.”
“They threw me off the hay truck around noon.” p. 42A [Drunken man arrives home?]



New Wikipedia Article: Ion Trewin

Wrote my first Wikipedia article in a long time today. It is about Ion Trewin, literary director of the Booker Prize and author of the Alan Clark biography. Believe it or not there was no article for him!

I used a Most Favored Alias when writing the article, naturally.

Both Ion and his literary agent son Simon have simple WordPress sites, using a standard Chris Pearson theme. Good to know.


Where Are the Fireworks of Yesteryear?

In which our editrix showers us with sparkling reminiscences and investigates the roots of our technological decline.

When I was a little girl (she wrote), fireworks were almost as boring as they are now, but they went on a lot longer. I mean the season went on a lot longer. It started around Memorial Day and pretty much lasted through the whole lightning bug time.

You saw the most fireworks on Independence Day, of course (of course), but when you drove through Kentucky or Tennessee in mid-July you’d still see the little ma-and-pa shops with their charming homespun billboards, and they were doing a land-office business. And they weren’t just getting rid of inventory (like Russell Stover Candies with their post-Valentine’s Day half-price heart-shaped boxes of chocolates) either. No no no! You see, they had all these obscure celebrations down in Chattanooga and Chickasaw Bluffs and Stone Mountain, running clear into August. Every weekend through the South, it was like Disneyland After Dark, only without Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.

In general, fireworks displays were much more spectacular than they are now. The first five minutes were the same stuff you get now: a series of roman candles with a shower of stars. That was just the warmup; they were sampling the inventory for dampness and duds.

Then the magic happened. A blast of blue stars and a blast of grey stars would face off against each other, and as they descended they’d subtly form themselves into the silhouettes of Civil War detachments with bayonets fixed toward each other. That image would drop away, to be replaced by all manner of heroic images (depending on your locale): the Liberty Bell, Stonewall Jackson, Barbara Fritchie.

Near Jacksonville, Florida, the pyrotechnicians were sponsored by the local alligator farm and Studebaker dealer. Come fireworks night, their piece de resistance was a vast crocodilian in green-and-gold, with spiffy white Avanti cars driving into the gator’s red mouth and out its tail. The gator’s eyes bulged and flashed different colors: orange, pink, chartreuse, before exploding into a black hole.

This spectacular vision hovered in the air a second more, then dissolved. We moved on to the finale: a white-on-white bust of George Washington with googly eyes, and a Betsy Ross flag rippling in a pyrotechnical breeze.

Most big fireworks shows ended that way: some combination of Washington and the Stars and Stripes. They weren’t all well done, I must say. Often, if you didn’t know it was George Washington, you might mistake the lopsided image for one of the bad ghosts in the Casper TV program. But the point I want to make here is that at least people had some basic skills and made the effort. You just don’t see that anymore.

What happened to our pyrotechnical know-how? As with so many things, the roots of our decline go back to the Second World War. Pyrotechnicians got tired of being as low-paid seasonal workers. They went to engineering school on the GI bill and started to build serious rockets and missiles in Huntsville and San Diego. Meantime the local fire and police departments took over the Fourth of July duties. Some of them knew the ancient lore of painting with sparks, but most didn’t, and couldn’t be bothered to learn. And since local ordinances kept most fireworks from the general public, there was no point in teaching pyrotechnics along with other arts and crafts at community colleges and day camps.

And this is why, ladies and gentlemen, we have reached the sorry state we are in today. I doubt there is a single soul today who can do a decent alligator or Stonewall Jackson. And if there is such a personage, I fear he may be Asiatic.


A Rough Week in May

Sunday: Devon has the baby shower at Kate’s. Kate does not like me, and has persuaded members of the Clique to act likewise, but they’re stuck. I’m invited, and the exclusion will be too obvious. There are lots of others in my situation; exclude us all and you don’t have a shower. I bring the most minimal gift(s), not diapers but pretty close, in nice wrapping. I leave the affair a little early, and D acts very sweet, tries to soothe me. She was abusive and insulting to me a couple of weeks back, and knows an apology is again in order, but she doesn’t do apologies, preferring just to act friendly, as though the cross words were never spoken by her. I wince a half-smile and go out the door.

Monday: To a skyscraper in Brooklyn, at least as much of a skyscraper as you can get in Brooklyn, for a job interview with the local department of education. Three men interview me in a tiny room. One of them thinks I have an English accent. I do not.  Outside I stroll around the downtown area, a dismaying slum that always promises to get better but never does.

Tuesday: Early in the morning, a sweet young lady downtown phones me about a web job at a local subsidiary of Macmillan. Oh I remember Nature…used to log it in at the Forestry Library. I tell her, you may certainly submit me for this position. Work among civilized people for a change, not the mutants and slobs in pharmaceutical ad agencies. What a lovely phone encounter…could it ever pay off? I think that’s asking too much of Fate. Recruiters phone me incessantly, often for the same damn jobs. They always want to talk your ears off on the telephone, ticking off facts about YOU, the victim, in a process that shouldn’t take five minutes but they prefer to stretch to twenty-five.  These are phone bullies, no doubt about it.  Us little forest creatures who are insufficiently overbearing and glib, we shall always be at their mercy. When I can, I flee to the library for peace…

Not today, though. Today I have two back-t0-back “phone screens” around noon and one. In the first, a couple of web techs from Reuters tell me about their revamped site, and don’t get around to asking me any substantive questions. They will have to ding me on account of my stammer, or just on general principle. Nice folks. Then a three-way conference call with these two Jewish girls in LA, who are quite eager to get me into one of those cutting-age interactive agencies, which here in town are invariably in the West 30s. Oboy but they are chatterboxes. Pleasant, and I am flattered that they dote over me, but the more they tell me about their client, the more I hate it. I am exhausted by the time we hang up forty-five minutes later.  It is a fiercely cold and rainy day, and I am not ready to face D again, so I skip the track races over at the stadium and do a long indoor workout at my gym downtown.

Wednesday: Battery of interviews with that interactive agency, the one the Jewish girls in LA were so eager about. It’s in Hell’s Kitchen (never a point in its favor), though the neighborhood is more salubrious than what I’ve seen at Draftfcb, which is pitched over the third-world hellhole of the Manhattan Mall, at 33rd and 6th. (At let us not forget downtown Brooklyn.) Two young senior developers interview me, and when the time comes to tech questions, I panic and go blank. Me, write a function? I can barely read three words in my condition. I do better with the next interviewer, but by then my goose is cooked and I am in a manic state of derangement. You can’t get me out of this scene fast enough.  I dread the afternoon’s interview, with some Indian in a big international banking firm. All these Indians! He better not ask me technical questions. As it happens, this is the nicest interview ever. My Indian is at sea, newly plucked out of his usual department to head up a new project. He asks my advice, what sort of software would be needed, what the usual procedure would be. I may have this job. I won’t know till the lead developer starts next week. He has to interview me too, but we’ll all be at sea, all three of us. So the only issue will be whether he likes me, or we can understand each other. Hope it’s an American, or at least a Caucasian.

Thursday: I get a rejection email from one recruiter, telling me that Thomson Reuters is taking a pass on me for the job. I assume that this is for the job I interviewed for on Tuesday. Later I realize that it’s a different job, through a different recruiter. Has Thomson Reuters rejected me tout court, or was I rejected only for this particular job, for which I recall nothing and never even made it to a phone-screen. Another recruiter contacts me in the morning about positions at WebMD. (WebMD is always looking for people. One of the reasons they’re always looking for people is that they have a very bad rep. They like to low-ball, bait-and-switch, invite the recruiters to get you interested for forty or fifty an hour, enough to get your interest, then when you’re ready to come aboard you hear from the recruiter that WebMD can’t pay that much anymore, and would you work for thirty? I’ve seen it go as low as $23.00. You can’t even get a colored girl to answer your phone for that, not through a temp agency or recruiting firm.) All the times I’ve been contacted about WebMD, and I’ve never made it to the front door. I think I had a nice phone interview once, though, almost two years ago… My recruiter and I never really connect on the phone. He’s one of those who must get you on the horn for a while before he’ll submit you for the job. I don’t get it, never will. WebMD and I will never meet face-to-face.

And the week is still young.